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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 Riesling (14)

Tuesday
Aug182015

Let’s Talk about Riesling, Baby.

“Yo, I don't think we should talk about this.

Come on, why not?

People might misunderstand what we're tryin' to say, you know?” -Salt-N-Pepa

For the past 20 or so years, Riesling has been a bit of a taboo subject for consumers. With comments like, “Ew, no Riesling for me. It’s too sweet,” or “Germany? Don’t they only make sweet wines?” In recent years, there has been an attempt to revive Riesling by sommeliers, retailers, and wine geeks alike through events like the Summer of Riesling campaign. While a valiant effort, these campaigns failed to get one very important message across to the consumer: not all Riesling is sweet.

Don’t get me wrong, sweet Rieslings can be absolutely delightful. In fact, some of the most impressive, most ageable wines are sweet, dessert Rieslings such as Eiswein and Trockenbeerenauslese. However, sweet Rieslings aren’t appropriate in every situation.  Let’s face it, sweet Riesling is not an easy, day-to-day drink for most people. The American palate is moving away from sweet and more towards dry. We want something drier, more high acid, more quaffable. Dry, high acid you say?  Well, look no further than the magnificent Riesling.

Riesling is naturally very high in acid, and when made well can produced some of the most thirst-quenching, mouthwateringly dry wines in the world. Mr. Johannes Leitz, a VDP producer in the Rheingau, told me that most Germans don’t actually drink sweet Riesling. The classic German sweet wines, such as Dragonstone, have gone out of fashion in the country. The new generation drinks only dry Rieslings, while the U.S. import market picks up the sweet wines they no longer desire.

However, more and more dry Rieslings are making their way to the American market. Mr. Leitz says he has been gradually decreasing the residual sugar in many of their sweet wines at the demand of the American consumers. This is a relief for Leitz and other producesrs in the Rheingau, a region that helped pioneer regulations for higher quality dry Rieslings. More recently known for their sweet Auslese due to a climate that encourages noble rot, the Rheingau is now bringing back the complex dry wines that the region used to specialize in. One such way is through the designation Erstes Gewachs (which later became Grosses Gewachs), a designate that can only be used for quality dry wines made from VDP sites.  

Below are some winemakers that are producing great dry Rieslings.

In the Rheingau, Johannes Leitz’s vineyards run along the steep slopes of the Rüdesheim area of the Rhineriver. Johannes’ grandfather acquired the vineyard after it was destroyed during World War II and nursed the vines back to health. The 2013 Leitz "Eins Zwei Dry" Rheingau Riesling Trocken (Dry) $15.99 is his entry-level dry Riesling that is harmoniously dry with a rounder, richer palate and notes of peach and nectarine. It’s perfect for those who don’t want the mouth-cutting high acidity, but still want a dry Riesling. Thier 2013 Leitz Rüdesheimer Riesling Trocken $18.99 is one of my favorite dry Rieslings, with notes of meyer lemon, orange blossom, pith and an underlying salinity that is reminds you of the ocean. The quality of this wine for the price is insane!

In in the Rheinhessen, where Müller-Thurgau reigns supreme, there is a small movement of young winemaker who are challenging the norm. One such young winemaker is Stefan Winter, one the newest elected VDP producers. He has turned around his family estate, making wines that are no longer ordinary, but extraordinary. While his family estate is quite large at 20 hectares, he keeps yields low, only producing 7,000 cases per year. He is pretty hands-off in the cellar and it certainly shines through in his wines, tasting nothing but the grape and the terroir. The 2013 Stefan Winter Dittelsheim Riesling (dry) $21.99 has aromas of honeysuckle, white starfruit and wet stone with very high, crisp acidity and flavors of lemon juice and petrol. This bottle is cellar worthy for under $25.

In the beautiful upper Mittelrhein, an UNESCO world heritage site, Dr. Randolf Kauer (a professor of Organic Viticulture at the Geisenheim University) makes wine at his family estate Weingut Dr. Randolf Kauer.  He farms 3.5 hectares of vines on steep slate slopes which are certified ECOVIN and organic. The 2013 Dr. Randolf Kauer Oberweseler Oelsberg Riesling Spätlese Trocken Alte Reben $26.99 is truly terroir driven with aromas of lemon zest, orange blossom and pear, leading to a palate of tree-fruits, lemon and searing high, juicy acidity.

Lastly, the Mosel, known for its slate-riddled soils and steep, picturesque hills.  While the region may be beautiful, the hills of the Mosel are difficult and costly to maintain. As a result in the 1980’s, many producers abandoned winemaking on these slopes. But Dr. Ulrich Stein loves these steep slate slopes and makes a wine that celebrates the terroir; Blauschiefer or Blue Slate. Blue slate is a perfect descriptor for the 2013 Stein "Blauschiefer" Riesling Trocken (Dry) $18.99. It tastes like licking slate, stones, and minerals.  Extremely dry, insanely mineral driven, full of salinity, and reminiscent of Granny Smith apples.  This wine is crazy complex for the price. It’s sourced from 80-year-old vines on a steep slope which require a lot of labor. I’m not entirely sure how they could be making money on this wine. It’s truly a steal.

Watch out for more Riesling posts to come...

-Olivia Ragni

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!

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