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Monday
Feb232015

D2D Interview: Lisa Fancher

The span between the late 1970s and early 1980s was a powerful period for small booze business in California. Microdistillation was just getting underway and boutique wine stores were beginning to offer an alternative to the big box outlets. Change was in the air and many of the seeds for our current renaissance were planted during that era. Today there are still a handful of small California companies established during this period that are very important to my everyday existence in the booze world. St. George distillery, for example, founded in Alameda by Jörg Rupf back in 1982, has become a major partner for our store. Germain-Robin would be another illustration, established by Hubert Germain-Robin and Ansley Coale in 1982 up in Ukiah. My current employer, good old K&L, is only a few years older: created by Todd Zucker and Clyde Beffa in 1976. Yet, it wasn't just the spirits business (nor strictly NorCal) that saw an uprising of energy at that time. In the late 70s, punk rock was also beginning to gain a major foothold in the U.S. and the Los Angeles region was quickly becoming a center of creativity for the genre. In 1980, a little record label called Frontier, established in Sun Valley by Lisa Fancher, put out an album by the Circle Jerks called Group Sex. The rest, my friends, is history.

So how do I know Lisa Fancher and why are we featuring her now in the latest D2D interview? Let me give you a little back story. In 2014, I began writing posts about some of our hotter deals on booze under the term "Dramarama". Given my love of pop music (especially from the early 80s), I started coupling these posts with videos and songs from that period just for fun. That's when I got an email from Julie Masi, the general manager from Frontier Records, telling me how much she enjoyed the Suicidal Tendencies bit; one of the many bands signed to Frontier at that time. It turns out that not only were the gals from Frontier loyal customers of our Hollywood store, but they were also big whisky fans and readers of the K&L spirits blog. Who knew?! From that point on we struck up an acquaintance, which ultimately turned into a business venture between people whose love of music, art, and booze were simply too strong to deny. I can't reveal too much at the moment, but let's just say that in 2015 you're going to see a little collaboration between K&L, Frontier, and one of the other companies listed in the opening paragraph. It's going to be epic and easily the coolest thing we've ever done as a retailer (or maybe that any booze retailer has done).

In the meantime, however, let's get to know a little bit more about the dynamic Lisa Fancher, the woman who helped shape punk rock in California and put out some of the most beloved records from that era. Don't let the sweet smile or the blond hair fool you: this hardcore, punk rock chick can still beat all of us up and she still loves to drink. In this D2D interview we talk about the similarities between whisky and record collectors, the ways in which the music and booze industries diverge, and how drinking champagne at a punk rock show isn't really the move, even at this stage in our lives. Previous editions of the D2D Interview series can be found by clicking here, or the link to our archive on the right hand margin of this page.

David: I’ve always felt like the music and booze businesses are closely linked. There's the obvious connection with bars and live music, but having worked in both wine and record shops I've seen that the aficionado/collector aspects are also very similar. Before you started Frontier Records you were a record collector. How did you get into collecting?

Lisa: I got a lot of records by default from my older sisters, so that wasn’t really collecting. I would just play them and say, “This is good. This is garbage. This is awesome.” My oldest sister Lynn had the first Velvet Underground record with the banana peel cover. When I was thirteen I started going to the swap meet at Capitol Records when it was in the actual parking lot. I’d either take the bus or try to get a ride with someone there. I never had much money, but I always worked in record stores or had some kind of a job counting records somewhere. I would buy whatever I could at the time, but then as I got older and got a car it was easier. That led me into writing, oddly enough, and I convinced Greg Shaw at Bomp! Magazine to let me write for his fanzine and it all kinda continued from there. But it all started with me being crazy for music, not being able to get enough of it, and trying to discover new things. Someone I admired would say who their influences were and I’d try to track one of those records down. 

David: You then entered the business side of the industry, which sometimes takes the fun out of it for hobbyists. A lot of winemakers or distillers were also fans before they worked in the business. You’ve followed a similar path. What were some of the obstacles you were confronted with in that transition?

Lisa: Obviously it’s a huge commitment when you’re using your own money to fund a record, rather than just being a fan and buying a copy of it. Going to see a band or writing a review of a gig is one thing, but when you actually decide to invest your own money then you’re pretty serious. The aforementioned Bomp! Magazine also had a record label, so I knew a bit about where to go to get the various steps done—where to get a cover printed, where to do vinyl manufacturing—but knowing those steps and actually doing it are two different things. Finding out all the pitfalls, how printing works, how album covers are made, you have to understand that this was all pre-computer. Everything was done by hand. For instance, I would take an album cover that consisted of little pieces of paper stuck to a board with wax—no one who’s young can even fathom this—but sometimes by the time I got it to the printer all the wax had melted and the stuff had moved around. Then with recording you had to think: is the band going to show up? Are they going to hate each other? Are they going to break up before the record even comes out? It’s always different and it’s definitely been a blast, but there’s no college course that could ever prepare you for the experience. If you’re not extremely patient, and/or good at dealing with people you’ll never make it. 

David: That sounds exactly like the booze business! Did you think you’d still being doing this thirty five years later?

Lisa: I never thought it would be this long. I never dreamed that people would buy all those records years later.  Of course, I hoped they would! But really it was just something to do. I never could have imagined, however, that people would still be really into The Circle Jerks or The Adolescents and tell me how those records changed their lives. That makes me feel pretty cool!

David: I also worked in record stores during high school and then early on when I first moved to San Francisco. The customers are exactly the same. There are a lot of different identities at work; people who consider themselves a part of something very particular and who pride themselves on that association. For its first few years Frontier Records was primarily a punk rock label. In the mid-80s, however, you started branching out into different genres. Did you meet any resistance from fans who didn’t agree with the direction you were taking?

