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Sunday
May152016

Sunday Bloody Sunday

I've been trying to be more productive on Sundays as of late; and by "productive" I mean driving around to random bars and restaurants I've never been to in order to drink at as many new places as possible. While I know it's cool to check out the new high-end cocktail bars in the city and visit some new gin joint with pre-pre-pre-Prohibition libations, I've taken a completely different course over the past few months. Rather than go north into San Francisco and floss it up with the yuppies, I've been driving south towards San Jose, trying to get as lost as I possibly can in the sprawl that exists between Salinas and Santa Clara. I have no sense of direction in the South Bay and it's pretty easy to lose my orientation. Today was fantastic fun. My wife and I had Bloody Marys in a random bistro then strolled into a throwback cantina in Sunnyvale for Mexican food. The Piña Coladas tasted just like they do on the beach in Playa del Carmen and their mezcal selection was quite large for a small, hole-in-the-wall kind of spot. I made a note of the location so I could return in the near future.

The more San Francisco continues to modernize, the more I find myself longing for the nostalgia of the past. There are parts of the South Bay that feel like Modesto in the mid-80s. It feels more like Los Angeles than the Bay Area at times; those neighborhoods that have resisted the facelift and continue to maintain their retro vibe. There are people down there drinking Cadillac margaritas instead of Negronis. It's incredibly refreshing. I highly suggest doing this more often. If you drive around Stevens Creek it's amazing how many strip mall gems there are lying in wait.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
May122016

Kung Fu Master + New Stuff

I woke up at about three in the morning last night with a mind worm in my head that just wouldn't let go. I kept thinking about all the things I still want to do in life, but am now beginning to realize will probably never happen. Like my attempt to learn French, for example. I learned German and Spanish by basically dedicating my life to doing only those two things at those particular times. Right now I'm trying to parler just on my lunch breaks. That's never going to get it done to the level I want it at, unfortunately; but I don't have any more time to give beyond that. What about living in another country? I'd like to do that again. What about getting back down to my fighting weight? How can I lose ten pounds if I'm drinking a bottle of rosé every night? In reality I'm never going to do any of this stuff because the sacrifices they'll require me to make are no longer worth doing.

That type of stuff, worming its way through my brain, in the dark at 3 AM, relentlessly. Is that a mid-life crisis? I don't know.

Then I started thinking maybe all this stuff was like an adult version of what I felt watching movies like The Karate Kid and Bloodsport when I was a child in the eighties. The idea of being a kung fu master seemed incredible, but the reality of what it took to get to that level meant total sacrifice. I didn't have the discipline for training my body into the ultimate machine of destruction, but I did have the discipline for other things. I see a lot of that same immediate desire in the spirits world today; people who want to be experts overnight, who want to know everything about wine and whisky, but don't realize the sacrifice it takes to get to that level—both financially and physically. I can tell you right now that the long-term effects of constant exposure to alcohol on my psyche after nine years in the business are still up for debate. I'm not sure it's a good idea for anyone to put as much alcohol in their mouth as I do. In the meantime, I'm going to have a drink and try to forget about all this stuff. I probably shouldn't have watched No Country For Old Men before falling asleep last night.

Maybe I'll start with these incredible four spirits from OsCo: The Oakland Spirits Company.

I met with Michael Pierce yesterday from OsCo, a new distillery on 25th Street near Telegraph that's making some of the most interesting new gins and white spirits I've tasted in years. I still need to head over to the distillery before giving you the full rundown, but in the meantime the following spirits are available and they're pretty delicious. OsCo is part of a winery called Two Mile Wines, so all of the spirits are grape-based. Here's what we just got in today:

OsCo #5 Gin $24.99 - Mike called this his "Sunday gin," an easy, citrus-flavored, mild-mannered gin that's meant for classic cocktails or G&Ts. Delicious, and the price is even more exciting. A local, "craft" gin that's under thirty bucks? I must be dreaming.

OsCo Sea Gin $29.99- This is a breath of fresh air; fresh SEA air, hahahahahahaha....Made with hand-foraged nori from Mendocino and sundried by "certified non-GMO hippies," as Mike said. Super, super cool stuff. Like an Islay gin, even more so than the Botanist from Bruichladdich. 

Here's where it really gets cool. I've been waiting for someone to have the guts to make a gin without juniper. The catch, of course, is that you can't call it gin. That's why no one does it. You can't market it without the juniper because otherwise it's just "spirits flavored with _______". Who wants to drink that?

MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

Glasshouse Brandy flavored with shiso $29.99 - Umami galore! Salty, nutty, savory shiso flavor with the freshness of a gin. Cocktail night with Japanese food will never be the same again.

Glasshouse Brandy flavored with lemongrass $29.99 - This is like the spirits version of the Vietnamese food I just ate for lunch. It's like pure, vibrant, bold lemongrass in an explosion of booze. Who knew we needed this?

We can't ship these bottles at the moment because of a problem with the seal on the cork, but if you want to come in and grab a bottle feel free. We're working on a solution in the meantime, but don't let that slow you down! I'm very excited to see what these guys have up their sleeves. Tasting with Mike was an unexpected delight that I desperately needed this week.

