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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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Mature Champagne direct from Moet

The 1995 Moet Grand Vintage made a great aperitif, and partner to paddlefish caviar!

In the world of fine wine, there is no substitute for time. Very few of the great wines of the world are ever released fully mature, from the cellars where they were created- normally it is up to the wine lover to buy the greats young and store them ourselves. We are very lucky that with Champagne, we occasionally get an opportunity to procure bottles that have been aged for us, and the 1995 Moët & Chandon "Grand Vintage" Brut Champagne ($139) is just such an opportunity. It has come directly from the Moet caves in Epernay to us, and just arrived at K&L. This wine is composed of 50% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir and 10% Meunier and was disgorged in November of 2007 after more than 11 years on the lees. With more than a few extra years to rest on its cork, this wine is now completely ready to go, and should last very easily until 2025.

Benoît Gouez the Chef de Cave at Moet, wrote a much better note on the 1995 harvest than I could, so I will quote him here:

After a lacklustre Spring and resultant late – though rapid – flowering, an initially unstable Summer turned out to be extremely hot, and ultimately favourable to vine development. For two months from the beginning of June, rain was rare, apart from the occasional isolated storm. Temperatures were higher than the seasonal average for the 30 preceding years. The cooler September temperatures had little influence on such an extended period of ideal maturation conditions. Picking began slightly earlier than anticipated – September 18th for the Chardonnays, September 25th for the Pinot Noirs and Pinot Meuniers. A moderate, rain-deprived yield resulted in powerful, straight-forward Chardonnays, with remarkably well-balanced acidity. At the first tasting the Pinots were judged fine, stringent, true to form. This finesse was in no way detrimental to the structure and body – which also displayed superb balance of acidity. In the end, the wines of 1995 were ripe, complex, balanced and rigorous, with superb ageing potential.”

Some swear by vodka with this stuff, but I prefer Champagne.

Cinnamon and I enjoyed this wine with Plaza de Caviar’s quite fine paddlefish roe to start, and the nutty complexity of the Champagne worked in tandem with the nutty complexity of the eggs. This Moet has some very nice toasty, yeasty elements to it, but also has some ripe pear fruit and plenty of virile acidity to cut the richness of the Crème fraîche. My ex-sommelier wife, who has always been a better taster than me, called the wine “fluffy” which was a perfect description. This Champagne is in perfect balance, and doesn’t try to hard… It comes off as effortless and light in spite of the considerable complexity that is there if you search for it.

This 1995 also paired well with our pasta with truffle butter.

After the paddlefish, we brought the rest of the bottle to the dinner table to enjoy with some simple vegetable ravioli tossed in garlic, white truffle butter and topped with some old parmesan. While the 1995 Moet works great as an aperitif, the truffle and parmesan elements brought out the savory depth of the wine, making for a real special occasion. As with all great wine, this was a “small” bottle, and was gone before we were ready to stop drinking it.

While it is not cheap, I think that this 1995 Moet is an exceptional value. Great older wine with perfect provenance is not something that you get to drink every day.

A toast to you!

Gary Westby


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