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2000 Labégorce, Margaux $39.99

A great value in Bordeaux! This bottle is mature enough to drink now, but has time in hand if you want to keep it in the cellar for the future. We love it for its laid back elegance and classic balance. A must try for your next nice steak dinner.

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Entries in Russian River Valley (2)

Monday
May062013

Blasting Through Sonoma: A Euro Palate's Perspective

Euro wine geek Eric Story puts Sonoma to the test, with surprising results!

By Eric Story | K&L Alsace, Austria, Croatia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary & Loire Valley Wine Buyer

A European Palate in Sonoma?

Let's start off by getting one thing straight, I DO NOT HATE CALIFORNIA WINE. In fact, it is just the opposite. One of the best wines that I have ever had was from this great state. What I am adverse to is the utilitarian recipe, gimmicky marketer style of wine which--let's face it--exists in all wine regions, but is a trend born largely from California and its influence on the industry in recent times. You know the wines that I'm talking about - wines that lack all individuality, presence of place and, worst of all, a complete disregard for integrity and pride. Get 'em fruity, a dash of this, a dash of that, make some friends in the right places and you got yourself a 92 pointer. Mmmm, well done!

But enough with my ranting.

When I found out that I would be included on the Sonoma tour along with one of our domestic buyers, Michael “Lead Foot” Jordan, Patrick “I’ll Hang In There” Cu, and Scott “Can I Have a Nap” Beckerley I was pretty fired up to say the least. I have been a fan of Sonoma for quite a long time and was excited to get my teeth purple and make my gums sore. Many asked why one of the import buyers was going on such a trip. This answer is simple: my name was the first to be pulled out of a hat. But, there is a more serious purpose: I have deeply immersed myself into the belly of European wines for the last 10+ years, crudely ignoring my own back yard. Pretty weak on my part. It was time to step up the game.

So, we were off, bulgey eyed and full of coffee, up the 101 corridor. We made our appointments in a timely manner, for the most part did our thing, grabbed a few tacos from a truck on the side of the highway – a must do for any occasion – went to sleep and did it all over again the next day. We tasted A LOT of wines, but the purpose of this trip was getting to know the faces behind the labels, getting your shoes dirty in the vineyards -  the bigger picture kind of thing. I was curious about the back story behind these producers and the whether the wines were points-driven or a product of passion.

This is just a starting list of highlights of the many wines tasted that to me reflect this intimate relationship between the land and farmer, all are currently in stock at K&L:

2011 Cyprus Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($21.99) K&L Notes: The 2011 Cyprus, from our friends at Brack Mountain Wine Company, is made from fruit grown at Dutton Ranch Mill Station Vineyard in Green Valley. Entirely barrel-fermented in a combination of new and neutral French oak, this viscous, nutty Chardonnay rewards with pear, citrus and green apple fruit on the nose and palate. Long and satisfying.

2010 Copain "Tous Ensemble" Anderson Valley Chardonnay ($19.99) K&L Notes: As with his Pinot Noir, Copain founder Wells Guthrie aims for a Burgundian expression with the 2010 Tous Ensemble Anderson Valley Chardonnay. Very limited use of oak and "hands off" winemaking results in a clean, bright Chardonnay that is balanced, food-friendly, and made for immediate enjoyment.

2010 Porter Creek Mendocino County Old Vine Carignane ($22.99) K&L Notes: In addition to the lovely range of wines made from the Porter Creek estate in the Russian River, the winery makes a small amount of old vine Carignane from an organically-farmed, 60-year-old vineyard in Hopland, Mendocino County. The juice is aged in half large wooden tanks and half small barrels for 11 months, rounding out the grape's rustic edges while imparting just a little bit of spice on the nose and palate. None of the wood character overpowers the pretty red raspberry and strawberry fruit, anise qualities or peppery elements that make this surprisingly elegant wine and a joy at the dinner table.

