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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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RSVP à Bordeaux: an Invitation to a New Generation of Bordeaux Drinkers

The members of K&L’s Bordeaux team (Clyde Beffa, Ralph Sands , Alex Pross et al) have just returned from Bordeaux after spending the past week at the annual en primeur tasting, an event that attracts wine industry professionals, critics, and bloggers from all over the globe.

They tasted barrel samples of the 2014 vintage, wines that will be bottled and released in two years time. The en primeur system allows these wines to be sold on a futures basis, improving cash flow for the negociant firms, and – in theory – allowing consumers to lock in lower prices than they might otherwise pay two or more years later.

The early word on 2014 is that it was very nearly the fourth in an almost unprecedented series of very challenging vintages, but was saved by unusually warm, sunny and dry weather throughout September and October. The hope is for a solidly good, though not exceptional, vintage that will be well-priced and attractive to consumers. The fear is that chateau owners will offer their wines at prices over and above what consumers are willing to pay, straining relations with their negociant partners, and threatening the future of the entire en primeur system.

Over the past few months, members of the wine trade have repeatedly warned chateau owners – publicly and privately – of the importance of “getting prices right” for 2014. Now, there is nothing left to do but wait anxiously to see if the message has been heard. The current concern over the success or failure of the 2014 en primeur campaign takes place however within the context of a much broader and longer running discussion about the future of the Bordeaux region itself.

There was a time not long ago when Bordeaux occupied an unassailable position at the center of the fine wine world. A wine atlas published in the 1970s would have featured prominently the wines of France, with special emphasis on Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone, and perhaps Champagne. German wines, Rieslings mostly, would have followed. Spain and Italy would have been included only to the extent of highlighting one or two famous producers. The New World? Virtually nonexistent. California might have earned a single page.

Today, however, Bordeaux finds itself in competition with wines produced in seemingly every corner of the globe. The “Bordeaux” blend may owe its name to the region that birthed it, but its offspring can be found today in California and Washington State, in Australia and New Zealand, in South Africa, Spain, Italy…well, you get the picture.

Fortunately for the region, those who have been drinking Bordeaux for many years tend to remain loyal. It is still at its most popular among those over the age of 50. However, there is a kind of pitiless arithmetic to buying and aging fine wines. Bordeaux purchased at release can take 20 to 30 years to reach maturity. At some point even the most avid collectors stop buying new vintages and switch to drinking up their cellar. No point in leaving it for the grandchildren.

If Bordeaux is to have a future, it must appeal to younger drinkers. For a number of reasons, this represents something of a problem for the Bordelais. In marketing their wines, particularly here in the United States, they have relied very heavily on the publicity generated by favorable scores awarded by influential critics such as Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate. The youngest generation of drinkers – the so-called millennials –are apparently much less likely than their parents or grandparents to be swayed by the published opinions of an acknowledged authority. They prefer the recommendations of their friends and peers, often shared via social media.

The Bordelais also rely on the fame and prestige associated with their wines and with the region as a whole to generate sales. Millennials, however, are more impressed by a good story than a famous brand. A tale of a fifth generation vigneron farming a few hectares of grapes with his son and making wines in a cramped stone cellar underneath their two hundred year old farmhouse will capture their imagination. A photo on the cover of Wine Spectator of the owner of a famous chateau in a pair of thousand dollar shoes and an immaculate, tailored suit is more likely to provoke disdain than excite interest.

The public perception of Bordeaux as the source of some of the world’s most expensive wines keeps many consumers from ever exploring the region. From a marketing standpoint, it’s a double-edged sword. The wines are famous, yes, but as a luxury good out of reach of those looking for wines to drink every day. Millennials, who tend to spend less per bottle than their older counterparts, are even less likely to consider Bordeaux.

In light of all this – competition from other wine regions and a failure to appeal to the youngest consumers – the future begins to look a bit bleak for Bordeaux. Therefore, as someone who loves Bordeaux and drinks it regularly, I would like to extend an invitation to those of you who have yet to try Bordeaux, especially if you are under the age of 30. If you will oblige me with just a few minutes of your time, I believe I can make a good case for why you should do so.

