On the Trail

On the Trail in France – Live!

David Driscoll
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I've landed in France and after a brief snafu at the airport, I've managed to meet up with my friend Charles Neal in Normandy. We're holed up in his farm house, armed with little other than strong drink, endless rounds of Camembert, and a strong wifi signal. We're beginning our 2018 hunt for new Calvados, Cognac, Armagnac, and French wine imports for the many K&L wine clubs in the Pays d'Auge tomorrow morning, but first we must fortify our bodies for the onslaught ahead. I've got my laptop and my camera, along with dozens of appointments to share with you live over the next fourteen days. Stay tuned for daily updates packed with plenty of photos and stories from the road, as we eat and drink our way from north to south. It's going to be a lot of fun.

-David Driscoll

Baricci 2015 in Memory of Jim

Greg St. Clair
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I love Baricci Rosso di Montalcino, but not as much as my longtime K&L employee Jim Barr did. One of the founding members of the Consorzio del Brunello, a group of twenty-nine producers who in 1968 created the basis for the Brunello DOC before it became DOCG, Baricci is one of the most popular Tuscan producers we work with directly. Up until that time most Brunello producers didn't even bottle their wine, but rather would sell in demijohns or large containers for bulk. Nello Barrici was born in the town of Montalcino and his family bought the estate in 1953. The property sits on the southeast corner of the Montosoli hill, which is part of the Versante Senese—a slope in the region that runs towards Siena. They make 1500 cases a year of Brunello and 1500 cases of Rosso di Montalcino, all from estate fruit. Baricci could sell 100% of their wine as Brunello, but they still make a Rosso due to maturation and space issues. 

Jim passed away last month but he was the true #1 fan of Baricci. Jim would hound me every year for an arrival date as he was always so anxious. I had told him in advance how good of a vintage 2015 was it truly saddens me to think that he missed this release, which for me is the winery’s most impressive Rosso to date. I’ve thought a lot about Jim lately and I thought for this blog post I’d like to post what he wrote about Baricci Rosso di Montalcino previously:

 For decades, now, I have been regularly advising customers who collect and maintain a wine cellar collection to keep records of what is in that collection. It is wise and creates less frustration, particularly if you ever need to stay on top of what needs to be drunk now or, if damaged, information for any insurance company. And, I have been, over that time, thanked by many of you who have done this. Well, can you deduce who has essentially seldom, if at all, done this during the last four decades? If you conjured up a belief that it might be Jim Barr, you have hit the nail on the head! Several months ago, I decided that I really needed to deal with this "problem," and as quickly as possible since I turn 69 in a few months and I was looking at around 200 cases+/- in my temperature control wine room. And, I am still collecting and making the stuff. As my wife, Christine, keeps telling me, "We’ll never be able to drink all of this." I have constantly pointed out to her that when the time comes (she is much younger than I am), call K&L and sell to them whatever you don't want. As I have been organizing and doing neck labels four weeks, I have come across some stunning wines that I have forgotten about as well as wines that should have been consumed twenty-plus years ago. One of the wines that I discovered several weeks ago was half a case of the 2006 Baricci Rosso di Montalcino, one of the first vintages that Greg St.Clair started importing from this small estate. My immediate reaction was that this wine, which was absolutely gorgeous in 2008 at release, would be way past its prime today. I opened a bottle that night and was totally blown away by how amazingly great this wine had become – it was aged Brunello at its best. The 2014 reminds me of that young 2006, with a lovely, medium-deep ruby color with a pinkish rim, the nose is opulent showing distinctive scents of violets, plum, blackberry, and anise fruit with a noticeable cedary to forest floor undertone, all of which carries over to a broad, balanced, viscous, complex set of flavors. The finish with this Gem is deep, long and warm, and, although will age as long as the 2006, it drinks great right now.

-Greg St. Clair

On the Trail at Wild Turkey

David Driscoll
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I awoke to a beautiful morning in Kentucky this past August and made my way over to Lawrenceburg, a small town of about ten thousand that plays host to Wild Turkey Distillery—a stalwart of the historic Bourbon Trail. I was scheduled to meet with both Eddy Russell and his legendary dad Jimmy at ten o'clock. I found myself right behind them in the parking lot as we both pulled into the facility a bit early. We shook hands immediately and made our way over to the guest center to check in, before heading out to the main warehouse to pop a few barrels and make some K&L exclusive single cask selections. I hopped in Eddy's pickup truck for the short drive over to the rickhouse. Naturally, we talked about business. I asked about the increase in Bourbon tourism, to which he said: "It's been just incredible. It's completely saved the main street in Lawrenceburg. Without it, I think a lot of those businesses would have shuttered up." I had read somewhere that Louisville had close to five million visitors last year, the majority of whom were interested in whiskey and venturing out along the Bourbon Trail. Eddy shook his head and confirmed that foot traffic was most definitely on the rise.

