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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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Gosset Blanc des Blancs Brut Champagne
Review Date: 7-3-2014
The dry focus of this Gosset made it a perfect partner for the sushi that I ordered from my friends at Akasaka in Menlo Park. The wine is very light and elegant, but even with rich salmon nigiri has plenty of flavor... It is a classy beverage, and I found it to be understated, subtle, and intriguing. I love Champagne that is hard to describe but easy to drink, and the Gosset Blanc des Blancs is a great example of wine that is easier to enjoy than to describe. The texture and bead are perfection, with plenty of tiny streamers to delight. I loved the subtle apricot aroma and flavor that contrasted the baguette-like toast in this wine, but the best feature was the finish--long, detailed and chalky. If you have a special occasion coming, this is a treat that you will love. It is a great bottle of Champagne.
2006 Baron Fuente "Grand Millésimé" Brut Champagne
Review Date: 7-2-2014
Tasting this wine for the first time in Epernay with Baron Fuente's Eric de Brissis was a great experience. I loved the wine for its poised creaminess, lovely nutty flavors and clean, long finish. This is a very elegant, subtle bottle of wine that will impress the most jaded of palates. In my notebook from that day, I wrote "tastes expensive"... Then he showed me the price. Deals like this don't come every day, and I would suggest that you join me in buying a case, or maybe two!
Top Value! Drink from 2014 to 2021
2013 Bodkin "The Victor's Spoils - Sandy Bend Vineyard" Lake County Sauvignon Blanc
Review Date: 6-25-2014
Wow - Bodkin canceled amateur hour with this excellent bottling! Don't let the reasonable price fool you, the Sandy Bench Vineyard Lake County Sauvignon Blanc is as focused, high-toned and precise as they come. This would make a great ringer in a tasting of Sancerre, and has minerality and length that one rarely finds in stateside SBs. If you like your white wine bright, don't miss this one!
Lehmann "Jamesse Reference" Grand Champagne glass (ship as 6pk *in styrofoam only)
Review Date: 5-20-2014
I first tasted Champagne out of these glasses at the luxurious Relais and Chateau "Les Crayeres" in Reims, and immediately dreamed of carrying them at K&L. A few years later, the cellar master at Ruinart, Frederic Panaiotis brought Cinnamon and I pair as a gift, and we have been using them for special bottles ever since. This year, Scott and I had a chance to visit Gerhard Lehmann, the glassware manufacturer in Reims who produced them, and now they are finally here. I was shocked to find what a value price these great glasses sell for, since I believe that they are some of the very, very best in the world for the enjoyment of Champagne. Try them out, I promise that you will pick up new complexity in old favorites!
1995 Moët & Chandon "Grand Vintage" Brut Champagne
Review Date: 5-15-2014
Cinnamon and I enjoyed this wine with Plaza de Caviar’s quite fine paddlefish roe to start, and the nutty complexity of the Champagne worked in tandem with the nutty complexity of the eggs. This Moet has some very nice toasty, yeasty elements to it, but also has some ripe pear fruit and plenty of virile acidity to cut the richness of the Crème fraîche. My ex-sommelier wife, who has always been a better taster than me, called the wine “fluffy” which was a perfect description. This Champagne is in perfect balance, and doesn’t try too hard... It comes off as effortless and light in spite of the considerable complexity that is there if you search for it. After the paddlefish, we brought the rest of the bottle to the dinner table to enjoy with some simple vegetable ravioli tossed in garlic, white truffle butter and topped with some old Parmesan. While the 1995 Moet works great as an aperitif, the truffle and Parmesan elements brought out the savory depth of the wine, making for a real special occasion. As with all great wine, this was a “small” bottle, and was gone before we were ready to stop drinking it. While it is not cheap, I think that this 1995 Moet is an exceptional value. Great older wine with perfect provenance is not something that you get to drink every day.
2006 Michel Loriot "Inspiration de Saison" Extra Brut Champagne
Review Date: 5-3-2014
The 2006 vintage in Champagne was a warm one, and the wines have a sunny, round personality that matches the unseasonably warm weather here in California. While this vintage is labeled as an extra brut and only dosed at six grams of sugar per liter, it does not come off as austere. To the contrary, the ripeness of this Champagne shows some high quality braeburn apple fruit as well as a nice nutty quality from the time on the lees. The crisp back end is perfect for decadent fried chicken, and left me feeling refreshed and ready for more.