Lisa: Absolutely. A lot of people never followed anything I did ever again! It wasn’t until years later when I put out the Weirdos compilation or the Dangerhouse compilations that the people who were only interested in the punk stuff came back around. I guess with any indie label you’re expected to keep doing the same thing. But there was just no way. It wasn’t as if there weren’t any more good punk bands to sign, but a lot of them—I won’t name any names—were putting out this jokey stuff, or it was super derivative. So I thought I’d let the kids take it back over. It’s not that I wanted to do more grown-up stuff, but I did want to do something I was still excited about. I’ve never released records to make money, which is pretty obvious (laughs). I never thought I was going to take over the world with my records. And I did not! But I’m still here.

David: I think that’s a consistent theme that ties into both music and alcohol. A lot of the people on the consumer side don’t want things to change. But when you actually work in the business, you’re constantly searching for change—for something new and exciting. 

Lisa: With both wine and record collecting, when you get in on the ground floor—whether it’s with Super Tuscans or Oregon pinots—you think to yourself, “This is amazing!” But then—and it’s not because of me, obviously—these categories just explode and then the prices become prohibitive. That’s why I always keep moving around and look to discover new things; things that haven’t gone over $100 a bottle. Look at Pappy Van Winkle on the black market now for hundreds and hundreds of dollars.

David: That’s exactly where I was going with that! Thanks for making that point for me.

Lisa: It would be nice if things were reliable. The nature of wine with vintages, however, is that you might have a good year or a bad year, so you’ve gotta keep your eyes open and look around for new stuff.

David: Does that excite you? 

Lisa: Absolutely! That’s what it’s all about for me. I can’t stand doing the same thing all the time, or drinking the same thing. There are things I’ll always like, of course. I’m a traditionalist. I don’t like super gnarly IPAs; those San Diego-style palate wreckers. I like balance. If that makes me an old fuddy-duddy then so be it. I don’t want anything over-oaked, I don’t want anything too extreme. Gimmicks suck.

David: You want the classic, well-made version.

Lisa: Right, and that doesn’t mean you’ve gotta spend a thousand dollars. It just means you’ve gotta keep your ears open, listen to people, go to tastings. I sometimes wish wine was like music where there could be a YouTube for tastings. That would be so much easier!

David: What do you like to drink these days?

Lisa: Let’s see….my favorite thing to drink if I’m going to be drinking a whole bunch is Champagne. It doesn’t have to be actual Champagne, but you know something sparkling if I’m going to be power-drinking. If I’m not power-drinking, then lately I’ve been enjoying American whiskey. I really like Breckenridge and some of the newer producers that have popped up. I’m not really a traditionalist when it comes to liquor, which I know is the reverse of everything I just said about wine! It doesn’t make any sense. I really loved your Faultline Bourbon. I’ve almost killed an entire bottle by myself, which is pretty rare.

David: So you’re into Champagne and Bourbon now, but what were you drinking back during the early punk days of 1980?

Lisa: Whatever there was. Whatever the band had. If it was really cold I could drink as many beers as I could swallow, or whatever other rotgut they had around. You know, maybe a Costco-sized bottle of liquor, but that sort of drinking just hurts too much now. It was really fun back then though. If I even smell Jaegermeister now I will hurl.

David: I think it’s great to evolve from youthful drinking binges into something a bit more enjoyable. It’s when you lose the aspect of fun in that appreciation that I get worried. For example, I used to collect Sonic Youth records—or I guess CDs as I got older. I would buy any Sonic Youth album I didn’t have—imports, demos, singles—even if I didn’t like the tracks on the disc. You’d have Thurston Moore playing experimental guitar for twenty-seven minutes on some of these things. I might never listen to it, but I felt like I needed to buy it anyway. That’s the point when I crossed over from buying music for fun into something much more restrictive. It was almost a chore or a duty. Could I call myself a “serious” Sonic Youth fan if I didn’t own everything they put out? I see a similar pattern in the booze industry where fans are looking to get every single new release that comes out. Some almost feel like missing out on certain bottles threatens their status as a serious whiskey drinker.

Lisa: I realized a long time ago with record collecting that I was never going to be able to compete with people who had money, or who were able to travel to London and put it all on their American Express card. I realized I was never going to be the biggest and best record collector ever, so in the end you really just need to make yourself happy. With alcohol it’s the same thing. I’ve tried stuff that was popular or known to be good, and it may or may not have registered with me. I don’t buy bottles based on scores anymore. I try to taste everything first. Some things are cheap though, so really it doesn’t make a difference taking the risk. If I don’t like it I can always give it to someone else. But you have to keep an open mind. Even though I don’t like the San Diego IPAs, every now and again Stone will make something where they dial it back and I really enjoy it. If you have your mind set in stone that you don’t like something, then you will just reinforce your own prejudices, which is stupid.

David: Were you as open-minded of a drinker back in your bad-ass punk days?

Lisa: I can tell you a funny story about drinking back then. I actually got thrown out of one of my own shows. It was a Frontier night with The Pontiac Brothers and Naked Prey, and we were drinking so much before we ever got to the show that I was just annihilated before we ever got there. I remember the Pandoras were there. They were sitting at a table and they had been filling up a beer pitcher with pee—it was really gross (laughs). Then there were these general bikers that hated us, so I kept running around grabbing the pool balls from the ones who were serious about trying to play billiards, throwing them around the room. It was like Keystone cops with people chasing me around and trying to get me under control. Finally the security guard got a hold of me and threw me out of the show. Nobody saw it happen, so no one knew where I was, and it was my show! I walked back to one of the band member’s house, jimmyed a kitchen window open, and just climbed in. I was sitting there in the kitchen waiting for them to get back from the show at like 2 AM. That was probably in 1987, however, rather than back at the beginning. I was too busy back then to get wasted!

David: When you’re the owner of a record label do you usually hang out with the bands or is there a need to separate business from pleasure?

Lisa: It all depends on the situation. Some bands are the super nervous type and they don’t like people going backstage with them. Others are great fun. I remember back in the days with The Supersuckers, they were incredible to hang around with. With others you might not want to hang out with them—it’s like going to the library. Very quiet, and nooooo fun.