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Once inside the building, we continued to talk about the changes within the industry and Eddy mentioned how excited he was to bring his son on board as soon as he moved home from Texas; hopefully to become the third generation master distiller at Wild Turkey. We mapped out a strategy for barrel selection and Eddy suggested certain barrels he liked in particular. I made a few inquiries into the type and location, and we began the process of digging them out. Eddy did most of the heavy lifting. I snapped photos and drank. When it comes to the Kickin' Chicken, I'm not looking to reinvent the wheel with our barrel selections. I'm not searching for the anomaly or the unique gem that stands in contrast to what made Russell's Reserve famous. I wanted classic, true to form Bourbon that tastes like vintage Wild Turkey—everything in harmony, just dialed up in proof with big vanilla, oak, creamy corn, and that youthful vigor that pops on your palate like a bag full of cinnamon candy. Jimmy Russell doesn't like any Bourbon older than 10 years old, which I think is awesome. I'm trying to be more like him (living large after six decades in the booze biz), so with this cask I relied completely on his guidance.

Our first cask from this expedition has just arrived, #998, which was one of my absolute favorites. If you've ever dipped your nose into a box of cinnamon red hots and inhaled all that sweetly-spiced goodness, then consider yourself well prepared for this one. Originally filled in October of 2008, we bottled this baby right after its 9th birthday, right about the time Jimmy Russell believes these Wild Turkey whiskies show their best. Emptied at 118.4 proof, everything about this whiskey showcases the textbook and trademark characteristics of the distillery style: loads of baking spices, vibrant oak tannins, creamy corn, and a finish of both savory pepper and sweet vanilla. Getting to select a barrel like this with the father and son duo is about as fun as our job gets—if you don't count the part where we actually get to drink it.

-David Driscoll

On to Oregon!

Jeff Garneau
Elk Cove Vineyards in Oregon

Elk Cove Vineyards in Oregon

No less a luminary than Eric Asimov, wine writer for the paper of record, the New York Times, issued this pronouncement in September of last year, identifying Oregon as “right now the single most exciting wine-making area in the United States.”

To what can we credit such a statement? Can it be the emergence over the past decade of so many exciting new wineries, like Olga and Barnaby Tuttle’s Teutonic Wine Company? Or Brian Marcy and Clare Carver’s Big Table Farm?

Can it be the new wave of investment by the French? In 2012, Jean-Nicolas Méo, owner and winemaker of Burgundy’s celebrated Domaine Méo-Camuzet partnered with longtime friend and music industry executive Jay Boberg to found Domaine Nicolas-Jay. In 2013, Maison Joseph Drouhin, already established in Oregon since 1987 as Domaine Drouhin Oregon, doubled the size of its Oregon holdings with the purchase of the 279 acre Roserock property in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. And in 2013, Maison Louis Jadot purchased the Résonance Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, the first such project outside of Burgundy since their founding in 1859.

Might it be the remarkable dedication and resilience of the Willamette Valley’s founding families of wine? A generation of winemakers born and raised in the vineyards, like Jason Lett of Eyrie Vineyards, Adam Campbell of Elk Cove Vineyards, or Luisa Ponzi of Ponzi Vineyards just to name a few, continue the work begun by the parents, careful stewards of their vision of the Willamette Valley as the ideal place to make exceptional wines from Pinot Noir grapes.

Half a century after the planting of the first vineyards, Oregon is producing better wines than ever. 2015 was an exceptional vintage in the Willamette Valley. An early start to the season and favorable conditions throughout resulted in a large crop of excellent quality. The 2015 Oregon Pinot Noirs exhibit remarkable concentration with ripe, sweet fruit and fine, supple tannins. I recently held a tasting with staff from both of our Northern California stores and these were some of the best from the vintage:

2015 Brick House "Les Dijonnais" Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir $54.99 - A barrel selection from the eight acre Dijon clone block (113, 114, 115) of the estate vineyard planted in 1995.

2015 Cameron Dundee Hills Pinot Noir $32.99 - From a hillside block of younger vines (1984) at Cameron’s Abbey Ridge vineyard (1976).

