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Staff Favorites - Gary Westby
Gary Westby | Send Email | Subscribe to My Sommelier Service
I started at K&L in February of 2000, after 4 years of working down the street for another retailer, and although I take care of the Champagne buying here at K&L, I love to drink wine from all over the world. I prize authenticity in wine, and love representative examples of many different styles, whether it is a spicy dry creek zinfandel or a mineral driven Manzanilla. I almost always drink my wine with food, and am drawn to food wines rather than the softer styles that are good for drinking on their own. My wife Cinnamon and I cook a lot of Italian & French food at home, and my list of wines reflects those food choices. I also love value, at every price point, and can't stand "prestige" labels that under deliver in the bottle. I love honest wines for the table. If you love good wine to go with your good cooking too, I think that by joining my personal Sommelier list you will be treated to a wide variety of wines that represent a strong value for money at what ever price range you feel comfortable with. Give it a try!
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Laurent-Perrier "Grand Siècle" Brut Champagne
Review Date: 9-12-2012
The Grand Siecle has long been my favorite tete de cuvee, but for many years now it has been out of reach. Since 2008, just a trickle has made it to the USA, and it was a fantastically expensive trickle. We managed to secure some at a very fair price and I can't say enough about what a great wine this is. Most big houses talk a big game about the "Blenders Art" and the synergy of Grand Cru terroirs when combined not just with balancing sites, but also across time. This is the embodiment of synergistic blending and monk’s patience. Nearly every Grand Cru in Champagne is represented; the wine is from three different vintages and aged over 10 years on the lees. The current batch is an astounding 80% reserve wines- something unique in the world of Champagne. If you are looking for effortless class and depth you will never tire of, look no further.
Drink from 2012 to 2022
Pierre Ferrand 1840 Formula 90 proof Cognac 750ml
Review Date: 9-11-2012
This Ferrand is a great ingredient, and works far better than much more expensive (and far more subtle) Cognacs in cocktails. The 1840 Formula is made in the three star style from the 19th century, and is a full 5% higher in alcohol than standard Cognac. It is also oilier and weightier with lots of flavor- it won’t get lost in a mixed drink. Here is a great use for it: The French 75- 2 parts Ferrand 1840 Formula 90 proof Cognac, 1 Part Fresh squeezed lemon juice, 1 Part simple syrup, 2 parts Champagne (Blanc de Blancs if you have one open), Lots of fresh ice, Lemon rind for garnish. We use an ounce per part for ours- and that makes a pretty big aperitif. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the cognac, lemon juice and simple syrup. Shake thoroughly and pour into a rocks glass filled with more fresh ice. Top with Champagne, and stir if you like (I do!) finally garnishing with lemon rind.
Royal Dock Navy Strength Gin 750ml
Review Date: 8-21-2012
A great bottle of gin is a luxury that we all deserve to be treated to. This Royal dock has just the right amount of assertive juniper and balanced botanicals to make an excellent after-work gin and tonic, and at navy strength, you do not have to use as much as you would a normal gin. As I learned from Hayman's (who is the distiller) excellent website "This Navy Strength Gin at 57% vol was the strength required to enable gunpowder to still light if Gin was spilt on it." Here at K&L we recommend keeping the gin separate from the munitions!
Gosset "Excellence" Brut Champagne
Review Date: 2-28-2012
Very few famous negociants are making Champagne of this quality- this is poised, balanced Champagne that has soul as well as polish. The Gosset Excellence is a great way to welcome friends to a dinner party, but also does very well with food and just one other special person!
2000 Coufran, Haut-Médoc
Review Date: 9-13-2011
One thing we hear all the time at K&L is that Bordeaux has become too expensive. While it is true that the 30 or so top names have taken their prices to the moon, it is unfair to say that the whole regions prices are too high. This 11 year old bottle from one of the great modern vintages is a fine example of extraordinary value in Bordeaux. It is polished, poised and very complete with loads of black fruit power, fine tannins and mineraly grip. It could be enjoyed tonight with a thick cut New York strip steak or laid down for another 10 years.
Top Value! Drink from 2011 to 2021
Franck Bonville "Belles Voyes" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne (1.5L)
Review Date: 6-4-2010
It is embarrassing to have hogged so much of this tiny production beauty for myself, but an embarrassment that I am willing to live with. Out of 750ml, this Champagne is one of our best. Out of magnum, it is transcendent. Take it away from me- please!
