A Very Special Visit from Mr. Florent Fresse of Mouton Rothschild

Today, our staff was treated to a special visit from Mr. Florent Fresse, the export manager for Chateau Mouton Rothschild. The excitement for this visit has been building for weeks, and the seminar that he put on for us did not disappoint. He brought with him two vintages of Mouton, as well as one Petit Mouton, a Chateau d'Armailhac, a Chateau Clerc Milon, and the rare white from Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Aile d'Argent.

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Gary Westby
Launois and the New Kids!

As most of you are probably already aware, we do massive amounts of employee tastings and education. Each Tuesday, we have a morning hour long tasting that revolves around a specific sector (Burgundy, Bordeaux, Chile, you get it). In the afternoon, we supplemental tastings that are ½ hour long and are meant to be more fun. I’ve been trying to sneak more and more Champagne tastings into these because almost all of our (except one notable exception who shall not be mentioned) staff here in SF LOVE Champagne. I had planned on doing a look at soil and location on Tuesday, 4 June, but, one of our young “newbies”, Andrew Tobin, sommelier, came to me a few days previous and started asking all kinds of questions about our newly re-stocked Launois champagne.” Where is this winery?” “What are the differences between the various bottlings?” “What do they taste like?”  So, on and so on. As I began to answer his questions, I thought of all of our new hires up here who had absolutely no info about these wines.

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On the Trail
Cutting Through Idle Chatter with Fantastic Wine

Casey O’Brien’s new project is a label called Idle Chatter with a relatively straightforward goal: awesome wine meant to be drunk young and fresh at an everyday price point. But underneath a pair of great everyday wines is a remarkable project. Casey recently launched an initiative to give a percentage of his profits to LGBTQ charities. And underneath the friendly exterior, there’s a fascinating backstory to Casey.

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A Visit with Mike Officer of Carlisle Winery

Recently, K&L domestic wine buyer Ryan Woodhouse took some of the K&L NorCal team up to Sonoma. We wanted to speak to some of the amazing wine producers located right in K&L’s backyard, so to speak. It’s always a good thing to get out of the shop to see where and how the wines we love are made. You can talk endlessly about terroir staring at shelves of bottles, but it doesn’t take on substance until you walk the vineyard grounds, touch the soil, smell the plants, and see everything that goes into producing those bottles you enjoy so much. Everyone in the wine industry knows this, of course, but there are times that understanding fades and it’s time to get back to Wine Country and refresh your mind as well as your palate.

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On the Trail
The Mystery of La Closerie

Last week, I enjoyed another of Clyde’s fabulous, ready to drink Bordeaux bargains with a juicy steak, the 1999 La Closerie du Poujeaux, Moulis ($29.99). I felt that it was so good, with so much great Cabernet texture and dark cassis fruit I wanted to share the story with everyone. When I got up the next morning, I immediately started searching for information on it, but very little was forthcoming. They don’t have a website. When I found them in the “pages jaunes” online, the email that I sent to the chateau bounced. When we reached out to the big négociant house in Bordeaux where we bought the wine, they said that they had asked for technical information, but received nothing. So mysterious!

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Gary Westby
1995 Le Brun de Neuville "Grand Vintage" —Aged to Perfection

Earlier this week, our northern California heatwave started to break, and Cinnamon and I decided to celebrate with a bottle of 1995 Le Brun de Neuville "Grand Vintage" Brut Champagne on our patio. Cinnamon made a simple summer meal of olive oil marinated halibut on the grill and some pesto pasta with sundried tomatoes and asparagus. I love aged vintage Champagne as a dinner wine; they have the complexity that makes for a special occasion, but sill have the refreshment to be served on a hot summer night. It was a success, and I woke up excited to share the experience

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Gary Westby
A Visit from Pierre-Olivier Clouet of Cheval Blanc

Last Friday, we were treated to an incredible staff education seminar on Chateau Cheval Blanc by Pierre-Olivier Clouet, the technical director of the Chateau. He brought with him five vintages of Cheval Blanc, a generous lineup. For me, this was one of the big highlights of my year here at K&L, and the wines were so exciting that they made me feel like I was in my 20s again, making a personal wine discovery! To have wines at this price point and reputation live up to their billing is special indeed.

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Gary Westby
Napa, Sonoma, and Hanzell: History in a Glass

A few of us buyers recently embarked on an overnight trip through Napa and Sonoma Valley to check the pulse on wineries as spring dawns on North Coast wine country. We walked sacred vineyards in the heart of Napa Valley, and we heard amazing tales of heroism saving wines during the horrific fires of 2017 in both counties. While everyone we visited had their share in the history of American winemaking, the outstanding highlight of the trip for me was our last visit, to the legendary Hanzell Vineyards in Sonoma.

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On the Trail
A Sushi Experiment!

I love grabbing some sushi to go and drinking Champagne on a Tuesday night. Most luxurious things in this world involve a lot of ritual, and are worth it; making fresh blini for caviar or dressing up for fine dining for example, but grabbing sushi on the way home is an easy treat. Some Tuesdays call for that.

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Gary Westby