On the Trail

A Series of Fortunate Events

Ryan Woodhouse

I have long admired a stalwart property in Bannockburn, Central Otago called Carrick Estate, but lately young gun winemaker Francis Hutt definitely seems to be drawing the best out of his mature vines. Francis is known locally for his intuitive abilities as a vigneron and reckless abandon on the mountain during winter snowboarding season. He’s an integral part of an exciting group of producers in the region making beautifully authentic, pure, and complex wines that faithfully reflect this unique place. Francis’s wife Anna is the winemaker at Mount Edward, another of our direct import partners, and trained at the legendary Domaine Roulot in Burgundy. Francis quite adoringly regards her as one of his most powerful inspirations in winemaking. There’s a good vibe at Carrick and that positive energy is showing right now in the wines.

After recently purchasing this pinot noir I received an email from Francis thanking me for the support. In the email he gave me the lowdown on how this beautiful wine came into existence; apparently after a rather unique series of events. Firstly, a sequence of "super moons" lead up to the harvest; being bio-dynamically inclined this was considered to have significant effect on the growing season. Ripe flavors were quickly present in the fruit at very low sugar levels, so Francis decided to trust his gut and pick early. Next, one of the harvest interns that year apparently found the manual punch down schedule a little challenging, so Francis let her “cruise with the ferments." They were very "delicately extracted" and rather found their way forward. Finally, Francis decided not to separate the press fraction from the rest of the wine; he wanted to see the expression of the estate in its entirety, so he employed only a very light press regime. The wine saw no fining or filtration. He concluded the email by saying: "2012 will always be one of my favorite wines, it reminds me that sometimes you just have to back yourself, trust your experience, and push the boat out in the direction you think is going to find new uncharted territory. Bringing everyone along on the journey is so important."

Just judging the 2012 Carrick Estate pinot noir on its own individual merit I really enjoyed it. Now that I know the story behind it, I find the wine even more intriguing (but, of course, that's what makes this job so fun).

-Ryan Woodhouse

On the Trail in Armagnac

David Othenin-Girard

This past summer I travelled to France with the illustrious Charles Neal for a quick tour of Gascogne in Armagnac. The goal was to find new producers which neither of us had tried before. I arrived in Gascogne after a fifteen hour drive from Beaune where I'd spent the previous night with Jean-Arnauld of Michel Couvreur to discuss the exciting future of that spectacular brand. When I arrived in Montreal du Gers, Charles had just returned from family vacation in the Pyrenees and was ready to get to work. We immediately got back in the car to visit our old friends at Ravignan, where the young cellar master greeted us and took us through an examination of twenty of his favorite vintages. Then we began work on a little blending project, which is still in the works, with the ultimate goal of bottling some Ravignan that tastes like the real deal, but at an everyday drinkers price point. These blends can take a long time to perfect, both in terms of price and consistency, but hopefully we’ll be seeing something from them before the end of this year. 

When we returned to Montreal du Gers, Charles’s brother in law Bernard Daubin was grilling lamb chops! The entire family was there and we set up a table on the central square outside. The magic of the Gers is truly the people and the Daubin family is the epitome of the fact. After an incredible dinner and some gnarly agricole rhum from Reunion Island where Charles’s other brother-law Timo lives, I was fully beat. The next two days would be a whirlwind adventure of none-stop knocking on doors and asking directions, but ultimately we located three new producers who have remained completely under the radar until now. Each of these three represent different types of ownership in Armagnac. This particular article is about the youth—the young and hungry trying to build on what their fathers and grandfathers had built—representing some of the best values we’ll ever see in French brandy and without a doubt a long term future partner of ours. 

Domaine du Cardinat is one of those hidden little gems run by some of the sweetest people in Gascogne. They know they have something special, but aren’t necessarily entrenched business members of the industry and they definitely aren't aware of K&L, our brandy consumers, or what the niche market wants. Not that they’re provincial in anyway, they’re quite cosmopolitan, but their story is unusual in that this younger generation has taken over the branding, rather than simply sell all the production to one of the larger blending houses like so many of their neighbors have. The Domaine dates back to the late 19th century when Joseph Lalanne farmed the land and built the family home which stills stands today. In 1935, his sudden death thrust his young son Camille into the patriarchal role. Just four years later at then tender age of nineteen, on the eve of World War II, Camille planted his first vines.

