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Bruno Michel "Blanche" Brut Champagne $34.99One of our best non-vintage Champagnes, this organically grown blend of half each Chardonnay and Meunier comes entirely from Bruno Michel's estate. It has been aged for six years on the lees and shows wonderful natural toasty quality as well as incredible vibrance! This was the big hit of our most recent staff Champagne tasting and we think you will love it too.

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Free Spirits Tastings at K&L! Now that we have our license for spirits tastings in Redwood City and San Francisco, we’re excited to host regular free spirits tastings in those locations.  Check the Spirits Journal for an updated tasting schedule.

All tastings will feature different products from the Spirits Department and take place on Wednesdays in Redwood City and San Francisco. Visit our events page on Facebook or the K&L Spirits Journal for more information.

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Entries in Chenin Blanc (7)

Tuesday
Jan082013

Blind International Sparkling Wine Tasting Challenge: And the Winner Is...

 

#5) 2007 Huet "Cuvée Huet" Vouvray Petillant Sec ($29.99)

K&L Notes: Maison Huet has been a leading force in the Vouvray appellation for quite sometime now, and today is regarded as one of the premier producers of Chenin Blanc in the Loire Valley, if not the world. Founded in 1928, the estate now covers 35 hectares, which are divided up between three properties - Le Mont, Le Haut-Lieu and Le Clos du Bourg - all that have been farmed biodynamically since 1990. These wines are stunning and are worth being in your cellar. In addition to its famous vineyard-designated wines, Huet also produces this delightful sparkling Pétillant, a blend of fruit from the aforementioned 'big three' vineyards with other small parcels on the estate.

Last Friday, K&L customers and staff put their palates to the test and tasted through a blind lineup of a whopping thirteen sparkling wines from all over the world. This was the third installment in our series of Blind Tasting Challenges in Redwood City, events that have become very popular with our customers! K&L's Ryan Woodhouse carefully chilled, numbered, and wrapped each bottle in aluminum foil so the wines could be kept on ice without the covers getting soggy (clever thinking!). Tasters were presented with a blank, numbered tasting sheet on which to make notes and invited to guess country and region of origin for each wine. At the end, each taster had to submit a vote for his/her overall favorite wine before receiving the key to the tasting.

The winning wine, the 2007 Huet "Cuvee Huet" Vouvray Petillant Sec  (100% Chenin Blanc), beat out some serious contenders, including three Champagnes, two popular domestic producers, and some of our best-selling sparklers from other style categories such as Cremant de Limoux, Cava, and Prosecco. The Huet sure stood out in the lineup as distinctive, with its combination of sweet and savory aromas and flavors and obviously richer body as compared to the others - it's not your "typical" sparkler! Because of its unique profile, K&L staff admit to being suprised the Huet emerged as the most popular in the tasting, but then again, K&L attracts a pretty sophisticated and adventurous bunch of customers, so it's really no surprise at all!

Here is the complete lineup:

1. Silvano Follador "Dosaggio Zero" Prosecco, Italy ($24.99)

2. 2009 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs Brut Sparkling, Napa/Sonoma, CA ($28.99)

3. Quartz Reef "Methode Traditionelle", Central Otago, New Zealand ($21.99)

4. 2008 Can Mayol Loxarel "Refugi" Reserva Brut Nature, Penedes, Spain ($17.99)

5. 2007 Huet "Cuvee Huet" Vouvray Petillant Sec, Vouvray, Loire Valley, France (29.99)

6. Louis Roederer "Brut Premier" Champagne, France ($38.99)

7. 2008 Argyle Willamette Valley Brut, Oregon $24.99

8. Ariston Aspasie Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne, France $38.99

9. Graham Beck Brut Sparkling Wine, Western Cape, South Africa ($14.99)

10. 2010 Antech "Cuvee Eugenie" Cremant de Limoux, Limoux, France ($13.99)

11. 2007 Marguet Pere et Fils Brut Rose Champagne, France ($49.99)

12. Jansz Brut Rose, Tasmania, Australia ($19.99)

13. Mas Codina Cava Brut Reserva Penedes, Spain ($12.99)

 

Stay tuned for the next Blind Tasting Challenge!

Tuesday
Dec112012

Introducing Waterkloof: An Exclusive Special Import From South Africa

Announcing the arrival of six stunning direct imports from Waterkloof, now in stock at K&L!

