We're heading out of the office and into the vineyards. Over the next few months we'll be working hard to bring you video interviews, profiles and photo galleries from wineries and winemakers up and down the West Coast.
Entries in Chardonnay (57)
I'm always looking for an excuse to invite friends over for a cookout, and there's no better one than living a bike-ride's distance from the beach on the Fourth of July. I'm also fortunate to know there are a wealth of wines, at every price point, to go with anything you can throw at the 'cue--from Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip to American Bison sliders (try them with carmelized onions and smoked tomato compote), or, if you live around the Chesapeake, steamed Maryland Blue Crabs doused with Old Bay. Here are some of our favorite domestic wines--we are celebrating American Independence after all--to make any Fourth crackle like a Roman candle.
If you're leaning toward the crab and Old Bay scenario, you need a sparkler of a wine, not necessarily something bubbly, and definitely or weighed down by butter notes or oak. The 2008 Dry Creek Vineyard Clarksburg Chenin Blanc ($9.99) blends lemon, apricot and nectarine notes with acidity that sings like the high notes in the National Anthem. Now, if you've steered clear of Chenin Blanc because you think it's sweet, hear me out: THIS IS DRY. There is nothing sweet about this wine, unless you're using the word as a slangy compliment.
If you're 4th is likely to be a "session" celebration, then it's probably a good idea to have some lighter-style beers on hand. The Maui Brewing Company "Bikini Blonde Lager" ($1.83 each) comes in convenient cans that can get tucked in a bag and cooled in the river or lake while you're getting your grill on. If you want something hoppier but that won't put you to sleep, try the Russian River Brewing "Blind Pig" IPA (500ml $4.30) or the aptly named Anchor Brewing "Liberty Ale" ($1.49).
Whole Rainbow Trout stuffed with lemon and rosemary come out fantastic on the grill, and the 2008 Chehalem "Inox" Willamette Valley Chardonnay ($15.99), with its Adriatic fig, lime and saturn peach-like fruit, and completely crisp palate feel, your fish will sing like that silly wall-mounted fish that appears in too many summer cabins. This would also go quite well with grilled veggies!
2007 Kunin "Westside" Paso Robles Zinfandel ($21.99) Paso Robles may not exactly be the "heart" of Santa Maria-style barbecue country, but it's definitely a ventricular valve. So it comes as no surprise that Seth Kunin's "Westside" Zin (actually, all of Kunin's reds) pairs perfectly with the garlicky, smoky meat, the fresh salsa and the pinquito beans. The Westside comes from the Cushman and Rancho Santa Margarita vieyards and is aged for 10 months in a combination of French and American oak, and it is spicy and rich, with plenty of bright red fruit and actual acidity (believe it) that will stand up to those thick slabs of tri-tip.
If you've never had a bottle of Ridge's classic "Geyserville," then you've been missing out on a quintessential California wine, as American as football or apple pie, but possibly better than both. The 2008 "Geyserville" ($29.99) is comprised of Zinfandel, Carignane, Petite Sirah and Mataro. It has a complexity that few varietal wines can offer, with briar fruits, tangy cranberry, spicy white pepper and an undercurrent of black olives on the nose that evolve into mocha, licorice and black raspberry in the mouth. Try will pair with the aforementioned Bison sliders, ribs, ribeyes, pork tenderloin or any number of other savory treats you lay in its path. If you're having a big party, try a BIG bottle, like the 2004 vintage in magnum ($74.99) or three-liter ($189.00).
I love Zuni- Cafe style roasted chicken (I do mine on a cast iron vertical roaster on the grill) and tomatoey panzanella with a juicy Syrah--it's actual my go-to Sunday supper--and I don't like to spend a lot on the wine that goes with it. Fortunately, some of my favorite Central Coast winemakers turn out lovely, balanced Syrahs that don't overpower the simply prepared bird or my wallet. The 2007 and 2008 Hocus Pocus Santa Barbara County Syrahs ($17.99) are a case in point, as is Wells Guthrie's "I-can't-believe-it's-entry-level" 2007 Copain "Tous Ensemble" Mendocino County Syrah ($17.99), which has brambly fruit, hints of smoke and a touch of dark chocolate to boot.
The 2008 Charles Smith "The Velvet Devil" Washington Merlot ($11.99), from Food & Wine Magazine's 2009 Winemaker of the year, could, single-handedly, change the way you've come to think about Merlot because it's anything but over-priced or over-produced. Juicy, plummy, from a state named for our inimitable first president and a good match for burgers and sausages.
Whatever you drink: Happy 4th of July! Be safe and have fun!
Some customers are amazed that we can remember the aromatic and flavor profiles of so many different bottles of wine. “How do you guys know so much about so many different wines?” they ask us. The short answer is: we taste...a lot. Every Tuesday is staff tasting day and we have a cyclical schedule that goes by region. We hit the tasting bar in shifts and take as many notes as we can in the allotted time given to us. We make an effort to remember what we like and we pass that information on to our customers. For those of you who are not able to visit us locally, or who prefer to shop online, you can find many of those notes on the Staff Review page. I also thought blogging about these tastings to help highlight some of the wines that we are currently excited about. I hope I will be able to convey the excitement that I usually exude in person.