2015 Purple Hands "Stoller Vineyard" Dundee Hills Pinot Noir $47.99 - First vines planted in 1995 by Bill and Cathy Stoller. Dijon clones 115 & 777. In addition to the Stollers themselves, other producers include Argyle and Chehalem.

2015 Elk Cove "Mount Richmond" Yamhill-Carlton District Pinot Noir $45.99 - Single vineyard bottling. Planted in 1996 to Dijon clones 115 and 777, along with a selection of old vine Pommard cuttings (1976).

2015 Cristom "Marjorie Vineyard" Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir $59.99 - The oldest of Cristom’s 4 estate vineyards, and the only one that was originally own-rooted when it was planted in 1982.  The original plantings were Pommard, Wädenswil and Martini clones of Pinot Noir.  In 1999, the Martini clones were grafted over to Dijon clones 114, 115, and 777.

-Jeff Garneau

Mid-Week Pasta Wine

David Driscoll
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When you get into the various micro-niches of wine styles and situations, beyond the great twenty dollar bottle of red or the best pairing for a burger, I have to believe there is a such a thing as the perfect inexpensive bottle of Italian red wine to drink both while you’re cooking and while you’re eating a simple pasta on the average weeknight. Not only do I believe that’s a thing, I think it’s a style of wine that must be in pretty high demand given the fact that everyone loves pasta and there’s nothing better than standing there in your kitchen after a long day at work, popping that bottle open, and pouring yourself that first glass while you wait for the water to boil. That was me last night, propped up next to the stove, sipping a glass of the new 2014 Tomaresca "Neprica" from Puglia while dropping the bag of spaghetti into the raging sea of salt water. 

Tomaresca's vineyards in Puglia

Tomaresca's vineyards in Puglia

There are a number of great inexpensive red wines from all over the world that pair well with pasta, but for me it always feels better to keep things in the family. I like French reds with French bistro food. I like California Zinfandel with my burgers. I like an ice cold bottle of Modelo with my tacos. There's something right about the slightly-tannic, robust, and spiciness of a classic Italian red coupled with the smell of a simmering sauce. The Neprica is from Puglia, the heel in Italy's boot and an expanse of old farmlands that date back centuries. Negroamaro, the principle varietal in the Tomaresca blend, is the region's most important grape, one that adds weight and structure to the wine in this case. The blend is balanced by a healthy dose of Primitivo (think Zinfandel from Italy) and Cabernet Sauvignon that add fruit and additional richness to that tannic frame. At $10 a bottle, this wine covers all the bases for what I'm looking for on a Tuesday night. It has that real Italian character—tannins, acidity, and grip—with dark fruit flavors and plenty of spice, making me feel like I'm drinking something far more profound than an everyday bargain bottle. Made by Antinori, one of Italy's best and most respected producers, it has freshness and drive along with a reasonable 13% ABV level. 

I definitely enjoyed it with my pasta, but I took down a sizable portion of the bottle long before I took my first bite. 

-David Driscoll

Wine Club Revolution

David Driscoll

K&L’s wine club program dates back to the early nineties when we had one “Best Buy” service run by our owner’s wife as a fun little side hobby. There were a few perks to the membership, some discounts to be had here and there, but it was mostly about exploration and having fun. It was also apparently quite a successful enterprise because that one club eventually grew into two, then two clubs grew into three, and today we have five different wine club selections if you count the Italian and Champagne programs run by my colleagues Greg St. Clair and Gary Westby. There are thousands of K&L club members at this point, receiving their two bottles with each shipment along with a newsletter that tells the stories behind each bottle (a newsletter that I’m very much looking forward to revamping and improving).

In a wine world where the term “club” often refers to some sort of pricing advantage or member discount program, I’m careful with my terminology when I describe the K&L options to our customers. “It’s not so much a wine club as it is a wine-of-the-month club,” I often tell people, explaining that our membership is more geared around monthly curation rather than special deals and savings. We don’t track your purchases, or give you points for what you buy and there’s no plastic barcode to keep on your keychain that we scan for discounts when you check out. There is a bit of special pricing for club members, but historically it’s only been for the wines featured in the monthly selections. For example, if you like the wine you receive in your club shipment you can buy additional bottles for a special club member price. The discounts, however, rarely—if ever—have applied to regular, in-stock inventory selections.

