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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 Holiday parties (2)


Top 10 Sparkling Staff Picks and Happy New Year Wishes from K&L

It's still a little early to officially ring in the New Year, but we want to take a second to thank you for your business these past 12 months. We'd also like to extend our wishes for a fun and safe weekend. We look forward to helping you in 2012.

To kick off the festivities for this New Year's weekend, here are the K&L Staff's Top 10 Sparklers of 2011 - just in case you need some last minute sparkling inspiration!

Cheers & Happy New Year,

-The Staff at K&L

 Any Special Occasion Champagne

1. Launois "Cuvée Reserve" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne (34.99) With its impressive old-fashioned bottle shape, this spectacular Champagne from Mesnil is one of the most sought after in France. 100% Chardonnay and all Grand Cru from the villages of Mesnil, Oger, Cramant and Avize - a roll call of the finest crus for Chardonnay in all of Champagne, it is also and Veritas-certified for sustainable agriculture.

Chiara Shannon, K&L Head Sommelier, Redwood City: "This Blanc de Blancs, made from 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay, enjoys cult status in France. The vintage-inspired bottle shape is eye-catching, but what’s inside the bottle is truly brilliant. From Mesnil, the southernmost Grand Cru in Champagne (home to Salon and Krug’s Clos de Mesnil), it has a crisp, mineral-driven nose, with subtle lees and butter undertones and a hint of fennel. The flavors deepen on the palate, expanding to coat the mouth, ending with a long, refreshing finish. It steals the show as an apéritif, accompanied by light, salty snacks, but possesses the depth and complexity to pair with richer foods as well. It is a favorite of mine. I love to give it out as Christmas gifts but always "accidentally" overbuy so I have at least one for myself on New Years!"

2. Philippe Gonet Brut Rosé Champagne ($39.99) Champagne Philippe Gonet is a big favorite at K&L, and this 100% rosé made entirely from estate grown Pinot Noir grown in Vertus, Champagne's southernmost Premier Cru is a fantastic addition to their line.

Illya Haase, K&L Hollywood: "The time has come for me to choose my New Years Eve's Philippe Gonet Brut Rosé! This, my friends, is made entirely from estate grown Pinot Noir. And, did I mention Premier Cru grapes! WHAT?! All this for $39.99? It's a steal. Happy New Year!"

Kirk Walker, K&L San Francisco: "This is classic Gonet, very elegant; with a new twist 100% Pinot! Intense red berry fruit with a floral hint and just a touch of savory to tie it all together. Elegant and intense, that is just what I want in a bottle of Rosé Champagne!"


3. 2004 Ariston Aspasie Vintage Brut Champagne ($39.99) The most focused and elegant from the Aristons, any Champagne lover will be very impressed with the 2004 Vintage Brut, composed of 1/3 Pinot Noir, 1/3 Chardonnay and 1/3 Pinot Meunier from estate vines of 30 years of age. Full bodied without being heavy, it's pretty darn perfect.

Jim Barr, K&L Redwood City: "Lush yeasty, nutty, creamy tones erupt from the glass, while in the mouth you will be treated to an amazingly complex, full flavored, viscous, well-structured Champagne that shows a brioche, sour dough bread quality, yet with excellent acidity. This is an absolutely wonderful Champagne that should not be missed and will be our house Champagne for however long it is around, according to the The Bean. 12.5% ABV"

 Jacques Moreira, K&L Hollywood: "It's all about those 6 years of aging on the lees. Rich, delicious notes of brioche, pain grille, hazelnut, baked apple, caramelized baked apple, and yet, delicate and incredible classy... Need I say more?"

4. 2006 Michel Loriot "Pinot Meunier Vieilles Vignes" Brut Champagne ($49.99) One of the best single-vineyard Champagnes we carry at K&L, from the l'Arpent vineyard, which is slightly less than one acre in the village of Festigny. The vines were planted in 1942 and come from an old massal selection of Meunier. This is Michel Loriot's top wine; he produces only 3,000 or 4,000 bottles in vintages that he considers good enough. Otherwise this juice goes into the other blends. The exotic spice on the nose leads to a surprisingly creamy flavor. It is very full-bodied and powerful Champagne, yet finishes with excellent minerality.

Jeff Garneau, K&L Redwood City: "In the typical Champagne blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, it is Pinot Meunier that is the odd man out, the perennial third wheel. Many of the largest Champagne houses don't even include it in their blends. However, when yields are kept low, particularly in the case of older vines, it can produce wines of stunning complexity. The wines of Michel Loriot, one of our newest grower producers, are all 100% Pinot Meunier. This is his very best wine, wonderfully rich, dense and complex, with a signature spiciness that is the hallmark of great Pinot Meunier. A rare treat, and a tremendous value." 

 Kyle Kurani, K&L Redwood City: "Mr. Loriot has continued to impress all of us here at K&L with his stunning Champagne. His old vine Meunier is astonishingly rich and complex but that richness is so perfectly balanced with notes of citrus and mineral that round this wine out to be something very special indeed. Depth, complexity and freshness all wrapped up in one beautiful glass of bubbles."

Perfect Host/Hostess Gift

5. Ariston Aspasie "Carte Blanche" Brut Champagne 375 ml (15.99) Made of 40% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 30% Meunier, these are the freshest half bottle around, direct from the Aristons in the small commune of Brouillet in Champagne! Clean and powerful, incredibly balanced and sophisticated Champagne, in irresistible half-sized bottles.

