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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 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

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1989 Lanessan, Haut-Medoc: An Exotic Beauty

Steak and claret- a daring pairing.

Last night, Cinnamon and I stuck to our once a week tradition of steak and claret. I had asked Clyde for a recommendation on the Bordeaux, and he suggested the 1989 & 1990 Lanessan, and I bought both. We decided to try the 1989 first, and Cinnamon decanted it about an hour before we sat down to dinner. Since we are adventurous, she prepared a dry aged ribeye, baked potatoes and peas to go with the wine. So cutting edge!

Our Bordeaux buyer and owner Clyde managed to talk the folks at Lannesan out of quite the cache of old wines, and over the next weeks I hope to try at least all of the ones from the 80’s. More potatoes will have to be baked! Here is what we got:

2011 Lanessan, Haut-Médoc $14.99

2010 Lanessan, Haut-Médoc $19.99

2009 Lanessan, Haut-Médoc $19.99

2004 Lanessan, Haut-Médoc $19.99

2003 Lanessan, Haut-Médoc $19.99

1999 Lanessan, Haut-Médoc $19.99

1998 Lanessan, Haut-Médoc $19.99

1990 Lanessan, Haut-Médoc $69.99

1989 Lanessan, Haut-Médoc $69.99- this is the one we drank last night!

1985 Lanessan, Haut-Médoc $69.99

1970 Lanessan, Haut-Médoc (1.5L) $199.99

1964 Lanessan, Haut-Médoc $79.99

1952 Lanessan, Haut-Médoc $169.99


The meat was fresh and the wine was old- heaven!

The 1989 was in fantastic shape, even though we rushed it. Older bottles generally like some time to settle after shipping, and we didn’t wait. In general, even if they have been in the country for years and come out of a good private cellar, we will wait a couple of months to open a wine of this age. The sediment is easily disturbed by moving the bottles from the store to home, and this bottle was no exception. We lost about a glass to soupy sediment, and ran this part through a coffee filter and set it aside, saving the “free decanted” portion for our dinner.

I am glad that I wasn’t given this wine blind, because I would have missed it entirely. It was an impressive dark color and looked quite young in the glass. The bouquet had an amazing aroma of lavender in it, and that combined with a warm earthiness made it a dead ringer for old fashioned Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Since my experience has taught me that first impression is always the most accurate when tasting blind, I would have blurted out Châteauneuf-du-Pape… And been dead wrong! The seamless, medium bodied texture of the wine was all claret, and it lead into a mineral strewn, lively, long finish.

I have often heard the term “exotic” applied to the very warm and ripe 1989 vintage, and now I know why. This is a truly exotic Bordeaux, but without the excess baggage of alcohol, wood and clumsy thickness that one usually has to endure to get that exoticism. If you have occasion to drink an a special bottle of claret, this is a great candidate!  More Lanessan notes to come!

Gary Westby


City boys head to the Central Coast

Every now and then they let us out of the store to enjoy the perks of this business, visiting the wineries that produce the great wines that we sell. Three of my colleagues and I will be spending the next three days tasting wines, walking vineyards and talking to the winemakers. We are very fortunate to be visiting some great properties: Ridge Vineyards, Mount Eden, Pisoni and Rosella's Vineyards and Talbott are just a few of the wineries we will spend time at. Look for updates by the all of us with pictures and notes on the wines we tasted.


Champagne Summit 2014: The Vintage Wines Part 1


The 1999's are drinking spectacularly well as a group, and the Billecart is a gorgeous example!

As I promised last week, this Champagne Friday I am going to review some of the vintage wines in current release that we tasted at our Champagne Summit. This is a good time to be drinking Champagne, as a honeymoon with climate change has blessed the region with many good vintages, and more declarations of vintage wine than at any other time in history. Since this is a big project, I am going to break it down into pieces, starting this week with 1999-2003. I don’t like to pigeon hole vintages or over generalize, so I’ll start with a quick overview, and then give examples from each to flesh it out:

1999: A vintage that seemed light in the beginning, but now has a lot to offer. This was a large harvest with good ripeness and excellent consistency. This is our most ready-to-drink vintage in general, and most of our best tasting vintage Champagne for today comes from this harvest.

1999 Billecart-Salmon "Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart" NFB Brut Champagne $99: This Champagne is composed of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay and is 1/3 barrel fermented. It is aged for three years on the lees and is dosed at a tiny 3g/l of sugar. It has a pretty white gold color and an incredible bouquet of cream, high quality toast and even some nutella. It is rich Champagne with plenty of texture, but the very low dosage snaps it right into focus. It has all the complexity one could ask for in a Champagne.

