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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.

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Entries in scotch (3)

Friday
May132011

Do glasses really matter?

I’m going to come out with it, we were all skeptics going into this tasting. I especially was because just a week earlier a good friend of mine had asked me about the importance of proper wines glasses, and I essentially told her to buy something nice but multifunctional in a Bordeaux style, tumbler, and flute. And while those will be fine for everyday use, I am now retracting my response that those are all that you need, especially if you are drinking exceptional wines and spirits on a regular basis (as I’m sure you are).

Through Wine Warehouse, Riedel conducted a wine tasting highlighting six of their glasses versus a standard restaurant wine glass, nicknamed the “Joker” glass. Through a series of four wines and two spirits we were to swirl, sniff, taste and then rotate through the series (ie the first wine then went into the Joker for comparison and so on). Me and nine of my cohorts sat and tried our best to follow directions.

 Riedel Tasting Setup

The first wine to taste was a 2007 Georg Breuer Rheingau Riesling out of the Vinum Extreme Sauvignon Blanc/Riesling glass. Riedel’s commitment to form and function was apparent immediately in the weight and size of the glass as well as the laser cut lip that results in the finest and thinnest rim. In the Riedel glass the Riesling came across voluptuous and nuanced with white peaches and granite instantly apparent on the nose. Tasting it the wine was at once sweet then followed by a balancing acidity and incredible texture. Pouring some of the wine into the “Joker” glass you had to burry your nose in it to get anything. When the wine hit our mouths it became flabby and unbalanced as a result of going straight to the side of the tongue where the concentration of the “tart” taste buds are. It sincerely does not taste like the same wine. Okay, I can see where we’re going with this, but I’m not convinced.

Next up was a 2008 Fernand & Laurent Pillot Chassagne –Montrachet out of a Chardonay “O” tumbler. According to our Riedel spokesman oaked Chardonnay are best drunk out of a wide mouthed glass, and unoaked Chardonnay are best drunk out of a closed mouth glass. While he explained that there is no need for concern about transferring heat with the tumbler style glass because, A: the natural tendency is to set down a tumbler, and B: you are only holding the glass with three fingers. Ha! Not with my little hands. And it felt like I was staring into a fish bowl. Again we repeated the swirl, sniff, and sip. The wine was beautiful, nuanced, and classic Montrachet. In the “Joker” glass it was completely muted and bitter. You could feel the wine being delivered directly under the tongue. To switch things up we pored the Riesling into the Montrachet glass and the Montrachet into the Riesling glass. The results were astounding. The Montrachet now became all about the minerality and the Riesling became soft and without peaks of flavor.

RWC Manager Jason evaluating the wineOnto the Reds. The Riedel Pinot Noir XL, a wide bowl with a curved out rim, was filled with an unbelievable 2007 Alex Gambal Chambolle-Musigny “Les Charmes”. This started out at the tip of the tongue with ripe cranberry followed by a chain of flavors, violets, smoke, a touch of oak, and distinctive minerality. Simply, a stunning wine. In the “Joker” the wine was absolutely ruined. It was stemmy, bitter, and you really had to work to detect anything on the nose. It was absolutely shocking that this was the same wine I’d moments ago fallen in love with.

The last wine was a 2006 Monbousquet, the relative of Chateau Pavie, in the Bordeaux Vinum Extreme, a line designed specifically for New World Wines. Primarily Merlot from the Right Bank, the fruit and oak were perfectly married with deep dark red fruit, pencil shavings, and “unresolved tannins.” In the “Joker” It was all tannin and alcohol, nothing else. What a disappointment.

 Dale Payne from Wine Warehouse

We finished with a surprise spirits tasting. Come on, really? These fancy glasses are supposed to make my fancy hooch taste that much better? I’ve tasted these spirits on several occasions, and out of really good glasses. But the Le Reviseur XO Petite Champagne Cognac ABSOLUTELY sung in this cognac glass! For me the jury has always been out about Cognacs and Armagnacs. Yes, they were good, and I could appreciate and recognize a great one, but really, were they worth all of the money? This tasting, out of this glass, proved that they were worth the hype. Next we tried a 10 year Benromach from Speyside. The whiskey bloomed out of the single malt glass and coated the palate with a caramel richness mingled with smoke. Both spirits in the “Joker” glass were hotter, higher in acid, and completely different! I was so excited about this particular revelation I called my husband, told him to get our best Single Malt and Armagnac out of the bar and be ready to have his mind blown. I set it up the same way, one Cognac glass, one Single Malt glass, and the closest thing to a restaurant glass that I could find. He was honest. He told me he thought I was crazy, that this was something only a wine geek could pick up on. But, wait for it, he said that “I was completely right!” Score! Now to convince him that we’ll need an entire new set of glassware.

 Conclusively I’ve learned that it is nearly impossible to give a full assessment of a wine or spirit out of an improper glass, it is also nearly impossible to fully appreciate the wine or spirit out of an improper glass. And now I would readily give up every other bottle of indulgent wine or spirit in order to afford and properly enjoy them in the correct glasses and to take my time truly savoring every nuance that they have to offer. I implore you to try this for yourself, find a varietal or spirit that you are truly in love with and buy its matching glass. Compare it to the glass that you’ve been using at home and draw your own conclusions. As for me I’ve gotten my hands on the ones that I will be using for special bottles, and might even consider bringing them to restaurants with me…

Tuesday
Sep212010

Ardbeg & OC Choppers at K&L Hollywood

Thursday, September 23rd from 4-7 p.m. It's Ardbeg Chopper Night at K&L Hollywood!  

