Stay Connected
What We're Drinking

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.

Recent Videos

Tasting with Oliver Krug

Upcoming Events

We host regular weekly and Saturday wine tastings in each K&L location.

For the complete calendar, including lineups and additional details related to our events, visit our K&L Local Events on KLWines.com or follow us on Facebook.  

 

Free Spirits Tastings at K&L! Now that we have our license for spirits tastings in Redwood City and San Francisco, we’re excited to host regular free spirits tastings in those locations.  Check the Spirits Journal for an updated tasting schedule.

All tastings will feature different products from the Spirits Department and take place on Wednesdays in Redwood City and San Francisco. Visit our events page on Facebook or the K&L Spirits Journal for more information.

>>Upcoming Special Events, Dinners, and Tastings

See all K&L Local Events

Archives

Entries in Sauvignon Blanc (24)

Wednesday
Nov212012

{Terra Ignota}: New Zealand Beyond Sauvignon Blanc

 

Image courtesy of NZWine.com.

By: Ryan Woodhouse | K&L NZ & Aussie Wine Specialist

 

As a huge fan of New Zealand wine it’s hard to argue against the success of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, but for the next few paragraphs that’s what I’m going to do!

Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc has enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame. Consumers all around the world know what to expect -- grassy, citrusy, gooseberried Sauv Blanc -- and buy based on familiarity and trust. The successful bonding of regional and a varietal has allowed product to flow into huge markets far and wide. “Marlborough Sauv Blanc” rolls off the tongue like “Napa Cab”. Even the complete wine novice shopping in a mainstream grocery chain would be hard pressed not to find a Kiwi Sauv Blanc consistent with this aroma and flavor profile. It has become “the” NZ wine.

However there are several problems with this phenomenon that have a negative impact on the position of NZ wines in the marketplace. To start, many consumers think they understand everything about NZ wine in general because they are familiar with this narrowly defined, mass marketed, homogenus style of grassy, gooseberried Sauvignon Blanc. Although this feeling of confidence and familiarity has driven millions of people to spend their hard earned cash on New Zealand wine, it has also worked against promoting the diversity of NZ wines, stunting the growth and success of other varietals and regions in this complex wine growing nation. A win for the big guys, a loss for the little guys, and in the end, a loss for the consumer as well.

Even Marlborough’s own attempts to break free from this stylistic stereotype have been hampered because many people aren't aware quality wines of many styles and different varietals can be produced there. When faced with a New Zealand Syrah, for example, customers are confused. “They make Syrah down there?” they ask, as if the very idea contradicted nature! It shocks me how many people - not just consumers but industry professionals too - have balked at the idea of trying something from New Zealand that is not Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Another factor to consider is what if people have experienced this dominant flavor profile and don’t like it? What then? Do they abandon NZ wine? In my experience, Yes, often they do. I have received push back from many people who have been put off New Zealand wine, period, by the over the top, pungent, astringent, grassiness of the "Motherwine". The dominance of Marlborough SB is so complete some people who are not fans of this dominant flavor profile have often abandon the country as a whole, based on the assumption that all wine from New Zealand will display the same aroma and flavor characteristics regardless of the varietal, sub-region, or vinification methods. It makes no sense, and yet it happens time and time again. The Sauv Blanc grape and the perception of its “classic” flavor profile is so entrenched in the minds of consumers that anything different is often seen as alien and undesirable.

If you are a mega winery churning out millions of cases of generic Malborough SB, this is the ideal scenario. But what about the many small producers in the region trying to make distinctive wines that represent their special piece of terroir? Do they have to conform to the dominant flavor blueprint, or take a (in many cases, significant) risk going out on a limb and creating a brave new flavor of their own?

Furthermore, what if you’re a small winery in, let’s say, Hawkes Bay on the north island specializing in Syrah? The fame of Marlborough SB and the association it has with a specific varietal and style of wine is not doing you any favors in today's marketplace. I’m convinced it is actually a negative factor that makes your perfectly delicious Syrah seem like some kind of freakish abnormality in the eyes of the average consumer.