2009 Acorn "Medley" Russian River Valley Red Wine ($34.99) (Blend of 44% Syrah, 14% Cabernet Franc, 13% Sangiovese, 11% Cinsaut, 7% Viognier, 5% Muscats, 3% Zinfandel, and 3% other varietals) K&L Notes: Field blended, food-friendly wines are the specialty at Acorn Winery and the "Medley" exemplifies this philosophy - a blend of field blends that sings in harmony. Winemaker Bill Nachbauer co-ferments 18 different varieties including syrah, cinsault, mourvèdre, viognier and black and white muscats, zinfandel, sangiovese and cabernet franc in two lots with different yeasts. After fermentation the lots were pressed into 50% new oak barrels for aging. The lots were then blended after three months and aged further prior to release. The 2009 is a crowd-pleaser, with lots of plum and black fruit, pepper, and chocolatey oak spice.  To learn more, check out Patrick's post about our visit to Acorn Winery here.

Here are a few snapshots...  

Porter Creek is a family-owned and operated winery located alongside Porter Creek, one of the Russian River's major tributaries. To showcase their unique hillside terroir, this father and son team focuses on Rhone and Burgundian varietals, which they farm organically to produce primarily vineyard-designated wines,but the make some killer Zin and Carignane!

K&L's Michael "lead foot" Jordan (left) with Porter Creek winemaker Alex Davis.

Wells Guthrie founded Copain in 1999 with the intent to produce Pinot Noir and Syrah in styles inspired by his travels and experiences in France, where he was influenced by producers in Burgundy and the Northern Rhone.It took ten years for Copain to release a Chardonnay, the first vintage of which was 2009.

Tasting at Copain.

In a nutshell, the wineries visited included Iron Horse, Porter Creek, Ridge, Copain, Acorn, Alexander Valley Vineyards, Stonestreet, Preston, Bella, and Brack Mountain Wine Co. Overall, as a native to the area,  I experienced a great sense of pride and a vision for a fantastic future by the end of those two days. We are surrounded by ton of the “recipe” wine in California but if you look deeper you will find wines and producers with a great sense of being and a story to tell. Every winery we visited had real people with a passion behind the wine.

These are the people that are making, not only each other better but everyone else better too. These are the men and women who are setting new standards each and every year and lending inspiration to those who are looking to become the best at what they do, because they are the best at what they do. These are the people who think Sonoma is a special place, care about the land they are farming, the people that they work with and ultimately the quality of wine that goes into the bottle which gives them their identity. We have to remember that most of these wineries are typically first, maybe second, rarely third generation. Hopefully this type of commitment and passion will be passed down another ten of fifteen generations, and I think that it will.

Thank you to all who opened their doors and took the time to share all of this with us. It was and is appreciated many times over. And, to those of you who we missed, don’t worry, we’re out there and on the prowl.

-Eric

 

Monday
Oct222012

Sonoma Road Trip Stories, Part IV: Limerick Lane Cellars

 

By: Sarah Covey | K&L Staff Member

Limerick Lane Cellars was on the top of my list for our recent K&L staff road trip to Sonoma. I had met current owner Jake Bilbro and his brother Scot (the winemaker) at an industry event in San Francisco earlier in the year. Not only were the wines delicious, but I found Jake to be a very friendly, genuine person. Over his homemade grilled sausages, Jake talked about how lucky he feels every day to be in his position. A man in his 30s with a young family, owning a winery and the surrounding land with a legacy to pass on to his children - it is a dream he never in a million years thought he would be able to achieve. I was inspired to learn more about this special place and the folks behind these intriguing wines.

A Little History

Limerick Lane Cellars is not a new name on the wine scene. Located just south of downtown Healdsburg, in the Russian River Valley appellation, the property was planted to grapes by the Del Fava family in 1910. Mario Del Fava, born in 1920, farmed grapes and prunes there until the 1970s when the estate was sold to the Collins family. “Brothers Mike and Tom Collins brought incredible passion and enthusiasm to the property selling the grapes as vineyard designates to several well known local wineries including De Loach, Chateau Souverain, Ravenswood, Davis Bynum and Gary Farrell," notes the Limerick Lane website. "The quality of the wines and reputation of the iconic Collins Vineyard quickly established Limerick Lane as a premier site for growing Zinfandel and Rhone varieties in Sonoma County. In 1986, the first estate wines were produced under the Limerick Lane label. The subsequent quality of the wines produced solidified Limerick Lane’s reputation as one of Sonoma County’s premier producers.”