Franck Bonville "Belles Voyes" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne
Review Date: 5-7-2010
I almost find it embarrassing to drink this 3000 bottle production single vineyard Champagne as often as I do... But I get over it every time Cinnamon and I open a bottle. Like a great white Burgundy it has terroir, and the flavors are inimitably cotes de blancs Champagne. It has the complexity and the detail for the fussy wine person in me, but it is also shockingly easy to drink. The Belles Voyes always grows in my memory after having it. One of the most memorable bottles I drank of it was with a bib on, eating fresh king crab legs, but it is just as appropriate for the aperitif. Take advantage of our unfairly large allocation of this tiny production Champagne and treat yourself to a bottle!
Knob Creek Bourbon 750ml
Review Date: 5-7-2010
What a deal! This excellent 9 year old Bourbon is an extra aged selection from the Jim Beam distillery. The Knob Creek is a whiskey of authority, and has the richness one would expect of an extra aged bourbon. It is not at all heavy however, and I love to drink it on the rocks with a couple Luxardo Maraschino cherries now that the weather is getting warmer. It is also very good neat, or for that matter, in a sour. I have to guess that it is the scale of production at Beam that allows them to sell it for such a fair price!
Lustau Almacenista Oloroso "Pata de Gallina" (500ml)
Review Date: 5-7-2010
A bottle of Pata De Gallina and a plate of Cotswold, cheddar and stilton lead me into predation every time. I pour a big glass, put the bottle back in the cellar and close the door; otherwise I will be powerless against its charms and pour another. Then I go back to the cellar... It is the tang and zip of this bone dry wine that make it so mooreish, while the scale, richness and complexity make it beguiling. What a wine!
Luxardo Maraschino Cherries (400g)
Review Date: 5-7-2010
When I bought these for myself, I joked with my colleagues here at K&L that I must either be a fool or a gourmet... $16 Cherries! That is crazy! Well, I have discovered that like white truffle oil and very old condimento balsamico, the Luxardo cherries are worth it. First of all, they are very small, but have more cherry flavor individually than a whole fistful of the normal "red" maraschinos. Just one or two and a smidgen of the syrup in the bottle make a big impression on a cocktail. The 360 gram jar lasts a long time, even if you dip into it as often as Cinnamon and I do. My favorite use for them is to simply pop a couple into a bourbon on the rocks... Yum!
1963 Taylor Vintage Port (Stained label, bottom neck fill)
Review Date: 4-15-2010
A lot of famous wines from famous vintages let me down. This 1963 Taylor is not one of them. This spectacularly aromatic, effortless port brightened up a Thursday here at K&L with its vinous perfection. The only thing that I can imagine improving this wine would be a little time to settle, and a wheel of stilton.
Drink from 2010 to 2063
Domaine Boingnères Armagnac Reserve Speciale
Review Date: 2-3-2010
When is a non-vintage Armagnac worth the better part of $100? When it is this good... I was blown away by this, and I am desperate to buy a bottle for myself as soon as it returns to stock. This has it all; the rancio and suaveness of well aged brandy, the vinous savor and quiet hiss of fire that reminds one this is not Cognac and finally a peacock’s tail finish that swells long after you have set down your glass. This might not have the flash on the sideboard that a vintage of similar price has, but there is much more in the bottle than any other that we carry!
1999 Lanessan, Haut-Médoc
Review Date: 1-12-2010
This perfect-for-drinking 11 year old claret will be overlooked by far too many of our customers because of its very low price. Don't be one of those folks! This wine is good enough to be a very recommendable $40 Bordeaux, and is very complete wine. It is quite full bodied without loosing its elegance, and has fantastic, evolved, cassis Cabernet flavor to spare. It also has an intriguing, earthy tobacco note that I found quite appealing. I can't wait to serve it with my next "full English" meal of rare roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, mash potatoes and Brussels sprouts! I will have to remember to buy some extra for the years to come as well, this bottle has more than enough guts to last!
Drink from 2010 to 2019
Bollinger Brut Rosé Champagne
Review Date: 11-16-2009
The Mark Hopkins was the venue for the inaugural San Francisco stop of the Tour de Champagne this past October, and this fantastic Champagne was my favorite discovery at the event. This spectacular bottle delivers the vinous power that one would expect from Bollinger, but with elegant panache. It is one of the best rosés available at any price.
Four Roses Yellow Label Kentucky Bourbon 750ml
Review Date: 9-9-2009
Bourbon & Rye are the USA's great contribution to the world of spirits, and the Four Roses has been an ambassador bottle for the category internationally for many years. This delicious Bourbon makes a fine Manhattan, as recommended above, but it also makes a great Whiskey Sour, my favorite cold brown liquor cocktail. At home we use equal parts Meyer lemon from our dwarf tree and Bourbon, with one teaspoon of superfine sugar per shot of whiskey, mixing it all thoroughly before pouring over ice in a rocks glass. We then garnish with a slice of Meyer lemon and a maraschino cherry. This old-fashioned drink is a classic for a reason; it is very refreshing and synergistic. I hope you will try it!
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