In 2011, I spent ten months travelling the world in search of good waves, great wines, and to see what else this little planet of ours has to offer. Everywhere my wife and I went offered incredible experiences, from the fish markets of Vietnam to the coral reefs of Western Australia, the glaciers of New Zealand, and the ancient walled cities of Umbria. However, one place really blew us away us with its undeniable beauty, stunning landscapes, fantastic wine and food and magnificent wildlife: South Africa. 

During our four (way too short) weeks in South Africa, we visited dozens of producers and tasted more excellent wine than I can recall. As a staff member at K&L, I taste anywhere between 50-100 new wines each week. That's a lot of wine to remember...and forget! Yet the producers and wines that make the biggest impact on me will always stand out in my memory while the others fade into oblivion. Waterkloof Estate in Stellenbosch is one such standout producer.

Visiting any major wine region in the world can be a daunting experience. The decision about whom to visit and where to start is a tough one to make. I normally try to find a wine industry map and then do some background research into producers that sound interesting, or with whom I am unfamiliar. Generally speaking, I gravitate toward small producers with the following criteria:

1) A special site. Be it a certain geographic location, specific soils, steep or dramatic aspect, I like to visit producers who believe they have something truly unique special and take risks in order to be able to share it with the world.  If someone is planting grapes in a place that is borderline too cold, too steep, or too rocky, I want to know why, and I want to try the wines. I admire their dedication and drive. These people aren't following a proven recipe for success, rather they are striving for something new and interesting.

2) Organic/Biodynamic practices. I do not think organic/biodynamic wines are inherently better, but in my experience, the most careful, detail-orientated viticulturalists and winemakers tend to farm according to these practices. I do believe natural, minimal intervention winemaking techniques are often the most successful in allowing the expression of place in the wine. This ties back to my first point about producers who seek unique terroirs and strive to let that character shine through in their wines.

Waterkloof Winery

Waterkloof met all of the above criteria, and so on one rainy winter's day in July we snaked our way up the long driveway past bare vines that had long dropped their leaves. The winery sits on top of a wind-swept ridge almost 1,000 feet in elevation in the Schapenberg Hills, on the southern edge of the Helderberg region. (Map) It has magnificent views overlooking the dramatic False Bay and the wild Southern Ocean just a couple miles to the south.

The vineyards are planted in an amphitheater-like bowl behind the winery and on adjacent slopes. This is a very cool sub-region of Stellenbosch. The ocean in this part of the world makes the Central California coast look and feel like Florida. It is bitterly cold and intensely stormy, conditions that define the growing season. The wind is also a major factor at Waterkloof; their logo is designed in honor of Boreas, the God of wind.

During the growing season, cool ocean breezes and the south-facing aspect of the vineyards result in much slower ripening and a longer hang time for the grapes. This produces intense flavor development while preserving freshness and acidity in the fruit. Soils on the property are diverse, ranging between shale- derived soils, rugged sandstone and decomposed granite. These low fertility soils reduce vine vigor, keeping yields naturally low. 

Half of all the land at Waterkloof Estate has been set aside to preserve the natural flora and fauna of the region. Waterkloof also operates a fully functional farm to provide all of the compost and biodynamic preps needed for the vineyards. Vineyards are plowed by horse, and the estate has plenty of in-house horse power too! This operation is truly focused on creating wines of integrity, balance and encapsulating the essence of this remarkable place.

The main winery building, that which houses the production facility, tasting room and restaurant, looks more like a modern art museum than a winery! It is a stark contrast from the traditional Dutch style buildings that most Stellenbosch wineries inhabit. The barrel room is the first thing you see entering the premises on a suspended walkway, high above the hibernating wines below. From the tasting bar one can watch operations in the cellar through floor-to-ceiling glass walls. I was amazed by the array of oak foudres lined up in immaculate fashion. The restaurant is all glass construction, cantilevered out from the side of the building providing uninterrupted (if a little unnerving) views over False Bay.

With all this sophisticated, dazzling architecture and design, I really hoped that the wines would show as good as they appeared on paper....and thankfully they did not disappoint! Which is why, eighteen months later, I am very excited to bring you the Waterkloof "Circumstance" wines exclusive to K&L!

Quoting Waterkloof's winemaker: "Circumstance is a range of wines, each defined by a single grape varietal and a unique symphony of fortuitous circumstances (soil, aspect and altitude) in which that given varietal is grown."

2012 Waterkloof "Circumstance" Sauvignon Blanc, Stellenbosch (Biodynamic) $19.99

From a rugged, rocky, wind swept slope looking directly out over the ocean. The wine is bright, concentrated and fresh. Soft, fleshy stone fruit notes are sharpened by a citrus and mineral finish. This wine has many layers of flavor, great persistence on the palate and immaculate balance.

