Bring On The Haters

 I've touched on this topic before, but I couldn't help mention this troubling phenomenon again, seeing that it's a pet peeve of mine.  Another well-written Jon Bonne article for the SF Chronicle gets nothing but seething responses from the commenting public, many of whom are out simply to trash something for the sake of it (at least the comments that I made it through).  I honestly don't know how Jon deals with it, except for maybe just ignoring it all together.  The irony of the entire thing is almost laughable, considering Jon wrote an article about how mis-information concerning wine only breeds more hatred from people who don't drink it or understand it.  What I find most interesting is the overwhelmingly obvious fact that most who commented negatively seemed not to have read the article - they're just there to gang up on people.  I absolutely loathe comment boards that function as a way to bully, berate, or debase people (SF Gate is only slightly better than  It's even worse when that hatred is based on ignorance because the comments are not only mean, they're entirely illogical and stupid. 

Jon is completely right when he says that cheap wine is exactly that.  The point isn't to avoid cheap wine, only to at least call it what it is, rather than callously claim that wine is always overpriced.  The truth is this: there are cheap wines that taste good and there are expensive wines that do not.  However, there is no all-encompassing fact, statement, or judgment that can collectively categorize all wine together (which is what people do when they say good wine shouldn't cost more than $3).  People love the idea of rich people getting screwed by their own inability to recognize quality.  They eat that stuff up.  HA!  Stupid rich guy thought he was paying $100 for good wine when in fact it's all the same as the $3 bottle!  I'm sure that has happened, but the truth is that some wine is expensive because it's better than others. The most obvious problem is that some people don't understand what "good" actually means when it comes to wine, despite Jon's attempt to shed some light on that subject.

"Good" is no different a term with wine than it is with, say, a car.  Is a Porsche a better car than a VW Golf?  That depends on what you're basing "good" on.  Horsepower?  Gas mileage?  Storage space?  What are the criteria?  All of those things seem go out the window however when the word good is used with wine.  Everything is combined into "good," even if it makes no sense at all.  Commenters who felt the need to write, "I don't need to pay $15 for a bottle of wine, when I can get my $3 bottle at Trader Joes," are really saying something to the equivalent of "I don't need to buy a Porsche because I just need something to get me from Point A to B."  There's nothing wrong with that statement.  However, if you claim that your junker is "just as good" as a Porsche, you're going to get laughed at.  Maybe it suits you better than a Porsche, and maybe a Porsche is a totally impractical car for you, but why state that your old Dodge is "better?" 

What people really mean by statements like that is that they're happy with where they're at - and that's great!  How nice to be content with minimal material goods in life.  However, if you're so content with your life then why are you on SF Gate posting about how much better you are for not drinking expensive wine?  Jon was definitely not saying that cheap wine is a dumb idea.  He was responding to an article that says expensive wine is a dumb idea!  Again, there is no secret conspiracy where all expensive wine is really just bulk wine with a different label.  And, yes, people who like wine can definitely pick out well made ones from the bad ones in a blind tasting.  However, all it takes is one over-priced California Cab getting a bad score, or a sommelier choosing Charles Shaw at a blind tasting to make everyone think the opposite.  That was Jon's point.  And he's totally right.  It's not even an opinion.  It's a fact! 

Nevertheless, the flood gates open and the vitriol spews......

-David Driscoll


Tasting Schedule for the Month

It's not easy to get these things organized, but I've made some progress for the next month.  Here's what we'll be pouring in-store, free of charge for all of you wonderful customers.

November 15th

Redwood City will host a very special Tuesday night tasting with Sonja Kassebaum from Chicago's North Shore Distillery!

November 16th

San Francisco will feature the wonderful Alameda bunch from St. George Distillery pouring the new Breaking & Entering Bourbon amongst other things.

Redwood City will showcase the new barrel-aged Fluid Dynamics cocktails from Germain-Robin.

November 23rd

No tastings due to fierce holiday store traffic.  ArteNOM and Springbank will be rescheduled.

November 30th

San Francisco will have Amy Schwartz pouring the Burns Stewart Single Malts - Bunnahabhain, Tobermorey, and more!

Redwood City will feature St. George Distillery finally making it down to pour the new Bourbon.

December 7th

San Francisco will host local heroes Anchor Distilling featuring the gins and hopefully the rye!

Redwood City will feature the heavy-hitting, cask-strength Willett Bourbons.

All tastings start at 5 PM and go until 6:30.  Line ups are subject to last minute change if complications do occur. 

See you all there!

-David Driscoll


Sherry Baby

We grew up watching our mothers cook with it.  We drink single malts flavored with it.  So why is it that no one actually drinks the Sherry itself - just plain, in a glass, on its own?  I feel like every now and again we'll make an obligatory push for better appreciation of fortified spirits at K&L, but eventually that train loses steam.  Then we go back to wine and booze for a few months until we suddenly "discover" Sherry all over again.  The combination of both wine and spirits should be the perfect medium for fans of both genres, yet something never seems to click.  Sherry is delicious, it drinks like wine and keeps like whisky, it offers a variety of styles, a myriad of flavors, and wonderfully affordable price points.  What more does Sherry need to do to get our attention?

I got seriously housed on the above-pictured bottle of La Ina Fino Sherry $14.99 last night.  Briny, salty, nutty, and fresh, this 15% alcohol delight is almost impossible to put down.  Fino sherries are the Islay malts of the fortified world sans the smoke.  They pair amazingly well with olives, cheese, sardines, and other salty snacks, but I had no problem putting away this whole bottle by itself while watching Nova's The Fabric of Space.  When I woke up on the couch at five this morning with a mouth drier than the Mojave desert, I realized that Sherry can creep on you as well.  However, I can definitely handle far more glasses of Sherry than I can single malt whisky.

