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Saber Madness at K&L!

We have been chopping off the tops of Champagne bottles as fast as we can drink them- who needs a stopper when you are ready to commit to finishing the bottle! One of our favorites was this magnum ($84.99) of Franck Bonville Brut Rosé that Mellyn expertly decapitated on Christmas Eve. It also comes in regular 750ml ($39.99) and half bottles ($21.99). Olivier Bonville adds 8% Pinot Noir Rouge from Ambonnay superstar Paul Dethune to his top class assembelage of grand cru, estate Chardonnay to create this fabulous rose. This is one of the most elegant, bright, refreshing rose Champagnes that we carry, yet it does not lack red cherry Pinot Noir authority. We can’t get enough- bring another to the block!

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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.  


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.

>>Upcoming Special Events, Dinners, and Tastings

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Entries in spirits (4)


Wine of the Week: Marolo Liqueur w/ Grappa & Camomile

The holiday season is fun. Really fun. All those family get-togethers, holiday parties and office shindigs. Not to mention New Year's. And traveling. It's no wonder that after the end-of-the-year whirlwind we're all feeling a little run down, maybe are having a little trouble fitting into our clothes, and are in need of a cleanse. Which is why I think that January should be declared "Digestivo Month," honoring the libations that, throughout history, have helped aid and ease the discomforts associated with all the food and booze associated with the aforementioned festivities.

There are dozens of digestivos on the market these days, from amari to limoncello, but few are as exciting as the new wave of artisanal grappas, like those from Distilleria Marolo in Alba, Italy. Now I know what you're thinking. Grappa? That harsh liqueur made from wine pomace that tastes like gasoline? (I once had a boss who compared grappa to the worst hooch he drank during the Vietnam war. He thought the grappa I served him was worse.) But the Marolo grappas are different. Made from single varietals, incredibly fresh pomace, and with the same attention to detail you'd expect from any of the region's famed Barolo producers, the Marolo grappas are decidedly delicate and smooth where the others are in-your-face harsh. (For more on the Marolo grappas, read David Driscoll's June post "I'm Going to Make You Like Grappa."

One of the most approachable spirits in the Marolo line-up is the Marolo Liqueur made with Grappa and Camomile (375ml $25.99). Made by infusing Nebbiolo grappas with chamomile blossoms--the very same little yellow buds that make one of the most popular tisanes--this is definitely more liqueur than grappa. Slightly sweetened, the fresh floral notes meld harmoniously with the rose petal tones characteristic of Nebbiolo. The Marolo Camomile is soothing and clean. Drink it on the rocks or mix it into a cocktail with gin and honey, like the Chamomile Cocktail by Jim Meehan at PDT in New York.

Leah Greenstein


Don Pilar Tequila – Direct Buy

Don Pilar at age 18 working the orchardsEvery weekend when I head to the farmers' market and pick up my box of produce I am thankful that buying locally-made goods straight from the farm has once again become the thing to do. It is a great experience to buy a product directly from the producer, which is why K&L acts also as a wine merchant—in addition to its role as a retailer— traveling abroad to find the best wines and buying them straight from the source. It offers insight into the story behind a wine, learning how a producer manages their soils, how they prune their vines, the topography of their sites, the weather and how it effects ripening, and many other factors of viticulture that precede the wine making process.

When you learn how much effort one person or family has put into each bottle it truly enhances the enjoyment you receive from drinking one. It is even more rewarding when that person is a member of your own community. While the origins of a wine can be influential in helping one to select a bottle for purchase, I find that such factors are rarely, if ever, applicable to spirits. While it is true that the farming of the grain and the sourcing of the water are both very important to whiskies, gins and vodkas, it is rarely the case that a distiller is handling the entire process from the soil to the bottle. Tequila, however, is a spirit that sees some producers shouldering 100% of the load, but they are usually small operations that never make it to the shelves of American retail stores. Most of the time, smaller agave farmers make their living selling their plants to larger producers like Sauza or Jose Cuervo, but much like in the wine industry, smaller producers are turning to co-ops to help manage the high cost of producing their own distillates.

Don Pilar now, working his own agave fields

Don Pilar Contreras is from a family of farmers in the highlands of Jalisco that has been growing agave for three generations. His family owns their own fields, works their own land, and, in the past, has annually sold off the harvest to Sauza. Wanting to experience life away from his family's ranch, Contreras came to California in the late 1960s at the age of 18 as part of the guest worker program that allowed him to work in the state's many orchards. Over the next 20 years he managed to save his earnings, become a permanent resident and open several successful restaurants here in Northern California (including Tres Amigos in my home city of San Mateo). Despite his new life as a businessman in America, Don Pilar returned home every year to work the agave fields with his family. It was in 2002, after discussing it with some friends at a co-op distillery in Jalisco, that he decided to keep his own estate-grown agave and use it to make his own tequila.

Unlike most tequila producers who have a triple line-up of blanco, reposado and añejo, Don Pilar was only interested in making one product and making it well: a smooth and creamy aged tequila that he could sip neatly. He also didn't want to try and get on board with a big distributor, so he hired his son to set up an import/distribution center in nearby Belmont to reach out to the northern California community. His two associates recently strolled into the Redwood City store and asked if they could taste me on the Don Pilar Anejo Tequila ($39.99). I took one sip and immediately warmed to the smooth richness and the delicacy of the spirit. The pure agave flavor is intricately balanced with the sixteen months of barrel influence it has soaked in. There was no doubt that the tequila was great, and when I heard the story and saw the price tag, I was sure that we were getting in on the beginning of something big.

