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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 Syrah (19)

Tuesday
Dec112012

Introducing Waterkloof: An Exclusive Special Import From South Africa

Announcing the arrival of six stunning direct imports from Waterkloof, now in stock at K&L!

In 2011, I spent ten months travelling the world in search of good waves, great wines, and to see what else this little planet of ours has to offer. Everywhere my wife and I went offered incredible experiences, from the fish markets of Vietnam to the coral reefs of Western Australia, the glaciers of New Zealand, and the ancient walled cities of Umbria. However, one place really blew us away us with its undeniable beauty, stunning landscapes, fantastic wine and food and magnificent wildlife: South Africa. 

During our four (way too short) weeks in South Africa, we visited dozens of producers and tasted more excellent wine than I can recall. As a staff member at K&L, I taste anywhere between 50-100 new wines each week. That's a lot of wine to remember...and forget! Yet the producers and wines that make the biggest impact on me will always stand out in my memory while the others fade into oblivion. Waterkloof Estate in Stellenbosch is one such standout producer.

Visiting any major wine region in the world can be a daunting experience. The decision about whom to visit and where to start is a tough one to make. I normally try to find a wine industry map and then do some background research into producers that sound interesting, or with whom I am unfamiliar. Generally speaking, I gravitate toward small producers with the following criteria:

1) A special site. Be it a certain geographic location, specific soils, steep or dramatic aspect, I like to visit producers who believe they have something truly unique special and take risks in order to be able to share it with the world.  If someone is planting grapes in a place that is borderline too cold, too steep, or too rocky, I want to know why, and I want to try the wines. I admire their dedication and drive. These people aren't following a proven recipe for success, rather they are striving for something new and interesting.

2) Organic/Biodynamic practices. I do not think organic/biodynamic wines are inherently better, but in my experience, the most careful, detail-orientated viticulturalists and winemakers tend to farm according to these practices. I do believe natural, minimal intervention winemaking techniques are often the most successful in allowing the expression of place in the wine. This ties back to my first point about producers who seek unique terroirs and strive to let that character shine through in their wines.

Waterkloof Winery

Waterkloof met all of the above criteria, and so on one rainy winter's day in July we snaked our way up the long driveway past bare vines that had long dropped their leaves. The winery sits on top of a wind-swept ridge almost 1,000 feet in elevation in the Schapenberg Hills, on the southern edge of the Helderberg region. (Map) It has magnificent views overlooking the dramatic False Bay and the wild Southern Ocean just a couple miles to the south.

The vineyards are planted in an amphitheater-like bowl behind the winery and on adjacent slopes. This is a very cool sub-region of Stellenbosch. The ocean in this part of the world makes the Central California coast look and feel like Florida. It is bitterly cold and intensely stormy, conditions that define the growing season. The wind is also a major factor at Waterkloof; their logo is designed in honor of Boreas, the God of wind.

During the growing season, cool ocean breezes and the south-facing aspect of the vineyards result in much slower ripening and a longer hang time for the grapes. This produces intense flavor development while preserving freshness and acidity in the fruit. Soils on the property are diverse, ranging between shale- derived soils, rugged sandstone and decomposed granite. These low fertility soils reduce vine vigor, keeping yields naturally low. 

Half of all the land at Waterkloof Estate has been set aside to preserve the natural flora and fauna of the region. Waterkloof also operates a fully functional farm to provide all of the compost and biodynamic preps needed for the vineyards. Vineyards are plowed by horse, and the estate has plenty of in-house horse power too! This operation is truly focused on creating wines of integrity, balance and encapsulating the essence of this remarkable place.

The main winery building, that which houses the production facility, tasting room and restaurant, looks more like a modern art museum than a winery! It is a stark contrast from the traditional Dutch style buildings that most Stellenbosch wineries inhabit. The barrel room is the first thing you see entering the premises on a suspended walkway, high above the hibernating wines below. From the tasting bar one can watch operations in the cellar through floor-to-ceiling glass walls. I was amazed by the array of oak foudres lined up in immaculate fashion. The restaurant is all glass construction, cantilevered out from the side of the building providing uninterrupted (if a little unnerving) views over False Bay.

