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With the James Bond movie Spectre being released today, no time could be better to drink Bollinger. The most suave spy in the world has been sipping on Bollinger since Moonraker in 1979. While we can’t all drive a fully loaded, customized machine gun having Aston Martin, we certainly can chill down a bottle of Bolli! The 2004 Bollinger "Grande Année" Brut Champagne ($109) is as good as Champagne gets; all barrel fermented and full of masculine, Pinot Noir power and high class elegance. We even have a few bottles of the limited 2009 Bollinger "James Bond 007" Brut Champagne ($195) in stock for the diehard fan of Bond & Champagne!

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Entries in Sauvignon Blanc (25)


BDX Files: Ralph's 2012 Bordeaux Vintage Report Preview

By: Ralph Sands | K&L Senior Bordeaux Specialist

2012 Bordeaux: Is it too Late?

I have just returned from Bordeaux and the evaluation of the 2012 vintage. This marked my 44th visit to the region and my 23rd vintage evaluation. With well over 1000 wines tasted. I believe I’ve wrapped my arms around 2012 pretty well, understand the style of the vintage, and have identified the best wines.

As always, the weather makes the wine. In 2012, the weather was normal…which means very difficult! Near-perfect vintages like 2005 and 2009 are very rare. Almost every vintage has numerous problems during the growing season, and 2011 and 2012 certainly had their share of problems.

Weather-wise, 2011 and 2012 could hardly be more opposite. 2011 had a warm spring with early bud break and early but uneven flowering; a mixed bag from May to June, mostly cold and wet. The summer was overcast and very cool. The vintage was saved by a warm/hot September and an early harvest ensued.

In 2012 the opposite occurred. Cold/wet conditions kept bud break late. Uneven flowering spread out for weeks, pushing things almost a month behind. Cool and wet conditions continued, causing worry of mildew. On July 15th (on the dot!) the weather switch-flipped and sunny conditions took over August and September, causing some stress in some plots and continued uneven ripening. Harvest was late everywhere. Most of the Merlots were harvested at good ripeness and mostly in nice conditions but a lot of the Cabernet Sauvignons on the left bank were picked in the rains of mid October. The rain and the fact that some Cabernet Sauvignon was just not completely ripe at harvest keep 2012 out of the very good category. These conditions also resulted in a small crop overall, with most estates making about 50% of their normal amounts.

It is common to refer to a Bordeaux vintage as either a Cabernet Sauvignon vintage or a Merlot vintage, and 2012 is definitely a Merlot vintage. The Right Bank commune of Pomerol made some fantastic wines across the board, with very good consistent quality also in St-Emilion. The areas of Pessac-Leognan and the Medoc were very uneven with many wines showing aggressive dryness and green notes on the finish. That being said, there some fine successes in 2012 from the left bank that do not have those green and drying notes, but certainly not as many as I would have liked.

I’m lucky this year as I will be going back to Bordeaux in June and I am looking forward with great eagerness to taste many of these left bank wines again. The main reason for this return is that the one month lateness of the vintage at all stages, especially the lateness of the harvest, delays all the stages of fermentation/blending and putting into barrel. So when I along with everyone else tasted this year on April 1st , it was a month early as far as the wine was concerned, and the weather had been very cold. There is no dancing around the fact that these wines were well behind in their development and difficult to access. So the expectation is that the six week period of additional development along with warmer spring weather should give the Cabernet Sauvignon blends a much better and fairer showing in June.

While 2011 produced elegant wines with strong acidities, 2012 produced riper wines with a darker core of fruit and more flesh, so I absolutely prefer 2012 to 2011. Where does 2012 fit in comparison to other vintages? Well, while it may not be in the league of great vintages like 2010, 2009, 2005 or 2000, I like it at least as well if not more than 2008, 2006 and 2007. My strongest comparison at this early stage would be to 1998, also a late and very fine Merlot vintage while being much tougher and closed on the left.

I have learned over the years not to dismiss the “tough to taste young” vintages on the left bank too soon. These wines develop slowly and vintages like 2004, 2002 and 1998 have turned out much better than most of the scores and reviews reflected at the time of release. Many have fooled us at recent blind tastings in Bordeaux where we thought they were from outstanding years.

The Blancs: The whites from Pessac-Leognan showed very well, refreshing and floral wines that are more on the elegant side. The Petite Chateaux and inexpensive Blancs also showed very well. Overall, 2012 is a nice vintage for the Blancs.