That was always by design though. At K&L we’ve never offered case discounts or deep volume pricing to motivate our customers. Our focus has always been about guaranteeing a quality of wine, customer service, and product knowledge that stood out amongst the crowd, letting our private selections and exclusive deals do the talking. That being said, I’ve watched our model of retailing become the standard over the last decade with every bar, corner store, and supermarket chain from here to Bangor, Maine jumping into the small production, limited edition, private selection game. It’s no longer enough to simply curate and put your personal stamp of approval on a product. Our customers know we care about them, they know we’re working our butts off to find them the best bottles we can, but they still want to feel special at the end of the day. They want a retail program that combines quality, exclusivity, careful selection, a great story, and special pricing. If just anyone can get the same stuff at the same price, then what’s the point of being a club member, right?

We’ve talked about doing a whiskey club for years in the K&L spirits department, but the problem we could never get past was curation consumption. You see, the folks who buy and consume multiple bottles of whiskey per month generally don't want to be locked into a monthly club selection where someone else does the choosing. They know what they want. They search online, read about new releases, and do their own homework for the most part. The people who would be interested in a monthly subscription typically don’t blow through booze at the same rate, so ultimately it becomes too much volume, month after month. I’ve been letting this dilemma stew on the backburner for the last few years, trying to decide what the best recourse was, and today I think I’ve finally found the solution.

I decided when I woke up on January 1st 2018 that I was going to create the perfect wine clubs for people who drink both wine AND spirits. Drinking down two bottles of wine per month has never been a challenge for our customers, so why not just add in some incentive discounts as a cherry on top? For example, you could be a member of our original “Best Buy” club, pay your $20 per month for the standard two bottle selection, but still have access to additional discounts that you could choose to purchase or not. It's up to you. Personally, I like incentivizing exploration. I want customers to feel more comfortable taking a chance on something new or different, like the Bardstown Bourbon Company “Collabor&tion” Cask Strength Brandy Barrel Edition we brought in from the Kentucky upstart late last year. It’s still $125 a bottle for the general public, but if you’re a member of one of our wine clubs you can use your membership to take advantage of $99 special pricing. If you’re new to the “Best Buy” club, that $25 discount would more than pay for your first month right there (there is a three month minimum for new members).

That’s just for starters. Imagine when I start throwing other Bourbon casks in there, various Scotch deals, etc. You could probably grab enough discount incentives to pay for your entire year’s membership—and you still get the wine to enjoy, along with the newsletter and all the details.

There’s going to be a lot more than just additional spirits, however. I’ll be scouring for special Bordeaux prices, interesting imports from Italy and France, and God knows what else—gin, Tequila, sweet wines, beer, you name it. I’ll be throwing the entire kitchen sink at these clubs in 2018. My goal is to get 100% of you on board. I’m hoping the value of both our curated selections and the additional discounts will push you over the edge and make you want to take this journey with me. I want to create a service that lives up to the definition of that word: it serves the customer. If you don’t like wine, then this updated K&L club membership program probably isn’t for you. However, if you’re curious about wine, now’s the time. Those of you who want to learn about wine and spirits, while getting access to special deals and pricing, should contact me about signing up (or just click the link I embedded above). 

It all starts February 1st. Buckle up.

-David Driscoll

Buehler, Anyone?

David Driscoll
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There was a great line in the Wine Spectator recently that described the Buehler Cabernet wines in a nutshell: “While so many Napa wines soar past the $100 mark, John Buehler consistently delivers high quality Cabernets for a fraction of that price.”

Ain’t that the truth.

For as long as I’ve worked at K&L, I’ve been consistently wowed by how much Cabernet these wines deliver for the dollar and I was reminded again of that qualitative bargain this past week while tasting the recent 2015 vintage: yet another example, loaded with dark fruit, fine tannins, and real California grit, yet without all the fancy marketing and exaggerated hype. Simply put, it’s a Cabernet for people who like to drink real Cabernet. Made with 30% estate-grown fruit near St. Helena, it’s a blend of 90% Cabernet with 10% Merlot just to soften the edges a bit and bolster some of that fruit character.

The best part about the Buehler Cabernets (on top of the quality and the price) is the fact that you can age them for another decade or drink them now with some decanting. Buehler is one of the true family-owned gems of the Napa Valley, a winery that for almost three decades has been producing honest expressions from its 300 acre hillside estate just above Conn Valley. The prices remain reasonable from vintage to vintage because producing value-oriented wines is part of Buehler's philosophy. In an era where getting the most money for your bottle has become commonplace in Napa, it's refreshing to find a bit of that throwback mentality. 

