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Bruno Michel "Blanche" Brut Champagne $34.99One of our best non-vintage Champagnes, this organically grown blend of half each Chardonnay and Meunier comes entirely from Bruno Michel's estate. It has been aged for six years on the lees and shows wonderful natural toasty quality as well as incredible vibrance! This was the big hit of our most recent staff Champagne tasting and we think you will love it too.

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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.

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Entries in Semillon (2)

Thursday
Feb212013

The BDX Files: Tasting with the Greats at K&L

 The Greats: K&L Co-Founder Clyde Beffa Jr (center) with visiting Bordeaux negociant and special guest Christophe Reboul (left), and Ralph Sands, K&L Senior Bordeaux Specialist (right).

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer (& Bordeaux lover)

This past Saturday at the Redwood City K&L we hosted a special Bordeaux tasting. As usual, K&L Senior Bordeaux Specialist Ralph Sands was behind the bar to talk about the wines, but in addition we had the added wisdom of K&L owner and principal Bordeaux buyer Clyde Beffa Jr on hand. As if that wasn't enough, Mr. Christophe Reboul, owner of both Chateau Gigault in Blaye and the negociant house the Wine Merchant was the guest star. We had a fantastic line up of Bordeaux to taste, mostly from the outstanding 2009 vintage. Everyone left the tasting with a smile on their face!

2011 l'Avocat Blanc, Graves ($14.99) is delicious and ready to drink now.We started the tasting with the 2011 l'Avocat Blanc, Graves ($14.99) from the Allison family. This wine is composed of 50% Semillon, 40% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Sauvignon Gris. It had one of the most unique noses that I have encountered tasting white Bordeaux. The racy Sauvignon Blanc gives the wine a smoky aroma that reminded me of Islay peat! On the palate this wine is very bright and light, and would make a great aperitif or partner for goat cheese crostini.

My favorite wine of the tasting was the 2010 de Fieuzal Blanc, Pessac-Léognan ($58.99 pre-arrival) and it reminded me just how good top white Bordeaux can be. White Burgundy on this level is more than twice the price, and tasting this inspired me to pull out a bottle of 2001 from my cellar the next day. I was surprised to find that it would be very difficult to tell which was the older wine, since these great whites age so slowly! The 2010 will certainly have a very long drinking window, and I would bet on it making a great 20 year old in 2030. It had an intense honey, lanolin and barrel spice nose, and was rich, broad and powerful on the palate. The finish was packed with complexity and went on forever- the tasting could have ended here and I would have been happy! Luckily, we had a bunch of great reds to taste...

Clyde & Ralph pose for the paparazzi.Our first red was the 2009 de Birot, Côtes de Bordeaux ($14.99) and it showed just how deep the 2009 vintage is. Most collectors will clamor for the top wines in this vintage, but the real excitement for me with a vintage like 2009 comes from the everyday priced wines like this. Composed of 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc, this dark wine has lots of herbal intrigue on the nose and excellent, grain free texture. If you are looking for good, dry red for the table that won’t knock you out with too much alcohol, try out the Birot!

I love the Graves region for value priced Bordeaux and the 2009 l'Avocat Rouge ($17.99) is a great example. Composed of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc it has classic proportions for this area. The powerful nose is full of plum fruit backed up by gravelly earth. In the mouth it has a full, rich texture and a hint of chocolate on the palate. This is a great 2009 to drink while you are waiting for your classified growths to mature. That being said, I think this wine has plenty of stuffing to develop nicely for at least 10 years.

Futures Alert! The 2010 Gigault "Cuvée Viva" Premières Côtes de Blaye (93 JS, 90 WS) is available on Prearrival ($18.99; $39.99 1.5L). By far one of the best deals from the 2010 vintage, this opportunity will not last long. Click to buy now!It is a rare treat to have the owner of a Chateau in Bordeaux pouring his wines for you in Redwood City, and we enjoyed every minute of our time with Mr. Christophe Rebaul and every sip of his 2009 Gigault "Cuvée Viva" Premières Côtes de Blaye ($21.99, due in April). This cheerful, easy to drink blend of 99% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon was plump and full of cinnamon and carob flavors. Rich, sweet fruited wines like this are fantastic to drink now and blow the notion of all Bordeaux being expensive out of the water.

2009 Coufran, Haut-Médoc ($24.99) is in stock now.We have a few house favorites when it comes to Bordeaux here at K&L, and the 2009 Coufran, Haut-Médoc ($24.99) confirms why we love this property. For the Haut-Medoc, this wine has a huge proportion of Merlot at 85% and just a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon at 15%. The wine has a big, ripe, plumy nose, but is very elegant in the mouth. It reminded me very much of old fashioned Pomerol; medium bodied, pure, racy Merlot without the extraneous sugar and oak. At the price, too much of this wine will be consumed to young, but the patient will be rewarded with a great experience at a very small price. If you want to see how they age, we also have the 2003 in stock!

Moving over to the right bank we tasted the 2009 Montviel, Pomerol ($39.99). This flashy right bank wine is composed of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. The Montviel is a dark wine with a toasty oak nose and plenty of dried plum fruit on the palate. While modern, big and tannic, it still has Pomerol soul and no residual sugar to ruin it for the table. I am sure the extroverted oak will win over lots of folks who like a big wine.