In a time when the future was anything but certain Camille dove into this patient passion and devoted the rest of his life to the cultivation of Armagnac. He worked the land by himself for another seventy years before being joined by his daughter Patricia and her husband Malkeet. Patricia, who specialized in viticulture and oenology, had left the family domaine years earlier to pursue a career in marketing. Her savvy for business and willingness to learn was the first thing I noticed about her. Most Armagnac producers don’t necessarily ask what our customers want, they simply show us their wares, tell us their prices, talk about the vines, and the history of the domaine. Patricia, perhaps from her new relationship with the domaine, or maybe it’s simply her nature, was very interested in what I had to say about what K&L was looking for.. She was interested to hear that we’d only bottle products at full strength with no additives. Her oenologist has recommended she add boise and sugar during blending to make the products more approachable. I said, “Absolutely not! We want the real deal, bottled the old way, straight from the cask.” 

Needless to say she obliged. Cardinat has a very small, but loyal following, most of which buys their Armagnac directly from the domaine. From what I can tell, the Singh family has opened up a small business in the UK and Switzerland as well. Patricia and her extremely thoughtful and kind husband Malkeet Singh are proud new parents and you can feel that itch—that feeling that as a new dad I’ve only recently felt myself: to do something bigger than their predecessors for their children. We’re proud to have them as one of our direct imports and hope you enjoy their wonderful products as much as we do. 

-David Othenin-Girard

 

Laurent Perrier's Rosé Excellence

Gary Westby

I visited Laurent Perrier this past spring and was greeted in their parking area by a peeing cherub who reminded me never to drink water. Good advice—that stuff will kill you! Wine is a much safer bet, especially when it's Champagne. We have been working closely with LP for nearly twenty years, and after tasting through their portfolio again on a recent visit, I'm happy to say their quality has never been better. They have 370 acres of estate vineyards and buy grapes from around the region to make up the delta of their 7.5 million bottle total production. Considering the scale of their operation, the quality is simply excellent. While I was there, I was able to visit the very small room (pictured below) that holds all of the wine for Grand Siècle, their tête de cuvée. While Roederer’s Cristal and Moet’s Dom Perignon are the second highest production wines for their respective houses, the Grand Siècle from Laurent Perrier is a tiny sliver of their production, proving the wine truly is a special occasion type of bottle—worthy of its loftier status.

More telling than visiting this tiny room was the one I didn’t get to visit: their new, secret, rosé-only facility! This separate winery is where they make the number one selling rose Champagne exclusively from Grand Cru pinot noir. Laurent Perrier makes this rose by maceration; keeping all of the skins in contact with all of the juice. This is an unforgiving process, and less than perfect skins on just a tiny proportion of the grapes will spoil the whole batch. Even with all perfect skins, macerating too long, even by a couple of hours, can make a tannic, rustic wine. On the other hand, if you macerate too little, you're left with pale blanc de noirs! On top of all that, the LP rosé is aged for four years on the lees before release and has great elegance and poise along with the refined flavor one would expect from all Grand Cru pinot.

The LP Rose has set the standard for rose Champagne for many years, and for good reason. As we just secured a great deal on a new shipment, it seemed like the perfect moment to remind people just how serious this wine is.

-Gary Westby

Classic Chianti

Greg St. Clair

While most of the work I've done in Tuscany over my career at K&L has been rooted in Montalcino, where Sangiovese is also king, that doesn't mean we're giving Chianti the cold shoulder. Chianti has always been the bigger draw to the wider Italian wine drinking audience, so it's a more competitive market as a result (which is why we've worked out our own niche in Montalcino). That being said, there are two new wines from Chianti that just hit our shelves that I find quite exciting. I'd like to tell you about them.

Lamole is a tiny hamlet not far from the town of Greve in the heart of Chianti Classico. I visited this estate twenty-five years ago and had always been impressed with the raw product and he potential of the wines produced at this estate. The soil and vineyards just had something unique, a special aromatic about them, but unfortunately the rest of the winemaking was a bit sketchy. Shortly thereafter, the Santa Margherita Group—yes, the folks that bring you the Pinot Grigio—bought the estate, and instead of turning it into a winery making oceans of mass produced swill they kept the winery small, spending time and money rebuilding the terraces (which you can see in the above photo) holding the vineyards up on the hills. They refurbished the cellar, brought in new cooperage (much needed) and began to make real wine, with depth and character, but the types of distribution needed for these two different wineries are hard to combine and the brand has languished a bit as the winery was rebuilding its products.