History Matters

Though it has weathered many ups and downs over the course of a history which spans centuries, Bordeaux remains today the foremost wine region in France. It is the largest by a considerable margin in terms of the number of hectares of vineyards planted. And while more than half the wine produced in Bordeaux is consumed by the French themselves, much of it is sold abroad. In 2014, Bordeaux accounted for nearly 40% of France’s global wine exports by volume and nearly 50% by value, over $4 billion in total.


The Bordelais today are making better wine than at any other time in their history. Over the past twenty years there has been a virtual revolution in terms of improvements in the vineyards and the cellars of Bordeaux. Although they do not often publicize it, some chateaus have even adopted the same biodynamic practices that typically characterize “artisanal” or “boutique” wines, the darlings of sommeliers and wine geeks everywhere. Don’t waste time regretting never having tasted famous vintages of years past. The diffusion of modern winemaking techniques combined with massive investment means that the wines you taste today, and the wines you will taste tomorrow, are the best that Bordeaux has ever produced.


While it is true that much of the prestige enjoyed by Bordeaux derives from the very high prices commanded by its most famous estates, these account for a very small percentage of the total. The Classification of 1855 encompassed a bare five dozen chateaus in the Médoc and another two dozen or so in Sauternes. The Graves and Saint Emilion each have their own classifications. All told, however, these “classed growths” represent fewer than 200 of the more than 7000 estates in Bordeaux, accounting for less than five percent of the region’s total production. More than half the wine produced each year is sold simply as AOC Bordeaux or Bordeaux Superieur at prices ranging from $10 to $20 on average. Also, unlike virtually every other wine region of the world, prices in Bordeaux vary quite a bit from year to year. While you may pay a premium for wines from the very best vintages, you will generally pay less, sometimes significantly less, for wines from “lesser” vintages, which while not among the “great” vintages may still be good to very good. Moreover, these “lesser” vintages may age at a more rapid rate than the much heralded ones, reaching maturity sooner, meaning you won’t have to wait as long to drink them, incurring fewer cellaring costs.

Unique Availability of Vintage Wines

And if you don’t have a cellar, don’t despair. The structured nature of the Bordeaux marketplace – chateaus sell to negociants, who then sell to wholesalers, importers, or large retailers like K&L Wine Merchants – means that Bordeaux is one of the very few fine wine regions of the world that can offer the consumer a consistent supply of older vintages of perfect provenance.

Do this. Go to our website or visit one of our retail locations and purchase a bottle of the 2009 Chateau Caronne Ste-Gemme, Haut-Médoc $22.99. This was one of the best wines in the $20 range when the 2009’s were first released three years ago; we just received a new supply from one of our negociant partners in Bordeaux. I liked it so much I bought a case. Perfectly ready to drink now or hold, if you prefer. If you are curious how it might taste with a few more years in the cellar, try the excellent 2005 vintage. We still have a few bottles left at $24.99. If you enjoy either, or both, send me an email at and let me know. I will be happy to make some further recommendations. Toujours Bordeaux!


New Rose From Champagne Louis Roederer

Top class rose Champagne is an excellent partner for quality pate.

This week, Cinnamon and I were lucky enough to enjoy the 2009 Louis Roederer Brut Rosé Champagne ($69.99). Like all the vintage wines from Louis Roederer, it is entirely estate grown. Most of the famous negociants of Champagne love to talk about the art of assembelage, but here, chef de cave Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon loves to talk about the art of farming.

Each one of the five vintage dated wines at Roederer come from different parcels on the six hundred acre estate of Champagne Louis Roederer, and are farmed specifically for the characteristics that Mr. Lecaillon is looking for in the wines. In the case of the rose, the heart comes from Cumieres, the south facing sun catch Premier Cru just next to Hautvillers, a scant five kilometers over the Marne from Epernay. Here they farm the Pinot Noir that makes up 2/3 of the blend. The vibrant soul of this wine comes from north facing vineyards in the Cotes des Blancs Grand Cru of Chouilly. Jean Baptiste says he uses this cold climate Chardonnay to “acidify” the fabulously ripe Pinot of Cumieres. It makes up the other 1/3.

