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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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We host regular weekly and Saturday wine tastings in each K&L location.

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Entries from June 1, 2009 - June 30, 2009


More Paris Recommendations 

Editor's Note: Our fearless leader, Clyde Beffa, left for VinExpo yesterday and is slowly winding his way toward Bordeaux to taste the 2008 vintage wines. He's sending updates on the restaurants and hotels he discovers along the way. If you're planning a trip to Paris, start here. Then, read Clyde's recommendations here, from his last big trip.

Ate lunch today at La Rotisserie d'en Face in the 6th Arrondissement. 2 rue Christine 75006 Paris. Tel. 01 43 26 40 98 Quite nice and not too pricey. Try their roast chicken with heavenly mashed potatoes. Email

Tonight I head to Michelin-starred Restaurant Jacques Cagna across the street. Superb value. Only dinner where my wife, Kay, oders foie gras and I don't. We did the gourmet menu for 100 Euro (four courses, though they served six). All very good. The trotters were sans hooves, just calories wrapped with bacon. Great John Dory and excellent quenelles of bass. Wine: Good news, Daugenau for 40 Euros, bad news 2007 Serge Daugenau, fine. 1999 Poujeaux was heavenly, sweet and delicious. 14 rue des grands Augustins 75006 Paris. Tel. 01 43 26 49 39

Also, try Cafe Laurent  in the Hotel d'Aubusson. It's been there since 1690 and known for its Jazz club. Very American-friendly, fabulous location. A bit pricey but worth it. 33 rue Dauphine 75006 Paris. Tel 01 43 29 43 43. Email

—Clyde Beffa Jr




I'm Going to Make You Like Grappa


In 1999, I decided that I was going to enjoy drinking Scotch whisky. I was entranced by the salty characters I watched every week during my film noir course and, as with many other college-aged, semi-adolescent boys, I was on a Charles Bukowski kick. The men in these stories were hard-boiled and decisive. They smoked a pack of cigarettes a day (something I also imitated, unfortunately) and lived life by their own rules. I definitely wanted in. The first bottle of Scotch was purchased for me by a friend at the local supermarket. It was called Blandy’s and it cost around $10. I filled two glasses with ice cubes and together we poured ourselves a few fingers. He drained his in a matter of minutes, while I struggled severely. This was harder than I had expected.

Certain preferences in life are the result of repetition and pure perseverance. Nobody truly enjoyed their first cigarette, they had to make themselves like it (in fact, that’s a piece of information used to help many smokers kick the habit). Other culinary delicacies, such as foie gras, escargot or even sushi, are not appreciated by the younger, inexperienced palate, but are savored by the more seasoned aficionado. I believe that with practice and increased exposure to the proper influences you can grow to like things.

Every serious meal I’ve ever had in Italy ended with a small glass of grappa and, because of the fond memories these events left me with, I associate grappa with happiness. But it wasn’t always so pleasant. The first glass of grappa I ever drank went down like fire and left my mouth tasting of gasoline and rubbing alcohol. My parents were hosting their German friends Lilo and Dieter for dinner and they had brought it along with them. “It helps with digestion,” they explained to me. It had better have some medicinal purpose, I thought, because it tastes like crap. More than any other distilled spirit, bad grappa can truly live up to its reputation as “firewater.” Even though it burned my throat and made my eyes water, I noticed how everyone else was truly enjoying their small glass around the dinner table. Years later, while traveling through Italy on my own, I was an older and more established drinker looking to experience everything the country could offer. Every trattoria has a locally made grappa on their shelf, whether it was in a fancy bottle or an unlabeled pitcher, and I sampled each one. I was determined to understand what made people want to drink it. Sometimes it came straight, and other times infused with a sweet liqueur. One time while dining with Lilo and Dieter in their apartment on Christmas Eve they mixed it with espresso and we drank it out of a four-spouted friendship pot. Grappa is versatile and can be enjoyed differently in its many incarnations. Slowly but surely the flavors became familiar and almost comforting.

