My first experience with Charles Smith wines happened at a business dinner at Remington’s, when my dining companion brought along two mind-blowing wines for the evening:
2007 Skull and 2007 Old Bones. First I noticed the crazy labels…next I noticed how close to perfect they were.
At the time, I’d already planned a wine trip to Washington State. Charles Smith, whose winery is there, wasn’t on my list — he hadn’t been on my radar. After that tasting, though, things changed — and I requested a visit. Smith went one better, inviting us to dinner at his home. It was an incredible evening.
But there was one problem: most of Charles Smith’s wines weren’t available in Buffalo, beyond a few of his entry level wines like Kung Fu Girls and Boom Boom Syrah (also excellent, but not indicative of all the great wine he produces, such as K Syrah by K Vintners.)
Fast forward to this spring. I received a gift certificate to a wine store for my birthday, and decided to choose something from the rare wine room. Lo and behold, there was a display of Charles Smith wines. After a chat with the manager, it turned out there was also a large selection on the store’s main floor.
Before I even left the store, I began plotting a Charles Smith tasting to celebrate its new availability in Buffalo.
I wanted to choose a cool/sophisticated new place to reflect Smith himself. It didn’t take long to decide on Carte Blanche in Hamburg. A small group of wine lovers assembled for the evening. I brought a few of Smith’s wines from my cellar along with some new ones I’d purchased. The chef went above and beyond with a special tasting menu.
These are the wines we tasted, along with prices — keep your eyes open for sales or case discounts:
2012 Sixto Chardonnay Frenchman Hills
I’m not much of a Chardonnay drinker, but when in Washington we had the chance to try some barrel samples. I liked it so much I bought a few bottles, and this was the last one from my cellar. It’s buttery and silky smooth, with plenty of light fruit. I don’t see it in local stores yet, but keep your eye out.
2014 Charles Smith K Syrah Powerline Estate
This is a powerful Syrah and it needs a little time to open up. Lots of spiciness and dark fruit. Also from my cellar, I’m hoping it, too, will be available locally soon.
2013 Charles Smith MCK Syrah (Motor City Kitty)
When I first tasted the 2013, I was blown away. This is great wine for a very fair price…you’ll enjoy it over the next 15 years, at least.
2013 Charles Smith Cattle King Syrah
It’s not inexpensive, but it’s worth the splurge — you will enjoy the memory of this wine long after you forgot what you paid. It’s very close to a perfect Syrah. I loved the spicy tingle on my tongue and gobs of dark fruit. There is much depth in this wine; let it breathe and open up, then savor it slowly. It was a group favorite.
2013 Charles Smith The Creator
$50 (and worth every penny)
This is a blend, but mostly Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark fruit fills your mouth and the finish lingers for at least 20-30 seconds.
2013 Charles Smith King Coal Blend
I had never tasted this Cabernet/Syrah blend before, as it was more than I would normally spend. The fruit is intense and mouth coating, the color is beautiful. Still a baby, this wine will get better over the next 10 years and drink well for another 10-15 years afterward.
Here’s a full list of locally-available Charles Smith wines at various price points:
- Chateau Smith Cabernet: $20
- 2013 King Coal Cab/Syrah: $125
- 2013 Royal City Syrah: $119
- 2014 Eve Chardonnay: $12
- 2014 Substance Cab: $17
- 2014 Velvet Devil Merlot: $15
- 2015 Kung Fu Girl Riesling: $12
- 2013 K Vintners, Cattle King Syrah: $100
- 2013 K Vintners, The Deal Syrah: $40
- 2013 K Vintners, The Hidden Syrah: $120
- 2013 K Vintners, Morrison Syrah: $70
- 2014 K Vintners, Beautiful Syrah: $90
- 2014 K Vintners, Milbrandt Syrah: $40
- 2014 K Vintners, The Boy Grenache: $50
Follow the Northstar
I love Northstar wine, and it’s the only winery we visited twice in Washington. The winery is beautiful, the people extremely friendly and the wines are excellent.
After our most recent visit, the very talented winemaker David Merfeld (affectionately known as “Merf”) sent me some wines to try. They were excellent and worth recommending here:
2014 Northstar Walla Walla Cabernet
This is a terrific wine that I would love to get by the case. Delicious dark fruit with a hint of chocolate, and a wonderful finish. This wine should age well for at least 15 years.
2104 Northstar Walla Walla Red Blend
Washington is producing some amazing blends. This is excellent wine with beautiful and complex flavors. Enjoy it with a grilled steak: perfection.
Warren T. Colville is publisher and president of The Buffalo News.