While most roses are done by an addition of red wine, and a few are done by macerating all of the grapes with all of the skins, this is done in a hybrid style. The Pinot Noir is given a 10 day cold soak all together before fermentation, and then blended with the Chardonnay after fermentation. The high acid Chardonnay is fermented in large foudres with lees stirring to give the wine more texture. Malolactic fermentation is not promoted in any of the wines, but when it occurs naturally Jean Baptiste doesn’t stop it.

The 2009 vintage is the other side of the coin from super high acid 2008. It is a lush, solar year that has produced softer wine in general. This bottling is generous where the 2008 was tight, and ready to drink while the 2008 needed cellaring.

We enjoyed the bottle that we drank as the aperitif and served a little bit of pate de maison from Dittmers with it. While the 2009 vintage is a softer one, this is not a soft wine. The Chouilly Chardonnay provided plenty of cut for the rich pate, and had us coming back for more. The flavors in this wine ran almost too strawberry shortcake- rich, ripe, dark fruit and lovely bready depth. But again, the laser beam Chouilly Chardonnay snapped it into very dry focus. This is bottle is a real treat. I hope you’ll treat yourself to one as well.

A toast to you!

Gary Westby




1989 Clos du Marquis

This bottle just arrived on a container direct from Bordeaux and went directly into the decanter!

Cinnamon and I really changed things up this week, and moved steak and claret night from Friday to Sunday. We had a bottle that was worthy of extra time, the now 26 year old 1989 Clos du Marquis, St-Julien ($79.99) that just arrived from Bordeaux. This bottle was from a different era in Bordeaux, an era when a ripe vintage did not mean a flabby one, and this taught, precise St. Julien showed just how much finesse a 1989 can have. We decanted it an hour and a half ahead and even the first sniff showed that we were in for a big treat.

The Clos du Marquis is often thought of as a second wine of Leoville-Las-Cases, but it is really a separate wine from a small walled vineyard within the property. This “Petit Clos” is right next to the Chateau itself, and boarders not only Leoville-Barton and Leoville-Poyefere, but also Pichon Lalande to the north. To say that it is in a good neighborhood would be an understatement. This clos is planted to about three quarters Cabernet Sauvignon, one fifth Merlot and a smattering of Cabernet Franc. 

Food always tastes good off of the little Lodge Hibachi.

Earlier in the afternoon, I had re-seasoned my trusty cast iron hibachi and I was excited to cook the very thick, prime one pound New York that I had bought from Dittmer’s earlier in the week on it. Generally Cinnamon and I like to get one big, thick steak to share rather than two thinner pieces. We get better flavor this way and I feel the results are even better with a thick cut piece over mesquite, as the meat has more of a chance to pick up some of the smoke. I cooked some spring onions and asparagus on the grill at the same time.

In the meantime, new crop Yukon Gold potatoes were roasting in a little bit of duck fat in the oven. I like to boil them until they are soft and cooked through first, as this yields a potato that is creamy on the inside as crisp on the outside when they come out of the oven. I also whipped up a little mayonnaise… Steak and claret on Sunday isn’t diet food!


On the plates and ready to be washed down with claret!

Sometimes Cinnamon will complain about having to have the same meal once a week, but never while we are actually eating it. The combination of Bordeaux and beef are classic for a reason, and this meal with this bottle stood out as one of the best we have had in a long while. This 1989 is still very dark and young, and I am glad that we gave it an hour and a half to air in the decanter. The nose shows off the purity and power of Cabernet Sauvignon from this hallowed area with some of the best dark cassis aromas that I have smelled. In the mouth, the wine is medium bodied, with great texture that has the potential to get even better with more time. The tannins are firm and the acidity fresh- I was very happy to have thick slices of marbled, prime New York steak to act as a foil to this big wine. Our bottle was also layered and complex with a nod to Pauillac showing through in pencil lead hints. Best of all it was super easy to drink despite its size and complexity; a virtue that only wines of great breed have.

-Gary Westby, K&L



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