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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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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




"Sherry" style wines from Córdoba

Gabriel Gómez walking through his 8 hectare estate. -Image from Jose Pastor Selections

Perched in the Sierra Morena Mountains, about an hour north of Córdoba, sits Bodega Gomez Nevado on the hillsides of a town called Villaviciosa de Córdoba. While the family’s winemaking history goes back to the 1700’s, the bodega has been making sherry-style wines since 1870 and became the first winegrower in Spain to have their vineyards certified organic in 1988.  With the Bodega situated more than 200km from Jerez, their vineyards do not fall under any of the three D.O. permitted to make Sherry, thus can not benefit from using the term Sherry.  And to be fair, it is different from sherry; the soils are different, the grapes are different, the climate and the winemaking certainly differ.  In the Sierra Morena you won’t find palomino dominating the vineyards, nor will you find the chalky, white albariza soil it grows best in.  Rather you will find a grape called Airén, with Pedro Ximenez as the runner up, heavily planted in clay and slate soils.  The grapes and the soil combined with the harsh continental mediterranean climate means their wines usually get to 15-16% abv without fortification.  Bodega Gomez Nevado takes pride in never having to fortify their wines.  The result is a richer style “sherry” then we are used to in Jerez. The Gomez Navado 'Palido' which means pale, is their "fino” style wine. The grapes are harvested from 40+ year old Airen, Pedro Ximenez and Palomino vines sitting 300-500 meters in elevation, with Airén making up 60% of the blend. The first press juice is fermented dry and aged in a solera system for an average of 5 years before it’s bottled ‘en rama’ meaning it comes straight from the barrel, with very minimal fining or filtration. The first thing that struck me about the Gomez Nevado Palido En Rama Sierra Morena (375ml) is its color, much more walnut in color than the pale finos of Jerez.  The nose is beautiful with notes of roasted hazelnuts and chestnuts, white flowers, rosemary, and a hint of sea salt.  As to be expected it is rich and full-bodied but it still has that bright tang from the flor, only its a more roasted tang rather than salty.  The flavors are much different than traditional finos, full of umami with flavors of extra virgin olive oil, asparagus and raw mushrooms.  A unique wine indeed. It seems they need their own word to describe these wines; while sherry in style, they are certainly different.  

I always stress having food with Sherry or sherry-style wines, because they offer so many potential pairings, especially with those classically hard to pair umami foods.  Considering this wine is from Andalucía, I decided to make Gazpacho de Andaluz, a classic in the region, to go with the Palido.  The key to this simple and delicious tomato based Gazpacho is having exceptional Sherry Vinegar.  I suggest the Sanchez Romate Vinagre de Jerez Reserva (375ml) $14.99 that we get from Alexander Jules. Some Sherry Vinegars tend to be too sweet and thick, almost like balsamic, whereas the Sanchez Romate had beautiful acid and intense flavor.  The richness of the Palido complimented the acidity of the Gazpacho perfectly, while the acidity brightened up the wine. Seafood also pairs really well with the fino style so I added some sweet big shrimp on the side. Both quite brilliant pairings. I’m always looking for local products to work with sherry styles so I couldn’t resist buying some fresh Armenian cheese from the little Armenian shop on my block to see how it paired. Of course the name of the cheese eludes me, but it reminded me of a cross between a feta and a ricotta salata and it went great with the Palido. LA residents, definitely something to try!!


-Olivia Ragni

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