With all this sophisticated, dazzling architecture and design, I really hoped that the wines would show as good as they appeared on paper....and thankfully they did not disappoint! Which is why, eighteen months later, I am very excited to bring you the Waterkloof "Circumstance" wines exclusive to K&L!

Quoting Waterkloof's winemaker: "Circumstance is a range of wines, each defined by a single grape varietal and a unique symphony of fortuitous circumstances (soil, aspect and altitude) in which that given varietal is grown."

2012 Waterkloof "Circumstance" Sauvignon Blanc, Stellenbosch (Biodynamic) $19.99

From a rugged, rocky, wind swept slope looking directly out over the ocean. The wine is bright, concentrated and fresh. Soft, fleshy stone fruit notes are sharpened by a citrus and mineral finish. This wine has many layers of flavor, great persistence on the palate and immaculate balance.

2011 Waterkloof "Circumstance" Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch (Biodynamic) $19.99

Fom old bush vine Chenin Blanc. Whole cluster pressed, settled for 24 hours then racked to 600-liter French oak barrels called Puncheons. The wine is fermented with naturally occuring yeast. The wine's flavors are dominated by orchard fruits, especially pear and quince. On the finish more savory notes come through with a bit of added texture and richness from the Puncheon fermentation.

2011 Waterkloof "Circumstance" Viognier, Stellenbosch (Biodynamic) $19.99

By the proprietor's own admission, he believes there is only one place in the world that truly excels with Viognier, and that’s Condrieu. However, we were very impressed by this Waterkloof effort. Perfumed and alluring, but somewhat restrained. Not a big, oily Viognier. More bright and lithe in character. A nice freshness to the acidity works well with this grape's natural richness and weight. It really think that this windy, cool site is well-suited to produce balanced Viognier; a very pleasant surprise from the line up!

2010 Waterkloof "Circumstance" Chardonnay, Stellenbosch (Biodynamic) $19.99

Aromas of apple pie pastry crust with spices from the oak. this is a broad, rich, toasty wine, with ample freshness and lively acidity. Apparent but well-integrated use of French oak. More focused on the finish than the dense mid-palate might suggest, with intriguing mineral aspects and good length.

2010 Waterkloof "Circumstance" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch (Biodynamic) $24.99

Great Cab! A lovely balanced between rich, soft, saturated fruit and some smoky cedar and mint nuances. Many South African reds can be overtly smoky (something I attribute to the unique flora and fauna of the country), but this wine has subtly complex smoke that doesn't dominate the flavor profile. The wine has some grippy tannins that help lengthen the inky concentration of fruit on the palate. Very good.

2009 Waterkloof "Circumstance" Syrah Stellenbosch, (Biodynamic) $24.99

A very low-yielding (1.25 tons per acre) vineyard block produces this fascinating Syrah. Made with all wild yeast and a good amount of whole cluster fermentation. The wine is fermented in open-top wooden fermenters and hand punched down two to three times daily. After a gentle basket pressing it is aged for 20 months in 600L new French oak barrels called Puncheons. This wine simply exudes the classic Syrah qualities of dark red fruits, herbs and cured meats. Some spice on the nose runs through the substantial, rich and generous palate, all carried by driving acidity.

If you can't already tell from my over-the-top enthusiasm, I am very excited that we have managed to get these wines via an exclusive import. You will only find these Waterkloof "Circumstance" wines at K&L, in-store and online.

If you are interested in South African wines or just balanced, honest and authentic wines of terroir in general, please try these. They are extremely well priced when you consider the huge attention to detail and care that went into making them. All of them, including the whites, like some air so don't be afraid to decant for an hour or so.

If you have any questions please feel free to post them in the comments below of contact me directly, details below. Waterkloof also has a fantastic website with lots of information about their wines, philosophy, biodynamics etc. Click here to be directed to their site.

If you're interested check out this fantastic video telling the story of Waterkloof.

Cheers!

