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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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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.
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 500 ml
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!
Ariston "Aspasie Brut Prestige" Champagne
Review Date: 4-10-2009
Cinnamon and I drank this fantastic bottle over the last couple of days and it impressed us both immensely. It has old vine weight and intensity, but still maintains a vigor and brightness that succeeded in tempting me into drinking a little too much of it and the Burgundy that followed it... I blame Paul Vincent Ariston for leading me down the wrong path - again!
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!
Anchor Junipero Gin 750ml
Review Date: 3-14-2009
Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing fame is a hero of mine. Everything he is involved with, from Anchor Steam beer (my personal desert island beer) to his exceptional York Creek wines and his Protero distillations, are among the best in the world. I always blame my English heritage for my strong attraction to gin, but this all-American creation is certainly one of my favorites. While very light in body, this is strong stuff at nearly 100 proof, and has a huge amount of very clean juniper flavor. I love it with ice, lime and tonic, but it is also a fantastic martini gin.
Baron Fuente "Esprit" Brut Champagne
Review Date: 3-13-2009
Eric de Brisis from Champagne Baron Fuente just visited us (3/11/09) here at K&L, and we had a great time with him. We did tastings in both the San Francisco and Redwood City stores and had a lot of good customers come and taste. The star of the tasting was this Esprit. Not many Champagne houses make a non-vintage wine like this, with such a suave texture from long aging, and none at such a low price. This is elegant Champagne for sure; not at all austere, yet in no way sweet, a balanced and fine aperitif.
Fernet Branca 750ml
Review Date: 3-5-2009
Fernet has a following that borders on a cult here at the K&L. The ultimate in "acquired tastes" this herbal digestif is rarely enjoyed by the imbiber the first time. But, in the wine business, we often times have meals that are a little bit bigger than normal, and need a little something to settle our stomachs, and nothing on the planet is better than Fernet. Cinnamon is an evangelical convert to this magic elixir, and having less than half of a bottle of it in our liquor cabinet is an emergency situation. We even have Fernet posters in our living room - no lie! Try this out the next time you need a little help settling your stomach after a big meal... You'll learn to love the herbal taste.
Ariston Aspasie Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne
Review Date: 2-25-2009
This is one of our longest running direct import Champagnes- we have been carrying it now for almost 10 years. It had been a while (months at least!) since I had drunk a bottle of the Aspasie Blanc de Blancs, so Cinnamon and I put matters to right last Friday night. We had a dinner date just four blocks from our house, so we filled up a couple of flutes and enjoyed the Champagne on our walk in the neighborhood, and even received a jealous comment from a neighbor on our way. This is K&L's creamiest Blanc de Blanc: full-bodied, gentle, and brimming with a soft mousse. It is festive Champagne, and drinking it outside got our party started early. This is a top recommendation for your next party - no matter how small!
Drink from 2009 to 2014
Ramos Pinto Quinta Ervamoira 10-year-old Tawny Port
Review Date: 2-19-2009
A single-vineyard Port is an elegant way to finish any meal, and since this particular wine has already been aged 10 years in barrel, it is ready to go. One needn't worry about if suffering from oxidation either, after 10 years of slow exposure in oak, a few months re-corked in your cellar or liquor cabinet will not hurt it. This has more vintage-like power and full black fruit than your average 10 year tawny, and goes very well with cobblers and pies as well as the more traditional match with cheese.
Aperol Aperitivo Liqueur 750ml
Review Date: 2-11-2009
Quite a few Aperol bottles have made it into the Westby family recycling bin by way of our liquor cabinet. Cinnamon and I love to make Champagne cocktails with it, a habit that K&L's own Doug Davidson got us started on. Since Aperol has quite a moderate alcohol content (at 11%, it is even less than Champagne!) it isn't quite as dangerous to drink while cooking as other cocktails we enjoy. The recipe is simple: fill a rocks glass thoroughly with ice, add one shot of Aperol, fill the remainder with Champagne (it is great with the Michel Dervin) and add a twist of orange. It is also great with just plain soda and a twist.
2006 Cantemerle, Haut-Médoc
Review Date: 2-11-2009
I have written a lot in these staff reviews about the virtues of wel-balanced claret, and if you have patience to wait 6 or 7 years, I believe this wine will come to epitomize that virtue. Anyone with a cellar and a love for Cabernet-based wines should strongly consider this wine for a case purchase. Clyde, Alex B, Alex P, Ralph, Joe Z, Steve and I tasted through an entire ballroom of 2006 Bordeaux at the UGC tasting this January and all of us agreed that the Cantemerle was one of the stars. I thought it was THE star, since the other wines in its class were all more than twice its price, and many wines three times its price could not even touch it! It is perfumed, layered, cassis-driven and framed (but in no way dominated) by oak on the nose and follows through with richness that is not at all overweight on the palate. It is great Bordeaux for a small price; all you have to do is cellar it!!
Bruno Michel Premier Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne
Review Date: 2-5-2009
This was the top wine from my April 2008 trip, and it resuscitated me from my flu while I was working sick at my visit to Bruno's property in Pierry. Top class Blanc de Blancs should shimmer, and this does one better, it almost vibrates with refreshing vigor. Like a great Burgundy, this Champagne tells the story of its site, the very cool "Les Brousses" parcel in the Premier Cru village of Pierry. The deep roots of the 45-year-old Chardonnay vines extract a lot of complex minerality from the ancient chalk, and Bruno's all-old-barrel regimen for fermentation and aging, round out the wine. We have drunk quite a bit of this cuvee at home, and it is a favorite with take-out sushi, and I dare say that a good order from the raw bar and this bottle will transform a dull Tuesday into a celebration. It does well with the variety, going from spicy tuna rolls to unagi with aplomb. It is quintessential Champagne from a very special plot.
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