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Saber Madness at K&L!

We have been chopping off the tops of Champagne bottles as fast as we can drink them- who needs a stopper when you are ready to commit to finishing the bottle! One of our favorites was this magnum ($84.99) of Franck Bonville Brut Rosé that Mellyn expertly decapitated on Christmas Eve. It also comes in regular 750ml ($39.99) and half bottles ($21.99). Olivier Bonville adds 8% Pinot Noir Rouge from Ambonnay superstar Paul Dethune to his top class assembelage of grand cru, estate Chardonnay to create this fabulous rose. This is one of the most elegant, bright, refreshing rose Champagnes that we carry, yet it does not lack red cherry Pinot Noir authority. We can’t get enough- bring another to the block!

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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.  


Free Spirits Tastings at K&L! Now that we have our license for spirits tastings in Redwood City and San Francisco, we’re excited to host regular free spirits tastings in those locations.  Check the Spirits Journal for an updated tasting schedule.

All tastings will feature different products from the Spirits Department and take place on Wednesdays in Redwood City and San Francisco. 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 Italy (9)


Embrace the Chaos: Italy

K&L Personal Sommelier Online

May 2010

Adventures in Italy: If you’re interested in getting to know a variety of Italian wines, or if you have specific regions of interest, you can create your own personalized Italian wine club through the K&L Personal Sommelier ServiceGet started today!



Embrace the Chaos

Italy leads the world in wine production and consumption per capita, alongside France.  Yet the French make it relatively easy to know what to expect where, thanks to strict enforcement of Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) laws, the system of wine quality regulation based on place that they invented and do a good job enforcing.  Italian wine, however, is anything but predictable.  With more than 800 grape varietals in production, from 20 regions ranging geographically from the foothills of the Alps to the southern end of Sicily, varying levels of quality and constantly changing laws, it's pretty much chaos.

But the chaos that is Italian wine is also what makes it so special...and addicting.  In a world where marketing dollars and high gloss media drive consumer taste, a world that is becoming increasingly populated by terroir-less Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons, I appreciate the adventure and authenticity that Italian wine promises.  New discoveries - wines made from obscure regional grape varietals, in styles that range from the obvious to the bizarre - await the enthusiast at every turn. One must be prepared for disappointment (too much money + too young Barolo = too bad), frustration (Montepulciano is a place AND a grape BUT not the same grape or place at the same time, ok, now I'm confused) and even downright mad (is that Merlot in my Sangiovese?) but you are guaranteed to be wooed, seduced, and fall passionately in love at least once, and that makes it all worthwhile.

Northern Exposure

Riesling? Blaufrankisch? Petit Rouge?

The regions near the northern border of Italy (Piedmont, Valleée d'Aoste, Lombardy, Fruili) the cool climate, Alpine conditions, and Slavic, German, or French language and cultural influences result in lighter-bodied red and crisp, aromatic white wines that are stylistically more similar to the wines of neighboring countries than the Italy we think we know.  From traditional wines made from obscure, regional grapes to modern wines made from international varietals, this part of the boot has a lot to offer the adventurous palate. 

2008 Germano “Herzu” Riesling Located in the hills outside the city of Alba in the Langhe subregion of Piedmont, the Germano winery produces some outstanding Barolo. They also produce small amounts of razor-sharp, tangy Chardonnay and Riesling. Who knew?  Though Chardonnay has been in production in this region since the demand for international varietals began in the late 1980's, Riesling is not common here. And yet, it makes sense.  The steep, chalky, hillside vineyards suit the needs of this noble grape just fine. In the Herzu we have a classic style cool-climate dry Riesling with a nose of lime and minerals, high acidity, intense fruit concentration and a clean, stony finish. Pair this dry beauty with anything from fresh seafood dishes to the traditional Filetto Baciato (a special Piedmontese style of prosciutto) and you’ll wonder why they don't plant more Riesling in Italy.

2008 Blason Franconia In Friuli, just outside Trieste near the Slovenian border, Giovanni Blason produces excellent, crisp white wines and balanced, medium-bodied reds made from the varietals common to the region like Cabernet Franc and Blaufränkisch. The 2008 Franconia (100% Blaufränkisch) has a nose of juicy red berries spiced with anise and herbs. On the palate, meatier flavors come forward, adding complexity to the essence of just-ripe red and black berries. Young, lively and fresh, this red has slightly higher acidity and is lower in alcohol, making it ideal with the famous regional prosciuttos, salumi and cheeses. This wine also complements the traditional Fruilian dish of seasoned boiled pork sausage and turnips known as musetto with brovada.

2008 Di Barro Vallée d’Aoste Petit Rouge The influence of French language and culture is strong in this Alpine region, where Europe’s highest elevated vineyards are planted primarily to Pinot Noir, Gamay and the light-bodied, fruity “Petit Rouge.” Softer and more generous than Pinot Noir, but with more structure and complexity than Gamay, this is the little red that can—and does—make a delightful divergence from the full-bodied tannic monsters farther south. Meant to be drunk young and fresh, the classic pairing is fondue made from local Fontina cheese, but this soft, red-fruited wine has just enough earth and smoky spice nuance (without the high tannins) to also complement vegetarian, pork or poultry dishes that feature heat and exotic seasonings

So what's stopping you? With a corkscrew and a sense of adventure, you can embrace the chaos in the comfort of your own dining room.  Grab a glass, dim the lights, and it's on.