Jake and his wife Alexis bought the house across the street from Limerick Lane in 2007. As is common in the Sonoma grape growing and winemaking community, Jake started helping Mike Collins with the harvest and in the cellars once he moved in across the street. Jake grew up in the wine business. His father is the owner of Marietta Cellars, where brother Scot is the assistant winemaker. In 2009, ready for the next chapter and unwilling to hang a “for sale sign” or sell it to the highest paying corporation, Mike gave Jake and his young family the opportunity of a lifetime. He approached Jake and asked him if he would like to buy Limerick Lane Cellars and the Collins Vineyard. Jake jumped at the chance, and Scot signed on as winemaker (in addition to making wine at Marietta Cellars) soon thereafter.

Limerick Lane Cellars is located just south of Healdsburg in the Russian River AVA.

 

Old Vine Heritage

A blend of head-pruned and trellised Syrah, the 2009 Limerick Lane Estate Syrah is simply delicious!With approximately 5 acres of the original vines planted in 1910 still in production today, it is the great pleasure and goal of Jake and his family to produce wines that live up to the 100 year heritage that preceded them. With the amazing fruit that the Collins Vineyard can produce, they are able to create wines that are noted not only for their exceptional balance and elegance, but wines with a sense of history and place as well. Vines planted in 1934 produce the grapes for the Limerick Lane "Block 1934-Estate" Russian River Valley Zinfandel; vines planted in 1970 provide the grapes for the Limerick Lane "Block 1970-Estate" Russian River Valley Zinfandel. The estate is also planted to both head-pruned and trellised Syrah, which in the future will be bottled separately as blocks, too. Right now their Limerick Lane Estate Russian River Valley Syrah is a blend of both, and is simply delicious! There is also old vine Furmint, which Jake told me he discovered in the old ledgers that used to be on the French Laundry’s late harvest dessert wine list! The Furmint is currently one of the varietals blended into their Cuvee Blanc, along with Sauvignon Blanc and Roussanne.

Understandably, Jake is as deeply connected to the land as he is to the wines. He is intimately familiar with each vine on the property, and his eldest son, Cruz, can identify each block by name and varietal. As Jake loved to do with his father, Cruz likes to ride the tractor and uses his shovel (with its real steel handle) to dig holes all around the vineyards!

The day we visited, Jake tasted us through the 2010 Pinot Noir from the estate, the 2010 Sonoma County Zinfandel, which has 1910, 1934 and 1970 blended in with sourced fruit, the 2010 Russian River Zinfandel, the 2010 Dry Creek Zinfandel, the 2010 Head-Pruned Syrah, the 2010 Trellis Block Syrah, and the famous "1023" Blend of Zinfandel, Syrah and Grenache from the estate. 1023 is the address for the winery on Limerick Lane. It was my personal favorite, and one that I can only get at the winery!

The wines of Limerick Lane are thoughtfully made, layered, nuanced and interesting. They are not the smack-you-in-the-face Zinfandels, Pinots, and Syrahs that so often come thumping out of the Valley over the hill from Sonoma. They are special wines expressive of land and vine, crafted by good-hearted, dedicated people who, along with the other young winemakers in Sonoma, are helping to reclaim history and revitalize the local industry. I highly recommend all of these wines.

And, if you want a calm, welcoming, warm tasting experience the next time you are in Sonoma, head to Limerick Lane. It is peaceful, quiet, and the wines are spectacular.

Tell them we sent you.

Cheers!

-Sarah

 

Sarah C. Covey, WSET Certified

Wine Sales Professional

K&L Wine Merchants, Redwood City, CA, USA