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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 March 1, 2010 - March 31, 2010

Wednesday
Mar312010

Getting to Know: David Driscoll

Name: David Driscoll

What’s your position at K&L and how long have you been with the company?

I am the spirits buyer for Northern California, and I have been with K&L since October of 2007.  I also write a lot for the website and blog.

What did you do before you started working here?

I was teaching elementary school part time in Chinatown while getting my master’s degree in German. 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

What I like to do is hypothetical. What I actually do is clean the house, cook the food, and read up on the latest booze.  I feel I used to do much more, but I can’t remember what it was.  I like to cook Italian food, that’s for sure.

What’s your favorite movie?

Impossible question. I will say that the best movie ever made is Boogie Nights, but it isn’t my favorite.  I wrote a paper in college on that subject to prove this subjective opinion as an objective fact.  I did convince one professor. 

What was your “epiphany wine”—the bottle or glass that got you interested in wine? Is there a current wine that you consider the equivalent?

I don’t understand how other people have had an epiphany wine.  Maybe it’s like having a kid, and I wouldn’t know because I don’t have one. When I first tried Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley and could taste the crushed stones and minerality is when I knew that wine tasting wasn’t a bunch of baloney, but I don’t remember what the wine was.

Describe your perfect meal (at a restaurant or prepared at home). What wine(s) would you pair with it?

I would be somewhere in a small Italian village eating at restaurant that makes 100% of their own produce (raises the livestock, grows the veggies, etc.) and I would drink something out of a ceramic pitcher that probably costs two Euros. 

How do you think your palate’s changed over the years?

Just like every other employee who has answered this question: from big, fruity, silky wines to more obscure and interesting flavors. I think it is human nature to seek out what isn’t just like everything else when you’re constantly subjected to the same old thing. At least, I hope it is for the sake of others. 

What do you like to drink?

Lately it’s been Italian and French regional wines, but mostly cocktails. My spirits bar has gone from 10 bottles to 70 bottles in the last four weeks.

What words of advice do you have to offer people just getting into wine?

Don’t let anything intimidate you, be it a wine store clerk or the lack of a recognizable word on the label.  Be patient and stay humble (and those last two are things that I do not do particularly well).

If you could have dinner with any three people in history, who would you invite? What wine would you serve each of them?

I would want to invite people that I never got the chance to meet and who I know enjoyed a good drink, like my dad’s father, Henry Miller and Charles Bukowski.  We probably would drink the whole time and would end up ordering pizza because I’m not going to cook.  I would shut up for once in my life and listen to these guys trade stories.

 

Wednesday
Mar312010

Trey's Blog: Days Three & Four in Bordeaux

Sunday, March 28th

The easiest day of the trip – the K&L/Alias/Joanne cup is today and guess who backed out. Me. After living in LA for 3 years I don’t handle wet, cold and windy weather very well.

Alex, Kerri, Sanford, Jeff and myself did muster up the energy for a lunch at noon at L’Avenal—our home away from home. We lucked out as Jean Michael-Cazes and Jean Charles Cazes were in the private room in the back with a large group. They opened a 6L of 1985 Lynch-Bages and sent us a couple glasses. Wine was outstanding. If I had some bottles I would open them up and enjoy them now. I think the wine is at its peak.

Foie Gras and Chocolate at Cordeillan-BagesDinner was at Cordeillan-Bages, a Michelin two-star restaurant.  The meal was outstanding. We ordered the three-course menu, which means that we ended up with about 12 courses if you include all the amouse bouche and desserts. My favorite dish was the foie gras and chocolate served at the start of the meal. Jeff G’s favorite dish was the turbot with a tube d’algue et esperge! Pigeon was the main and we had four dessert courses. The meal was great— lots of foam, which isn’t our group’s thing but it worked.

Wines included 1997 Malartic-Lagravière Blanc, 2001 Belgrave, 2000 Siran and a bottle of 1990 Climens.

 

Monday, March 29th

Now the real work begins. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the 2009s will be the best vintage I will have tasted out of barrel. The only other vintage that could come close would be 1995, and I missed that vintage. The wines have an amazing combination of ripe fruit, balance, finesse, power and length. The tannins are ripe, sweet and integrated.

8:30 a.m. – Breakfast with Jean Michel-Cazes of Lynch-Bages

No wine. Perrier to settle the stomach

9:15 a.m. – Lynch-Bages

The 2009 Lynch shows excellent. Super rich, lead pencil, clean and focused. This is one of the best Lynch-Bages I have tasted out of barrel.