 
View Larger Map

So, what to do? In my opinion, the idea of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc must be deconstructed for the consumer. The region of Marlborough is not one homogenous zone that supplies an ocean of tart, grassy, gooseberry zingyness. Marlborough (as you can see in the map above) is in fact a large and very topographically diverse area made up of numerous distinctly different sub-regions. Not only does the climate vary between these regions, but so to do the soils, aspects and most importantly predominant flavors.

Drawing the most basic distinction of Wairau Valley Vs. Awatere Valley could help people understand why Marlborough SB actually has much diversity to give. Awatere, being much more influenced by the Ocean and generally cooler throughout the growing season, has a tendency to produce more herbal, “greener” aromatics and flavors. Wairau Valley is more protected by geographical features and has a considerably warmer (relatively) growing climate. This means that wines from this locale often exhibit riper, fuller, more citrus and tropical notes. Other sub-regional distinctions exist especially now with plantings spreading back into the interior tributary valleys and up on to the elevated slopes surrounding the valley floors.

To illustrate my point, the Burgundy AOC has a similar area of land under vine (25,000 hectares to Marlborough’s 24,000.) Within Burgundy there are some 300 delineated villages. There are also hundreds of individual vineyards that are recognized with their own 1er Cru status. Even within those vineyards more distinctions drawn on soil, aspect and the resulting flavor and quality. Burgundy is an area and a category that absolutley defines itself by very small unique terroirs or climats. So to think of Marlborough, with it's similar area under vine and diverse micro-climates, as one homogenous area that produces the same flavor profile is ludicrous.

Unfortunatley millions of dollars and a couple decades have been spent branding it this way. While Burgundy, on the other hand, has had many centuries to define and delineate its diversity.

Vineyards in the Awatere Valley

Moving on, the distinctly grassy, vegetal, green, even bell pepper like favor compounds that have become so fundamentally associated with Marlborough SB are not necessarily the typical expression of this terroir. I have discussed with many people over the last few years about how this flavor profile has as much to do with agricultural practices as it does Marlborough's terroir.

New Zealand’s wine industry has its roots in relatively modern agriculture. When Marlborough was planted en-masse in the early 80s, the prevailing crop growing mentality prevailed, “how much fruit can we produce from this acreage?” These vast swathes of over cropped vineyards resulted in much under-ripe, dilute, green, vegetal wine. There is no blame or finger pointing here; this was just the natural progression of an agriculture driven, rather than viticulture focused, industry.

Where the blame falls I feel is with the people and critics that accepted and marketed this as Marlborough’s definitive flavor. Popularized through homogenized mass production, little thought was given to subtlety or diversity as the wave of success swelled around the globe. What was actually pretty poor viticulture became known as the flavor of New Zealand. Sure it was fresh, bright, and zesty, but ultimately it is limited in its depth and finesse.

Though this flavor profile is still at large, thankfully viticulture practices in general have improved and styles have emerged that are distinctive, more restrained, balanced (and thanks to some expert growers and winemakers) rich, complex and textural. People in “the know” experiment with, native yeast, extended lees contact, the use of oak, splashes of Semillion etc. These artisanal touches and commitment to quality has brought us some dynamic wines and ensured the vitality and success of Marlborough’s real producers reigns on.

Just ask me next time you feel like a Kiwi SB I’ll be more than happy to introduce you to some with interest and authenticity. Here are a couple to start with:

