Bring on the Bubbly


It was my third day on the job when I got my first real taste (literally!) of K&L. I had spent the first two days meeting people, shaking hands and getting my bearings around the store and office. On my third day, I tasted Champagne for six hours.


As luck would have it, I had timed my start date well. 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. This year we hosted 14 houses, including Moet, Veuve-Clicquot, Krug, Ruinart, Laurent-Perrier, Louis Roederer, Pol Roger, Alfred Gratien, Feuillate, Bollinger, Charles Heidsieck, Tattinger, and Olivier Tonnerre.


Starting at 9am, right after the customary breakfast burrito (“It’s a tradition,” Gary informed me), the corks started popping. Our K&L team, led by Gary, included liaisons from each of our stores: Alex Schroeder from Redwood City, Diana Turk from Hollywood and Scott Beckerley from SF. Everyone huddled around a long table in our Redwood City warehouse, surrounded by cases of wine and shelves of bottles. This fairly unromantic setting seemed to signal the seriousness of their mission. They were here to taste Champagne, no frills allowed, even if you were Cristal or Dom Perignon. Then, one after another, representatives arrived from different houses to showcase their favorite Champagnes and share stories. Overall, we tried approximately 55 different Champagnes and according to Gary, “we spit out about 2 liters of wine each!”



However you look at it – houses, bottles, liters– it was a lot of wine. But for our team, with their fine-tuned taste buds and incredible stamina, this Champagne-filled day efficiently allowed them to see what’s in the market and what is coming down the pipeline. We reacquainted ourselves with the 2005s and 2006s, which were showing beautifully. We also welcomed several new 2008s, which by all accounts, looks to be a phenomenal vintage. There was a general consensus from the team that the 2008 Dom Perignon “was one of the finest young Doms we’ve ever had.” What became abundantly clear is that there is some amazing Champagnes to be enjoyed over the next few months to years.

The excitement that gets stirred up during this marathon tasting is just the beginning of the Champagne buzz around the holidays. The next big event is our annual Champagne Tent Event at the end of October, which allows our customers to experience their own Champagne indulgence. In both San Francisco and Hollywood, we will be pouring many of the Champagnes we tasted during our Summit, as well as hosting several independent producers who fly in from France to pour their own wines, including Aspasie, Fallet-Dart, Coutelas, Le Brun de Neuville, Louise Brison, Champagne Trudon, Champagne Egrot and Champagne Solemme. It’s a great opportunity to taste some amazing Champagnes and hear stories first-hand from the wineries.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for our monthly Champagne tastings, our Saturday Sparkling Wine tasting on October 13th, or simply stop by the store and talk with our very knowledgeable staff. Whatever method you choose, we will have you covered through the holidays!

Megan Greene