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Just add duck crepinettes!

Buying ready to drink 1er cru Burgundy is not easy. For a couple of years I did the Old and Rare wine buying here at K&L and found it easy to find California Cabernet and even Bordeaux from collectors. But Burgundy… Forget it. They had to die, get a divorce or have doctors orders to part with the king of all Pinot Noir! This bottle of 2007 Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret Nuits St-Georges 1er cru Les Boudots ($99) comes direct from the property from our friends at Atherton, and like most of the 2007’s, drinks fabulously right now. This wine showed excellent sweet beet fruit, savory depth, and incredible finesse and length. The tannins are completely resolved, and went perfectly with duck crepinettes from the fatted calf in San Francisco. This is the kind of Burgundy that gets people hooked- you have been warned!!!! –Gary Westby

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Free Spirits Tastings at K&L! Now that we have our license for spirits tastings in Redwood City and San Francisco, we’re excited to host regular free spirits tastings in those locations.  Check the Spirits Journal for an updated tasting schedule.

All tastings will feature different products from the Spirits Department and take place on Wednesdays in Redwood City and San Francisco. Visit our events page on Facebook or the K&L Spirits Journal for more information.

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Nama Sake in Fall

Before coming to K&L I was relatively new to Nama sakes, but once i discovered them, they became all that I could think about. If you're new to, or not familiar with Nama sake, it is an unpasteurized sake that is generally released once a year in the spring. So why am I writing about it now?

The Naba Shoten Minato "Harbor" Yamahai Futsuu-shu ($34.99), a Yamahai Nama Genshu, won an award for its packaging that changes the window for buying/enjoying Nama sake. It comes in a funky can that has been proven to keep the sake fresh and stable for longer than any other Nama on the market. But let's rewind. What does Yamahai Nama Genshu mean?
Yamahai is a method of preparing the yeast starter that involves natural lactic bacteria, but eschews mixing the starter with poles. Generally this results in a gamey, wilder sake. Not so in the Harbor sake, it does however result in a richer, more food-friendly sake that can stand up to some serious dishes. There is a great article on Yamahai sakes written by my good friend and sake expert W. Blake Gray here
Nama, like we mentioned earlier, means unpasteurized. So let's talk about pasteurization and sake. Generally sake is pasteurized twice, once just after brewing and once again after a maturation period or before shipping. This is done by either running the sake through a pipe that is submerged in 150-degree water, or submerging already bottled sake in a water bath at the same temperature. Pasteurization is done to deactivate heat-sensitive enzymes and microorganisms left over from the koji and yeast cells, thus ensuring they will not begin a secondary fermentation and/or send the sake flavors out of wack. Much in the same way, and for the same reason, that sulfur is added to wine.
This means that typically Nama sake has a much fresher and livelier flavor, with more active aromatic qualities. This also means that refrigeration is needed to keep it fresh and from going off. So while all sakes are meant to be consumed within the year of release, Nama sake is meant to be drunk upon release, with the one exception being the Harbor Nama sake, because of its unique packaging.
Finally, we have the term Genshu. Simply, this means that the sake has not been diluted with water, as all other sakes are (like most spirits). This however does not come through on the palate. You are not blown away by the 20% alcohol (most sakes are in around the 16% range), nor does it taste "hot." It is just rich and mouthcoating, making it a perfect sake for matching with foods, and this time I'm thinking about roasted pumpkin or acorn squash, turkey or duck, really the opportunities are numerous with this one.
Until we run out (and I secretly hope that we don't) you can look forward to having this Nama sake available until the spring, when the newest batches of Namas are released, and I get to taste through them all again. It's a tough job, and I'm glad to be the one to do it.  
If you are interested in learning about sake, consider joining the sake enthusiast list by emailing me at or subscribing to the personal sommelier service.
Melissa Smith

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