The Sweeties from Sauternes and Barsac: For lovers of the sweet wines this will always be a confusing vintage because Ch. d’Yquem publicly stated that they would make no wine in 2012 before the En Primeur tastings, which leads many to assume there will be no wine made anywhere. This is simply not the case across the board. While it is true that in the slow-growing gravel soils of d’Yquem and in neighboring Fargues (Ch. Rieussec, Ch.Guiraud, Ch. Suduiraut, and Raymond Lafon), little to no wine will be made; the grapes were so far behind that when good conditions for the boytrytis happened in these soils, the rains and humidity took over. However, just north in the sandy, clay and limestone soils of Barsac, the grapes were further ahead maturity wise and handled the conditions just fine in between periods of rain. Some lovely wines were made. These wines are not in the big, thick and powerful style; they are sweet, but elegant, fresh and charming. While tasting these wines I could not help but think about how nicely these wines will drink, even by themselves, on a warm summer afternoon or evening because they are so refreshing and not big and thick. Lovely wines were made at Ch. Clemens, Ch. Doisy-Daene, Ch. Doisy-Vedrines, Malle, Ch. de Myrat, and Ch. La Tour Blanche, Ch. Haut-Peyraguey, Ch. Rabaud Promis, Ch. Rayne-Vigneau and Ch. Siglas-Rabaud, to name a few.

The Prices: Last but not least is the question of pricing. This will be a key factor in the success of the vintage sales-wise. We firmly told everyone in Bordeaux who would listen that 2012 presents a great opportunity to get people back to loving Bordeaux before it is too late…that they should offer this good vintage at steeply reduced prices, giving everyone a reason to buy and stimulating the marketplace. We will see if they listen or not.

Please feel free to contact me anytime with any questions or for advice on the wines of Bordeaux. I can be reached at extension 2723 or by email at

Cheers and Go Giants!

Ralph Sands


Ralph Sands

Bordeaux Expert

Senior Wine Specialist

K&L Wine Merchants

Redwood City and San Francisco Ca.

1-800 247-5987 Ext# 2723

Direct Line 650-556-2723


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Celebrate Mike Grgich's 90th Birthday with 2 Special Tastings at K&L in April!

Miljenko “Mike” Grgich celebrates 90th birthday this April. A native of Croatia, Mike arrived in Napa 1958 and worked at Souverain, Christian Brothers, Beaulieu Vineyards, Robert Mondavi Winery, and Chateau Montelena, where he crafted the Chardonnay that triumphed in the 1976 Paris Tasting, before founding Grgich Hills in 1977 in Rutherford.

Happy 90th Birthday Mike!

Mike Grgich, winemaker and founder of the famous Grgich Hills Estate, turned 90 years old on April 1st of this year. It was Mike Grgich, then winemaker for Chateau Montelena, who crafted the 1973 Chardonnay that 'beat' the French competition in the historic Paris Tasting of 1976. To celebrate this milestone birthday, K&L is hosting two special Grgich Hills Estate tastings in April in our Northern California stores. We invite you to join the party! Current releases of Grgich Hills' Chardonnay, Fume Blanc, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon among other wines will be featured at both events. Come and raise a glass to one of Napa's great winemaking legends.

Thursday April 18th (5pm-6pm): Special Grgich Hills Tasting at K&L Redwood City ($5) rsvp on facebook 

Friday April 19th (5pm-6pm): Special Grgich Hills Tasting at K&L San Francisco ($5) rsvp on facebook 


For additional information on this event and other upcoming special events and tastings taking place at any of our locations, visit K&L Local Events on

More About Mike, from Grgich Hills Estate

Mike's life sounds like a Hollywood movie, journeying from a peasant upbringing in communist Yugoslavia, to winemaker winning the Paris Tasting, and then becoming a winery owner in the Napa Valley. Mike arrived in the Napa Valley in 1958 after a four year journey from Croatia and worked for some of Napa's iconic wineries: Souverain, Christian Brothers, Beaulieu Vineyards and Robert Mondavi Winery, before becoming winemaker at Chateau Montelena. At Montelena, he crafted the Chardonnay that beat the best white wines in France in the now-famous 1976 Paris Tasting, helping to shatter the myth that only French soil could produce the world’s greatest wines and drawing international attention to Napa Valley wines.

Judges deliberating during the Paris Tasting of 1976. Image courtesy of Grgich Hills Estate.