Our last tasting was a test in endurance as our domestic buyers delivered a flight of nearly 50 different products. Here are some of the standouts:
2007 Cesar Toxqui Cellars North Coast Pinot Noir ($14.99) Rich aromas with hints of wood and earth. A smooth, medium-bodied palate with vanilla notes. Supple and silky. A very good deal for the price.
2007 Joseph Swan “Cuvee de Trois” Russian River Pinot Noir ($26.99) A smooth entry, far less gritty and rustic than Swan’s other pinots, with soft cherry fruit and very subtle earthy flavors. This should be a slam dunk favorite with just about everyone.
2007 Willowbrook Mendocino Pinot Noir ($16.99) Soft, juicy, cherried-wine with depth and complexity. It really opens up on the palate after some time. A real bargain that gives the under-$20 Pinot category another great bottle to offer.
2007 Morgan “Twelve Clones” Santa Lucia Pinot Noir ($26.99) Always a great wine and this vintage is no different. Cherry and strawberry aromas are followed by more red fruit on the palate that balances with perfect acidity, weight, and structure. One of the best California Pinots from the vintage I have yet tasted.
2006 Thorne “Rio Vista” Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir ($29.9930) My new favorite Pinot that we carry. It has a classic Burgundian nose with red berries, clove, baking spices and earth, with juicy cherry fruit on the palate. Firm acidity and a long, long finish. I can’t decide if I want to drink it all now or save some for later. What to do?
2007 Lang & Reed North Coast Cabernet Franc ($19.99) Bell pepper aromas let you know that this is real Cab Franc. Supple red berry fruit on the palate with black pepper notes and tannins that grip. More Loire-like in style but with riper fruit. Very nice.
2006 Tamarack Cellars Columbia Valley Merlot ($23.99) This is the bottle that will help to revive Merlot’s tarnished reputation. Toasty aromas, juicy fruit, a luscious full-bodied palate and a restrained use of oak. Structured, but showing beautifully. I can’t wait to tell everyone how good it is.
1999 Mayacamas Napa Merlot ($49.99) The most interesting bottle I’ve tasted in some time, and maybe the best older pure Merlot I’ve ever had. Tangy, earthy, but still showing some fruit. Perfectly balanced and wonderfully aged. This should impress the hell out of Old World drinkers.
2007 Waters “Interlude” Walla Walla Red Blend ($26.99) Washington is the source of practically every great red blend I have tasted recently. The Waters displays rich black fruit with that classic violet tinge on the palate. Structured, but still very smooth and graceful. This wine is outstanding and should please just about anyone who likes anything red.
2006 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Red ($34.99) I would buy this wine every year without tasting it because it has never failed me. The 2006 is more tightly wound, however, than the ’05 and should be decanted for a few hours or stored away for a few years. All the flavor is still there - the black currant, the earth and the chewy tannins. It just needs a little air to reveal itself.
2005 Mount Eden “Saratoga Cuvee” Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon ($24.99) Like the Ridge, I’ve found that this wine is 100% dependable, even though the vintages are very different from one another. This year’s offering is more earthy and mineral, but it tastes exactly like Mt. Eden made it. It’s that classic gravel and earth that I tasted in the 1995 Estate bottle I had last week. Delicious.
2002 Joseph Swan “Lone Redwood” Russian River Zinfandel ($15.99) Rustic, gritty and tangy with underlying earth. Just what you expect from Swan’s unfiltered Zins. Delicious. Always a deal.
2007 Mauritson Dry Creek Zinfandel ($22.99) Big, thick and tannic Zinfandel that’s still showing plenty of rich red fruit. I was expecting a big Port-like monster and instead I got really well-made wine. This is the most interesting Zin I’ve had in some time and I will make sure to point it out to everyone.
2008 Palmina Pinot Gris ($14.99) Solid wine with firm acidity and citrus fruit that is perfectly balanced. Crisp, clean and refreshing with depth and complexity. A very good domestic option for PG.
2007 Mount Eden “Wolff Vineyard” Chardonnay ($17.99) Once again, Mount Eden makes great wine. A wonderful balance of barrel aging, honeyed fruit, and crisp acidity makes for tasty Chardonnay that doesn’t overpower or bore. This is the California style that I want to show out-of-towners. Don’t miss out.
2008 Seven Hills Columbia Valley Riesling ($11.99) Bursting with apricot, this off-dry Riesling is fresh with crisp acidity and more cocktail fruit on the palate. Perfect for Asian dishes or other spicy foods. Load up. At this price it rivals its German counterparts.
Bid on this...we're pleased to be conducting fine wine auctions in addition to our retail selection of thousands of the world's best wines.
Bid, buy, sell, and browse the hundreds of auction lots live on K&L Auctions.
Back in the 1970's we went by the name "K&L Liquors" and our dedication to bringing you the finest spirits remains the same.
View our Spirits Journal to find out what our buyers are getting into next...