K&L does buy wines directly, and therefore seeks out the finest small producers in the world, though we do not have the ability to import spirits. Because of this limitation, it is rare that we get to see the fruits of the small foreign distiller grace our own shelves, let alone one with ties to the local community. I am so happy to present the Don Pilar Añejo tequila to our customers, not only because it is a delicious product at a great price, but also because, like the farmers' market I visit every weekend, I get to buy it directly from the man himself. There are no middlemen or sales agents taking a cut of the operation: I simply make the call to Don's son Juan Carlos and he drives over to drop it off. This is the type of local commerce I am so happy to experience as a consumer, and now I am proud to be a part of it as a vendor here at K&L. This is the beginning in what I hope is the expansion of our liquor department to include quality distillations from smaller, locally-based producers, and I couldn’t be more excited to start with the Don Pilar Añejo. Enjoy!

David Driscoll, Spirits Buyer


Building The Perfect Home Bar, Part 2


In the previous home bar article, I focused on different gins and the variety of drinks that can be created from them, plus a few different ingredients. I really believe that gin is the centerpiece of any home bar collection because it is so mixable and perfect for warm-weather concoctions. But it’s also important to have a few liqueurs and mixers on hand to spice up your drinks. Some of my favorites may be familiar, while others may be completely foreign, but I think all of them are essential to the perfect home bar. They are easy on the palate and most of them can be enjoyed simply by adding sparkling water or soda. If I’m not drinking a gin cocktail, then I’m sipping on a simple libation made from one of the following products.

Campari (1L $26.99) Campari is an Italian liqueur made by infusing a combination of alcohol and water with herbs, aromatic plants and fruits. Its trademark flavor leans towards the bitter and can be an acquired taste for many, but it can be sweetened with a bit of orange juice to make a refreshing, grapefruit-like libation. The classic drink made from Campari is the Americano, which is made by simply adding sparkling water. It was the original drink of 007 James Bond, and it is the perfect pre-dinner aperitivo. In an effort to appeal to a new generation, Campari hired Selma Hayek for some very sexy magazine ads and most recently has tapped Lady Gaga as their new cover girl. It also makes one of my favorite cocktails - the Negroni (in home bar article, part 1).

Cynar (1l $21.99) A darker, more bitter version of Campari made primarily from artichokes (Cynara scolymus is Latin for artichoke). It can be substituted for Campari in practically any drink to add a darker color and a more intense flavor. I like it with the Hansen’s Diet Tangerine-Lime soda that I buy at Trader Joe’s. If you need help digesting your food, a few sips after dinner can really do the trick.

Pimm’s No.1 Cup ($16.99) There are six different variations of Pimm’s Cup that I know of, and each is formulated with a different spirit. I think that No. 1 is the best because it is made with gin, of course! The gin is steeped with herbs, apples, oranges and spices to make a tea-colored liquid that does taste faintly of tea. At 25% alcohol it mixes well with ginger ale, lemonade, or lemon-lime soda to make the trademark Pimm’s Cup, one of two signature drinks served at Wimbledon every year (the other being Champagne).

Aperol ($23.99) Another Italian aperitivo comprised of herbs and fruit - in this case rhubarb, bitter orange, gentian and cinchona. Lighter and more fruit-forward, it is the perfect alternative for those who cannot handle Campari’s strong bitterness. It mixes with grapefruit juice to make a Pompelmo, or with Prosecco to make a Spritz. It is only 11% to Campari’s 22% alcohol, so you can have a little more before dinner.

Lillet Blanc ($14.99) This is an absolute must for any drinker. Lillet Blanc (there is a Rouge as well) is a French aperitif made from 85% wine and citrus liqueur made from oranges. It has been in production since the 1800s and, when poured over ice, makes an ideal companion to a book and a lawn chair. Besides drinking deliciously on its own, it is 25% of my favorite gin cocktail - The Corpse Reviver #2 (recipe in home bar article, part 1). Lillet is also a favorite of James Bond, who orders (and invents) the Kina Lillet Martini in 1953’s Casino Royale, which I believe substitutes Lillet for vermouth. Some restaurants, like San Francisco’s Dosa, have made an entire drink menu out of Lillet cocktails.

St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur ($31.99) This is a very unique French liqueur made from elderflower blossoms, a small amount of citrus and some natural cane sugar. It is pear-like and floral in taste and mixes extremely well with (you guessed it) gin to form an Elderflower Gimlet. Also, try it with sparkling wine. Most customers who have sampled it have come back to buy three or four more bottles.

Prunier Orange Liqueur ($24.99) Of all the unique and tasty spirits we have found, I am perhaps the most proud of this bottle. It is a million times better than Grand Marnier or Cointreau and it costs 10 bucks less! Made in France, the Prunier Liqueur d’Orange not only has all the flavor and texture of the fruit, but also the blossoms and peel. Think of Grand Marnier without all that sweetness that can quickly turn a perfectly happy stomach into a nauseous one. Your margaritas will taste fresher and brighter, your desserts richer. Add it with Lillet, Gin, lemon juice and Absinthe for the best drink ever, or sip it straight.

David Driscoll