I love this new 2013 “Blue Label” Chianti Classico because they have really captured that uniqueness I saw in this area so many years ago. The nose is full of stone, spice, leather, violet, wild cherry, dried plums with hints of smoke and earth; it is a complex cauldron of flavors. On the palate the wine has a breadth, a depth of richness and a supple power that is really amazing for a wine in this price range. The flavors grow (I would decant this an hour or two ahead of time), develop and bring the leather, cherry and violet together to form a fascinating expression of Sangiovese, complex and vibrant. The finish has so much going on, a pooling of the spice; plum and leather come together in a long and memorable finish. This isn’t so much a Pasta wine as it is a red meat wine, a T-Bone would do well or grilled leg of lamb. Sensational wine, you shouldn’t wait!

Antinori is not an unknown name in Italian wine, they are one of the largest and highest quality producers in Italy. Many years ago, when I first started in this business, there were two names that stood for Italy, through whose tireless efforts brought a new age of quality Italian wine to America, they were Angelo Gaja and Piero Antinori, each year they would spend months crisscrossing the country doing presentation after presentation. Gaja’s flamboyant bravado earned fans everywhere; his wines weren’t so bad either, but it was Piero Antinori’s graceful elegance, understated presence and his ability to present wines to both the connoisseur and the common man that made his voice so resonant.

This new Péppoli Chianti Classico is a beautiful representation of what Sangiovese expresses in this micro-climate of Chianti Classico’s northwest. The nose of this wine is pure Sangiovese, but to use more of a musical metaphor there’s a lot more treble in this voice, long, pure, elegant. A cleaner, wild cherry aromatic that is very focused is what comes out of the glass followed by delicate threads of spice and earth but is that Sangiovese solo that is the dominant expression. On the palate that same linear characteristic is articulated, faceted, and lets the 10% portion of Syrah and Merlot flesh out the mid palate adding a bit of meaty richness. The dominant flavors are the cherry, with hints of stone fruit, earth and spice. This wine reminds me of Audrey Hepburn: restrained, elegant, and lean, but so much focus, energy and lift, you can tell it has breeding. This wine’s elegant, linear character makes it the perfect match for richer pasta dishes; whether you choose what my choice would be a sausage and cream with penne rigate, if you’re an Alfredo fan this would work too, or if a traditional ragu is your choice just remember to go heavier on the oil or cheese, you don’t want a tomato dominant dish. A brief decanting always helps Sangiovese, but this wine will drink well over the next five to eight years.

-Greg St. Clair

The Best Bordeaux Introduction Money Can Buy

David Driscoll

I was watching a documentary on TV this past week about French wine and the impact that famed critics like Robert Parker have had on the industry. There was a scene where the crew followed around a few different critics to see how each worked individually, and one such individual plopped down at a desk in a French office, put on headphones, and sat there for hours tasting wine and typing notes on his laptop. I said to myself right then and there: "I can't think of a more miserable way to approach wine education." Where's the conversation? Where's the food? Where are the producers, each with their own personality, adding color commentary to the play-by-play? While I understood the intention of this particular critic—to block out all outside distraction and dig deep into the nuances of flavor—wine tasting and education to me has never been about identification, nor about translation. Personally, I don't approach wine appreciation through tasting notes. Wine is exciting and romantic because to drink it is to have an experience. An experience is always heightened, intensified, and made more memorable when there are interesting people to share it with. When it comes to the Bordeaux experience, there's no better event in my opinion than the Unions des Grands Crus tasting we host each January in San Francisco. It's there you get to actually meet the winemakers from each château, talk with them face to face, and understand what makes each wine tick.

Even when you go to Bordeaux for en primeur tasting like we do each Spring, it's impossible to visit each property individually. For the sake of time and efficiency, you end up in these huge halls that are broken down by region where each château has its own table and representative nearby. The UGC pretty much takes that same experience and brings it across the Atlantic. You get access to more than eighty different producers and a large variety of wine styles including some of the sweet Sauternes as well. It's a veritable who's who of the region, including Léoville-Barton, Branaire-Ducru, Gruaud-Larose, Kirwan, Pichon-Baron, Lynch-Bages, and basically every other non-first growth player that you can think of. They're all there in one room, pouring their top wines, and you can actually talk to the people who work at each property to get the information you need while you taste. Unlike isolating yourself in a small room and pumping your way through a blind line-up of wines while listening to music, I can't think of a better way to experience Bordeaux. You can work at your own pace, take as long as you like with each producer, and leisurely learn about the wines in the way you want to. I've gone for the last four years and I've always walked away with a better understanding and appreciation of the category (as well as a few new friends).

