Thursday, June 11, 2009

K Vintners/Charles Smith Wines

Charles Smith began the production in 2001 and made a huge splash in the wine world almost immediately with his K Vintners selections, focusing on Syrah. These wines came at a relatively dear price from the start and there are so many to choose from in the Northwest it can be a bit overwhelming. Mr. Smith began his self-named line more recently and they arrive at much more reasonable prices. His distinct labels for both lines make lasting impressions, including a complaint from a retail customer who took offense at the following label when displayed three across.


I recently tasted three of his Charles Smith line and two from K Vintners at reasonable prices. His website is woefully short on details about the production of the wines, but I will provide what I can from the tasting.
Charles Smith Eve Chardonnay 2007 -
Produced from up to 30 year old vines, it is 100% Chardonnay but seemed like it might have had some lift from Viognier. Lots of pear on the nose and palate, the wine is clean, ripe, and round while remaining crisp and fresh. A very well done bottle of Chardonnay from the Columbia Valley. $12

K Vintners Viognier 2007 - From a single vineyard in the Columbia Valley, the wine is fermented in neutral oak. Peach, apricot and intense, juicy floral Viognier style without being too overwhelming as many can be. There is a lovely spice note as well, almost apple butter style, but not so thick as that implies. Well done. They have released the 2008, I have not tasted it yet. $20

Charles Smith The Velvet Devil Merlot 2007 -
"Bringing sexy back to Merlot", was the catchy line offered by the woman pouring wines that day. After tasting, I had to not only agree, but go one step further. They have also brought back drinkability to Merlot. I bought not one, but two bottles of this a few days after the tasting. It has been more than a decade since I bought a bottle of Merlot. Super sweet, juicy nose with oak, cherry, the cherry is black and offers a slight smoke nuance as well. This is good, and a good price too. Drinkable Merlot, I actually want more (see above). Love the name, the tag line and the label. $12
Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 -
Columbia Valley fruit from two vineyards with 10% Malbec and 5% Cabernet Franc added to the base Cabernet. This appeared juicier than the Merlot, and actually lighter and less complex. I found it simple, but solid. The most generic label and the least interesting wine of the day. Perhaps if I had tasted it before the exotic Merlot? $20

K Vintners Milbrandt Syrah 2007 - This comes from the Wahluke Slope in the Columbia Valley. The vineyard faces south and consequently offers warm, round fruit. This vintage offered big, deep, dark fruit with some sweet, leather. The nose is enticing and inviting. On the palate the deepness continues and forward, hedonistic Syrah notes predominate. There are hints of pepper on the back, but the focus here is rich, round, fruit with enough weight to be serious, but not so much as to be considered a monster. $25

Overall, I was impressed by the restraint shown in these wines. I have found the K Vintner upper end Syrah production to be loaded with too much new oak for me, although I must admit I like them in spite of that and I have never tried an older vintage.



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