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Bruno Michel "Blanche" Brut Champagne $34.99One of our best non-vintage Champagnes, this organically grown blend of half each Chardonnay and Meunier comes entirely from Bruno Michel's estate. It has been aged for six years on the lees and shows wonderful natural toasty quality as well as incredible vibrance! This was the big hit of our most recent staff Champagne tasting and we think you will love it too.

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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.

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Entries in San Francisco (12)

Tuesday
Mar082011

Behind the Wine: Mick Unti of Unti Vineyards

Mick Unti at the sorting table during harvest.

George Unti of Unti Vineyards *looks* like a farmer. He's got a purposeful gait, weathered features and the firm handshake of someone who digs in the dirt. In the winery, he comes across quiet, like someone who prefers the silence of the vineyard, at least at first. Once you get him going, you quickly realize that this unassuming man, who spent 39 years managing Safeway supermarkets, is also whip smart and incredibly personable. His son, Mick, who handles all of the marketing and a large chunk of the winemaking (with Sebastien Pochan) will be pouring the winery's lineup, including a tank-sample of the winery's highly-anticipated 2010 rosé, at K&L San Francisco this Thursday night from 5-6:30 p.m. ($5), follows in his father's footsteps: always quick to smile, and wonderfully enthusiastic when he talks about his vines and his wines. 

We recently caught up with Mick to ask him a few questions in anticipation for this week's tasting. This is what he had to say:

K&L: How did you get into the wine business?

Mick Unti: Went wine tasting in Hecker Pass region, near Gilroy, one day when it was too cloudy to go to Santa Cruz. Watched Thomas Kruse get off his tractor to pour us some wines and was infatuated with small wineries. Then worked in wine departments in Safeway while I was attending University of Washington. I last worked for Jess Jackson doing National Sales for Artisan and Estates in 1996 before starting Unti Vineyards with my dad, George.

K&L: What’s your winemaking philosophy?

MU: Grow varietals that are well-suited to your climate. Use farming methods that encourage healthy vines naturally (organic, biodynamic, etc.). Maintain moderate to low-yields. Have a very good understanding of the world’s best versions of these wines (that means blowing a bunch of money at K & L on European wines). Study the various methods used by artisan wineries, and if financially possible, apply some of those methods when making your wine. Learn from your own experience to make the wines that are true to your sites. Stay true to your own ideals regarding wine.

What are some of your favorite restaurants?

Delfina in SF, Farmhouse in Forestville, Boulevard in SF

What did you drink last night? (Or the last time you had a glass of wine that wasn’t your own?)

Cascina Ca Rossa 2007 Barbera d’Alba Mulassa, Donnhoff Oberhauser Leistenberg 2009 Kabinett.

What’s your position on wine-pairing and what do you like to pair your wines with?

I’m not that formal. Our wines are made from grapes that are native to the Mediterranean. As such they are moderate-to-low in tannin, fruity and have nice acidity. As such, they are versatile. You can serve our wine with simply seasoned grilled meats or spicy ethnic dishes. Amazing how easy this process is when you drink balanced wines.

What advice do you have to offer people just getting into wine?

As Al Davis might say, “Just drink a wide variety, baby.”

If you could have dinner with any three people in history, who would you invite and what would you serve them?

Do they have to be dead? If so, John Lennon, Bill King (sportscaster) and Esther Peaker (my grandmother) or Dick Unti (my uncle).  Awesome micro-brew Champagne (Pierre Gimonnet) with oysters, Comte de Vogue Musigny with grilled Hawaiian fish. I’m sure we’d break out a few other great wines. Siro Pacenti Brunello, JJ Prum Wehlener Sonnenurhr, you get the idea.

***

Don't live in San Francisco? Can't make the tasting? Set up your own Unti tasting at home with these three in-stock beauties:

2007 Unti Vineyards Dry Creek Grenache ($26.99) This has intense raspberry, blackberry, tar, pepper, licorice, and dried herbs aromas that are evocative of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Full of fruit on the palate, with an earthy, licorice-tinged undercurrent, this captures the Dry Creek landscape and still maintains the balance we've grown to expect from Unti. An ager.

2007 Unti Vineyards Dry Creek Zinfandel ($24.99) It's no coincidence that the Dry Creek Valley has become synonymous with Zinfandel, and of the region's and varietal's best characteristics are packed into this bottle. Briar fruit and black pepper aromas and flavors are accented by subtle floral tones. There's plenty of structure, and the wine is completely dry, with the signature ripeness of the vintage and the balancing acidity that marks all of Unti's wines.