Staying with the right bank, we tasted the 2009 Monbousquet, St-Emilion ($49.99). The Perse family makes wines that the critics love, and this blend of 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon has won all kinds of accolades. The color is nearly black, and the aromatics are dominated by fancy, expensive oak. This very rich, heavy St. Emilion has plenty of sweet dried fruit on the palate and a big tannic finish. I think it would be a serious contender in a flight of $100+ Napa proprietary reds.

2009 Alter Ego de Palmer, Margaux ($84.99) is in stock now.Switching back to the Medoc, we tasted Ralph’s number one wine of the 2009 vintage (and our top seller of the day), the Alter Ego de Palmer, Margaux ($84.99). Palmer makes the most sensual of all Bordeaux, and this blend of 51% Merlot and 49% Cabernet Sauvignon will add to their legend. This has so much class and balance that it could easily pass for the first wine! The Alter Ego has sexy, bright Margaux aromatics of tense currant dusted with chocolate. On the palate it has a velvety texture that is almost perfect now, but will no doubt get even better with time. This great bottle shows incredible focus on the finish- I can’t wait to taste it again when it turns 10!

Moving up the Medoc, we tasted the 2009 Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac ($89.99) next, and the contrast between the two great Medoc communes could not have been starker. This blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc is brooding, backward Pauillac for the long haul. The nose is extraordinary: lead pencil, black currant and high-class gravelly earth are all in harmony. On the palate the wine is tense, packed and unyielding. The finish is powerfully tannic but also powerfully complex, hinting at the bright future that this wine has. This wine is from the old school--not a 2009 to open early--but the patient will be rewarded, as this Grand-Puy-Lacoste has the structure to unfold like the 1982 has. I am happy to see that wines like this are still being made in Bordeaux.

Ralph Sands hosts monthly Bordeaux tastings at K&L's Redwood City headquarters.

Get the 2010 Poujeaux, Moulis ($34.99 on pre-arrival) before it sells out!Bordeaux insiders usually snap up our allocation of Chateau Poujeaux before it touches the shelf. It is a property that makes serious wine every year and is a great property to collect vertically. The 2010 Poujeaux, Moulis ($34.99 pre-arrival) is true to form, and a great cellar candidate. It is composed of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petite Verdot. When I first tasted this wine in Bordeaux during the enpremieur campaign in 2011, I found it very elegant and laid back next to its peers. Tasting it again among 2009’s showed me just how much structure these 2010’s have- it is a powerhouse! It has an opaque, black-purple color and strong currant and cola Cabernet flavor wrapped tightly to its high acid and high tannin spine. If you have room in your cellar, this is a spectacular deal. If you are looking for something to drink in the next couple of years, keep looking!

No Bordeaux tasting should end on a tannic note, and luckily Clyde and Ralph had the 2010 Petit Guiraud, Sauternes (375ml) ($13.99) to finish out the afternoon. This very open knit Sauternes is composed of 65% Semillon and 35% Sauvignon Blanc. I loved the honey and white flower that were present both on the nose and the palate. While this is not concentrated or profound, it tastes great and has the balance for current drinking. Like all good dessert wine, the Petit Guiraud is sweet without being cloying.

Ending on a sweet note: Clyde tastes the 2010 Petite Guiraud Sauternes.

I hope that you can join us for our next tasting. If you are interested, please check out K&L Local Events on KLWines.com for upcoming Bordeaux tastings and other events. They are always a lot of fun!

Gary

 

 

Monday
Feb182013

Behind the Wine: A Q&A with Bill Blatch, Leading Sauternes Expert

Bill Blatch (center) with K&L Founder Clyde Beffa (left) and Redwood City Bordeaux liaison Jeff Garneau (right).

"Incredibly, companies specialising in Sauternes alone are virtually non existant. Luckily there is one man who has made it his mission for the last 30 years to know everything there is to know about Sauternes – and that’s Bill Blatch." (bordeauxgold.com)

Meet Bill Blatch

By: Ralph Sands, K&L Senior Bordeaux Specialist

Bill Blatch is a good friend and has been an instrumental influence at K&L Wine Merchants since 1985, when Clyde Beffa was first introduced to him in Bordeaux. Bill and his partners started a negociant firm called Vintex in the early 80s that quickly became famous for representing all the Cru Bourgeois and hundreds of other Petite Chateaux in the region along with the classified growths. Bill’s prime focus was his passion for Sauternes and the small non-famous producers with whom he worked hands-on to improve quality in the cellar and in the vineyard.

A visit to the Vintex offices to taste is truly a rite of passage into the Bordeaux business. The barometer of any vintage is the quality of wine made from top to bottom, and anyone who is anyone in Bordeaux shows up at the Vintex office to taste. It was there where I met the great Edmund Penning Roswell and the famous Robert Parker on the same day in April of 1990, my first day ever in Bordeaux. Starting with the most recent barrel samples and the past two vintages of each estate, you taste your way through hundreds of wines. This is real work and far beyond what most people can comprehend. 