-Ryan

Ryan Woodhouse

K&L Wine Merchants - Redwood City

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Monday
Oct222012

Sonoma Road Trip Stories, Part IV: Limerick Lane Cellars

 

By: Sarah Covey | K&L Staff Member

Limerick Lane Cellars was on the top of my list for our recent K&L staff road trip to Sonoma. I had met current owner Jake Bilbro and his brother Scot (the winemaker) at an industry event in San Francisco earlier in the year. Not only were the wines delicious, but I found Jake to be a very friendly, genuine person. Over his homemade grilled sausages, Jake talked about how lucky he feels every day to be in his position. A man in his 30s with a young family, owning a winery and the surrounding land with a legacy to pass on to his children - it is a dream he never in a million years thought he would be able to achieve. I was inspired to learn more about this special place and the folks behind these intriguing wines.

A Little History

Limerick Lane Cellars is not a new name on the wine scene. Located just south of downtown Healdsburg, in the Russian River Valley appellation, the property was planted to grapes by the Del Fava family in 1910. Mario Del Fava, born in 1920, farmed grapes and prunes there until the 1970s when the estate was sold to the Collins family. “Brothers Mike and Tom Collins brought incredible passion and enthusiasm to the property selling the grapes as vineyard designates to several well known local wineries including De Loach, Chateau Souverain, Ravenswood, Davis Bynum and Gary Farrell," notes the Limerick Lane website. "The quality of the wines and reputation of the iconic Collins Vineyard quickly established Limerick Lane as a premier site for growing Zinfandel and Rhone varieties in Sonoma County. In 1986, the first estate wines were produced under the Limerick Lane label. The subsequent quality of the wines produced solidified Limerick Lane’s reputation as one of Sonoma County’s premier producers.”

Jake and his wife Alexis bought the house across the street from Limerick Lane in 2007. As is common in the Sonoma grape growing and winemaking community, Jake started helping Mike Collins with the harvest and in the cellars once he moved in across the street. Jake grew up in the wine business. His father is the owner of Marietta Cellars, where brother Scot is the assistant winemaker. In 2009, ready for the next chapter and unwilling to hang a “for sale sign” or sell it to the highest paying corporation, Mike gave Jake and his young family the opportunity of a lifetime. He approached Jake and asked him if he would like to buy Limerick Lane Cellars and the Collins Vineyard. Jake jumped at the chance, and Scot signed on as winemaker (in addition to making wine at Marietta Cellars) soon thereafter.

Limerick Lane Cellars is located just south of Healdsburg in the Russian River AVA.

 

Old Vine Heritage

A blend of head-pruned and trellised Syrah, the 2009 Limerick Lane Estate Syrah is simply delicious!With approximately 5 acres of the original vines planted in 1910 still in production today, it is the great pleasure and goal of Jake and his family to produce wines that live up to the 100 year heritage that preceded them. With the amazing fruit that the Collins Vineyard can produce, they are able to create wines that are noted not only for their exceptional balance and elegance, but wines with a sense of history and place as well. Vines planted in 1934 produce the grapes for the Limerick Lane "Block 1934-Estate" Russian River Valley Zinfandel; vines planted in 1970 provide the grapes for the Limerick Lane "Block 1970-Estate" Russian River Valley Zinfandel. The estate is also planted to both head-pruned and trellised Syrah, which in the future will be bottled separately as blocks, too. Right now their Limerick Lane Estate Russian River Valley Syrah is a blend of both, and is simply delicious! There is also old vine Furmint, which Jake told me he discovered in the old ledgers that used to be on the French Laundry’s late harvest dessert wine list! The Furmint is currently one of the varietals blended into their Cuvee Blanc, along with Sauvignon Blanc and Roussanne.

Understandably, Jake is as deeply connected to the land as he is to the wines. He is intimately familiar with each vine on the property, and his eldest son, Cruz, can identify each block by name and varietal. As Jake loved to do with his father, Cruz likes to ride the tractor and uses his shovel (with its real steel handle) to dig holes all around the vineyards!

The day we visited, Jake tasted us through the 2010 Pinot Noir from the estate, the 2010 Sonoma County Zinfandel, which has 1910, 1934 and 1970 blended in with sourced fruit, the 2010 Russian River Zinfandel, the 2010 Dry Creek Zinfandel, the 2010 Head-Pruned Syrah, the 2010 Trellis Block Syrah, and the famous "1023" Blend of Zinfandel, Syrah and Grenache from the estate. 1023 is the address for the winery on Limerick Lane. It was my personal favorite, and one that I can only get at the winery!

