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Bruno Michel "Blanche" Brut Champagne $34.99One of our best non-vintage Champagnes, this organically grown blend of half each Chardonnay and Meunier comes entirely from Bruno Michel's estate. It has been aged for six years on the lees and shows wonderful natural toasty quality as well as incredible vibrance! This was the big hit of our most recent staff Champagne tasting and we think you will love it too.

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Entries in food and wine pairing (17)

Wednesday
Oct102012

Food & Wine Pairings: Short Ribs & Nebbiolo

By: Gary Westby | K&L Wine Buyer

Nebbiolo Dinner

With fall here, Cinnamon decided to make our short ribs from the ½ steer that we bought from Fred Manas and Manas Ranch. That inspired me to brush up on the wines of Piemonte- specifically the great Nebbiolos from this rightly famous wine region. As you will see in today's video, Greg St. Clair, K&L's Italian Wine Buyer recommended a great pair of Langhe Nebbiolos to go with this extremely rich dish.

Because of the heady power and slow developing nature of these wines, the steps that you take at home with these bottles to improve your experience make all the difference. The size of these wines lends themselves to drinking a bit cool- just over cellar temperature. They also need a lot of time to open up, so decant well in advance of drinking. I put our two wines into carafes 2 ½ hours ahead of time, and the Ruggeri didn't show at 100% until the second half of the bottle! Glassware also makes a big difference. The Burgundy/Pinot Noir glass is the way to go for these wines.

2010 Ruggeri Corsini Nebbiolo Langhe ($17.99)The 2010 Ruggeri Corsini Langhe Nebbiolo ($17.99; K&L Direct Import) was poured first- which was a mistake. This is Nebbiolo at its purest, with aromas of meat, tar and roses. It took a long time to open up- we decanted it way ahead, but it was only after 3 hours that it really started to show. This is incisive wine and a perfect partner to short ribs. The high acidity and tannin in this bottle will be great with all manner of braised meats, but certainly not a bottle to have by itself in front of the TV. The light color is very deceiving- this is a powerhouse. At the end of the meal the understated class of this wine showed through… It was delicious!

The 2006 Aldo Conterno  "Il Favot" Langhe Nebbiolo ($26.99; K&L Direct Import) took me completely by surprise. This dark, almost thick red shows a lot more oak and extraction than wines that I generally enjoy, but it fit the fruit so well that I loved it. I just bought a case for the cellar! Taming the Nebbiolo beast with a few modern winemaking techniques is not such a bad thing- this wine was still all Piemonte, and very identifiably Nebbiolo, as a matter of fact, this journeyman Italian taster would have guessed Barolo rather than Langhe due to the high level of polish and care that went into this wine. The Conterno managed to have sweet black berry fruit to balance out the meaty tannin and finished long and fine.

Italian wine must be enjoyed with food in order to fully appreciate it. The short rib recipe that we paired with these Nebbiolo’s comes from Cinnamon’s mom, Margaret. It was adapted from a Sunset magazine article. It really makes a big difference to use homemade beef stock, luckily, our ½ cow came with plenty of bones!

Margaret's Short Ribs Recipe (Adapted from Sunset Magazine)

Ingredients:

4#s boned, fat-trimmed beef short ribs (I always just use bone in and remove the fat after cooking)

1 orange (With vegetable peeler, pare orange part of peel from orange and sliver it)

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

About 1 cup beef stock

1 cup dry red wine

½ cup port or cream sherry (I use port)

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

2TBS soy sauce

1tsp dried thyme or 2 tsp fresh thyme (I use fresh)

3 or 4 very thin slices (quarter size) peeled fresh ginger

½ tsp Chinese five spice

1# mushrooms

2TBS butter or olive oil

2TBS cornstarch

Salt and Pepper

¼ cup chopped fresh chives

Preparation:

  1. Rinse meat and place in a 5-6qt slow cooker
  2. Cut mushrooms in half lengthwise and place in a 10-12inch frying pan; add butter

 Enjoy the Nebbiolo!

–Gary  

 

 Check out more educational wine and spirits videos from Gary and the experts at K&L on YouTube!

