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One of the most serious English Sparkling producers. This historic estate has been in the Goring family since 1743. The tiny 16-acre vineyard is close-planted on a steep south-facing chalk escarpment described as 'similar to the Côte des Blancs' in Champagne. The fruit is picked very selectively with quality being the absolute focus. The grapes are pressed gently using a traditional Coquard press. After three years on the lees this wine, composed of 45% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay & 22% Pinot Meunier, is hand disgorged and balanced with a minimal dosage of just 4g/L. It has a fine counterbalance between toasty richness and power from the wines élevage in Burgundian French Oak barrels, with racy acidity, tension and a focused chalky minerality.

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Entries in Viognier (3)

Tuesday
Mar122013

A Trip Down the Central Coast: Santa Barbara/Santa Ynez Roundup

A scene from the film Storm by Daniel Addelson, set in Santa Barbara wine country. This film will be screening at the Sonoma International Film Festival in April and premiered online today on Uncorked. By: Chiara Shannon | Head Sommelier - K&L Personal Sommelier Service 

A Trip Down the Central Coast: Santa Barbara/Santa Ynez Roundup

Whenever a team of K&L staffers make a company visit to wine country, we return bubbling over with excitement about great producers, various microclimates, interesting soil types, and--of course--great wines! Nothing compares to the experience of walking the vineyard with the grower or tasting barrel samples with the winemaker when it comes to understanding a wine's origins and the passion that goes into its production.

Over the next couple weeks, Uncorked will feature a series of blog posts about our domestic team's recent trip through the Central Coast. We were extremely impressed by the quality of wines being produced across the board, the diversity of varietals, and the direction many producers, big and small, are going towards balance, restraint, and authenticity. Stay tuned for stories and featured wines.

In the mean time, here's a short list of top picks from some of our favorite producers in the Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez area. These are in stock now, come highly recommended, and represent great values:

2010 Palmina "Honea Vineyard" Santa Ynez Valley Arneis $16.99

"I can't think of anyone who has done more to promote Italian varieties in California than Steve Clifton with his Palmina label. I admit I was intrigued with these offerings, and came away deeply impressed with most of what I tasted." (Robert Parker's Wine Advocate)

2011 Storm Santa Ynez Sauvignon Blanc $17.99

K&L Notes: Sourced from La Presa, Curtis, Kingsley, and McGinley vineyards, four distinct sites in Santa Ynez with varying soil types and microclimates, this 100% Sauvignon Blanc shows classic citrus, grapefruit and grassy notes in the nose, with mouthwatering acidity, a nice creamy texture on the midpalate, and citrusy flavors echoing in the finish. Storm's technique of predominantly stainless steel fermentation (84%) followed by six month on the lees yields a balanced and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc that is delicious on its own but highly versatile with food. 

Watch the Movie: K&L hosted the official online premiere of the film STORM about winemaker Ernst Storm scheduled to screen at the Sonoma International Film Festival in April. Be the first to watch it online now on Uncorked!

2011 Dragonette Cellars Happy Canyon Sauvignon Blanc $26.99

"Fleshy and smooth but energetic too, offering lively pear and orange zest flavors and notes of white flowers and anise. Shows smoky, spicy qualities on the finish, which clings with impressive tenacity." (Stephen Tanzer)

2010 Clos Pepe "Barrel Fermented" Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay $22.99

"The 2010 Chardonnay Barrel Fermented Clos Pepe Vineyard is a big, virile wine endowed with serious depth. Despite its richness, the 2010 has gorgeous underlying minerality lurking beneath the fruit. The 2010 is decidedly intense but also beautifully balanced." (Robert Parker's Wine Advocate)

"2010 marks our eleventh consecutive bottling (sixth under our own vineyard management) of this illustrious and coveted site in the appellation,” notes the winery. “Originally planted in 1991 by Ron Piazza (current owner), this was the first of our quintet of vineyards overseen by Francisco Ramirez and soil and energy consultant, Stan Kadota. Of the twenty acre parcel, six are devoted to chardonnay on a steep, wind-beaten slope of botella clay and limestone.”

2010 Brewer-Clifton "Mt. Carmel Vineyard" Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay $49.99

"An explosively perfumed bouquet displays scents of candied lime, lemongrass, anise, iodine and ginger. Deeply pitched but energetic, with precise, incisive citrus and orchard fruit flavors that pick up smoke and floral nuances with air. Shows a tangy, stony note on the finish, which emphatically repeats the lime and ginger notes. This is still a baby but shows terriffic potential." (Stephen Tanzer)

2010 Foxen "Tinaquaic Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay $34.99

K&L Notes: The Tinaquaic Vineyard was planted in 1989. It is dry-farmed, which helps create very concentrated fruit. The wine itself is concentrated as well, and it retains a wonderful acidity and backbone that is lightly touched with some new oak (20%). (Clyde "Trey" Beffa III, K&L Domestic buyer)