David: What about some of the more popular bands from Frontier like Suicidal Tendencies or The Adolescents? Were they easy to have a drink with?

Lisa: The Adolescents—with Rikk and Casey—those guys really knew how to party. And Tony, too. Today, however, there are many sober members of that band because they just can’t do it anymore. But you shouldn’t be drinking if it's not fun anymore—like if it becomes a job or a chore, or goodness forbid you runover someone behind the wheel. If you can’t get drunk unless you drink two Costco-sized bottles of vodka, then you should probably stop. Good advice, right?

David: That’s one of my biggest fears as someone who works in the industry—that drinking will eventually become a job or a chore, rather than something I still enjoy. Did that ever happen to you with music?

Lisa: I feel that way all the time. There are times when I wish I wasn’t in the music business and that I could just be a fan. I go out a lot and I still buy a lot of records. I still love going to shows because that’s still separate from the business side of it. But I had my little piece of the rock. I co-own my distributor now (ILD) so things aren't as unstable as they were during the 2000s when I didn’t know if Frontier was going to survive from day-to-day. The shrinking amount of record stores is pretty brutal. I think it’s finally stabilized, but it’s always tough to say because once a decade there’s a huge shake-out where a number of people go out of business.

David: The booze business is that way, too. It’s very cyclical. There are huge growth spurts, but then the bottom falls out when tastes change. It seems like the music business would be equally as prone to these shifts in fashion.

Lisa: Oh absolutely. For example, at this point in time it’s very difficult to get any space in the record pressing plants because all the major labels are suddenly putting out vinyl again. They see everyone else doing it right now and they want to get in on something hip. But that will end eventually. Urban Outfitters has vinyl now, you know? So it’s the hip, trendy, groovy thing to be doing. But that will stop and eventually they’ll go back to selling pillows, or moustache mugs, or whatever they sell there. Because it’s not a place to buy records, you know? There’s no community feel there. You buy records in a record store. You hang out in there, you here something playing over the loudspeaker, and you say, “Who is this?” Those are the places where you learn about new things. And, okay, Youtube.

David: I think that’s one of the best parts of K&L. There is a community here that comes to discover new stuff. But that’s an issue for me, too, when it comes to the modern age of consumerism. I feel that both the music and booze businesses are moving into a generational shift where the majority of its new customers are using top ten lists, or numerical ratings to decide what they like, rather than simply discovering things organically on their own. 

Lisa: A top ten list can be a good and a bad thing. They’ve been around forever. But if Pitchfork is your one and only God, or Robert Parker, or whatever, then you’re going to be missing out on so many other things. But everyone is beholden to advertisers, I don’t care who you are. 

David: I agree completely, but ultimately I think what I’m getting at is the inability to take a risk. To eat at a restaurant without Yelping it first. To buy a bottle of wine without looking to see what score it got. I didn’t read reviews when I bought records as a kid. That’s not how I found out about new music. I would just talk to my friends or watch MTV. Today, I still know people who will email me and say, “Hey, the new so-and-so record just got a 9.2.” What does that even mean?

Lisa: That’s something that’s really taken over the wine world. I absolutely despise the whole numerical scoring thing, but—hey—it’s a game and people pay attention to it. But it’s for that reason that I don’t subscribe to many wine email lists anymore. It’s great when wines that I like get good scores, but what does it mean for all the other wines out there when I’m just wandering around a store, looking for something interesting, and all the signs just say “93 points”? To me, that’s meaningless. 

David: I’ve never discovered anything new or exciting by following a score; at least not that I can think of. It’s always been a recommendation or piece of advise from an actual person. The best thing I’ve discovered in the past year—both music and booze-related—came from you and Julie at Frontier. You guys sent me the Christian Death album because you thought I’d like it, and boy did I ever. I’d completely missed the boat on that band, which is shocking because it’s totally my genre and my kind of thing. Do you know how exciting that was for me? I still listen to that album almost every day on the way to work. Based on what I like, someone made a recommendation that completely changed my entire life! I got to go back and rediscover something incredible that I never knew existed, which only prompted me to ask Julie for more suggestions. I still have never even bothered to search online for what other people think about Christian Death, or what kind of reviews people have given it. All I want to do now is find other things like it.

Lisa: Christian Death is iconic and that's their best album by far. Other bands can be gateway bands. You get into them and then you have to go back and find all the other stuff that lead to that point. When Green Day blew up in the 90s all those kids had to go back and listen to The Stooges, Dictators, The Boys, and they said, “Ahh, now I get it.” Then maybe you think the original band is terrible in comparison!

David: That’s exactly what happens with wine. You try something and you like it, then you try to discover new things that are similar and you realize there are all these more-exciting, lesser-known, more-interesting versions of the thing that got you interested in the first place. Isn’t that more fun than simply picking things off a list that other people say are good? You build something that way. Many people who buy a bottle of whisky off a list take one sip, and say, “Next!” Same goes for music. They see the score, download a few songs, play them for a day, then move on to the next shiny thing. For me, however, when I discover something organically, the pleasure I derive from it is so much more long-lasting. I’m still obsessed with that Christian Death album almost eight months later. I’ve never gotten over it.

Lisa: Isn’t that funny? When I made that record—I think I was 21 or 22 when we were recording it—I never dreamed that someone decades later would even like it, or get so fired up about it. That’s amazing. 

David: And were I only looking at scores and following lists, I never would have discovered it.

Lisa: I see a lot of lists in the LA Weekly where they do things like “The Best Punk Records of All Time” and they’re all from last twenty years! Not that I’m bitter—mind you—but I’m like, “Are you fucking kidding me?” They’ll put a Blink-182 album in there and I’m thinking, “Not only is that not top ten, it’s not even top one hundred!” But, if you’re twenty-four, you’re like, “Fuck yeah! Blink-182 is the shit!” So I guess it’s all relative.

David: So how does that make you feel? You were there at the beginning, playing a role in one of the most important musical movements in the history of the United States, and now you’re seeing it take off into something far greater than you ever expected that's still reaching new listeners today. 

