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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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Tasting with Oliver Krug

Upcoming Events

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.

>>Upcoming Special Events, Dinners, and Tastings

See all K&L Local Events


Bollinger Brings the Vin Clair to SF!

Denis Bunner, Gilles Descôtes and Cyril Delarue of Bollinger

Normally, I have to go to Champagne in the spring before the bottling to taste vin clair, the base wine that turns into Champagne after bottle fermentation. Luckily last week Champagne Bollinger’s Cellar Master Gilles Descôtes, Deputy Cellar Master Denis Bunner and export manager Cyril Delarue came to show their 2015 vin clairs in San Francisco. It was great to taste these base wines without any jet lag for the first time in my life! My colleague Heather from our Redwood City store joined us and it was a great afternoon learning all about Bollinger.

Bollinger produces about three million bottles a year and sixty percent of their needs come from their own estate. It is a very special estate, four hundred acres of grand and 1er cru vineyards spread out across all of the best terroir in Champagne. What they purchase they purchase as grapes, never as juice or still wine.

The company was founded in 1829, and they have stuck to a couple of techniques since the beginning that really set them apart. The first thing is barrels- they have never stopped using them, and all of the best vineyard sites are barrel fermented today the same way they were nearly 200 years ago. The vintage wine is always all barrel fermented, while the non vintage wines are still mostly barrel fermented.

They also keep all the reserves for the non-vintage in magnums. This is a mind bogglingly laborious and space intensive task… Instead of having one 3750 liter tank of Chardonnay they have to stack up 2500 magnums! These reserves are given a secondary fermentation at ¼ pressure and kept for an average of 10 years before being hand disgorged, checked for cork taint and poured one by one into the Special Cuvee blend. They use approximately 70,000 of these in each batch of grand cuvee.

We started by tasting an example of 2015 Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier. These really showed the strength of the vintage, especially for the black grapes. They were uniformly spicy, complex and intriguing vin clairs. Champagne fans have a lot to be excited for… In another 10 years or so we will be seeing some great vintage wines come from 2015. We also tasted some reserve wines from 2014, which tasted younger than the 15’s due to the cooler growing temperatures. Perhaps the most interesting thing was a magnum of reserve under ¼ pressure- this was loaded with nutty, dried fruit flavors and length to spare.

Heather Gowen of K&L (foreground) and other tasters learning all the secrets of Bollinger

We finished by tasting the current releases- first the polished, dry, refined Bollinger "Special Cuvee" Brut Champagne ($59.99), then the authoritative, structured, yet still elegant and charming Bollinger Brut Rosé Champagne ($69.99).  Mr. Descôtes then presented the lush, soft, decadent 2005 Bollinger "Grande Année" Brut Champagne (not yet released) followed by the subtle, spicy, classic, mineral driven 2004 Bollinger "Grande Année" Brut Rose Champagne. The big treats of the day were the unbelievably complete, concentrated, loaded 2002 Bollinger R.D. Extra Brut Champagne and the unique still red Bollinger "La Cote aux Enfant" Still Champagne.

This was a treat that I won’t soon forget!

Gary Westby



Veuve-Clicquot Cellar Master Dominique DeMarville at K&L!

Dominique DeMarville, Chef de Cave of Veuve Clicquot pouring his vintage range in San Francisco

On Thursday, Gary, Heather and I had the unique opportunity to sample current and upcoming releases from Veuve Cliquot with Chef De Caves Dominique DeMarville and longtime rep Lester Lopez. You know that you have seen Lester at our Tent Events. Very tall guy with a similar haircut to mine. That is, shall we say, clean shaven. 