2008 Unti Vineyards "Petite Frere" Dry Creek Rhône Blend ($16.99) Unti's version of a Côte du Rhône, this is Grenache-dominated blend with small amounts of Syrah and Mourvedre. Full of ripe Dry Creek fruit with firmer tannins than previous vintages, this is like some of the CdR's from France in 2007, blessed with juicy red fruit, but needing a little time to integrate.

Thursday
Feb102011

2008 Vintage UGC Recap

The 2008 Vintage UGC Tasting in the Grand Ballroom at San Francisco's Palace Hote.The annual Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGC) tasting rolled into San Francisco on Friday, January 21st, and since the trade tasting wasn’t coming to Los Angeles this year, I took the day off and flew up to San Francisco to taste the 2008 vintage. After the trade tasting K&L sponsored the consumer tasting. The event was held in the luxe Grand Ballroom at the Palace Hotel, which was more than enough room to handle the more than 350 consumers who came to the tasting. After speaking with some of the customers myself, and getting more feedback from Ralph Sand’s customers, the consensus seemed to be the tasters were blown away by the wines. The 2008 vintage took a beating early on as it was the third consecutive vintage that was good to very good. In a decade that already saw four great vintages, “good” seemingly has become a disappointment. But these wines are far from disappointing.

The wines of 2007 and 2008 are very different, but according to Bill Blatch’s famed vintage report, the weather in both vintages was very similar, with monthly temperatures and rainfall nearly identical. The “2007 and 2008 are more like father and son vintages rather than twin vintages,” writes Blatch, with the weather in 2007 causing the vines to produce less fruit in 2008. The already low yields were further lowered by frost damage, poor flowering, mildew, green harvest and dehydration, which resulted in the lowest yields since 1991. But this “paid untold dividends on the quality of the harvest,” Blatch adds. Low yields, along with dry weather conditions in September and October, allowed the surviving grapes to fully ripen while retaining higher acidity due to cool nights.

I really enjoyed the wines on the whole. They showed fantastically fresh acidity and more tannic structure than I was expecting, along with nice dark fruit. I really liked the wines from Margaux, St-Julien the best, but I also enjoyed the wines of St-Emilion and Pomerol. The whites were elegant with bright acidity and fat fruit. I also thought the Sauternes showed the great acidity of the vintage, with sweet fruit. (Apparently the yields for the sweet wines were even lower than the reds, so jump on them when you have the chance.)

When I asked Steve Bearden, from our San Francisco store, what he thought of the vintage, this is what he wrote:

I thought the vintage was impressive.  Most wines seemed to have rich mid-palates, decent length and ripe tannins.  The Left Bank wines showed stronger tannins than the Right Bank, but they were very sweet. Were the St-Juliens a touch more elegant than usual?  Kind of seemed so. I also thought the reds from Graves showed a bit more weight than they have in other vintages. St-Emilion continues to come on strong, and I thought many of those wines were quite complete within their respective styles.

A few standouts for me were:

Larrivet-Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan (Waiting List Only, PA $27.99) I always like this property.

Angélus, St-Emilion (PA $169.99)

Canon-La-Gaffelière, St-Emilion (PA $54.99)

Malescot-St-Exupéry, Margaux (PA $49.99) The Margaux as an appellation showed well.

Beychevelle, St-Julien (Not currently available.)

Beaumont, Haut-Médoc ($12.99) Always an amazing value.

I also reached out to David Rickenbaker, who also works at K&L San Francisco. He wrote:

As a vintage 2008 seems to be elegant and surprisingly drinkable. Two of my favorites were the Beychevelle, St-Julien, which I noted displayed red fruits, tobacco and earthy flavors with loads of finesse on the long finish. And I also really liked the Lascombes, Margaux (Wait List Only, PA $49.99), which was more tannic than the Beychevelle and had darker fruits, licorice and spice box notes. It could easily be put down for 15-plus years in the cellar.

A handful of 2008 Bordeaux are already in stock, and there are more arriving all the time. Shop our site for the newest arrivals, or get a jump on the wines from your favorite châteaux by buing Pre-Arrival 2008s. You will also be able to find more staff reviews of specific 2008s in the upcoming March issue of K&L’s newsletter

Steve Greer

Saturday
Feb052011

It's National Pisco Sour Day!

 Pisco is a Peruvian brandy that was commonplace in San Francisco during the Gold Rush. The first Saturday in February is National Pisco Sour Day in Peru, San Francisco's Pisco-loving community shares in the celebration. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

How much do you love the Pisco Sour?

