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Saber Madness at K&L!

We have been chopping off the tops of Champagne bottles as fast as we can drink them- who needs a stopper when you are ready to commit to finishing the bottle! One of our favorites was this magnum ($84.99) of Franck Bonville Brut Rosé that Mellyn expertly decapitated on Christmas Eve. It also comes in regular 750ml ($39.99) and half bottles ($21.99). Olivier Bonville adds 8% Pinot Noir Rouge from Ambonnay superstar Paul Dethune to his top class assembelage of grand cru, estate Chardonnay to create this fabulous rose. This is one of the most elegant, bright, refreshing rose Champagnes that we carry, yet it does not lack red cherry Pinot Noir authority. We can’t get enough- bring another to the block!

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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 KLWines.com or follow us on Facebook.  

 

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.

>>Upcoming Special Events, Dinners, and Tastings

See all K&L Local Events

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Wednesday
Oct012014

Champagne Friday this Friday: Champagne Ruinart in Redwood City!

This Friday, we celebrate Champagne Friday in Redwood City with Ruinart Champagne, the oldest house in Champagne! Rumor has it there will be truffled popcorn and French films playing on an Ipad to enhance your tasting experience!

Ruinart was founded in 1729, on the heels of a 1728 decision by the king of France that allowed wine to be traded in bottles and thus opened sparkling Champagne up to the world of trade. The wines are made from Premier and Grand Cru fruit, except for the Dom Ruinart, which is exclusively Grand Cru. Across the line these Champagnes are dosed very low- 9 grams or less per liter, and show an element of elegance and ease that is the mark of “the good stuff.” All of the wines go through complete malolactic fermentation and are vinified in stainless steel. Ruinart is one of the few Champagne houses that have their cellars in the original crayeres that were dug by the Romans in antiquity. These 90 foot deep caves stay at 50 degrees year round, and are arguably the best place on the planet to age wine.

Recently, Gary Westby had a chance to interview the cellarmaster of Ruinart for the K&L newsletter. Frederic is a real wine lover, and actually bought quite a number of bottles of California wine before leaving the store! If you are interested in reading it, we have reprinted it here:

Name: Frédéric Panaïotis

Winery: Ruinart

Number of years in business (both you and Ruinart)Ruinart since 1729, so 283 years. Myself, since 1988, so that’s 24 years. And almost 5 years “together”, as I joined Ruinart in May 2007.

How would you describe the Ruinart winemaking philosophy?

I would say that everything is made to preserve the essence and the purity of the fruit, which is mostly Chardonnay. Winemaking is clearly more reductive than oxidative, in order to retain as much fruit flavours as possible. As a result our champagnes tend to be racy, elegant and with a lot of aromatic freshness.

What wines or winemakers helped influence this philosophy?

I think the current style of Ruinart has been very much influenced by Jean-François Barot, who was cellarmaster at Ruinart between 1985. He really pushed to use more Chardonnay in or blends, went for a style with more finesse, culminating with the launch of the Ruinart Blanc de Blancs in may 2001. But let’s not forget that historically, because Ruinart is located in Reims, we have always relied on Montagne de Reims grapes, particularly from its Northern side. The Sillery grand cru particularly, as well as neighbouring villages Verzy, Verzenay, Mailly and Puisieulx, was the base of our very best cuvees. And today they are extremely important for our Dom Ruinart (and Dom Ruinart Rosé), adding a fantastic yet restrained power to the refined chardonnays from the Cote des Blancs.

How involved in grape-growing are you? Is there a particular village or vineyard site that wows you year after year?

I try to spend some time in the vineyards as often as possible during the growing season, but will of course look more closely when harvest is nearing. I have a young winemaker in my team, Amélie, who is currently working on new tools to better estimate the grapes’ potential and not rely only on Brix or acidity.

As far as vineyards are concerned, Sillery is definitely the Grand Cru that we cherish most at Ruinart. An interesting anecdote about this cru: even before the word “Champagne” appeared on our labels, Ruinart was selling a “Sillery Mousseux” (or sparkling Sillery)!