On Independence Day 1977, Mike and Austin Hills broke ground in Rutherford to build Grgich Hills Cellar. Since starting Grgich Hills, Mike has continued receiving international awards for his wines and has been recognized for being a leader in sustainable vineyard practices.  Mike celebrated his 50th year of making wine in 2008, the same year he was inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame. Today, all of Grgich Hills’ 366 acres are certified organic and the winery has converted to solar power and is completely estate grown.  

Check out the 2009 Grgich Hills "Estate" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($49.99) and other Grgich Hills Estate wines in stock now at K&L.His influence has been so far-reaching that his famous beret, the suit case he carried to America, and a bottle of the 1973 Chardonnay that won the Paris Tasting are on display in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s first major exhibition on food history—“FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950–2000”.  In addition, a Croatian TV documentary about his life, “Like the Old Vine,” premiered at the Napa Valley Film Festival in November 2012.

Visit www.grgich.comto see all of the winery's events, including a special Gala on April 13th, and the inaugural release of the Paris Tasting Chardonnay, crafted by Mike Grgich in the same style as the Chardonnay that won the 1976 Paris Tasting. Given Mike’s proven track record of creating elegant wines that improve with age, this Chardonnay is sure to become a collectable. The winery will launch a birthday cake decorating contest with the chance to win a trip to Napa Valley and celebrate Mike’s 90 years of accomplishments with the famed winemaker.

Grgich Hills Estate, located in Rutherford, CA, was founded in 1977 by Vintner Hall of Fame inductee Miljenko “Mike” Grgich and Austin Hills after Mike’s Chardonnay outscored the best of France in the now-famous 1976 Paris Tasting.

Today, this iconic winery farms 366 acres naturally, without artificial pesticides or herbicides, and uses its passion and art to handcraft food-friendly, balanced and elegant wines. Mike is assisted by his daughter, Violet Grgich, Vice President of Operations, and his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, Vice President of Vineyards and Production. For more information, visit



Behind the Wine: Ernst Storm & Storm Wines

Winemaker Ernst Storm in a scene from the film STORM by Daniel Addelson which premiered this week online on Uncorked.

South African transplant to California's Central Coast, Ernst Storm handcrafts small amounts of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir in a style that combines old world sensibilities with new world technique. We were really impressed when we tasted recent releases from his own label, Storm, in our Los Angeles store and believe this talented young winemaker's star is only just beginning to rise. So, when filmmaker (and K&L customer) Daniel Addelson approached us about hosting the official online premiere of his film 'Storm' based on Ernst's life and passion as a winemaker, we were honored to oblige. You can watch the film here and read on to go behind the scenes in our winemaker interview with Ernst, below.

Behind the Wine: Meet Winemaker Ernst Storm

K&L: Please tell us a little about your background. Where are you from and how did you end up in the wine business in Santa Barbara County?  

ES:  I grew up in South Africa and spent the last of my teenage years in a town called Hermanus which is in the Western Cape. Known as the appellation of Walker Bay, this region has a cool maritime climate where Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay ripen perfectly.

This small production Sauvignon Blanc is balanced and refreshing, a great value at $17.99. It "pairs really well with a summer afternoon in the sun overlooking the ocean eating butter lettuce, shallots, and avocado salad with a light lemon vinaigrette dressing," suggests Storm, but is also lovely on its own. Try a bottle tonight! Better act fast, supply is limited.After graduation, I spent a year working in Britain and Europe trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. In the back of my mind, I knew that I wanted to find a way to be creative and work with nature. My brother, Hannes, was studying wine at the time and it just felt right to pursue winemaking. I completed my studies at the Elsenburg Agricultural School outside the town of Stellenbosch in the Western Cape. After completing the third year, I worked as winemaker at a winery called Amani in South Africa under the guidance of Rod Easthope, a New Zealand winemaker. I also consulted on a few small projects with my brother, who is the winemaker at Hamilton Russell Vineyards in the Walker Bay Appellation.

I  wanted to experience a Northern Hemisphere harvest and took a job in the Sierra Foothills. I spent two years working in this warmer climate—learning a lot about how to deal with higher pH wines and how to keep these wines stable. Having come from a cool climate region, I longed to make more balanced wines from Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. I went searching again. After visiting Santa Barabara County and having lunch with Jim Clendenen, I fell in love with the area. The Mediterranean climate shared many similarities with that of the Western Cape. I worked at Firestone for three years, which proved to be a great learning experience. At Firestone I worked with bigger lots and did plenty of experimentation with Sauvignon Blanc and other varietals. After several years, I became involved in the winemaking at Curtis Winery, where the focus is Rhone Varietals. I have been with them since 2008.

