Posts Tagged ‘K&L Wine Merchants’

From a minuscule one hectare vineyard in the heart of the Languedoc comes this most unusual and profound red from Murielle and Laurent Girault. As you might recall from my last 2 posts on Domaine Begude, Laurent is the vineyard manager/winemaker at Domaine Begude.

hovering at around 1200 bottles: a.k.a. micro-volumes

In addition to his full-time responsabilities at Begude (as well as being a husband and dad) Laurent spends many of his weekends at a small Languedoc vineyard site not far from the town of Pezenas (about a 90 minute drive from Limoux). It is here that Laurent tends the vines that ultimately yield the fruits of his labor and love.  Both a red and a white are produced, and both from a veritable field blend of organically grown grapes.

Laurent Girault (photo courtesy of Domaine Begude)

The Giroflet rouge is composed 15 different varietals all co-planted in 1925.  Along with Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan and Syrah, you’ll find more ancient varietals like Aramon and Grand Noir de la Calmette.

more factoids…

Wine/Producer:  Murielle & Laurent Girault

Composition: 15 varietals (Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan, Syrah..)

Vintage: 2006

Country: France

Region: Languedoc

Sub-Region: Pézenas

Geology/Soil: Sand / Clay / Chalk

Alcohol: 14.5%

Importer: Premier Wines (available exclusively at K&L Wine Merchants)

US Retail: $20

Total Production: 1200 bottles (100 cases)

Harvesting is done by hand to ensure optimal ripeness (although never at the expese of acidity) and undamaged fruit. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel, with only natural yeasts being utilized. After primary fermentation the wine undergoes 24 months of elevage in older wood to develop addtional complexity and nuance. The Giroflet rouge is neither fined nor filtered.

Grilled tri-tip and 2006 Giroflet rouge

Gorgeous nuances of dark red fruits, baking spices and garrigue come to mind. The Giroflet rouge is a red to contemplate with a selection of fine cow or sheeps milk cheeses, or to enjoy with a garlic crusted roast leg of lamb or the grilled tri-tip and summer salad pictured above!

Projet Giroflet is truly a labour of love for those of us who appreciate hand-crafted artisanal wine from all corners of the world. Thank you Murielle and Laurent, and please, carry on!

Next: The lost vineyards of Les Clos Perdus


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Hospices du Rhone 2010

A couple of weeks ago one of the biggest, interesting and most fun tastings in the Golden State was held in Paso Robles, California. Every year, and over the course of a few days, the Hospices Du Rhone has hosted winemakers the world over who make Rhone and Rhone style wines.

Grenache, syrah, mourvedre, picpoul? All of these varietals and then some were showcased at the HdR. In addition to a grand tasting where Rhone-heads have the opportunity to taste hundreds of wines from Santa Barbara to South Africa, the event co-ordinates a series of panel discussions and seminars on viticulture, winemaking and other relevant topics related to all things Rhone.

Vincent, Susan, Mumu, Philippe et Francois chez K&L Wine Merchants

As you can imagine, the week of HdR brought many winemakers from all over the world to the California coast. The place where it all started, the Rhone Valley in France, brought its big guns over to represent. Lucky me, as most of these folks took the time out of their busy schedule to touch down in San Francisco, stop by K&L and introduce us to their latest releases.

Clos Saint Jean's 2008 releases

The first group to drop by included Vincent Maurel, Phillipe Cambie and Francois Villard.  Vincent’s family domaine is none other than Clos Saint Jean in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. While the winery has been producing wine for over a century, in the last decade, this modest property has shot to Rhone superstardom, producing a range of several cuvees that have garnered immense praise  by journalists (yes, 100 points) as well as Rhone connoisseurs.

Philippe Cambies' "babies" -Les Halos de Jupiter

How did this happen? Hard work, meticulous attention to detail, and the help of Philippe Cambie (holding the CNP book) are the answer. Philippe is a veritable Rhone superstar, and one busy guy. As a consulting oenologist, Philippe has worked with or advised close to 50 domaines throughout the Southern Rhone Valley. One of his latest projects, is also his very own.

From some of the very best fruit sources that the southern Rhone has to offer, Phillipe produces a limited range of wines with one common theme. Grenache is King! Grenache is Philippe’s passion, so whether it be a CNP (Chateauneuf-du-Pape) or a Gigondas, this generous varietal always assumes a dominant presence in the wines. Like the Roman god Jupiter as well as the largest planet in our solar system, so Grenache reigns. For Philippe, the “halos” of Jupiter represent the appellations that best showcase Grenache.

