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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)

Monday
Aug052013

K&L Trip Reports: This One Time, at Pinot Camp...

Soil types at Penner Ash.

By: Jim Boyce | K&L Staff Member

Oregon Pinot Camp 2013 kicked off with a reception at Sokol Blosser winery with fifty producers in attendance. With temperatures in the mid '80s, the weather could not have been any better for soaking up the beautiful wine country view, enjoying great food and wine, and meeting great people. We were informed that Oregon summers do not typically start until July 4th, so (this being early - June 22nd) we best enjoy the sun while it lasted. Sure enough, the next three days had us dodging raindrops and using the graciously provided umbrellas!

The goal of attendees at Pinot Camp is to get the vineyard-to-bottle rundown of what it takes to make wine in the crazy climate of Oregon. We were brought to Penner-Ash, where they had dug two pits - the first of marine sedimentary origin; the second of volcanic basalt only 200 feet away -  to demonstrate the vast difference in terroir characteristics of the Willamette Valley. While there, we were presented with a small group Pinot Noir tasting to highlight how wines grown in each distinct soil type differ. (For example, Pinot Noir grown in marine sedimentary soils usually has a darker fruit profile, with prevalent baking spice notes and “spikey” tannins.)

After that, we were brought to Elk Cove Vineyards for the farming presentation. Here we were educated on vineyard and clonal selections, canopy and water management techniques, and farming decisions for the future. They really emphasized the fact that finding the right sites to plant is paramount, farming in the Oregon climate requires constantly adapting in the vineyard and trying new, innovative technology on all scales. 

Moving on to Lemelson, we learned about (and tasted) the impact that winemaking decisions have on the wines. Decisions that relate to timing of harvest, reception, pre/fermentation, aging, and finishing all have a perceptible effect. Each producer has their own definition of the 'best' strategies, and what works for one producer can differ greatly from the next guy. Steve Doerner illustrates this point very well at Cristom, where he will use different percentages of whole clusters depending on the vintage in his winemaking.

The camaraderie of Oregon winemakers stood out as they told stories of how it is not usual to call around to see how a neighbor is dealing with early frost or migratory birds decimating the crop. Or how they dealt with the 2010 vintage, the coldest on record in the past 30 years of Oregon winemaking. (Only to be outdone by 2011, which had the latest latest bud break in history!) As the winemakers talked about all these tough vintages, they always paid homage to Oregon's pioneer winemakers who,  in the late 1960s and early 1970s, decided against popular opinion that great Pinot Noir could be made here, and dove in head first.

We tasted many Pinot Noirs from the 2010 and 2011 vintages, which offered a refreshing look at how these two difficult vintages are coming along now. (They are coming along beautifully, in case you were wondering).

But what's a Pinot Camp without whites? Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, the faces of Oregon whites, took center stage, but from the very beginning we also saw many other white varietals including Chardonnay, Riesling, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier, Gruner Veltliner, Gewurztraminer, Moscato, and Tocai Fruilano! While a few of these newcomers have yet to find their footing, the majority were serious winners. 2011 - a cold, wet, and very late vintage - produced some of the finest white wines I've had from Oregon to date.  

Overall, we experienced a nice balance of old favorites and new arrivals, and it was great to see some long lost old faces to make grand returns. The perennial offerings from Bethel Heights, Chehalem, Cristom, Domaine Drouhin, Elk Cove, Eyrie, Ponzi, St. Innocent, and Willakenzie continue to impress, along with new personal favorites like Anne Amie, Stoller, and Trisaetum.

We lingered at the Trisaetum tent more than once to 'cleanse our palates' with some of their insanely good Rieslings. The 2012 Coast Range Dry Riesling (24.99) is full of nervy, racy acid, great weight, and mouthwatering minerality. The 2012 “Estates Reserve” Riesling (a 50/50 blend of Coast Range and Ribbon Ridge fruit - $34.99) is a Spatlese style Riesling with plenty of stone fruit and mouthwatering acidity. The 2010 Trisaetum "Coast Range Estate" Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir ($49.99), made from a blend of four barrels, has huge aromatics, juicy berry fruit, cola notes, and baking spice nuances. Keep an eye out for a K&L/Trisaetum Pinot Noir coming in the near future!

While the summer is still here, make sure to try a bottle of 2012 Patton Valley Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Rosé ($16.99), easily one of the favorites of the trip. Full of fresh strawberry and watermelon fruit, light spice, and impeccable balance, this is a refreshing warm weather winner. The 2010 Stoller "Reserve" Dundee Hills Chardonnay ($25.99) and 2011 Domaine Drouhin "Arthur" Dundee Hills Chardonnay ($29.99) are both shining examples of what Oregon can accomplish on the Chardonnay front, with both showing a combination of new world fruit and old world acidity and balance.

