When we think about wine for Thanksgiving dinner, two varietals stand out - Pinot Noir and Riesling. With this in mind, we are super excited about a new producer that we’re bringing in from New Zealand, Tongue in Groove. Not only do their wines pair perfectly with the food on the Thanksgiving plate, but they also add an element of playfulness and personality.
If you put your ear to the ground, you’ll hear a lot of buzz around Tuscany’s 2015 vintage, especially around two wines in particular: Sassicaia just topped Wine Spectator’s top ten list with an illustrious slot at #1. Meanwhile, Solaia has raked in two 100-point scores from James Suckling and Robert Parker. These are from world-class winemakers at the top of their game, making the most of an exceptional vintage.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The foodie/wine-lover smorgasbord that is Thanksgiving, where the stuff we love is front and center: cooking, eating, drinking, and merriment with those dear to you. But let’s face it, it’s a lot of work. So, we’re here to help. French-Regional-&-Miscellany Buyer Extraordinaire, Keith Mabry, and I put together a Thanksgiving game plan, complete with accompanying wines, that is sure to knock your turkey day out of the park.
After reading David’s piece on the independent bottler L’Encantada in the sprits journal, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a bottle. My birthday was this weekend, and my father was coming to town (our birthdays are only four days apart and we always celebrate together) which is a perfect occasion for a great spirit. When my dad arrived in town, his first stop was K&L, and I talked him into buying a bottle of the 20 Year Old "Bellair #36" Bas-Armagnac, which was distilled in 1997.
Happy International Tempranillo Day! What a wonderful grape to celebrate. Today, we’re toasting Spain’s most famous grape with some wines that just landed from Bodegas Casa Juan Señor de Lesmos. They have long been one of our favorite Rioja producers, and with good reason: this family-run winery makes classic, expressive wines at a price you absolutely can’t beat. If you’re looking for balance and character and value, you’re going to love this bodega.
At our Champagne Tent event, I had the chance to catch up with Alexandre Le Brun. He is one of the smallest producers that we import at K&L, with a total production around 700 cases. He has a small winery in the basement of his ancestral home in Monthelon, which is surrounded by old vines that date back to 1950 and 1902. In total, he farms seven acres over 22 different plots. Although he sells a majority of his grapes to the big houses (Bollinger, Moet, Laurent Perrier, etc.), he keeps a small amount for himself, which he lovingly crafts into five stunning Champagnes.
Our very last tasting of the year is coming up this Saturday and it’s a doozy: all Burgundy, all grand, all 2016 vintage. This was a tricky vintage that was high in quality but low in quantity. A mild winter had people initially optimistic, especially after the gangbusters 2015, but frost and mildew came in hard and heavy. The good news is that the smaller crop was one of excellent fruit, and the wines all show super singing acidity.
Today is International Merlot Day, so it got me thinking about this varietal – in particular, how sorry I am that it has gotten such a bad rap. But in the hands of a talented winemaker, Merlot makes a beautiful wine. When grown in the right locations and given proper care, it can be a stunning, complex wine that combines both power and finesse, rivalling the finest Cabernets. Bordeaux, Napa Valley and Tuscany are probably the best-known regions in the world for producing exceptional Merlots.
Over the past week, I previewed two of my favorite Champagne and food pairings for the holidays. The first is old vintage Champagne and foie gras. My other favorite pairing is crab cakes and extra brut blanc de blancs.
Our 12th Champagne Tent Event is in the books, and it was truly one to remember. There were 26 producers at the event, many coming to California all the way from Champagne for our back-to-back events in LA and SF. Had we been revelers at Versailles, I don’t know if we could have enjoyed ourselves more.
In the last few decades, there has been an influx of new vintners to the Languedoc-Roussillon, bringing with them both quality and excitement. Nowhere is this energy more apparent than with Les Vinifilles (translated as “wine girls”), a trade organization of women formed to support one another and celebrate the “culture of wine.” They describe themselves as “beautiful, rebellious, active, food-loving, likeable, sociable and lively.” This infectious excitement and enthusiasm, for wine and for each other, is how our Buyer Keith Mabry progressively discovered the wines and brought them into K&L.
We’re all super excited for this weekend’s Champagne Tent Events in Hollywood and San Francisco, so we’ve been talking about bubbles all week. I had a chance to chat with Valerie McDaniel, who represents both Bollinger and Ayala, and I learned a ton about these fascinating, historic houses. Ayala and Bollinger are two of the most notable producers in the village of Aÿ, in the heart of the Valle de Marne, and since 2005 they’ve been inextricably linked under the same ownership. But their friendship goes back even further. Ayala’s tale is one of riots and war and golden times, and it’s a great foray into Champenoise history.
And so there we were, in 1100 square feet packed with people and barrels and grapes and a forklift and a bucket of Tecate—at ground zero of what I have no doubt is a new moment for wine in this city, because here’s the thing: the wine is good. And they have the momentum and enthusiasm behind them to keep these wheels turning. Owner Jasper Dickson is a bon vivant/musician/winemaker/entrepreneur, who has a passion for wine and for LA—and he’s got a plan for both.
Last Friday was International Champagne Day and we hosted Enguerrand Baijot, owner of Champagne Lanson, in our Redwood City store for a special tasting. Baijot poured six of his wines and shared interesting insights with our crowd of guests.
