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Staff Favorites - John Downing

John Downing

Reviews

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2016 La Fortuna "Magnus" Sant'Antimo Rosso
Review Date: 10-29-2019
While "Magnus" weds vibrant Sangiovese with Bordeaux varietals, it's unmistakably Tuscan. This charming blend highlights delicious earthy cassis, berry fruits and hints of chocolate and spicy oak. I think it's an ideal introduction to Italian reds for those who enjoy California Cabernet (and blends) and are looking to venture out to other regions. It's also a great everyday drinker.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
JS 92

2016 Il Valentiano Rosso di Montalcino
Review Date: 10-29-2019
The owners of this estate warned us in advance of how great this wine was and how much we would love it. In our business that could be a positive spin on a mediocre wine or an authentic accolade. Fortunately the producers we import directly are not only outstanding but also honest about their work and our friends at Il Valentiano were 100 percent correct on this wine. It's packed with flavor and personality and offers a depth of fruit we don't expect at $15. Outstanding.
Price: $16.99 Add To Cart

2016 Podere Donna Nera Rosso di Montalcino
Review Date: 10-29-2019
We continue to discover extraordinary Italian wine values and this 2016 Rosso di Montalcino really impresses. It offers a full palate of concentrated spicy black fruit that's amplified by ripe tannins and solid acidity. As much as we love our domestic wines, the old world continues to over-deliver.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart
DC 92

2015 Einaudi "Ludo" Barolo
Review Date: 10-28-2019
This Barolo continues to improve in depth and complexity as the fruit comes from the younger vines within Einaudi's vineyard holdings in the zones of Barolo, Monforte and Verduno. It's full-bodied and wonderful to drink now yet has the structure to age nicely for many years. It's also a great introduction to Barolo for anyone looking to try one for the first time as well as an excellent value for the experienced.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart
RP 92 VN 90

2015 Guido Rivella "Fausoni" Barbaresco
Review Date: 10-28-2019
The Fausoni vineyard is located just outside the town of Neive and Rivella's Barbaresco reflects the elegance and spiciness this area is known for. His 2015 is subtle and spicy yet full with rich fruit and a substantial tannic frame. It's delicious now but will improve with a couple years in the cellar.
Price: Hidden View Price
VN 92

2014 Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino
Review Date: 10-28-2019
In my opinion Fuligni ranks among the top tier of Brunello properties and their 2014 definitely exceeds expectation in what was a very challenging vintage. It's a bit more streamline than most years but has plenty of intensity of fruit and good length in contrast. Perfect to open in the near future with a juicy steak or meat sauced pasta dish.

2016 Erik Banti "Carato" Toscana
Review Date: 10-28-2019
This has become a best selling Tuscan red for us and the 2016 really impressed at our recent staff tasting. Although the price is low the wine is not to be taken lightly. It's rich in flavor and is certain to elevate at the dinner table. Especially good with meats, hearty pastas and aged cheeses.
Price: $10.99 Add To Cart

2018 Bonpas "Dames de Bonpas" Côtes du Rhône-Villages Plan de Dieu
Review Date: 10-28-2019
Had I not known the price of this wine prior to tasting it I would have assumed it was a substantially pricier Rhone. It's fresh and focused with loads of flavor and complexity along with excellent length. Yet another exceptional red from Southern France.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart
DC 95

2015 Rizzi "Nervo" Barbaresco
Review Date: 10-21-2019
While the Rizzi "Pajore" highlights spiced red fruits, the "Nervo" features a darker fruit profile that combines both power and elegance. Aromas of dark berries, raspberries, roses and licorice meet a full palate with ripe tannins and loads of persistent flavor and length. There's plenty of depth to this wonderful Barbaresco that benefits from a bit of aeration upon opening. Great with meats, firm cheeses and heartier casseroles.

2014 Tenuta di Sesta Brunello di Montalcino
Review Date: 10-21-2019
While the majority of 2014 Brunelli are on the lighter side, Tenuta di Sesta has produced a fuller, richer wine by comparison. This is one of our favorites of the vintage and takes a well deserved place among the best. It's definitely reflective of a lighter vintage but offers good concentration and length with delicious berry fruit flavors and fine acidity. At this price, what's not to like?

