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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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Entries from December 1, 2013 - December 31, 2013


{Terra Ignota}: Te Whare Ra (TWR) Back in Stock!

I am super excited to announce that Te Whare Ra (TWR) one of our favorite direct import properties is now back in stock after much too long of an absence (thank you government shut down).

Te Whare Ra is a real family winery, Jason and Anna have two sets of twin girls!

For those of you that have not seen any of TWR’s wines before here is the scoop: Te Whare Ra is a small organic certified and Biodynamic practicing estate in Marlborough’s Wairau Valley. The owners / winemakers Jason and Anna Flowerday bought a section of old vines (planted in 1979) in 2003. After converting the estate over to their strict viticultural practices they have been focusing their efforts on making wines with a powerful sense of place, excellent textural presence and wonderful elegant poise. All of their wines are small production and are lovingly hand-crafted. The 2012 Pinot noir is a 300 case production, the Chardonnay for 2012, just 90 cases! We are incredibly lucky to be working with these folks and I really hope people will try out their remarkable range of wines. They have all become true staff favorites at K&L and when you taste the wines you will know why!

Jason and Anna showcasing their organic vineyard with Buckwheat cover crop

Here are the latest offerings that we now have in stock:

2012 Te Whare Ra (TWR) Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, $18.99

The 2012 vintage in New Zealand produced very high quality wines from low yields in a long, cool growing season. This sauvignon blanc is sourced from the Trelawne Farm Vineyard in the Upper Awatere Valley and TWR's home block in the Wairau Valley. The fruit was very gently pressed and is a large proportion of free-run juice. A slow cool ferment was used to preserve this wines bright aromatics and flavors while a small proportion of the juice was fermented in old Demi-muids (large neutral oak barrels) to give added texture and complexity on the palate. Jason and Anna’s notes read: “White currant and passion fruit coupled with ripe tropical and citrus notes from the Wairau components. These follow through to the palate -- which is fine and soft with vibrant, fleshy fruit balanced by ripe, juicy acidity and lingering minerality." This is a fresh zesty SB with great acidity and very exotic aromatics. The wines racy qualities are beautifully balanced by a rich textural mid palate from the extra lees contact and barrel fermented proportion.

2012 Te Whare Ra (TWR) Pinot Noir, Marlborough, $26.99

The fruit for this Pinot Noir comes from TWR’s home vineyard in the Renwick sub-region of Marlborough. The fruit is farmed organically and biodynamically. After careful handpicking, gentle de-stemming (without crushing) the fruit is then sorted by the individual berry! The ferment takes place in tiny one ton open fermenters where it is gently punched down by hand four times per day. The wine then spends 12 months in top quality French oak with 35% being new wood. According to the winemaker this wine “exhibits fragrant notes of ripe strawberry, and cherry with hints of mocha, violets, spice and some complex savory undertones. The finely textured, silky tannins combine with vibrant flavors of ripe strawberries and omega plums. The palate carries onto more savory and complex flavors and finishes with a lingering persistence of fruit, fine tannin and well integrated oak. Bottled unfined and with mineral filtration”. I love this wines balance of exuberance with its juicy accesible fruit along with more complex layers of exotic spice, agar wood, floral tones and deep forest floor notes. A easy wine to enjoy on so many levels.

Jason hand plunging the Pinot Noir

2012 Te Whare Ra (TWR) Chardonnay, Marlborough, $26.99

This 2012 Chardonnay is selected from their 32 year old home block in Renwick. The vines are Mendoza clone famous for its small berries and intense flavor concentration. The fruit it all handpicked and fermented in French oak Puncheon barrels that are 50% new. The Chardonnay then spends 11 months on its full lees adding layers of complexity and enhancing textural components. The total production of this wine was 90 cases. The wine shows good concentration with beautiful rich baked orchard fruits, balanced toasty oak and lovely lees quality punctuated by subtle mineral accents. Really exotic aromatics lead the way onto a complete palate that finishes fresh and lifted.

2012 Te Whare Ra (TWR) Riesling "D" Marlborough, $18.99

Showcasing the winery's old vine fruit which is sourced from thier 30+ year old vineyard. All fruit was hand-picked and hand-sorted before being gently pressed and fermented at cool temperatures to retain the wine's floral aromatics. From the winery: "Lifted aromas of jasmine, fresh lemon, kaffir lime leaf and mardarin follow on to the palate. These flavors of fresh lime juice, lemon sorbet and ripe grapefruit with hints of floral spice are balanced by a fine backbone of ripe acidity. This Riesling is a dry style which has excellent fruit weight and concentration to balance the lingering mineral acid structure. This wine is finely structured with great length of flavor." This is dry Riesling at its finest. Not austere and pithy like some incarnations. This wine has classic Riesling pronounced aromatics and soft texture on the palate but with driving acidity and persistence. Delicate yet powerful, good fleshy fruit but excellent focus. Lovely wine, a real staff favorite.