How do you think your palate has evolved over the years? How do you think that’s influenced your wines?

I am not sure my palate has evolved much, because the style of Ruinart wines should definitely not change much. But I guess that with more understanding in winemaking and with global warming we have slightly reduced the dosage levels over the year (typically now around 9 g/l for NVs, and anywhere between 5/7 g/l for the Dom Ruinart), crafting wines with more purity and a more precise finish. And that fits me well; I like all my wines with good freshness and racy minerality.

What kinds of food do you like to pair your Champagnes with?

Since Ruinart champagnes are mostly based on chardonnay, I like to pair them with rather delicate food, where freshness and purity will be found. So seafood comes to mind first. One my favourite match with our Ruinart Blanc de Blancs is the simple tartar of white fish (sea bass for example), marinated with a bit of citrus scented virgin olive oil, and topped with freshly grated ginger. A few crystals of rock salt and some Tilda pepper to finish this entrée and you have a heavenly combination! Personally, I also love Japanese cuisine (and not only sushi or sashimi), as I find its precision and subtle balance of flavours, combined with the use of fresh ingredients, a great source of tasty yet refined pairings.

Are their changes are planned for coming vintages? Any new cuvees on the horizon?

Well we are just releasing our new vintages for Dom Ruinart (from 1998 to 2002) and Dom Ruinart Rosé (1996 to 1998) so there won’t be any change for the coming year and next. The Dom Ruinart 2002 has been very well received, which is no surprise considering how great that vintage was.

And there are no new cuvees in the horizon, I am just starting to think about a special cuvee to celebrate Ruinart 300th anniversary…. in 2029!

Houses like Krug and Jacquesson now have lot numbers for their non vintages, and Louis Roederer is doing large scale experiments with organic grape growing. What do you think of these trends in Champagne?

You mean disgorgement dates for their wines?  Well this is something we are now doing on our vintage champagnes, as we think it is very valuable information for wines that can benefit from further ageing after disgorgement. I do not feel the same for our non vintage champagnes, which are better consumed shortly after release given their characteristics, and that we made in a very consistent style, year in, year out. However, if someone want or needs to know (to manage a stock for example), there is a code on the back label of each bottle and by simply contacting us via internet, we will gladly provide any technical data on the bottle.

For organic experimentation see my answer on the challenges to come.

What do you drink when you are not drinking your own wine?

I drink a lot of other champagnes, both for enjoyment and professionally as I am always curious to see what other producers make. And at home we drink wine pretty much every night, from various varieties, regions and countries. I like to experiment and learn, and tasting is an endless source of learning!

Do you collect wine personally? If so, what’s in your cellar?

I don’t really “collect”, because everything I have in my cellar is meant to be drunk one day. But I have nearly 2000 bottles from all over the world, though my favourite regions – beside Champagne- would be Burgundy (red & white), Northern Rhone (red & white) and Piemonte for the fantastic red wines. There are also a number of bottles of Pinot Noir from California and New Zealand, but they are difficult to purchase in France. And I shouldn’t forget Sauternes and Tokaj, which I am a fan of.

What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing Champagne today?

Definitely the environmental issues. Which means first going for a very respectful viticulture while guaranteeing decent yields and healthy grapes, something the CIVC (the interprofessional body of Champagne) is pushing very hard for the whole region (and not just a few estates to show off). In my opinion it will probably be something mixing smartly the best of sustainable and biological viticulture. It also means reducing as much as possible our impact on the environment, mostly by reducing our CO2 emissions. Champagne has a very ambitious programme, aiming at reducing its CO2 emissions by 25% between 2003 and 2020, and dividing them by 4 in 2050. That is a formidable challenge, and one we cannot evade.

We hope to see you at the tasting- if not, I hope you put one of your own on tonight!

–Gary Westby, K&L

Saturday
Sep202014

The World Championships Are In Bierzo- I’ll Drink To That!