Lisa: I think it’s great! There have been so many great new bands that have kept it going. I love Jawbreaker, for example. I’m as good of friends with them as anyone I knew from before mainly because I was such a super fan. And in the 2000s there have been tons of great punk bands like The Men—and they’re as good as anyone who ever existed, in my opinion. They’re not designed to be on the radio, or on the cover of magazines and have girls screaming at them. They’re just flat-out awesome. Them, and The Marked Men from Texas, which eventually broke up into two bands, High Tension Wires, Mind Spiders, and Radioactivity. OBNIII, Protomartyr, Bass Drum of Death, and so on. There are still great bands, punk and otherwise, coming out all the time who would never fit into a major label. That would be the kiss of death.

David: So when you listen to punk music now, what type of drink do you have in your hand?

Lisa: I think beer still goes best with punk music. Don’t you love that Fidlar song: “I drink cheap beer. So what? Fuck you!” I wouldn’t drink Chimay with it (laughs). But I think that’s a really great anthem because punk is so much more fun when you’re drinking shitty beer. Any beer, really. It’s not really a cocktail kind of a thing, getting it all over the floor, making a big mess. I never know who’s going to come flying through the pit, so I don’t really want to be holding anything really expensive in my hand. 

-David Driscoll

Sunday
Feb222015

That's Not Me (but it really is)

There's kind of a running joke at K&L about Rombauer Chardonnay, that buttery, sweet, rich, and oaky white wine from California that many in the industry have labeled "cougar juice". The joke is that everyone loves it (it's easily one of the top ten wines we sell in volume), but no one's buying it for themselves.

"This isn't for me," says the guy with the case of Rombauer at the counter, as if he were buying condoms or pornography. "My wife is the one who drinks this. Me? I prefer bold reds." But he's not buying a case of Silver Oak Napa Cabernet to go with it. 

Certain bottles in the booze industry have achieved certain stigmas involving the type of consumers who drink them, and what's funny is that no one ever thinks they're the type of person who fits that description. Yet, in trying to explain the situation to anyone within earshot (the attempt to distance one's self from these other people), we become the epitome of that stereotype. The irony is thick and suffocatingly sweltering. Sometimes you can't help but get a little uncomfortable in these situations.

What do I mean specifically by this? Let me give you a few examples. If you constantly need to tell people that you're specifically "not a jerk", then the chances are you're probably being a jerk. If you're the kind of person who has to tell people you're smart and that you went to an Ivy League school, then you're probably not all that smart. Basically, if you're the type of person who needs to tell people anything, to craft a character more perfectly calculated than any Facebook profile could ever be, then the chances are high that the opposite is true. At least, that's been my experience from working in a wine store. So when people go out of their way to tell you that, despite the case of Rombauer Chardonnay on the counter, they really prefer dry Burgundian whites from the Macon, there's really a double irony at work: the fact that they actually do love Rombauer, coupled with the literal implications of their intention. They want you to both believe something that isn't the case and respect them for who they aren't, yet sadly neither goal ultimately is accomplished.

It can get really confusing when people consistently do one thing, yet tell you another. Like the guys who call us every day in a frantic state, hoping to score a bottle of Weller 12, but then procede to tell us how annoying all those obsessive wheated Bourbon hunters are. Or the guys who rush to get their two bottles of Pliny the Elder every week, but then tell us how it isn't really all that good ("I don't see why people freak out about this stuff, you know?") when they come to pick them up. I've really come to understand where the term "own it" originated. Why try to convince others that you're someone else when it's glaringly obvious who you are? Doing so only makes it even more painstakingly clear! Just own it! There's nothing wrong with liking Rombauer, Weller, or Pliny! They're delicious products, which is why they're so popular. You love Weller 12? Then you are one of "those guys" who loves Weller 12. The only difference is that some people buy it, drink it, and silently continue to do so, while others have to give you a twenty minute discourse as to why they're not a trendy poser. Personally, I prefer the former. 

We had a guy in the store yesterday who was carrying on for a good half hour about all of his wine adventures, who he knows in the industry, and what he "usually" drinks when he's not buying "everyday" bottles. It was beginning to reach a fever pitch until finally he capped it off with: "But you know what? There's a lot of pretentious people out there in the wine business and, personally, I'm over pretense at this point in my life." 

I literally could not hold it in. I just burst out laughing while my colleague looked at me embarrassed. Sometimes you just can't help it.

-David Driscoll

Friday
Feb202015

Faultline Rum Extravaganza

Ladies and gentlemen, not only am I pleased to report the return of my beloved St. Lucian, root beer-laden Faultline Rum, I'm also very excited to introduce to three new single barrel expressions of Faultline Rum that have been a long-time coming. While we've been able to purchase independently-bottled rums for years, we have rarely been impressed with the quality of what we've tasted. On top of that, the prices for many of these casks have been incredibly prohibitive. Rum is not something that we've delved too deeply into here at K&L. We've dabbled here and there, but we've never gone all the way. David and I knew that if we were going to attempt something high-end or premium, it had better be so fucking good that anyone could enjoy it, not just super nerdy rum geeks. It had better deliver on all fronts: quality, collectability, beauty of design, and price. Single casks of rum are not cheap, nor are they easy to get. In most cases, they're much more expensive than single malt whiskies despite the fact that they're half as desirable in today's market. But on our trip to Scotland last year, David and I found three casks that knocked our socks off, so we decided to man up and make the purchase.

You can taste all four of these rums at Bar Agricole on Tuesday night if you buy a ticket to our event, but if you don't feel like waiting until then, these are now available at all of our locations.

