A Very Special Bordeaux Dinner (and Opportunity!)

As many of you know, I took over a number of our head wine buying duties last Fall and I'm now heavily involved in both the Bordeaux and Burgundy departments, traveling with our owners to taste each new vintage moving forward. During that time I've made a number of friendships and acquaintances, which I've continued to develop and maintain via email. When I made my first official en primeur trip to Bordeaux in 2016, I was most taken and impressed by the wines of Hélène Garcin-Lévéque, the owner of chateaux Barde-Haut, Clos l'Eglise, Poesia, and d'Arce on Bordeaux's Right Bank. Based in St. Emilion, she was my Bordeaux counterpart—a person firmly interested in tradition, but willing to buck the old ways when necessary in the interest of inclusivity. She was the only person who didn't serve us beef when we visited her home, and her youthful approach to wine enjoyment captivated me immediately. 

So why am I telling you this here on the spirits blog?

I'm not the Bordeaux guy (yet) who's going to wax philosophically about how the 1962 Lafite was better than the 1985. I don't have those chops at this point in my career. I'm simply here to bring you on the journey with me, just like I've been doing with spirits for the last eight years. While I can't give you the level of expertise I'd like to at this point (although every day I get a bit better) I can create opportunities for my customers to have their own epiphanies, while gaining some insight into what might be a new and exciting hobby. That's why I've put together one of the coolest dual events ever, one that should be of equal interest to the Bordeaux veteran and newcomer. On Thursday, August 31st we'll have a Redwood City in-store tasting with Hélène between 5 PM and 6:30 PM where you can walk in and taste previews of the fantastic 2015 vintage (still not yet released!), along with a few other gems for a mere five bucks.

Pretty cool, right? I had to fly all the way to France to taste those samples, but you can drive over to the Redwood City store and taste them for only a few dollars.

That's not it though. 

If you want to go even further, you can join us at Donato afterward at 7:30 PM for a pre-fixe dinner where Hélène will unveil advance samples of the even more heralded 2016 vintage, one that has been heavily lauded for the last few months during our en primeur campaign. You'll get the chance to taste wines that so far only wine writers and retailers have had the chance to taste, and you'll get to compare them with the 2014 vintage, as well as library editions from 2000 and 2005. 

You not only get to do this, you also get to eat dinner with one of Bordeaux's iconic personalities and (in true David Driscoll fashion) you're going to get to do it for only fifty bucks.

Let's recap:

August 31st - special Redwood City walk-in tasting - 5 PM to 6:30 PM - $5

2015 Clos d'Eglise (sold for $80 on pre-arrival)

2015 Barde-Haut (sold for $35 on pre-arrival)

- 2015 Poesia (sold for $40 on pre-arrival)

2015 d'Arce (sold out at $17)

- plus a few other gems

August 31st - special K&L dinner at Donato - 7:30 PM - $50

2016 Clos d'Eglise $99.99

2016 Barde-Haut $37.99

2016 d'Arce $14.99

2014 Clos d'Eglise $64.99

2014 Barde-Haut $29.99

2014 d'Arce $16.99

- 2005 Clos l'Eglise $169.99

- 2000 Barde-Haut $69.99

- all of the above wines, and dinner for fifty bucks. 

You can reserve your spot below. I only have room for forty people and I'm offering them to the spirits blog readers first because I think this is an amazing opportunity for budding Bordeaux enthusiasts. I can promise you that as soon I as send this out to the Bordeaux list, there will be people fighting for every spot available and they will be gone in a heartbeat. I'd like to see some new blood in the category, however.

I hope some of you can make it out, either to the in-store tasting, or the dinner, or both!

A Special Bordeaux Dinner w/ Helene Garcin @ Donato, Redwood City - August 31st; 7:30 PM - $50 - Join us at Donato Enoteca in Redwood City on Thursday, August 31st as we sit down with esteemed Bordeaux winemaker Helene Garcin-Leveque for a very special sneak peak of the heralded 2016 vintage with preview samples of her Clos l'Eglise, Barde-Haut, and d'Arce properties. Also included will be a side by side look at the current 2014 releases, as well as special library editions of 2000 Barde-Haut and 2000 Clos l'Eglise. The cost of the tasting, your pre-fixe meal, and gratuity are all included for an amazing price of only fifty dollars. Space is very limited and tickets are first come, first served. 