The northern Rhone where Syrah reigns supreme

Approximately 90 minutes north of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, one enters a land where “la Syrah” is queen! The northern Rhone is unquestionably the benchmark for syrah. Great syrah in fact. Guigal’s La, La’s? Chave Hermitage? Clape Cornas. Yep, this is their stomping (planting) ground.

When one speaks of top guns of the Northern Rhone, Francois Villard’s name is included on the list. Dynamic, curious, and passionate, Francois produces a range of impeccably made, yet elegant wines that really speak of where they are from. In addition to his work in Condrieu, Cote Rotie and St. Peray, Francois is also involved in producing a limited range of California Rhone style wines with Dave Miner under the name “La Diligence”.  This guy can’t sit still!

Merci beaucoup pour la visite!

Next: Nicolas Jaboulet


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the 3 J’s..Joyce, Jimmy and Jane.

Not too long ago, K&L SF had the treat of tasting through a selection of Aussie wines from Yalumba. Our guide that day was none other than Yalumba ambassador Jane Ferrari.  Jane, who is also a trained winemaker, travels the globe dispensing her knowledge, wit and passion for a country and wine growing land far far away from these California shores. After meeting Jane and learning more about this super dynamic winery, a trip to Australia is at the top of my “to go” list.

Yalumba is Australia’s oldest family owned winery. Located in the Barossa Valley near the town of Angaston, this venerable domaine was established by a British brewer named Samuel Smith who emigrated with his family from England in 1847. After arriving in this new land and building a home for his family on the banks of the River Torrens, Smith decided to move north, to the town of Angaston.

Here, Smith purchased a 30 acre parcel of land on the settlement’s south eastern boundry. He named the place “Yalumba”, an aboriginal word which means the “land all around.”  In 1849 Smith and his son Sidney planted the first vines (by the moonlight) on the property. And the rest is history..

A K&L & Yalumba tasting with Jane Ferrari

160 years and  5 generations later, Yalumba is widely considered to be one of the most influential and dynamic properties on the continent. In addition to retaining fine vineyard sites predominantly in the Barossa and Eden Valleys, Yalumba also maintains one of Australia’s largest viticultural nurseries. Along with supplying high quality cabernet sauvignon and shiraz vines to winemakers throughout Australia, the Yalumba Vine Nursery also supplies the countries growers with pinot noir, chardonnay and viognier cuttings.

The winery is also the only one of its kind in Australia ( and only several in the world) to have its own cooperage for crafting oak barrels. All of Yalumba’s French, Hungarian and American oak staves are first air dried for an extended period of time (i.e. several years) in order to leach out any bitter or overtly harsh flavor components from the wood. The staves are then assembled by Yalumba’s own coopers,  who then fire or toast the barrels to a light to medium finish. 


On this particular day, Jane tasted us on the following lineup:

Clicking on a wine will bring up a winery tech sheet with additional information.

2009 Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier (note: tech sheet/link is for the 2008 vintage)

2008 Yalumba “Old Bushvine” Grenache Barossa Valley

2008 Yalumba “The Scribbler” Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz Barossa Valley

2004 Yalumba “The Signature” Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz Barossa Valley

2008 Yalumba “Patchwork” Shiraz Barossa Valley

2004 Yalumba “The Octavius” Old Vine Shiraz Barossa Valley  


Don't worry, this won't hurt a bit. -Chanty's tasting

Fast forward to a week later (last Tuesday to be exact) when K&L’s Aussie Wine Buyer featured this ambitious line up for our K&L staff tasting. One noteworthy comment, these 25+ wines included not only Australia, but New Zealand and South Africa as well.


The second medaille ever goes to..


I am always psyched to taste Jimmy C’s selections, and this tasting was no different. As usual, several cool climate wines (pinot noir in particular) were showing beautifully that day. However, one wine in particular stopped me mid spit..ha! Nearly four months after my first Medaille de Mumu, here is the second. And guess who it’s from. Yalumba!


Cabernet Sauvignon /Shiraz. What Australia does so well

Winery:  Yalumba

Wine Name:  FDR1A

Vintage: 2004

Composition: 68% Cabernet Sauvignon  32% Shiraz

Country: Australia

Region: Barossa Valley

Alcohol: 13.5 %

US Importer: Negociants USA

US Retail: $35

Food: Yalumba recommends a Stilton cheese. I can also imagine a gorgeous pan seared filet mignon accompanied by a dollop of creamy gorganzola cheese and a baked potato.