For decades during the April 'en primeur' week, Bill has lead a band of professional tasters from all over the world to each of the great classified growths to evaluate the new vintage. Bill's in-depth study of each year's weather pattern and his annual vintage report are legendary. He is surely one of the most knowledgeable people on the wines of Bordeaux--and especially the wines of Sauternes--in the world. Now semi-retired, Bill has just been commissioned by Berry Bros. in the UK to write a book on Bordeaux wine...a very smart move indeed!

For a video summary of Bill's recent tasting and report on the best values in 2009 Sauternes, a vintage he describes as one in which "everyone had a chance to create top quality wines," follow this link.

Q&A with Bill Blatch

By: Steve Greer | K&L LA Bordeaux Liaison

SG: Which is better for botrytis, Barsac or Sauternes?

BB: That depends. Generally Barsac is earlier to botrytise than Sauternes, sometimes just a few days, sometimes a week. So it all depends when the rainy/sunny days come; it's a lottery, it can go either way.

What are your favorite vintages?

For me, 01 is the best post-war vintage. It has that magic "lift" from the acidity, the botrytis complexity is oustanding and yet the weight and sweetness are very high. We had the Climens from magnum the other night. It was quite simply fabulous.

Are there differences in boytritis?

A cleaner boytritis? Very complex one this. Botrytis is a complicated thing. Very generally, the best comes quick and doesn't stay on the grapes for too long (as in 01, 03, 05 and 09). When the conditions are too dry and it gets blocked, it tends to give finesse (88, 02) and when too wet, if it doesn't deteriorate, usually provides heavier styled wines (86, 96, 12) but can get washed out (94, 00). As you know, there are various stages in its development: from golden grapes which develop botrytis blotches, then usually quite quickly to "pourri plein" (total botrytis) and finally, if this concentrates up nicely to "rôti" phase. This is the one that they look for, but sometimes have to settle for a bit of the rest. Recently (especially in 11), there has been a trend to temper the too concentrated "rôti" grapes with non-botrytis golden ones, with the advantage of providing freshness as well as sugar balance. In the old days, many picked a large proportion at "pourri
plein", another reason for the lighter wines of yore.

How is fermentation stopped?

Fermentation used to be stopped by just adding sulphur. Nowadays, it is usually racked off into refrigerated receptacles then put back in barrel, albeit with sulphur but as little as possible to keep the free sulphur level at its correct level.

How does residual sugar relate to/impact balance?

Since the late 90s, the big difference [now] is greater concentration, of course helped by warmer temperatures, but more than that by much better selection at harvest. Before the 90s, it was an effort to get up to 120g/l and it rarely happened outside of the great vintages. Since then, most are at 120 - 150 g/l. Since about 2003, when there were a couple as high as 190g, there has been a collective realisation that great Sauternes is a question of balance rather than opulence (hence the ridiculing of Parker and the Wine Spec at the time) and they now make efforts to restrain the sugar levels, either by wider picking at certain times, or by blending lighter lots with sweeter ones.

Photo from Bill Blatch's visit to K&L in March of 2011.

SG: What makes d'Yquem so special? Is it the yields and quality control (one glass of wine per vine) ...or the higher elevation the estate sits on?

BB: I think it's a whole combination of things that make Yquem so special. First, the vineyard is in a unique position dominating the valley from that big mound. Rieussec and Rayne Vigneau have similar commanding positions but not to that extent. From years of observing the botrytis's evolution in the fall, Yquem clearly benefits from the best air circulation dring the crucial final concentration process. Also, because of its very varied soil structure, and because the domain is so big, they can favor whatever class of soil is best for each vintage (eg + clay in the dry years, more gravel in the wet ones etc). Then of course, it's a question of having the luxury (because of the price of the stuff!) to select drastically, to have twice as many pickers, to have the best technical staff, and do whatever they like with low yields, then to have the best vertical presses (which cost a fortune), the best new barrels and just to have everything perfect. At vintage time, when everyone is scurrying around against the clock elsewhere, I have never seen anyone in a hurry at Yquem.

My very old Parker book doesn't seem to have the right yields on sweet wine producers. What is the maximum yield allowed in the AOCs and what is the average?

The maximum yield by law is 25 ho/ha, but most crus classés never get near that, except in very prolific easy vintages. Yquem rarely goes over 10. Most crus classés average at about 12-15.

How long can you leave a bottle open in the fridge?

Leaving bottles in the fridge depends a lot on the resistance of the wine. An off vintage, made from rain-sodden botrytis, with low acidity and lots of sulphur is a different proposition from a top vintage, totally healthy and clean from the start. The bottle I left that summer was a Doisy Daene, who has one of the brightest and cleanest-flavored wine I know, and he never has to use much sulphur. I think the message is, if you can't finish the bottle, never to worry about corking it up and leaving it for a week or two, whatever the quality. Sauternes simply doesn't oxidise or go flat like dry wines do. And if it's a great vintage from a fine estate, leave it for much longer...

For more information and videos about Bill Blatch and Sauternes, visit bordeauxgold.com.