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The Freewheel line with a couple of English friends.

It takes a lot of beer to keep the wine business running smoothly. Here in Redwood City, we are very fortunate to have a great English style ale producer right in our backyard: Freewheel Brewing Company. The staff of K&L are fictures at our local pub, and it is a rare moment when one of us isn't there having a pint and a bite of their excellent food. We are also lucky enough to be the first place to offer their bottled beer for sale. If you have never had it, the Freewheel Brewing "FSB" Freewheel Special Bitter, California (500ml) is the benchmark in fresh, balanced, smashable ale. We will do our best to keep some in stock for you, the customer too!

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We host regular weekly and Saturday wine tastings in each K&L location.

For the complete calendar, including lineups and additional details related to our events, visit our K&L Local Events on or follow us on Facebook.  


Visit our events page on Facebook or the K&L Spirits Journal for more information.

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Some Truth About "Truths"

I am honestly not looking to make waves or to pick a fight with Matt Kramer from Wine Spectator, but I simply cannot read his articles without talking to myself out loud or my blood pressure going up. Some of us here just love reading what the "experts" in this business have to say about the wine world and then discussing their opinions amongst ourselves (don't even get Jeff Garneau started about James Laube). It's not that I disagree with Mr. Kramer, but I simply feel that, at times, he is misleading in way that isn't necessary. Because so many people read his column and believe that he must know what he is talking about, I find it necessary to present a counterpoint. Maybe it's just the difference between a wine magazine writer and a retail store employee, or maybe it's that he's trying to generalize and I just have a penchant for detail. In any case it makes for a good blog article. In the most recent edition of WS, Mr. Kramer lists what he believes are the timeless truths about the wine world, and I will state straight off that I agree with much of what he writes, but feel that certain exceptions do exist. I will list them here for reference purposes: 1) Price has nothing to do with quality 2) Most wines will age longer—and better—than we expect. 3) Today's most interesting wines get short shrift. 4) Wines today are either "preinstalled" or "alternative" It is always the cool and hip thing to be the wine expert who, when pressed, reveals that he or she actually drinks mostly $10 bottles to the shock of those who naturally assumed he drank only the most expensive and prestigious wines. This example applies to me, but that's because I can't afford expensive wine and won't admit to myself that it is, in many cases, what I would actually rather be drinking. It's easier to say, "Oh yeah, well it's overpriced anyway," when I'm watching my budget. However, Kramer is correct when he hints that because of supply and demand many wines are highly priced because they are scarce and sought after, not necessarily because they are the best. He writes with conviction that, "There's absolutely no correlation anymore —if there ever was—between price and quality. None whatsoever." I'm not so sure about that, regardless of how badly I want to believe him. Let's use furniture as an example. Ikea may have a flashy and modern coffee table that is beautiful, very chic and costs around $200, while a local store may have a hand-carved, hand-crafted, solid oak coffee table that is old and outdated, but runs $2,000. The difference between them is not the quality of taste they express, but rather the quality of the work it took to create them. The Ikea table was cut in to wooden pieces by an assembly line machine, mass produced and boxed up for easy delivery. The other is probably a one-of-a-kind type of table that some carpenter slaved over for weeks, if not months, and the price reflects his hard work and his time. The same goes for some expensive shoes. The same goes for some expensive wines. I can't tell you how many times I've been in a staff tasting with Doug Davidson, where he has tasted a wine and said, "Wow, that's really good. How much is that?" Then I reply with a number that's significantly higher than what we can afford and he says, "Yeah, I saw that coming." Now, with Mr. Kramer's second point I heartily agree. I bought a 1977 Kenwood Zinfandel out of our "has-been" box the other day for about $5 and that wine still had something going. I do, however, take umbrage with his statement, "the old intuitive linkage between price and ageability has also been severed." It's not that I think the statement is without merit, but in the retail world there are definitely price points that reflect and indicate what a wine is expected to be. In Bordeaux, for example, there are always bargain bottles around the $15 mark that are meant to be drunk around the time they are released. It's not that they couldn't develop with some cellar time it's just not what the winemaker had in mind when he made them. They are simply everyday bottles that aren't meant to be put away. Then there are the Bordeaux big shots that are absolutely not meant to be opened within 10 years of their appearance on the market. They are generally priced much higher for the usual variety of reasons (reputation, location, quality of fruit, etc.) and are always differentiated from their more readily drinkable, less age worthy, counterparts. I understand that Mr. Kramer is trying to point out the fact that a wine's high price is not necessarily indicative of its endurance, and on that point, he's absolutely correct. But to claim that there is no longer a relationship between the two is stretching it a bit. Sure it's true that the 1977 Kenwood Zin still had some legs, but no one here wanted to actually drink it. The third and fourth truths as told by Matt Kramer are related and, in fact, I believe that number four is the reason that number three is the case. Mr. Kramer's usage of the phrase "either 'preinstalled' or 'alternative'" is explained as an analogy to computers, on which some software comes with the computer when you get it, and some does not. He likens this example to the wine retail world, in that the same selection of wines are usually "preinstalled" in all stores and that all other non-establishment wines must be sought out and hunted down. This point is 100% correct. Concerning the lack of attention for some of the world's more interesting wines, he writes, "although a number of my wine writing colleagues—and wine retailers, too—have labored mightily to spotlight lesser-known wines and wine growers, the fact remains that too many deserving wines and whole regions have not had their moment in prime time," but he follows that statement with, "the issue here is not about assigning blame." Immediately after that, however, he blames distribution for only allowing certain wines and wine producers into the fold. I believe that businessmen, who want to earn a profit, will sell what the public wants. If a distributor wants to be profitable, it will distribute what sells readily. In California, what sells is domestic cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. So by the law of supply and demand, which Kramer earlier applied to his theory about wine pricing, there wouldn't be much room for the grüner veltliner or indigenous Spanish varietals in the profit margin. I do, however, feel the same way that Mr. Kramer does about these overlooked wines. Every day I watch customers walk through our store without any concern for my beloved underappreciated bottles from far off regions of the world, but I don't hold it against anyone or necessarily think that they would want to buy one if I offered one to them. There needs to be a generated interest to diversify before it will ever happen. I woke up one day and decided that I needed to try some interesting, under-the-radar wines, just like I wanted to read some different, under-the-radar books, just like I wanted to watch some far-out, bizarre, not-in-the-video-store movies. That's me. But as a business person, I would find it difficult to sell my own unique interests to others, and as a consumer, unless I really wanted to search and discover something new, I would probably stick by what I knew I liked. Interest isn't necessarily generated by exposure, although it can be, as any follower of trends understands. Interest can be created by people like Mr. Kramer, a restaurant sommelier, or a retail employee like myself, but only to people who have chosen to listen. Mr. Kramer summarizes his point by writing, "More than ever before, wine buyers now fall into two camps: those who are passive and choose from what's put in front of them (by far the larger group) and those who actively seek." I'll say this in summary, we have a lot of great wines here from all over the world; some known quantities, some not. While Mr. Kramer is correct that a wine cannot sell if it is not available for purchase, simply offering it on our sales floor does not create a consumer interest. You can put Austria in the prime time spotlight all you want, but even 92 points from Wine Spectator isn't going to convince a California cabernet drinker to buy blaufränkish if he doesn't want something different. —David Driscoll

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