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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

Upcoming Events

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 Ridge (3)


Grape Talk: Carignane

Underdog Varietal: Despite having been mostly replaced over the last twenty years by more fashionable international varietals, old vine Carignane vines are worth treasuring. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Poor Carignane. It doesn't have many champions. The grape's rough edges and "needs food" profile have not won it many fans among the top critics of the world. At its worst, wines made from Carignane show pippy, grapey aromas and flavors and have a tendency toward astringency. But at its best it can be quite intriguing. The question is, does anyone have the patience to tame this grapey beast?

Wherever it has traveled--from its origin in the Aragon provence of Spain to Algeria, France, Italy, the US and beyond--Carignane has most commonly met the fate of being used as a minor blending varietal under a different name (such as in Rioja production, where a small percentage is traditionally blended into the red wines disguised as the regionally named Mazuelo grape) or as inexpensive juice for bulk wine production.

The Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.The Carignane we are most likely to encounter in the market today is French, which despite maneuvering its way onto the list of the 22 approved Rhône varietals, is typically (and in most cases, negatively) associated with bulk production in the the Languedoc-Roussillon (right) in the latter half of the twentieth century.  Carignan came from Spain to France via Algeria, where it was grown to produce bulk wines for export.  After Algerian independence in 1962, the French needed to come up with their own source of bulk wine, so Carignane vines were transported from Algeria and planted widely throughout this part of southern France. 

We have the Italians to thank for our California Carignane tradition.  Carignane came from Spain to Italy via Sardegna, where it is still made into varietal wine, Carignano.  Italian immigrants to the US starting in the late 1890s brought the vine to California, and through the early and mid-20th century, Carignane was one of the most widely planted grape varietal in California.  It formed the base of many a "jug" of hearty red California wine!  

Caretakers of Carignane

Carignane may never become as popular as Cab or Syrah, but in France it seems to be undergoing a bit of a renaissance.  Over the last 10 years, thanks to the labor-of-love, grassroots efforts of a  a few good growers in the Languedoc, it is slowly--perhaps for the first time--earning the attention of critics and wine geeks the world over. Producers such as Clos du Gravillas and Domaine Rimbert are not only making some honestly good Carignane from their treasured old vines, but are also devoted to promoting quality production of Carignane and advocating for it's recognition as a varietal capable of fine wine.                

Ridge's Buchignani Range Carignane is available at the winery only.Similar efforts are being made in California to promote and protect the few remaining heritage Carignane vineyards. For the last decade, Ridge Vineyards has produced a varietal Carignane from fruit grown at the historic Buchignani Ranch, where the 60- to 80-year-old vines were planted in the gravelly hillside by immigrant Dominico Ceritti, grandfather of current grower and proprietor, Stan Buchignani. Ridge treats this special old-vine Carignane with the same care as its single-vineyard Zinfandels, but the 40-45 barrel production has limited distribution--wine club and direct sales only. The 2008 Buchignani Ranch Carignane (right) is soft in the mouth and with moderate alcohol (13.9%). It is a lively, medium-bodied wine with ripe strawberry and cranberry aromas, grape seed accented red and black fruit flavors, and a touch of oak spice (the wine spends one year in mostly used American oak).  Varietal typicity is not lost in this otherwise stylish and accessible wine.  

Carignane: A True California Heritage Varietal

VIDEO! Click to watch a video of Alvin Tolllini talking about his historic Carignane vines used to produce LIOCO's Indica! More recently, maverick wine producers Matt Licklider and Kevin O'Connor have started to pay attention to Carignane in an ever bigger way. Together, O'Connor (wine director at two-Michelin star restaurant Spago in Beverly Hills) and Licklider (veteran European wine importer) created LIOCO in 2005, a natural wine  company whose mission it is to produce authentic, terroir-driven California wines and to promote heritage varietals in an effort to bring diversity back to the California wine market. (Read our recent interview with Licklider here.) They believe there is more to California than full-throttle Cabernet and overly oaked Chardonnay, and seek to prove that with their portfolio of distinctive, natural wines. Old vine Carignane-- not Cabernet--forms the basis of their everyday red wine offering, Indica (right).

The Tollini Vineyard, located in Mendocino, is another historic vineyard site in California, with treasured vines planted on original 70 yr-old old-vine Carignane root stalk.  Thrilled to discover this special site when seeking out sites for their project, LIOCO began sourcing from it almost immediately.  

Unlike Ridge's manicured 100% Carignane, Indica is a blend of old-vine Carignane (66%), Mourvèdre (25%), and Petite Sirah (9%), made with the intent to showcase the freshness and flavor of old-vine Carignane while letting the other grape varietals (as opposed to oak) provide weight and richness. In this way LIOCO's Carignane more closely resembles the Carignane and Carignane-based blends of the new Languedoc (perhaps that is why they go with the French, sans 'e' spelling?) than the more oak-influenced Ridge bottling. It is a medium-bodied, fresh and darker-fruited fruity wine; Carignane's higher tones are rounded out and deepened by the addition of Mourvèdre and Petite Sirah.  It is sealed with a screwcap to remind us that it is best when drunk young and fresh.

Back on the Map

While Ridge's Buchignani Ranch Carignane may be the suaver and more seductive representation of 100% old vine California Carignane, LIOCO is certainly doing its part to champion the California Carignane cause. While you have to physically go to Ridge to get a taste of their Carignane, Indica is distributed nationally, has received great press, and is available by-the-glass at many of the nation's top foodie destinations.