This year's UGC tasting is on Friday, January 27th at the Westin St. Francis on Powell Street and starts at 6 PM. Tickets are available here for a mere $65. I hope to see you there!

-David Driscoll

Rioja's Forward-Thinking Leader

Joe Manekin

Alvaro Palacios has roots that run deep into the soil of Rioja. He was born into one the region's most prestigious winemaking families, the force behind Palacios Remondo, yet his interests have always been grander. Rather than slide simply into a position at the family winery, Alvaro decided to go out and do his own thing for a while. During the eighties, he worked in Bordeaux with Jean-Pierre Moueix, then decided to purchase his own winery in Priorat where he worked avidly to help put that region on the map. Almost thirty years later, his L'Ermita Priorat is the gold standard for the appellation. During that time, Alvaro has advocated for the lesser known wine regions of Spain, eventually coming back to the family winery in Rioja. Once home, he set to work using his experiences elsewhere to get the business back on track, while at the same time rethinking exactly what Rioja is about. Today he's considered one of the region's forward-thinking leaders; its champion and passionate voice.

There's a reason Alvaro Palacios was named Decanter magazine's "man of the year" for 2015. He's completely reimagined what it takes to make top quality Rioja: what proportions of grapes to use, when to pick, how to vinify, and how to age the wines, with the goal of maximizing terroir, cutting back on oak, and showing respect for the land. As a result, the wines from Palacios Remondo have become brighter, livelier, and more expressive since his return, but the best is still yet to come. He's still figuring out where the best parcels in La Montesa are—a very large single vineyard known to be the best source for grapes in Rioja Baja—and the family is still tinkering in the cellar, trying to make less stereotypical wines and more interesting expressions from the region. The 2013 Bodegas Palacios Remondo "La Montesa" Crianza is a perfect example. 2013 was a vintage the really highlights freshness over intensity and aromatics over richness. It’s exactly the kind of vintage where someone like Alvaro can show his vision for a new direction forward, where the stony soils can show their characteristic terroir.

He has the platform and the experience to help Rioja lead the way forward in terms of changing people’s idea of what constitutes good and even great Rioja. According to the Wine Advocate's Luis Gutierrez, who is arguably today's preeminent Spanish wine critic and definitely amongst Palacio's biggest believers: "The wines are gaining in precision and purity by the vintage." I'd highly recommend checking out the new vintage of La Montesa, where you can experience Rioja's new way forward for a very reasonable fifteen dollars.

-Joe Manekin

A Papal Delicacy

David Driscoll

Getting the opportunity to travel to the world’s most prestigious wine and spirits producers is a privilege and an honor that I’ve never taken lightly. Sure, it’s both enlightening and inspiring to see the vineyards with your own eyes, feel the local terroir between your fingertips, and take in the atmospheric elements that result in some of our favorite liquids. But for a retailer like K&L, the X-factor as it pertains to first-hand tasting and travel is timing. In some cases, our success is simply a matter of being in the right place at the right moment. They say half of life is simply showing up. When it comes to scoring a hot deal in the wine business, taking the time to knock on doors and visit with the producers themselves can often lead to unexpected finds. Take our trip to Pape Clément this past April as an example. We sat in the château’s ancient parlor, on the site of a property that dates back to the mid-1200s when Bertrand de Got, then the Archbishop of Bordeaux, first planted the vineyards (Bertrand would become Pope Clément V in 1305 and move the papacy to Avignon, where it would remain for the next sixty-seven years, and the property later took his namesake). We were there to taste the 2015 vintage en primeur, but while waiting for our appointment to begin we noticed a few bottles of 1989 Le Cleméntin du Pape sitting on a table in nearby office.

I was snooping around, taking photos of all the papal paraphernalia, when my boss—K&L owner Clyde Beffa—noticed the bottles. He said to me, "Let's see if we can get them to open that after we're done." Le Clementin is the property's second wine, generally meaning a less-expensive cuvée made from the grapes that didn't make the first cut. A second wine can often be made from the grand vin's leftovers, a separate parcel on the estate, grapes from younger vines deemed not quite mature enough for the big stage, or a combination of all three. In the case of the 1989 vintage, the wine was made from the excess fruit, making the Cleméntin from this year "an original second wine," according to Clyde. After tasting through the stellar 2015 expressions, we asked our host if the 1989 was available to taste. When the château informed us it was not only available to taste, but also to purchase, we started licking our lips. 

