October 2, 2019|In Winery Spotlight

K Vintners: Rock’n’Roll ‘n’ Raving Reviews

Charles Smith in Wines of Substance Vineyard

Bold, black and to-the-point – there’s nothing quiet about these substantial wines hailing from Washington state. K Vintners – the brainchild of world winemaking legend, Charles Smith – has been on the Dhall & Nash books for a couple of years and is definitely a powerhouse in every sense of the word. Brimming with personality, the labels are distinct, the wines are brilliant and personality behind the wines is endearingly different. Far from the likes of ‘fancy’ this brand brings wine to the forefront of the modern world with not an ounce of snootiness in sight, but an abundance of cool.

A big character with even bigger hair, K Vintner’s biggest claim to fame is none other than it’s larger-than-life winemaker and creator, Charles Smith. Never has a man embodied rock’n’roll, dry humour, and winemaking wizardry in such a way before.

After growing up in the United States, Charles moved to Denmark in 1989 and spent the ’90s managing rock bands and concert tours throughout Europe, including the famed Danish duo, The Raveonettes. The lavish lifestyle complete with partying hard and endless wining and dining started to seed the thought that wine could be the next venture on the books for him.

In 1999 he moved back to the States where he started up a wine shop in the Pacific Northwest. With his toe in the door, he turned his sights to bigger and better things when he met a french winemaker in a little area called Walla Walla… they bonded over a love for Syrah and Charles ultimately made the decision to move there to try his hand at making the juice. On December 2nd, 2001, Charles released his first wine, 330 cases of the 1999 K Syrah.

Since this first release, Charles has gone on to create, build, thrive and sell a number of renowned Washington wine brands. His first, HOUSE wines, was sold in 2006. Charles Smith Wines – a collection of wines designed for immediate drinkability, was established and in turn sold in 2016. His story has continued with the creation of a number of other labels under his broad umbrella – Charles & Charles, ViNO, CasaSmith, SIXTO, POPUP, and Substance.

Charles Smith is the only person to have received Winemaker of the Year distinctions by both Wine Enthusiast (2014) and Food & Wine (2009). In 2008, K Vintners was recognized by Wine & Spirits magazine as one of the “Best New Wineries of the Last Ten Years” and as “Winery of the Year” in their annual buying guide. His wines continue to receive broad recognition from leading wine publications such as Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and Wine & Spirits with 165 scores of 95 points and above, and 632 scores of 90 points and above!

Washington State

Washington sits on the United States’ West Coast – arguably the hottest thing in wine right now. California in particular is seeing a surge of popularity the world over at the moment, but the buttery chardonnays and opulent Cabernets that this region is known for aren’t the only arrows in the quiver of the coast. Oregon and Washington, whilst dwarfed in comparison to their southern neighbour, certainly don’t skimp on quality and in many cases, the products being turned out are worthy of taking on their southern brothers not just in taste but in value, too.

The Walla Walla AVA, where K Vintners is based, sits toward the southern border of Washington and in some areas, extends down into Oregon. Officially established in 1984, its boundaries were amended in 2011, roughly the time when Charles Smith was getting set up in the area.

K Vintners sits at the base of the Blue Mountains, a patch known for being particularly wet. The AVA is known to contain 4 distinct types of favourable winegrowing soil – slackwater terrace, loess, river gravel and flood plain silt.

Historically, the Washington region was known for churning out some particularly tasty whites, but the 90’s saw merlot shoot up to the top of the popularity ladder. In turn, this meant red varieties started to get a shoe in, and as of the 21st century, Syrah is the new golden boy of the region – and a real shining power player in Charles Smith’s portfolio.In fact, in 2017 one of his Syrah’s from the K Vintners range – the 2014 ‘Powerline Estate’ Syrah – was named the second best wine in the world by Wine Spectator who said “The first Syrah release from a new vineyard, Powerline is a bold statement from winemaker Charles Smith. But what do you expect from the bad boy of Washington wine?”

Big K in K Vintners' vineyard

Dhall & Nash stock a comfortable range of wines from this trail-blazin’ Washington superstar. From his affordable ‘Wines of Substance’ Cabernet (a respectable 92 points from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate,) to the rockin’ Royal City Syrah, whose previous vintages regularly earn 98-99 point scores and have been described as wines that “flirt with perfection”.

2014 K Vintners Klein Syrah
“Possessing a liquid rock like character as well as lots of gunpowder, graphite, savory herbs, olives and background meatiness, it hits the palate with full-bodied richness, a thick, unctuous texture, sweet tannin and terrific length. While it has tons of fruit and texture, it still has a concentrated core of fruit and serious underlying structure.”
Robert Parker Wine Advocate (99 points)

2014 K Vintners The Hidden Syrah
“I continue to feel that this is one of the top Syrahs coming out Washington today, and it certainly doesn’t get the notoriety it deserves. This deep ruby/purple tinged effort offers a sensational, deep, rich and concentrated style that closes down quickly in the glass. Black cherries, wet earth, lavender and incense characteristics dominate the bouquet, and it has a core of sweet fruit, ripe tannin and a blockbuster finish. Give bottles 2-4 years, count yourself lucky, and enjoy over the following decade or more.”
Robert Parker Wine Advocate (99 points)

2014 K Vintners Royal City Syrah
“Coming from the Royal Slope, which no doubt will deservedly have its own appellation before long, enchanting aromas of ground rock, green olive, green stem, crushed flower and dark fruit lead to a panoply of fruit and savory flavors that shake the senses to the core, with smoked meat notes persisting on the long finish. It’s an intense experience but maintains a sense of balance that is heart stopping.”
Wine Enthusiast (95 points)

2015 Substance Cabernet Sauvignon
“This offers an array of ripe red fruits, tobacco and fresh leather with a smoothly delivered palate that has some gloss to the tannin and a spiced red-licorice finish. Drink or hold.”
James Suckling (93 points)

2014 Substance Vineyard Collection Stoneridge Cabernet Sauvignon
“Classic Cabernet notes of plum, cassis, hoisin sauce and graphite all give way to a full-bodied, concentrated red that has an undeniable chalky minerality on the finish. It’s impressive today, but it will keep for at least a decade.”
Robert Parker Wine Advocate (92 points)