2015 La Lecciaia Sassarello Toscana
Review Date: 10-21-2019
"Sassarello" weds wonderful Sangiovese from Montalcino with Cabernet and Merlot and is among the best value Super Tuscan style blends we're offering of late. It's the ideal everyday red that can be enjoyed on its own or with a wide variety of dishes at the table.
Price: $16.99 Add To Cart
JS 92

2017 Marco Carpineti Moro Lazio Bianco
Review Date: 10-21-2019
The Moro white wine is made from an ancient varietal that comes from the Greco family of grapes. It originally faded from production but has recently been loving cultivated by Marco Carpineti. This here-to-fore unknown wine is full-bodied with subtle notes of peach, almond and mineral with excellent acidity and overall freshness. It's a serious wine to be enjoyed with seafood, white meats and complex white sauced pastas.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart

2017 Ferraton Père et Fils Côtes du Rhône-Villages Plan de Dieu
Review Date: 10-21-2019
The Ferraton Cotes du Rhone is yet another outstanding addition to an increasing number of value priced Southern French wines currently available at K&L. It opens to heady aromas of spiced dark berry fruits, dark plum, licorice and pepper and delivers a rounded palate of delicious black fruit. While the Grenache shines through the Syrah truly harmonizes this terrific new release.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart
JD 90

2015 Rizzi "Pajore" Barbaresco
Review Date: 09-30-2019
The Rizzi family captured the best attributes of the 2015 vintage as their Barbarescos offer expressive fruit in combination with freshness and balance. Their "Pajore' combines red fruits with hints of florals and licorice and weds them with just the right touch of acidity and ripe tannins. This is a very well-priced Nebbiolo and a wonderful introduction to Barbaresco.

2018 Antonelli "Trebium" Trebbiano Spoletino
Review Date: 09-30-2019
Although the first bottle of this wine we opened was unfortunately corked, the second was awesome. Antonelli brings out the best of this ancient varietal with an aromatic array of tropical and citrus fruits with hints of almond and hawthorn blossom and a rounded palate that matches perfectly with appetizers, cured meats, fish, pasta carbonara and mild cheeses. A very impressive white wine.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart

2016 Antonelli Montefalco Rosso
Review Date: 09-30-2019
Filippo Antonelli was kind enough to drop in on us during a recent visit to LA and share his impressive new releases with us. We've been fans for many years and were reminded why. His Montefalco Rosso was definitely one of the highlights. It's a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino and 15% Montepulciano that ages for 12 months in large casks followed by an additional 6 months in stainless steel vats. It's medium bodied with lush berry fruit and perfectly ripe tannins and ideal with red meats, meat pastas and mature cheeses.
Price: $16.99 Add To Cart

2015 Fattoria del Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Review Date: 09-30-2019
Considering that the average price of a bottle Vino Nobile is normally over $20, this 2015 from Fattoria del Cerro is a find. Aromas of earthy and pleasantly herbal black cherry fruit and floral meld with a richly flavored palate with rounded tannins and bright acidity. It's a lot of wine at the price and is ideal with roasted and grilled meats as well as firm cheeses.
Price: $11.99 Add To Cart
JS 92

2018 Casa d'Ambra Ischia Bianco
Review Date: 09-30-2019
The island of Ischia is just off the coast of Naples and produces a number of outstanding wines including this Biancolella from Casa d'Ambra. Subtle fruit and floral notes open to a crisp palate with hints of saline and almond on the finish. It's wonderful with seafood, tomatoes, mild cheeses and lighter fare.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart

2016 Cantina Terlan "Porphyr" Lagrein Riserva
Review Date: 09-09-2019
Cantina Terlano's "Porphyr" is one of the finest examples of Lagrein produced. Its name refers to the local alpine bedrock the vineyards reside upon and the grapes for this wine are carefully selected from three sites with vines nearly one hundred years in age. It's a deeply colored red with aromas of smoky black fruits, violets, earth and dark chocolate. Rich, luxurious black fruit melds with rustic tannins and fresh acidity and forms a long-lasting impression.
Price: $64.99 Add To Cart
JS 96 RP 93

2015 Schiavenza "Prapò" Barolo
Review Date: 09-09-2019
This is a magnificent offering from Schiavenza and among the more impressive 2015 Barolos I've tasted to-date. It not only captures the rich, concentrated fruit of a warm vintage but also retains substantial acidity and vibrant ripe tannins. This will need a couple of years in the cellar to soften and evolve.
Price: $69.99 Add To Cart
RP 94 JS 93