Needless to say (because if there's a blog post about the wine, we obviously bought it), the wine was stunning; as was the price. The 1989 Cleméntin du Pape Clément is in an absolute perfect spot right now, balancing the line between earth and fruit with supreme precision. There's enough red fruit and richness to coat your palate, but there's enough depth of secondary flavors to make the wine interesting. Add in the fact that we purchased these bottles directly from Pape-Clement, not a warehouse or broker, and you've got perfectly matured Bordeaux that spent its entire life aging at the place where it was originally made. This deal is a prime example of why it always pays to show your face at a producer's estate. You never know what's going to happen while you're there.

-David Driscoll

Direct Import Validation

Ryan Woodhouse

Tongue in Groove is one of the most beloved direct imports at K&L because it's a moderately-priced pinot noir with incredible depth and complexity. For that reason, it's what our staff members drink and it's a wine they enjoy telling our customers about, simply because it epitomizes the goal of our direct import program: finding great quality at great price points. Our enthusiasm for the wine is no secret, as is clear from the number of glowing staff reviews on the product page, but the wine has also recently amassed huge scores from critics around the globe. In mid-December, Wine Advocate Editor-in-Chief Lisa Perotti-Brown snapped a phone pic of Tongue In Groove’s “Cabal Vineyard” Pinot and Instagramed it with the comment “Gorgeous label, gorgeous pinot." On seeing this we hoped the wine would feature prominently in her upcoming article on New Zealand and we weren’t disappointed when she awarded it 93+ points with a tasting note exclaiming “Love it!” as the proverbial cherry on top. Of course, w knew the wine was delicious, but that little bit of validation for our exclusive imports is always exciting!

It didn't stop there, however. The very same week the wine was scored 94 points by James Suckling.com and featured in his Top 50 NZ Wines of 2016. Add this latest acclaim to the existing 95 point Decanter review and Bob Campbell's 96 score, and you can see why we expect this wine to be one of the biggest hits of the year. We love it when one of our own comes good. The people behind this wine are some of the coolest in the business and, whilst the name and label are whimsical and esoteric, the juice inside is absolutely serious. Sourced from Waipara Valley, the wine is made under a non-interventionist philosophy, meaning no pesticides, herbicides, or artificial fertilizers are employed. It is fermented using wild yeast and is unfined and unfiltered; so what you get is a pure, honest, and unadulterated expression of place, grape and season.

Thanks to the inclusion of whole clusters there is an added element of complexity in this 2014, which takes the wine's depth to a whole new level. In the glass, it is nothing short of a joyful ride from sweet berry fruit to more savory elements of wild herb, stone, earth. A gentle grip of tannin makes for a lovely mouthfeel and assures years of continued development. This is a bottle you can certain enjoy in the near term, but feel free to lay it down for another five to ten years as it will develop beautifully. For those who loved the 2013, you’ll definitely want to pick up the 2014, and for those who haven’t enjoyed the wines of Tongue In Groove, what are you waiting for? Let us show you exactly what our direct import program can do.

-Ryan Woodhouse

Bordeaux's Grey Vintages

David Driscoll

As a consumer society, we’ve become very good at compartmentalizing things into easy-to-reference summaries. Four stars. Ninety points. Is this a good vintage or bad vintage? Whether we’re looking for a place to eat or shopping for a bottle of wine, we rely on these quick synopses to help guide us towards quality in times of need. The drawback of using abbreviated analysis, however, is that it often comes at the expense of nuance, subtlety, and depth. Working in the wine business, in constant search of overlooked value, we’ve come to realize that our greatest finds often materialize from these grey areas; the bottles that fall off the spectrum in what’s becoming a black and white world. In the realm of Bordeaux, the most knowledgable customers have pounced on heralded vintages like 2000, 2005, 2009, and 2010; mainly because these were the harvests that drew the largest critical acclaim. Indeed, each of these vintages did produce an outstanding crop of wines in most of the region’s communes. In stark contrast, cold and difficult vintages like 2007, 2011, and 2013 have produced less enthusiasm from fans of the genre, mainly due to their categorization as off-vintages. 

