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The Freewheel line with a couple of English friends.

It takes a lot of beer to keep the wine business running smoothly. Here in Redwood City, we are very fortunate to have a great English style ale producer right in our backyard: Freewheel Brewing Company. The staff of K&L are fictures at our local pub, and it is a rare moment when one of us isn't there having a pint and a bite of their excellent food. We are also lucky enough to be the first place to offer their bottled beer for sale. If you have never had it, the Freewheel Brewing "FSB" Freewheel Special Bitter, California (500ml) is the benchmark in fresh, balanced, smashable ale. We will do our best to keep some in stock for you, the customer too!

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Entries in Santa Cruz Mountains (5)


Big Basin Vineyard

Most of the K&L crew tasting with our host, Matt Ryan

It is difficult to hop from winery to winery e in the Santa Cruz Mountains, but those willing to brave steep dirt roads, 2,500 foot elevation climbs and winding mountainous terrain will find themselves in a fascinating appellation filled with high quality wines. The soil types here are some of the most diverse in California, with the San Andreas fault cutting right through the middle of the mountain appellation (you can see the fault rift right below Ridge’s Monte Bello Vineyard). The grinding of the tectonic plates is what created this area and gives Santa Cruz’s steep mountain vineyard slopes a rocky soil diversity filled with decomposed granite, limestone, schist and shale. The soil produces grapes of unique spice and intensity, and the vineyards’ high elevation keeps the grapes cool. It's the perfect recipe for world class viticulture, and this AVA has some of the most renowned Cabernet, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir around.  Thanks to Big Basin vineyards, Santa Cruz is also home to some of California's best Syrah.

As we were driving through this AVA (our cars covered in dust, our tires squeeling around tight turns and on large rocks, our traction slipping as we climbed steep mountain roads) I couldn't help but think about the insanity/tenacity of the people who first planted vines here about 150 years ago. Lincoln's homestead act of 1862 gave settlers the ability to own land in the west if they cultivated it for use. This inspired French pioneers to haul everything they needed up to the tops of these mountains, painstakingly clear away sloped fields of ancient trees, and plant the first vines of Santa Cruz.  Big Basin’s vineyard is a six-acre lot surrounded by redwoods and thick forest right next to Big Basin State Park.  First cleared and planted in the late 1800s, it was purchased by owner Bradley Brown in 1998 and planted entirely to Rhone varietals. 

A fantastic lineup of wines from Big Basin Vineyards

Thankfully, we didn't have to drive all the way down into Big Basin to taste these wines. They have a great tasting room in downtown Saratoga, along with several other wineries, and I suggest stopping by their room as a great start to your Santa Cruz Mountains tasting experience. While the Pinots they make from various vineyards are bright and delicious, including the Big Basin Vineyards "Alfaro Family Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir ($44.99),  their real success is their Syrahs. Brad learned winemaking from Alban, and he took budwood from Alban to plant his vineyard: the only one in Santa Cruz planted 100% to Rhone varietals.  Their 2010 "Old Corral Block" Estate Syrah ($49.99) is dark and brooding, dominating the palate with dark earth and pepper.  This is real deal, big, structured Syrah with loads of tobacco, blackberry and beef stew flavors. The 2010 "Rattlesnake Ridge Block" Estate Syrah  is my personal favorite and a little more user friendly: with those gamey and peppery flavors softened by lush flavors of cassis and cherry.  Their 2009 "Frenchie's Ranch" Syrah is probably one of the best Syrahs in the country: a four barrel vineyard selection packed with dense cassis, strawberry, cedar, pepper and leather, with a big finish of mole and chili. Sadly, you can't get it from us; this wine is tasting room only!

The 2011 Big Basin Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon ($38.99) is a one-time bottling and worth a taste.