2011 Te Whare Ra (TWR) Sauvignon Blanc $18.99


2010 Seresin Sauvignon Blanc $22.99

2011 Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc $17.99

NZ Pinot Noir

Now that we have discussed Marlborough specifically, what about those winemakers outside of the Marlborough SB bubble? Thanks in part to global trends, New Zealand has been able to take advantage of its moderately cool climate and climb aboard the Pinot train. While not as spectacular as the SB explosion, Pinot plantings have gone up dramatically in the last couple decades and producers have enjoyed great success with this fickle beauty. Central Otago has perhaps made the most of the global Pinot Noir resurgence after a false start by Martinborough. Marlborough also produces great Pinot and already has a familiar name in wine production. However now we are seeing concerted efforts by regions such as Nelson, Waipara, North Canterbury, Waiarapa, Waitaki etc to promote their own brand of NZ Pinot. In general I would say that NZ Pinot is consistently balanced and very good value for money when compared with domestic (US) competition. The different regions mentioned above have huge variety as far as styles and flavor profiles. It seems this time around NZ has seen the merit in promoting regional diversity and complexity over looking for one dominant style. The fickle, variable nature of the variety perhaps demands this approach.

However, again I believe there is a caveat to this success. I speak frequently with people about sub-regional intricacies and the need for producers and representatives alike, to focus on educating consumers about the complexity and infinite variables that make New Zealand’s wines so enthralling. For example Central Otago has huge ranges of geological and climactic variance. From the Cromwell Basin, to Bendigo, to Lake Wanaka, Gibston Valley and Waitaki, all Central Otago Pinot producing areas, all have very different qualites.

Mist hanging in the Gibston Valley, Central OtagoThis is not about dividing regions, this is about inspiring people to seek unique distinctions in wine. Diversity and complexity is what I think keeps wine lovers interested. NZ Pinot is definitely something worthy of exploring, so I plead with people to keep an open mind and relish the subtleties that define these growing areas. The possibilities are somewhat endless and for a person that thrives on interesting wines rather than big point scores, this is why New Zealand wines are so exciting to me. New Zealand is so complex in its regional and varietal diversity; I think this story of intricate micro-climate specialty is a compelling one that must be told.

Other NZ Varietals, Regions, and Styles

To stretch the comprehension of NZ wine even further, let us revisit our hypothetical winery trying to sell our non-Marlborough Syrah. Wines such as these are dependent on two things: people’s inquisitive nature to seek new things and the wines own quality to make an impact. Hawke's Bay is home to NZ’s longest operating winery Mission Estate (established in 1851) and has a fantastic viticultural history. Hawke's Bay also has a unique set of qualities that I think make it a truly world class place to make wine. Being on the east coast of the north island, shielded from most of the prevailing westerly weather systems, the area typically enjoys a great sunny warm climate. Being right on the ocean also moderates any extremes of temperature. The region has diverse soils ranging from limestone, to volcanic, to deep alluvial gravels. Perhaps the most exciting sub-region here is the Gimblett Gravels. This is an ancient riverbed where vines have been planted in soils consisting of 90% pebbles that extend 20-30 feet down. The very stony soil stresses the vines producing ultra concentrated fruit while the gentle radiated heat from the stones allow perfect elongated ripening (think La Crau in Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Graves in Bordeaux).

I think the Syrah grown here is perhaps some of the best in the world. When done right, a perfect balance between classic peppery, meaty, smokey Rhone characteristics, and bright, berries, violets and succulent fruit driven styles of the modern era can be achieved. Bordeaux varietal blends from this area are also world beaters as highlighted in a tasting where dozens of the world’s top wine professionals, some Masters of Wine, tasted them blind against Bordeaux’s 1st growths. Mission Estate’s top wine, the Jewelstone was only undone by Haut-Brion and Ch. Mouton, beating out Ch. Latour, Ch. Lafite and many other prestigious wines at 20+ times its price point, yes 20+!

Craggy Range's Gimblett Gravels Vineyard

Other exceptional wines from this area include Craggy Range’s “Sohia”, a right bank Bordeaux style blend and the Craggy Range’s “Le Sol” a Syrah of stunning depth, opulence and polished texture. Sacred Hill also makes a range of wines from this area including the Helmsman Bordeaux style blend and Deerstalkers Syrah. Near by are the epic wines of Te Mata Estate including the Coleraine, Awatea and Bullnose, all incredible wines of pedigree and excellence. 