10 a.m. – Léoville-Las Cases

Wow! If this is an example of what is to come, we are in for a treat. The 2009 Léoville-Las Cases is intense, concentrated, layered, dark and focused. This will be one of the best of the vintage for sure!

Jeff G, Clyde, Trey, Alex and Ralph at Duhart-Milon

10:30 a.m. – Duhart-Milon

I have never been to this Château, but Lafite was under construction so we tasted here.

We tasted ’09 Carruades, Duhart and Lafite. The ’09 Lafite was loaded with cola, mocha, minerals, sweet raspberry, spice, mint and big firm but ripe tannins. This is one of the best Lafites I have tasted young and this is usually a difficult wine for me to taste.

11 a.m. – Calon-Ségur

Never my favorite wine, but the Calon-Ségur showed racy acidity, red raspberry fruit, sandlewood and good freshness. This wine shows well!

Jeff, Alfred, Clyde, Melanie, Trey, Alex and Ralph at Pontet-Canet

11:30 a.m. – Pontet-Canet

The ’09 Pontet-Canet will be one to buy. Super sweet, ripe and fleshy, this wine is forward and ripe. This will be a wine that will show well upon release and should drink well for awhile.

12 p.m. – Montrose

We tasted four great offerings. The first two were from Tronqouy-Lalande, an unheralded winery making very affordable wines that deliver great quality for your dollar. The star of this tasting, however, was the 2009 Montrose, which may very well be the star of the St- Estèphe appellation. The wine showed powerful fruit balanced by good acidity, all with a streak of mineral and earth. Tasting this wine I thought of the famed 2000 and 1990 vintages of Montrose. (Notes by Alex Pross)

12:30 p.m. – Château Cos d’Estournel and Lunch

This was our first chance to taste in Cos’s new tasting room, which was very elegant and classy, the wine was even better. The 2009 Cos d’Estournel was spectacular, with powerful fruit and sweet elegant oak that had exotic spice notes including toffee and spice cake. Any fan of Cos will be thrilled to add this offering to their cellar. (Notes by Alex Pross)

After the tasting we had a nice light lunch with Mr. Prats. He poured the 1985 Cos d’Estournel, which was drinking very well. Soft, round, forward and lush, this is another wine that I would be drinking now if I had it in my cellar.

2:30 p.m. – Coufran

If you need any further proof of how great 2009 is shaping up, one only had to taste both the 2009 Verdignan and Coufran wines to see how evident this was. Both wines will sell for less than $20 and are sumptuous, full-bodied offerings. I can’t think of a better way to spend $20 on a wine than these. (Notes by Alex Pross)

Alex, Jeff and Ralph at Pichon-Lalande

4 p.m. – Pichon-Lalande

Wines tated here included the Bernadotte, Reserve de Comtesse, Pichon-Lalande, de Pez and Haut-Beausejour. The Pichon-Lalande showed spicy black licorice, red currants, lush, silky tannins, bright fruit and a long finish. This will be one to buy for sure.

5 p.m. – Latour

All the talk in Bordeaux has been that this and another first growth (Mouton) are the wines of the vintage. While we have not tasted Mouton yet, it would be hard to disagree with the Latour comments. It is a powerful wine that shows amazing finesse and a silky texture. 

6 p.m. – Champagne Break

7:30 p.m. – Dinner with Frederic Engerer at Château Latour

We have had some great wines on our trips to Bordeaux, wines that stand out each trip, wines that you can’t forget, wines that overshadow everything else and, many times, will be the one thing you can remember years later. Many of them have been from Château Latour. We had a pleasant dinner that started with a bottle of 1985 Salon. Our palates were fresh and ready to go. But Frederic likes to play with our minds, so he serves the wines blind and enjoys making us guess. Alex came very close on the first round. Our hint was that they were consecutive vintages.  He guessed 1970 and 1971 Latour. Close. They were 1970 and 1971 Les Forts de Latour. Tonight the ’71 was showing better than the ’70. It was fresh, powerful and rich. Both were very much alive but the ’70 showed a tad flat. Round two was 1970 and 1971 Latour. Wow! The ’70 is a great wine that is still fresh and vibrant. The ’71 is very much alive. The fact that we were drinking this wine at Latour I think played a big role. This wine never left the town of Paulliac. Ship this wine to the west coast and put it in a cellar for a years and who knows.

1945 LatourThe final wine was guessed by my father. 1945 Latour! A big-time treat, this wine was amazing. It was so sweet and fresh that it was a shock to me that it was ’45. Most of us guessed ’61. It was a very nice surprise and one we will not forget.

