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Château de Brézé has a long and storied history, first being mentioned in texts in 1068, lauded by King René of Anjou in the 15th century and served at all the royal courts. In 1957, when the AOC of Saumur Champigny was established, the owner of Château de Brézé refused to be part of the appellation, saying that his estate's vineyards were the best and deserved an appellation all their own. And he was probably right. Unfortunately, the wines from those exceptional vineyards were terrible. Lucky for us, the winery sold in 2009 to Le Comte de Colbert, who recruited Arnaud Lambert from nearby Domaine de Saint Just to make the wine. He changed the vineyards over to organic farming and began producing truly stellar wines worthy of their source. The 2012 Château de Brézé Clos David is all estate-grown Chenin Blanc raised in stainless steel to preserve freshness. It has the slightly-oxidized note of a great White Burgundy and a lovely richness that allows it to pair with a variety of foods.

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Entries in Pinot Noir (80)

Thursday
Mar052015

Akitu's Remarkable Pinot Noirs

I recently read about a new producer in New Zealand’s Central Otago region named Akitu. They are 100% dedicated to producing Pinot Noir off one tiny vineyard site high on the slopes of Mt. Barker close to the bucolic town of Wanaka. I immediately reached out to owner Andrew Donaldson to taste and explore the possibilities of working with his wines. The samples soon arrived and before I could even open them I was already quite taken by the slick package and label design…now I am not one for judging a book (or a bottle of wine for that matter) by it’s cover, but credit where credit is due…these look smart.

Thankfully once opened things only got better. The 2013 Akitu “A1” Pinot Noir is one of the most profound bottles I have tasted in quite some time. The wine is defined by precision, tension, coiled power and subtle intensity. It speaks very strongly of its schist soil origins. The wine is incredibly pure and dynamic on the palate. It is not overly fleshy or extracted but linear and perfectly poised. You can feel the terroir as much as taste it. This wine is about energy and vibrancy. Sure it delivers fantastic Pinot Noir varietal fruit flavors, ripe berries, exotic spice, earth…but this wine is so much more than that, it’s hard to describe, it’s something that needs to be experienced. I also believe we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg with this wine and that the best is yet to come as the tight, compact layers of flavor and texture unfold. 

“Akitu” (meaning “summit” in Māori) comes from a unique site. The vines are planted on a perfect north facing slope, 1600ft up on the on the north west aspect Mt. Barker. In a place like Central Otago that is inherently quite remote…these vines are further defined by their loneliness.  This is not an area bustling with vineyards like the hillsides of Bannockburn or along the shores of Lake Dunstan…these are a few acres of vines perched on lone mountain within a windswept alpine valley over shadowed by the snowcapped mountains of the Southern Alps. When I see someone toiling over a site like this, a tricky, labor intensive, on the edge of grape growing site...I am drawn to the wines, because there must be some reason why that person is persisting, they must truly believe they have something special. Founder Andrew Donaldson only started labeling his own wine in 2012 after selling off fruit for 10 years while he waited for his vines to mature and truly speak of their terroir (something we rarely see in this day and age). 

When Andrew was ready to start putting his own name to these wines he recruited heralded wine maker and kiwi native PJ Charteris to help tease the best expression from his land. PJ has a very serious resume of former winemaking positions including time with Adelsheim, Flowers Estate, Penfolds and most recently served as icon Brokenwood’s Head Winemaker in Australia’s Hunter Valley for 12 years, during which time he was awarded Winemaker of the Year!  This combination of special site and talented winemaker is working wonders for Akitu. The wines are really shining.

Beyond the black label “tête de cuvée” A1 Pinot, we also have Akitu’s white label “A2” bottling. The 2013 Akitu "A2" Pinot Noir offers exceptional value and quality for money. Most Pinot lovers will know that due to the fickle nature of this seductive varietal it is very difficult to find great Pinot Noir for close to $20...it is also almost unheard of to produce noteworthy Central Otago Pinot Noir for this price. The yields are painfully low, farming is very labor intensive…thankfully our direct relationship with Hawkesbury Estate / Atiku has allowed K&L to bring you this wine for a seriously economical price point. This wine is deliberately styled in a more forward, open style bursting with ripe berry fruits, hard ground spices like nutmeg and clove from the whole bunch inclusion, crushed rocks and wild Thyme. The palate has plenty of soft accessible fruit up front, but it is also very long and drawn out on the palate by the wines lovely fresh acidity and fine powdery tannins. A delicate kiss of oak helps polish this gem but does not detract from its purity. All the fruit is still hand-picked from the estate and crafted in the same way and the premier label. Whilst this wine does not provide the lucid insight into this incredible terroir that is afforded by Akitu's "A1" Pinot Noir...it does provide the imbiber instant gratification and a fantastically expressive bottle of classy Pinot Noir at an incredibly reasonable price. This fantastic into in to Akitu’s wines was recently awarded a Pure Elite Gold Medal at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards (NZ’s biggest and most prestigious wine competition).

I entreat you to check out these new additions to our selection and I hope you find them as compelling as I do.