If there’s one thing that tastes terrible it’s bad grappa, and it seems that most of what I’ve bought domestically in my lifetime has been bad. I say this because the commercial bottlings still make me pucker up and close my eyes, even after having developed a taste for the stuff. Part of the reason for this is the quality of the vinaccia - the pomace of grape skins used for distillation. Grappa is technically not brandy because it is not distilled from base wine, but rather the skins left over from pressing. Commercial distillers buy the left over musts from wineries all over Italy and it can take days before the loads are delivered and finally distilled. Quality grappa is made from vinaccia that is distilled immediately after pressing. Musts that are left to oxidize become less valuable because they lose their varietal character with passing time. Logically speaking, winemakers who also make grappa on-site are more likely to have distilled from fresher vinaccia and therefore have more flavorful grappa.

The difference between single-varietal grappa and blended commercial slop is like night and day. That $30 bottle you got at the supermarket probably burns like petrol, but a boutique grappa I recently tasted made solely from the Moscato grape smelled like flowers and fruit and went down smoothly. On September 1st, I will be replacing Susan Purnell as the spirits buyer for K&L (along with David Othenin-Girard in SoCal) and the first task on my list is to make you like grappa. In order to achieve this task I am trying to taste as much grappa as I can get my hands on and only buy the best products from producers who are serious about their craft. Two weeks ago I sampled the Marolo line-up and was very pleased. Located in Piedmont outside of Alba, they make outstanding distillates from Moscato, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo grapes - some are rich with barrel age and others clean and crisp. Some grappa purists drink only those straight off the still, while others appreciate the influence of new oak. I will leave it to you to decide which style you prefer.

Needless to say we will begin carrying these bottles immediately with some available in-store and others on a special order basis with fast delivery. I am confident that our general drinking public is going to fall head-over-heels for our quality grappa offerings, simply because they are rare and delicious. Why should you begin developing an affinity to grappa? That answer lies within you, of course. Maybe you’ve read about it in the paper, seen it in on an episode of the Sopranos, or watched a table full of Italians conclude their meal with style. Whatever your reason, I can guarantee you that whatever romantic notion you dream up, the grappas you find in our store will live up to your expectations (rather than singe your taste buds).

For more questions about grappa or other spirits, contact me at

-David Driscoll



New Beer, Part 2

I told you it was coming. After I recovered from my all-American Memorial Day, which involved a city-wide garage sale, chicken-fried bacon, betting on the horses and a BBQ, I’m finally ready to tackle the next installment of Beer.

Stone Brewing Co. has dropped some new releases on us over the last week or so. Well, to be exact, these have both been released but hard to come by and I finally wrangled a few cases of each. Both the Stone "Sublimely Self-Righteous" Ale (22oz $5.99) and the Stone Brewery "Cali-Belgique" IPA( 22oz $5.99) have made it to the shelf. These are both very limited, especially the Self-Righteous, so get in touch soon if you want a few bottles.

Another recent arrival that has got Beer Fans around the Bay buzzing is the Brooklyn Brewery "Blue Apron Ale" Dubbel (750ml $9.99). This beer was made by Brooklyn specifically for Thomas Keller at French Laundry. The only problem was the batch was too large for Keller to handle in a timely fashion. So the distributor needed to dump some and BINGO! We have the first Brooklyn Brewery beer, that I know of, to be distributed in CA.

The major part of this latest installment, however, will be composed of the last Shelton Brothers special order that just arrived. I’ve had to take over a bit more space in my cold box just to make it all fit, but I’m sure you’re all happy to hear that. Here goes….

Brasserie De Saint-Sylvestre "Gavroche" Bière de Garde, France (4-pk $14.99) A rock solid Biere de Garde rarely seen here in the states. When you absolutely, positively need to get your funk on.

Brasserie Dieu du Ciel! "Rigor Mortis Abt" Quadrupel, Canada (11.2oz $5.99) These beers are quickly gaining a following with not only our customers but also our staff

Brasserie La Choulette Framboise, France (750ml $12.99) An adult raspberry beverage.