Faultline St. Lucia Rum $39.99- A few years ago I had the pleasure of tasting an odd rum from St. Lucia as part of the Berry Bros & Rudd privately-bottled collection. I was instantly smitten. It was like nothing I had ever tasted before: fruit tea, menthol, root beer, molasses, and earthy pot still goodness all brimming from the bottle in waves. I brought it to a tasting group with friends and they all freaked out too. There was only one problem with that bottle: it was $110. I went on a mission to find a younger, less-expensive version of that rum to share with K&L customers, but, alas, I always came up empty. I emailed the distillery to see if they would sell us a barrel directly, but I never got a response from this mysterious producer. It wasn't until earlier this year that an importer randomly approached me about the possibility of selecting a single barrel of St. Lucian rum for K&L. I about fell over! YES! OF COURSE! We went through samples, found a barrel that worked, and got our amazing label designer into the studio. Now, for all you tiki lovers out there, we've got that rum I've been longing to give you at a price you can afford: big sarsaparilla and root beer aromas, spiced tea, brandied fruit, and an earthy molasses note on the finish. It's a true representation of fresh molasses. This is easily sippable, but so Mai Tai friendly that you'll have a tough time making anything else. Ginger beer, rum Manhattans, anything. It's mindblowing rum and it's finally ours! 

Hampden 14 Year Old Faultline K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Rum $74.99 - Hampden is a Jamaican distillery long known for making high-ester pot still rums: the type of spirits that explode with a funky, fruity flurry, sometimes with hints of menthol and tea. Usually these potent and powerful rums are blended with other column stilll rums to create a balanced and easy drinking style. Rarely can you find single barrel, cask strength versions of Hampden not only bottled on their own, but without the use of coloring agents or sweeteners. Yet, that's what we've brought to you with our new Faultline expression: a pure, wonderfully-vibrant, delicious version of Hampden that should please serious collectors and wow any inquisitive newcomer. A bit of sweet cane lures you in on the first sip before exploding into a high-ester supernova of fruit tea and menthol. It never gets out of control, however, maxing out at just the right spot before finishing with vanilla from the oak. This is not only a dynamic rum of incredible quality, it's one of the best rums we've ever carried, period.

Uitvlugt 20 Year Old Faultline K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Rum $149.99- Uitvlugt continues to operate today as a sugar refinery and molasses production center, but the distillery it once housed was closed in the year 2000; the famous French Savalle column still moved to Diamond distillery where it currently sits. Distilled in 1994, this single cask of remarkable Guyanese rum showcases the magnificence of that four-columned Savalle wonder. The 20 year old spirit is fruity and soft on the entry with lush sugar cane flavor and hints of sweetness that highlight the golden vanilla flavor at the core. A bit of fruit kicks in midway from the esters, but the finish is all golden rum splendor. From beginning to end, the Faultline Uitvlugt delivers pure and potent rum flavor from one of Guyana's fallen soldiers. We were able to secure this cask from an independent warehouse in Scotland where it was bottled exclusive for K&L.

Enmore 25 Year Old Faultline K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Rum $199.99 - Enmore was once the home of the famed wooden Coffey still, closed in 1993 before the equipment was moved to DDL's Diamond distillery where it sits today. Before its closure, however, the distillery produced this incredible barrel of rum, aged twenty five years, which we secured from an independent warehouse in Scotland. Distilled in 1989, the spirit has seen significant time in wood, yet maintained a lively and youthful freshness that isn't something one would normally associate with a rum of this age. The color is dark amber, the aromas are rich and brooding, but the lithe and gentle nature of the ultimate flavors are wonderfully graceful and intricate. A hint of sugar cane opens up the initial sip before giving way to dark molasses and earthier components, but the flavors are never overpowering. They're easy-going and gentle; tributes to the ancient still's capability. The higher proof brings out a bit of the esters, but the finish is like a raw piece of sugar cane dipped in fresh molasses. It stays with you for at least ten minutes before flickering out like an old light bulb. Fans of the El Dorado 21 will be thrilled with this, and collectors of all types will relish the beautiful artwork and the chance to obtain a true expression from one of rum's most legendary producers.

-David Driscoll

Thursday
Feb192015

Three Big NorCal Tastings (Starting Tomorrow)

Ahhh……………good to be back. Two weeks with no phone, no email, and nothing but my lovely wife has had a completely restorative effect on my psyche. I’m ready to rock. When you have jet lag, however, you go into work at 6 AM and start cranking it out, so I've been here digging through all my messages, hoping to get afloat before the day's end. I hope you’re all ready to rock, too. A few informative tasting events to tell you about right now. The really big news will be next week when we unleash our new container of hooch. In the meantime, here are some very important things you’ll want to know about for the upcoming days at K&L.

BRUICHLADDICH SEMINAR WITH JIM McEWAN – NORCAL DATE ADDED

I know you Hollywood people blew through all those tickets in record time for Jim’s appearance in LA, but now we’ve got him locked down for an event at Donato’s in Redwood City on Tuesday March 3rd. Same price, and with some food as well! Bring a bottle of Bruichladdich with you if you want Jim to sign it! (BUT…be aware that Jim runs a charity for children and asks for a small donation to that service in exchange for signatures, so have a few bucks on hand to contribute).

$10 gets you all the Bruichladdich marks, some kick-ass Donato grub, and a spot for the best whisky show on the planet (right there with Dr. Bill from Ardbeg). They’ll be doing the entire line up, so you’re really going to get your money’s worth.

Get your ticket via the link below. There are no paper tickets, remember, just a guest list that I will add your name to. ONLY 60 spots available and they will go fast.

"Jim McEwan Tasting Seminar & Bottle Signing" Bruichladdich Event @ Donato, Tuesday March 3rd, 2015 - 7-9pm -- $10

SAKE TASTING IN REDWOOD CITY THIS FRIDAY – 5 PM to 6:30 – ONLY $5 (WALK INS ONLY)

As you’ve probably noticed in the last few months, David OG and I have taken over the sake department here at K&L. This Friday will mark the start of the new regime. While the terrible CA tasting laws prevent us from doing proper spirits tastings in the store, sake falls into the wine category. That means I can bring in the best people and the best bottles and charge you a tiny entrance fee for a whole ‘lotta hooch. And I’m going to make it rain on Friday, so if you’re even REMOTELY interested in sake, you need to get your butt over to the Redwood City store tomorrow. Check out this line-up:

Sake Expert Tamiko Ishidate of Young's Market will be pouring a fabulous range of Sake styles, grades and price points. She is incredibly knowledgeable about Sake and will be able to answer every possible question about the history, production and flavor profiles of Sake you can dream up!