Cheers, 

Ryan Woodhouse - K&L New Zealand Wine Buyer

Tuesday
Sep022014

The New Talbott

Dan Karlsen and Mark Cutino of Talbott Vineyards

Things have changed at the well-known Talbott winery. You have probably tasted their wines and know the label, but the truth is that the most recognizable name in the Santa Lucia Highlands had been in financial decline for a while. Even though the family owned one of the most legendary vineyards in the appellation, their wines had developed a reputation for being over oaked and over done, with confusing labels and no sense of style, appellation, or direction. For years bad bookkeeping and a bad reputation kept this winery from consistently gaining market share.

Enter Dan Karlsen, Talbott's new winemaker, whose job today was to present us the new Talbott: a winery dedicated to the finest estate wines their esteemed "Sleepy Hollow" vineyard could produce.  If it's been a while since you tried a Talbott Chardonnay, you should give them a second glance.  Everything has changed, and their new wines are bright and nuanced--quintessential cool weather wines from the Santa Lucia Highlands.

Karlsen, whose resumé includes winemaking for such legendary brands as Chalone, Joseph Swan, Domaine Carneros and Dehlinger, is dedicated to showcasing the potential of his appellation and revitalizing the Talbott name. As GM and winemaker, he has been given complete authority to take Talbott in a different and better direction. All of their wines are now estate and labeled as such, with the ‘Talbott’ name proudly displayed on every bottle. They no longer sell any fruit from the sought after Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, instead using all of its fruit for their own wines. Staunchly opposed to the problems inherent with cork, he bottles all Talbott wines with screwtops. New and better presses, new and better tanks, new and better vineyard practices, everything at Talbott is new and better! Long time fans of Talbott need not despair: he still believes in the lush and vibrant fruit Talbott has always been known for. These new wines, however, are not afraid of the natural acid and crisp edge of the cooler Santa Lucia Highlands, and he does not want to hide the balance and finesse of these estate wines behind too much new oak.

While we enjoyed the spicy and bright new style of their single vineyard Pinots, I still think it's the Chardonnays that set this winery apart. Their 2012 "Kali Hart" Chardonnay ($15.99), named after the owner's daughter, is now all estate and mostly stainless steel with a little barrel contact. It is refreshingly lean and delicious, with bright pear and lychee flavors and a long lasting finesse that is almost unrivaled in the $15 domestic Chardonnay category. Their 2013 "Logan" Chardonnay ($16.99) is one of the best deals out there: 100% Sleepy Hollow Vineyard fruit for less than $20, with more fig and vanilla spice under its acidic backbone.  The 2012 "Estate" ($32.99) is the king of them all, the best that the vineyard has to offer, with lush apple, white flower, lychee and almond flavors that leave a long impression on the palate. These are serious white wines from a serious vineyard--exactly what this property always deserved.  An allegory for domestic Chardonnay in general--they have moved from a flabby and outdated expression of this popular grape to a style that better expresses the full potential of their vineyard and their AVA.  If you love Chardonnay, you owe it to yourself to give these wines another try and fall in love all over again.

 Mike Barber

Friday
Dec272013

{Terra Ignota}: Te Whare Ra (TWR) Back in Stock!

I am super excited to announce that Te Whare Ra (TWR) one of our favorite direct import properties is now back in stock after much too long of an absence (thank you government shut down).

Te Whare Ra is a real family winery, Jason and Anna have two sets of twin girls!

For those of you that have not seen any of TWR’s wines before here is the scoop: Te Whare Ra is a small organic certified and Biodynamic practicing estate in Marlborough’s Wairau Valley. The owners / winemakers Jason and Anna Flowerday bought a section of old vines (planted in 1979) in 2003. After converting the estate over to their strict viticultural practices they have been focusing their efforts on making wines with a powerful sense of place, excellent textural presence and wonderful elegant poise. All of their wines are small production and are lovingly hand-crafted. The 2012 Pinot noir is a 300 case production, the Chardonnay for 2012, just 90 cases! We are incredibly lucky to be working with these folks and I really hope people will try out their remarkable range of wines. They have all become true staff favorites at K&L and when you taste the wines you will know why!

Jason and Anna showcasing their organic vineyard with Buckwheat cover crop

Here are the latest offerings that we now have in stock:

2012 Te Whare Ra (TWR) Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, $18.99

The 2012 vintage in New Zealand produced very high quality wines from low yields in a long, cool growing season. This sauvignon blanc is sourced from the Trelawne Farm Vineyard in the Upper Awatere Valley and TWR's home block in the Wairau Valley. The fruit was very gently pressed and is a large proportion of free-run juice. A slow cool ferment was used to preserve this wines bright aromatics and flavors while a small proportion of the juice was fermented in old Demi-muids (large neutral oak barrels) to give added texture and complexity on the palate. Jason and Anna’s notes read: “White currant and passion fruit coupled with ripe tropical and citrus notes from the Wairau components. These follow through to the palate -- which is fine and soft with vibrant, fleshy fruit balanced by ripe, juicy acidity and lingering minerality." This is a fresh zesty SB with great acidity and very exotic aromatics. The wines racy qualities are beautifully balanced by a rich textural mid palate from the extra lees contact and barrel fermented proportion.

