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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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Friday
Aug052016

Veuve Clicquot Rich

Redwood City managers Sarah and Andrew enjoying a goblet of rich while closing the store.

Champagne should be fun. It can be as profound and complex as any of the greatest wines in the world, but it should always be fun. The Veuve Clicquot "Rich" Doux Champagne ($54.99) is definitely a whole lot of fun, and I had to lighten up quite a bit to enjoy it in the spirit that it was intended for.  It is my job to think about the impacts of geology, exposure, grape variety and élevage on Champagne, but it is important not to forget why I need to know all of that stuff- it is simply to understand better the Champagne we all love. If you don’t like it, if it’s not fun, there is no point to all of the other stuff.

Most nights at closing we’ll have a beer or a glass of Champagne after the doors are shut and while we are finishing up the end of day duties. Opening up this bottle turned this routine into quite an event! We had lots of laughs drinking this sweet, yet refreshing Champagne in our goblets loaded with ice and dotted with cucumbers. We were not trying to figure out which villages stared in the blend or parse out the varietal composition. We were having fun.

By the time I finished my glass, I had lightened up a lot!

This Champagne is made to be served on ice, and accompanied by a fresh highlight ingredient. The folks from Veuve Clicquot have imagined many combinations, and you can take a look at all of them here. I had recently been by the Niyija Market in Mountain View and bought some very nice Japanese cucumbers, so I packed up my cutting board and my Nakiri to prep them after closing. I put two thin slices at the bottom of each goblet, loaded the goblets with ice, poured in the Champagne, through another cucumber slice in and decorated the rim with one more. That was all there was to it.

We got a huge laugh of the frivolity of drinking Champagne like this- the opposite of the Lehman Refrence Glass, intellectually engaged studiousness of most of our tasting here at K&L. Best of all, the wine tasted good. This is the sweetest Champagne we carry, and although you have to search the label carefully, it is labeled as Doux, the sweetest designation on the ladder of dosage. This designation applies to all Champagne at 50 grams per liter or greater of sugar, and is historically the original style of sparkling Champagne. The Clicquot Rich is dosed at 60 grams per liter, 10 times the sugar of some of our drier Bruts, and composed of 45% Pinot Noir, 40% Meunier and 15% Chardonnay.

Dominique DeMarville, the chef de cave of Clicquot who I met earlier this year, says “Sugar in Champagne is like spice in a recipe, used correctly it can bring out specific aromas and enhance the taste.” I have only done a dosage trial once, with Mr. Bruno Michel in Pierry, and the complex relationship that Champagne flavors have with sugar surprised and baffled me. This time, with an icy goblet in hand, I wasn’t wondering or taking notes… I was drinking and smiling!

-Gary Westby

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