2013 Te Whare Ra (TWR) Riesling "M" Marlborough, $18.99

TWR takes inspiration from the great wines of the Mosel in this energetic and off-dry Riesling. The long hours of sunshine and cool overnight temperatures in Marlborough lend themselves perfectly to retain the natural acidity ( 9.5g/L) for this food-friendly and dynamic style. Jason and Anna describe it having "lifted aromas of orange blossom, mandarin, lime and white peach follow onto vibrant, ripe flavors of pink grapefruit, peach and lime with underlying slatey mineral notes. This wine is fine and soft with excellent fruit weight and concentration to counterbalance the mouth-watering acidity." I am amazed by this wines balance. It's hard to imagine that this wine has 30g/l of residual sugar but the remarkable 9.5g/l of acidity balances it perfectly. This wine gives the best German Kabinett / Spätlese offerings a serious run for their money!

2011 Te Whare Ra (TWR) Syrah, Marlborough, $29.99

The fruit is entirely hand picked, sorted by the cluster, gently de-stemmed and then re-sorted by the individual berry! A small portion is fermented whole cluster to enhance structure. The ferment is conducted in tiny one ton open top fermenters. A seven day cold soak is followed by 7-9 day ferment and another week post ferment maceration. The Syrah is matured for 12 months in French oak (35% new). This wine is quintessential ultra-cool climate Syrah. Treat this like a northern Rhone Syrah as regards to food pairing and you will not be disappointed. A tiny production wine that we are delighted to put on the shelf. The nose is full of violets and flowers with more serious undertones of cured meat and ground spice. The palate is mid weight with great acidity and silky fine grained tannins. Long and focused on the palate. 

Truly Hand-crafted winesAll of these wines are worthy of your attention. I believe they are as good of a line up as you will find anywhere. Jason and Anna's passion and dedication to quality shines through in all these wines and we are excited to have them back in our stores and online.


Ryan Woodhouse, New Zealand / Australia / South Africa Wine Buyer


 Terra Ignota is Latin for "Unknown Land". It was the name for the South Pacific region during intial mapping and exploration of Australia and New Zealand. As we are going to be exploring new and exciting wines from this region, we think this is a fitting title for our blog series on wines from this part of the world. Stay tuned for more!


Last Minute Personal Sommelier Gift Picks

Are you a last-minute shopper? Do not despair! Below is a list of items I’ve come to love and covet over the year. It is made up of items that are on my “I wish” list, to bottles that I happily keep on hand and gift to those with discerning tastes. The top of my list is, in my opinion, the coolest gadget to hit the wine industry, possibly ever. So whether you're shopping for me, or your favorite wine lover, here are some go-gift picks from your K&L Personal Sommelier.

1) Coravin For the wine collector

To order your own Coravin contact us directly via email or at 877-559-4637

2) Osocalis XO Alambic Brandy For the cognac lover

Dan Farber

Earlier this year a couple of my closest friends, my husband, and I were given the opportunity to visit the distillery of Osocalis, hidden deep in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Founded in the early 1990s, Daniel Farber studied in Cognac after he began making brandy in the 1980s. Based primarily on Colombard and Pinot Noir, the cognacs are distilled in a small, 100-gallon antique alambic still, then aged for decades in Dan's old barn before being blended and bottled.

After six hours and countless barrel samples (including from his original barrel made 32 years ago) we all left with a deep appreciation for and understanding of this classic spirit.  Made with California grapes, but an otherwise nearly identical distillation process to that of Cognac. The XO is a blend of Colombard, Chenin Blanc, Semillon and Pinot Noir. Only 720 bottles produced.

3) 2010 Araujo "Eisele" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon For your boss


Araujo's Eisele is a wine I’d admired in some of my clients' private cellars, but never in my wildest dreams thought I’d have the opportunity to taste, much less visit the famed property. And yet in August not only was I a guest of the Araujos, along with the rest of the domestic buy team, the trip coincided with a visit from Antoine Donnedieu, the US ambassador to Latour. Tasting the full line- up of the 2010 vintage, I was so mesmerized I was almost locked in to the gigantic cave. Luckily (or not) they opened the 25 foot doors and let me out. I tasted the 2010 again at the 2013 Grand California Cabernet tasting in November. The wine is stunning, and I believe with the recent sale to Latour, will become increasingly hard to obtain.

4) 2012 Failla Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir For everyone


Dare I say skip Cabernet as the go-to gift, and consider giving something that is much more food- friendly? Winemaker Ehren Jordan, who worked alongside Helen Turley at  Marcassin, Larry Turley at Turley, and Bruce Neyers at Neyers, started producing cool climate Pinot Noirs in 1999 under the original title Failla Jordan (since dropping the Jordan for legal reasons). Ehren’s winemaking philosophy is to stick as closely to natural winemaking as possible, with no inoculation, fining or filtering. The grapes reach full phenolic ripeness, without being out of balance in the glass. Although just their entry level wine, only 2,000 cases were produced. Made in a style that is ready to drink, this wine will continue to age gracefully thanks to the fine tannins and bright acidity.

