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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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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
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 Bourbon 80 Proof 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!
North Shore Gin No. 6
Review Date: 8-25-2009
This top-notch gin made was a fabulous partner to tonic last night. With a strong hint of rosemary and winter spice, I found it to be incredibly refreshing and all to easy too drink. It took a lot of self discipline to only have one! This is a must in the cabinet of any gin lover.
Brouwerij De Ranke "XX Bitter" Belgian IPA 750ml
Review Date: 8-12-2009
This extraordinarily drinkable Belgian IPA is from Wevelgem in West Flanders - and I have been drinking it to celebrate the spring classics in Flanders - particularly the Ghent-Wevelgem bike race. It has a straw/golden color and a bubble train that would make tête de cuvée Champagne blush. The picture is completed by a gorgeous head of Belgian lace that I could imagine floating a quarter on top of. Unlike the new world style of IPA, this robustly hoppy and refreshing ale has balance. Get some before I drink them all!
Lustau Almacenista "José Luis Gonzalez Obregon 1/143" Fino del Puerto
Review Date: 8-11-2009
Over the weekend we had a lovely Spanish themed dinner party, and served this great fino with Tapas in our backyard. We paired it with peppers that I had stuffed with a paprika aioli- tuna filling, smoked almonds, olives and oloroso mushrooms. This bone dry, full bodied fino went fantastically well with the food and showed off a salt air brininess as well as a haunting apple hint of fruit. When we sat down for the main course- paella heavy on the chorizo, the Obregon surprised me with its flexibility. Although its unyielding dryness might come as a shock to the uninitiated, fans of the best of the world of wine owe it to themselves to taste this example of affordable greatness.
North Shore Gin No. 11
Review Date: 7-30-2009
Don't hesitate when you see this gin in stock, it is very small production and quite sought after. The last batch all sold before touching the shelf! The number 11 has a relaxed exoticism that reminds me of Hendricks, with a dry refreshing streak that only the Junipero can equal. The balance is fabulous, and combined with a lime from our dwarf tree, a glass full of ice and a splash of tonic, I was in after-work-cocktail heaven.
Warre's "Otima" 10-year-old Tawny Port (500ml)
Review Date: 5-7-2009
We were honored by a visit from Dominic Symington, the Director of Warre on Tuesday, and this was one of many Ports that he poured for us. I was extremely impressed by this 10-year-old tawny, which he served quite cool. He explained that tawny, and other Ports for that matter, are often served far to warm in the US. At cellar temperature (around 55 degrees) this Port showed an amazing amount of depth, and even some tannic structure that is usually only found in vintage ports. This is a great way to end an evening, and will keep quite well after being opened.
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