This past Thursday I flew out to Hollywood for a very special vertical dinner of Louis Roederer’s Cristal. K&L’s own Sharon Kelly organized the event, and 25 happy customers joined us. Dirk Smits from Champagne Louis Roederer lead us through the wines, which were paired expertly by Chef Walter Manzke and his staff at République.
We’re still tasting our way through the bounty of Southern Rhône from the heralded 2016 vintage, and boy are the wines good. In Jeb Dunnuck’s words: “The 2016 vintage was truly extraordinary for the Southern Rhône and is a vintage that readers should buy with abandon. This is the greatest young vintage from the Southern Rhône Valley I’ve ever tasted, both in terms of quality as well as consistency… In fact, it’s difficult to find a truly bad wine in 2016.” From what I can tell so far, I can’t argue with him. And thanks to our Direct Import program, there are some great values on our shelves to boot.
Gary Westby, our Champagne Buyer, invited me to join them for their annual Champagne Summit, a daylong tasting that happens every fall. Each year, in order to get ready for the busy holiday season, the buyers invite some of the biggest houses in France to pour their Champagnes.
Some of us industry folk had a beautiful opportunity recently to attend the annual Taittinger Somm Night event in SF. This is a great occasion wherein vendors, distributors, retailers, and wait staff can get together and hang out. It’s especially nice because we all get to be under one roof without any expectations of wheeling and dealing – we don’t need to sell or push or network. We were there to unwind, chat, and drink some tasty Champagne as we roll into the ever-busy Autumn months.
If you’re a regular shopper at K&L, or receive our weekly Events email, you know about our in-store wine tastings held every Thursday and Saturday. These informal, educational (and social!) meetings provide the opportunity to explore a region and expand your palate. But did you know we have an exciting new way to learn about wine? This summer, we rebooted our offsite wine dinner series as a way to elevate the food-and-wine pairing experience and to connect our customers to the people behind the wine.
A big boat just landed in California, carrying some wines we’re pretty jazzed about—all hailing from Rhône’s phenomenal 2016 vintage. Both Northern and Southern Rhône knocked it out of the park in 2016. We’re excited through and through for this vintage, and wines from La Ferme du Mont in Châteauneuf-du-Pape are topping our list of what to open first.
The Loire Valley doesn’t often get much attention, especially when standing next to other French behemoths like Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone. Pouring the full range of wines, Loire Wine Buyer, Keith Mabry, took us on a journey up and down the river, sharing the flavors and stories that make this place so unique. Whether you’re planning on attending the tasting this Saturday, or maybe you just want to learn more about the area, below are a few essentials to get you started.
An icon in California wine, Talley is a family-run farming operation who’ve been growing and bottling classic Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines from the Central Coast since the 80s. This is their 33rd harvest since they began, back in the day when they were the first growers of Pinot and Chardonnay in the region. I talked to Brian about cooking, food, wine, and the holistic approach that is the backbone of his family business.
Tucked in the northeastern corner of Napa Valley, just south of the Palisades Mountains is the legendary Eisele Vineyard. Long recognized as one the finest Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in Napa Valley, this stunning site owes its success to its various owners over the last century, each who contributed significant influences to the quality of vineyard. It is no surprise then that the new owner, François Pinault from Château Latour, is likewise elevating the standards that were already so remarkable. As the 2015 vintages are being released, we are starting to see these new influences, and it’s pretty exciting.
A much overlooked region, the Finger Lakes are rich in history and are producing wines that are better than ever. Our colleague Muriel Sarik recently took a trip to the region and found that while Riesling rules, there is wonderful depth that wine lovers of varying palates will adore. Join her for a tour of some of the top wineries, some beautiful scenery, and a few unexpected discoveries. As she says, “they will make the best wine they possibly can.”
Back in March of 2018, we ran a small piece detailing the full cycle of the K&L Spirits single barrel program. Our spirits buyers, after tasting through dozens of samples/barrels at the source, hand select the best single casks from Bourbon country to be bottled up and sold a few times a year. Occasionally, we end up with the empty barrels which we hand deliver to local breweries. This program really gained steam in late 2014 when David OG from K&L hooked up his childhood friend Jacob McKean of Modern Times. Don’t miss this thrilling new release!
When K&L Champagne Buyer, Gary Westby, asked if I had any thoughts on a cocktail for using the Baron-Fuente Grande Reserve bottles I knew I had a shortlist of recipes that I wanted to try, but I ultimately settled on the Champagne Old Fashioned, or as I fondly refer to it: That Old Fashioned Champ. As its name implies, it riffs on one of the most classic of all cocktails, and just as the traditional Old Fashioned relies on simplicity of function to let the few ingredients shine beautifully, this Champagne version takes the same approach so you can appreciate each element that contributes to the beverage.
You may have already heard this, but the 2015 vintage in Bordeaux is outstanding. According to our resident Bordeauxitarian in Hollywood, Jacques Moreira, everything that needed to happen happened. The stars aligned, the heavens opened, and the sunshine/rain/cool breeze combo proceeded exactly as needed to get the fruit to its most perfect state. Now that the wines are in-stock, it is a vintage that deserves any discerning wine drinker’s attention.