2009 Ojai Santa Barbara Chardonnay $21.99

"The 2009 Chardonnay possesses gorgeous depth. Rich layers of varietal fruit sit on a big frame. This is far from an easygoing Chardonnay. Rather it is a wine endowed with considerable depth and intensity. Rich varietal notes come to life on the layered finish. The Chardonnay is made from young vines from Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills. This is a gorgeous showing." (Robert Parker's Wine Advocate)

2009 Huber "Estate Grown" Sta Rita Hills Chardonnay  $24.99

K&L Notes: From one of the oldest vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation. Huber's property benefits from the cooling fog, the sandy loam soils and the consistent afternoon ocean breezes that make for ripe, fresh Chardonnay grapes. Aged in barrel, this version (the Hubers also make an unoaked Chard) pops with aromas of vanilla and spice interlaced with tropical fruit. The palate has fantastic tension between fresh pear and lemon notes, with the richness of spice and cream, but because only a portion of the fruit underwent malolactic fermation and only 20% of the barrels were new, there's wonderful lift too. A must try.

2011 Qupé Santa Ynez Valley Marsanne $17.99*

*Special pricing for K&L Wine Club & Personal Sommelier Service Members

K&L Notes: Mostly Marsanne from the Ibarra-Young Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley, with 11% of the fruit coming from Edna Valley's Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard and a small proportion of Roussanne (21%) from the Bien Nacido Vineyard. All of the fruit was picked ripe, but at low sugar, with brighter acidity, which help keep this wine wonderfully fresh, highlighting its mineral streak. The wine still has the weight and richness of the varietals that balances out the acid structure, making this a white that's delightful and fresh now, but that will really start to shine in 10 years when it's secondary characteristics are able to poke through the veil of acidity.

2010 Cold Heaven "Le Bon Climat" Santa Barbara County Viognier $29.99

"Sexy, highly perfumed aromas of nectarine, orange pith, candied ginger, bee pollen and flowers. Sappy citrus and dried pit fruit flavors stain the palate, with slow-mounting spiciness adding back-end cut. Lively but powerful viognier, with excellent clarity and floral-driven persistence." (Stephen Tanzer)

2010 Alta Maria Vineyards Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir $23.99

"The 2010 Pinot Noir opens with an attractive, sweet bouquet. The fruit isn’t quite as radiant as the aromatics suggest, leading to an impression of compactness. Sweet red cherries and flowers linger on the perfumed finish. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2015." (Robert Parker's Wine Advocate)

2010 Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir $19.99

"Dark red. Musky, spice-accented aromas of redcurrant and cherry, with a note of cured meat in the background. A chewy, tangy midweight that offers tangy red fruit qualities and touch of bitter chocolate... finishing with good energy and tightly wound red fruit character." (Stephen Tanzer)

93 points! New score from Wine Enthusiast: "Made from grapes sourced from the old Addamo property in the cool Solomon Hills region, this wine shows an impressive core of cherry, cranberry and currant flavors. It’s racy and complex, and the mouth-watering acidity makes you crave lamb, tuna, steak and soft cheeses. It can be enjoyed now, and it should age for up to 10 years." (04/2013)

2010 La Fenêtre "Presqu'ile Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir $44.99*

*Special pricing for K&L Wine Club & Personal Sommelier Service Members

K&L Notes: Only 310 cases produced! This exceptional Pinot comes from a prime block in Presqu'ile Vineyard in the Solomon Hills district of Santa Maria, a highly coveted source for the dense, powerful, yet elegant fruit that Santa Maria is famous for. Planted in the late 1990s (then known as the Addamo vineyard) Presqu'ile is family-owned and meticulously cared for by the Murphy family, who maintain the vines in pristine condition. It is deep red in color, with ripe red and blackberry fruit aromas and flavors accented by earth notes and baking spices. 30% whole cluster pressing adds spicy complexity to the profile along with some grip on the finish. A pleasure to drink now, but with the balance to age 5-7 years or more.

2010 Talley Estate Arroyo Grande Pinot Noir $33.99

"Vivid red. Heady, exotic bouquet evokes candied red fruits, potpourri and spicecake, with a mineral topnote. Fresh, penetrating raspberry and bitter cherry flavors show impressive clarity and put on weight with air. Fine-grained tannins give shape to the finish, which leaves sweet red berry and rose pastille notes behind. This must be the best version of this bottling I've yet tasted from Talley." (Stephen Tanzer)

2011 Chanin Wine Company "Los Alamos Vineyard" Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir $47.99

K&L Notes: Winemaker Gavin Chanin is on a roll: Named one of the San Francisco Chronicle's Winemakers to Watch in 2012, one of Forbes magazine's Top 30 Under 30 in food and wine and an "exciting boutique producer" by Food & Wine magazine, and his wines clearly demonstrate why. Take the 2011 Los Alamos Pinot Noir, for instance. It comes from two sections of the vineyard and is aged for 11 months in 20% new French oak. While the vintage was challenging, the wine is vibrant and fresh, full of crushed red fruit and spice character. Drinkable now, but with enough backbone to age.

