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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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Tasting with Oliver Krug

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

For the complete calendar, including lineups and additional details related to our events, visit our K&L Local Events on or follow us on Facebook.  


Visit our events page on Facebook or the K&L Spirits Journal for more information.

>>Upcoming Special Events, Dinners, and Tastings

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Entries in France (7)


World Cup Match-Up: Uruguay

While South Africa battles it out against Mexico today in the World Cup, the wine world's powerhouse, France, goes up against the tiny South American country of Uruguay. Two-time World Cup winners, the Uruguayans are considered the underdogs in today's game. But when it comes to wine I think they've got the French beat on one account: Tannat.

Uruguay's winegrowing history is relatively short - having been introduced by the Basques in the late 1800s - though according to the Oxford Companion to Wine their per person wine consumption is rivaled in South America only by the Argentines. In the past 20 years, Uruguayan viticulture has vastly improved as less successful hybrid grapes have been switched over to international varieties including Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and, of course, the aforementioned Tannat, which is sometimes called Harriague.

Tannat is a thick-skinned red grape variety that can out-Nebbiolo Nebbiolo in the mouth-puckering tannin category. Its heretofore best known iterations have been southwest France's Madirans and Irouleguys, and since most people are familiar with neither of these, get the point. Uruguayan Tannat is different, though. In the unoaked, low-alcohol and extremely affordable 2008 Don Pascual "Pueblo del Sol" Tannat ($7.99) pictured at left, the variety comes across fresh and juicy, with raspberry and strawberry fruit notes so pure you can almost feel the tiny hairs on the berries tickling your tongue. This is an incredibly easy-drinking, everyday wine that will make you root for the underdogs today, if you weren't already.

The 2007 Don Pascual "Roble" Tannat ($16.99) is a much more serious wine - think Camus compared to the Pueblo Sol's Tao of Pooh - with deep Mission fig notes, hints of tar, espresso bean and Flavor King pluot. It has a richer tannin profile, but it doesn't overwhelm the wine, and the acidity is still fresh and food friendly.

Finally, we have the 2007 Bodega Bouza Tannat ($16.99), which isn't as brooding as the Roble but is more substantive than the Pueblo Sol. Pomegranate and boysenberry fruit dominate, with hints of vanilla from its time in French and American oak. Fotunately the oak treatment didn't add to the wine's tannic structure, instead it smoothed out the Tannat's rougher edges, giving this a lovely, sultry texture. Save this baby for the steaks you grill when Uruguay plays South Africa on June 16th.

Leah Greenstein


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!



A Shift to Even Drier Champagne, Officially

Ever since Champagne was first made to sparkle, the trend has gone in one direction- from sweeter to drier. This trend has caused a strange progression of names for the styles, since every time the Champenois brought a drier category of Champagne to market they thought that it would be the last and the driest. Starting in 2011, we may have indeed reached the end of the road for dry styles with the addition of Brut Nature to the list of officially regulated styles.

The first Champagnes were very, very sweet, and it was only the will of the export market, and mostly the English, that pushed the Champenois to make drier and drier wines. That is why the names of the styles are so confusing… When the market first asked for drier wines, the Champenois responded with Demi-Sec (translation- half dry), when they asked for drier than that, they offered sec (dry) which was still quite sweet, when the market asked for drier still they responded with Extra Dry… This occurred slowly over 150 years, and the Champenoise almost ran out of words, but the market did not run out of passion for even drier Champagne. When they asked for drier than extra dry, the Champenois created Brut. That last name has stuck quite well, and only recently has the trend pushed further forward, and extra brut was born. Here are the current legal definitions of the styles:

Extra Brut: 0-6 grams of sugar per liter. (all of the non dosage Champagnes are currently legally extra bruts)

Brut: 0 to15 grams per liter of sugar

Extra-Sec (extra dry): 12 to 20 grams per liter of sugar

Sec (dry): 17 to 35 grams per liter of sugar

Demi-Sec (half dry): 35 to 50 grams per liter of sugar

Doux (sweet): over 50 grams per liter of sugar

The trend is now pushing even further, and starting on the first of January 2011, the regulations will change for the drier for Brut Champagne. This is mostly the law conforming to existing reality, as very few Champagnes are labeled Brut with over 13 grams of sugar- but the new regulation has formalized the trend. There is also a new official category, Brut Nature, which has been around for quite a while in practice but is also now formal. Here are the ranges as of January 1st 2011:

Brut Nature: No added Dosage and less than 3 grams per liter of natural residual sugar.

Extra Brut: 0 to 6 grams per liter sugar

Brut: Less than 12 grams per liter sugar

Extra Sec (Extra Dry): 12 to 17 grams per liter sugar

Sec (Dry): 17 to 32 grams per liter sugar

Demi Sec (Half Dry): 32 to 50 grams per liter sugar

Doux (sweet): more than 50 grams per liter sugar

I hope that you will join me in finding many reasons to raise a glass of Brut, Extra Brut, Demi-Sec and Extra dry this holiday season!

Gary Westby