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Saturday
May202017

It is Happening Again...

I have been waiting twenty-five years for tomorrow night. 

Twin Peaks is my all-time favorite television show, David Lynch my all-time favorite director, and Agent Cooper is my all-time favorite on screen character. I'm so in love with special agent Cooper, in fact, that I don't think I've ever been right since the series finale (I won't spoil it for you, but it's unnerving). I think I loved Coop more than Audrey Horne. 

Now that all changes. All the wrongs can be righted and my life's trajectory can finally be put back in order! Agent Cooper returns to TV tomorrow night and I'm praying to God we will finally get the ending we deserve.

For those of you who don't know, actor Kyle MacLachlan is a big wine guy. He actually makes his own label in Washington, which I was trying to have on the shelf by today, but Kyle's been busy lately (obviously) so we'll have to get that done later. In the meantime, I'm going to wake up tomorrow, pour myself a cup of hot, black coffee and watch the minute hand on the clock tick by ever so slowly. 

I CANNOT WAIT. Rejoice! It is happening again! What are you going to drink while watching tomorrow's season three premiere? 

-David Driscoll

Friday
May192017

Wild Portland Nights

I landed in Portland yesterday morning and caught a cab directly to the "Old Portland," a wine bar owned by my friend Courtney Taylor, ironically situated in what has become new Portland. All the up and coming hip spots are situated in the Northwest sector with new restaurants, bars, and cafes opening every month. Courtney, who was born and raised in the Oregon city, is nostalgic for the way things used to be (aren't we all?), so he named his bar accordingly. Within those walls he curates and celebrates Portland's quirky past, pouring old school wines at great prices to help lighten the mood.

I arrived to find my friend straightening up the space and getting the bottles ready for our afternoon's festivities. As a long time K&L customer, Courtney has been a big supporter of our Bordeaux program and many of the other great wine deals we're able to import from all over the world. I had shipped up some of our best bang-for-your-buck bottles and we were preparing to host about forty of his drinking buddies—guys who eat, breath, and sleep all things wine. As we ship a lot of wine into Oregon, I was hoping to expand our customer base a bit with the private event. Courtney was stoked, too—mainly because he would get to drink everything in the process!

Courtney is, for those of you who don't know him, quite the draw in Portland. He's the world-famous lead singer of the Dandy Warhols, one of the most beloved rock acts to come out of the Pacific Northwest in the late mid-to-late nineties. You can catch my old D2D interview with him in the archives for a more detailed story on how he caught the wine bug, but let's just say the guy loves his grape juice. It's funny because our roles as friends are totally reversed. In theory, I should be the one fawning over him and his rock star status, but in all honesty I think he's more excited to hang out with me. Courtney loves sipping, swirling, nosing, and tasting good wine and—obviously—that's a beloved activity we share a passion for. I think he greatly appreciates people who appreciate it. He was giddy from the moment I got there and I tried to stay humble as he introduced people to me using an arsenal of various accolades.

I won't bore you with the details as to which wines we tasted, or what happened while I was behind the bar for four hours talking shop. Let's just say it was a big party and everyone seemed quite pleased with the spread.

The crowd was dynamite and full of serious personalities, many of whom had some sort of artistic background. The shocker (and high point) for me was getting the chance to meet Paige Powell who—if you're not familiar—worked as Andy Warhol's assistant at Interview for many years. She was also dating a guy named Jean-Michel Basquiat before he passed away tragically. No big deal. Maybe you heard the news this morning, about how one of his paintings just sold for $110 million at auction? I spent almost an hour listening to her tell stories about New York during the eighties and what it was like to work for Andy. She and I have a lot in common in that we like to take pictures and talk to people while drinking wine. In this instance, she's taking a photo of me while I take a photo of her. What an experience!

We drank from about one in the afternoon until about eleven in the evening, telling stories and jokes, eating snacks, exploring Courtney's studio, and drinking the selection of K&L imports. We ended up down the street at Besaw's late night, drinking a bottle of 1989 Lilian Ladouys and eating duck confit with Courtney and I pounding a huge plate of french fries, hoping to soak up all that wine with some fried starch. We did our best to walk it off afterward, but in the end we were both too exhausted.

What a night! What a party! I can't wait to do it again.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
May182017

Say Hello to Heaven

I'm absolutely gutted this morning. I'm at the airport, heading up to Portland to hang out with one of my favorite bands of the nineties—The Dandy Warhols—but I'm struggling to comprehend what happened to my ultimate grunge hero Chris Cornell last night. 

On my short list of rock idols, you'd find a number of icons who died way too young: Jim Morrison, Syd Barrett, Nick Drake, etc. But Chris Cornell did not burn out in his youth—he survived the nineties! Everyone else went down around him—Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley—and others succumbed later like Mike Starr and Scott Weiland. Yet, not only did Chris Cornell continue to make music long after the heyday of Soundgarden, like a fine wine he only got better with age. His voice, while not as powerful, became more haunting. His incredible looks, while not as rugged, were only more refined. My wife would tell me all the time how she hoped to look as good as Cornell did when she turned fifty (he often talked about doing pilates and how being sober kept him healthy and focused). Chris was one of the few rock stars who would make both of us swoon with equal intensity when we saw him.