Eiko Fuji Ban Ryu Honjozo Sake 720ml $18.99 - Light and smoky, with a notes of honeydew melon and cherry pits.  Fragrant and clean, this is a terrific value!  It comes from Yamagata.

Dewatsuru Kimoto Junmai Sake 720ml $29.99 - Akita Seishu was founded by Jushiro Ito in 1865 in a 150-year old thatched roof estate that was built at the end of the Edo period in Daisen City, in Akita Prefecture, in northeastern Japan. Akita Seishu values everything local, and treasures the harmonious relationships between man and nature. Akita Seishu's Dewatsuru is available in the United States for the first time. The name literally means 'the crane of the Dewa region,' and this sake brings to mind the beautiful, graceful birds, with regal lines, showing off their plumage in the snow country of northern Japan. The Dewatsuru also uses the "kimoto" process which involves creating a starter that ultimately produces a natural lactic acid (rather than simply adding it to the fermentation), resulting in a more powerful flavor. In this case, the earthy aromas are more pungent and there's a mushroomy flavor on the palate. The mouthfeel is also richer, more supple, and creamier. It's very distinctive and wonderfully balanced.

Fukucho "Moon on the Water" Junmai Ginjo Sake 720ml $36.99 - Yamada Nishiki & Hatta Nishiki polished to 55%.The very soft water in this region results in a sake with an extremely floral nose and a soft, very fruity style. This is bottled without charcoal filtering, to allow more of the natural aromatics to make it into the bottle.  And the flowers and fruits in the nose show you why they chose to do this. Made from one of the only female sake brewers in Japan.

Nanbu Bijin "Ancient Pillars" Junmai Daiginjo Sake 720ml $69.99 - Yamada Nishiki Milled to 35%, made by Nanbu Bijin Shuzo in the Iwate Prefecture (one of the coldest and snowiest regions of Japan). This is a nama-chozo (pasteurized only once) genshu (not diluted with water) sake, which means it was pasteurized only once before shipping (rather than twice) and was naturally brewed to 17.9% alcohol. Nanbu Bikin is located in the southern part of the Iwate Prefecture in a region called Nanbu, known specifically for its prestine water. Very fine in flavor, with a juicy note of citrus and a searing mineral backbone. Simply fantastic.

Dewatsuru Sakura Emaki Rose Futsuushu Sake (360ml) $19.99 - The Sakura Emaki is made from the ancient purple rices known as Asamurasaki and Okunomurasaki, two varieties long thought lost.  During an excavation of an ancient fort these grains were rediscovered.  The Ministry of Agriculture petitioned Akita Seishu brewery (home of Dewatsuru) to develop a sake utilizing these heirloom grains and the Sakura Emaki was born.  Deriving its pinkish hue from the grain (which is a deep purple) this has much in common with the wine-based rosés.  The flavor profile is strawberries, watermelon and cherry blossoms.  So unique and so beautiful.

Yuki No Bosha "Cabin in the Snow" Junmai Ginjo Nigori Sake 300ml $18.99 - This nigori (unfilterd) sake is quite special. Often the nigoris are sweet, and not of the highest quality.  In contrast, this is polished to 50%, and is a premium sake with no alcohol added  It has a terrific nose and is drier on the palate than is typical. Leesy, complex, and long, this is a treat.

Tamiko is the lady we went out partying with a few weeks back. She’s a bonafide expert and serious resource for all your sake questions. No ticket needed, just show up with $5 and get your drink on!

STILL ROOM FOR THE BAR AGRICOLE TASTING NEXT TUESDAY! MORE DETAILS NOW

I know I was a bit vague about the details before I left, but this all came together pretty much as I was setting foot on the plane (plus, I didn’t want to reveal the big secrets from our container at that point).

But, yes, to answer all your questions: YOU WILL GET TO TASTE THE THREE NEW K&L RUM CASKS AT THE EVENT! We’ll have the two Guyanese casks from the lost distilleries of Uitvlugt and Enmore, as well as the new Faultline from St. Lucia and the new cask of Jamaican Hampden. We never do single casks like this of rum, so come take advantage of this unique experience. It’s a new thing for us and we want you all just to be as excited as we are. The big debut is Tuesday night, so I hope we impress you.

Enmore 25 Year Old Faultline K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Rum $199.99

Uitvlugt 20 Year Old Faultline K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Rum $149.99

Hampden 14 Year Old Faultline K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Rum $74.99

Faultline St. Lucia Rum $39.99

PLUS, don’t forget that Ed will have his own selections and you’ll get limitless cocktails and food. Sound too good to be true? It is. But we love you, so we want to make you happy.

K&L & Bar Agricole Rum Extravaganza Event, Tuesday Feb 24th from 6 PM to 9 PM $50

Hope to see you all at one of these fine events!

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Feb172015

D2D Interview: Nicole Curran

With the NBA All-Star weekend having just finished, the Warrior's own Steph Curry having taken home the 3-Point shooting crown, and the Bay Area ballers sitting atop the standings with the league's best record, I figured now would be the perfect time to post the D2D interview I did recently with Nicole Curran. Sitting next to Warriors owner Joe Lacob at every game is his faithful fiancée and loyal W's fan, the charismatic Nicole, who is now as much a part of the scene at Oracle Arena as Mark Cuban is in Dallas. Her stylish outfits are always a must-see and her taste in wine is even more impeccible. How do I know this? Because, as neighbors to our Redwood City store, Nicole and Joe have been shopping at K&L for years and I've been personally helping Nicole with wine selections since we met at a game last season. Seeing that I'm a HUGE Dubs fan, when I saw the opportunity to do a little K&L/GSW collaboration I knew it needed to get done. Nicole is a hoot, a dedicated drinker, and I knew she would make a great subject for the D2D series.

