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One of the most serious English Sparkling producers. This historic estate has been in the Goring family since 1743. The tiny 16-acre vineyard is close-planted on a steep south-facing chalk escarpment described as 'similar to the Côte des Blancs' in Champagne. The fruit is picked very selectively with quality being the absolute focus. The grapes are pressed gently using a traditional Coquard press. After three years on the lees this wine, composed of 45% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay & 22% Pinot Meunier, is hand disgorged and balanced with a minimal dosage of just 4g/L. It has a fine counterbalance between toasty richness and power from the wines élevage in Burgundian French Oak barrels, with racy acidity, tension and a focused chalky minerality.

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Entries in Carignane (3)

Monday
May062013

Blasting Through Sonoma: A Euro Palate's Perspective

Euro wine geek Eric Story puts Sonoma to the test, with surprising results!

By Eric Story | K&L Alsace, Austria, Croatia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary & Loire Valley Wine Buyer

A European Palate in Sonoma?

Let's start off by getting one thing straight, I DO NOT HATE CALIFORNIA WINE. In fact, it is just the opposite. One of the best wines that I have ever had was from this great state. What I am adverse to is the utilitarian recipe, gimmicky marketer style of wine which--let's face it--exists in all wine regions, but is a trend born largely from California and its influence on the industry in recent times. You know the wines that I'm talking about - wines that lack all individuality, presence of place and, worst of all, a complete disregard for integrity and pride. Get 'em fruity, a dash of this, a dash of that, make some friends in the right places and you got yourself a 92 pointer. Mmmm, well done!

But enough with my ranting.

When I found out that I would be included on the Sonoma tour along with one of our domestic buyers, Michael “Lead Foot” Jordan, Patrick “I’ll Hang In There” Cu, and Scott “Can I Have a Nap” Beckerley I was pretty fired up to say the least. I have been a fan of Sonoma for quite a long time and was excited to get my teeth purple and make my gums sore. Many asked why one of the import buyers was going on such a trip. This answer is simple: my name was the first to be pulled out of a hat. But, there is a more serious purpose: I have deeply immersed myself into the belly of European wines for the last 10+ years, crudely ignoring my own back yard. Pretty weak on my part. It was time to step up the game.

So, we were off, bulgey eyed and full of coffee, up the 101 corridor. We made our appointments in a timely manner, for the most part did our thing, grabbed a few tacos from a truck on the side of the highway – a must do for any occasion – went to sleep and did it all over again the next day. We tasted A LOT of wines, but the purpose of this trip was getting to know the faces behind the labels, getting your shoes dirty in the vineyards -  the bigger picture kind of thing. I was curious about the back story behind these producers and the whether the wines were points-driven or a product of passion.

This is just a starting list of highlights of the many wines tasted that to me reflect this intimate relationship between the land and farmer, all are currently in stock at K&L:

2011 Cyprus Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($21.99) K&L Notes: The 2011 Cyprus, from our friends at Brack Mountain Wine Company, is made from fruit grown at Dutton Ranch Mill Station Vineyard in Green Valley. Entirely barrel-fermented in a combination of new and neutral French oak, this viscous, nutty Chardonnay rewards with pear, citrus and green apple fruit on the nose and palate. Long and satisfying.

2010 Copain "Tous Ensemble" Anderson Valley Chardonnay ($19.99) K&L Notes: As with his Pinot Noir, Copain founder Wells Guthrie aims for a Burgundian expression with the 2010 Tous Ensemble Anderson Valley Chardonnay. Very limited use of oak and "hands off" winemaking results in a clean, bright Chardonnay that is balanced, food-friendly, and made for immediate enjoyment.

2010 Porter Creek Mendocino County Old Vine Carignane ($22.99) K&L Notes: In addition to the lovely range of wines made from the Porter Creek estate in the Russian River, the winery makes a small amount of old vine Carignane from an organically-farmed, 60-year-old vineyard in Hopland, Mendocino County. The juice is aged in half large wooden tanks and half small barrels for 11 months, rounding out the grape's rustic edges while imparting just a little bit of spice on the nose and palate. None of the wood character overpowers the pretty red raspberry and strawberry fruit, anise qualities or peppery elements that make this surprisingly elegant wine and a joy at the dinner table.

