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Sunday
Apr232017

Same Folks, Different Genre

If you follow the news, or more specifically politics, you start to notice trends. You notice that the guys (and it's almost always men) who talk the loudest about an issue tend to get caught doing the very opposite of what they say they stand for. For example, the guy who speaks the loudest about morality usually gets caught doing something completely immoral. The guy who leads the committee on ethics is discovered doing something entirely unethical. The puritan demanding transparency eventually has the most to hide. It's ironic, yet it happens all the time, which often forces me to ponder about how ironic it actually is. At this point, haven't we figured out the pattern? It's just over-compensation, isn't it? An evolutionary trait—like how small dogs often have the loudest bark to make up for their lack of size. 

There's a tendency for insecure humans—those who know they're doing something particularly wrong or indecent—to compensate for the guilt or shame they feel by attacking the same character flaws in others. It's like a form of denial or redirection, and I see it happen so often today that sometimes I feel like my head is going to explode (although I do live in the world capital of smug, so that's probably a big part of it). In the food and wine industry, we have our own versions of over-compensation anger, when a person who's feeling particularly uptight about their own anxieties lashes out at someone else. Examples? There are plenty....

- People who grew up in America eating McDonalds, microwave dinners, and bologna sandwiches and are for some reason embarrassed by that history tend to have food over-compensation, so they go around proclaiming their love of French delicacies and various organ meats as a defense. If you order a vegetarian option in front of them, they'll probably call you out or ask what's wrong with you. "What's the matter? You don't like fois gras?" (queue a hearty condescending chuckle). 

- People who grew up in America drinking Bud Light, wine coolers, and various other flavored spirits, yet want to pretend like none of that ever happened, tend to have alcohol over-compensation. They've read a list of what's considered cultured and appropriate, and—believe me—they've memorized that list to a T. If you dare drink something sweet and fruity, prepare for a lecture on dry wines and an unsolicited list of opinions about them.

- People who grew up in America without foreign language training and feel insecure about that lack of cultural preparation can often over-compensate with an in-your-face display of foreign awareness. That's a Bay Area specialty for anyone who's never visited. I've been invited to numerous French contests in my life, where people try to prove how French they are and how much French they know. In theory, I would have avoided these situations had I known I was heading into one, it's just that no one told me in advance. They simply said, "Hey, why don't you come over for dinner?" 

For the majority of us out there who drink because we like to get drunk and have fun, it can come as a shock when over-compensation takes over a party or an entire restaurant, but believe me it happens. All you can do is smile politely and back away slowly. 

Image result for gob arrested gif backing away

-David Driscoll

Friday
Apr212017

New Springbank Arrivals

This is one of those situations where everything sells off the web before we even have time to taste the bottles or provide notes, but just so I can say that I warned you in advance: new Springbank limited edition whiskies have landed at K&L and here's the rundown. There's a new 11 year "Local Barley" expression (50% of our allocation sold within ten minutes of arrival, but there are still a few bottles kicking around). There's also a new 25 year old superstar rarity as well, along with new batches of Springbank 12 year cask strength and Kilkerran 12 year. I'm always a big fan of the 12 year Springbank, and I'm a huge nut for the "local barley' editions, so I'm squirreling away a few bottles for myself along with the staff. I'm hoping to taste samples of these next week, so hopefully there are still a few bottles left to tell you about once that happens!

-David Driscoll

Wednesday
Apr192017

Four Roses Exclusives Return

Our final two barrels from last fall’s Kentucky whirlwind have just rolled into the store. Bottled in March, these two just cracked the 10 Year mark by a hair. They serve as a wonderful comparison of how each of the Four Roses mashbills influences the bourbons final flavor. Both were fermented with the V yeast strain which offers delicate fruit and a rich creamy texture. We often talk about the B mashbill as being "high rye" content, but in fact ALL of the Four Roses Bourbons have an exceptional amount of rye. Even the E mashbill contains something like 15% rye in the recipe, which is at or above the levels seen in Buffalo Trace's "High Rye" recipe bourbons like Blanton's, Elmer, and Rock Hill. Of course the B Mashbill deserves it’s title as the High Rye mashbill with a massive 35% Rye in the blend.  

