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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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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.
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!
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.
Elisabeth Goutorbe "Cuvée Eclatante" Brut Champagne
Review Date: 6-11-2009
This is Champagne of masterful balance, and certainly defies its reasonable price with its elegance. Cinnamon and I shared this with her mother Margaret the night before last, and while it has the black cherry of Ay, it is not as powerful or obvious as most of the wines from that village. It ended up coming very close to our three person fridge to recycling bin record!
Top Value! Drink from 2009 to 2012
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.
Franck Bonville Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Champagne (1.5L)
Review Date: 5-2-2009
I always have to order extra of these magnums - Clyde & Trey always gobble up about half of what we get! All Champagne has an advantage in magnum, seeing more surface area for lees contact and half the amount of air exposure. Already exceptional out of 750, the Bonville Selection picks up both richness and zip in the larger format bottle - making it the "smallest" big bottle that we have. It ends up empty far too soon!
Ardbeg Uigeadail Traditional Strength Islay Single Malt Whisky
Review Date: 5-1-2009
I love Ardbeg, and the Uigeadail is one of the most special expressions that I have had from this great Islay distillery. No other distillery makes a malt quite as peaty as Ardbeg, and this one has an additional twist: sherry wood aging. The sherry wood gives another dimension of richness and weight to this typically light and piercing single malt. I have a bottle at home, and I love it for a cold night by the fire - but Alex Brisoux (the Redwood City store manager) swears by it with oysters! That is a combination that is hard for me to imagine, but I don't doubt a professional like Alex on a topic as serious as pairings!
Michel Arnould "Grand Cuvée" Brut Champagne
Review Date: 4-28-2009
Cinnamon and I shipped this to Costanoa, a resort by the beach (better than carrying it on our bicycle!) and enjoyed it alfresco after a day in the saddle. We carried Riedel "O" stemless glasses in our jersey pockets (don't try this at home kids!) because we forgot to ship them... We were glad we did. This wine has so much complexity and subtlety it would have been a shame to drink it out of substandard glassware. The Grand Cuvee is very powerful Pinot-based stuff, with a hint of smoke on the nose, a very supple texture and a bone dry, persistent finish. A great reward after a long ride!
Coniston Brewing Company "Bluebird Bitter" England 500ml
Review Date: 4-17-2009
This hoppy bitter deserves the accolades it has received; which include the Campaign for Real Ale's "Ale of the Year" in 2008. Bright, refreshing bitterness, balanced by high quality but extraordinarily restrained maltiness and very low alcohol make this a true session beer - perfect for occasions when having a few more than one. This will be in my cellar (they suggest 58 degree serving temperature) from now on!
Hendrick's Scottish Gin 750ml
Review Date: 3-27-2009
Scotland has more to offer than just great whisky... This gin is world class too! Cinnamon and I are both big fans of the old "mother's ruin" and always keep a variety on hand. Along with Fernet Branca and Rittenhouse Rye, this is one of the most repeated bottles of spirits in our liquor cabinet. This is a gentle style of gin, not extra proof or supercharged with juniper, yet it is could never be given the old put-down "vodka lovers gin"- it has far too much balanced flavor for that. The cucumber and rose petal elements in this fine spirit lend a cooling and subtly aromatic touch rather than being overt flavorings. I love it with tonic, and just the smallest corner of one of our homegrown Meyer lemons.
Sandeman 20-year-old Tawny Port
Review Date: 3-25-2009
This is my top 20 year Tawny, and perhaps my favorite tawny in the store. It has a very pale amber color and a serious old solera nose. On the palate the Port is full bodied, with candied citrus and roasted, salted almond flavors. The perfectly balanced sweetness and long finish complete the package. This is a great tawny - at any age. I am looking forward to pairing it with a cheese course at my next dinner party, and Ligia from Sandeman showed us how well it works with milk chocolate as well!
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