BrasserieThiriez "Xxtra" Saison, France (750ml $11.99) One of my favorite French producers, if you are a fan of anthing and everything Saison this will rock you

Brouwerij De Ranke "Cuvee de Ranke," Belgium (750ml $14.99) Easily one of my favorite producers, this is there version of Lambic and it is a perfect summer refresher

Brouwerij De Ranke "Kriek De Ranke," Belgium (750ml $16.99) If I actually have any of this left by the time this e-mail goes out it will be a miracle. I had my first of many bottles to come the other night and it is easily one of the best Krieks I've ever had.

Brouwerij De Ranke "Noir de Dottignies," Belgium (750ml $14.99) The newest beer from De Ranke to hit the US market, somewhere between a Dubbel and a Belgian Strong Ale; dark, malty and mysterious.

Brouwerij der St.Benedictusabdij de Achelse "Achel 8° Blonde" Tripel, Belgium (330ml $5.99) The smallest of all the Trappist breweries and one of two where the monks still brew, this is a rare treat that is getting gobbled up quickly. We actually had the Brune as well, but it all sold the day we did our last tasting. More will come soon...

Brouwerij Kerkom "Bink" Tripel, Belgium (750ml $14.99) A pure triple, earthy, bright, tropical and full of character rather that simple alcoholic heat

Hook Norton Brewery Co. "Hooky Bitter" Bitter Ale, England (500ml $5.49) A perfect everyday beer in every way.

Inveralmond Brewery Ltd. "Blackfriar" Scotch Ale, Scotland (500ml $5.99) Malty with a creaminess like chocolate and toffee pudding.

Ise Kadoya "Genmai Ale," Japan (500ml $7.99) From a brewer that also made soy sauce and Mochi. Genmai rice is used in the brewing process here adding malt like complexity to this one of a kind beer.

Ise Kadoya "Triple Hop Ale" IPA, Japan (500ml $7.99) A Japanese version of a "West Coast" hop bomb, who knew?

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales Biere de Mars, Michigan (750ml $14.99) Anyone that has ever drank beer with me knows my affinity for this brewery. Their latest seasonal release and a perfect puckering sour aspect that makes this wholly refreshing.

Mahr’s "Der Weisse Bock" Weizenbock, Germany (500ml $6.99) Think Aventinus rather than Vitus and you will head down the right track with this one.

Mikkeller "Draft Bear" Imperial Pilsner, Denmark (750ml $14.99) My go to beer when you have to absolutely, positively have the most refreshing Pilsner out there.

Mikkeller "Not Just Another Wit," Witbier Denmark (750ml $14.99) The boys from Denmark have another hit on their hands with their Wit. Brewed with an unusual amount of Hops (goldings, amarillo, saaz and cascade), spices (orange peel and coriander seeds) and flaked oats.

Mikkeller "USAlive" Belgian Wild Ale, Denmark (750ml $19.99) A version of their "It’s Alive" bottling with a more pronounced US hop profile.

Nøgne-Ø Brown Ale, Norway (500ml $8.49) There is something about a well-crafted Brown that really does it for me. And yes it is worth $9.

Oppigårds "Well-Hopped Lager" Plisner, Sweden (500ml $5.99) Do I really need to say more?

The Nils Oscar Company "India Ale" IPA, Sweden (330ml $5.49) With a strong malt base and a ton of Amarillo hops this is like a DIPA without all the alcohol.

Farnum Hill Ciders Extra-Dry Cider, New Hampshire (750ml $14.99) First the Henny’s and now these guys. Cider is the new lager. Crisp and full of kick-you-in-the-shins acid, this better than a cool glass of water on a hot day.

Farnum Hill Ciders Summer Cider, New Hampshire (750ml $13.99) Seasonal and maybe even a bit more refreshing than the Extra Dry above, this has a pinch more sweetness and a broader texture.

Oliver's Cider & Perry "Blakeney Red Varietal" Perry, England (750ml $14.99) True English Perry. Dry, no bubbles and with as much pear fruit as any sane human being can handle.

So there it is. Part 2. In the can. The great part is I’m already composing our next email, where you may find new, and old, bottlings from AleSmith, Port Brewing Co, Avery, Stone, Cantillon and Fantome. Keep in touch.


Bryan Brick