Drink from 2014 to 2026
2000 Labegorce, Margaux (1.5L)
Review Date: 5-3-2014
Always better from magnum! We decanted this wine about and hour ahead of dinner. This is an important first step with this 14 year old, as it needs a little time to open up after its decade plus in the bottle. The bouquet is very generous with this wine and I found everything from earthy, animal savor to cool cassis on the nose. In the mouth the wine was seamless with perfect medium body, a gift from the time in the bottle that can’t be replicated by wine making tricks. With the tannins resolving nicely, the acidity still bright and the fruit still sweet, this wine was ideal with the rich and flavorful dry aged New York steaks we paired it with. I have to admit to drinking a little bit more than my share of this one. Sorry Cinnamon! With the big names of Bordeaux still charging a king’s ransom, many of our customers are turned off by Bordeaux. The 2000 Labégorce is a great example of why this category still has a lot to offer in special wines that one can still afford. If you like Bordeaux, and like a good steak, don’t miss this one!
Drink from 2014 to 2030
Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Champagne
Review Date: 3-21-2014
Non-vintage Champagne does not get better than this. The Paillard family makes a statement with this great cuvee and show how very serious that they are about quality. All of the details have been studied and sweated over to make this wine, from planting only massal selected vines, to working towards an organic certification. This is Champagne that has power without losing its drinkability, and richness without sweetness. If you are only going to try one new Champagne this year, this should be it!
Drink from 2014 to 2019
2004 Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Vintage Champagne
Review Date: 3-21-2014
Cinnamon and I drank this with some seared Ahi tuna and roasted vegtables and we were blown away by the quality. When we sat down, the first thing I noticed about the Champagne was how good it looked in the glass. The wine has a light gold color and a fine streamer of compact bubbles that form quite a nice halo on the top of the glass. Aromatically the 2004 delivered on the promise of top vintage Champagne with a complex array of dried fruit, pie crust and walnut on the nose. In the mouth it is concentrated and authoritative without being heavy, and has the kind of texture that rarely comes for under $100. The finish showed off the best features of the 2004 vintage, with chalky focus and a finish that I can almost still taste the next day. The Pierre Paillard went very well with the Tuna, with the rare Ahi bringing out the deep cherry fruit of the Pinot Noir and the tangy soy almost mirroring the chalk on the finish. I wish that Quentin and Antoine Paillard had been over to check it out, as the combination was far from a traditional French pairing! As usual with a great bottle of Champagne, Cinnamon and I thought it disappeared to quickly… I am looking forward to the magnums being released next year!
Drink from 2014 to 2034
Henriot "Souverain" Brut Champagne
Review Date: 1-30-2014
This is one of the last great deals in grand marque Champagne! The house of Henriot is one of the last of the big name negociants to stay independent, and that independence has allowed them to focus on quality in the bottle. This Champagne is composed of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay from 25 crus within the region, many from their own 87 acre estate. The Souverain has a lovely toasty quality that is nicely balanced by a refreshing zing. It is a perfect aperitif!
Lost Spirits Distillery 68% California Navy Style Rum 750ml
Review Date: 1-29-2014
Today we were treated to our rum ration here at K&L courtesy of Lost Spirits, and I was very impressed. Not only will this 136-proof Navy strength not stop your gunpowder from igniting if you spill some on it, it will also warm your heart without burning your mouth. This high-test rum is very well integrated and has some nice rancio notes from the sherry treated casks as well as lovely round sweetness from the authentic molasses. Another round for the crew please!!!
2012 Te Whare Ra (TWR) Chardonnay Marlborough New Zealand
Review Date: 1-29-2014
This Te Whare Ra was one of the stars of our New Zealand tasting. I found this Chardonnay to have a serious Chassagne-like nose and robust richness in the mouth. The wine comes together very nicely on the back with great focus, acidity and tremendous length. I think this would make a great ringer in a $50+ white Burgundy tasting!
1999 Fugue de Nenin, Pomerol
Review Date: 1-22-2014
Mature Pomerol for $35? Thanks Clyde for finding us another great deal in aged Bordeaux! This wine has the plummy fruit and fancy mocha oak nose that seduces so many wine lovers. It is a ripe, full bodied wine that still keeps enough tension and balance to be good claret and not just another "international style" wine and will make a fine partner to an array of meat dishes.
2004 Malmaison, Moulis
Review Date: 1-22-2014
My top value steak wine in the store! Bordeaux, often demonized for being to expensive, offers some of the finest deals in the store- just don't go looking for the 20 biggest names! This bottle is really singing at 10 years old and has so much to offer the wine fan that doesn't need a bunch of extra fat and thickness in their Cabernet. This wine has an open, expressive bouquet of currants and some nice ripe fruit in the mouth. I love the focus of this wine and can't wait to have it with a simple steak & frites dinner!
Top Value! Drink from 2014 to 2024
2000 Kalin Cellars Livermore Valley Sémillon
Review Date: 1-16-2014
This Livermore Valley Semillon is a worthy challenger to many of the great white Bordeaux that we have on the shelf at much higher prices. I was stunned by freshness of this wine--it still has a green glint in the gold straw hue of the wine. While this wine is completely dry, the flavors remind me of honey and it has a full-bodied, rich mouthfeel. The finish is long with hints of caramel, but is still refreshing. Wow!
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