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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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Entries in Pinot Noir (79)

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!

Thursday
Aug082013

Keith's Burgundy Hotline: Ballorin - New Arrival from Burgundy!

By: Keith Wollenberg | K&L Burgundy Buyer

Gilles BallorinHello Burgundy Lovers,

As you know I am always scouting the back roads and alleys of Burgundy for unknown growers, making terrific wine.  Our latest discovery has just arrived. To my pleasure, Allen Meadows also found this grower, so we even have some reviews on a few of his wines, besides out own.

Gilles Ballorin is an iconoclastic guy, who grew up in Dijon, and worked harvest in Corgoloin for many years.  He later went to work for the cooperative in Igé, and then for Antonin Rodet.  But he got bored and wanted to try something new, so off he went to wine school, and he and his wife Fabienne became wine-growers, starting a few years ago with 0.2 Ha (1/2 an acre!), in Chenove, north of Marsannay, while he was still in school.  He then rented the neighboring 04Ha, and started with a whopping 1.5 acres in his first vintage  He has gradually acquired more vineyards, with the help of some investors content to take their share in wine, and now farms about 6 Hectares, he tells me.   These vineyards are scattered from north of Marsannay to south of the Clos de Maréchale in Comblanchien. He does much of his work by hand, since it takes him almost a half-day to drive his tractor from his northernmost vines to his southernmost!

By 2006, he was Demeter certified as biodynamic. He presses his grapes with an old-fashioned plate press, which we prefers, not a more modern pneumatic press.  He believes in a cold soak, using dry ice to retard the fermentation, which is always by native yeasts.  He refuse to pump his wine, but likes to minimize the amount of punching down to ensure gentle extraction.  He solution was to do his remontage (usually translated as pumping over) by hand, with a bucket.  He will draw wine from the bottom of the cuve, and pour it over the cap, as needed. 

He manages to extract a clear sense of terroir from each wine, with little in the way of a house signature.  The aim always to let his careful vineyard work express itself in the finished wine.  As he puts it: “My style is to not have a style.”  In 2011 he harvested later than many, only commencing on September 15th, in order to get riper phenolics, as he felt acidity levels were  good in the vintage.

They say that wines reflect their winemaker.  In this case that expresses itself by almost an excess of enthusiasm and boundless energy, and a restlessness combined with a positively Pablo Neruda like sensuality and intimate connection with the earth.  Try Gilles’s wines, and you will see why I am excited.

 

The Wines:

 

2011 Domaine Ballorin & F Bourgogne "Passetoutgrains" $18.99

Allen Meadows - Burghound

Fabiènne and Gilles Ballorin are behind this new and 100% biodynamically-farmed domaine that was started with the 2005 vintage. 2012 was my fourth visit and the domaine clearly continues to fashion impressive quality emanating from relatively modest appellations. The goal is to craft wine in a minimalist style from their 5 ha of vines that they have put together piece meal with various private investors who want only wine from their investments. Or, as Ballorin so eloquently and aptly puts it: 'My style is to not have a style.' In 2011, Ballorin noted that he was one of the very last to pick as he didn't start until the 15th of September. While he was very happy with the quality of the raw materials, he lamented that he averaged no more than 25 hl/ha, not much in the context of his appellations

K&L Notes  

An unusual AOC, Bourgogne Passetoutgrains may contain both Pinot Noir and Gamay, but must contain at least 1/3 Pinot noir. Unusually, this is 90% Pinot Noir!, since as the vineyard was replanted, it was to hat varietal. the average vine age is 55 years. This is both Organically and Biodynamically grown, and certified as such. The grapes are grown in a vineyard known as "En Bollery". It is just across the RN74 form the Clos de Vougeot, Grand Cru. The wine is open and bright with a very pretty , spicy character, but not a ton of mid-palate. Nice Pinot Noir mouthfeel. Tasty! (Keith Wollenberg, K&L Burgundy Buyer, 03/2013)

 

2011 Domaine Ballorin & F Bourgogne Rouge "Le Bon"   $24.99

Allen Meadows - Burghound: "A fresh and bright nose features notes of red pinot fruit with hints of earth that complement the moderately earthy, supple and very round flavors that possess a lovely mouth feel. This delicious effort is already drinking well." (1/2013)   K&L Notes: Named after Philip III, the best of the Dukes of Burgundy, also known as Philip the Good (Le Bon). And, Gilles says with a wink, this is good Burgundy. Fresh and bright, with focus, acidity and a nice mid-palate richness, this is most satisfying. (Keith Wollenberg, K&L Burgundy Buyer, 03 and 08/2013) 