The last night of OPC was a traditional salmon bake at Stoller Winery. This is where the big guns are pulled out, with magnums and jerobaoms of older vintage wines as far as the eye could see! My notes (and memory) became a little fuzzy that night, but I do remember trying some older Argyle sparkling, '05 Willakenzie and '08 Penner Ash “Shea Vineyard” Pinot Noirs, in addition to another 20-30 more wines.

Salmon bake at Stoller.

My last day finished up with some important stops in Portland: breakfast at Voodoo Doughnuts, a tour at Clear Creek Distillery, and a house smoked pulled pork sandwich and beer at Cascade Barrel House, all of which are must visits for anyone in the Portland area! OPC really reinforced my adoration of Oregon wine. With the beautiful countryside, great people, and delicious food, wine, and beer, Oregon should be near the top of everyone's travel list!

-Jim

 

Monday
Aug052013

{Terra Ignota}: Introducing New Direct Import - Oakridge Estate

Oakridge Estate winemaker and CEO David Bicknell is a 20+ year veteran of his craft in the Yarra Valley and one of the most highly regarded Chardonnay producers in Australia. His Chardonnays transcend all that you think you might know about Australian Chardonnay. They are the definition of precision, focus, tension and complex minerality. White Burgundy lovers will be amazed by these wines as they have the drive and focus of great Puligny-Montrachet. Oakridge also makes some fantastic Shiraz, subtle, bright and elegant Pinot Noir, and a very textural, complex Fumé Blanc. The scores all speak for themselves, but these wines are not to be missed. They were all instant staff favorites!

Oakridge has many estate vineyards across Yarra Valley, just outside of Melbourne in Victoria. The vineyards highlight the different micro-climates of Yarra and the region's diverse soil types. Yarra has numerous undulations and some pretty dramatic geographical features that effect airflow and temperatures throughout the valley. Many of Oakridge’s sites are elevated and on sloping terrain all adding more nuances to the terroir. 2011 was the coldest vintage on record for much of Victoria and Yarra Valley (that is already a very cool region) was no exception. The season had it's ups and downs with some untimely rains and limited sunshine. However, the white wines that have emerged are some of the most remarkable I have ever tasted. Indeed Mr. Bicknell believes the Chardonnays that have come from this extreme vintage are the best of his long career! 

Oakridge's style, that is deliberatly focused and linear, was exaggerated even further by the high natural acidity and lower ripeness levels of 2011. All the fruit is hand picked and meticulously selected. Whole bunch pressing to top quality Burgundian cooperage, mostly 500L (Puncheon) barrels, where the wine is fermented slowly using all wild yeast. After the ferment is complete the wine is sulphured to prevent Malo. This is distinctive and gives the wines their intense brightness and snappy acidity. I think it also allows the beautiful flinty, stoney minerality to shine through. All of the Local Vineyard Series (LVS) Chards are made in exactly the same way, thus allowing the individual sense of place to come through in the wines. These are precise studies of each vineyard and it's very particular flavor profile.

2011 Oakridge Local Vineyard Series "Barkala Ridge Vineyard" Chardonnay, Yarra Valley $24.99

95 Points James Halliday

Intensely flinty and mineral driven. Intriguing aromas of matchstick and spicy white oak. Bright quince and crunchy Anjou pears are highlighted on the long, linear and chiseled palate. Quite Chablis like. Very much for Burgundian Chardonnay drinkers rather than big butter bomb lovers.

2011 Oakridge Local Vineyard Series "Denton Vineyard" Chardonnay, Yarra Valley $24.99

95 Points James Halliday

The softest and most rounded of the Local Vineyard Series wine from Oakridge. Ripe orchard fruit, yellow peach and fresh apricots. Broader and less linear than the other vineyard expressions. Very charming and immediately expressive. Silky texture, elegant. A true expression of place as the wines are all made identically.

 

From their many single vineyards, each year Oakridge picks a few select parcels to release as part of their 864 Single Block program. These are simply the best of the best from all of their estate. Treated with the utmost care and attention. The best hand selected clusters, finest barrels, daily hand monitoring. These are designed as wines to rival the best of what the rest of the world can offer and I can attest that they do exactly that. The two single block wines we have are quite simply two of the best Chards I have ever tasted. My time here at K&L is split between Australia, NZ, South Africa and working with Burgundy buyer Keith Wollenburg. With absolutely no disrespect to the stunning Burgundies I have tasted in the last few years, I would quite happily run these wines against anything that I have tasted from the Burgundy, in any price point. I also believe they will be as long lived in the cellar as many of their French counterparts.

2011 Oakridge 864 Single Block Selection "Charlie's Block: J&J D'Aloisio Vineyard" Chardonnay, Yarra Valley $49.99


96 Points James Halliday

Best young Chard I have ever tasted, period. I am simply amazed by this wine. Drive, texture, complex layers of flavor so dynamic they defy description. Exotic spices, Agarwood, endless mineral tones. Simply amazing.