2015 Ambra "Elzana" Carmignano Riserva
Review Date: 09-09-2019
Carmignano is a tiny appellation in Northwest Tuscany near Chianti Classico. The wines of this zone are required to have a minimum of fifty percent Sangiovese along with ten to twenty percent of either Cabernet or Cabernet Franc. Here, Sangiovese is a bit darker in color than in Chianti and the resulting wines are generally a bit fuller in texture as well. Ambra's "Elzana" is a Riserva aged fro three years in wood prior to bottling. While it showcases Sangiovese, Cabernet adds delicious chocolate nuances to this medium-to-full bodied classic. This outstanding wine will especially appeal to fans of red blends.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart

Wine Club

$24.99

2017 Caggiano "Tauri" Irpina Aglianico
Review Date: 09-09-2019
The Caggiano estate is in the heart of Campania's famed Taurasi zone where some of the finest examples of Aglianico wine are made. The Tauri is full-flavored, concentrated and packed with rich red berry and black plum fruits framed by ample tannins and acidity. It spends a mere 4-6 months in used French barrels and additional time in bottle prior to release. This is a hearty red that is best with meat, heavier pastas, pizza or firm aged cheeses.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
JS 92 VN 92

2016 Gulfi "Nerojbleo" Nero d’Avola Sicilia
Review Date: 09-09-2019
In my opinion, this is one of the finest examples of Nero d'Avola at the sub twenty dollar price point. Gulfi manages to avoid the overt backed fruit and candied aromas common with this varietal and crafts a darker, richer red with sweet, spicy berry fruit and excellent acidity. This versatile red is especially good with grilled meats, bbq dishes and cheeses.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart
VN 91

2018 Rocca di Montegrossi Rosato
Review Date: 09-09-2019
This is our best selling Italian rose and it continues to impress as well as gain new fans. The winery makes this from 100 percent Sangiovese that's held briefly in stainless steel and then bottled. It's crisp and light on its feet yet has just the right balance of flavor and texture. One of Italy's best Rosatos.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart

2013 La Prevostura "Muntacc" Coste della Sesia Rosso
Review Date: 08-12-2019
This is one of the newer estates within the Northern Piemonte zone of Lessona and "Muntacc" is essentially a declassified Lessona that's mostly Nebbiolo with a fair amount of Vespolina and a dollop of Croatina added. It's medium-bodied with enticing notes of red fruits, forest floor, tar and a hint of balsamic. This is not only an excellent introduction to Nebbiolo but also a steal at $25.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart

2015 Elio Grasso "Ginestra Casa Matè" Barolo
Review Date: 08-12-2019
Gianluca Grasso's 2015 single vineyard Barolos are certainly must-buys for Nebbiolo fans and his Casa Mate is sensational. It's a stunning combination of dense, perfectly ripe fruit, integrated tannins and bountiful acidity throughout. Although it's very showy today, it deserves time in the cellar to fully integrate.

2015 Elio Grasso "Gavarini Chiniera" Barolo
Review Date: 08-10-2019
Gianluca Grasso's Gavarini Chinieri is generally the more elegant and approachable of his single vineyard Barolo offerings, especially in warm vintages like 2015 (as there is more sand at this site which allows for more drainage and riper, more elegant fruit). It's impressive and accessible now yet will reward with some time in the cellar. Gianluca eschews travel whenever possible as he favors tending his vineyards and the results are more than evident.

2015 Massolino Barolo
Review Date: 08-10-2019
There are multiple generations of the Massolino family working together at the winery and they manage to maintain an impressive consistency from vintage to vintage. Their 2014 Barolo exceeded expectation in a very difficult vintage and was one of our very favorites. That being said, their 2015 is sublime. It melds rich, ripe fruit from a warm year with fresh acidity and tannins which makes it not only ideal for drinking now but also a candidate for the cellar. Another classic from Massolino.

2016 La Massa "La Massa" Toscana
Review Date: 08-10-2019
While the 2015 showcased the resulting ripeness and weightiness of the vintage, the 2016 has a more classic frame that highlights the Sangiovese (that is deftly integrated with Cabernet and Merlot) in a medium-to-full-bodied blend with a touch more acidity and liveliness. This may be my favorite of the recent vintages of La Massa and I'm confident that super Tuscan fans will love it as well.