Yalumba first created the outstanding “Fine Dry Red” ..FDR1A back in 1974. The goal here was to create a benchmark Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz blend that showcased the terroir and potential of Australian wine. Since that inaugural vintage, the FDR1A has only been produced 3 times..in 2000, 2004 and 2006. Other than the desire to produce the best cabernet/shiraz blend, there has not been a consistent “recipe” for producing this wine. For instance the 2004 is Barossa Valley all the way, while the current 2006 release comes from vineyard sites in the cooler climate and higher elevation Eden Valley. The elevage regime is vastly different here as well. (13 months for the 2006 vs. 23 months for the 2004)


 With the 2004 vintage, fruit for the FDR1A was hand-picked (always), de-stemmed and fermented in open top stainless steel fermenters. Natural yeasts are allowed to initiate the fermentation process, however cultured yeasts were then added to complete the fermentation. The wine was then aged 23 months in a combination of American (46% new, 33% 2 year) and French (21% 4 year) oak barrels. The wine is neither fined nor filtered. 


The 2004 Yalumba FDR1A is intense, elegant and seamless all at once. Here you’ll find the requisite black currant for which cabernet sauvignon is so famous, however thick, lush fruit is not the only thing going on here. Bay leaf, camphor, slight dusty earth notes and mineral present themselves every so subtley to give this wine a flavor profile that is so much more complex than just about any new world cabernet blend that I have tasted in..forever. Full bodied, but not so pumped up that you couldn’t enjoy it tonight. Good acid, fine medium ++ tannins indicate that this wine can still go the distance if need be. 5-8 more years? Right now all of the components of this wine are hitting their mark and are grooving together. So, so impressive.


Next up: The Hospices du Rhone.. Before, During and After!

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K&L Wine Merchants northern Rhone lineup

The other day K&L Wine Merchants featured wines from the northern Rhone Valley for our in store tasting. Syrah grown in cool climates are some of my all time favorite red wines, so I was very psyched to do this tasting. Below is a complete list of what we opened..

K&L Wine Merchants –San Francisco

Wines of the Northern Rhone Valley


1. 2007 A. Clape St. Peray                                                                                   

2. 2007 Paul Jaboulet Aîné  “Les Jalets” Crozes-Hermitage Blanc                           

3. 2007 Pierre Gonon Saint-Joseph                                                                         

4. 2007 Yves Cuilleron “L’Amarybelle” St-Joseph                                                        

5. 2006   Domaine Belle “Les Pierrelles” Crozes-Hermitage                                            

6. 2007 Domaine Hauts Chassis “Les Chassis” Crozes-Hermitage

7. 2006 A. Clape “Renaissance” Cornas                                                

8. 2007 Vincent Paris “La Geynale” Cornas                                                            

9. 2006 Domaine Duclaux “La Germine” Côte Rôtie                                                   

10. 2007 Guigal Condrieu      

The turnout was impressive in all three locations (San Francisco, Redwood City and Hollywood) with customers really frequently commenting on how different and unique each wine tasted. Overall I think that that tasting proved to be really educational for all, including myself. I love hearing folks different descriptors. Today for instance someone got “hot dog” in one of the Crozes-Hermitage. And guess what? We all pretty much agreed, although ultimately we all decided that “smoked meat” sounded more eloquent! Check out another customers tasting note below.. which has to be one of my all time favorites. I have not quite deciphered its true meaning, however by the looks of it..quite a few smiley faces and bared teeth? I believe the notes are mostly positive!


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All in a day's work..

 Every Tuesday the K&L Wine Merchants buyers open a selection of wines from their respective regions for the entire sales staff to taste and discover. These staff tastings are a fantastic opportunity for everyone to further refine and educate their palates, as well as ask questions regarding a particular varietal, wine region or winemaking process.

This first Tuesday of the month was my turn to feature wines from both the Rhone Valley as well as French regional wines (Languedoc, Roussillon, Provence, Southwest France, Savoie and Jura). Take a look at the list below!



1. 2007 Domaine de la Tournelle “Trousseau des Corvées” Arbois  (Jura)

2. 2007 Château Grande Cassagne “G.S.” Costières de Nîmes  (Rhone)

3. 2007 La Font du Vent “Les Promesses” Côtes du Rhône   (Rhone)

4. 2007 Jean-Louis Denois Syrah “Saint Louis” Vin de Pays d’Oc  (Languedoc-Roussillon)

5.  2007 Clos La Coutale Cahors     (Southwest)                  

6.  2006 Château La Caminade “La Commandery” Cahors      (Southwest)

7.  2004 Domaine Terrebrune Bandol   (Provence)

8.  2006 Moulin de la Gardette “Tradition” Gigondas          (Rhone) 

9.  2006 Moulin de la Gardette “Cuvée Ventabren” Gigondas    (Rhone)

10.  2007 Domaine Le Couroulu “Classique” Vacqueyras    (Rhone)       

11.  2007 Domaine Constant-Duquesnoy Vinsobres            (Rhone)

