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In December, we drink Champagne at closing at K&L- and we prefer to drink it out of magnum when possible. The highlight this year was the Ariston Aspasie Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne (1.5L) magnum ($74.99) that we had on Christmas eve. This single vineyard beauty comes from the Gouttes d’Or, a very steep east facing parcel in the little village of Brouillet. It was creamy, delicate and perfectly refreshing! We all say to cheers to you, and hope your holiday is filled with fun and friends!

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« The Inimitable Oliver McCrum | Main | Food & Wine Pairings...There Are No Absolutes »

Does a Leaky Capsule Always Indicate Bad Wine? A Mountain of Surprise...

One of my favorite things about working where I do is that we buy lots of wine from private collections. The way it works is that we (rather, my co-worker Joe Z.) will inspect a cellar's condition, check out the wares and, if there are wines of some perceived value in the marketplace that have been well stored, Joe will make an offer. As he will offer to buy entire collections, not just cherry pick the highly sought-after stuff, there may be some '78 Amador zin mixed up with all of those nice '78 Burgundies and Napa cabs. We take it all in. This means that every so often we come across some really interesting stuff on the shelves of the old and rare section at K&L. Sometimes a few bottles are leakers, have low fills, and never make it to the shelf. I spied one such bottle while shooting the breeze with the great Joe Z, and asked his permission to open it. He obliged, I opened, and here's where it gets interesting.... The wine? A magnum of 1979 Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard Cabernet. This was a nearly 30 year-old wine produced from 100% cabernet sauvignon from Bates Ranch in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. To be honest I don't recall the fill exactly, though it was at least upper shoulder (almost filling out the rounded part of the bottle, but not making its way into the narrow neck part). Nonetheless, a decent fill for a bottle stored almost 30 years in a private cellar. However, the foil capsule and area below it was sticky with what was clearly wine that had leaked out of the bottle. Upon cutting the foil and catching a whiff of the cork, my hopes dwindled. It smelled very oxidized, port-like but sour. When I pulled the cork, or most of the cork (I needed to push down a crumbly portion into the bottle) I promptly poured a small amount into a glass. The color was still deep and did not suggest a wine well past its prime. On the nose there were notes of intense dark fruit, some spice and cedar; the wine was more than alive, it was alive, kicking, screaming, and begging for attention. When I tasted the wine, it had all the vibrancy, flavor intensity and freshness of a wine half its age. Loads of sweet dark fruits, hints of prune and a strong cola aspect came across on the palate, which also still had some tannin structure. While the wine was not the most nuanced or complex, it certainly reminded me of a few things: 1) Wine is sometimes as resilient as it is fragile 2) CA Cabernet can pack a whole lot of richness and flavor, and still be under 13% alcohol 3) Santa Cruz Mountain wines, when they're good, age every bit as well, and often better than, wines from Napa. What a cool experience. I ended up pouring myself a glass to go with my lunch of leftover Bastille Day lentils and bread. After lunch I returned to the sales floor, one happy wine opiner. —Joe Manekin

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Reader Comments (1)

Great article, Mr. Manekin. I have found that some wines can survive what I consider to be an absolute pummeling, in regards to temperature, light and humidity during their tumultuous life. I've encountered this a few times in the last couple years.One was a 1977 Weibel Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon that I had opened on NYE as a birth year gift from a friend. It had been stored in its Lafayette garage for almost all of its 30 years...including 100+ degree summer days and below freezing nights in the winter. Yet it tasted fine and even good when finally opened! It was very light and tasting a little of its age, but still bright and no doubt originating as a lighter, less ripe style in the first place. Amazing.On the other hand, I opened a 1994 Rubicon at a dinner a few months later from that same friend and with similar storage conditions but not nearly as extreme...yet the wine was very oxidized. A very interesting experiment of contrasts, none-the-less!
July 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWard Kadel

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