2016 Cantina Terlano "Vorberg" Pinot Bianco Riserva Alto Adige
Review Date: 07-30-2019
Some of the finest examples of Pinot Blanc come from Italy's Alto Adige zone and Terlano's Vorberg has been my favorite for many years. Even in the toughest of vintages, this wine manages to exceed expectation. The 2016 offers an aromatic array of orchard fruit with jasmine and mineral and a full, round palate with a long, mineral-driven finish. In my opinion this ranks among Italy's finest white wines and is worth every cent.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart
JS 95 RP 95

2017 La Capranera Aglianico Campania
Review Date: 07-22-2019
One of our latest Italian arrivals is this impressive un-oaked Aglianico that delivers far more than it's price might suggest. It's a substantial red that offers up concentrated, classic blackberry and black cherry fruit intertwined with ample tannins and solid acidity. Perfect for a wide variety of meats, pastas and cheeses and great with pizza.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart

2016 Musso "Pora" Barbaresco
Review Date: 07-15-2019
Musso is a very small winery that has been producing outstanding Barbaresco for decades. Their approach is very traditional in style as they age their Barbarescos in large Slavonian oak casks. The Pora vineyard sits below the town of Barbaresco and although it is warm very early in the morning it is primarily breezy and humid throughout most days due to its proximity to the Tanaro river. Musso's "Pora" offers ample fruit with soft tannins and very open aromas of red berry fruits and dried florals. As a result it can be enjoyed when young but will also age gracefully.
Price: $44.99 Add To Cart
DC 97 WE 97

2016 Ferrero "Pepita" Rosso di Toscana
Review Date: 07-15-2019
This vintage of Pepita was a huge customer favorite at our consumer tasting and it has been, deservedly, selling quickly. The 2015 is bold and concentrated with waves of black fruit, ample tannins and length. The Montepulciano really shows through and adds weight structure to this outstanding value Tuscan blend.
Price: $15.99 Add To Cart

2017 Ferrero Rosso di Montalcino
Review Date: 07-08-2019
Ferrero's Rosso di Montalcino offers some really delicious Sangiovese at a very affordable price. It's bright, juicy, loaded with fresh cherry fruit flavors and represents one of the best values in our current Italian line-up.
Price: $16.99 Add To Cart

2016 Graci "Arcuria" Etna Bianco
Review Date: 07-08-2019
Graci's Etna Bianco "Arcuria" is a very special white wine that often displays Chablis-like characteristics. Their 2016 is a bit broader and rounder than the previous vintage with moderate acidity and subtle notes of orchard fruits, saline and volcanic minerals. It's an exciting wine that is wonderful with fish, seafood pastas and white meats.
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart
WE 92 RP 91

2016 Domaine Grand Veneur "Champauvins" Côtes du Rhône-Villages
Review Date: 07-08-2019
Those who love Chateauneuf-du-Pape will definitely want to purchase this tremendous new release from Grand Veneur. It's brimming with deftly integrated flavors of raspberries, black fruit, garrigue and spice and is seamless across the palate. At $20 this offers the richness and complexity of pricier Rhone reds. A steal.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
JD 94 RP 92

2017 Domaine de Verquière Côtes-du-Rhône
Review Date: 07-08-2019
This outstanding Rhone red just seems to improve with each successive vintage and the 2017 is my favorite to-date. It offers up plenty of spicy red Grenache fruit flavors enveloped by am ample dollop of Syrah that broadens the palate and weight and delicious dark fruit. It's a lot of wine at a very modest price and one of our finest Rhone values.
Price: $10.99 Add To Cart

2018 Graci Etna Rosato
Review Date: 07-08-2019
This is one of the very best Italian roses we feature every year and the 2018 does not disappoint. It's vibrant and flavorful with just the right balance of palate weight and crisp acidity. Delicious red fruits with a pleasant touch of mineral make this a very compelling wine. Great alone or with food.
Price: $21.99 Add To Cart

2016 Mothia "Mosaikon" Nero d'Avola
Review Date: 06-24-2019
While there is a lot of demand for Nero d'Avola, we're decidedly selective as so many of them are average at best. This, however, is an impressive expression and a welcome addition to our cellar. The vineyards of Mothia abut the Western Sicilian coastline which adds savory notes of saline to an already delicious palate of concentrated plum and red fruit with a bright finish. This is a very versatile red that will pair nicely with bbq, grilled meats, burgers and Mexican food.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