So here on the Gimblett Gravels is a unique, world-class terroir that has absolutely nothing in common with NZ’s most famous export. This is only one example; New Zealand is also excelling in producing stunning Riesling and other aromatic white varietals. I recently tasted a Spatlese style Riesling made at Fromm Winery in Marlborough that I think rivals any German offering. With Riesling’s popularity growing around the globe this is an exciting prospect for New Zealand’s producers. New Zealand Chardonnay is also something I am always trying to turn people on to. Many of them strike a perfect balance between the fruit purity and richness of California Chard but without the overwhelming oak and buttery character and often with Burgundian texture, brightness and minerality. Try Neudorf’s Moutere bottling or Te Whare Ra’s excellent Marlborough Chard and Sacred Hill’s world class Rifleman’s Vineyard release.

Also, what about areas such as Gisborne or Northland. These wine regions have pretty much no representation in the US market yet both produce compelling wines with distinctive flavor profiles. The possibilities and variables of these beguiling isles are literally endless.

I guess my concluding point (finally) is that those of us who care (or are even remotely interested) have to work hard to spread the word about New Zealand’s diversity. To let others know that all of its regions have something to offer and need to be treated as distinct entities. No one grape or flavor can define New Zealand and in fact it is very harmful to try and do so. No single success story can support a whole nation of wine growers. Neither can this narrative excite the broad support of eclectic wine drinkers. So thanks all you Marlborough SB giants for putting NZ on the map, now please sit back and let the real inner beauty shine through.

Our first and fantastic venture into NZ Direct Imports: Te Whare RaIf I didn’t bore you too much with this rant and you're interested in learning more about or tasting more New Zealand wines please send me an email and I will be in touch.

Cheers!

-Ryan

Ryan Woodhouse

NZ & Aussie Wine Specialist

K&L Wine Merchants - Redwood City

Contact

 ***

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
Nov082012

Spanish & Portuguese Wine News 11/8/2012: Upcoming SF Tasting & Vega de Ribes

By: Joe Manekin | K&L Spanish & Portuguese Wine Buyer

Greetings all,

First order of business is to remind everyone in and around San Francisco of our participation in a Rioja tasting this Friday November 9th at 18 Reasons, in collaboration with Bi Rite Market and Vibrant Rioja. What better way to spend International Tempranillo Day than in a great event space, with tasty snacks from Bi Rite Catering paired with great Rioja? We will be pouring Merino, Peciña, Remelluri, Riojanas and Abel Mendoza, a terrific new producer from José Pastor. We are there from 6-8pm. $15. For more info, or to purchase an advanced ticket, go here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/278465 

Second, we continue to get LOTS of new stuff in these days. Way too much to mention everything, so as usual we'll focus on just a few things, and let your in-store and/or web browsing take care of everything else. This week it's all about Enric Bartra's Vega de Ribes, a winery dating back to the 15th century in the Garraf sub-section of Penedes, just a few kilometers from the Mediterranean and close to everyone's favorite Catalan beach town, Sitges. The winery collaborates with Rafael Sala to make delicious sparkling wine from indigenous grape varieties under the Ancestral label. From pure, ripe and lovely, minimally sulphured sauvignon blanc, to chestnut fermented and aged xarel-lo and no added tirage or dosage chestnut fermented xarel-lo sparkling wine (all of which are organic) Vega de Ribes, Clar de Castanyer and Ancestral are making some of the best whites and sparklers in Spain right now.

2011 Vega de Ribes Sauvignon Blanc Penedes - $14.99

http://www.klwines.com/detail.asp?sku=1114664

2010 Clar de Castanyer Xarel-lo Penedes

http://www.klwines.com/detail.asp?sku=1114790

2008 Vega de Ribes Ancestral Xarel-lo Brut Penedes - $21.99

Need to add a special note for this wine.  Until recently, I have yet to find truly artisanal, no dosage added cava even approaching this level of quality (now we have this in stock and our own DI, Loxarel, coming soon...) I think that even the all Champagne all the time crowd (yes even you, Champagne Westby!) will have to admit...this wine is pretty darn good.

http://www.klwines.com/detail.asp?sku=1114675

2008 Vega de Ribes Ancestral Malvasia de Sitges Brut Penedes - $21.99

http://www.klwines.com/detail.asp?sku=1114676

 

Finally, for those of you patiently waiting for our Rioja DI's, they should be here in 2-3 weeks. If you're wondering about any of these wineries below, please add them to your wait list text items and feel free to ask for help if you do not know how to do this.