-David Driscoll


Special Whiskey Tasting in SF Tomorrow

If you're in downtown San Francisco tomorrow between 5 - 6:30 PM, then you should come by the K&L on Harrison Street to meet Steve Beam and taste some of his Limestone Branch editions for Luxco. We'll be opening the Minor Case Sherry Cask Finished rye whiskey, as well as the Yellowstone Bourbon, and another whiskey to be named later (although I'm thinking maybe the Rebel Yell Reserve so we can get a little wheated action going). I'll be there to help support the cause and the tasting is free of charge! What do you have to lose besides a few brain cells?

See you there!

-David Driscoll


Rules of the Road

I get a lot of emails from people who want to know what the rules of drinking are. I'm also subjected to endless opinion where people say ridiculous and sweeping statements in unrequested quests to either enforce these rules or fully reject them. Normally I try to evade these rabbit holes as lightly as possible with quick and breezy responses because it's not a subject I enjoy, but after someone forwarded me an article about ice in whiskey this morning, I felt a bit of diarrhea building up in my mouth and I had to let it out. 

If someone told me they never put ice in their whiskey because they didn't like it, I would probably shrug and say "to each their own."

But when most people say "I never put ice in my whiskey" it's usually followed by a haughty rationale that has something to do with how much respect they have for the craft and the heritage of whiskey. It's usually some sort of melodramatic hogwash that makes you throw up in your mouth just a little bit. 

Rejecting the rules or taking a more liberal mindset—a laissez-faire approach, if you will—doesn't necessarily work either. There are moments in life where having at least some respect for decorum and tradition is important. If I'm visiting the queen of England, I want to know what the expectations are for my behavior. If I'm dining in Tokyo with the heads of Suntory, I'm going to brush up on Japanese dinner table etiquette. Not because I want to impress these people, mind you, or show them that I'm cultured, but because I don't want to do something to upset them or embarrass myself. 

It's the intention, in my opinion, that separates rule followers from one another. Believe it or not, many people follow rules not to avoid attention, but rather to welcome it. 

When I was finishing up my BA in San Diego, I took a number of political courses in which my fellow students were practically tripping over themselves to show the professor how much they understood and agreed with his opinions. In one particular case, the more they followed the professor's lead, the happier he was and the better he treated them. If you voiced an opinion that was contrary to their mindset, you were immediately attacked by the gang of sycophants (and you think you're sending your kids away to be cultured and have their minds opened!). The rules of the classroom were no different than the politics of life, which is ultimately the same foundation for the rules of drinking. 

The rules you should follow in the wine world depend entirely on who you want to impress. The French snobs? The Napa cabernet bros? The natural wine hippies? Or the food and wine sommeliers? The same goes for whiskey. Who are you trying to fit in with? The Bourbon geeks? The single malt maniacs? The cocktail crazies? There's a completely different set of rules for each group, just like high school. You wanna hang out with the goth kids, go buy a Bauhaus t-shirt and ten pairs of black Levis. You wanna be down with the Bourbon crowd? Pick a fight with an NAS whiskey producer on social media and needle them about transparency. You'll be welcomed with open arms.

I'm happy to help when people ask me about simple booze protocol because I understand that no one wants to embarrass themselves by not understanding the guidelines. The people I try to avoid, however, are the ones who want to understand the rules in order to embarrass you! They're the strictest rule followers of all and the most stringent of enforcers because they live to point out the various faux pas of others. In their minds, the rules are there to be mastered not abided. 

It's a contest, and I'm not interested in competing. I'm here to drink.

-David Driscoll


Pellehaut Jackpot!

It's always nice to catch up with old friends and have a little reunion to see how everyone's life has evolved over time. There are a number of folks from Modesto I haven't seen in years that I'd love to catch up with, but in the meantime I'm visiting with some old vintages from Pellehaut that I haven't tasted in ages! They've all been stewing about the barrel, gaining complexity, and some are a little fatter than I remember (aren't we all?), but they're all doing quite well. You recognize them, don't you? Familiar faces, a little bit older, but all happy to see you! Let me give you an update as to their individual conditions:

2001 Chateau de Pellehaut 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive Tenareze Armagnac $62.99 - Now 16 years of age and at 49.8%, this little number is just as I remember it: full of sweet oak spices, but now with more fruit and even a floral element that comes through from the folle blanche. Those looking for Armagnac that tastes like brandy will love this. It has the richness of a great whiskey, but it's totally vinous on the finish with raisins and grapey elements that linger long. Fantastic.

2000 Chateau de Pellehaut 17 Year Old K&L Exclusive Tenareze Armagnac $69.99 - Now at 17 years of age and at 49.7%, the 2000 vintage—like the 2001—is also distilled from folle blanche, but it couldn't be more different in its flavor profile despite being just a year apart. This one is for Bourbon drinkers as it's loaded with oak, peppery spice, woody richness, and lots of vanilla on the finish. This is very much like an American whiskey, and quite a delicious one at that!