2011 Oakridge 864 Single Block Selection "Drive Block: Funder and Diamond Vineyard" Chardonnay, Yarra Valley $49.99

95 Points James Halliday

A very worthy if not slightly leaner single block selection. Matchstick wood, oak spices, ginger snap, quince and lime blossom. Crisp acidity drawing out the palate into a linear force. Spectacular wine that I imagine will age for a decade plus.

Beyond Chardonnay...

2012 Oakridge Limited Release Fume Blanc "Fumare", Yarra Valley, $24.99

93 Points James Halliday

Another standout wine! A fascinating blend of Sauvignon Blanc (70%), Semillon (20%) and Gris (10%). The fruit is from three of Oakridge's estate properties and is fermented and matured in neutral french oak puncheons. The wine is a distinct mix of Sancerre like minerality and bright zesty, floral aromatics, with more of the weight, texture and savory lees character of white Bordeaux (without the new oak flavors). Really long on the finish, snappy and racy. Awesome shellfish wine, move over Muscadet, this is what I'm drinking with my next Oysters!

2011 Oakridge Local Vineyard Series "Denton Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley $24.99

93 Points James Halliday

The Denton Vineyard Pinot is similarly reflective of the cool 2011 vintage. The wine is very elegant, light in color and bodied. However, when it comes to flavor and complexity it is anything but light! Showing lovely aromas of dusty red berries, leaf litter, dry bark and spicy wood notes. The palate echoes the aromatics with nice purity and savory undertones. Not a big blockbuster style, but one that uses subtlety, balance and poise to communicate the true beauty of Pinot Noir. Once again Burgundy lovers should really check this out. If you are studying for your Master Somm exam, this would be a very scary wine to get blind as it might just be 1er Cru Savigny-les Beaune!? Perfect for roast chicken, light game or grilled fish.

Last but not least...

2010 Oakridge Local Vineyard Series "Whitsend & Oakridge Vineyard" Shiraz, Yarra Valley $24.99

95 Points James Halliday

2010 has been hailed as a superlative red wine vintage in Victoria. Good warm growing conditions, but without any too intense heat spikes, provided long even ripening and very little disease pressure. This wine is intense, concentrated and structured Shiraz. This is not a big, over-ripe, fat wine but one of focus, balance and purity. Rich, but not overly extracted, dark red fruits with touches of spice and dried herbs and smoked meat. Food orientated. Quite accessible now but I think it will only get better with time.

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
Jul252013

{Terra Ignota}: Seresin - One of NZ's Finest Estates

Working with the wines of Seresin Estate is a true pleasure. These are most definitely some of the best examples of authentic Marlborough wines I have ever come across.

I believe Seresin has truly become an iconic producer for the region that has elevated the quality of Marlborough wine. They have achieved this by making brave decisions in the vineyard and sticking by their convictions in the cellar. To paraphrase renowned British critic Jancis Robinson, they have raised their head above the parapet of mediocrity.

It is commonly known that most wineries founded by movie industry folks lack authenticity or shall we say - enological inspiration. Many are very commercial projects that simply pump out generic wines in very rigid, manipulated styles. However, heralded cinematographer Michael Seresin (known for works such as: Bugsy Malone, The Midnight Express and Harry Potter – The Prisoner of Azkaban) who founded this estate of the same name, clearly had more ambitious, engaged and dynamic visions for his vinous adventure.

Hillside Vines

The principles of Seresin are literally grounded in organic and biodynamic viticulture. They take the truly holistic approach to grape growing with a strong belief that natural balance and health in the vineyard will ultimately produce the truest expressions of place and vintage. The estate operates a full farm producing their own compost and biodynamic preparations. Beneficial cover crops, Goats and Chickens take the place of modern herbicides and pesticides. Their own cows fertilize the vines, and horses are used to do much of the labor in the vineyard reducing soil compaction from tractors etc. 

I have previously written at length about the erroneous application of Old World / New World labels. I much prefer to talk about producers using the terms Traditional vs. Modern. Seresin is a perfect example of this debate being that they are certainly geographically located in the “New World” but most definitely philosophically located in the “Old World.” These methods, carefully applied by winemaker Clive Dougal, have resulted in a line up of characterful wines, each an honest and vibrant representation of vineyard and climate. Every wine is a product of passion and dedication to healthy vines and delicate yet precise winemaking.