Whoever said Whisky and motorcycles don't go together?  Well, normally they don't (at least not at the same time), but for once they do!  If you haven't heard already, OC Choppers (from the hit show American Chopper) and Ardbeg Distillery have teamed up to create two totally unique "choppers," to commemorate the successful rebirth of one of Port Ellen's finest distilleries. 

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jun092009

I'm Going to Make You Like Grappa

 

In 1999, I decided that I was going to enjoy drinking Scotch whisky. I was entranced by the salty characters I watched every week during my film noir course and, as with many other college-aged, semi-adolescent boys, I was on a Charles Bukowski kick. The men in these stories were hard-boiled and decisive. They smoked a pack of cigarettes a day (something I also imitated, unfortunately) and lived life by their own rules. I definitely wanted in. The first bottle of Scotch was purchased for me by a friend at the local supermarket. It was called Blandy’s and it cost around $10. I filled two glasses with ice cubes and together we poured ourselves a few fingers. He drained his in a matter of minutes, while I struggled severely. This was harder than I had expected.

Certain preferences in life are the result of repetition and pure perseverance. Nobody truly enjoyed their first cigarette, they had to make themselves like it (in fact, that’s a piece of information used to help many smokers kick the habit). Other culinary delicacies, such as foie gras, escargot or even sushi, are not appreciated by the younger, inexperienced palate, but are savored by the more seasoned aficionado. I believe that with practice and increased exposure to the proper influences you can grow to like things.

Every serious meal I’ve ever had in Italy ended with a small glass of grappa and, because of the fond memories these events left me with, I associate grappa with happiness. But it wasn’t always so pleasant. The first glass of grappa I ever drank went down like fire and left my mouth tasting of gasoline and rubbing alcohol. My parents were hosting their German friends Lilo and Dieter for dinner and they had brought it along with them. “It helps with digestion,” they explained to me. It had better have some medicinal purpose, I thought, because it tastes like crap. More than any other distilled spirit, bad grappa can truly live up to its reputation as “firewater.” Even though it burned my throat and made my eyes water, I noticed how everyone else was truly enjoying their small glass around the dinner table. Years later, while traveling through Italy on my own, I was an older and more established drinker looking to experience everything the country could offer. Every trattoria has a locally made grappa on their shelf, whether it was in a fancy bottle or an unlabeled pitcher, and I sampled each one. I was determined to understand what made people want to drink it. Sometimes it came straight, and other times infused with a sweet liqueur. One time while dining with Lilo and Dieter in their apartment on Christmas Eve they mixed it with espresso and we drank it out of a four-spouted friendship pot. Grappa is versatile and can be enjoyed differently in its many incarnations. Slowly but surely the flavors became familiar and almost comforting.

If there’s one thing that tastes terrible it’s bad grappa, and it seems that most of what I’ve bought domestically in my lifetime has been bad. I say this because the commercial bottlings still make me pucker up and close my eyes, even after having developed a taste for the stuff. Part of the reason for this is the quality of the vinaccia - the pomace of grape skins used for distillation. Grappa is technically not brandy because it is not distilled from base wine, but rather the skins left over from pressing. Commercial distillers buy the left over musts from wineries all over Italy and it can take days before the loads are delivered and finally distilled. Quality grappa is made from vinaccia that is distilled immediately after pressing. Musts that are left to oxidize become less valuable because they lose their varietal character with passing time. Logically speaking, winemakers who also make grappa on-site are more likely to have distilled from fresher vinaccia and therefore have more flavorful grappa.

The difference between single-varietal grappa and blended commercial slop is like night and day. That $30 bottle you got at the supermarket probably burns like petrol, but a boutique grappa I recently tasted made solely from the Moscato grape smelled like flowers and fruit and went down smoothly. On September 1st, I will be replacing Susan Purnell as the spirits buyer for K&L (along with David Othenin-Girard in SoCal) and the first task on my list is to make you like grappa. In order to achieve this task I am trying to taste as much grappa as I can get my hands on and only buy the best products from producers who are serious about their craft. Two weeks ago I sampled the Marolo line-up and was very pleased. Located in Piedmont outside of Alba, they make outstanding distillates from Moscato, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo grapes - some are rich with barrel age and others clean and crisp. Some grappa purists drink only those straight off the still, while others appreciate the influence of new oak. I will leave it to you to decide which style you prefer.

Needless to say we will begin carrying these bottles immediately with some available in-store and others on a special order basis with fast delivery. I am confident that our general drinking public is going to fall head-over-heels for our quality grappa offerings, simply because they are rare and delicious. Why should you begin developing an affinity to grappa? That answer lies within you, of course. Maybe you’ve read about it in the paper, seen it in on an episode of the Sopranos, or watched a table full of Italians conclude their meal with style. Whatever your reason, I can guarantee you that whatever romantic notion you dream up, the grappas you find in our store will live up to your expectations (rather than singe your taste buds).

For more questions about grappa or other spirits, contact me at DavidDriscoll@klwines.com

-David Driscoll