Where do you make wine and how many different wines do you make?

At Curtis Winery I work with fruit grown on the Estate at the North-Western end of the Santa Ynez Valley AVA. The focus is Estate driven Rhone varietal wines that include Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Viognier, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc. We also do a Red, White and Rose blend of these varietals that are very accessible and food friendly. Soon we will be adding Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay from our Estate.

Under my label Storm, I produced only Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc with the focus on wines that have personality of both vintage and site.  For the 2012 vintage I will have two Pinots and two Sauvignon Blancs in bottle.

What wines, experiences, or individuals helped influence this philosophy?

I think South African winemakers were more influenced by European winemaking at the time. Growing up in the Walker Bay area and drinking a lot more balanced delicate wines made me realise that those were the type of wines I wanted to make. Working in different regions and being exposed to different climates and ideas helped me formulate a philosophy.  Finding vineyards where you can pick fruit for each varietal at a point where flavours, tannin ripeness and acids are all in balance at a decent potential alcohol was and is still important.

I will lie if I say great Burgundian wines have not had a big influence on my stylistic approach.  Wines that tell a story and are able to evolve has always been the focal point.  Working in Santa Barbara County it is possible to not only do this with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but also Sauvignon Blanc and Rhone Varietals if it grown in the right spot and picked at the right time.   

Grapes at harvest, a scene from the film Storm by Daniel Addelson. Describe the vineyards you work with to make the wines under your own label, Storm Wines.  How involved are you in the viticultural side of the production process?

For my Santa Ynez Valley Sauvignon Blanc the vineyards were chosen to represent four different corners of the Valley, each with a distinct climate and soil. Each vineyard brings a different element to the blend, which at the end broadens the spectrum of the wine and is a good representation of Santa Ynez Valley. 

My Santa Maria Pinot Noir comes from Presqu’ile Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley. This is a newer planting with naturally low yielding vines planted on well drained soils. This makes farming easy and little intervention is needed. I get a lot more involved closer to harvest to dial in yields and watering. This vineyard is showing early on that it has great potential to make very site specific wines that speak volumes of the climate and soils. Tasting the 2012 out of barrels I know it is Presqu’ile and Santa Maria. It is red fruit driven with lots of spice and texture.

My Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir at John Sebastiano Vineyard is planted in two blocks. Dialing in the yield is a little more challenging here and we work hard to get it just right. The fruit from this vineyard is darker and more powerful, so making the right picking decision is crucial.

Eighty percent of my fruit is farmed by the same farming company, which make it easy. They have a good understanding of what the needs are and the style of wines I make. We dial yields, leaf removal and watering in keeping the final wine in mind. All the vineyards are farmed sustainably and I have a lot of trust in my growers. I work with the same rows and blocks every year which keep things consistent.

"I used to be obsessed with finding flavours and certain nuances in wine," Storm explains. "Dissecting it, braking it down to all its parts. Looking for faults. As I grew, I learnt to look more for texture and harmony. This has helped me to make decisions in the vineyard and the winery with the final wine in mind."(Image courtesy of Daniel Addelson)

How dramatic is vintage variation in Santa Barbara? How was 2012 compared to 2011, 2010?

Being a little further South it feels like we miss some of the rain that can sometimes hit during harvest in areas like Sonoma and Napa. So we are lucky in that regard. Compared to other regions outside of California we do have it pretty good.  But things have changed in recent years. We have seen frost, heat spikes and cool weather at the end of harvest which have made things a little more challenging though. So, whether this is climate change or just a cycle, it has definitely forced  people to scramble and go outside of their comfort zone.

In my opinion  2012 was perfect for the folks that are into making more restrained balanced wines. We had moderately warm days, little rain and never did the night temperature go very  high. The resulting fruit had great balance and ripe flavours at lower sugars.  It was a perfect year for balance and finesse. Compared to 2011 where  yields were reduced due to frost and heat spikes that lasted for five days it was a dream. In 2010 we also saw some heat spikes early on  that effected the early ripening varietals like Pinot.

What do the terms “old world” and “new world” mean to you in terms of winemaking practices and style?  Where do think your wines fit into the spectrum?