Friday
Sep072012

Champagne Friday: Pierre Paillard Mother Vines

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Pierre Paillard Mother Vines

How often can a Champagne lover taste a great growers two best plots, both individually and then blended together- and all as finished wines? For this Champagne lover, I have only done it once, with the Pierre Paillard Acte 1 Blanc de Blancs, Acte 1 Blanc de Noirs and 2002 Grand Cru Brut Vintage. Some good friends of ours had come over for dinner on Sunday, and we had a little bit of each one with some appetizers that I had made. We stoppered up the three bottles and drank them again with sushi on Wednesday. The stoppers did an excellent job and I will open way more than necessary for many occasions to come! 

The Paillard family has 11 hectares total, all in the grand cru village of Bouzy. They choose to propagate their own massal selections for all of their plantations, and do not use any commercial clones. When Antoine & Quentin Paillard got involved with the family business, the first thing they decided to do was make two wines from the two “mother plots” that they propagate the new vines from. The idea is to make them every year as single varietal, single vineyard, and single harvest wines, numbered in series. The first releases are just now out, and are both based on 2007, and are serialized as “Acte 1”. The 2008 will be labled as “Acte 2” and so on from there.

The 0.8 acre Motellettes is the site for the Pierre Paillard "Acte 1" Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($49.99) and was planted to Chardonnay in 1961. Like other great mountain of Reims Chardonnays that I have had, this wine has a touch of white stone fruit flavor to balance out the chalky minerality and haunting texture. It is great Champagne, subtle, complex and worth coming back to in order to get to know. The wine is dosed at only 8 grams per liter and comes across as very dry. I served it with popcorn with grated parmesan, drizzled with white truffle oil and sprinkled with fleur de sel. This was a good pairing for it and brought out the creamy elements in the wine. With the sushi, it was the most flexible wine of the three and went great with the embarrassing rolls that I like to order.

Pierre Paillard "Acte 1" Grand Cru Blanc de NoirsThe Maillerettes plot for the Pierre Paillard "Acte 1" Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs Champagne ($49.99) is also just 0.8 acres and was planted to Pinot Noir in 1970. It is very powerful, dry Pinot Champagne also at 8 grams per liter of dosage. I find it to have black cherry Pinot flavor married to a chalky cut that is all Champagne. This bottle really shined with potato chips topped with crème fraiche and smoked salmon, bringing out the savory elements of this top class Pinot Noir Champagne. With the sushi it went best with the fish, we had salmon again and hamachi. This is very, very serious, very great Champagne.

2002 Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut VintageBoth the Maillerettes and the Motellettes are blended together in equal proportions for the 2002 Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Vintage Champagne ($59.99 in 750); ($119 in magnum). The extra five years of ageing given to marry these exceptional plots makes for something very special. The great 2002 vintage is no doubt also beneficial to the end result: one of the greatest Champagnes in stock at K&L at any price. On Sunday I served this with a piece of simply prepared wild pacific salmon. My attempt to make a popcorn crust (and thus tie together the two previous courses as the vineyard sites are tied together) failed miserably- the popcorn refused to be chopped into anything I could use as a crust! I guess I need to stick to the wine business! Pairing Champagne from Bouzy with wild salmon is about as inventive as serving claret with steak, but classics are classics for a reason. With the sushi, I found the 2002 to be a great all around bottle, but it really had synergy with the spicy tuna roll and the avocado maki. It will also make a fine foie gras Champagne if you live in a state where it is still legal.

I hope that you will try these fantastic wines, as they are in the top class of what is available in Champagne. Many of you enjoyed the regular brut in the K&L Champagne Club, and I promise that these bottles are a worthy progression from there.

A toast to you!

–Gary

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Check out more educational wine & spirits videos from the experts at K&L on YouTube!

Friday
Aug242012

Champagne Friday: Pairing Champagne and Fish

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Champagne Dinner at the Fish Market

Nothing is more fun for a Champagne fan than to create a whole menu to pair with our favorite bubbles. I have enjoyed dinners like this with many of you, sometimes even at your homes! Last week I dreamed up a salmon-themed menu at home to go with older Champagne for the K&L Champagne team of Scotty, Mari & Kyle. This week, I put together a paired dinner with my friend Henry Hiatt at the Palo Alto Fish Market and it was a great success. I hope that next week I can encourage all of you Champagne fans to do the same on a big or small scale, and share a picture or two with me.

