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With the James Bond movie Spectre being released today, no time could be better to drink Bollinger. The most suave spy in the world has been sipping on Bollinger since Moonraker in 1979. While we can’t all drive a fully loaded, customized machine gun having Aston Martin, we certainly can chill down a bottle of Bolli! The 2004 Bollinger "Grande Année" Brut Champagne ($109) is as good as Champagne gets; all barrel fermented and full of masculine, Pinot Noir power and high class elegance. We even have a few bottles of the limited 2009 Bollinger "James Bond 007" Brut Champagne ($195) in stock for the diehard fan of Bond & Champagne!

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Entries in sparkling wine (39)


Champagne Friday: Cellar Candidate - 2004 Bollinger La Grande Annee

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Cellar Cantidate: 2004 Bollinger La Grand Annee

This Saturday Cinnamon and I drank a fabulous bottle of 2004 Bollinger "Grande Année" Brut Champagne with an equally great piece of Salmon from local fisherman Pietro Parravano. As I have repeated as often as possible, to anyone who will listen, the 2004s are the vintage to collect right now and put in the cellar. While good and great vintages on either side of 2004 have many attributes to recommend them by, 2004 is alone in its classicism. The Bollinger is one of the strongest examples of this vintage that I have tasted.

This wine is composed of 66% Pinot Noir and 34% Chardonnay, vinified entirely in barrels at Bollinger in Ay. It has been aged for more than six years on the lees in its bottle, and on cork rather than on crown cap. They selected 16 villages for this blend, all from their own estate and the final product is 88% Grand Cru and 12% Premier Cru.

2004 Bollinger La Grande Annee ($109) in currently available at K&L.This great Champagne has not yet reached its potential, but like many great young vintages it was all too easy to drink now- especially with a meal. Cinnamon had broiled the salmon fillet with a miso-mayonaise glaze and served it with perfectly fried rounds of rosa bianca eggplant. She cooked the ultra-fresh salmon perfectly and we were able to enjoy it as seared sashimi in the middle and fully cooked on the thinner sides. The salmon played well to the vinous, Pinot power of the Bollinger that on its own was quite light on its feet. It was quite a treat to come home to this after work!

I think that Cinnamon put it better than I could when she said this bottle had “the freshness of 2004 with the blue-blood classic richness of Bollinger.” I think this freshness will remain for many years to come and its well structured frame will fill out with both more weight and complexity. I prize the transparency of this vintage and the juxtaposition of the packed house style. I think this is a legend in the making. Now all I have to do is keep my hands off of what I buy!

A toast to you,







Champagne Friday: Special Coutelas Tastings with Angelique and Damien Coutelas at K&L

Angelique and Damien Coutelas of Champagne Amaury Coutelas.

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

We will have some very special guests visiting K&L over the next couple weeks, Angelique and Damien Coutelas of Champagne Amaury Coutelas from Villers-Sous-Chatillon in the Western Valley of the Marne. We will be hosting tastings with them in all three K&L locations. Many of you are familiar with them from their excellent 2005 Amaury Coutelas Vintage Brut Champagne ($39.99) that we featured last year in the Champagne club. This young couple are making top class Champagne, and this is a rare opportunity to taste with and ask questions directly of the wine-maker owners of this great estate.

The Coutelas family has been growing grapes in Champagne since 1809, and making their own wines since the 1920’s. They own seventeen and one half acres, mostly in Villers, but they also have property in Ambonnay, Bouzy, Vitry la Francois and Troissy. All of their vineyard is farmed sustainably. These are Champagnes of power and depth, with plenty of dark fruit power and honest toast from long ageing. They use a lot of old oak, and also some new, custom made large foudres. If you have enjoyed the Champagne’s of Tarlant, this is a producer you will want to know!

They will pour the following wines:

2005 Amaury Coutelas Vintage Brut Champagne ($39.99) This half and half blend of Meunier and Pinot Noir come from estate vines that average over 70 years old- among the oldest I have ever heard of in Champagne. The wine is vinified in stainless steel and finished with only six grams per liter of dosage. It is a very full bodied wine, with super power in the middle, yet refreshing on the finish. This great new (but only new to the US!) producer is one to notice!

Amaury Coutelas "Cuvée Louis Victor" Brut Champagne ($39.99)

Amaury Coutelas "Cuvee 1809" Brut Champagne ($59.99) The Cuvee 1809 from Coutelas is  spectacular Champagne composed of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir from vines of over 40 years old. It is vinified in oak without malolactic fermentation and is aged for over eight years on the lees, on a cork, not a crown cap. It is very dry Champagne, with only six grams per liter of dosage. It has flavors of white truffles and intriguing earth- this is Champagne for connoisseurs. It has a very chalky, powerful, fresh finish. This is serious Champagne, and a great thing to try when you feel like you've had it all!

Amaury Coutelas "Elixr" Brut Rose Champagne ($34.99)

Here are the dates, times and places. All tastings will be $5 and walk in only, with no advance tickets.

K&L Redwood City: Monday July 29th, 5pm-6:30pm

K&L San Francisco: Tuesday July 30th, 5pm-6:30pm

K&L Hollywood: Thursday August 8th, 5pm-7pm 

View listings on K&L Local Events

If you can’t make it, I strongly recommend that you pick up a few bottles to try- this is a serious producer!