Yours Truly, reaching to finish the last drop of her Pisco Sour on wedding night.My husband Derek and I love this historic Peruvian cocktail so much, it was the signature drink served at our wedding.  Derek lived in Peru for a year in his early twenties, where he needed to perfect his Pisco Sour making technique to satisfy patrons of the chic Lima bar where he worked as a bartender.  The Peruvians were not quick to accept that a gringo from New York could make proper Pisco Sour, but he eventually won them over (and even scored a spot on the local news for his talents!). So naturally, he takes this Pisco Sour business seriously. The wedding was back in 2007, when Pre-Prohibition cocktails had yet to hit mainstream cool, and it took the bar manager and staff of our five star catering operation several tries, carefully and rather gleefully presided over by Derek, to get it just right.  

Pisco About Town

Pisco and Pisco Sour appreciation has come a long way in San Francisco since I first wrote about this great cocktail on UnCorked back in September of 2008 and shared Derek's recipe (below). Almost concurrent with my September 08 posting, the doors to the U.S. Flagship of Peruvian Celebrity Gaston Acurio's La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, opened its doors on San Francisco's Embarcadero. In addition to a making killer Pisco Sour, La Mar offers an extensive selection of Pisco and Pisco-based cocktails.  They also host Pisco tasting seminars for enthusiasts and professionals. I attended one sponsored by BarSol pisco and it was quite enlightening.  

Pisco was widely available in San Francisco from it's first appearance 1839 up until Prohibition. It attained world fame in 1887 when Duncan Nicol aka “Pisco John” created the Pisco Punch cocktail at the Bank Exchange Saloon. Credit for inventing the Pisco Sour is given to the English expat Elliot Stubb, who first served the cocktail at his bar in Peru in the 1870s. Photo courtesy of livinginperu.com.

Award-winning Pisco Sours are churned out at Pisco Latin Lounge, the Pisco Bar next to Hayes Valley's cozy Peruvian resto Destino, with Union Square's Cantina as a solid runner-up for a good Pisco fix.  And these days, mixologists at the Union Square speakeasy Bourbon and Branch and SOMA's Heaven's Dog and Bar Agricole not only know what you're talking about when you order the Peruvian cocktail, but they deliver the goods proper.  

 

Even Pisco itself-- the brandy that forms the base of the cocktail--has gotten a lot better too.  No more kitchy bottles of below-rate Pisco in the shape of Incan statues...new producers like Campo de Encanto and Viñas de Oro are crafting artisanal, award-winning Piscos worthy of any spirit collection.

*

SHAKE

Why not give the Pisco Sour a try today? Derek's recipe is very pretty simple and straighforward:

Derek's Pisco Sour Recipe 

(from the September 08 posting of "Cocktail Craze: The Pisco Sour")

2 parts Pisco

1 part lime juice

.75 part simple syrup

one egg white

Shake with very little ice or blend. Top with cinnamon. Note: Other recipes call for a garnish of bitters instead of cinnamon, but Derek says that cinnamon is what they use in Lima.

**

SHOP

Buy Campo de Encanto and Vinas de Oro Pisco at K&L Wine Merchants !

***

TASTE

Prefer to have the professionals make one for you?  No Problem: there is a lot of Pisco being poured this weekend in San Francisco...

Sat 2/5 9pm-2am @ Cantina  Special Pisco menu and $5 Pisco Sours all night long, plus DJs spinning South American jams and hip hopDetails

Sat 2/5 @ La Mar Cebicheria Peruana   $5 Pisco Sours all day  Details

Sat 2/5 5 pm-1 am, and Sunday, 2/6, 3-9 pm @ Pisco Latin Lounge $5 Pisco Sours all day on Saturday and Sunday, plus $3 beers for those not yet convinced of Pisco's magic.  Details

 

**** 

PARTY! 

Encanto Pisco Mustache Brigade Bar Crawl - Starts at La Mar at 5:30, then to 15 Romolo around 7pm, with after-party at Cantina from 9pm till closing. The party at Cantina will feature $5 Pisco Sours and shots of top shelf Pisco de Encanto offered by no other than the man himself, Encanto Co-founder Duggan McDonnell.  Details

Pink Mammoth 7 Year Anniversary - Dance off all those yucca fries tonight @ Mighty for the seventh anniversary of the Pink Mammoth dance music-themed Burning Man camp. There will be an open bar of Vinas de Oro Pisco drinks, plus free food from Skool and Kitchenette. Wacky attire encouraged. $7 before 10:30 if with RSVP!