-David Driscoll

Andrew Hedley's Insane Value Label

Ryan Woodhouse
Ribbonwood winemaker Andrew Hedley rocks out at the winery's annual punk rock festival

Ribbonwood winemaker Andrew Hedley rocks out at the winery's annual punk rock festival

You might be thinking why someone (namely Sarah Ahmed from The Wine Detective) would describe a range of wines as “off-piste". The meaning here is that these wines are a little rebellious, a little edgy—they can’t and won’t be contained with everyone else. They need to deviate from the norm and draw fresh lines in the powder. Framingham’s wines are some of the most fascinating we carry at K&L. The wines are dynamic, edgy, stylish and engaging. Framingham’s philosophy to remain “out of the mainstream” means the focus here is creating expressive, aromatic wines with a very deliberate sense of individualism—“we take risks and follow our hearts” is proudly emblazoned on the front page of their website. The wines are unashamedly audacious, full of bold flavors and zesty acidity. They have been portrayed by some of the world’s top wine critics using language such as: “original” and “fired by attitude”. They're one of my favorite producers I get to visit each year when I travel to New Zealand.

The creative force behind these outstanding wines is winemaker Andrew Hedley. Andrew has been described by two MWs (Bob Campbell and Jancis Robinson) as: “New Zealand’s best sweet winemaker” and “New Zealand’s finest Riesling producer”. While Riesling is his primary passion (his are truly world class), he also makes phenomenal Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. Andrew is a very interesting guy, hailing from Northern England originally; he is a huge fan of Punk Rock (check out his Sex Pistols “God Save The Queen” T-shirt on the website) but also holds a PhD in Applied Chemistry. This diverse personality is definitely reflected in his wines—part raw rebellion and part intricate science. As if the annual harvest punk rock concert wasn't cool enough, there are a lot of wine geeky facets to Framingham that should get most of our customers excited. Framingham’s estate is certified BioGro organic and has some fantastic plantings of 30+ year old vines. The fruit for their wines is exclusively from the Wairau Valley in the heart of Marlborough wine country. Andrew’s style is both experimental and artistic but also very measured and precise. His blending skills are perhaps second to none and he crafts wines with beautiful layers of flavor and complexity from a broad palate of diverse, small lot fermented, base wines. In the winery everything is kept very parcellated from the specific blocks that were individually picked/fermented. Andrew then uses these dozens of individual components to render the final expressions with great depth and detail.

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Ribbonwood is the second label of Framingham and the new vintage of the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is an absolute stunner. Don't settle for mass-produced, commercial, bulk New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc when you can have something like this crafted by Andrew, a master of his trade. It's everything you could want in a classic, everyday NZ white wine and it exemplifies that fresh, crisp, juicy style of Sauvy that originally put New Zealand wines on the map. With our direct import pricing, a bottle comes in at just over $10, making it instantly one of—if not the best—white wine values in the store. I know my colleague David Driscoll agrees. So far he's bought most of our supply for himself!

-Ryan Woodhouse

Secret Grand Cru Excellence

David Driscoll
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I'm heartened by the leap forward that white wine has taken over the last decade, shedding its mostly feminine association and earning a place at the table for even the most macho of drinkers. Seeing that many of us at K&L drink far more white wine than we do red, it's nice to be able to share our passion beyond Cabernet and Pinot Noir. That being said, I'm also relieved that the cultural evolution of wines like Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and other dry, aromatic varietals hasn't turned into a pissing contest. While you still may pay an arm and a leg for grand cru Montrachet, there are hundreds and hundreds of other outstanding whites from all over the world that fly under the radar of the general public and are still relative secrets among those who adore them. For example, I think we sell more craft IPA beer in a can than we do Alsatian white wine. I'll have to check the sales numbers to be sure, but I'd be willing to take that bet in the meantime. While it's always slightly painful to see something so wonderful go unappreciated by the greater public, it's also thrilling when a deal like the following one comes along. 