The wines of Limerick Lane are thoughtfully made, layered, nuanced and interesting. They are not the smack-you-in-the-face Zinfandels, Pinots, and Syrahs that so often come thumping out of the Valley over the hill from Sonoma. They are special wines expressive of land and vine, crafted by good-hearted, dedicated people who, along with the other young winemakers in Sonoma, are helping to reclaim history and revitalize the local industry. I highly recommend all of these wines.

And, if you want a calm, welcoming, warm tasting experience the next time you are in Sonoma, head to Limerick Lane. It is peaceful, quiet, and the wines are spectacular.

Tell them we sent you.

Cheers!

-Sarah

 

Sarah C. Covey, WSET Certified

Wine Sales Professional

K&L Wine Merchants, Redwood City, CA, USA

Tuesday
Sep112012

Sonoma Road Trip Stories, Part I: Copain Winery

Copain Winery

By: Sarah Covey | K&L Staff Member

A recent trip to Sonoma with Bryan Brick, Jim Boyce, and Kyle Kurani means many fun and educational Road Trip reports! I have a few stories to tell, and you will see my stories interspersed with Jim and Kyle's stories here for a while to come. As I put it in my thank you email to the people within K&L who made our trip possible: "The trip to Sonoma helped me personally to have a true understanding of the passion of the winemakers we visited as they spoke about what they do, to stand on the soil where their grapes are grown and to be able to see what they see in their visions for the future of their businesses. These kind of trips put faces on the bottles on our shelves, and help us develop a holistic understanding about the business we are in." We hope you enjoy reading our stories as much as we enjoyed creating them. Cheers!

Copain Winery, Healdsburg

Copain Winery was founded in the hills of the Russian River Valley in 1999 by Wells Guthrie. Tucked away atop a quiet hillside with a spectacular view, one feels an immediate sense of calm upon entering the property. Sitting on the terrace overlooking the valley on that warm summer morning, we were treated to a lovely tasting of Copain’s full portfolio, accompanied by delicious French and Italian cheeses.

First, some history: Mr. Guthrie worked as the Tastings Coordinator for Wine Spectator magazine for many years, and during his tenure there, he fell deeply in love with the wines of France- most specifically, the wines of the Rhône Valley. He decided to move to France to learn the art of winemaking from the people whose wines had inspired him. He worked as an apprentice to the famed winemaker Michel Chapoutier for two years, and was impressed not only by his experience with Chapoutier, but also by the general European attitude that wine is an essential part of life. He returned to California and apprenticed with other famous winemakers in Napa Valley before starting a winery which would reflect this same philosophy.

Wells Guthrie started his winery with an old friend, naming the winery Copain, which means “friend” in French, in tribute to their friendship. He chose to focus on pinot noir and chardonnay, and with his background in the Rhône, syrah also made perfect sense. Originally, Copain’s wines had much bigger fruit, but as time went on, Guthrie realized that the wines he was drinking at home- older French wines, lower in alcohol and higher in acidity- were the kinds of wines he wanted to produce for his clientele. Through the courageous act of changing his style to reflect this need, Copain has become even more successful than before. Sourcing fruit from a variety of vineyards, he worked with the landowners to plant the vines as he directed, and also dictated specific vineyard practices he wanted them to implement to get the results he was looking for, guaranteeing them that in return he would purchase all of the grapes if they did so. This practice continues today, Guthrie is able to create wines that show a distinct expression of the vineyard sites from which they come.

Tasting at Copain

Our tasting was hosted by Ezra Chomak, Copain’s gracious tasting room manager. We had the good fortune to try the full portfolio of Copain’s current offerings, which was a treat as we have just a few of the wines here at the store. We started with a couple of lovely 2010 Chardonnays, one from Anderson Valley AVA from the Tous Ensemble vineyard and another from the Brousseau vineyard in the Chalone AVA. The “Tous Ensemble” was all stainless steel with 10 months on the lees and no malo. It showed apple, pear, honeysuckle and brioche with a soft sweetness and medium acid. The Brousseau came from a 40 year old parcel with limestone and granite soil. It saw neutral oak for fermentation and ageing; its’ profile was of apple, bright pear, white flowers, butter, vanilla and toast. Combined with the brie on the plate in front of me, I could have been very happy to stop the day right there and just stay on that patio for the rest of our trip! Up next was a wacky, deliciously lip-smacking 2009 wine called “P2” from the Hein vineyard in Anderson Valley. It was 50% pinot noir and 50% pinot gris- a departure for Copain’s traditional Burgundian style. Cherry, smoke, earth, game, mineral, citrus, floral and somewhat ethereal, it was fresh, crisp, and had juicy acid. Incredibly food-friendly, quaffable and would be delicious with a slight chill on it.

