American Wine- Charles Smith (new releases), Bonny Doon and Steltzner


Charles Smith– “A self-taught winemaker, Charles is a true artisan and a pioneer in the wine world. In 2008, K Vintners was recognized by Wine & Spirits magazine as one of the “Best New Wineries of the Last Ten Years,” and as “Winery of the Year” in their annual buying guide. In 2009 Food & Wine magazine awarded Charles “Winemaker of the Year” and in 2010 Seattle Magazine recognized Charles as their “Winemaker of the Year.””

The Wine Advocate says of Charles Smith’s most recent releases- “One of the highlight (and largest) tastings for this report, the team at K Vintners consists of wild man himself, Charles Smith, and Andrew Latta and Brennon Leighton. Despite the rock star persona, when it comes to the wines, these guys are dead serious, source grapes from some of the top sites, and simply get out of the way once they’re in the winery. All of the single vineyard Syrahs are fermented with native yeasts and 100% whole cluster, and see an extended time in mostly neutral French oak puncheons. Starting with the 2013s, I was able to taste a few from barrel, and they showed plenty of fruit, with ripe, textured personalities. This was a hot vintage, and the style is closer to the 2012s than the 2011s. Moving to the 2012s, these were all still in barrel at the time of this tasting. As with most producers, these are a step up over the 2011s and possess gorgeous richness while still showing the purity and freshness that’s common in the vintage. The 2011s, which were all tasted out of bottle, come from a cooler, more difficult vintage, yet show solid ripeness and good textures. As a whole, the 2012s are certainly stronger, but these are no slouches either.”

Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2013
Columbia Valley, Washington. Evergreen Vineyard. “Planted in 1998 by Jerry Milbrandt, the vineyard rows lie along a stretch of steep cliffs above the Columbia River, in one of the state’s newest AVA’s The Ancient Lakes. A cooler site due to river influence, the soils are composed of fragmented basalt, gravel silt, and caliche deposited during ice age floods. As are all of Milbrandt’s vineyards, Evergreen is farmed using sustainable practices. This site produces fruit with sublime mineral character and the acid balance that winemakers adore.” “White stone fruit, white peach, apricot, cool and delicious. Think Fuji apple, Shiro plum, lime leaves. Focused with a very long, minerally finish.” 90 points Wine Advocate– “Clean, fresh and incredibly pure, the 2013 Charles Smith Riesling Kung Fu Girl is shockingly good given the price (and the volume, as they produce a massive amount of this cuvee). Lychee, citrus, mint and classic minerality all show here, and it’s medium-bodied, beautifully balanced and finishes cleanly, with perfectly integrated acidity and only subtle sweetness. Enjoy this rock star effort over the coming year or two.” $11.99

Charles Smith Eve Chardonnay 2012
Columbia Valley, Washington. Evergreen, Ancient Lakes and Ryan Patrick Vineyards. “2012 was a cooler vintage in Washington. Fruit was picked in early October of 2012, in the middle of an encouragingly long growing season. No rain or harsh temperatures interfered with slow, steady ripening. Fermented in stainless steel; aged on the lees for four months before being bottled. Made in a crisp, lean style, very Chablis-like in character with an underlying mineral rich nose suggesting shell or chalk is veiled by more floral aromatics reminiscent Honey Crisp apples and apple blossoms. Richly textured this medium bodied wine delivers a crisp, dry finish. The Eve Chardonnay is so tempting, so approachable and immediately enjoyable, it’s simply and perfectly Charles Smith Wines.” “This is really good. Pure, focused, with great balance. Layers of tangerine, Asian pear, apple blossoms and minerals. The finish is long and so satisfying.” 88 points Wine Advocate– “A juicy, lively effort, the 2012 Charles Smith Chardonnay Eve is another superb value from this team. Citrus blossom, mineral and hints of lime emerge from the glass, and this medium-bodied, refreshing white will drink nicely for a year or three.” $11.99

Charles Smith Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Columbia Valley, Washington. Art Den Hoed (Yakima AVA), Hawk (Wahluke Slope AVA), Milbrandt (Wahluke Slope AVA), Newhouse Family (Snipes Mountain AVA), and Les Collines The Foothills (Walla Walla Valley) vineyards. 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot and 1% Malbec. Aged- “30% New, 70% Neutral French Oak.” “The 2012 Chateau Smith is a wine long and rich in the mouth. Aromas of black cherry, wet earth, anise and a touch of toasted herbs with flavors and a finish to match.” 90 points Wine Advocate– “An outstanding bottle of wine, the 2012 Charles Smith Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon (93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot and 1% Malbec) gives up big blueberry, spice, crushed flowers and violets in a seamless, sexy, yet fresh and delicious package. It too is a superb value and will have 5 to 7 years of longevity.” $17.99


Bonny Doon– “Randall Grahm was born in Los Angeles in 1953; attended the University of California at Santa Cruz where he was a Liberal Arts major. Sometime later, he found himself working at the Wine Merchant in Beverly Hills sweeping floors. By dint of exceptionally good karma, he was given the opportunity to taste an ungodly number of great French wines and this singular experience turned him into a complete and insufferable wine fanatic. He returned to the University of California at Davis to complete a degree in Plant Sciences in 1979, where, owing to his single-minded obsession with Pinot noir, he was regarded as a bit of a holy terroir in the hallowed halls of the sober and sedate Department of Viticulture.