Last November, we went to go see Temple of the Dog play its first ever live shows, twenty five years after the supergroup released its tribute to the tragic loss of Andrew Wood. Cornell walked out on stage and I heard my wife mumble, "Oh my God." She had never seen him live in person. He was long, lean, in great shape, and more electric than ever. He launched right into "Say Hello to Heaven" and I flashed back to my bedroom, listening to that song on cassette tape on late summer Modesto evenings. It was a magical moment.

That song was never supposed to apply to him, however. As he sings to Andrew in the final verse: "I never wanted to write these words down for you."

Neither did I, Chris. But, nevertheless, say hello to heaven. You were the best of the best.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
May162017

Homage

My old friend Steve Ury decided to hang up his keyboard after ten years of blogging at SKU's Recent Eats. This is an except from an old post originally from 2012, a day I had spent working in the LA store while my colleague David OG took vacation:

I was emptying a shopping cart of booze into the liquor section when a tall, red-headed man came and started asking me about Pappy. I explained the sad state of affairs and what we now have to do with our raffle system and he was perplexed.

"Really? Because I heard Costco and BevMO have it in stock right now."
 
Ahh.........sigh.  I was beginning to sweat.  This guy was nice enough, but he really wasn't getting what I was trying to tell him. I began my little schtick about how there's a shortage of great Bourbon right now, so he countered with, "I just need something that's like 98-100 points. Isn't there anything here in the store?"
 
I had to take my jacket off at that point. Heat from both my exasperation and the flu were beginning to set in. Finally, he gives me a ten dollar bill and says, "Call me when the Pappy comes in."  I take his business card, but I hand him back the ten and tell him that I can't do that. 
 
"How about twenty?  Com'on! Twenty bucks, help me out!"
 
I refused but I told him I would do everything I could to help him out when the time came. I finally looked down at the business card he handed me to make sure his email was on it, and.....BAM.....there it was: Steve Ury - my longtime email and blogger penpal, there in the flesh. We had never seen each other before so we didn't know what the other looked like. He had figured out that I was me, but I didn't expect to get punked in my own store! The man behind Sku's Recent Eats is as funny in person as he is on his blog. A very well-executed practical joke.  

A big thanks to SKU and the word he helped spread about not just spirits, but particularly the work we were doing at K&L. He was a big part of helping us build the spirits department back in the olden days when whisky blogs were just us guys writing for each other.

-David Driscoll
Monday
May152017

Stories from the Road

I started a little recurring piece over at On the Trail last week called "Stories from the Road," where I share experiences or funny stories that have happened while traveling for K&L that normally don't make the blog or newsletter. I thought I'd do the same here on the spirits blog when something comes to mind from time to time. I was advising a customer about travel in Oaxaca this morning and I made sure to warn him about altitude sickness because drinking large amounts of high-proof spirit up in the mountains can be hazardous to your health. How do I know? I'll tell you...

It was the final night of my 2015 trip to Oaxaca with Los Danzantes and I was out in Oaxaca City having dinner with the gang from the distillery. A few final shots of mezcal for the road, then back to the hotel room for an early night as my flight was leaving at 6 AM the following morning. I played it totally safe: nothing weird to eat and not more than I might normally drink on a work night. The problem, however, is that I was dehydrated from five days of consumption, not just my current efforts. As I soon learned, dehydration plays a key role in altitude sickness and I had somehow completely overlooked the fact that Oaxaca is over 5,000 feet above sea level.

I remember waking up at around 3 AM feeling absolutely terrible—not throw-up naseous as one might feel after drinking too much, but rather a deeper and more permeating sense of fatigue and fever. I had cramps in my stomach and I knew something was dreadfully wrong. Deciding to get up rather than lie there in agony, I swung my legs over the side of the bed and made for the bathroom, but instantly I took a header and collapsed into the hard tile of the hotel room floor. I was dizzy, short of breath, and my heart rate was through the roof. I made a slow effort to get back to my hands and knees, while I sat there taking deep breaths, trying to figure out what in the hell was wrong with me. I was scared and somewhat panicked thinking not just only about my condition, but also how I was going to get on a plane in just a few hours. That's when I recalled having heard about similar experiences in Denver from friends of mine who had partied too hard in the Mile High City. How high above sea level was Oaxaca, anyway? According to Google, about 1,555 meters—right in the danger zone. That's when I knew I needed H20—stat.

I remained in dire condition for about forty-five minutes, doing my best to take in as much water as I could. At around 4:45, when I was scheduled to leave for the airport, I was just barely well enough to leave and with some Tylenol and saltine crackers I was able to get on the plane as planned. It was close, however. 

If you're going to Oaxaca to drink mezcal and party at the various mezcalerias throughout the city, make sure you drink plenty of water. You don't hear many veterans talk about altitude sickness when recounting their professional travel experiences in Mexico, but it's a real thing. Take it from me.

-David Driscoll