2011 Waterkloof "Circumstance" Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch (Biodynamic) $19.99

Fom old bush vine Chenin Blanc. Whole cluster pressed, settled for 24 hours then racked to 600-liter French oak barrels called Puncheons. The wine is fermented with naturally occuring yeast. The wine's flavors are dominated by orchard fruits, especially pear and quince. On the finish more savory notes come through with a bit of added texture and richness from the Puncheon fermentation.

2011 Waterkloof "Circumstance" Viognier, Stellenbosch (Biodynamic) $19.99

By the proprietor's own admission, he believes there is only one place in the world that truly excels with Viognier, and that’s Condrieu. However, we were very impressed by this Waterkloof effort. Perfumed and alluring, but somewhat restrained. Not a big, oily Viognier. More bright and lithe in character. A nice freshness to the acidity works well with this grape's natural richness and weight. It really think that this windy, cool site is well-suited to produce balanced Viognier; a very pleasant surprise from the line up!

2010 Waterkloof "Circumstance" Chardonnay, Stellenbosch (Biodynamic) $19.99

Aromas of apple pie pastry crust with spices from the oak. this is a broad, rich, toasty wine, with ample freshness and lively acidity. Apparent but well-integrated use of French oak. More focused on the finish than the dense mid-palate might suggest, with intriguing mineral aspects and good length.

2010 Waterkloof "Circumstance" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch (Biodynamic) $24.99

Great Cab! A lovely balanced between rich, soft, saturated fruit and some smoky cedar and mint nuances. Many South African reds can be overtly smoky (something I attribute to the unique flora and fauna of the country), but this wine has subtly complex smoke that doesn't dominate the flavor profile. The wine has some grippy tannins that help lengthen the inky concentration of fruit on the palate. Very good.

2009 Waterkloof "Circumstance" Syrah Stellenbosch, (Biodynamic) $24.99

A very low-yielding (1.25 tons per acre) vineyard block produces this fascinating Syrah. Made with all wild yeast and a good amount of whole cluster fermentation. The wine is fermented in open-top wooden fermenters and hand punched down two to three times daily. After a gentle basket pressing it is aged for 20 months in 600L new French oak barrels called Puncheons. This wine simply exudes the classic Syrah qualities of dark red fruits, herbs and cured meats. Some spice on the nose runs through the substantial, rich and generous palate, all carried by driving acidity.

If you can't already tell from my over-the-top enthusiasm, I am very excited that we have managed to get these wines via an exclusive import. You will only find these Waterkloof "Circumstance" wines at K&L, in-store and online.

If you are interested in South African wines or just balanced, honest and authentic wines of terroir in general, please try these. They are extremely well priced when you consider the huge attention to detail and care that went into making them. All of them, including the whites, like some air so don't be afraid to decant for an hour or so.

If you have any questions please feel free to post them in the comments below of contact me directly, details below. Waterkloof also has a fantastic website with lots of information about their wines, philosophy, biodynamics etc. Click here to be directed to their site.

If you're interested check out this fantastic video telling the story of Waterkloof.

Cheers!

-Ryan

Ryan Woodhouse

K&L Wine Merchants - Redwood City

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Friday
Aug192011

Wine of the Week: 2006 Jo Pithon "La Croix Picot" Savennieres ($14.99) 

This stunning Savennieres has been cellared in a temperture controlled warehouse and is drinking at its peak. Available for $14.99 at K&L while supplies last! We were thrilled to get ahold of the last of the 2006 Jo Pithon "Les Bergères" Anjou Blanc  earlier this year, which disappeared like hotcakes once word spread of the dissolution of the Jo Pithon label.* So, when some 06 Savennieres became available (one of the last wines he produced), we grabbed all we could! This stunning Chenin will not stay in stock for very long, though...

"Savennieres is traditionally the longest lived expression of dry Chenin Blanc in the Loire Valley of France. Jo Pithon was forced out of his property by some unscrupulous double dealings with his business partners and the 2006 "La Croix Picot" Savennieres ($14.99; previously $34) was one of the last wines he produced. Full of honeycomb, spice and apple skin notes, this stunning 100% Chenin Blanc has a medium to full bodied texture with vibrant underlying acidity. It has been cellared in a temperature-controlled warehouse and is drinking at its peak." -Keith Mabry, K&L Staff Member (08/18/2011)

*NOTE: Jo Pithon continues to make great wines in a partnership with his son-in-law under the Pithon-Paille label.