We started in the fairly early a.m. (9) so that our palates would be fresh. Mine was as fresh as someone’s my age can be! We started at the top of the heap with the 2006 Grande Dame Brut ($149.99) and the 2006 Grande Dame Brut Rose (soon to be released).  Unlike most 2006 vintage champagnes that I have tasted, they tend to run very rich and full in character, both of these Grande Dames showed amazing minerality.  The Brut is slight more pinot noir dominant (53% with 47% chardonnay) and is big and mouthfilling with a fleshy mid-palate of white fruits, cream and toast. The finish is very clean and bright with crisp minerality. Beautifully balanced. The Brut Rose had orange peel/orange marmalade and smoke on the nose with bright red fruits, more orange and spice on the palate. Like it’s sister wine, this one also has wonderful minerality and chalk on the finish. Same varietal blend as the Brut. Will age magnificently! Another big treat was the 2008 Vintage Gold Label Brut Reserve. That’s right! We are some of the first people in the US to taste this. It has a very clean nose but, rich apple fruit and cream sneak up on you and push their way through the minerals. Golden, yellow fruits and almonds on the palate. Again, the bright, bright finish with minerals and chalk. Next, we tasted the 2004 Vintage Gold Label Reserve ($64.99), the current offering. This one is a big contrast to the 2008 in the nose with rich caramel and nuts and lemon meringue. Apples, pears and oak on the finish with a bright fino sherry note on the finish. A very solid release! Our last selection was the 2008 Vintage Brut Rose, which has not been released. Again, so exciting to be previewing these wines! A tangerine/raspberry nose with fine minerality and salininty. It also has that VC hint of smoke with tart red boysenberry fruit and a touch of quince and pomegranate. Super, super fresh and clean. This wasn’t exactly the worst way to spend an early Thursday morning, was it?  Someone has to do it!   Hey! This job isn’t so bad, after all! ;)

-Scott Beckerley


Champagne Charles Ellner- The Other Side of Epernay

Jean Pierre Ellner pours his 1973 in Epernay.

On the opposite side of Epernay from the glitzy Avenue de Champagne is one of the best kept secrets in the region. Champagne Charles Ellner is a small scale negociant, but everything in this offering is estate grown. They are lucky to own 120 acres across five sub regions of Champagne, with a very important proportion of old vines. They are one of the biggest land holders in the Côtes d’Epernay, the vineyard inside the city limits. They also have a very large holding in the grand cru of Chouilly, five premier crus on the mountain of Reims, two crus in the western valley of the marne and plots in the Sezanne and the Aube. They have almost no plants of less than 25 years old, and a full third of their vineyard is true old vines- planted to old massal selected material. This does a lot to explain the striking quality of their wines.

The third generation is now in charge and they do not cut corners or rush the wines. They never allow the wines to go through malolactic, and the youngest wine in this offering was kept for over six years on the lees. Luckily they have more than two kilometers of cellars to store all of the bottles! As a group, the wines have wonderful toasty flavors, richness, and the kind of depth and complexity that can only come from age. The wines are very age worthy if you decide to keep them longer- we tasted a spectacular 1973, my birth year, when I visited last October.

Charles Ellner "Carte d'Or" Brut Champagne $34.99: This all estate-grown blend of 75% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Noir is an outstanding value in top-class Champagne. This wine has been aged for over five years on the lees and has a wonderful lemon curd and brioche nose. They never do malolactic at Charles Ellner, and because of that decision they must age the wines longer... The results are spectacular. This has incredible texture and finesse, but also fantastic mineral-laden length!

Charles Ellner "Premier Cru" Brut Champagne $39.99: This Champagne comes entirely from the 1er cru vineyards of Dizy, Rilly-la-Montagne, Sermieres and Champillon. It is composed of 75% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Noir with over six years of ageing on the lees. The current batch is based on 2006. This has the personality of a Champagne with much more Pinot Noir than the composition suggests. I love the black cherry on toast aromas and the incredible hazelnut depth on the palate. This is very concentrated, serious Champagne.

2004 Charles Ellner "Prestige" Brut Champagne $49.99: If you like Champagne that combines both chalky, high acid drive with a nearly silky, creamy texture, this is for you. I was also struck by the extraordinary, tiny bead. I imagine this will age for as long as you care to keep it- take note if you were married in 2004 like I was! It is composed of 70% Chouilly Grand Cru Chardonnay and a combination of Tauxieres and Epernay Pinot Noir for the remainder.  I have another bottle in the fridge for tonight!

2002 Charles Ellner "Séduction" Brut Champagne $49.99: Do you have enough 2002 Champagne left in your cellar? I don't think anyone (except for the Ellner's in Epernay!) could ever answer yes to that question. The Seduction Brut is the most exciting older vintage Champagne that we have brought in direct in a long time, and I can't believe the value for money that it offers. The nutty, brioche filled nose gives way to a lively, chalky, bright and dry finish. This wine is so loaded and complex I just about filled up my notebook when tasting it, I found everything from cherry preserves to nougat in it. The finish has the rare peacock tail effect that usually only old great Burgundy brings to me, but with all of the refreshment of Champagne... Yum!


A toast to you!

Gary Westby

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