With demand through the roof we're seeing fewer casks available and those on offer are younger than before. Four Roses at 8 years old can be every bit as delicious (if not more) than something at 10 year, but there is certainly a psychological effect when you see that 10 year mark on the side of the bottle. Some geeks swear there’s a mystical threshold so important that simply by crossing that line a better bourbon magically transmutes into existence. We know better of course, but these two whiskies won't help my argument.

Four Roses "K&L Exclusive" Single Barrel OBSV (Aged 10 Years) Cask Strength Kentucky Bourbon $64.99

These OBSV's are becoming harder to find every day. The distillery probably makes more of this recipe than any other because it is used in their flag ship "Single Barrel" product. Nonetheless we see this recipe very infrequently when tasting at the distillery. So when they roll one out to be bottled at Cask Strength we take note. It's even better when we get in there and taste a real stunner. OBVS is generally very good and it's a profile we love. Usually shows tons of fruit and tons of spice with a balanced creamy texture. This fits right in that profile and will likely sell very fast. It's barrel #34-4I and came out of warehouse GE. Only 156 bottles available.

Four Roses "K&L Exclusive" Single Barrel OESV (Aged 10 Years 2 Months) Cask Strength Kentucky Bourbon - $64.99

This OESV recipe is easily one of 4Rs' most consistently good. That V yeast strain is really attractive with the lower rye content. It's an approachable style without any of the awkwardness that some of the other yeast strains can exhibit. This cask is all bright fruit and sweet oak. A slight dustiness and a pinch of mint on the nose keeps it from being a total fruit bomb. Maybe not as bold as the OBSV but what it lacks in power it more than makes up for in finesse, complexity and elegance. These two casks are really fun to taste next to each other and contemplate the nature of bourbon and maturity. This barrel #6-2N came out of warehouse TS. Only 108 bottles available.

-David Othenin-Girard

Wednesday
Apr192017

The Days Are Full

Considering I had spent all weekend binge-watching the new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, it was a bit surreal to head over the Golden Gate yesterday morning, through San Rafael where many of the scenes were shot, and past Vallejo where the story itself takes place. I'm not sure how many of you have watched the show yet, but let's just say if I were still teaching I would make it required viewing for high school students. Imagine something in between Twin Peaks and Clueless, but with better acting and a clear message about the ills of social media and technology. Imagine thinking back on every stupid thing you ever did as a teenager and feeling nothing but regret. That was hard to shake off as I drove through the rolling green hills and watched the sun begin to peak out from behind the rain clouds. I was on my way to Napa for a meeting and these days I simply refuse to go over the Bay Bridge through the traffic mess that is the East Bay. Why would I do that when the route along Highways 37, 121, and 12 through Marin and Sonoma offers views like this? I never take 80 anymore to wine country. It was so pretty I pulled over twice to take pictures.

Not only had I watched thirteen straight hours of television on Sunday, I had also read that Oprah's greatest extravagance consists of the specialty English muffins she has flown in from Napa. Apparently there's a family-run operation in downtown Napa called the Model Bakery and it turned out I would be driving right by it on my way up to St. Helena. I was making good time, so I figured I had to stop and check it out. There were only two people in line when I walked in, but by the time I got up to the counter to order there were more than a dozen folks waiting behind me. I didn't want to seem too Oprah-oriented, so I added in a few other items like the olive batard and a medium coffee. I could see the grease glistening through the paper English muffin bag after only a few minutes. These were clearly going to be tastier than the store-bought Thomas version I'd been eating for most of my life.

At 11 AM on the dot I pulled into Wheeler Farm, a new winemaking facility nestled in between Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail that run parallel through the valley. Bart Araujo was there to greet me. You may know the man. In 1990, he and his wife Daphne established Araujo winery at the Eisele Vineyard site and turned it into one of the most renowned cabernet expressions in California. The wines sold for well over three hundred dollars a bottle until 2013 when the Araujos sold the property to the owners of Bordeaux's famed Château Latour, who promptly renamed the wine for its famed single vineyard. The first vintage under the French winemaking team received a perfect 100 point score and currently sells for $500 a bottle. The sad part is: the wine is probably worth it. Without a doubt, the 2013 Eisele is one of the best California wines I've ever had. So what's Bart up to now that he's no longer at Eisele? That's what I was there to find out.

