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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 K&L (9)


Trey's Blog: Day Two in Bordeaux

Jeff Garneau tasting at MedocaineSaturday, March 27

Today was the second easiest day of the trip. We arrived at Compagnie Medocaine at 11 a.m. and had a quick, easy tasting of a few ’06s and ’07 Petite Chateaux.

3 p.m. – Château Labegorce

We have had some luck with the older vintages of Labegorce lately. We sold a bunch of 1997 and 1999, both in 750ml and 1.5L bottles. The tasting included the ’09 and ’08, as well as the 1996 and 1998 through 2003. I think the 2003 was the group’s favorite overall. The wine has a ton of ripe fruit, and now it has had a few years in the bottle for everything to come together. I think the combination of the style of the winery and the vintage made for a good combo. Look for this wine to show up on our shelves in the coming months!

Pichon Lalande (taken from Pichon-Baron early in the morning)6 p.m. – Château Pichon-Baron

This was our first tasting of multiple ’09s. We ran through the following wines:

2009 Pibran – Shows very well; ripe, clean fruit, bright, fresh, hints of licorice, good wine.

2009 Les Tourelles – Nice texture, velvety, pleasant.

2009 Pichon-Baron – A blend of 67% Cabernet and 33% Merlot. Big, concentrated wine with a seamless mid palate, intense fruit and integrated tannins. Well-balanced with a long spicy finish; tastes good now.

2009 Jardin Petit-Village – 100% Merlot. Second wine of Petit-Village. Bright, sweet fruit, forward, tiny production (fewer than 750 cases).

2009 Petit-Village – Very aromatic, integrated oak, ripe, sweet tannins, great balance and depth of fruit. Excellent wine.

2009 S de Suduiraut – The dry white from Suduiraut. Fruity, seems slightly sweet.

2009 Suduiraut – Big, rich and intense, very nutty in the nose; dark, deep flavors, 93% Sémillon, 7% Sauvignon Blanc.

The ’09s really impressed us. They showed a ton of sweet ripe fruit with plenty of acidity, balance and length. We also tasted the same wines from the 2008 vintage.

Clyde Beffa and Jean Rene at Pichon-Baron8 p.m. – Dinner at Pichon-Baron with winemaker Jean Rene Mattignon

Dinner at Pichon-Baron is always early on in the trip, and so we usually are feeling pretty good and fresh for the dinner. It can, and usually does, get a bit loud. Our whole group was there: Alex Pross, Jeff Garneau, Mark Levin, Clyde Beffa, Sanford Rich, Kerri Beffa, Ralph Sands (and me). We started off with a magnum of Krug., which was gone before everyone even showed up. The Krug was followed by several bottles of Bruno Paillard. Tough to drink the Bruno Paillard after the Krug, but somehow we managed to survive.

The wreckage from dinnerWe started off with the 2007 S de Suduiraut, which was very pleasant and fresh.

The following wines were served blind and picked by Jean Rene. (The notes are from Alex P and me.)

2004 Domaine L’Arlot Nuits-St-Georges Blanc – Great body. This wine had weight but was light and airy enough to make us openly wonder what it was…we all knew it wasn’t a Bordeaux Blanc but nobody guessed it was a Nuits-St-Georges Blanc.

1960 Petit Village – Ahh, aged Bordeaux…there may not be a more fun, exciting and interesting wine to drink blind than Bordeaux; this wine truly delivered with soft tannins and the tell-tale old Bordeaux feel…

1982 Petit Village – Super wine. Delivered power, elegance and depth of fruit. This wine displayed the hallmark sweet, rich fruit of the ’82 vintage.

1952 Pichon-Baron (recorked in ’85) – Stunning. Is this wine really almost 60 years old? Seemed like it was from either the late ’70s or early ’80s…more fruit and lively acidity than one would expect. This wine shows what older Bordeaux is capable of… the group’s favorite for the night.

1976 Suduiraut  – Rich, heavy dark, golden color; thick.

1997 Quinta do Noval “Nacional” – Wow, very young but tons of fruit and richness. Decadent.

1964 Quinta do Noval “Nacional” – Great wine, tawny-like in color and aromas; nutty, sweet and elegant.

1964 Quinta do Noval “Colheita” –  A great way to end the night…sweet, long and elegant, this wine had the tell-tale nuttiness that you crave from a Colheita. I could drink this all night long.

The weather here is wet, cool and very windy. Not the best tasting weather but even worse golf weather. I think I will have to back out of tomorrow’s scheduled golf tournament.

 Trey Beffa


Trey's Blog: Day One in Bordeaux

Cafe L'Avinal in BagesToday was the day. Ralph, Alex Pross, Jeff Garneau and I met at the airport in Paris and took the quick flight down to Bordeaux. After renting our highly sought after Espace from EuroCar, we drove up to the Médoc. First destination: Château Pichon Baron—our home for the next two nights. Actually this was our second stop, the first was the supermarket in Pauillac to load up on water and beer (too keep the palate fresh).

This trip has an easier start than others I can remember. We don’t even meet the rest of the gang until tomorrow (Saturday, March 27th) at 11 a.m. at Companie Medocaine where we’ll taste 40 or so samples, officially making it the latest start we have had here. But the rest of the group has to drive from Limoux to meet us.

We had an early dinner at L’Avenal, which is located in the tiny town of Bages not far from Pichon-Baron. The restaurant opens at 7 p.m., but doesn’t start serving dinner until 7:30. We met Nancy Rugus, the US representative for Companie Medocaine at the restaurant. Jean Michel Cazes (Lynch-Bages) just happened to stop by for a drink with a friend, so he joined us for a glass of Champagne. We started of with the Bollinger Special Cuvée, which hit the spot.