When trying to make Pinot Noir in a style that is pure and more delicate it is important to embrace as many old World techniques as possible. Letting the fruit speak without adding water, filtration, fining or manipulation is key to portraying vintage and site. I try to keep things simple without cosmetics when it comes to making red wines.

With white wine a combination of Old and New World techniques works really well in order to make the wines I want to make. When combining the right yeast choice, fermentation temperature  and lees interaction you can achieve both freshness and texture. I think it is important to constantly be searching for a balance between the two.

How do you think your palate has evolved over the years? How do you think that has influenced your winemaking?

I used to be obsessed with finding flavours and certain nuances in wine. Dissecting it, braking it down to all its parts. Looking for faults. As I grew, I learnt to look more for texture and harmony. This has helped me to make decisions in the vineyard and the winery with the final wine in mind.  

What are your thoughts on food and wine pairing? Do you have any favourite or recommended pairings with your wines?

Pairing should always start with your personal preferences as to wine and food. Once you start playing around in the kitchen trying to match the texture and the richness of your wine with dishes you love,  it becomes a fun experience.

My Sauvignon Blanc pairs really well with a summer afternoon in the sun overlooking the ocean eating butter lettuce, shallots, and avocado salad with a light lemon vinaigrette dressing.  Food or no food…

I like pairing the 2009 Pinot Noir to duck because of the gaminess. I think there is something similar in both the wine and the duck that come together seamlessly.

With some of the richer Rhone wines there is nothing like making a big red oak fire and grilling up a tri-tip and keeping it simple with rustic flavours.  The surrounding environment, the fire, the people has just as much to do with how everything is going to come together.

"It is no secret that most critics like riper, more extracted, softer wines with less acid," Storm points out. "If you put yourself out there you have to be able to take criticism, it is just part of the game. I try to remind myself that it is one person's opinion. The important thing is to stay true to yourself and not to follow trends when making wine. Searching for likeminded critics, wine buyers and customers on the street is very important to keep focus." (Image courtesy of Daniel Addelson)

What do you project for upcoming vintages in comparison to the past? Any changes or new developments on the horizon?

Well, it seems like mother nature has changed things up on us in the last decade. So whether this is Global Warming or just a cycle we are going through, only the future will tell. I try to take each vintage as it comes, making the best of the weather, yields etc. 

It seems like the average consumer is getting more educated, which means they are starting to explore and develop their own personal preferences more. They are starting to really get into the story behind the wine, not only what they taste and smell. As winery owners it will be important to tie this all in and to make wines that really represent the story.

In each region there are a growing number of growers and winemakers that are returning to the simple, trying to make more personality driven wines from carefully chosen sites.  Here in Santa Barbara County things have changed a lot in the last five years with new and exciting  projects coming up giving certain varietals and sites exposure. I think this will continue to happen with varietals like Chenin Blanc and other lesser known varietals getting into the limelight. Old planting that were neglected are getting love and the potential is being exploited.

Is there a style of wine that you think appeals to critics that might not represent your favorite style? How do you handle this?

It is no secret that most critics like riper, more extracted, softer wines with less acid.  If you put yourself out there you have to be able to take criticism, it is just part of the game. I try to remind myself that it is one person's opinion. The important thing is to stay true to yourself and not to follow trends when making wine. Searching for likeminded critics, wine buyers and customers on the street is very important to keep focus.

What do you drink when you are not drinking your own wine?

I enjoy drinking wines made by my friends, where I know the story and methodology behind them.  Burgundy is also high on the list with South African wines from the cooler regions. I definitely go through phases where I buy a case or two of something and drink just that for weeks, then switch to something else.

Do you collect wine? If so, what’s in your cellar?

I buy I fair amount of wine, but most of it doesn't sit around too long. There are a few bottles of Burgundy and some local Pinots stashed away though. 

What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing the local Santa Barbara and greater California wine industry today?

With more and more brands popping up locally there is more competition out there. That and the fact that consumers and wine buyers have the option of buying really good imported wines at great prices only make it harder to sell wine and make your margins. Staying on top of your marketing and aligning your brand with the right brokers and distributors is getting more and more important in the industry today.

Related Links

STORM by Daniel Addelson will be screening in the 2013 Sonoma Film Festival. Click to watch the online premiere now on Uncorked!Shop Storm Wines on

Check out other K&L Top Picks from the Santa Barbara/Santa Ynez Regions

Visit Storm Wines Website