Worlds! The one day of the year the pro's ride for their national teams! (Photo UCI offical site)

Every year, the World Road Cycling Championships are held in a different part of the world. Luckily for fans of cycling and wine like me, this year they are being held in one of the most exciting wine regions in Spain. The events start Sunday the 21st of September with the team trial events, and run all week until they conclude next Sunday (the 28th) with the elite men’s and women’s road races. TV coverage is spotty, but a link to a live stream can always be found at cyclingfans.com.

The base for the events is Ponferrada, the capital town for the DO Bierzo. The road courses are tipped to be ideal for an open race- perhaps too testing for the sprinters, perhaps too fast for the climbers. Strong teams like Italy and Belgium will certainly have an advantage, but the world championships are always full of surprises- and maybe one of our Americans like Megan Guarnier for the ladies or Andrew Talansky for the gentleman can pull something special off.

A land of castles! (From the Ponferrada World's Official Site)

The DO of Bierzo was established in 1989, but wine has been made here for millennia, the first written history going back to Pliny the Elder in the 1st century. These wines are a new phenomenon in the US market, and they have been embraced for their freshness, drinkability and excellent value here at K&L. Bierzo is just north of Portugal on the inland side. It sits on the frontier between the warm, dry region of Castile and the moist, cool region of Galicia and enjoys a moderate 28 inches of rain and 2200 hours of sunshine on average.

The reds, which dominate the export market, must be composed of at least 70% Mencia, a grape that is the same as the Jaen do Dao of Portugal. Alicante Bouschet is also allowed, and Cabernet, Merlot and Tempranillo are tolerated as “experimental” grapes for red wine in this region. The roses are allowed to dip down to 50% Mencia. Wine writers used to believe that Mencia was Cabernet Franc, and the wines do bare a resemblance to some of the riper Chinon’s that I have had, with great blue fruit, low tannin and brisk acidity. I think the reds make a good stand in for Pinot Noir on the table- these are flexible wines for pairing with a wide variety of foods.

 

The vineyards of Bierzo. (From the Bierzo DO official site)

Here is what we have from the region, with notes from our Spanish Wine Buyer Joe Manekin:

If the racers can race 250k, the least I can do is take down four bottles of the local wine...

2013 Armas de Guerra Mencía Rosado Bierzo $12.99: Juicy, red berry fruits abound, with a creamy texture that is unusual for rosé wines. This should be deliciously  paired with all the usual rosé inspired fare, as well as perhaps some more substantial foods given this wine's excellent fruit intensity and palate presence.

2012 Losada "Pajaro Rojo" Mencía Bierzo $14.99: The Pajaro Rojo is produced from Mencía grapes in predominantly clay soils west of León. Interestingly, the Losada family believes very strongly in the quality of these heavier clay soils, as opposed the to the prevailing notion that slate based soils create superior wines in the region. Given the high quality of the fruit and a judicious four months in French oak barrels, this is a tasty, freshly fruited Bierzo that seems to have just the right balance of juicy fruit and complexity, all over a supple textural frame. It is a delicious, well made example of a region that should continue to get more attention for its excellent terroir and potential to produce very good, unique reds.

2011 Descendientes de Jose Palacios "Petalos" Bierzo $19.99

2011 Raul Pérez "Vico" Bierzo $39.99: Produced from 100% old vine Mencia vines in the Bierzo sub-zone of Valtuille (the village where Raul grew up and home of his family's winery), this is impressive wine from the excellent 2010 vintage. Given that these vines average nearly 100 years old and the winemaking is as small scale, personal and quality focused as it is, this could be the best value produced from this iconic Spanish winemaker. Some more winemaking details: 30% whole cluster, aging for 9 months in 2 year-old French barrels of 300l, extended post-fermentation maceration on skins for 60 days. This wine typically is dark fruited, spicy, slightly floral and better each vintage as the barrel program matures.

I’ll be drinking all of these this week and watching the racing. I’ll be watching the junior’s with particular interest as my good friend Billy Innes is coaching the team this year. Our guys are in with a chance since Billy is in the car. Go team USA!

A toast to you!