"Are you sure you want to interview me?" Nicole asked, humble as usual. "Joe would be the bigger draw."

"Joe is great," I said, "and I know he enjoys a drink. But you're the one who really drinks. And this is an interview about drinking," I replied. So we agreed to do it. With six D2D interviews already in the bag, it was definitely time for a female perspective!

Right before Joe and Nicole zipped off to New York for the all-star festivities, we sat down and chatted about Nicole's own experience in the booze industry, her unforgettable showdown with James Harden, and the alcohol advancements she's personally made at Oracle since Joe took over the team in 2010. Previous editions of the D2D Interviews can be found in the archive here, or by clicking on the link in the right-hand margin. 

David: Before you were sitting with your fiancée, Warriors owner Joe Lacob, court-side at every Warriors game, you used to work in the booze business just like me; a fact I learned in the store one day when you came in and wowed me with your wine knowledge.

Nicole: I did.

David: What led you into that wonderful profession?

Nicole: It was an interesting path. I started off as a high school teacher and I always said that the kids were the ones who drove me to drink (laughs), but that wasn’t really the case. When I was younger I collected wine, and was always fascinated by it, so I ended up moving from Arizona to Napa. My first job was at La Jota, where I lived and worked at the winery, handling all their sales and marketing. After that I worked for LVMH and I repped Krug, Dom Perignon, and Veuve Clicquot in the Bay Area for high-end accounts.

David: LVMH has such a great portfolio. Were you drinking as much Champagne as you were selling?

Nicole: I was drinking that stuff all the time! I still think in the Champagne world that the Dom Rose is my favorite. It was a very good job and it was very suited to my love. I basically got paid to drink for a living.

David: I know exactly what that’s like! You told me once there was a funny story involving wine and meeting you Joe. Is this while you were working for LVMH?

Nicole: Yes, I met him during that time in Pebble Beach. When we first met he said to me, “Oh, you’re in the wine business? I have this favorite wine, but I can’t remember what it is. Can you give me your email because I want to hear what you have to say about it when I figure it out.” I thought that was a bit strange, and definitely one of the more interesting pick-up lines. He ended up emailing me and said his favorite wine was the 1982 Latour. I responded immediately to him, saying: “That’s too bad. The 1982 Lafite is so much better.”

David: Wow! Matching power for power!

Nicole: Yes, I thought he was a little full of himself with that (laughs), but I later realized Joe wasn’t all talk and actually has an incredible palate. I try to fool him all the time with wine, asking him what’s French and what isn’t, and he can always tell the difference. It wasn’t him trying to be pretentious; he really did just like the 1982 Latour because he thought it tasted good! But after doing a side-by-side tasting, we did eventually determine that the 1982 Lafite was the better wine. For each of our first dates he brought a bottle of Bordeaux from 1982. 

David: Whoa, that’s no joke, huh?

Nicole: Yeah, that’s my kind of courting process! 

David: So when did all that go down?

Nicole: Almost ten years ago.

David: So that was pre-Warriors. What did you think later on when Joe told you he planned on purchasing an NBA basketball franchise?

Nicole: Honestly, I have to admit I was looking forward to the retired life and traveling with Joe. I thought we would be going to destinations like Bordeaux, Italy, and foreign countries all over the world. Instead I’m going to Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Orlando. It’s been an amazing process though, so I wouldn’t trade it.

David: (laughs) That’s such a great answer. How big of a basketball fan were you before this?

Nicole: I’m still a football girl first, but I am a huge basketball fan now. I watched primarily college basketball originally, but as you know it’s been incredibly exciting this year and—I have to say—basketball is slowly inching up on football.

David: It has to win out when you’re involved with it like you are. Plus, you have the best seat in the house! And you always look like you’re enjoying yourself when you’re there. I’ve sat right behind you once or twice—thanks to some very generous connections I have—and you always seem to have a smile on your face. You’re obviously not just there out of a financial commitment. I’ve seen you get very passionate first-hand!

Nicole: I’m very passionate about the team, and—as you’ve seen—sometimes too passionate (laughs). Like the night I first met you when you were sitting behind me.

David: You mean the night when James Harden came over and scolded you after he thought you’d given him the middle finger?

Nicole: I unfortunately gave the referee the finger, received a warning, and then James came over and used a few colorful words. To which I responded, and you know the rest from there.

David: But you guys made up after that right? You’re buddies now?

Nicole: Yes, I went over to the visitor’s locker room that evening and tried to clear up the misunderstanding. I told him I had been upset with two calls made by the referees that evening, calls that actually endangered the safety of some of our players, and I was standing up on their behalf. He said to me, “I really like that you’re willing to do that for your guys. I wish we had you on our team.” So now every time he comes I talk with him.

David: One of my favorite things that I got to experience at a Warriors game was the wine dispenser you had installed in your private lounge. I ran into you one time as we were both walking to the exit during halftime and you pulled my friend Joel and I into your entourage, so we followed you into the owner's area. It has all of your favorite bottles on tap, which we both thought was the coolest thing ever.

Nicole: It doesn’t have my favorite wine in it, unfortunately, but it does have some very nice selections hand-picked by me! 

David: How often do you switch them out?

Nicole: I probably change it on a yearly basis, although I am considering changing out one of the whites we currently have in there to something more fitted to my palate.

David: We saw professional poker star Phil Hellmuth hanging out in there as well. That was pretty crazy. But he didn’t seem to be as into the wine machine. I think he was drinking from the bar.

Nicole: Phil was indeed there drinking Scotch.

David: That’s one bitchin’ hangout room. Was that leftover from the previous owners, or did you have it installed just for you? 

Nicole: When Joe took over the team there was a room there, but we spent a year redecorating it and expanding it slightly. All the furnishings were picked out by me, all the light fixtures, and we just added the wine machine this year. That’s my favorite piece, of course.