5) A Well Stocked Bar For the new homeowner/cocktail enthusiast Cocktail Class

For my private cocktail classes I emphasize how important it is to start all of your cocktails with the best ingredients, which doesn't necessarily mean the most expensive, but as I learned in my culinary upbringing, you’re only as good as your worst ingredient. All bars should have the basics: vodka, gin, bourbon, rye, dry vermouth, and sweet vermouth. If you’re going just a step further include tequila and rum. And if you’re making a Manhattan, you need these cherries, and for an Old Fashioned (and hangovers) you need a bottle of these bitters on hand at all times. Trust.

And some ideas for stocking stuffers…

Somm As you may know, a handful of us have taken the Court of Master Sommelier exams, even fewer of us have passed on the first try. This beautiful documentary follows four obsessed Master Sommelier hopefuls through the process.This has set a new bar for wine movies, and is a must see for anyone that appreciates wine.

Sugar Knife Marshmallows From K&L whiskey aficionado customer turned artisan booze infused marshmallow maker. I dare you to not eat an entire 6-piece packet in one sitting. Cindy and I couldn’t.

A K&L Gift Certificate What’s better than the gift of a monthly, completely customizable wine club? Give the gift of the Personal Sommelier Service to a friend, loved one, colleague, or client!



Collecting Champagne #3: Auction

For my third in my series on collecting Champagne, I talked to Molly Zucker who runs K&L's auctions and Old & Rare department about the upswing in Champagne trading at auction. She had some great insights! My first and second installments on collecting were posted early this year.

Molly Zucker- K&L Auction Director

At the time of writing we have a two bottle lot of 1996 Krug, a one bottle lot of 1998 Billecart-Salmon "Cuvée Elisabeth" Brut Rosé, and a one bottle lot of 1999 Louis Roederer "Cristal" Brut Champagne active in our auctions.

Gary Westby: The press has been publishing stories on investment in Champagne lately. Have you seen an increase in Champagne consignments over the last 12 months?

Molly Zucker: We’ve definitely noticed an uptick in Champagne consignments, which accounted for few lots early on in our auction. I think historically, most people have not purchased Champagne as an investment in the same fashion as Bordeaux or Burgundy. For one, it’s generally ready for consumption upon release (though aging can make it significantly better) so people don’t think to lay it down in the way they might with Bordeaux. In addition, Champagne can be more of an occasion-driven purchase, which increases the likelihood of being consumed earlier on in its lifetime. The positive thing for Champagne collectors that have aged their best bottles, is they will have a smaller pool of competition. With auctions, rarity/scarcity is a huge component in getting top prices and generating an exciting competition.


GW: How about bidding activity on Champagne over the last year?

MZ: It seems that bidders, both in the United States and abroad, are trying to build a more diverse portfolio of wines. When we started the auctions in February 2011, the headlines were consistently about First Growth Bordeaux and DRC. It seemed 50% of our lots were comprised of these wines and little attention was paid to Champagne and other categories. Now there is a shift and people are looking for wines whose price point haven’t been ballooned to the point of ridiculousness. You can get incredible, aged Champagne from the top producers for much less than the new release of Lafite. I think that appeals to buyers who want the prestige without feeling like they have been foolish with their pocketbook.  


GW: Have new records been set over the last 12 months in the Champagne category in the US? Has K&L set any auction records with Champagne?

MZ: We are consistently competitive with our prices, because we have such an eager audience of Champagne lovers. In October, we had a 3-bottle lot of 2005 Cristal sell for $575 ($191/bottle), which is higher than any other auction house and quite a bit more than it’s selling at retail as well. The seller of the wine did acquire the wine on release from the producer (they are a wine fund), so the provenance was perfect. We’ve been doing very well with 2002 Cristal too, with a recent hammer price at $265/bottle. In addition, we’re holding the North American high for 1995 Krug Brut at $301/bottle. These are a few examples, but as you can see, the prices are still relatively reasonable in comparison to Bordeaux and Burgundy prices for wines of comparable quality.


GW: Out of all the categories of wine, what is the hottest at auction right now?

MZ: I would still put Bordeaux in the number one spot, but it’s much less about First Growths these days. Liv-ex came out with their Power 100 (which looks at offering value for money) and put Pape Clement at the top of their list followed by Pavie and Smith Haut Lafitte. Montrose, Cos d’estournel, Ausone, and Pontet Canet have performed very well over the past year and have a strong showing in almost every lot we put up on the site. California wines, especially Caymus, Shafer, Joseph Phelps Insignia and Ridge Monte Bello almost always sell for higher prices at auction than at retail. People just go crazy for them and there’s always a heated competition.


GW: Which category(ies) moved aside to make room for this?

MZ: Lafite and Carruades de Lafite are not commanding the price points they did in 2010-2011 – there’s a lot of money to spread around in other areas now. The market has just shifted away from those wines, and even DRC to a certain extent because of all the issues and publicity surrounding counterfeits.


GW: What do you think about investing in Champagne now for sale in the future?

MZ: I think it’s a very solid bet to invest in Champagne, as long as you’re willing to properly age it in the right cellar conditions. You’ll likely have less completion than in other categories when you decide to sell it in 5 to 10 years, and your input costs will be lower as well.