There are a few guiding principles to pairing Champagne, but that being said, it is one of the best wines on the planet for its ease of pairing, and there are very few pitfalls when combining Champagne with food. This is in stark contrast to the two most popular categories of still wine at K&L: rich Cabernet (which only really goes with steak) and rich, oaky Chardonnay (which I am still looking for a pairing for- my old colleague used to joke that cigarettes were the pairing).

Bruno Michel Premier Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs ($39.99) Champagne was at the bottom of the ocean 300 million years ago, and the chalk soil that makes the wine so great is littered with shellfish fossils. This connection to the ocean makes Champagne a natural with seafood, and shellfish in particular. Shellfish has a tendency to make whatever wine that is paired with it taste sweeter than it is, so often Champagnes that might seem austere on their own really shine when paired with them. I love drinking extra bruts and very dry blanc de blancs with oysters, scallops & crab in particular. On Wednesday we did two pairings like this that you can see in the video segment: the Bruno Michel Premier Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($39.99) with Kumamoto oyster’s from Humboldt and the Franck Bonville "Belles Voyes" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($67.99) with a crab and avocado salad. The Bruno Michel comes from a very cold site in Pierry, and although not an extra brut, it is still one of the driest blanc de blancs that we have. It went fantastically well with the oysters, cutting the richness and highlighting their saline, savory quality. The Belles Voyes richer side was brought out by the crab, and showed how much weight palate weight that wine hides over its long impression on the mouth.

2002 Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Vintage Champagne ($59.99) Spicier foods show better with more open knit Champagne. I love to pair Pinot Noir based Champagne with dishes that pop with spice and tang. At the Fish Market we had saffron prawns in a tomato based sauce with the 2002 Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Vintage Champagne ($59.99). This richer wine has time on its side at 10 years old, and really opened to show the black cherry chalk that only the village of Bouzy has to offer. A few of the staff commented on how much brighter this bottle shined than the one in the staff tasting… Nothing beats a great dish as a foil. We were then treated to a bottle of 1995 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses Brut Champagne from Keith, our Burgundy buyers cellar, which also had the Pinot punch for the savory sauce. What a treat!

For the main course, Dijon crusted tilapia, we went with an older Champagne from the cellar. Although tilapia itself is quite delicate, the panko and mustard crust offered up quite a bit of flavor. The 1996 Leclerc Briant "Cuvée Divine" Brut Champagne is a blend of half and half Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Pascal Leclerc’s entirely bio-dynamic vineyards that are now owned by Roederer. This wine showed a touch of the truffle and butter flavors that really seemed to baste and add richness to the dish. It was the favorite pairing of the night for a few of my colleagues.

2006 Michel Loriot "Pinot Meunier Vieilles Vignes" Brut Champagne ($49.99) One category of Champagne that we did not pair on this occasion is the Meunier based wines of the Western Valley of the Marne. I love the ripe pear fruit and often mushroom-like flavors of these wines with pates of all sorts, especially then now illegal in California Foie Gras. These Champagnes also go very well with savory tarts, caramelized onion and of course mushroom. The 2006 Michel Loriot "Pinot Meunier Vieilles Vignes" Brut Champagne ($49.99) is unbelievable with Parmigiano-Reggiano and trying that pairing with the Loriot family is only the second time that I have ever had a non-French cheese in France.

Another category that is often overlooked is sweeter styles of Champagne. These have fallen out of favor with most Champagne producers and because of that are very difficult to buy. Demi-Sec is often a clearing house for the worst of what producers make, so buy with care. The best of them, which are blended specially ahead of time to make good sweeter Champagne like the Michel Loriot "Marie-Leopold" Sec Champagne ($34.99) go very well with all manner of lighter desserts, especially strawberry shortcake!

I hope that I can inspire a few Champagne fans to play with some pairings. Like I said, please send me a picture or recipe if you find something that works!

A toast to you!

-Gary

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Check out more educational wine and spirits videos from Gary and the experts at K&L on YouTube!