David: It is by far the coolest thing in that room. We were very impressed.

Nicole: I think for Valentine’s Day I want one of those for home use (laughs).

David: Do you think you can drink enough on your own to justify having one?

Nicole: Hmmm……I like to share with good friends a lot.

David: Do you pre-party at home before the games just to loosen up, or do you wait until you get to the arena?

Nicole: I’m very superstitious so I actually have a drinking routine. 

David: Really?! What is it?

Nicole: I have one glass of wine before the game with food, in the room we just spoke about. At halftime, I bring a glass of wine out to the floor and walk by this fan who sits behind this sign—he always bangs on the sign during the game, and he’s really our number one fan. He’s never missed a game as long as I’ve been there. So I bring him a Pepsi and a shot of tequila. When we started that tradition of toasting each other we went on an incredible win streak. So now every game I bring him the tequila and the Pepsi and I toast him with the glass of wine that I drink.

David: That’s just fantastic.

Nicole: If we have a really big win we have tequila shots in the owners room for everyone.

David: Wow, so if you’re that superstitious then you must have been an OCD mess during that long win streak earlier this season.

Nicole: Absolutely. I ended up wearing the same pair of pants to every game and making sure I cuffed them the exact same way. And I made Joe wear the same blazer every night, and he said, “I can’t wear it again. People will think I don’t have any clothes! But at the same time we can’t afford to lose.” (laughs)

David: So what happens when you go on the road? Do you bring booze with you, or do you make do with what’s at the various arenas?

Nicole: I usually have to settle and that’s not always a good thing. I recall being in Houston earlier this year and my only option was Sutter Home chardonnay. So then I thought maybe I could get a tequila with fresh lime juice, but all they had was Rose’s sweetened. I went with the Sutter Home.

David: When in Texas! 

Nicole: It reminded me of high school.

David: That’s part of the fun! You tailor the drinking occasion to the town you’re visiting. What’s the best town to visit on the road when it comes to drinking?

Nicole: Anywhere in California. How can you beat it? 

David: Let’s say you have to leave the state. Where then?

Nicole: If we’re talking about an arena, then I’d have to say Miami. They’ve done a really good job there. If we’re talking cities, then I’d have to say New York.

David: Ahh…of course. What’s your favorite place to go drinking in New York?

Nicole: Well since I’m going soon I’ll have to take note and get back to you.

David: For the All-Star game, that’s right! How does Klay Thompson feel about getting chosen? Is he excited, or is he just super humble about it like I think he must be?

Nicole: I think Klay is indeed a very humble guy, but he’s definitely excited and grateful to be going. As is Steph.

David: Steph Curry, the number one vote getter, we should add. How crazy is that?

Nicole: He deserves it. He works very hard and has earned everything that has come to him.

David: Is he as nice in person as he seems on TV? He seems like the nicest guy ever.

Nicole: Even more so. He’s one of the nicest, most-committed, and lovely people you will ever interact with.

David: When Monta Ellis was traded, you made the headlines at that time due to your vocal disappointment with that move. Looking back on that now, are you now happy with the way things have gone?

Nicole: I’m very happy with the way things have gone, but one thing that got lost in translation during that period was the fact that we were new to owning a team. That was the first real trade we had ever done, and it was very hard for Joe as well. Trading somebody has this disposable aspect to it and that was a very hard emotional thing for me to deal with. You get to know these guys and their families. You become a part of that, so trades are difficult and I think it was a result of that being our first one. 

David: When we were walking together through the tunnel to the owners suite, one of the workers at the arena asked me if I was part of your group, to which I said yes. “She’s awfully nice to let me tag along,” I told him as we were moving. “That’s because Nicole is the nicest person I know—almost to a fault,” was his response. “She’s always doing nice things for everyone,” he said smiling before we split ways. I thought that was quite telling. When the workers at the arena freely say something like that about ownership, it’s clear they really like you. Are you one of those people who is always hosting, worrying about everyone else having a good time when you’re at the game?

Nicole: I am, but I think it’s innate in everyone who works there. All of the arena staff are fully dedicated to making sure everyone has a great time—including myself—and they work really hard. I enjoy just being with them and being a part of what they do there.

David: We know you’re always there cheering on the team, but what’s something you do for the Warriors that maybe most casual fans don’t know?

Nicole: Well, I work very closely with the Warriors Foundation. Last year we gave away a million dollars in grants and I personally went to twenty-five of the applicants, interacted with the kids, looked at their programs, and evaluated them. Right there with winning, I think it’s one of the most valuable experiences I’ve ever had and I really enjoy doing it.

David: You and I have two things in common. We’ve both taught high school, and we’ve both worked in the booze business. But I have yet to play a part in owning an NBA franchise, so I’ll have to ask you: which of the three careers have you found most enjoyable? Kids, booze, or basketball?

Nicole: Honestly, I’ve enjoyed all of them, and they’ve all contributed to making me the person I am. 

David: If anything you’ve combined them all into one super job with your work with the foundation.

Nicole: Right! I get to help children, drink, and do it while watching basketball! Although I have to say that I do spend most of my time drinking at home not watching basketball (laughs).

David: Who is someone that you got to have a drink with while working with the Warriors that you were excited to meet?

Nicole: Wow, good question. I think I take for granted all the incredible people you get to meet doing this. I’ve never been star crazy. People will see a photo with me and someone else and they’ll say, “Wow, you got to meet this person or that person.” I don’t really think twice about it, but I would definitely say that seeing Jerry West every time I’m in the owner’s room still awes me. 

David: Does he ever have a drink with you at the game?

Nicole: You know, he doesn’t drink all that often, but I have to say that he really enjoyed the Radio-Coteau pinot noir I put in the wine machine. He loved it so much he couldn’t stop talking about it, so we sent him a case.

David: That’s what Joel and I drank when we were in there, too! He has good taste. Or, I guess, you have good taste.

Nicole: Or maybe that means you have good taste. Both in wine and basketball teams.

-David Driscoll