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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 UGC (2)


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


Trey's Blog: Day Five in Bordeaux

Tuesday, March 30th

Jeff Garneau, Alex Pross and Ralph Sands in front of Chateau Margaux

10 a.m. – Château Margaux

I have never seen as many people at Château Margaux as were there today. The wines were pretty amazing. The Pavillon Rouge was good. It showed lots of minerals, spicy red fruits, firm tannins and a tight middle. The Châteaux Margaux was one of the best wines we have tasted so far. It was dense and powerful, but had a silky texture. The tannins were big but ripe and integrated. The blend is 87% Cab, 9% Merlot, 2% Cab Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. This will be a candidate for wine of the vintage!

The Pavillon Blanc was one of the best Pavillon Blancs I have tasted in years, and 2009 marks a significant change in the style of this wine. The alcohol in 2008 was over 15%. The alcohol on the 2009 is closer to 13%. The 2009 was tight, focused and showed a great citric note, sweet cream and melons in the mouth. It was very fresh and lively, something that past vintages have been missing.


The K&L team with Philippene Rothschild at Mouton-Rothschild

11 a.m. – Château Mouton-Rothschild

Like Margaux, this was one of the most crowed tastings I have ever been to at Mouton. Keep your eye on the 2009 Clerc Milon! It showed a great nose: plummy, currant fruit, black licorice and ripe, spicy tannins. This will be a wine to buy if the price is reasonable. The 2009 Mouton-Rothschild, for me, was difficult to taste. It was a bit shut down in the middle when we tried it. It showed loads of that classic lead pencil, cedar, black licorice and red currant flavors, but the middle and finish of the wine seemed to be separated a tad. This will be a great wine, but I think a notch below Latour, Lafite and Margaux.

Noon – Château Ducru-Beaucaillou

For value wine in 2009, add the 2009 Lalande-Borie to your must-buy list. It showed loads of bittersweet chocolate, cream, spicy red fruits and a long, clean, fresh finish. This wine should be priced fairly, too. The 2009 Ducru was amazing! Inky and juicy in the middle, it had a ton of structure, acidity and ripe tannin to carry the wine through to the lush finish. It almost could be enjoyed now it was so ripe and balanced. I would add this to the possible top five wines of the vintage.


Bruno Borie of Ducru-Beaucaillou fixing lunchLight lunch at Ducru with Bruno Borie

1999 Bollinger Grande Annee was followed by a tasting of the 2006-2008 of Lalande Borie, Croix de Beaucaillou and Ducru, all served with a delicious lunch. All 3 Ducru’s were great with the 2007 showing the best right now. As an added bonus we had the 1995 Ducru at the end of the meal. This was the Wine Spectators wine of the year. It was showing some bottle age and seems to be developing nicely. Spicy, fresh and bright, I would not hesitate to open a bottle of this now –but no rush.

3 p.m. – Château Palmer

We only tasted two wines at Palmer and both were amazing! Their second wine, the 2009 Alter Ego was probably the best second wine we tasted so far. It showed exotic spicy fruit, juicy black licorice and silky ripe tannins that lingered on the finish. The blend is 51% Merlot and 49% Cabernet. This is a wine to buy, for sure.

The Château Palmer was up there quality-wise with the Ducru. Amazing wine—dark plummy fruit, big rich middle, tons of power, but the finesse shines through. The tannins were so ripe and silky they almost melted in your mouth. Great wine!

4 p.m. – Léoville-Barton

Much more rustic in style, both the Langoa and Leoville were big, dense wines with tons of structure and acidity. Their tannins were not quite as plush and other wines we tasted today. These will be wines for the cellar.

4:30 p.m. – UGC Tasting / St-Estèphe, St-Julien, Pauillac

Some of the best wines of the vintage appear to come from these regions. We re-tasted several that we had already tasted and they showed excellent again. Some new wines we found to be outstanding include Lynch Mousas, Saint Pierre, Lagrange, Gruaud Larose and Phélan-Ségur.

5:45 p.m. – La Lagune

This was by far the best La Lagune we have tasted young. The blend is 60% Cabernet, 25% Merlot and 15% Petit Verdot. In cooler years, La Lagune can show a bit of an herbal side. Not this year. The fruit was ripe, fresh and clean. The mid-palate fruit lush, velvety and full. Tannins were ripe and sweet. This wine will be delicious upon release and should age effortlessly for many years.

6:30 p.m. – Cantemerle

The wines from Cantemerle have been K&L favorites for many years now. Along with the well-made 2009 vintage, we also had a chance to taste the 2008 and the 2007 Les Allees (Cantemerle’s second wine). The 2007 shocked us all. It was delicious. The 2009 Cantemerle was showing well. I am sure this wine will be priced reasonable and this will definitely be a wine to buy. Fruit was ripe and fresh with tons of cedar, minerals and spice box that lingered on the edges. Its finish was long and fresh. A very good effort!

Trey Beffa