1996 Chateau de Pellehaut 21 Year Old K&L Exclusive Tenareze Armagnac $79.99 - Now at 21 years of age and at 50%, this is one of the most legendary vintages of Pellehaut we've ever carried and I was under the impression it was all done. Apparently not! My buddy Charles was able to go back and snag a few more cases for me, which is exciting to say the least. This 1996 is the ULTIMATE Bourbon crossover. In fact, if you poured this for me blind there's no way in hell I would ever guess brandy. Anyone who tells you differently is lying. This is pretty much a 100 proof bottle of 21 year old Bourbon that happens to come in a French Armagnac bottle. It's monstrously powerful, bold and assertive, loaded with spice and absolutely saturated in oak. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this to traditional Armagnac fans. I would however jump up and down trying to convince Bourbon fans to at least try a bottle. The folle blanche flavors have definitely become more nuanced with age. 

1986 Chateau de Pellehaut 31 Year Old K&L Exclusive Tenareze Armagnac $89.99 - Now at 31 years of age and at 48%, the 1986 is the big winner of the Pellehaut reunion. It's better integrated, sexier, more seductive, and all around better than it was years ago when we last had it in stock. Simply put, this is the perfect expression of Armagnac. It has loads of richness, oak spice, and sweetness, but it also has traditional brandy character. It's raisined and round with gobs of fruit on the finish that start quite creamy, but then flutter out into more spiciness. This is the whole package. Distilled from ugni blanc.

1973 Chateau de Pellehaut 44 Year Old K&L Exclusive Tenareze Armagnac $159.99 - Now at 44 years of age and at 43.8%, the 1973 is just as soft and enticing as it's always been. If you're someone who likes your aged booze smooth, silky, supple, and effortless, this is the brandy for you. Creamy and round with plenty of wood, the spice has become almost herbaceous at this point and it plays nicely of the vanilla. This tastes much more expensive than it is.

-David Driscoll


Rum(blings) Down South

After watching over a hundred different customers from all over the country scramble to get their bottle of the Foursquare Criterion rum last week, it's clear that we've got something of a rum movement on our hands. The question I have to ask is: are rum fans interested in rum the same way early whiskey geeks from the last decade were originally interested in whiskey? To give you an example, when I first started learning about single malt and Bourbon, I wanted to try everything. I wanted to find cool new producers, dig into every nook and cranny, and search out the most interesting bottles I could possibly find. I went all over Scotland, all over Kentucky, into every liquor store and every dead-end bodega I could find, hoping each location might have something out of the ordinary to sample. When it comes to rum, I'm clear on what the collector market is after: pot still Jamaican funk, full proof Bajan spice, and ancient Guyanese treasures. Are we willing to go further, however?

What about something outside of that limited idiom? What about an American secret that's been making rum right under our noses for almost a decade and who started the project back in 1999? Not just rum, mind you, but single estate rum from its own home grown sugar cane. Georgia's Richland Rum has come to K&L and Bourbon drinkers might want to take notice. While Foursquare rum might have the backing of the greater Bourbon community, I don't think there's a specimen in the category that more resembles American whiskey than Richland. 

The question you have to ask with Richland is: do you want rum that tastes like rum, or rum that tastes like Bourbon? Because if you want rum to taste like rum, Richland doesn't taste like any rum I've ever had. To me, it tastes like Heaven Hill or LDI single barrel juice. Maybe that's because it's aged in standard size virgin oak barrel made from Wisconsin white oak. I get a hint of sweet sugar cane on the nose, but from the first sip, to the mid-palate, to the rich and spicy finish I get baking spices, sweet oak, and loads of wood. Founded in the late nineties by Erik Vonk, Richland is no Johnny-come-lately to the booze game, but in order to create a single estate rum you first have to create the estate. It wasn't until 2011 that Richland bottled its first rums, distilled on a small alembic pot still from his its own sugar cane syrup. It wasn't until 2017, however, the Richland decided to reach out to some of California's key retailers in the hope of taking its rum mission beyond Georgia's borders. In a spirits market that continues to be dominated by Bourbon fever, they've got the right flavor profile.

If you're seriously geeky about rum, and happen to have a taste for American whiskey, I'd recommend checking out a bottle. This is the first American rum (beyond St. George's limited agricole series) that I think establishes a new American genre. There's a lot of good information and photos on their official website as well. As of now it's available on the website and in the stores!

-David Driscoll