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So why is the 2012 Ladera Cabernet—made from almost entirely from Howell Mountain fruit, from an incredible vintage—sitting pretty at $34.99? I honestly can't tell you. Maybe it's because no one knows how good the Ladera holdings in Howell Mountain are. Or maybe it's the pride that winemaker Jade Barrett takes in making a serious wine for a reasonable price. Or maybe it's because Ladera is an overlooked gem in a sea of Napa alternatives. For whatever the reason, I'm not going to complain. We tasted the 2012 vintage at our staff training yesterday and I was just floored by the quality of this wine. Dark, fleshy fruit cloaked in fine tannins, bits of earth, and in total balance, with enough gusto to go the long haul in your cellar. It's a whole lotta wine for $34.99, and it's made primarily from Howell Mountain grapes, harvested during a great vintage. 

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It Can’t be March Already!

Another year flying by faster than a Shelby Mustang 500GT! Buyers leaving for all parts of the wine world. Chanty, Elisabeth and I have been back for over a month from Aussie Land. We did find some excellent wines on this trip from the very good 2004 and outstanding 2005 vintages. They should start arriving soon. Speaking of the 2005 vintage, it promises to be very good to great in quite a few wine regions. For sure the wines from the Barossa and McLaren Vale areas of Australia will be superb. Also great reports from Bordeaux and California. The Futures campaign for 2005 Bordeaux promises to be very hectic and fast moving. Other regions are forecasting excellent vintages, and our buyers will tell you what they find on their trips. Let’s all slow down a bit and enjoy this year! —Clyde Beffa Jr

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How About Moulis?

When looking for great wines from Bordeaux we often think of the bigger names and overlook other appellations by fear of the unknown. Well, fear no more: Moulis is here to save the day. The smallest appellation in the Médoc (surface wise) with only 600 hectares, which represent 4% of the region, offers wines of high standards as the 1975 Ch. Poujeaux ($79.99) can attest. This wine offers delicate red fruit on the nose. The wine has fresh and still lively sweet slightly red berry fruit on the palate. WOW!!! You want all wines to achieve this with age. It was served with the cheese course at the Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel diner K&L organized at the University Club, and it was the best paring of the night. We also had 2003 Ch. Poujeaux (Pre-Arrival $22.99). It was a great vintage, the warmest ever recorded, and this wine shows you the best of 2003. Tones of fruit in the glass: raspberry, cassis, red cherry, a bit of spice as well as some smoke. It has good structure and a very long finish. Another hidden gem of the vintage is 2003 Ch. Chasse-Spleen ($25.99). A more traditional style, the nose was fairly closed. Slightly rustic touch, showing fresh berries, cherries and spices. Will keep for a good ten years. Two other good buys are 2002 Ch. Potensac ($17.99) and 2001 Les Ormes the Pez ($24.99). The Potensac, owned by the Delon family (Léoville-Las-Cases), is still quite young. Showing black currants, dark berries, earthy tannins and good acidity, it will be drinkable after 2006. Les Ormes de Pez, St-Estèphe, is straightforward. Good dark fruit with a bit of spice. Firm structure that still needs more time but opens up well with decanting. —Alexandre Brisoux