2009 Acorn "Medley" Russian River Valley Red Wine ($34.99) (Blend of 44% Syrah, 14% Cabernet Franc, 13% Sangiovese, 11% Cinsaut, 7% Viognier, 5% Muscats, 3% Zinfandel, and 3% other varietals) K&L Notes: Field blended, food-friendly wines are the specialty at Acorn Winery and the "Medley" exemplifies this philosophy - a blend of field blends that sings in harmony. Winemaker Bill Nachbauer co-ferments 18 different varieties including syrah, cinsault, mourvèdre, viognier and black and white muscats, zinfandel, sangiovese and cabernet franc in two lots with different yeasts. After fermentation the lots were pressed into 50% new oak barrels for aging. The lots were then blended after three months and aged further prior to release. The 2009 is a crowd-pleaser, with lots of plum and black fruit, pepper, and chocolatey oak spice.  To learn more, check out Patrick's post about our visit to Acorn Winery here.

Here are a few snapshots...  

Porter Creek is a family-owned and operated winery located alongside Porter Creek, one of the Russian River's major tributaries. To showcase their unique hillside terroir, this father and son team focuses on Rhone and Burgundian varietals, which they farm organically to produce primarily vineyard-designated wines,but the make some killer Zin and Carignane!

K&L's Michael "lead foot" Jordan (left) with Porter Creek winemaker Alex Davis.

Wells Guthrie founded Copain in 1999 with the intent to produce Pinot Noir and Syrah in styles inspired by his travels and experiences in France, where he was influenced by producers in Burgundy and the Northern Rhone.It took ten years for Copain to release a Chardonnay, the first vintage of which was 2009.

Tasting at Copain.

In a nutshell, the wineries visited included Iron Horse, Porter Creek, Ridge, Copain, Acorn, Alexander Valley Vineyards, Stonestreet, Preston, Bella, and Brack Mountain Wine Co. Overall, as a native to the area,  I experienced a great sense of pride and a vision for a fantastic future by the end of those two days. We are surrounded by ton of the “recipe” wine in California but if you look deeper you will find wines and producers with a great sense of being and a story to tell. Every winery we visited had real people with a passion behind the wine.

These are the people that are making, not only each other better but everyone else better too. These are the men and women who are setting new standards each and every year and lending inspiration to those who are looking to become the best at what they do, because they are the best at what they do. These are the people who think Sonoma is a special place, care about the land they are farming, the people that they work with and ultimately the quality of wine that goes into the bottle which gives them their identity. We have to remember that most of these wineries are typically first, maybe second, rarely third generation. Hopefully this type of commitment and passion will be passed down another ten of fifteen generations, and I think that it will.

Thank you to all who opened their doors and took the time to share all of this with us. It was and is appreciated many times over. And, to those of you who we missed, don’t worry, we’re out there and on the prowl.

-Eric

 

Tuesday
Feb012011

Grape Talk: Carignane

Underdog Varietal: Despite having been mostly replaced over the last twenty years by more fashionable international varietals, old vine Carignane vines are worth treasuring. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Poor Carignane. It doesn't have many champions. The grape's rough edges and "needs food" profile have not won it many fans among the top critics of the world. At its worst, wines made from Carignane show pippy, grapey aromas and flavors and have a tendency toward astringency. But at its best it can be quite intriguing. The question is, does anyone have the patience to tame this grapey beast?

Wherever it has traveled--from its origin in the Aragon provence of Spain to Algeria, France, Italy, the US and beyond--Carignane has most commonly met the fate of being used as a minor blending varietal under a different name (such as in Rioja production, where a small percentage is traditionally blended into the red wines disguised as the regionally named Mazuelo grape) or as inexpensive juice for bulk wine production.

The Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.The Carignane we are most likely to encounter in the market today is French, which despite maneuvering its way onto the list of the 22 approved Rhône varietals, is typically (and in most cases, negatively) associated with bulk production in the the Languedoc-Roussillon (right) in the latter half of the twentieth century.  Carignan came from Spain to France via Algeria, where it was grown to produce bulk wines for export.  After Algerian independence in 1962, the French needed to come up with their own source of bulk wine, so Carignane vines were transported from Algeria and planted widely throughout this part of southern France. 

We have the Italians to thank for our California Carignane tradition.  Carignane came from Spain to Italy via Sardegna, where it is still made into varietal wine, Carignano.  Italian immigrants to the US starting in the late 1890s brought the vine to California, and through the early and mid-20th century, Carignane was one of the most widely planted grape varietal in California.  It formed the base of many a "jug" of hearty red California wine!  