It turns out that Bart and Daphne took the money they made from the sale of Araujo and put it into creating one of the most technologically-advanced wineries in the entire state at Wheeler Farm. Why? So that they could achieve their dream of making blends. Yes, I'll say it again: to make blends. To put it into a whisky perspective, imagine that Dr. Bill Lumsden were to quit distilling at Ardbeg and Glenmorangie because he thought that single malts were too constricting. Imagine if he said to you: "The best whiskies I've ever had were blends, not single malts. So I want to make blends." That's exactly what's happening here with Bart Araujo. 

"I went back to my formative experiences with California cabernet—the great Inglenooks of the sixties and the Mondavi Reserves from the late sixties and early seventies," Bart said to me; "I thought: wouldn't it be great to try and replicate those wines?" I had to admit; I didn't fully understand the distinction. Weren't the Araujo wines from Eisele Vineyard already considered the benchmark for the region? Bart explained further: "The Eisele wines were great, but they were all from a single vineyard, whereas the wines that inspired me initially were blends. They were blends of multiple sites. I wanted to know: could we make a wine that's the equivalent? Could we achieve that?" So the Araujos are now purchasing cabernet from six different sites throughout Rutherford and Oakville and blending them together in an attempt to chase history. The result is Accendo Cellars and—having now tasted it with Bart and Daphne at the winery—I have to admit it's pretty damn delicious. I also have to admit: I'm pretty damn intrigued by this project. The wine industry in California has moved in the exact same direction as whisky and other spirits. It's all about single locations, terroir, locality, and single casks. Bart is moving completely against the grain here in an attempt to resurrect the past. This is his John Glaser moment. It's pretty cool.

So that's what I did with my morning. Yes, that was just the first half of the day. By 2 PM, I was back at work in Redwood City, putting in orders, stocking, talking with customers, and finishing out the afternoon in my office. I got home just in time to see the Sharks score their first goal in two games, only fifteen seconds into game four with Edmonton. It didn't end there, however. By the third period it was 7-0, a player for the Oilers had been ejected for spearing another Shark in the groin with his stick, and San Jose was on their way to one of the biggest beat downs in their playoff history. I had to celebrate with a few of those deliciously doughy English muffins and a small glass of the Wiser's Red Letter Canadian whisky I smuggled back from Ontario last week.

Another busy day in the books.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Apr182017

Back @ Mathilde This Friday

Anyone interested in eating some fois gras, drinking a bunch of good Rhône wines from Château Montfaucon and Moulin de la Gardette, and sitting on the lovely back patio at Mathilde in San Francisco with our owner Clyde Beffa, the winemakers from both properties, and the rest of the K&L staff? If that sounds like fun to you, then grab a ticket here for this Friday's soirée:

Winemaker Dinner w/Montfaucon & Moulin de la Gardette, Friday April 21st @ 7 PM - $110 

The part actually starts at 6 PM at the San Francisco store where we'll taste: the 2014 Gardette Tradition, 2015 Baron de Montfaucon CDR Blanc, 2010 Ch Montfaucon CDR out of magnum, and the 2014 Château Montfaucon. 

Then we'll head over to Mathilde (a two minute walk from the store) where you'll have your choice of quail or duck confit for the mains of our three course affair along side a bevy of great wines like: the 2014 Montfaucon "Madame de Comtesse" Clairette Blanc Vieilles Vignes, 2014 Moulin de la Gardette Tradition, 2013 Baron Louis Lirac, 2014 Moulin de la Gardette Ventebran, 2014 Baron de Montfaucon CDP, 2009 Baron Louis out of magnum, 2007 Baron Louis, and the 2015 Moulin de la Gardette Tradition.

There's still plenty of space so grab your ticket and come drink wine with us!

-David Driscoll