2012 Te Whare Ra (TWR) Pinot Noir, Marlborough, $26.99

The fruit for this Pinot Noir comes from TWR’s home vineyard in the Renwick sub-region of Marlborough. The fruit is farmed organically and biodynamically. After careful handpicking, gentle de-stemming (without crushing) the fruit is then sorted by the individual berry! The ferment takes place in tiny one ton open fermenters where it is gently punched down by hand four times per day. The wine then spends 12 months in top quality French oak with 35% being new wood. According to the winemaker this wine “exhibits fragrant notes of ripe strawberry, and cherry with hints of mocha, violets, spice and some complex savory undertones. The finely textured, silky tannins combine with vibrant flavors of ripe strawberries and omega plums. The palate carries onto more savory and complex flavors and finishes with a lingering persistence of fruit, fine tannin and well integrated oak. Bottled unfined and with mineral filtration”. I love this wines balance of exuberance with its juicy accesible fruit along with more complex layers of exotic spice, agar wood, floral tones and deep forest floor notes. A easy wine to enjoy on so many levels.

Jason hand plunging the Pinot Noir

2012 Te Whare Ra (TWR) Chardonnay, Marlborough, $26.99

This 2012 Chardonnay is selected from their 32 year old home block in Renwick. The vines are Mendoza clone famous for its small berries and intense flavor concentration. The fruit it all handpicked and fermented in French oak Puncheon barrels that are 50% new. The Chardonnay then spends 11 months on its full lees adding layers of complexity and enhancing textural components. The total production of this wine was 90 cases. The wine shows good concentration with beautiful rich baked orchard fruits, balanced toasty oak and lovely lees quality punctuated by subtle mineral accents. Really exotic aromatics lead the way onto a complete palate that finishes fresh and lifted.

2012 Te Whare Ra (TWR) Riesling "D" Marlborough, $18.99

Showcasing the winery's old vine fruit which is sourced from thier 30+ year old vineyard. All fruit was hand-picked and hand-sorted before being gently pressed and fermented at cool temperatures to retain the wine's floral aromatics. From the winery: "Lifted aromas of jasmine, fresh lemon, kaffir lime leaf and mardarin follow on to the palate. These flavors of fresh lime juice, lemon sorbet and ripe grapefruit with hints of floral spice are balanced by a fine backbone of ripe acidity. This Riesling is a dry style which has excellent fruit weight and concentration to balance the lingering mineral acid structure. This wine is finely structured with great length of flavor." This is dry Riesling at its finest. Not austere and pithy like some incarnations. This wine has classic Riesling pronounced aromatics and soft texture on the palate but with driving acidity and persistence. Delicate yet powerful, good fleshy fruit but excellent focus. Lovely wine, a real staff favorite.

2013 Te Whare Ra (TWR) Riesling "M" Marlborough, $18.99

TWR takes inspiration from the great wines of the Mosel in this energetic and off-dry Riesling. The long hours of sunshine and cool overnight temperatures in Marlborough lend themselves perfectly to retain the natural acidity ( 9.5g/L) for this food-friendly and dynamic style. Jason and Anna describe it having "lifted aromas of orange blossom, mandarin, lime and white peach follow onto vibrant, ripe flavors of pink grapefruit, peach and lime with underlying slatey mineral notes. This wine is fine and soft with excellent fruit weight and concentration to counterbalance the mouth-watering acidity." I am amazed by this wines balance. It's hard to imagine that this wine has 30g/l of residual sugar but the remarkable 9.5g/l of acidity balances it perfectly. This wine gives the best German Kabinett / Spätlese offerings a serious run for their money!

2011 Te Whare Ra (TWR) Syrah, Marlborough, $29.99

The fruit is entirely hand picked, sorted by the cluster, gently de-stemmed and then re-sorted by the individual berry! A small portion is fermented whole cluster to enhance structure. The ferment is conducted in tiny one ton open top fermenters. A seven day cold soak is followed by 7-9 day ferment and another week post ferment maceration. The Syrah is matured for 12 months in French oak (35% new). This wine is quintessential ultra-cool climate Syrah. Treat this like a northern Rhone Syrah as regards to food pairing and you will not be disappointed. A tiny production wine that we are delighted to put on the shelf. The nose is full of violets and flowers with more serious undertones of cured meat and ground spice. The palate is mid weight with great acidity and silky fine grained tannins. Long and focused on the palate. 

Truly Hand-crafted winesAll of these wines are worthy of your attention. I believe they are as good of a line up as you will find anywhere. Jason and Anna's passion and dedication to quality shines through in all these wines and we are excited to have them back in our stores and online.

Cheers!

Ryan Woodhouse, New Zealand / Australia / South Africa Wine Buyer

***

 Terra Ignota is Latin for "Unknown Land". It was the name for the South Pacific region during intial mapping and exploration of Australia and New Zealand. As we are going to be exploring new and exciting wines from this region, we think this is a fitting title for our blog series on wines from this part of the world. Stay tuned for more!