Bodegas Casa Juan Señor de Lesmos ('06 crianza, '05 reserva, 1.5's, 98 gran reserva, '11 carbonic "cosecha" wine)

Bodegas Puelles ('99 gran reserva)

Bodegas de la Real Divisa Marques de Legarda ('08 crianza and '01 gran reserva)

 

Thanks for reading, have a great rest of the week!

 

Joe

---

Joe Manekin

Spanish, Portuguese, Latin American Wine Buyer

K&L Wine Merchants

Ph: 877.559.4637 ext. 2748

joemanekin@klwines.com

Tuesday
Oct232012

A Quick Mid-Harvest Visit To Some Napa Stalwarts

 

Heitz Cabernet Grapes looking perfect

By: Ryan Woodhouse | K&L Staff Member

For all that is good and bad about visiting and tasting in Napa these days, there are still many producers worth checking out. My family was recently visiting from England and I thought I would take the opportunity to show them around the valley during harvest--when all the action happens--and visit a few of my perennial favorites. Here are a couple of highlights and shots from the trip.

I kind of blew it right from the beginning in terms of saving the best for last...the first place we visited was the old property at Heitz Cellars. Kaj was kind enough to give us a great look around and popped a bottle of 2005 Martha’s Vineyard, it turned out (unsurprisingly) to be my favorite wine of the trip!

and these beautiful old upright FoudresHeitz wines mature in French oak Barriques

We started with the 2010 Heitz Cellar Sauvignon Blanc, which is really a delicate, restrained style with great drive and freshness with to much fat fruit. This is a wonderfully mineral laden wine with great persistence on the palate. Excellent drinking with oysters.

An old photograph of the Heitz estate and the historic stone winery

Then, as I said, we went right to the top with the 2005 Martha's. Wow - what a wine! So attractive and expressive now but you can just tell it's got another decade(+) in the tank. The quality that struck me most about this wine is that it's 100% Napa Cab, and a wonderful expression of exactly that; it’s not pretending to be Bordeaux. There's the power of the fruit and ripeness of tannin at the forefront. Then the wonderful warm dusty notes, and some minty, herbal edges. Fantastic wine, and very thoughtfully made, as evidenced by such an elongated drinking window. The 2007 Heitz Cellar Martha’s Vineyard Cab has been given the extra special honor of the colored label reserved for only the very best vintages of this stunning wine.

Stunning views from up on Howell Mtn

Next after grabing some picnic supplies we headed up Howell Mountain to Ladera Vineyards. This was my first visit to the property after years of enjoying their wines. The winery is one of the oldest bonded wineries in Napa. The original structure is now just a shell within which the modern winery exists. This beautiful restored stone building set into the rugged terrain of the mountain is spectacular. Again we started with their rare 2010 Ladera Howell Mountain Sauvignon Blanc. Perhaps just a touch more generous than the Heitz, but with a firm bright acidity and tons of rocky minerality under the citrus fruit. A "go-to" domestic SB for sure.

The beautifully restored winery from 1886The modern all gravity winery inside

Next we rolled through their excellent range of estate cabs. Most of the fruit is grown on Howell Mountain but they also have property on the cooler Mount Veeder which interlaces the big burly dark fruit and concentration of Howell Mountain with some touches of tobacco leaf and cedar from the cooler Veeder fruit. These are wines of balance, power, and integrity that make me happy.  They prove that not all Napa Cab has gone over to the big, jammy, soft, manipulated style.