Given this trend--who knows? Are Californians ready for more Carignane? 



LIOCO Indica is available by the glass at these Bay Area locations:

Pizzeria Delfina (S.F. Fillmore location) on tap!!
Delarosa (S.F.)
Ridge's Buchignani Ranch Carignane is available to taste at both Ridge's Lytton Springs and Monte Bello wineries.


Buy Indica and other LIOCO wines online at

Buy Ridge's Buchignani Ranch Carignane online at

Chiara Shannon


Global Zinfandel Day

Sure Schwarzenegger's attempt to make Zinfandel California's official wine grape fell flat a few months back, but we never stopped being its champion. That's why we were excited to learn that ZAP, the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers, had declared November 19th "Global Zinfandel Day."

Click to read more ...


'Cuing Up: Wines for the 4th of July

I'm always looking for an excuse to invite friends over for a cookout, and there's no better one than living a bike-ride's distance from the beach on the Fourth of July. I'm also fortunate to know there are a wealth of wines, at every price point, to go with anything you can throw at the 'cue--from Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip to American Bison sliders (try them with carmelized onions and smoked tomato compote), or, if you live around the Chesapeake, steamed Maryland Blue Crabs doused with Old Bay. Here are some of our favorite domestic wines--we are celebrating American Independence after all--to make any Fourth crackle like a Roman candle.

If you're leaning toward the crab and Old Bay scenario, you need a sparkler of a wine, not necessarily something bubbly, and definitely or weighed down by butter notes or oak. The 2008 Dry Creek Vineyard Clarksburg Chenin Blanc ($9.99) blends lemon, apricot and nectarine notes with acidity that sings like the high notes in the National Anthem. Now, if you've steered clear of Chenin Blanc because you think it's sweet, hear me out: THIS IS DRY. There is nothing sweet about this wine, unless you're using the word as a slangy compliment.

If you're 4th is likely to be a "session" celebration, then it's probably a good idea to have some lighter-style beers on hand. The Maui Brewing Company "Bikini Blonde Lager" ($1.83 each) comes in convenient cans that can get tucked in a bag and cooled in the river or lake while you're getting your grill on. If you want something hoppier but that won't put you to sleep, try the Russian River Brewing "Blind Pig" IPA (500ml $4.30) or the aptly named Anchor Brewing "Liberty Ale" ($1.49).

Whole Rainbow Trout stuffed with lemon and rosemary come out fantastic on the grill, and the 2008 Chehalem "Inox" Willamette Valley Chardonnay ($15.99), with its Adriatic fig, lime and saturn peach-like fruit, and completely crisp palate feel, your fish will sing like that silly wall-mounted fish that appears in too many summer cabins. This would also go quite well with grilled veggies!

2007 Kunin "Westside" Paso Robles Zinfandel ($21.99) Paso Robles may not exactly be the "heart" of Santa Maria-style barbecue country, but it's definitely a ventricular valve. So it comes as no surprise that Seth Kunin's "Westside" Zin (actually, all of Kunin's reds) pairs perfectly with the garlicky, smoky meat, the fresh salsa and the pinquito beans. The Westside comes from the Cushman and Rancho Santa Margarita vieyards and is aged for 10 months in a combination of French and American oak, and it is spicy and rich, with plenty of bright red fruit and actual acidity (believe it) that will stand up to those thick slabs of tri-tip.

If you've never had a bottle of Ridge's classic "Geyserville," then you've been missing out on a quintessential California wine, as American as football or apple pie, but possibly better than both. The 2008 "Geyserville" ($29.99) is comprised of Zinfandel, Carignane, Petite Sirah and Mataro. It has a complexity that few varietal wines can offer, with briar fruits, tangy cranberry, spicy white pepper and an undercurrent of black olives on the nose that evolve into mocha, licorice and black raspberry in the mouth. Try will pair with the aforementioned Bison sliders, ribs, ribeyes, pork tenderloin or any number of other savory treats you lay in its path. If you're having a big party, try a BIG bottle, like the 2004 vintage in magnum ($74.99) or three-liter ($189.00).

I love Zuni- Cafe style roasted chicken (I do mine on a cast iron vertical roaster on the grill) and tomatoey panzanella with a juicy Syrah--it's actual my go-to Sunday supper--and I don't like to spend a lot on the wine that goes with it. Fortunately, some of my favorite Central Coast winemakers turn out lovely, balanced Syrahs that don't overpower the simply prepared bird or my wallet. The 2007 and 2008 Hocus Pocus Santa Barbara County Syrahs ($17.99) are a case in point, as is Wells Guthrie's "I-can't-believe-it's-entry-level" 2007 Copain "Tous Ensemble" Mendocino County Syrah ($17.99), which has brambly fruit, hints of smoke and a touch of dark chocolate to boot.

The 2008 Charles Smith "The Velvet Devil" Washington Merlot ($11.99), from Food & Wine Magazine's 2009 Winemaker of the year, could, single-handedly, change the way you've come to think about Merlot because it's anything but over-priced or over-produced. Juicy, plummy, from a state named for our inimitable first president and a good match for burgers and sausages.

Whatever you drink: Happy 4th of July! Be safe and have fun!

Leah Greenstein