While most single malts are aged in Oloroso Sherry casks (a style of sherry much sweeter than fino), there are the occasional fino-aged malts.  Why they don't do it more often is beyond me (maybe a lack of available barrels).  The brine, saline, and oxidized wine notes blend beautifully with whisky and provide the perfect highlight for the oily character of Springbank in this cask strength barrel they released last year.  I also remember running through the Bruichladdich warehouse on Islay and finding a 1990 Macallan resting in a fino cask.  We did get to taste it and it was fantastic. It was unfortunately already spoken for, however (otherwise you'd all have a bottle by now). Why Laphroaig and Ardbeg haven't experimented with fino cask enhancement is a curious question.  Seems like a match made in heaven.

Besides the amazing flavors of dry fino Sherry, we've got a fantastic selection of amontillado and palo cortado offerings as well - most of which are completely dry as well.  The complexity of these wines is simply beyond the capability of many $50 single malts, yet the Sherries sell for as low as $19.99 in some cases.  Again, they'll keep for months after you open them and the variety they offer is vast enough to justify having a few open bottles in your collection.  I'm definitely going to replenish my supply with this Herederos de Argueso later today and I may spring for this 1979 Gonzalez Bypass later in the month (easily one of the best things I have ever tasted while working at K&L).  For the super geeks out there, you could read all day about yeast, flor, soleras, and the entire Sherry-making process which is much more complicated than distillation.

Sherry has so much to offer.  If you're getting to the point where you need a new adventure in drinking, this might be the road worth taking.

-David Driscoll


Spirits Tastings Today

Another day of free booze tastings is upon us.

Redwood City will showcase the Bourbons of Oregon's Big Bottom Whiskey.  You may have just noticed their appearance on John Hansell's Whiskey Advocate Blog the other day.  Come taste their stuff and see what you think!

San Francisco will be featuring smoky Scotch with Val from JVS pouring the new Kilchoman 100% Islay, an 18 year old Laphroaig from Hart Brothers, and the new Isle of Skye 12 year blend.  Yummy stuff.

Tastings start at 5 PM and go until 6:30.  See you there!

-David Driscoll


New Product Round-Up

I've been loving the developments over the past week on the blog.  Driscoll has been really delving deep into some real existential issues about how and why we do what we do.  Of course, our great motivator is the love we have for the products we sell and with that in mind I'd like to introduce a whole onslaught of new and future products.  Some we will be stocking, others will be available special order, but all are worthy of a mention here.  First, from the inventive and intrepid Tempus Fugit Spirits a new line of incredible liqueurs that will definitely be as talked about as the last ones.  Known for their Absinthe, Tempus Fugit has made waves over last year releasing the exceptional (albeit controversial) Gran Classico and the lovely Tempus Fugit Liqueur de Violette.  Production for these new products is not in full swing yet, but I was so excited I just couldn't wait to share.

This is the fabulous Kina l'Avion d'Or.  Watch out Lillet and Cocchi Americano, this is a traditional Kina Aperitif recipe coming from a hundred year old recipe from a distillery in Switzerland.  Richer than expected, it doesn't have the light heartedness of the Americano, but it certainly makes up for it in term of depth.  This label is not approved yet, but hopefully something like it will be.  The nose is deeply perfumed and wild!  The palate has the perfect interplay between bitter and sweet.  This is sure to be a classic.

Here is another stunner from Tempus Fugit.  One problem we've had in mixology is the lack of proper Creme de Menthe.  Our prayers are answered by this fabulous offering.  Even the great liqueur producers from France cannot match this stuff.  Incredibly fleshy and fresh, the flavor is strong Spearmint rather than the typical pepperminty thing we're used to.  Should change the way most people feel about The Stinger.

Few things have bothered me more than the Creme de Cacao I've tasted in the past.  This is a whole new world.  The stuff is SOOO rich.  Basically the texture of maple syrup.  The nose is pure cacao beans and vanilla.  More complexity than any chocolate flavored liqueur I've ever tasted, they've managed to capture the true depth of the Cacao bean in a way that is both satisfyingly familiar and totally unprecedented.  Think of mixing these two with some cream for the best Grasshopper that anybody has had in a hundred years.

The history of Fernet is a controversial one.  Fernet Branca is unquestionably the King of Amaro, but its history is one that's shrouded in secrecy.  The official line is that it's creator Bernardino Branca, initially created the recipe with the help of a "Doctor Fernet" to lay credence to his claims that the drink had medicinal purposes.  Future generations of Fernet-Branca marketing departments have spent a lot of energy dismissing this story as fiction, claiming instead that no other person besides Bernardino was responsible for the recipe.  According to the records of the small Matter distillery they purchased this original Fernet recipe from a widow of Luigi Branca in the 1930s for an astounding sum of money.  Supposedly, this original recipe came from Friar Angelico and was bequithed to the widow Branca after Luigi's death.  The image and name Angelico Fernet appears on the original documents from the sale of the recipe.  While Fernet-Branca claims to have not changed their recipe since its release in 1845, this alternate history seems to contradict those claims.  I'm certainly not in a place to tell you who's history is the truth, but I will tell you that this stuff is delicious!  Totally different from what you'd expect.  Less bitter, less menthol, more herbal and much more Saffron.  Absolutely delicious.  Cremes should be here by the end of November, expect the fabulous swiss spirits early next year.  Another new product round up coming at the end of this week.