Gary Westby

 

 

Friday
Sep192014

Cheese and Champagne

 

I took a break from sherry this week to drink Champagne! Thanks to our very own Gary Westby, I got my hands on a very special bottle of Champagne.  Earlier this week, with temperatures reaching into the 100’s in LA, I decided there could be nothing better to pass the time than to stay indoors, drink champagne, and eat some artisanal cheese.  The plan was to taste this champagne alongside three different styles of cheese and see which interacted best with each other.   As I popped my very special bottle of 2005 Launois "Spécial Club" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne $59.99, aromas of crème brûlée and caramel exploded out of the bottle making it evident that this Champagne is rich and decadent. The nose continued with toasty brioche, apple pie crust, figs, freshly roasted chestnuts and some slight chalky minerality. The palate is rich, yet there is more precision and minerality than on the nose. It shows hints of caramelized pears and apples, lemon peel and high acid, coupled with a frothy effervescence and a satisfying length.  Launois is one of very few champagne makers that still use old-vine massal-selected plants rather than the more commonly planted clones.  This 2005 “Special Club” comes from 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay, a very special Champagne at an incredible price.

 

For my tasting I picked up three cheese from The Cheese Store of Silver Lake; Délice de Bourgogne, St. Agur, and Livarot.  With three incredibly different cheeses, I began my delicious breakfast cheese and Champagne tasting.  

 

Délice de BourgogneDélice de Bourgogne is a bloomy rind, triple-creme cheese made in Burgundy, that has been well-known and loved by cheese connoisseurs for years.  My only reluctance in this purchase was the fact that I’d enjoyed this cheese countless times before but the cheesemonger informed me that the wheels they’ve been recently getting are more complex; with more mushroom and tertiary notes than usual.  A triple creme is at least 75% butter fat by law, so it’s extremely rich, buttery, and creamy.  A decadent pairing for a decadent wine.  Paired with the Launois, this combination was clean, and citrus driven; the acid in the cheese and the acid and frothy bubbles in the wine worked together to cut through the butter fat in the cheese.  The caramel flavors in the wine softened and sweetened the cheese, imparting a sweet mushroom and caramelized onion flavor to the cheese, while the cheese helped bring out the citrus and minerality in the wine.  Overall, I would say this was, classically, the best pairing.

  

Livarot, Normandy Next, I tried the Livarot  a stinky, washed-rind cheese made from cow’s milk that hails from Normandy and has been protected under an AOC since 1975.  It’s trademark is its orange rind wrapped in 3 or 4 raffia strips. It’s exceptionally pungent, with flavors of onions, crimini mushrooms, and barnyard.  I should warn you, eating the rind is not for the faint of heart, its ammonia characteristics could knock you out.   While I absolutely adore this cheese, the pair was disastrous.  This cheese was just too strong for a soft, rich Champagne.  It overpowered the wine and brought out some unwanted astringent flavors in the wine. It might pair better with something like the Caves Jean Bourdy Cremant du Jura Brut, which has more meaty, barnyard notes. With that said, pairing is very subjective (which is what makes it so fun), and my boyfriend thought this pairing was awesome. Try it for yourself and decide.


Saint Agur, BeauzacSaint Agur is easily one of my favorite cheeses in the world, hands down. It’s a double-creme blue, requiring at least 60 - 74% butterfat, and is almost as decadent as its triple-creme friend while still retaining a slightly strong and spicy characteristic from its blue veins. Even those who tend to avoid blue cheeses can get down with St. Agur.  It’s made in the region of Auvergne, where their economy has long been dependent on dairy farming but may now have some help from winemakers due to their recent gain of AOC status for Cotes d’Auvergne in 2011.  St. Agur’s double-creme status went well with the Launois for the same reasons the Délice de Bourgogne did, the butterfat complements the rich wine and the wine’s frothy bubbles cut through the fat nicely.  But the flavors that came out in both the wine and the cheese were of a fruity quality.  The pairing enhanced the notes of fig and dried fruits in both the wine and the cheese and drew out a chocolatey note from the cheese. This was a superb pairing and easily tied the Délice as my favorite cheese/Champagne pairing.  But, at the end of the day, the Délice wins the gold in classical cheese/Champagne pairings.

-Olivia Ragni

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