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2004 Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The Angeles Wine Agency tasting on January 24th 2006 A couple weeks ago I had the great opportunity to attend the 2004 Châteauneuf-du-Pape tasting put on by the Angeles Wine Agency. Over the course of three hours I tasted and took very inspired notes on over 40 CNP’s from the 2004 vintage. What can I say a this point other than, holy smokes!? I am just getting to know this vintage, and I am already head over heals in love. The vintage, at this point displays fantastic potential. Fruit, richness, acidity and length..these CNP’s have got it all. What is going to make a vintage like this difficult is deciding which one’s you like the most. The following wines were, in my estimation, real standouts. The ETA on these wines will be some time in the late spring/mid summer. If one, or two or all of these CNP’s strike your fancy lemme know, and I will keep you posted as they become available. Please excuse all of the non-sequitors. 2004 Domaine Moulin-Tacussel CNP (80% Grenache, 10% syrah, 7 % mourvèdre, 3% cinsault) Rich and forward but in a more traditional sense. Beautiful concentration of blackcurrant and deep cherry fruit, followed by just the slightest hint of roasted herbs, thyme, and stone. The structure is taught and tannins are fine, not coarse. This represents one of the best values in the lineup. 2004 Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils Cuvee Tradition ( 90% grenache, 5% mourvèdre, 5% cinsault) Spicy, spicy spicy red fruits and star anise on this puppy. Notes of red plum and dark chocolate. Reminds me of the Dagoba chocolate bar with tiny flecks of chipolte.. Yowzah! 2004 Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils Cuvee Cuvee de Mon Aieul (100% grenache) Châteauneuf-du-Pape in a long blood red velvet gown. Buxom, fleshy and ripe..but always classy. Hey get your mind out of the gutter.. I’m talking about wine! 2004 Le Vieux Donjon Rouge (70% grenache, 20% syrah, 10% mourvèdre & cinsault) One of my favorite Châteauneufs..always. More on the classy side with dark, purple fruits, a touch of bramble and nicoise olives. Lovely.. 2004 Mas de Boislauzon Cuvee de Quet (65% grenache, 35% mourvèdre) I don’t know if Parker has rated this one, but I bet it will be high. One of the most dense and concentrated of the bunch with an emphasis on black fruits and tea…orange pekoe and lavender. ..shows a lot of class and sophistication despite its big, bad ass proportions. 2004 Cuvee du Vatican Cuvee Tradition (70% grenache, 15% mourvèdre, 15% syrah) Sappy, honeyed nose, with red currant spice box, hibiscus. Lovely balance and concentration and just a hint of earth. Another excellent value for the vintage. 2004 Cuvee du Vatican Reserve Sixtine (50% grenache, 30% syrah, 10% mourvèdre, 10% other..) My favorite super cuvee. Mon Dieu! AWESOME POWER AND GRACE. This cuvee straddles the line between new world seductiveness and old world sophistication. I predict that this one will age as well as Sophia Loren, however the scary thing is that something this intense and breathtaking tastes good NOW! That’s all I can say about this one. Talk amongst yourselves. 2004 Bosquet des Papes Cuvee Tradition (75% grenache, 11% mourvèdre, 9% syrah, 5% cinsault, counoise and vaccarese) Along with Vieux Donjon, Bosquet is always one of my faves. The 2004 Tradition definitely “represents”. Red currents, roses and hibiscus come through on this one. More feminine and elegant rather than big, thick or muscular.. This is no wimpy wine… do not overlook.. 2004 Bosquet des Papes Cuvee Chante le Merle (70% grenache, 10% syrah, 15% cinsault, 5% mourvèdre) Bosquets super cuvee. Big, bold but not bad ass. Try this one with the Boislauzon Cuvee de Quet and see who wins. 2004 Domaine des Relagnes Cuvee Tradition (80% grenache, 10% syrah, 10% mourvèdre & cinsault) If you are into purity of fruit, ethereal beauty, wine that dances on your palate, flirts, no teases you with its charm and delicacy (note: I am not saying thin) then you must try these wines. As far as being the “package” in terms of price, quality, and accessibility Domaine des Relagnes over delivers. Cinnamon stick, red fruits, blackcurrant tea.. 2004 Domaine des Relagnes Cuvee Vigneronne (65% grenache, 20% syrah, 5% each mourvèdre, cinsault and other..) Black cherry, rosehips with a bit more depth than the tradition. Very subtle notes of stone and that “tar” thing. 2004 Domaine des Relagnes “Les Petit Pieds d’Armand” (90% grenache 10% syrah) Relagne’s super cuvee. Up there with the Chante le Merle in terms of depth, concentration and elegance. Definitely age-worthy but showing beautifully right now, with fine tannins and a silky texture. A few of these will definitely find their way into my cellar/closet! —Mulan Chan

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