Michael Barber


Eden in the Santa Cruz Mountains

A view to remember

The most picturesque and romantic place we visited on our trip to the northern Central Coast easily had to be Mount Eden Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains. That's not to say it was easy to get there. Everyone we spoke to beforehand warned us about the 2.2 mile dirt road leading up a steep slope. Upon arrival, I was floored by the view. The vineyards sit atop a mountain that overlooks the entirety of Santa Clara Valley. It almost seemed like an oasis after the slog of a drive needed to get there. But in reality, this trek would deter only those with meager enthusiasm for wine tasting. The Mount Eden and Domaine Eden wines are worth every moment of your time.

The wines from both Mt. Eden and Domaine Eden are as beautiful as they have ever been.
Winemaker and part owner Jeffrey Patterson has been at the helm since the 1980s. He and his wife Ellie were hired to bring cohesion and continuity to the vineyard after the likes of Merry Edwards and Richard Graff passed through as previous winemakers. The site itself was bought by Martin Ray in 1943 under the advice of California wine pioneer Paul Masson. The focus has been on bottling premium Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon ever since, though an occasional Cabernet Franc Ros
é is also made. 

A somewhat recently acquired plot of land nearby allowed Patterson to increase production. The land used to belong to Cinnabar, and Patterson decided to bottle the newly made wine there under the name Domaine Eden. This was to differentiate the original site from the new one, and to allow Domaine Eden to have a more modern, soft, and fruit-forward profile than the Mount Eden wines. The Mount Eden wines have more depth, nuance, and are generally much better for aging.

From top to bottom their Mount Eden Estate wines exude class and high quality. The oak treatment is never heavy handed, and the Cabernet Sauvignon, in particular, is highly capable of being cellared and improving over time. We tried the soon-to-be released 2010 vintage, and fortunately still have some of the 2009 Mount Eden "Estate" Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon ($59.99) in the store. Both are real treats, and I can only imagine how great they will be in 5-10 years time. 

Tastings at Mount Eden Vineyards are by appointment only, so make sure to schedule one before making the drive! And if driving is too much of a hassle, stop by the store for some bottles to try.

We have a nice selection of the wines in stock: 

2012 Mount Eden "Estate" Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir ($59.99)

2010 Mount Eden "Estate" Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay ($59.99)

2011 Mount Eden "Wolff Vineyard" Edna Valley Chardonnay ($18.99)

2012 Domaine Eden Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir ($34.90)

2011 Domaine Eden Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay ($26.99)

2010 Domaine Eden Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon ($32.99)

Patrick Cu


Burgundy: A 1996 Retrospective

At Mount Eden Vineyards, August 25, 2013.  A group of Burgundy enthusiasts brought wine from our cellars to have a look at 1996, both white and red.  Members also brought older wines for comparison, and some younger wines for fun.

What a beautiful vista of the Silicon Valley.  Thanks to Jeffrey and Ellie Patterson for hosting and cooking!

All wines were tasted blind, in flights, except for the Champagne. Notes were written before the revelation of which wine was which, of course. My incorrect guesses are included, as that is how my actual notes read.

Champagne – 2002 Joseph Perrier

 Rich and concentrated on the palate, with a fine bead. Nice length

Whites – Flight One

2011 Domaine Albert Grivault Meursault Perrieres 1er Cru Clos de la Perrieres

Lovely and rich, with a concentrated nose with notes of citrus and white flowers. Terrific weight and length. Surprisingly open for such a young wine. It is easy to see why this is considered a first among equals among the Meursault Premier Crus.

2007 Domaine Paul Pernot Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos de la Garenne

This was lovely, with minerality, focus and a slightly darker color and hints of oxidation on the nose and back palate at first. My first impression was lovely, but time to drink this up! Then after an hour, the color was lighter, the nose fresher and all trace of oxidation was gone. This was a classic example of reduction masking as oxidation. I wonder how many of the so-called premox bottles are actually reduced, and are thrown away before they have a chance to open up? This one fooled not only me, but a winemaker, a sommelier, two importers and a Burgundy Collector with 40 years of experience, at least for a time.  Lesson reinforced: If you think a white Burgundy oxidized, you have NOTHING to lose by being patient, except perhaps an additional glass or two to wash. 

