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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
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 Almacenistas 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!
Old Fitzgerald 100 pf Bottled in Bond Bourbon 750ml
Review Date: 5-1-2010
This light, pleasing Bourbon is made with a good dollop of wheat in the recipe. Looking over my notes, I wrote "expensive tasting" and wish that I thought that about under $20 more often. The "bottled in bond" on the label means that it legally must be the product of one distillery, entirely from the produce of one seasons distilling, aged for a minimum of four years in a bonded warehouse with traceability for all the whiskey and released at 100 proof. Cinnamon and I love using this Bourbon at home for our "American/ French 75" a small jigger of Old Fitz, two teaspoons of simple syrup, the juice of half a fresh lemon and four ounces of real Champagne.
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
Philippe Gonet "3210" Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne
Review Date: 3-11-2010
Sushi & Champagne night this week was made all the more special for Cinnamon and I by a bottle of the Philippe Gonet 3210. This naked, undosed blanc de blanc is a fantastic partner for sushi of all types, but particularly well suited to nigiri. We finished it off in a big hurry- another "small" bottle in the recycling bin, another nice memory. I am looking forward to doing it again next week!
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.
1994 Chateau Montelena "Estate" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 8-19-2009
This is a decadent Napa Cabernet - luscious, rich and very full bodied. For me, Montelena Cab is the best of the big valley floor style, and the 1994 is a very rich example of an already decadent style. This has the glycerin and weight of the cult Cabernets, but is much more vinous, focused and food friendly. I have had the opportunity to drink this on several occasions, and the latest bottle, served with some simply grilled Porterhouse steaks, was the best I have had yet. This 1994 makes a great gift, because it is drinking well now, yet will cellar, and comes from a big name that over delivers on the wine in the bottle.
Drink from 2009 to 2019
Launois "Cuvée Reserve" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne
Review Date: 8-18-2009
Cinnamon and I paired this with some pork paté from the fatted calf in Napa before diving into some pork chops last night, and I was left wanting for nothing. This is a wine of depth, finesse and intrigue and yet is about as easy as it gets to drink without engaging the grey matter at all.
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!
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