It should come as no surprise that pricing for the top wines in these “good vintages” has remained high, while costs for the so-called “bad vintages” remain lower. We know this is how capitalism works. The higher the demand for a product, the more it costs. It’s precisely because of that correlation that we continue to hunt for Bordeaux value where many don’t have time to dig: in between the cracks, within the grey zones of tweener-vintages like 2008, 2012, and 2014. What we’ve found more often than not, is that the difficulty in determining the initial quality in each of these harvests led to tentative reviews early on. As the years went by, however, and the wines became ready for market, new critical evaluations have proved more positive than originally thought. Here in the K&L Bordeaux department, however; we have to put our money where our mouth is early on. In the case of 2014, we knew the wines were good from the get go and that the harvest had all the makings of a “sleeper vintage” in the classic sense, which is why we bought in when prices were low. Now that January has come and the vintage has been re-scored by a number of critics, it seems 2014 is moving out from the grey area and into the clear distinction of “good Bordeaux vintage” with a wide array of critical positivity that was missing early on.

While prices for the wines are going to rise as a result, the good news for K&L shoppers is that we still have a number of wines available based on our original en primeur pricing with a much stronger U.S. dollar. In the eyes of our experts, 2014 was a better year for Bordeaux than the underrated 2012 vintage; in some cases, surpassing the quality of the outstanding 2015 harvest. Our Bordeaux chief Clyde Beffa thinks 2014 was equally as good as 2015 in the Pauillac region, and perhaps better than 2014 in the northern communes like St. Estèphe (which is why blanket vintage statements also need to be scrutinized). The wines also constitute a better value for the time being, but don’t expect that to last long. Higher scores equate to a higher demand, which—as we know—results in higher prices. That’s why it’s always good to dig a little deeper when it comes to wine evaluation. In doing so, you usually find quality where other more general summaries might have overlooked it.

Some shining examples of 2014 Bordeaux's value can be found below; all under fifty dollars, and still available on a pre-order basis: 2014 Branaire-Ducru; 2014 Langoa-Barton; 2014 Phelan-Ségur; 2014 Clerc-Milon; 2014 d'Armailhac; 2014 Brane-Cantenac; 2014 Giscours. All have great reviews, lots of points, and constitute a fantastic quality-to-dollar ratio for the time being. For a complete look at our 2014 Bordeaux pre-arrival selections, click here.

-David Driscoll

New Zealand's DRC Origins

Ryan Woodhouse

Very few pinot noirs can rival Ata Rangi in quality, consistency or pedigree. The wines have been called the “highwater mark” for the varietal in New Zealand, and I've been hand-selling  them since I first started selling wine back in the UK. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate has also long recognized their excellence, stating recently: “The pinots have always been great, and yet even in a world where the pinot benchmark gets higher every year, Ata Rangi is better than ever.” This acclaim was not won over night, however; Ata Rangi is one of the most established and storied producers in the country, but that respect has been earned over decades. Clive Patton, Ata Rangi’s owner and founder, planted the first vines on an old sheep paddock back in the early 1980’s, essentially pioneering the region of Martinborough. He had a vision; an understanding that this land was capable of producing majestic pinot noir, but beyond his prescience there's something uniquely special about Ata Rangi's vines themselves. It's a rather enthralling story, to say the least.

Much of Ata Rangi’s plantings are of a varietal clone known locally as the “Abel” or “Gumboot” clone. This specific clone of pinot noir was propagated from a single cutting taken from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti in Burgundy and smuggled into New Zealand in the mid-1970’s. The cutting was allegedly hidden inside a gumboot (rain boot) but discovered by a customs officer named Malcolm Abel. Mr. Abel, being a wine enthusiast himself, realized the significance of the cutting and took it (via quarantine) to the countries viticulture research center. He would eventually plant his own vineyard from the clone in Auckland. In 1982, Clive worked with Malcolm Abel on that very vineyard and took his own cuttings to establish Ata Rangi. Decades later the Abel Clone is also referred to as the Ata Rangi Clone, such is the importance of these early plantings to the nation’s viticultural narrative. That means that when you drink Ata Rangi pinot noir today, you're drinking a wine that can trace its roots back to the most heralded (and expensive) wines in the world.

What’s perhaps even more exciting is that we’re now working with Ata Rangi on a direct import basis. A legendary estate that is one of the icons of New Zealand is working directly with K&L. We’re currently prepping an email about the 2014 Ata Rangi pinot noir, a wine that has received absolutely rave reviews from the genre’s most established critics. The wine is pure, elegantly powerful, full of complex fruit, earth and spice; it is exactly why so many of us fall head-over-heels for pinot noir in the first place. Last year our allocation sold out in just a few days, so we loaded up the boat this time around. I have to believe that once our customers get a taste of this release and learn of the wine’s prestigious origins, we’ll be sold out once again.

-Ryan Woodhouse