-David Driscoll 

Thursday
May122016

Epic Wine Tasting Tomorrow

I'm always excited to advocate for my friend and colleague Ryan Woodhouse, who—in my opinion—is bringing in the most exciting, affordable, and interesting wines we carry as a company. Tomorrow is a great chance to experience everything he does in person. At 5 PM in Redwood City he'll be hosting three of South Africa's top producers: De Morgenzon, Glenelly, and Kanonkop with the winemakers themselves in the bar. You'll have the chance to taste seven incredible wines and chat with the folks who make them for a whopping five dollars. The Kanonkop winemaker, Abrie Beeslaar, was named winemaker of the year the IWSC in London last year. Tomorrow he'll be pouring in our store. Why would you not want to come drink with us? I don't know. That's why I'm telling you about this. You're going to want to do this. Now that the Warriors have clinched against Portland there's no excuse not to come!!!

5 PM. Redwood City. Friday 5/13. $5. Seven wines. 

2015 DMZ Cabernet Rosé $9.99

2014 DMZ Chenin Blanc Reserve $29.99

2012 Glenelly Grand Vin Chardonnay $19.99

2010 Glenelly "Lady May" Cabernet Sauvignon $44.99

2013 Kanonkop "Kadette" Cabernet/Pinotage Blend $12.99

2014 Kanonkop Pinotage $32.99

2013 Beeslar Pinotage $44.99

We'll see you there!

-David Driscoll

Thursday
May122016

The Lore of Laphroaig

I've probably enjoyed drinking my bottle of Laphroaig 15—a special release from the distillery last year—more than any other whisky in my collection as of late. I think the price played a big role in that enjoyment. If I remember correctly, that whisky sold for seventy bucks, which was incredibly low considering most distilleries don't even get out of bed to make a sub-$100 whisky these days. Even the distillery's Cairdeas releases, some of my most favorite from Islay over the last few years, usually come in at a reasonable $80 each time they're released. Laphroaig has always been reasonable that way. The whisky is never flashy or gimmicky. The labels are simple and classic. The prices affordable.

That's why when Laphroaig ambassador Simon Brooking came by this week to taste us on Laphroaig's latest release, we were all a bit surprised when we heard the retail price was estimated to be somewhere around $120. Yet, as I mentioned to Simon, if there's one distillery that's built up a decade's worth of good will, it's Laphroaig. The upcoming Lore expression from the Islay stalwart will not be a limited release, but rather a full-time whisky. It's something you can expect to see on the shelf everywhere and that's great news for whisky fans because the Lore is simply delicious. A blend of 7 and 21 year old Bourbon casks, 9 year old full-term quarter casks (not finished, but aged from day one), along with a few sherry and European oak casks for fun, the Lore stands out from the standard Laphroaig portfolio in a big way. It's richer, darker, more savory, and far more dense. It tastes like you're drinking a very old whisky while simultaneously taking a sip of something much younger. Unlike the bright, medicinal peat that explodes off the bat in the 10 year old, the Lore takes you much deeper into the peat bog with more earth, more weight, and more rancio from the sherry influence.

Everyone at K&L loved it—me included. 

"You guys have done such a good job pricing your whiskies over the years, I think fans will be surprised at the higher price, but will understand it's justified after tasting this; especially given the proportion of 21 year old whisky in the mix," I said to Simon before he left.

No word on a delivery date yet, but I'm pretty excited to get my hands on a bottle. My Laphroaig 15 is almost gone at this point.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
May102016

My Bordeaux Contribution

As many of you know (and as I never let you forget), I'm now a big part of the K&L Bordeaux team and I work with purchasing and promoting the wines from that part of our business, too. One of the things I wanted to work on both personally and as a company was opening up the category to new consumers who may feel intimidated or confused by the idea of fancy French wine. I wanted to do what I'd spent the last seven years doing with whisky: travel, tell stories, and introduce our shoppers to the many personalities of the industry. I absolutely fell in love with Hélène Garçin, the owner and director of Châteaux Barde-Haut and L'Eglise, while we were in Bordeaux last month and I wanted to set up a cool event with her somehow. It turns out that she and her assistant Charlotte (pictured to the right) were heading to San Francisco on May 11th and had time to do something fun that evening. My thought was this:

What if we did our own en primeur Bordeaux tasting in the store for customers to experience?

Basically, when we as a retailer go Bordeaux to taste the new vintage, we have the opportunity to taste barrel samples two years before the public is able to. It's our notes and our opinions that ultimately sell the wines and the customers have no choice but to take our advise or the advise of other professional critics in making their decision to purchase en primeur. But what if we gave them that opportunity? What if they could come to our store, meet the winemaker, and draw their own conclusions? Before the wines have been released or even priced, just like it's done during en primeur week in Bordeaux?

Tomorrow night in Redwood City you'll have that opportunity. From 5 PM to 6:30 you can come by and meet Hélène and Charlotte, taste wines from both the 2014 and 2015 vintages (neither of which have been released in bottle) and make your own assessments. She might have a few other tricks up her sleeve as well. The price is only $10 per person and no reservations are needed. Just come by and say hello!

This is hopefully only the beginning of a new wave of Bordeaux events focused on getting you involved directly with the people who make Bordeaux so enjoyable in a manner that's accessible and fun. And, believe me, Hélène is loads of fun.

-David Driscoll