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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 Southern Rhone (2)


2007 Southern Rhône Vintage Report


No doubt many of you are keenly aware of the many accolades bestowed upon the 2007 vintage in the Southern Rhône. But for all of the enthusiasm surrounding these wines, perhaps you are wondering what conditions are necessary to create the “perfect storm” of vintage greatness? Below is a brief synopsis of this exceptional vintage. Please read on!

Vignerons in the Southern Rhône were blessed with a near perfect growing season, which resulted in perfectly ripe grapes with good levels of acidity and fine, supple tannins. Temperate and dry are the key words here. Flowering occurred in early May, a month that was also marked by nearly 400-plus millimeters of spring rain. However, by June drier weather prevailed, with only 35 millimeters of rain falling between June and September, making it the driest growing season of the last 20 years. Despite the aridity evidenced in the region, temperatures were a bit cooler too. The average daily temperature, as recorded in Orange from May 1st to October 1st, was 80.3 degrees Fahrenheit, which is cooler than the average temperatures for the same periods in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. Additionally, between July 1st and September 15th, the region experienced forceful high winds, known as the Mistral. Although the growing season was unusually dry, these strong winds helped ensure the sanitary health of the grapes (i.e. a preventative against rot and mildew). From September 16-18th the region received another 20 millimeters of rain fall, however this brief moisture did not affect grape quality. The exceptional ripeness and health of the fruit resulted in a relatively easy harvest, (i.e. very little triage, or sorting of the grapes).

Along with the high quality of the vintage, yields were also a bit higher than normal throughout the Southern Rhône, with Châteauneuf-du-Pape ranging between 32-34 hectoliters per hectare for an authorized maximum of 35 hectoliters per hectare. The skinny on all of this data translates to a very strong showing for the Southern Rhône in 2007. Beautiful, clean fruit, moderate-plus acidity and excellent phenolic ripeness mean great drinking across the board, from entry level Côtes du Rhône to high end and age-worthy Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The quality in this vintage is so consistent that I would recommend that Rhône enthusiasts snap up not only their tried and true favorites, but venture out and try some less familiar but intriguing wines too.

Check out K&L’s entire selection of 2007 Southern Rhônes on the web at


Mulan Chan-Randel



Winemaker Interview: J-M Espinasse

Editor's Note: A portion of this interview with Jean-Marc Espinasse of Domaine Rouge-Bleu appeared in K&L's Junes newsletter. Jean-Marc appears above with his wife, the American writer Kristin Espinasse.


Describe your winemaking philosophy.

I am not a winemaker as an initial education but what I have always been told is that the most important [thing] is to harvest a grape when it is ready. Winemaking should happen naturally (without de-stemming), in a living vat (porous concrete for example). No punching and a minimum pump-over (in order to keep the hat wet) to avoid too much extraction and focus on finesse. Aging could happen in neutral barrel when the vintage style [shows it would] bring something to the wine.


What wines or winemakers helped influence your philosophy?

Domaine du Banneret (My Uncle Jean-Claude Vidal in Châteauneuf-du-Pape), Ridge Vineyards (Paul Draper), Château Pradeaux (Cyrillede Portalis in Bandol), Domaine Rabasse Charavin (Corinne Couturier in Cairanne), Jay Sommers (J. Christopher in Willamette Valley).


How involved in grape-growing are you? Is there a particular vineyard site that wows you year after year?

I farm my grapes (with biodynamic principles) and I am totally amazed by Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which is 15 miles away. Closer to where we are, I am in love with Cairanne.


How do you think your palate has evolved over the years? How do you think that’s influenced your wines?

From “bold” to finesse and elegance. In France, we have a saying: “The more you move forward on the wine path, the more you go to Burgundy (plus on avance dans le chemin du vin, plus on va vers la Bourgogne).


What kinds of food do you like to pair your wines with?

Sancerre or NZ Sauvignon with oysters, Zinfandel with wild boar, Meursault with Comte cheese, ice wine with desserts, old Châteauneuf—old Burgundy or old Barolo with pigeon, Provence rosé pour Spaghetti del mare.

What changes are planned for coming vintages? Any new (top secret) varietals, blends or propriety wines on the horizon?

I am planting a myriad of Rhône white grapes to co-ferment with our reds. Besides that, I am trying to keep our dear Old Vines alive, since they produce the core and the spirit of our wines.


Is there a style of wine that you think appeals to critics that might not represent your favorite style?

I am not a big fan of big chewy, oaky wines, but I can understand that some people like it. You can’t please everybody with one style and that is actually a good thing since it would not permit creativity. What I remark, though, is that a lot of people who used to be big fans of these thick wines evolve eventually to finesse and elegance.

What do you drink when you are not drinking your own wine?

All I can find that fits my palate. My very last two hits were a red Zinfandel from Joseph Swan 2000 in CA and a stunning red 2005 Craggy Range “Le Sol” Syrah Hawkes Bay from New Zealand. Besides this, I am getting more into drinking small Champagne producers (André Clouet, Voirin Jumel for example).


Do you collect wine? If so, what’s in your cellar?

Yes, we collect all vintages from Léoville-Barton—one of the good value Cru Classé each year. We also have a few cases of the ’05 Bordeaux from the top Cru, but I think they will go towards college fees. I cannot bring myself to drink wines of this value.


What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing the wine industry today?

There are quite a few! At the moment the strength of the Euro for us is a problem for our export market, we do listen to our importers and try to make things easier for them to sell our wines at a consistent price. Unfortunately, production costs are still increasing here in France, and with the weaker economy worldwide it is tough for everybody at the moment…