Are you ready? Because we’re finally ready for you. We’ve finally organized our buyers, connected all the dots, put all of our ducks in a row, and created a customer experience we think has been sorely lacking from us here at K&L: a website entirely devoted to our exclusive producers around the world! As many of you already know, K&L as a company has spent the last forty years in search of the finest wines and spirits. Not only do we visit producers abroad, taste their products on site, and use these first-hand experiences to educate consumers, we also purchase a large amount of our inventory directly from the source, eliminating many of the import and distribution fees from the eventual bottle price in store—it's what separates us from almost every other retailer in the United States. Sure, we're got a huge selection of the names you already know, but behind the scenes we’ve been building relationships for the last four decades, making friends all over the planet, and using those connections to provide our customers with the most intriguing products available, at prices that seem downright impossible. It’s a fantastic model, when you think about it, and it’s absolutely the foundation of what makes our stores so popular.
But there was one little thing I thought we could do better, so I sat down with our team of specialists and hashed out a plan for this website you're reading now. Who am I, you might be asking? My name is David Driscoll and for the last six years I’ve been one of the spirits buyers for K&L, maintaining our spirits blog daily, and keeping our customers abreast of what’s new in the department. Since the creation of that site I've been able to connect with readers intimately through my diaries and travelogues, updated with images and photos from the road each time I travel abroad. Via that platform, I’ve been able to take K&L shoppers along with me to Scotland, France, Japan, the Caribbean, Kentucky, Mexico and beyond with just a laptop and a camera. Now, however, it’s time for us to expand that experience to all of our incredible departments. As one of the buyers for K&L, let me tell you: drinking the many outstanding products we carry is a lot of fun, but meeting the people who make them, hearing their stories, visiting their homes, and dining with their families is what bonds us forever to these liquids.
So who else is traveling the world on behalf of K&L? I'm hoping you'll become familiar with our regional experts as you continue to check back with us here at On the Trail. You need to tag along with Ralph Sands and Clyde Beffa as they tromp through Bordeaux. I want you to meet Bryan Brick, our fearless domestic wine buyer, and his many winemaking friends throughout California and Oregon. You should also meet Greg St. Clair, our legendary Italian buyer so renowned in Tuscany that he’s known as “the Mayor of Montalcino." Join our Spanish buyer Joe Manekin as he sips Rioja and eats jamon in a small Cantabrian cafe, while our French regional expert and resident cook Keith Mabry drinks pinot noir on the rugged slopes of Jura. I’d like to introduce you to Eric Story as he travels through the Loire and Central Europe, Gary Westby who's been visiting Champagne for more than a decade, as well as Alex Pross and our owner Trey Beffa as they navigate the complex tapestry of Burgundian vineyards. You should get to know all of these folks.
As for me, I’ll still be reporting live—along with my colleague David Othenin-Girard—from the midst of a dank Scottish whisky cellar, or the rustic château of an Armagnac producer, but I’ll also be helping to curate the site as a whole (I'm actually on my way to France as you read this, getting ready to update the next post). One feature I thought we desperately needed was a guide to the producers we work with, equipped with succinct descriptions and vivid photos to help all of you navigate the ins and outs of our many departments. You can click the link at the top of the page to engage the pop-down menu and begin your exploration immediately (albeit this section will be a continual work in progress). We’ve also included some staff biographies and a breakdown of who’s who and who exactly does what around the company under the “Our Teams” link. We’ll do our best to keep the blog updated daily with stories of our adventures, and it goes without saying that we’ll try to make each of these entries as entertaining and educational as possible. So welcome to On the Trail! Come with us so we can explore the world together, one bottle at a time.