(This is from the Clos de la Garenne, which consists of two small parcels contained, confusingly, between Champs Canet and Folatieres, not within Garenne.  It is extremely well-situated.  The Duc de Magenta (Jadot) , Paul Pernot, and Faiveley are the three land-holders I know of who farm this small vineyard, although Drouhin also bottles it, from grapes purchased from Pernot, who also sells grapes to Jadot, who I believe sells the largest amount of wine from this vineyard.)

2006 Domaine Duplessis Chablis 1er Cru Montée Tonnerre

Honeyed and light on the palate. Good focus and nice minerality, but a bit slighter than I would hope for from this vineyard, which is my favorite 1er Cru. It was also warmer than the rest of the flight, which was to its detriment, as it showed less of that Chablis drive at the higher temperature. Still, solid and focused and nice wine. From a fifth generation grower, farming organically.

2007 Domaine Roulot Bourgogne Blanc

Lovely and pretty, with nice concentration. Ready to drink, but no oxidation. Nice concentration and Meursault lemony notes for its appellation. As Clive Coates would say, "very good for what it is."  No trace of premature oxidation here.


Whites – Flight Two (with Mushroom Timbale)

1996 Domaine René & Vincent Dauvissat Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos

Very pretty, very lovely. Has had time to relax and open up, losing that stern reticence this site shows in its youth. Lovely nose, good focus. Not big but very tendu (tense and linear) on the finish.

1996 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Folatieres

Honeyed, with more pronounced secondary notes on the nose. Quite rich mid-palate. A lovely wine, but not quite as fresh on the palate initially as is promised as the nose. Actually better after 20 minutes in the glass, so no premox here. A lovely wine that really showed its breeding over time.

1996 Mount Eden Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay

Prominent orange peel notes on the palate as well as the nose. Bright fresh color, no signs of oxidation. Lovely and rich on the palate. Less complex than the other two, but stands in good company with them.  Bravo.


Reds – Flight One (with braised lamb shanks, fennel and artichoke hearts)

1996 Mount Eden Estate Pinot Noir

Bright, spicy, fresh, good fresh red fruit notes. Quite lovely and elegant.

1996 Clos Frantin Vosne-Romanée Malconsorts

Primary, with prominent acid in the middle. A great old Pinot, but I find myself wanting more weight, flesh and glycerine. Just a bit too linear, although very nice.

1996 Dehlinger Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Lovely black fruit. A very different profile. Concentrated, long. Alcohol seems a bit too high. Nice wine, but seems a bit one-noted here.

1999 Cronin "Peter Martin Ray Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir 

Substantial Brett mars the nose. Seems very acidic on the palate, due to an excess of volatility. Lots of life on the palate. If this were not flawed, it would have showed great material. A disappointment, particularly after how lovely this wine was on release, when I purchased it.

Reds – Flight Two (with cheese plate)

1996 J-F Mugnier Bonnes Mares Grand Cru

Pronounced minerality is evident. The focused spine here makes me wonder if this is a Corton? Shows some notes of iron, very nice wine, with lots of spine and a great focus.

1996 Georges Roumier Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Cras

Rich and spicy character. More red-fruited. Good minerality, very nice. Showing a prominent oak and mint note.

1996 Tollot-Beaut Corton Grand Cru

Lovely, rich, concentrated. Good mid-palate weight, although a linear wine, with a pronounced chalky note. Very nice! Corton?

1996 Meo-Camuzet Corton Grand Cru Rognets

Big, concentrated, substantially blacker fruit notes. Very lovely mid-palate, nice balance. A hint of oak evident, but a rich and lovely wine.  This could definitely use a bit more time in the cellar. The red of the evening for me.

-Keith Wollenberg