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Winemaker Interview: Pablo Härri

Pablo Harri

Name: Pablo Härri Winery: Col d'Orcia and Ferrero, Montalcino Number of years in business: >25 How would you describe your winemaking philosophy? 1) Total respect of the local influence. The soil conditions and the microclimate of a certain growing area has to be transmitted to the bottle. I hate global wines. If in a wine you don't detect a link to the territory it comes from, it is an anonymous wine without any interest. 2) The humility to admit that winemakers can't improve the quality, just maintain. Especially on premium red wines the quality is made in the vineyard. If a grape is picked at 100 points, a good winemaker can make a 95-point wine, but never 110. What wines or winemakers helped influence your philosophy? See above. The ones that show deep and interesting characters of a variety combined with the territory. Good examples are Burgundy, Barolo and, obviously, Brunello di Montalcino. No names in general for winemakers, but I don't like the colleagues that give a personal impression to whatever wine they make, sort of standardizing them. How involved in grape-growing are you? Is there a particular vineyard that wows you? I obviously love to go out to the vineyards and check the condition of the grapes. It is mandatory during harvest time, because chemical analysis can give you a help, but the taste of the grapes can only be monitored by our palate. The quality of the fruit and of the tannins is really crucial for the wine quality later on, and there is no lab analysis that can substitute for our palate. A vineyard that definitely fascinates me is our Poggio al Vento, it has something mystical/ magical. How involved in grape-growing are you? Is there a particular vineyard site that wows you year after year? I obviously love to go out to the vineyards and check the condition of the grapes. It is mandatory during harvest time, because chemical analysis can give you a help, but the taste of the grapes can only be monitored by our palate. Especially the quality of the fruit and of the tannins is really crucial for the wine quality later on, and there is no lab analysis that can substitute our palate. A vineyard that definitely fascinates me is our Poggio al Vento, it has something mystical/ magical. How do you think your palate has evolved over the years? I don't know if it is my personal story or if it is the general evolution, but I would definitely say that over the years I learned to appreciate the finesse and the elegance of the wines. Years ago I was impressed by big, jammy, heavy wines. Today I'm looking more after a balance that marries power and elegance. What kinds of food do you like to pair your wines with? Difficult question for me, being a vegetarian! With our Tuscan wines that tend to have a slightly tannic/acidic balance I tend to suggest the historical Bisteca Fiorentina, but I know it from what I'm told, it's not a personal experience! Personally I'm quite happy with good cheese or with Porcini mushrooms for example. What changes are planned for coming vintages? Any new (top secret) varietals, blends or propriety wines on the horizon? It definitely is not the moment to make great changes, but rather to consolidate. The only minor adjustment that we plan is to include a small percentage of Petit Verdot in our Nearco blend (that now is Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah). For the traditional Brunello di Montalcino, future vintages will profit from the newer vineyards that have been planted with our clonal selections, with very promising first results. 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? As above. Often critics, instead of making qualitative tastings, make quantitative tastings: more color more points, more tannins more points, more body more points, completely lacking to evaluate balance, finesse and elegance. In the end you have a 99-point wine that is close to being undrinkable, at least you need a glass of water after to osmotically balance your palate! What do you drink when you are not drinking your own wine? I appreciate good very dry bubbles, green Sauvignon Blanc and Vermentino, especially from Gallura. Do you collect wine? If so, what's in your cellar? Unfortunately yes, though I'm getting better ultimately. The result is to have a few 100 bottles of wine that for sure were very good many years ago... This is a dangerous disease: you touch and look at your jewels many times, but every time it is a pity to open it, so you leave it until it's over-aged... What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing the wine industry today? Broad question, more about economics than winemaking! I think that we are definitely fortunate to produce a rare and appreciated wine like the Brunello di Montalcino. It is unique, can't be imitated, and has strong appeal. Wines that have to fight with market and marketing strategies are facing a difficult time.

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The Inimitable Oliver McCrum

Oliver McCrum
Oliver McCrum

The first time I heard the name Oliver McCrum mentioned it was, oddly enough, not by someone associated with K&L or the wine industry in any way. My girlfriend Cecilia, who attended the 30th Anniversary Tent Tasting here in Redwood City last May, asked me about the polite, unpretentious, British man who poured some outstanding Italian wines and had taken the time to share his enthusiasm for them with her. “His name was Oliver McCrum,” she said to me. I shrugged. I am still quite new to the wine biz and was not familiar with him, nor had I ever heard his name around the store.

“I remember your girlfriend,” Oliver said to me last Friday when he came to pour his wines at our store. “She came back three or four times to re-taste.” Cecilia, whose interest in wine usually begins and ends with the drinking of it, was quite impressed with McCrum’s knowledge, presentation and overall demeanor. She seemed genuinely interested in more than just the fact that his wines tasted delicious; specifically where in Italy did they come from and how did he get them. Knowing how Cecilia can get easily bored by wine specs, this was an outstanding accomplishment. I knew I needed to ask my fellow employees more about this man. Mentioning Oliver McCrum’s name at the K&L front counter is enough to make eyes light up. I first asked Jeff Garneau if he knew who this mysterious person was. “Yes, of course. He imports Italian wines,” he replied. He was curious as to why I was asking, and I told him that apparently this guy had been here pouring wine at the big tasting. “Oliver was here?” he shot back seemingly surprised and simultaneously disappointed. “I can’t believe I missed him! There isn’t anybody I would rather taste with.” Others had the same obvious enthusiasm towards McCrum and his wines.

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