Seresin’s wines are loosely divided into two programs with the upper tiers of “Seresin” wines and the lower tier of “Momo” wines.  “Momo” meaning “offspring” in the native Maori pays homage to Momo’s place in the larger Seresin family. I believe the Momo range has long represented some of the best values in the category. The fruit is still largely estate grown and soon to be even more so. The fruit is farmed organically and some biodynamically.  The 2010 Momo Pinot Noir is taken mostly from the flat parcels of Seresin’s estate vineyards that lay on the floor of the Wairau Valley. Here the vines grow in deep alluvial gravels, producing bright fresh Pinot Noir. The Momo Pinot is hand picked, hand sorted and gently de-stemmed. The ferment is open top and uses only wild yeast. Post ferment, the wine is gently transferred to French Oak barriques, mostly older wood, for eleven months maturation. The wine is then bottled with very minimal, if any, fining or filtration, mercifully leaving the texture and authenticity of the wine intact. This wine represents way more true Pinot character than any other sub $20 contender I can think of from anywhere around the world.

2010 Momo (Seresin) Pinot Noir, Marlborough, NZ $16.99

The wine exhibits beautiful aromatics of crushed dark berries, plum skin, poultry herbs of sage and rosemary, earthy, fresh cut mushrooms. On the palate the wine is medium bodied with nice ripeness and moderate extraction. Again gently crushed berries and herbs take center stage with nice spicy French oak tones chiming in at just the right moment. The wine has great energy and life, with the freshness of the acidity and moderate extraction lifting the finish elegantly. This is serious wine at twice the price.

2012 Momo (Seresin) Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ $14.99

The 2012 Momo Sauvignon Blanc also has dynamic drive and freshness. Snappy acidity of citrus and grapefruit with some tropical notes typical of the warmer areas from which these grapes are grown in the Wairau Valley. There is only a subtle hint of that “greenness” more commonly found in Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is very dry, very refreshing, quaffable with nice chalky minerality and little more substance than most of it’s competitors. A great seafood wine for oysters etc.

Seresin's Horse Drawn Biodynamic Preparation Spayer

2011 Seresin Sauvignon Blanc, Wairau / Omaka Valley, Marlborough, NZ $25.99

Moving now into the Seresin upper tiers, everything is Biodynamically certified fruit. Again everything is very carefully hand picked  / sorted and wild yeast ferment. The 2011 Seresin Sauvignon Blanc is surely up there as one of the most impressive wines I have tasted from New Zealand. The grapes were sourced from the upper terraces of the Home vineyard, which are comprise of varied Waimakiriri type soils of alluvial origin. This was supplemented with portions from the Tatou vineyard which is made up of a mixture of alluvial shingles, and the clay rich Raupo Creek vineyard. All in all twenty different individually fermented vineyard parcels of Sauvignon Blanc are painstakingly blended together to make this wine. The finishing touch is two small parcels of Semillon added to the blend. 15% of the wine is fermented and aged in neutral French oak barriques to give texture and complexity. The wine has such exotic, floral aromatics and yet tremendous restraint and balance to boot. Fresh cut herbs, freshly grated citrus rind and tropical flowers. The palate has phenomenal texture and persistence that is quite remarkable.  Fine minerality runs through into the finish that is immeasurably long because it will still be there when you are reaching for another sip (or bottle!) Truly special wine, and exactly what Jancis was talking about when she noted how Seresin have set about separating themselves from the plethora of others good producers in the area.

2010 Seresin "Leah" Pinot Noir, Wairau / Omaka Valley, Marlborough, NZ $29.99

The 2010 Seresin “Leah” Pinot Noir is named after Michael Seresin’s daughter. This beautiful wine is created from carefully selected parcels of fruit coming predominantly from the clay rich soils of the Raupo Creek vineyard in the foot hills of the Omaka Valley. The remainder coming off the alluvial soils of Tatou vineyard and the Home vineyard. The fruit underwent a long cold soak. During the native yeast ferment the cap was gently punched down by hand. Post-ferment came another two weeks of carefully observed maceration. The Pinot was matured in French oak barriques, 20% new, for 11 months. It is bottled completely unfined and unfiltered. This wine has a stunning perfume of crushed rose petals, red fruits with darker cherry notes. Savory elements are also on show with tree bark, moss, and warm toasted spices. This wine has a fantastic density and saturation on the palate whist remaining poised and bright. The tannin structure is super fine and silky as you would expect from the clay based soils. Succulent and rich, fuller bodied than the Momo with a rounder feel on the mid-palate and a touch more extraction. The wine finishes long and supple with invigorating acidity and excellent concentration of flavor.

Seresin also make some fantastic single vineyard wines that we hope to make available to K&L customers through a special direct purchase deal. Please keep an eye out for more Seresin wines coming soon. For now I implore you to try any of these wines. The Momo's are perfect to make your everyday drinking a little more interesting or the Seresin tier to really give you an extra special experience with these magic wines. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me or leave comments below.

Cheers!

Ryan Woodhouse, NZ / Aussie Specialist

***

 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!