Back now to the valley floor and the Silverado Trail side of St. Helena to Duckhorn Vineyards. I was excited about this visit after a nice stop at Goldeneye in Anderson Valley the previous week. In my opinion, Duckhorn wines are the real deal when it comes to Napa. They make quintessential Napa wines. The world is now so Cab centric and yet their offerings of Merlot are some of the best examples of Bordeaux varietal reds you’ll find anywhere. We toured the facility and saw everything in full swing. The fruit looked great and plentiful!

Winemakers and cellar crews in California have now been working around the clock for months bringing in what many think will be one of the best vintages in years, if not decades. Having left that game myself, I would like to applaud those people surviving the ravages of harvest and 14-16-18 hour days to bring us great wines year after year! Cheers to you all!

The Famous Three Palms Vineyard

Anyway, the barrel rooms at Duckhorn are stacked neatly away, holding their precious treasures. It was great to have a good look around at this top-notch facility. We were treated to a very comprehensive seated tasting of many reserve and single vineyard wines. There was not one bad wine on the table. We started with another beautiful Napa SB,(2011 Duckhorn Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc), this one with some notable barrel character and a dash of Semillion giving it a very Bordeaux Blanc like sensibility. My other favorites included the Cab Franc and the Carneros Merlot. Sadly these do not get into distribution.

Upon tasting the 2009 Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot, I was once again wowed by how good and consistent this Merlot really is. Duckhorn's "workhorse" Merlot, it combines fruit from their many great sites sources and is consistently one of my top Napa wines every vintage. Sure, the 2008 Duckhorn “Discussion” is the premier Bordeaux-style blend and a great wine, and the 2009 Duckhorn “Three Palms Vineyard” Merlot is the flashy, prestigious, sought after release (its concentration, richness, power and purity are also very impressive). However, I can’t help feeling enamored with the regular old Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot. It's an everyman's wine with the pedigree and class to cellar for decades, and delivers on every level at a very reasonable price point. For me, it is benchmark for the varietal and region.

2 miles of caves, 2 million bottles all under Spring Mtn at SchramsbergThe next day after some perusing of the shops in Calistoga and St. Helena, we headed up to Schramsberg on Spring Mountain. I had been told that the Cave tour was not to be missed so I thought this would be a good way to finish off the trip. The history surrounding this property is enthralling as is the atmosphere. You begin by entering the two miles of underground caves, much of which were hand-dug with pick and shovel by Chinese workers in the 1870s, after completing Transcontinental Rail Road. Inside the caves, the walls are lined with millions of hand-stacked bottles ageing on their lees. Schramsberg still riddles their wines by hand. Riddling is an incredibly laborious process of rotating and tilting the bottles over many weeks to move the yeast into the neck of the bottle for disgorgement.

Schramsberg's A-frame riddling racks deep underground in the caves.In the underground caves, everything is covered by a thick dust and mossy webs, a perfect pre-Halloween treat! The tasting deep in the caves was excellent and the wines showed fantastically. The 2009 Schramsberg Brut Blanc de Blanc first was very fresh and zippy with bright acid and vivacious energy on the palate. The Brut Rose, good as always, was showing nice purity and weight in the mouth. If you like domestic sparklers this is the one for Thanksgiving, a very food friendly and versatile wine. The J.Schram (Blanc de Blanc) and Reserve (Pinot Noir) bottlings were a real treat. Both are very big rich wines with a minimum five years on the lees, sleeping deep beneath the Spring Mountain hillside. I sometimes find wines with this amount of lees contact bit much, preferring two to three years on lees over the late-disgorged versions. However, I must say that both of these wines showed excellent balance and brightness of character and I’m sure would be excellent cellaring candidates should you be lucky enough to get your hands on some. We normally get small allocations of both around the holidays so keep a look out or wait-list them if you are interested.

Tasting in the caves at Schramsberg

If you haven’t tried any of the wines we tasted on this trip, I highly recommend you do! This is not the glitzy, glam, “Disney Napa” that some people talk about. These are all wines of history and true substance. Every one of these properties deserves a few spots in the cellar or an outing to the dinner table. Enjoy!

Cheers,

-Ryan

Page 1 ... 3 4 5 6 7 ... 8 Next 3 Entries »