A toast to you,




Champagne Friday: To the Winner Goes the Spoils


By: Chiara Shannon| Champagne Lover and Director of the K&L Personal Sommelier Service

K&L staff members have great fortune to taste a lot of wine and compare notes with leading experts in the the business on a routine basis. We participate in weekly staff tastings hosted by our respective buyers, and rare is the day when assorted wines aren't opened in the tasting room for the purpose of staff education. Seriously! Listen in on a conversation between two K&L staff members discussing a wine, beer, or spirit at any given time, and you will come away reaffirmed that you are shopping at the right place, assisted by folks who know their stuff. I am constantly humbled by the depths of knowledge and experience of the collective K&L palate.

Which is why I am inspired to write this week's Champagne Friday. You see, in the latest round of the K&L Staff Blind Tasting Competition (although tasting roulette is more like it), I miraculously won. The prize? My all time favorite Champagne, Amaury Coutelas "Cuvee 1809" Brut Champagne ($59.99) Here are my notes from my first tasting of this marvelous Champagne:

This is incredible Champagne, and very unique. Drawing on winemaking techniques of the 19th century, it was fermented in barrel (no malo), aged for 8+ years on the lees in bottles sealed with corks, manually disgorged, and finished with a cork and twine closure. Stylistically, you could say it's to Champagne what Lopez de Heredia is to white Rioja, but unlike 19thcentury Champagne, this modern revival is dry, with a very low dosage. It offers a stunning array of complex earthy and nutty aromas and flavors with biscuit, mineral, mushroom, and honey accents. The texture is luxuriously rich and layered, but naturally high acidity and the low dosage keep this Champagne fresh and invigorating, with a dry, crisp finish that goes on and on. If you like white wines from the Jura, traditional white Rioja, or are a Champagne fiend looking for something to blow your mind, here you go. Highly recommended.

In late January this year, I brought this Champagne with me to dinner at a well-known restaurant in Napa. I was stunned at the way it revealed layer upon layer of complexity throughout the evening, complementing each course from start to finish in different yet profound ways. It is hard to imagine having the patience to allow a Champagne to last through multiple courses, but this one has so much substance and depth that every sip is a new experience worth savoring for as long as possible. The standout pairing was the duck liver mousse course, but this Champagne held its own with both lamb and steak entrees as well!

As if that isn't praise enough, it is worth mentioning that this Champagne was also K&L Senior Bordeaux Specialist (and HUGE Giants fan) Ralph Sands' choice for toasting when the Giants won the World Series. Now that says something. 

The Challenge

This past Tuesday, the Redwood City managers generously offered to man the store and phones while the rest of the staff members enjoyed a prolonged, catered lunch together. Lawn (well, parking lot) games like ping pong were set up, hip-hop was blasting on the stereo, delicious food was abundant, and so were the wines, which is why when I learned that a ten wine blind tasting had been organized with a prize going to the winner, my first reaction was to mentally decline. Blind tasting is hard! It requires a lot of focus and can be intensely frustrating. Enjoying my ice cream doused with caramel after a huge lunch, I figured my palate was not in the best condition for such a challenge. The potential for embarrassment was high.  

My curiosity got the better of me, however, and eventually I wandered over to the tasting table. There were ten wines, brown bagged; eight in 750ml bottles and two in large format. The tasting sheet demanded five sets of criteria per wine: Vintage, Varietal Composition, Country, Region, and Producer. The rules were simple--No Peeking!--and one point would be awarded per correct answer for each criteria, leading to a total of five points per wine.

My strategy in casual blind tasting is to run through the lineup first, jotting down very short notes on aroma and flavor, but making no conclusions. Then I go through and consider each wine again, with the intention of making a swift decision with minimal mind-changing based on a combination of first and second impressions. I am a big believer in going with the gut; over-thinking a wine has only pushed me farther from accuracy in past tastings.

It was a doozy! In this case 'winning' meant a total of 19 points out of a possible 50 - nowhere near a perfect score (technically an F!) but a respectable effort nonetheless, considering the challenge we were up against. I will spare you the details of the tasting and my notes (including those parts that I got embarrassingly wrong) but in case you are curious, here is the 'answer' key to the challenge:  

Wine #1

Vintage: NV

Varietal: Pinot Meunier   

Country: France

Region: Champagne

Producer: Loriot


Wine #2

Vintage: 2009

Varietal: Gruner Veltliner

Country: Austria

Region: Kamptal

Producer: Allram


Wine #3

Vintage: 2011

Varietal: Grenache Blanc/Roussanne/Viognier

Country: France

Region: Costiere de Nimes

Producer: Gassier


Wine #4

Vintage: 2009

Varietal: Barbera

Country: Italy

Region: Asti

Producer: Chiarlo


Wine #5

Vintage: 1998

Varietal: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc

Country: France

Region: Bordeaux

Producer: Grandis



Wine #6

Vintage: 2007

Varietal: Graciano

Country: Spain

Region: Rioja

Producer: Vina Ijalba


Wine #7

Vintage: 2001

Varietal: Cabernet

Country: US

Region: Yountville/Napa

Producer: Grgich Hills


Wine #8

Vintage: 2005

Varietal: CS

Country: US

Region: Napa/Rutherford

Producer: Nickel & Nickel


Wine #9

Vintage: 1971 Mouton Cadet

Varietal: Merlot/Cab

Country: France    

Region: Bordeaux

Producer: Mouton Cadet


Wine #10

Vintage: 1972

Varietal:Cabernet Sauv

Country: US

Region: Napa Valley

Producer: Inglenook


The next challenge? Choosing the perfect occasion in which to open this gorgeous Champagne!

When will I open this? What will I pair it with? Who do I invite to share it with me? So many things to consider...

I would like to thank Champagne Buyer Gary Westby for donating this bottle for the prize, and our fearless managers for organizing a great event and tasting. Your efforts are appreciated!

A toast to you,