After we sat down at our table, we all resisted temptation. The Foie Gras was calling our name, but we knew the opportunity to indulge would pop up again, probably sooner then we would expect it. It was a salad verte to start for most of us followed by and entrecôte and frites. We ordered a bottle of 2007 Villa Bel-Air Blanc from Graves to start. It was actually very nice. The ’07 whites are showing well. The Villa Bel-Air showed great acid with a creamy mid-palate and texture. For our main courses we enjoyed a bottle of 1999 Léoville-Barton, which was drinking very well. It showed some earthy “forest floor” notes, hints of licorice and black cherry fruit, and it still has a firm edge to it. It was en excellent pairing with the entrecôte. Since we were all feeling no pain by this point, and we were in France, we had to order cheese. The Barton was gone so we found a bottle of 2002 Poujeaux on the list for a reasonable price. We had some doubters in the group, but the wine was terrific. (Ralph was not one of those doubters. He is very familiar with Poujeaux and believes the 2002s are underestimated, especially when you factor in price.) After dinner it was back to Pichon-Baron. It was a long day, but that didn’t stop us from having a beer back at the Château. But it’s off to bed now, even with an easy first day ahead of us.

Trey Beffa


Girls Like Beer

Girls like beer. Maybe not all girls, but a lot of us. Enough of us, in fact, that it shouldn't come as a suprise to find out we do. So I was shocked when one of my usually-enlightened colleagues seemed surprised that I showed up to this week's staff beer tasting, and eagerly at that. For me there is only one caveat: the beer has to be good.

Fortunately for me, we've never had more good beer at K&L than we do now. Our beer buyer Bryan Brick and his liasions - Steve Greer in Hollywood and Mike Barber in San Francisco - are doing an incredible job stocking our shelves full of delicious and even thought-provoking beers from the US and around the world. We've got "session" beers and age-worthy beers and sour beers that beg for a spicy, salty sausage like the kind at Wurstküche here in L.A. or at Suppenküche in San Francisco.

Anyway, we tasted through about 20 beers in Hollywood this week, and I really liked about half of them. That doesn't mean the other half weren't good, they just weren't my style. I prefer dark beers - porters and stouts - Trappist ales, Saisons and sour beers. I am generally NOT into West Coast uber-hoppy beers (or any uber-hoppy beers for that matter); they make me fall asleep. That said, here are my favorites from our tasting:

2009 AleSmith "Decadence" Dunkel Weizenbock, California (750ml $11.99) This is AleSmith's anniversary brew, a rich, dark wheat beer with a really creamy palate and a banana-y nose with a graham cracker counterpoint. It was a little sweet and fruity, but with a good salty pretzel or one of Rockenwagner bakery's pretzel rolls it would be sublime.

Brouwerj De Ranke "HOP Flower Power" Belgian Pale Ale, Belgium (750ml $15.99) So there always has to be an exception that disproves the rule. This Belgian beer may have HOP in its name, but it's remarkably balanced and that's what I liked most about it (that and Flower Power used to be my nickname in college). The nose was quite pretty here, with citrus and flower aromas, and it had nice weight, bitterness and crispness on the palate with a hint of minerals.

Dogfish Head "Festina Peche" Berliner Weisee, Delaware (12oz $2.49) Delaware is one of those states that you don't hear much about, but man do they make some good beer. This low-alcohol peach beer isn't the sweet, sticky, girly drink you might imagine, but instead something very sour and lactic. I imagined sipping it on a very hot day with homemade sausages on the grill.

HaandBryggeriet "Dark Force" Double Extreme Imperial Wheat Stout, Norway (500ml $8.99) At 9% ABV and full of letters you ordinarly wouldn't see together, I strongly advise against asking for this or trying to spell it after you drink it. Just grunt and point. This beer smells like unbaked pumpernickel bread - with distinctive molasses and coffee bitterness - rounded out by bacon and chocolate notes. It's surprising crisp on the palate and goes down easier than you might expect.

Isle of Skye Brewery "Black Cuillin" Scotch Ale, Scotland (500ml $6.49) This is the second Scotch-style beer we tried, and I lreally liked them both. It drank like a light-bodied stout, perfect for when you're craving a heartier beer on a hot day. Mint, tamarind, cocoa and anise on the nose, with a smooth and toasty palate girded by faboulsly salty bacon flavors. Yum.

Oskar Blues "Old Chub" Scottish Ale, Colorado (12oz $1.66) I really have to give props to the folks at Oskar Blues, time and again they prove that canned beer can be good. This Scottish Ale is similar to the Isle of Sky Scotch Ale, though a little lighter in chararcter with a hint of carob and caramel.

Russian River Brewing Company "Supplication" Brown Ale Aged in Oak with Cherries Added, California (375ml $10.99) I've been a fan of RRBC beers since my college days at Sonoma State, and honestly I think their beers just keep getting better. This is super sour, like fermented sour cherry juice, and probably not for everyone. But I thought it was well-balanced and just needed something fatty and slightly salty to go with it. I would love a glass with a pork terrine.

Valley Brewing Company "Decadent Evil" Belgian Style Golden Ale, California (22oz $6.49) Prior to trying this beer my only experience with Stockton, where its from, was on a road trip in college. Needless to say, this beer is better than my foggy memory. Its malty nose has notes of citrus and banana that carry over to the palate. Its creamy middle and slightly sweet finish made me think of Gewürztraminer, which made me think that this beer would be really awesome with some spicy Thai or Vietnamese food.

Valley Brewing Company IPA, California (22oz $5.99) Did I mention that I don't like hoppy beers? That usually means that I don't like IPAs, but I liked this one. Full of peach, melon and Cara Cara orange aromas, this beer tastes like tangerines and nectarines, witha  sour note from pineapple and a mild hop bitterness. The 22oz bottle is mighty dangerous considering how well this drinks.

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