2010 Brewer-Clifton Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir $34.99

"Brewer-Clifton’s 2010 Pinot Noir opens up with striking, beguiling aromatics from the use of 100% whole clusters. It is an utterly impeccable, layered Pinot endowed with tons of clarity and finesse. The 2010 impresses for its energy and sheer brilliance. Simply put, the 2010 is a fabulous wine for the money. It remains one of the highest quality and easiest to find Santa Rita Hills Pinots." (Robert Parker's Wine Advocate)

2007 Palmina Santa Barbara County Nebbiolo $27.99

"The 2007 Nebbiolo is a blend of fruit sourced from Sisquoc Vineyard planted with the Michet clone (60%) and from Stolpman Vineyard planted with the Lampia clone (40%). It possesses striking dark fruit and plenty of varietal character, but with an extra degree of textural density from these Central Coast sites. It is one of the finest Italian-varietal wines I have tasted in California." (Robert Parker's Wine Advocate)

2010 Beckmen "Cuvée Le Bec" Santa Ynez Valley Rhône Blend $16.99 

" Ripe, smoke- and spice-accented black and blue fruits on the nose and in the mouth. Lush and open-knit but energetic as well, showing a suave floral quality on the long, sweet and gently tannic finish. An impressive example of this bottling, which has long been one of the Central Coast's best QPR wines." (Stephen Tanzer)   

2006 Ambullneo "Howling" Santa Maria Valley Syrah $29.99

K&L Notes: "Ripe, spicy, and delicious! If I were you I would decant this baby, run to the market, throw some ribs on the grill until they are beautifully charred, smokey, and falling off the bone, and kick your feet up with the decanter and ribs within arms reach." (Melissa Smith, K&L Staff Member)  

2009 Zaca Mesa "Black Bear Block" Santa Ynez Valley Syrah $59.99

"If the first duty of a wine is to be delicious, this tiny production bottling succeeds beyond all measure. The Black Bear Block is almost always Zaca Mesa's best Syrah among its many releases, and so it is again in 2009. Take one sip and you’re dazzled by the refined tannins, dryness and complexity of flavors: blackberry, cassis, plum sauce, mocha, bacon, smoky oak, white pepper, chamomile tea and licorice. What's harder to express is the sheer pleasure of the mouthfeel. This is an exciting Syrah, and may just be at the beginning of a long journey. Drink now and for many years as it slowly changes." (Wine Enthusiast)  

Cheers!

-Chiara

 

Interested in learning more about wines from the Central Coast? Design your own customized wine club through the K&L Personal Sommelier Service. 

 

 

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

Contact

 

Tuesday
Jan252011

Tasting This Weekend: The Rhône Valley

Attention all Rhône Valley wine fans (this means you, William): K&L's Rhône Valley and French Regional wine buyer (and author of the fantastic wine blog mumu les vignes), Mulan Chan-Randel, is putting together a list of red and white Rhône wines to pour at all three K&L stores this coming Saturday, January 29th (click for times). 

Quick lesson: The Rhône River actually begins high in the Swiss Alps, pouring into Lake Geneva and then tumbling through the Jura Mountains south through Lyon and Avignon, into Arles until it spills into the Mediterranean west of Marseille. In the wine world, however, the Rhône Valley refers to the growing region in Southeastern France along the river that begins near Vienne and ends near Tavel. Divided into two distinctive regions, the Northern Rhône is the source of some of the world's finest Syrahs, grown in famed appellations like Côte-Rôtie, Cornas and Hermitage, and Viogniers from Condrieu. The Southern Rhône produces exceptional Grenache-based reds like those from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, as well as intriguing and complex white blends using Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier. 

What this means to you: Mulan works hard to find the best-tasting deals from the Northern and Southern Rhône, both from the aforementioned appellations as well as more value-oriented wines from the Côte du Rhône and Côte du Rhône-Villages appellations. If you're already into these wines, then Saturday's tasting is the perfect opportunity to take some new arrivals for a test drive. If you've never tasted wines from the Rhône before or have had minimal experience, it's an affordable way to find out what suits your palate and your budget best. We hope to see you there!

What we'll be pouring:

Southern Rhône 

2009 Château de Montfaucon "Comtesse Madeleine" Côtes du Rhône Blanc

2008 La  Ferme Saint Martin "Saint Martin" Beaumes de Venise Rouge 

2008 Pierre Usseglio "Tradition" Châteauneuf-du-Pape

2008 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe "La Crau" Châteauneuf-du-Pape

2008 Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf-du-Pape

2009 Comte Louis de Clermont-Tonnerre "Hervé" Châteauneuf-du-Pape

2009 Comte Louis de Clermont-Tonnerre "André Eleazar" Châteauneuf-du-Pape 

Nothern Rhône 

2007 J. Boutin "Bonnevaux" Côte-Rôtie (Stéphane Vedeau) 

2008 Domaine Vincent Paris "Granit 60" Cornas    

2009 A. Clape Côtes du Rhône

Leah Greenstein