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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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Entries in Sonoma County (6)

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
Apr222013

Blasting Through Sonoma: Acorn Winery

 

Winemaker Bill Nachbaur of Acorn Winery.

By: Patrick Cu | K&L Staff Member

A Vist to Acorn Winery

This quaint, family owned winery is tucked away from view on the Old Redwood Highway in Healdsburg, making it easy to miss from the road. This was the last stop on our first day traversing through Sonoma, and we had to do a few loops around the area to find the entrance.

Owners Betsy and Bill Nachbaur warmly welcomed us into the tasting room upon our arrival and were gracious throughout our visit. They’ve been married for 42 years and have owned Alegria Vineyards, the location of Acorn Winery, since 1990. The site itself has had vines on it since the late 1800s and currently has over 60 varietals growing on it. Yowza! That caught us off guard, but it speaks of the willingness of the Nachbaurs to experiment with grapes on their soil and the blends in their wines. What sets them apart is their focus on estate-grown, sustainably farmed field blends. They originally sold all their grapes to other winemakers, but have since decided to save some for their own wines.

We tried a handful of reds they had on hand. Each wine was from 2009 and their estate Alegria Vineyards in the Russian River Valley.

We started with the 2009 Axiom Syrah (98% Syrah and 2% Viognier). Rich dark fruit notes immersed the palate, along with toasted mocha and a hint of savoriness. It was full bodied and fairly expressive.

The 2009 Cabernet Franc (96% Cab Franc, 2% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot) had aromas of cherries and light vanilla. There was nice spice accompanying the blackberry and oak flavors.

The 2009 Medley ($34.99) (Blend of 44% Syrah, 14% Cabernet Franc, 13% Sangiovese, 11% Cinsaut, 7% Viognier, 5% Muscats, 3% Zinfandel, and 3% other varietals) made for an enjoyable and easy drinking red wine. Taste-wise, there were lots of plum, currant, and some slight pepperiness to accompany a bed of chocolate and oak. This expression has been a mainstay at the San Francisco K&L store for the past few years. People often have come in seeking this blend.

The 2009 Sangiovese (98% Sangiovese from 7 different clones, 1% Canaiolo and 1% Mammolo) showcased a ton of raspberry on the nose and palate. Flavors of blueberry, vanilla, and a pleasant mineral note lingered into the finish.

The 2009 Alicante Bouschet (98% Alicante Bouschet, 1% Petit Bouschet, 1% Grenache) had an intriguingly aromatic nose of spice and earthiness. We were fairly keen on bringing this to the store as the varietal itself is not all too common in the States. Plus it was pretty tasty!

Also coming soon to K&L is more of the elegant 2007 Acorn "Alegria Vineyards Heritage Vines" Russian River Valley Zinfandel. Based in 82% Zinfandel, this includes 8% Alicante Bouschet, 8% Petite Sirah, and according to the folks at Acorn the remaining 2% of the field blend includes Carignane, Trousseau, Sangiovese, Petit Bouschet, Negrette, Syrah, Plavac Mali, Tannat, Muscat Noir, Peloursin, Beclan, Cinsaut, and Grenache. Decanting is recommended to draw out the aromatic and flavor complexities of bottle age.

Cheers!

-Patrick

 Acorn specializes in estate-grown, sustainably farmed field blends from their Alegria Vineyards.

 Acorn's gnarled 63 year-old Zinfandel vines!

Cabernet Franc vines at Acorn.

Wednesday
Mar202013

Blasting Through Sonoma: Iron Horse Vineyards

Iron Vineyards in Green Valley, Sonoma County.

A team of K&L staff from the San Francisco store recently headed up north for a jam-packed jaunt through Sonoma. Intensive tastings at twelve wineries in two days is exciting, but it is hard work! Stay tuned for pics and posts over the next couple weeks as we chronicle their visit on Uncorked...

Iron Horse Vineyards

By: Scott Beckerley | K&L Staff Member

Our first stop on our whirlwind visit to Sonoma was Iron Horse Vineyards, located in the foggy Green Valley AVA of Sonoma County. We we were greeted and introduced to the winery by the lovely and engaging Barrie Sterling. Shortly thereafter, her father, Laurence Sterling, took us on a tour of the winery and vineyards. 

Iron Horse's first release was in 1980 and the vineyards sit on sandy loam soil in the Green Valley, which has a cooler climate perfectly suited to the needs of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They use precision viticulture in determing where to plant vines and what vines to plant taking into account factors of irrigation zones, sun protection and rate of steepness of the land. For example, Pinot clones are situated according to sand content and irrigation runs according to this principal. Certain vineyard blocks are more suited to sparkling than to still wines. The winery is very happy with the Martini B clone, the Dijon clones and the Chard-Clone 4. Pressing of the grapes is done gently by the weight of the fruit. Riddling is done by hand and by machine for the sparkling wines.

2008 Iron Horse Sonoma County Classic Vintage Brut ($29.99) We tasted a number of the sparkling and still wines. Among the sparkling, we sampled the 2008 Classic Cuvee, a blend of 72% Pinot Noir and 28% Chardonnay. It had a pear, vanilla and apple nose which opened up with some bread dough notes. The palate was clean, with pear, stone fruit and cream notes. This was followed by the 2008 2008 Iron Horse "Wedding Cuvée" Green Valley Brut ($24.99)Russian Cuvee, the same blend, which revealed a light creamy nose with tropical scents and nectarine on the palate. It had a long, clean finish and fine, small bubbles. Then came the most well-known of the group, the 2008 Wedding Cuvee. This sparkler is a blend of 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay with a big, rich nose. Strawberries and cherries on the palate with a clean finish containing some minerality.

After that came the 2007 “I am Giving” Ocean Reserve, composed of 100% Chardonnay, had a clean nose with hints of brioche. On the first sip, it is mineral driven and it opens up to citrus lemon flavors with bright nectarine fruit. Four dollars from every bottle goes to the National Geographic Foundation!

Lastly, the 2003 Brut LD, an even blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir, had a bigger nose of toasted nuts and more evident oak than the other bottlings. On the palate, yeast and brioche notes with a lemon/lime and tangerine finish.

Iron Horse winemaking facility.

Riddling in action at Iron Horse.

Four dollars from every bottle of Iron Horse sold goes to the National Geographic Foundation!

After the flight of sparklings it was onto the still wines, the first of which was the 2009 Un-Oaked Chardonnay. Loads of tropical fruit here with pineapple and orange fruit. It was medium in weight with some acidity on the finish. No malolactic fermentation. A perfect alternative to heavy, buttery Chardonnay!The 2010 Native Yeast Chardonnay showed more classic "California" style with its oaky nose and crisp apple fruit. Richer on the palate with yellow apple, honey and light oak notes.

Scott's Favorite: 2011 Iron Horse Green Valley of RRV Pinot Noir ($39.99) Now, for the reds...the 2011 Estate Pinot Noir had a lovely nose of ripe cherries, spice and herbs. Just a hint of earth. Initially, soft on the palate but, it ended with spicy fruit and a bright finish. This was followed by the 2010 Thomas Road Pinot Noir, which showed bright cherry fruit, tobacco and spice, and a long, pretty, big finish which fleshed out nicely. This was made from the Martini 13 clone. Our last red was the 2011 Russian River Pinot Noir, all raspberry, oak and earth. More delicate and bright in 2011, with fresh raspberry and cherry fruit and tobacco nuances. Excellent! My favorite. Now that spring is here, it was time for the 2011 Rose de Pinot Noir, a little beauty with a raspberry nose. Lively and bright, with clean minerality and acidity.

What a way to start the day!

-Scott