12.  2007 Roger Sabon “Prestige” Châteauneuf-du-Pape    (Rhone)                  

13.  2007 Domaine Hauts Chassis “Les Chassis” Crozes-Hermitage   (Northern Rhone)

14.  2007 Vincent Paris “Granit 30” Cornas    (Northern Rhone)

15.  2007 Vincent Paris “Granit 60” Cornas         (Northern Rhone)   

16.  2006 Domaine Duclaux “La Germine” Côte Rôtie    (Northern Rhone)


17.  2008 La Hitaire Blanc “Les Tours” Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne    (Southwest)       

18.   2008 Domaine Gioielli Coteaux du Cap Corse Blanc    (Corsica)

19.  2005 Jean-Louis Denois Chardonnay “Sainte Marie” Vin de Pays d’Oc  (Languedoc-Roussillon)

20.   2006 Domaine de Montbourgeau l’Etoile  (Jura)


 21.  Château Tirecul La Gravière “Les Pins” Monbazillac (500ml)    (Southwest) 

After a full day of winetasting..a beer sounds great!

After tasting and talking about wine all day, I am ready for a break! Enter the lovely blonde ale pictured above. This “Page 24 -Reserve Hildegarde” from Brasserie St. Germain was gifted to me by my colleauge Susan, who advised me to “..enjoy this crispy beer at the end of a long day.” It is tasting great right now with a hunk of baguette, some apples and some nibbles of cotswald, gouda and irish cheddar cheeses!


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The master of ceremonies Scottie B.

Historically the day before Thanksgiving is the busiest day in wine retail, and yesterday was no exception. So many people rushing in at the last minute to grab 1, 2 or 12 bottles of wine to (almost always) pair with one of the most important meals of the year here in the USA. Truthfully, the challenge in finding the perfect wine comes not from the turkey, but rather the variety of salty, sweet, spicy and rich side dishes that are generally served with the bird. Stuffing? Oysters? Cranberry sauce..you get the picture.

What to look for?

Wines with modest to low alcohol,  supple tannins, more youthful, primary fruit flavors, good acidity. Wines with a little residual sugar work great too.

What to avoid?

High alcohol, coarse, astringent or dry tannins, high levels of oak, super earthy, rustic or aged wines that lack primary fruit characteristics.

Here is a short list of what I recommended to most folks:


Pinot Noir (from just about anywhere in the world. I am very partial to New Zealand these days, especially from a quality, price and exquisite balance standpoint)

GSM’s (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre blends, especially from the Southern Rhone or the Languedoc)

Beaujolais (Gamay)

Mencia (from the northwestern side of Spain)

Lambrusco (a dry version if you are feeling particularly open to trying new things!)

Trousseau (from the Jura. Pinot Noir-esque. Obscure? Yeah..but oh so good.)


Riesling (For me, Germany is king. Austria and Australia also excel with their dry wines)

Chenin Blanc (Vouvray or Montlouis in the Loire are great go to regions for slightly off-dry whites with great acidity)

Pinot Gris (Oregon or New Zealand are my current favorites)

In addition, a deep, juicy and dry rose works with many Thanksgiving dishes too. For such an occasion, I tend to favor wines from the following regions:


Chinon (Cabernet Franc)

Bordeaux (Merlot –Cabernet Sauvignon)

Cotes du Rhone (Grenache-Syrah-Cinsault)

In addition, sparkling wines are incredibly versatile and festive at the table. Given the choice, fizzy wine is what I would drink for the duration of the meal.


Prosecco (from Italia. slightly off dry, great apple nuances)

Cremant de Limoux (from Southern France)

Cremant de Loire (often Chenin Blanc based)

California Sparkling Wine (Schramsberg and Iron Horse are my favorites)

Champagne (a no brainer-especially rose Champagne)

maxin' and relaxin' with Franck Bonville GC

Whew! After such a hard days work, my colleagues and I celebrated the completion of a very successful day with a champagne toast. Scottie B. cracked open a bottle of 2005 Franck Bonville Grand Cru Blancs de Blancs, which I believe K&L Wine Merchants will soon be carrying. Here is a picture of Scottie doling out the goods.

A man and his bubbles

O.K., amongst the 8 of us that bottle was gone in about 4 minutes. We had also run out of potato chips, which is our drug of choice when drinking champagne.

Next, Scottie pulled out a bottle of Billecart Salmon Brut “Reserve” that had been blissfully resting in his cellar for the better part of 7 years. Wow, complex, with notes of fennel, hazelnut and fuji apple. Gorgeous, and still tight as a tick. Thank you Scottie for sharing this treat with us at the end of a long hard day!

Snap, crackle pop!

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