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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 in First Growths (2)


BDX Files: 2009 Pauillac de Latour - Absolutely Fantastic Bottle of 2009 Bordeaux!

By: Ralph Sands | K&L Senior Bordeaux Specialist

Hello good friends and loyal Bordeaux customers,  

Things have definitely changed a lot in my 35 years here at K&L. I used to send out a list of my top recommendations numerous times per year to touch base, but with the amount of email alerts sent out by the company I have pretty much stopped bothering everyone. But every once in a while I can’t help myself when I identify a wine of such outrageous quality for the money.

To be honest, the summer months of July and August are the only quiet months here and there are almost no exciting releases from wineries in this time frame as most people are on holiday and not thinking about red wine.  That is why I almost fell of my chair when I saw a wine that I had been seriously “laying in the bushes for” was in inventory. The wine is the third wine made at Ch. Latour called simply 2009 Pauillac de Latour.

Clyde Beffa and I have been tasting this wine for twenty years and loved almost all vintages; the problem for us in getting it in the past had to do with the fact that it had historically been brought into America under an exclusive contract with another importer that we did not have a good relationship with, and that we buy almost all of our Bordeaux direct from the Bordeaux Negociants on the Place de Bordeaux. It became a running joke at Ch. Latour every year when we would taste the wine - that it is really good but we can't buy it and when will the exclusive contract end?! Well, it ended a couple years back and we now receive a small allocation of around 300 bottles per year, and that is all we get. 

Ralph (right) with Clyde Beffa tasting Bordeaux at K&L's Redwood City headquarters.

As many of you are aware, Ch. Latour has stopped selling futures of the young wine. The estate now designates for release vintages of Ch. Latour, Forts de Latour and Pauillac de Latour that they deem to be entering their respective drinking windows. This year those releases are 1995 Ch. Latour, 2005 Forts de Latour and the wine that I implore you to purchase: the 2009 Pauillac de Latour.

My first taste of this wine was at the estate on March 25th, 2010, my notes read: “Zesty and spicy, deep firm Cabernet with lovely raspberry fruit, hints of leather and great freshness." The second time I tasted it was this year was at the estate, on April 10th. My note was only two words: “Just delicious!”

It must be well over 15 years since I have quoted any other wine critic in any correspondence to my customers or other K&L media, but if you need more input, both the Wine Spectator and James Suckling reviews are right on the money:

Limited quantities are availble of the 2009 Pauillac de Latour, so act fast!2009 Pauillac de Latour… $99.99 Quoting Jancis Robinson, this is "truly Latour-like"!

92 JS: Juicy and rich, with a velvety tannins. Full and round, with lots of juicy fruit and meat, blackberries and currants. Classified growth quality. Broad shoulder.

90 WS: This has a smoky lead-in, with crushed plum, lively briar and toasty spice notes pushing through the juicy, medium-weight finish. There's deceptive length, with a lovely silky edge. Drink now through 2017.

The 2009 vintage in Bordeaux is without question the greatest tasting young vintage since 1982 and my personal favorite (although I love my first vintage of 1989 very much). Ch. Latour itself in most vintages requires a lot of cellaring time, sometimes 30-plus years, but that being said, the duty of every great wine is to taste good! This wine is all Latour and a great example of what is also without question one of the world’s greatest vineyards. It is sad to wave goodbye to such a great vintage like 2009, but what a way to go out with this wine! Put a few in your collection and you will definitely think of me when you pop the cork.

Tell all of your Bordeaux loving friends about this wine, and if you are at all interested in this wine, do not wait - contact me ASAP (details below) to place your order or put the order in online. I do not work on a commission.

It will go quickly. Thanks for your time and have a great rest of the summer.




Ralph Sands

Bordeaux Expert

Senior Wine Specialist

K&L Wine Merchants

Redwood City and San Francisco Ca.

1-800 247-5987 Ext# 2723

Direct Line 650-556-2723


Company Website-



Back from the Road: 2010 Bordeaux En Primeur

The cellars at Pontet-Canet.“I’ve always read that young Cabernet Sauvignon is easier to taste than younger Merlot. Now I get it”

–Ralph Sands

I’m sitting at my desk in Los Angeles, having just returned from the Bordeaux En Primeur tastings a couple days ago. I wanted to write at least three other posts while in Bordeaux, but the pace of our trip didn’t allow the time to write daily blogs. Over the course of eight days we tasted about 600 wines from the petite châteaux to the First Growths. This complete immersion provided a solid glimpse into the 2010 vintage. The first thing I took away from the trip was that we are seeing the quality of the wines across the region increase, from basic Bordeaux to the Classified Growths. There are wines in every price range that are good to very good. We are still sifting through our notes for the June newsletter and preparing our Vintage Report, but here are some quick observations.

Margaux is the most consistent of the communes.

Many Margaux châteaux are stepping up their attention to proper vineyard management. Kirwan has a new(ish) director Phillipe Delfaut, he started in 2007, who came from the acclaimed Château Palmer, where he worked from 1996-2006. The first thing he did at Kirwan was map the make-up of the soils in the vineyard’s different sub-plots. There were 29 different kinds of soils, which he is now harvesting and vinifying separately. He also made the decision to pick before the grapes were over-ripe in 2010, to ensure the freshness of the fruit was maintained. Better viticulture extends beyond Margaux's borders, though. For example, Pontet-Canet in Pauillac is certified organic/biodynamic in 2010. They are using a horse to plow a portion of the vineyard (59 acres), and they plan on adding a horse each year.

This was the year of Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Cabernet grapes achieved perfect ripeness, with high acidity lending freshness to the wines.

Cabernet Franc seems to be falling out of favor on the Left Bank. Old vine Cabernet Franc is still being used in blends, but as the vines get older the owners aren’t replanting them, saying they don’t like the fruit produced by the young vine Cabernet Franc. Instead they are planting those parcels over to Cabernet Sauvignon. 

The 2010 vintage showed how important skilled winemakers with knowledge of how to deal with the Merlot in the vineyard are. If a winemaker followed the same “formula” they use every year, then the Merlot turned out alcoholic and overextracted, with high tannins from both the oak and grapes. But if the winemaker did his work in the vineyard and saw that the grapes were already high in sugar, tannins and acid, and were careful not to overmacerate and overextract, then the wines came out fantastic. 

Big bucks for the top growths.

The rapidly growing Chinese market was the topic at every château we visited. Will the American market be able to afford the wines with the Chinese desire for Bordeaux driving prices? It seems likely that the Chinese market will push prices to a level that US consumers, and others, won’t be willing to pay. One négoicant commented that circumstances were much like the ’96 Bordeaux campaign, when the US market’s desire for the top wines priced British consumers out. That is why it is so important for us to travel to Bordeaux, and for us to try 600 wines. We can obtain the overall view of the vintage, realize the regional highlights and discover the hidden gems that any wine connoisseur can afford.

Steve Greer