Where is Alsace, you ask? It's a mountainous strip of vineyard land that runs north to south along the French/German border, near Freiburg on the way down to Switzerland. Much like its German counterpart, the region is known for a small amount of Pinot Noir and dry, fresh, clean-tasting aromatic whites like Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Gris. Like most of France, its best vineyards have been classified and labeled as grand cru sites, top in their classThe very best of Alsace's grand cru whites can indeed be very expensive. For example, a bottle of the Trimbach "Clos St. Hune" Riesling from Alsace will run you nearly two hundred dollars, which is a big part of what makes our latest acquisition so exciting. My colleague Ryan Woodhouse managed to snag a hot deal for two of Julien Schaal's top grand cru expressions, but for roughly ten percent of that aforementioned price. The 2016 Rosacker is from the same site as the legendary St. Hune, from parcels just outside the walled "clos" owned by Trimbach. It's a vineyard that dates back to 1483, for fans of history, and for centuries has been heralded for its incredible Riesling. When you taste the precision of the acidity, the concentration of the minerality, and the delicacy of the fruit here, there's no doubt you're drinking something super high end. The combination of soil and climate at Rosacker creates one of the most perfect sites for dry white wine in the world, yet you can still enjoy all of that complexity for twenty bucks. Drinking grand cru French wine for that price makes me incredibly happy (as you might expect).

So why does a grand cru Chardonnay from Montrachet cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars, while a grand cru Alsatian Riesling only tens of dollars? Because of the same market forces that have driven Bordeaux and Napa prices into the stratosphere and the same pop culture conditions that have created trophies out of Bourbon bottles. It's merely a matter of societal appreciation. The world market values Chardonnay and Cabernet more than it does Riesling, hence the dollar amount people are willing pay for these luxuries goes up. When we go out to a dinner party, we generally like to show up with a recognizable label so that the rest of the crowd is happy and impressed. Few people, unfortunately, are going to light up with glee when you appear holding a cold bottle of the 2016 Julien Schaal grand cru Riesling from Kastleberg, even though it's a more complex and thrilling wine than many of the $100+ bottles of Chardonnay in the store. Kastleberg is another of Alsace's grand cru vineyards, loaded with blue schist—the rocky soil known for its ability to translate laser-like acidity into the wine itself. 

While these wines may not impress your friends, they will impress your palate. Anyone even remotely interested in white wine should try a bottle of each immediately, then decide how much you can afford from there on. That's the issue I'm currently debating: pay for the electricity bill or buy more Alsatian grand cru Riesling for twenty bucks a bottle?

-David Driscoll

2007 Bordeaux Bargains

Jeff Garneau
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One of the things that makes Bordeaux unique among the world’s greatest fine wine regions is the ready availability of older wines of perfect provenance. All credit to the negociants, who purchase wines directly from the châteaux, then store them in temperature-controlled warehouses until we are ready to buy and consume them. And while they may charge a premium for the very best vintages, many of the merely good to very good vintages are offered at discounted prices.

In 2017, we began to see an increasing number of wines from the 2007 vintage on offer. 2007 is not generally regarded as a great vintage in Bordeaux. It was a challenging vintage in many ways, cool and humid throughout much of the spring and summer. Thankfully, September and October were hot and dry and conditions during harvest were ideal. Those that did the hard work of maintaining the health of their vineyards during the most difficult months enjoyed a successful harvest. The best wines of 2007 are quite good with surprising concentration, ripe fruit, and fine tannins. They are already drinking well at ten years of age, and should continue to drink well for the foreseeable future. Moreover, many of these wines are available at prices well below what you will pay for the greatest vintages.

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Back in April of last year during the 2016 en primeur tastings, we were treated to an amazing lunch at Château Pontet Canet. They have a new banquet hall that can seat hundreds at a time. Full of members of the international wine trade, the room was abuzz with talk about the ’16 vintage in a dozen languages. It was sort of like Valhalla for Bordeaux lovers, if you got there by drinking a lot of French wine instead of dying a glorious death in battle. The wine for lunch was served blind and it was terrific, one of the wines of the trip. No one could guess the vintage, and everyone was shocked to discover it was the 2007 Pontet Canet. It had (and still has) such purity of fruit; so sweet, so ripe. Utterly charming.

Fast forward to the last full day of our trip. Another lunch, this time at the celebrated La Tupina bistro in the old city of Bordeaux. We selected the 2007 Tronquoy Lalande, St-Estephe from the wine list. We knew the Chateau well. The 2009 was a huge hit with our staff and customers, but we had yet to taste the ’07. It was the perfect pairing with our roast pigeon and potatoes cooked in duck fat. We reported back to Clyde and he quickly placed an order for the store.

Great Bordeaux vintages are justifiably celebrated. They yield prized bottles which we dutifully cellar and enjoy on special occasions. But great memories are also made by less heralded vintages. The perfect wine does not always command a premium price. A bevy of new bargains we've just received from 2007 proves it.

-Jeff Garneau