With his family’s assistance, Randall purchased property in the Santa Cruz Mountains in a magically quaint area known as Bonny Doon, intent on producing the Great American Pinot Noir. The GAPN proved to be systematically elusive, but he was greatly encouraged by experimental batches of Rhône varieties. The late, great Bonny Doon Estate Vineyard (1981–1994, a tragic victim to Pierce’s Disease) was eventually planted to Syrah, “Roussanne,” Marsanne, and Viognier and produced achingly beautiful wines, confirming that California’s temperate climate is well suited to the sun-loving grapes of the Mediterranean. In 1986, Bonny Doon Vineyard released the inaugural vintage (1984) of Le Cigare Volant, an homage to Châteauneuf-du-Pape.”

Bonny Doon Albarino 2013
Central Coast, California. 73% Kristy Vineyard, 27% Jespersen Ranch. 100% Albariño. “The Kristy Vineyard in the Salinas Valley, from which derives the dominant component of this blend, is a bit of a wind tunnel, and as such, remains almost preternaturally cool in temperature during the growing season. (It is aided and abetted by the Jespersen Vineyard of Edna Valley, perhaps even cooler.) Until 1989 Albariño was one of the rarest wine varieties in the world, rarely glimpsed outside the Iberian Peninsula. Since that time, this light yet vibrant white grape has become a darling of wine geeks worldwide with its preternatural ability to pair with all types of seafood, cheese and salty dishes. Very pale chartreuse color. In the nose, citrus (mostly lime and tangerine) peel and leaf with a vague hint of peach and pineapple. Impressively bracing natural acidity (no acidification was doon), and a slightly richer and more savory mouthfeel than we achieved in the ’12 (perhaps because we were able to do a little more bâtonage.) The wine has come together nicely since bottling, but is still pretty tightly wound, and certainly will keep its freshness for several years to come.” $15.99

Bonny Doon Clos du Gilroy 2013
Central Coast, California. 75% Grenache, 17% Syrah and 8% Mourvèdre. “Alta Loma vineyard in Greenfield (a particularly cool site for grenache) the gravelly Alamo Creek Vineyard near Santa Maria and some truly ancient mourvèdre vines in the sleepy Sacramento Delta town of Oakley, CA. Grenache is really the star of the show, and the wine exhibits all the hallmarks of exceptional coolth—bright raspberries, red fruit, a strong suggestion of white pepper, and a supple, lingering finish. Bonny Doon Vineyard’s winemaking practice is exceptionally light-handed, with minimal intervention and manipulation. We created the 2013 Clos de Gilroy from hand-harvested grapes deriving from three Central Coast Vineyards. The fruit was hand-sorted, gently de-stemmed, and cold soaked to enhance flavor and color extraction, and each lot was fermented separately. Extended maceration and fermentation took place under slow, cool conditions, and the lots were carefully blended to ensure a harmonious balance in the resultant wine. Very pretty opalescent ruby color. Exceptional spicebox nose: black pepper with hints of clove/gingerbread, bing cherry, red currant and Santa Rosa plum. Very soft, plush tannins in the mouth; this is the genius of Grenache. Refreshing, savory texture, making this a wine that pairs exceptionally well with a range of dishes, not the least being a peppered ahi tuna steak. Best served with a slight chill, especially as the weather warms up.” $15.99


Steltzner– “Steltzner Vineyards is located in the Stags Leap District where we farm 30 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, along with small amounts of Sangiovese, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Our family has owned this property since 1965. We currently make our wine at Folio Custom Crush and source only grapes from throughout Napa Valley to create our Claret blend.”

“Since 1965 the Steltzner Family has been dedicated to producing wines of exceptional quality in the heart of the Stags Leap District.  Our winemaker, Bob Pepi, works closely with the Steltzner family to produce world class wines that embody the uniqueness of the Stags Leap District.”

“Eleanor, Queen of Aquitaine, divorced Louis VII of France and married Henry II of England (1152), securing Aquitaine independence from France. The English had grown fond of Claret, the principal export of Aquitaine province, Bordeaux. Spawned from these events, the 100-year war (1337-1453) ensued over women’s property rights and Claret. This historic merchants’ wine reached its popularity zenith the 19th century England, Claret emerged as the fashionable beverage of choice. In the English quest of leisure and sociability, it was served in the afternoons at the grand estates and manor houses. In the tradition of those merchants past we are thrilled to carry on the legacy of Claret!”

Steltzner Claret 2012
Napa Valley, California. “Barrel Ageing: 16 months Mixed French Oak. Blend: 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot. Classic Bordeaux blend with just enough Merlot and Petit Verdot to give the underlying Cabernet Sauvignon finesse and grace. Aromas of rich ripe fruit, raspberry jam, hints of cedar box on the finish.” Jen’s note- Pretty deep ruby/magenta in color. Rustic berry fruit aromas, briary fruits and cassis with hints of cedar. Full entry, ripe qualities. Red cherry flavors with toasty notes. Textured and tannic. Compelling and very good. $17.99

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