Trey Beffa

Tuesday
Mar302010

Winemaker Interview: Sean & Nicola Allison

Describe your winemaking philosophy.

We believe that good wine is made in the vineyard. To this end, over the last five years we have been concentrating on our vineyard management—reduced yields, good canopy management and sustainable viticulture. We have officially entered this year into the organic conversion for the Avocat vineyards. We have been following a non-chemical path for the land and have decided to officially formalise it, and it will take three years before we can label our wines organic. As a consequence, the grapes that enter the winery should be ripe, disease free and tasting good! However, we live in Bordeaux and some would say that the powers up above dictate the weather and hence the vintage!

What wines or winemakers helped influence your philosophy?

Didier Dagueneau, who passed away last year, for his use of biodynamic practices, wild yeasts and generally not being afraid to do things (and look) differently. Sandrine Garby, winemaker at Yquem, for being a fantastic winemaker and such a gracious person.

How involved in grape-growing are you? Is there a particular vineyard site that wows you year after year?

We do everything here; we own all our vineyards and we don’t source fruit from elsewhere. So pretty involved! The Avocat vineyard, which we bought in 2002, is a single “enclos” vineyard. Before we bought it, it had been abused, but after five years of careful viticulture it is starting to produce WOW fruit. It is on an elevated plateau exposed to the elements, and 100 years ago it was a famous vineyard that had been allowed to lose its way!

How do you think your palate has evolved over the years? How do you think that’s influenced your wines?

Yes, of course. I believe it is so important to taste as many wines as possible, from all different regions and producers. The cellar palate is a huge disability for producers. I think our wines have evolved due to our palates, but we also listen to our consumers, who are looking for less alcohol and approachable wines. Studies show that apart from investors, 90% of wine bought is drunk within five days of purchase.

What kinds of food do you like to pair your wines with?

Our dry white with “fruit de mers.” Come to the Bassin D’Arcachon and have a glass of dry Bordeaux /Graves wine with a plate of oysters—unbeatable! Of course the barrel-aged Graves has sufficient enough weight to accompany chicken and pork dishes. I have to admit to being partial to it as an aperitif when I am cooking! The Avocat red is excellent with any red meat, game (I have a recipe for Hoi Sin Duck on the barbecue if any one is interested!), pasta and cheese. However, my view is that there are not any right and wrongs in wine matching—if you enjoy it while eating popcorn in front of the baseball game, GREAT.

What changes are planned for coming vintages? Any new (top secret) varietals, blends or propriety wines on the horizon?

We have planted half a hectare of Carmenère this year—it will be interesting to see how that ripens here in Bordeaux. It was widely used here in the 18th Century. I have another secret, but it would not be a secret if I told you…

Is there a style of wine that you think appeals to critics that might not represent your favorite style? How do you deal with it?

I am afraid that some of the old boy critics would not really like our wines; we are not into gigantic alcoholic fruit bombs and do not use a reverse osmosis machine to concentrate the wines. Reverse osmosis=points with several important critics. We deal with it by finding clients who are capable of making their own mind up about the style of wines they appreciate, generally these clients appreciate finesse, quality and good value! For example K&L!

What do you drink when you are not drinking your own wine?

At the moment we are fortunate to have a collection of Napa wines made by female winemakers. I am part of a group of women, “Women in Wine,” and we received 16 female vintners from Napa in January. So, had a glass of Spottswood 2005 last night—delicious .

Do you collect wine? If so, what’s in your cellar?

Yes, we collect all vintages from Léoville-Barton—one of the good value Cru Classé each year. We also have a few cases of the ’05 Bordeaux from the top Cru, but I think they will go towards college fees. I cannot bring myself to drink wines of this value.

What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing the wine industry today?

There are quite a few! At the moment the strength of the Euro for us is a problem for our export market, we do listen to our importers and try to make things easier for them to sell our wines at a consistent price. Unfortunately, production costs are still increasing here in France, and with the weaker economy worldwide it is tough for everybody at the moment…

The other big challenge for the wine industry is to try and negate the publicity put out by the anti-alcohol brigade. Of course wine must be drunk in moderation, sensibly and socially. Wine is a vital part of the food experience. No one is recommending over-drinking nor drunk behaviour. However, surely individuals should be responsible for their behaviour, not relying on the state to make all alcohol consumption illegal?

What about the French paradox? Why not ban butter, salt, sugar, fat and red meat while we are at it? Let us all eat lentils, rice and drink only water. Whoever thought life should be fun and living a pleasurable experience would be mistaken in this current big brother environment. People have to start taking responsibility for their own decisions (good and bad) and stop looking to Government all the time!