Susan Thornett, K&L San Francisco: "Could this perfect half-bottle of Champagne be the perfect holiday morning gift?"

Sarah Covey, K&L Redwood City: "A teeny-tiny version of the Aspasie classic Carte Blanche? Get me a picnic basket or a seat by the fire! I'm in! A miniature version of the well-balanced, delicious Champagne that we sell by the, well, boatload as it were. Get it now- this is all that is left!"

High Rollin'

6.  1998 Krug Brut Champagne ($219.99) 96 points and a "Collectibles" designate, Wine Spectator: "Shows gorgeous lemon, peach, toast, leather and spices. The attack is rich and forceful, backed by a racy structure that keeps this pure and drives the finish. Perhaps not as expansive on the aftertaste to match the attack, but long nonetheless, with spice and mineral notes lingering. Still needs time. Best from 2012 through 2035." (12/09)

Scott Beckerley, K&L San Francisco: "As a warning, I am just going to let you know that I am pretty biased towards the Champagnes of Krug. I had the extreme pleasure of pouring the 1998 vintage Krug last Saturday (12/10). While it is still L'enfant, it is still a wonderful wine. Lemon curd, peaches, nectarines and apricots on the nose. On the palate, more stone fruits with a hint of golden apple and loads of spice and minerality. This wine will surely go for another 20 years. If you collect Krug, enjoy (or keep) this vintage and hold onto your 1996 vintage Krug."

Fun Party Bubbles

7. Conte di Santa Chiara Prosecco ($8.99) A great choice for winter entertaining, this value sparkler of the Veneto is tasty, refreshing, dry but not at all austere. Everything you are looking for in a Prosecco at a very affordable price.

Sarah Covey, K&L Redwood City: "Bright, light and easy drinking! Want a twist on Kir Royales for your party? Use the Conte Di Santa Chiara Prosecco with the Mathilde Cassis Liqueur and your party will be bright and sparkly too! In addition to being fun on its own, a truly delicious Prosecco for New Year's Mimosas and Bellinis! Let the good times roll!"

Illya Haase, K&L Hollywood: "This is the perfect party Prosecco! I poured this at one of our local events. It was a hit! I kept the price to myself until they tried it. Every single person was shocked that something so good could be so affordable!! Bring some to your next party and watch it disappear."

8. 2009 Antech "Cuvee Eugenie" Cremant de Limoux ($13.99) From La Maison Antech located in the southern French region of the Languedoc comes this beautiful example of Cremant de Limoux, composed of 50% Chardonnay, 40% Chenin Blanc and 10% Mauzac. It is produced along the lines of methode Champenoise and spends twelve months on the lees before being disgorged. At less than half the price of a bottle of champagne, the cuvee Eugenie is the perfect choice for your house sparkling wine or to feature at parties where quality and good taste matter.

Ryan Woodhouse, K&L Redwood City: "Great Bubbly! Antech is one of our staples for delicious sparklers...The wine has a crisp acid but enough fruit and weight to feel richer and more textural than expected for this budget. 12 months on the lees gives some of that bready nuance, but this is really a fresh and fruity party wine. Stock up for your next gathering and let the bubbles flow!"

9. 2008 Taltarni "Taché" Brut Rosé Sparkling Wine Victoria ($16.99) A bubbly blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier predominantly from Victoria, with a little fruit from South Australia and Tasmania. "Taché" is French for "stained" and that's how this rosé gets its color--a staining splash of red wine is added to the bottle at disgorgement. Creamy strawberry aromas and flavors, with hints of toasty brioche and red fruit on the palate.

Adam Parry, K&L Hollywood: "Simply fantastic bubbles. Using all the champagne varietals to make this exquisite rosé. Try this for the upcoming New Year Eve parties."

Maybe Next Year...

10. Tarlant QV Discobitch Champagne ($49.99) A blend of 1/3 Chardonnay, 1/3 Pinot Meunier and 1/3 Pinot Noir made from Tarlant Cuvée Louis reserve wine, this is named for the French electro-pop band Discobitch and only a very, very limited amount is released each year...

Chiara Shannon, K&L Head Sommelier, Redwood City: "I love this Champagne. Not only does its somewhat naughty, sequin-embellished label inspire an instant party mood, but it's damn good stuff - rich, intense and mouthfilling, with creamy layers and a wonderful toasty finish. One of my favorite K&L direct import grower-producer houses Champagne Tarlant has produced a small amount of Discobitch since 2009 as a tribute to the French electro-pop group of the same name whose hit single "C'Est Beau La Bourgeoisie" rocked the charts that year France. It's been my New Years, birthday, and any other festive celebration go-to ever since. Extremely limited in supply, and, sadly, just sold out. Luckily, you can add yourself to the K&L waiting list and be among the first to know when our next shipment arrives in 2012!"


What K&L Employees Bring to Holiday Parties

A few days ago Patrick Comiskey, who writes about wine for the LA Times (among other publications), published a piece about what sommeliers will bring to holiday parties. As the designated wine nerds in our respective clans, and since I figure you're probably more likely to invite one of us to your holiday party than Peter Birmingham (no offense to Peter, we just cover more territory with three retail stores),  I polled the K&L staff to find out what they're bringing to this year's holiday festivities,so you could drink like us even if we're not invited. Here's what they said:

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