2011 Domaine Ballorin & F Côte de Nuits Villages « Le Village » $29.95

Allen Meadows - Burghound

Pungently earthy aromas of both red and dark pinot fruit lead to attractively textured, delicious and sappy flavors that are quite forward and like the Bourgogne should drink well immediately. (1/ 2013)  K&L Notes: This vineyard was planted just after the war, in 1946. it is below the RN74, just a hop and a skip from Clos de Maréchale, He makes 5 barrels of this wine, with one being new. It is concentrated and spicy on the palate, with a pronounced spine. It is medium in weight, with good charm. The fruit, behind the spine of concentration, is bright and pretty, with a bit of delicacy in character. When tasted in March, it was feminine and lovely. Tasted after arrival, it show more structure and needs some cellar time, as you would expect from a wine next to Nuits-St-Georges. (Keith Wollenberg, K&L Burgundy Buyer, 03 and 08/2013)

 

2011 Domaine Ballorin & F Marsannay "Les Echezots" , $36.99

Allen Meadows - Burghound

A perfumed and very pretty nose offers up notes of cherry, black raspberry and a hint of wood influence. There is good richness to the delicious and refreshingly vibrant flavors that possess good volume on the tangy but ripe finish. (1/ 2013)  K&L Notes: Here, the soil is composed of fossilized oyster shells, which results in more red fruit notes, interesting layering and a fruit profile that is both complex and pretty. His holding is relatively high in the small valley that contains this vineyard, so it is a cooler site, resulting in a wine that is sensuous, earthy and very expressive in a most charming fashion,. (Keith Wollenberg, K&L Burgundy Buyer, 03/2013)

 

2011 Domaine Ballorin & F Marsannay "Clos du Roi",  $39.95

Gilles feels that the Marsannay Clos du Roy vineyard is his best site. It is also one of the sites suggested for promotion to Premier Cru, although there is a lot of opposition to this move among some other villages. The soil is a substance called Grèzes Litée. This is type of soil composed of a sandy and gravelly mixture of decomposed limestone bedded in on a slope. This is the same type of soil as is found in the lower portion of Charmes Chambertin, Gilles pointed out to me. This has extremely lovely fruit, and is both rich and expressive. This wine is what the French call Aérienne, "Of the Air", rather than earthy in character. (Keith Wollenberg, K&L Burgundy Buyer, 03/2013)

 

2011 Domaine Ballorin & F. Fixin "Les Chènevrières"  $46.99

89 points Allen Meadows - Burghound

A ripe, pure, cool and unusually elegant nose of essence of red pinot fruit and soft earth aromas give way to rich, delicious and velvet-textured flavors that display a discreet minerality on the mildly austere finish. This is sufficiently ripe and forward that it could be enjoyed now but I would advise waiting for a few years first. Recommended. (1/ 2013)

K&L Notes:

Here, the vineyard name comes from the Old French word for Cotton Fields, to which once, centuries ago, this low-lying vineyard may have been planted. It The soil here is a mixture of soil and gravel, and the character of fruit tends towards that harder character Fixin has been known to. Highly aware of this fact, Gilles tends to treat this cuvee particularly gently, as well as using canopy management and careful control of temperature at fermentation to ensure a gentler extraction. It is more structured that the Marsannays, with bright minerality following on the heels of the rich entry, with rounder fruit from the heavier clays in this soil. The profile of this wine is so pretty and so seamless that I am confident a bit of time in the cellar will richly reward you. (Keith Wollenberg, K&L Burgundy Buyer, 03/2013)

 

2011 Domaine Ballorin & F. Nuits-St-Georges "Les Damodes"  $57.99

       The view from Nuits Damodes, looking down to the plain below.

This comes from high on the hill near the Vosne Romanée border. The shallow topsoil overlays a hard white limestone. The result is a much lower vigour for the wines here. In response, Gilles works them entirely by hand and with a horse, doing no hedging or cutting of the wines, merely training the shoots back on to the wire, instead. This is an extremely lovely effort, with a very Vosne-like mid-palate and very attractive floral notes. The fruit here is so gorgeous, it is hard to believe this could be village Nuits! (Keith Wollenberg, K&L Burgundy Buyer, 03/2013)

 

A santé,

-Keith

 

Mr. Keith WOLLENBERG

Directeur Commercial Bourgogne

K&L Wine Merchants

http://www.klwines.com

+1-650-556-2724 Direct Line

Keithw@klwines.com