1999 Thiénot "Cuvée Alain Thiénot" Brut Champagne $99: This classy vintage Champagne is composed of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir. Like all of the Thiénot vintage wines, this bottling is entirely estate grown from the family's nearly seventy acres of vines. The Alain Thiénot has so much aroma that I thought it would be a giant Champagne from smelling the walnut bread and dark cherry fruit that was jumping from the glass. On the palate this is a very balanced wine with great clarity of flavor and a light bead. The long aging of this Champagne has done so much for it--to think that the most famous names in Champagne are selling wine that is four or even 6 years younger shows Thiénot's commitment to quality in the bottle. It is extremely focused and long on the finish and a must-try for anyone who loves luxury cuvées.

The 1999 Alain Thienot is far to elegant of a wine to drink on a checkered tablecloth, but we did it anyway!

2000: A difficult vintage, with lots of spring and summer storms that (like in Bordeaux) was saved by good weather at the end. A lot of folks in the trade, myself included, thought that it was a cynical declaration and that producers were cashing in on the millennium. Luckily, I was wrong, and these broad shouldered, softer wines offer a lot of enjoyment for the present and the near future.

2000 Charles Heidsieck Brut Champagne $89.99: This wine is composed of 58% Pinot Noir and 42% Chardonnay and is no doubt the toastiest, broadest, most “English style” Champagne in stock at K&L. This big, leesy, impressive bottle has a ton of flavor to offer! It is interesting how every magazine reviewer has a different varietal breakdown in their notes… I got mine from the tech sheet that the winery generated, but this wine is more about toast than it is about Pinot or Chardonnay!

The toastiest Champagne at K&L!

2001: A rained out vintage, where the average potential alcohol for the region only reached 8.6%. A lot of producers call this the worst harvest in a generation. It is very rare to see any vintage dated wine from this harvest. Our friends at De Meric passed on the entire harvest and made no wine in 2001… It was that bad! That being said, some very good non-vintage wines were made… The 2001 based Krug Grand Cuvee is the CEO of Krug’s favorite, but it pre-dates the Krug ID, so finding it is next to impossible.

2002: A powerful, concentrated vintage that has both ripeness and structure. This was one of my first few vintages that I tasted as vin-clair, and the growers were reticent at the time about declaring it great… The Champenois are a different breed than the Bordelais, who declare everything that is not completely washed out “the vintage of the century”! That being said, looking back at my notes, many producers made a lot of vintage dated wine and weren’t afraid to say so. The Ariston’s, who in a normal “vintage” year make 12,000 bottles of vintage, made 20,000 bottles in 2002.

A decadent Champagne with a decadent package!

2002 Piper-Heidsieck "Cuvée Rare" Brut Champagne $144.99: This is the top of the line wine from Piper-Heidsieck and may be the greatest tête-de-cuvée Champagne that you have not tried. It is composed of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir and vinified in stainless steel tanks with full malolactic. This is one of the last 2002's on the market, as most houses sell much younger Champagne even for the top of their range. This was a vintage of both great concentration and finesse, and the Rare shows this. It is a very finely balanced, elegant wine with great length. This wine is drinking great now, but judging by how well bottles from the 1980s taste, it will continue to improve for decades to come.

2002 Ayala "Perle d'Ayala" Brut Champagne $129.99: This was a big favorite from the staff Champagne summit, and was finer and higher toned than most of the rich 2002’s. It had an excellent bouquet, with both wonderful chalk and baguette like toasty aromas. In the mouth it was a fresh, electric wine with a very long finish. This is a class act! It is composed of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, entirely from Grand Cru vineyards and has been aged for 11 years on the lees. It is very dry at just 6 grams per liter of dosage. This house has been missing from the US market for a while, but with Bollinger’s purchase of it in 2005, it is a house to watch.

One of our favorites of the tasting, this elegant 2002 is a great choice for fans of precision.

2003: I used to call the 2003 vintage “The end of the honeymoon with global warming”, but the good times have returned for now. This vintage was precocious, and the heat in the spring caused very early budding. Unfortunately, frost struck with a vengeance, and 2/3 of the entire Chardonnay crop was destroyed over night. The intense heat of the summer made for the earliest harvest in more than 100 years, and many people in France died in the heatwave. To top it all off, local hail was strong enough to kill some vineyards outright… The Ariston’s lost some of their oldest vines in one of these storms. The wines are uniformly oversized and lacking in acid. It surprised me how many producers declared vintage wines, but luckily most are gone from the market now. Some exceptions exist, and for those looking for big style Champagne, the 2003’s deliver size in spades. We didn’t taste any for the summit.

Next week, I hope to at least get through the 2004’s… There is so much to crow about when it comes to Champagne from that vintage!


A toast to you!

Gary Westby


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