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So why is the 2012 Ladera Cabernet—made from almost entirely from Howell Mountain fruit, from an incredible vintage—sitting pretty at $34.99? I honestly can't tell you. Maybe it's because no one knows how good the Ladera holdings in Howell Mountain are. Or maybe it's the pride that winemaker Jade Barrett takes in making a serious wine for a reasonable price. Or maybe it's because Ladera is an overlooked gem in a sea of Napa alternatives. For whatever the reason, I'm not going to complain. We tasted the 2012 vintage at our staff training yesterday and I was just floored by the quality of this wine. Dark, fleshy fruit cloaked in fine tannins, bits of earth, and in total balance, with enough gusto to go the long haul in your cellar. It's a whole lotta wine for $34.99, and it's made primarily from Howell Mountain grapes, harvested during a great vintage. 

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Entries in Willamette Valley (13)

Wednesday
Sep292010

Wine Wednesday: 2008 McKinlay Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Matt Kinne looking out over his vineyards.

"Decent wine needs to be affordable," says Matt Kinne, the bearded, soft-spoken sage of McKinlay Vineyards in the Willamette Valley. "Then wine will have a chance to surpass Budweiser as the national beverage."  Of course, it also has to be good. Kinne's 2008 McKinlay Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($16.99) is both. Made from entirely estate-grown fruit on jory and nekiah (igneous volcanic) soils at a combination of three small vineyards near his home. 

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Tuesday
Sep282010

Pre-Harvest Report: Willamette Valley 2010

If you follow us on Facebook or Twitter, you might recall seeing some pleas for "no rain" or "sunshine" dances over the past few weeks. That's because I was up in Oregon interview winemakers for this blog, spending everyday looking at and tasting from the carefully tended clusters of Pinot Noir from some of our favorite wineries - Westrey, McKinlay, Chehalem and Bethel Heights - among others. And it seemed to me, what they all needed was just a few more weeks of mostly dry weather and partial sunshine to maximize their potential.

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Thursday
Mar182010

Winery to Watch: Amalie Robert

"Luck is when an opportunity meets a prepared mind."

This is the guiding principle of Ernie Pink and Dena Drews. It’s what led them to buy a cherry orchard 15 miles south of Salem, Oregon in the Willamette Valley, convert it to a vineyard and start making wine. It’s what led our domestic buyer Bryan Brick—on a never-ending quest to fine great Pinot—to find them, and we’re sure it’s part of what will get you to take a chance on their wine.

Still, it wasn’t all luck for the Amalie Robert estate. It took passion, diligence and an attention to detail to get started. Like a lot of people in the domestic wine business, Ernie and Dena weren’t raised in the wine life; they were Pacific Northwest computer nerds first. Trading in keyboards and operating systems for shovels and dirt, they planted grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay and Viognier to silty Bellpine soils. Their first harvest was in 2002. They sold their dry-farmed fruit to a who’s who of Oregon wineries—Elk Cove, Erath, Cristom and Beaux Frères—and made a little wine on the side, always true to the soil and expressions of the vintage, but never enough to make a dent in the marketplace. In 2006, the couple completed construction of a winery as well as their first estate crush, the results of which have just arrived at K&L.

The Amalie Robert wines are only available in a handful of states and have only recently become available here in California. We’re thrilled to be among the first retailers to discover them. These Pinots are elegant, feminine and built to last, whisking the Pinot-lovers on our staff away to their happy place. The 2006 Amalie Robert “Amalie’s Cuvée” Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($54.99) has a sexy sous bois/musk note to complement the lighter, more ethereal strawberry chiffon, cotton candy and talc aromas that comprise its bouquet. It the mouth it is bright and lovely, with pretty, resonating acidity on the attack. Tart cherry, raspberry and red currant fruit fill the palate like Red Riding Hood’s basket with a lingering finish redolent of lavender and wisteria. This is a very special wine showing much more balance than typical for the vintage.

The 2006 Amalie Robert “Dijon Clones” Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($42.99) is dominated by clone 777, with smaller proportions of 667, 114, 113 and 115, and each selection adds something to the blend. Spicier on the nose than the Amalie’s Cuvée, the Dijon Clones wakes your senses with prickly notes of clove and nutmeg. There’s a nice tension as the wine opens up between the spice and pure red cherry fruit and an alluring fried mushroom umami quality. The wine expresses the vintage by being very ripe, but does it well with spot on flavors and nice drive. It is tangy and fresh with plum, cassis and currant fruit on the pretty, refined finish.