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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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Entries in reserve wines (1)


Champagne Trip, Day 2: Krug!

Krug has become one of the great wine monuments of France by making and delivering great Champagne in the bottle since 1843. The only other producer that I can think of in all of France with a longer track record for perfectionism is Chateau d’Yquem in Sauternes. I love the vinous, powerful style of the Krug wines, which are all barrel fermented and aged for a long time. It was my father's and my choice for the millennium; I contributed a bottle of Grand Cuvée, and he generously contributed his last bottle of 1976, and the two of us had a private party.

I arrived at Krug a half an hour late because half of the roads in Reims were closed—some because of road construction and some because of a strike. If I could have found a place to park, I would have ridden my bike the rest of the way. (I was less than a mile away when the police turned me away!) When I finally arrived, I was welcomed by Julie-Amadine Michel, and we took a tour of the Krug caves, where they store a mind boggling amount of reserve wines for the Grand Cuvée.

This Pinot from Bouzy will likely be included in the 2009 bottling, for release in 2017!

At Krug they use 40% reserve wines in their Grand Cuvée, with some of them dating back 12 to15 years at the time of bottling. After bottling, they keep the wines on the lees from 7 to 10 years—so a completely fresh disgorgement of Krug Grand Cuvée will contain some wines of 19- to 25-years-old. Blending many vintages allows the wine to have a complexity that only age can bring, but with vigor from the younger elements in the blend.

Olivier Krug Joined us for the tasting

After the tour, we sat down to taste Grand Cuvée, and the 1998 and 1995 vintages with Olivier Krug. The Grand Cuvée delivered the complexity that the story promises; it was a Rubik’s Cube of terroir, grape variety and time when I studied it closely, and at once a disarmingly delicious drink when simply enjoyed. The 1998 is only the second Krug vintage (1981 being the other) to be dominated by Chardonnay in the blend. Because of a scorching August, much of their Pinot and Meunier were overripe. This Champagne is drinking very well already, with a golden color, an amazingly toasty nose of brioche, a buttery rich mid-palate and a powerful finish. The 1995 was also drinking well, and seemed to be even toastier still.

Olivier and I also talked about a tasting he next time he was in the US, and I am pleased to say we will have a small gathering in the Redwood City store on Wednesday June 10th at 5 p.m. It will be an honor to have him in the store. Please send me and email at if you would like to come. It will be very limited, so please do not wait to drop me a line.

—Gary Westby