Rosset "Trasor" 750 Valle d'Aosta
Review Date: 06-24-2019
The red wines of Valle d'Aosta have been a bit hit and miss for us over the years but this one is certainly a find. It's smooth and round with plenty of richly flavored and slightly smoky red and black fruit and seamless on the palate. Don't miss this unique and delicious alpine red.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2018 Ciu Ciu "Merlettaie" Pecorino
Review Date: 06-24-2019
While Verdicchio garners most of the attention when it comes to white wines of Le Marche, Pecorino is all to often overlooked or even forgotten. We've been fortunate to have offered several excellent ones over the years but this is the best I've tasted in recent memory. It combines substantial mouth weight with ample acidity that shines through along with delicious tree fruit flavors and a pleasant hint of sea salt. This is an outstanding bottle of white wine that showcases the uniqueness and versatility found among Italian white wines.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2015 Filodivino "Filotto" Verdicchio Castello di Jesi Superiore
Review Date: 06-24-2019
Verdicchio is known as one of the longer aging white wines of Italy and this latest arrival affirms that reputation. With some time in the bottle, the 2015 Filodivino has developed attractive brioche and golden fruit aromas and a layered palate with a pleasant hint of saltiness on the finish. It's an outstanding, ready-to-open white that's ideal with seafood, white meats, vegetables, soups and mild cheeses.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2017 d'Antiche Terre Fiano d'Avellino
Review Date: 06-24-2019
This is a wonderful expression of Fiano from Italy's Campania region. The winery manages to coax the best characteristics of this ancient white varietal such as mineral, dried honey, saline and hints of beeswax. Some texture and moderate acidity make this especially good with fish and light pastas.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

Bisol Prosecco Jeio
Review Date: 06-24-2019
Bisol is one of the best of the larger producers of Prosecco and has a long track record of excellence. This current release is crisp and lively with bright green apple and pear flavors, zippy acidity and a pleasant creamy finish. It's an ideal sipper for our Southern California climate and perfect for Aperol spritzs as well.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart
JS 91

2014 Zenato Alanera Rosso Veronese
Review Date: 05-28-2019
While most Italian red wines are best with food, Zenato's Alanera is wonderful on its own yet remains excellent at the dinner table. It's packed with rich fruit flavors and is smooth in texture with a very long finish. This very modestly priced Veronese red blend is a great everyday red that's perfect for parties, bbqs and evening meals.
Price: $13.99 Add To Cart
JS 93

2015 Castello di Verduno Barbaresco
Review Date: 05-13-2019
This historic estate makes wines in the traditional style, meaning they receive long maceration times and extended aging in large barrels. Castello di Verduno's Barbaresco is produced from Nebbiolo selected from the Faset and Rabaja vineyards and this one is quite open and approachable young thanks to the warmth of the 2015 vintage. Wonderful aromatics of red fruits, dried florals, camphor and mineral and juicy, rich fruit make this wine irresistible now.

2015 Gianfranco Alessandria Barolo
Review Date: 05-13-2019
I've tasted many vintages of Barolo from this estate but this may be their best yet. Although Alessandria takes a more modern approach in the winery with shorter fermentation time and aging in small French barrels, the oak remains in the background and the fruit truly shines. His 2015 Barolo combines elegant, refined Nebbiolo fruit with a substantial tannic backbone and fine acidity. The wines of this estate are known for their longevity and we recommend cellaring this one for at least 2-3 years prior to opening.

2015 Ca' del Baio "Vallegrande" Barbaresco
Review Date: 05-13-2019
This was one of the highlights of our recent Hollywood consumer tasting of Italian wines and was a huge customer favorite. Vallegrande is the most traditional in style of this winery's Barbarescos and aged in large barrels for two years. It's deep in color with an earthy nose of red fruits and licorice and a full and expressive palate of black cherry fruit with smooth tannins. Although it can be enjoyed now, it will certainly age gracefully over the next several years.

2015 Fratelli Barale Barolo
Review Date: 05-13-2019
All of the offerings from the Barale winery offer high quality at exceptional prices and the demand for their wines continues to increase. We recently received their 2015 Barolo and it's tough to beat. As good as the 2014 was, this even more impressive latest arrival is a pure expression of Nebbiolo with expressive red fruit, ripe tannins and just the right touch of acidity to round it out. It's definitely worth picking up several bottles of this one.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart

2017 Ermacora Pinot Grigio Colli Orientali del Friuli
Review Date: 04-29-2019
The Friulians may be far more interested in their native Tocai Friulano and Ribolla Gialla and reluctant to promote their Pinot Grigio but we love it here in the US for its versatility and wonderful flavors and Ermacora's is outstanding. This very affordable white is full and layered with no shortage of subtle tree fruit flavors and length. Perfect on its own and especially good with white meats.
Price: $15.99 Add To Cart
JS 92

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