Following these wines we tasted of a couple of Copain’s wines that we carry here at K&L, which was great for us to experience sitting on the terrace of the winery. First, the 2009 “Tous Ensemble” Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. This wine, translated from the French as “all together” is a blend from several vineyard sites within the southern part of Anderson Valley. Red cherry, spice, mineral, earth, some game, raspberry, hints of smoke. Medium plus acid and medium plus but fine tannins. Delicious! It appears that the 2009 is sold out, but the 2010 "Tous Ensemble" is here! Next was the 2009 “Les Voisins” Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, a wine which we sell out of almost immediately upon receiving it! “Les Voisins” means “the neighbors”, so logically these 3 vineyards are literally next door neighbors to one another. The vineyards are about 10 miles from the coast, in the Northwest corner of Anderson Valley, and as such, the sites are considerably cooler. Appropriately, the wine showed those cooler climate characteristics- red cherry, mineral, soft smoke, game, spice, strawberry, rose. It had medium plus acid, medium plus tannin, and was well-balanced and elegant.

Up next were a couple of wines from the Kiser vineyard sites. First was the 2009 “En Haut” (meaning above) Anderson Valley Pinot Noir and then the 2009 “En Bas” (meaning below) Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Differences in the vineyard sites include: 1) the elevation- En Haut is at 800 feet and En Bas is at 650 feet and 2) the soils- En Haut is compressed sandstone, with almost no clay, while En Bas is clay and crumbly sandstone. Both sites produce distinctly different wines, classically styled, and with great potential to age.

2009 Copain "Les Voisins" Yorkville Highlands Syrah ($34.99)It was Syrah time, which I was admittedly very excited about. We started with a wine we carry- the 2009 “Les Voisins” Yorkville Highlands Syrah. Again, the wine is a blend of grapes from 3 neighboring vineyards, which have schist and granite soils, planted on the sloped mountainside of the rocky Yorkville Highlands in Mendocino County, which rise from 600 to 2500 feet in elevation. Guthrie employs whole cluster fermentation for 30% of the wine and does not use new wood for ageing. The wine was full of ripe blackberry, violet, and plum- quite floral for not co-fermenting with viognier, which is traditional in the Rhône for syrah. It also had a savory meaty character classic to Northern Rhône syrah. Amazingly, the wine was only 13.9% alcohol- so well-balanced that it fooled all 4 of us sitting at the table.

We tried two syrahs after that from the Brousseau vineyards in the Chalone AVA- the 2008 Brousseau Chalone Syrah and the 2010 Brousseau Chalone Syrah. The 2008 was blackberry, black plum, licorice, cedar, spice, rose petal, meat and an interesting cherry cola note. Refreshing at only 13.5% abv. The 2010 was much more high-toned, violet, plum, blackberry, black cherry, cassis and white pepper. It surprised us again at 13% abv. I had no idea that syrah could have this much depth and not be ridiculously high in alcohol. Eye-opening!

Ezra poured us a final wine to show us how far Guthrie’s wines had come- the 2009 James Berry Paso Robles Syrah. While loved for the character and expression of syrah from this area, Guthrie is choosing to focus further north in Anderson Valley and the Yorkville Highlands in the future. The James Berry was beautiful. The wine was another 100% syrah, this time from chalky limestone soil, a vineyard which lies 6.7 miles from the coast- so the range of temperatures between day and night is quite great. This means that the fruit gets ripe during the day but holds its acid at night, something very important for syrah. Strawberry, raspberry, cassis, mineral, violet and flowers, it felt much less like a classic syrah, but still very interesting, drinkable and delicious.

It was hard to drag us from the table, as we all wanted to just relax and enjoy a nice lunch, but many appointments beckoned. I have firm resolution to return, next time with a picnic and a loved one.

 ~Until Next Time,

-Sarah