Caretakers of Carignane

Carignane may never become as popular as Cab or Syrah, but in France it seems to be undergoing a bit of a renaissance.  Over the last 10 years, thanks to the labor-of-love, grassroots efforts of a  a few good growers in the Languedoc, it is slowly--perhaps for the first time--earning the attention of critics and wine geeks the world over. Producers such as Clos du Gravillas and Domaine Rimbert are not only making some honestly good Carignane from their treasured old vines, but are also devoted to promoting quality production of Carignane and advocating for it's recognition as a varietal capable of fine wine.                

Ridge's Buchignani Range Carignane is available at the winery only.Similar efforts are being made in California to promote and protect the few remaining heritage Carignane vineyards. For the last decade, Ridge Vineyards has produced a varietal Carignane from fruit grown at the historic Buchignani Ranch, where the 60- to 80-year-old vines were planted in the gravelly hillside by immigrant Dominico Ceritti, grandfather of current grower and proprietor, Stan Buchignani. Ridge treats this special old-vine Carignane with the same care as its single-vineyard Zinfandels, but the 40-45 barrel production has limited distribution--wine club and direct sales only. The 2008 Buchignani Ranch Carignane (right) is soft in the mouth and with moderate alcohol (13.9%). It is a lively, medium-bodied wine with ripe strawberry and cranberry aromas, grape seed accented red and black fruit flavors, and a touch of oak spice (the wine spends one year in mostly used American oak).  Varietal typicity is not lost in this otherwise stylish and accessible wine.  

Carignane: A True California Heritage Varietal

VIDEO! Click to watch a video of Alvin Tolllini talking about his historic Carignane vines used to produce LIOCO's Indica! More recently, maverick wine producers Matt Licklider and Kevin O'Connor have started to pay attention to Carignane in an ever bigger way. Together, O'Connor (wine director at two-Michelin star restaurant Spago in Beverly Hills) and Licklider (veteran European wine importer) created LIOCO in 2005, a natural wine  company whose mission it is to produce authentic, terroir-driven California wines and to promote heritage varietals in an effort to bring diversity back to the California wine market. (Read our recent interview with Licklider here.) They believe there is more to California than full-throttle Cabernet and overly oaked Chardonnay, and seek to prove that with their portfolio of distinctive, natural wines. Old vine Carignane-- not Cabernet--forms the basis of their everyday red wine offering, Indica (right).

The Tollini Vineyard, located in Mendocino, is another historic vineyard site in California, with treasured vines planted on original 70 yr-old old-vine Carignane root stalk.  Thrilled to discover this special site when seeking out sites for their project, LIOCO began sourcing from it almost immediately.  

Unlike Ridge's manicured 100% Carignane, Indica is a blend of old-vine Carignane (66%), Mourvèdre (25%), and Petite Sirah (9%), made with the intent to showcase the freshness and flavor of old-vine Carignane while letting the other grape varietals (as opposed to oak) provide weight and richness. In this way LIOCO's Carignane more closely resembles the Carignane and Carignane-based blends of the new Languedoc (perhaps that is why they go with the French, sans 'e' spelling?) than the more oak-influenced Ridge bottling. It is a medium-bodied, fresh and darker-fruited fruity wine; Carignane's higher tones are rounded out and deepened by the addition of Mourvèdre and Petite Sirah.  It is sealed with a screwcap to remind us that it is best when drunk young and fresh.

Back on the Map

While Ridge's Buchignani Ranch Carignane may be the suaver and more seductive representation of 100% old vine California Carignane, LIOCO is certainly doing its part to champion the California Carignane cause. While you have to physically go to Ridge to get a taste of their Carignane, Indica is distributed nationally, has received great press, and is available by-the-glass at many of the nation's top foodie destinations.

Given this trend--who knows? Are Californians ready for more Carignane? 

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TASTE

LIOCO Indica is available by the glass at these Bay Area locations:

Pizzeria Delfina (S.F. Fillmore location) on tap!!
Delarosa (S.F.)
 
Ridge's Buchignani Ranch Carignane is available to taste at both Ridge's Lytton Springs and Monte Bello wineries.
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SHOP

Buy Indica and other LIOCO wines online at KLWines.com

Buy Ridge's Buchignani Ranch Carignane online at Ridgewine.com
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LEARN

Chiara Shannon

Friday
Jul302010

Around the Blogosphere: Mumu Visits Domaine du Péras

 

After visiting Domaine Begude, Mulan traveledto Pezenas to the tiny winery that belongs to that estate's vineyard manager, Laurent Girault, and his wife Murielle.

Click to read more ...