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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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2010 Basilio Izquierdo "Acodo" Blanco Rioja
Review Date: 10-25-2013
Wow- I have never had white Rioja like this before! On a scale similar to the best white Bordeaux, this complex white is full of lanolin in the mouth and has one of the longest finishes of any wine that I have tasted this year. The Basilio Izquierdo Acodo has persistence that one wouldn't even hope for in a $100 bottle of wine, so if you want something adventurous and exotic, it will not disappoint! What a bottle!
2005 Launois "Spécial Club" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne (ships as 1.5L)
Review Date: 10-17-2013
This luscious blanc de blancs is very different than the laser precise 2004 that preceded it and fans of wines like Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne are going to flip for it. Made from two plots of over 50 year old vines, one in the Grand Cru of Oger called the Chenys and one in Mesnil called the Derriere Maison, this is one of the ultimate expressions of Chardonnay that we have to offer. These plots pre-date the clones, and are selection massal, giving the wine more complexity at the cost of yield and ease of farming. When I opened this for the staff on Tuesday we were knocked out by the nutty opulence of this Champagne and its generous croissant nose. This should continue to improve until 2025, but my first bottle won’t last the night… I have a Dungeness crab ready to pair with this in just a few hours!
Drink from 2013 to 2025
1997 Potensac, Médoc
Review Date: 10-8-2013
Cinnamon and I are on a very strict diet, and one of the most important parts of that diet is eating steak and drinking claret once a week. Bordeaux is magic with steak. I know that many of you might think it is less than cutting edge, but this pairing is a classic for a reason. Recently we picked up ¼ of a steer from Fred Manas at Double Bar O ranch in Esparto, CA and this past Friday we indulged in a T-Bone from our haul. We gave it four days of dry age in the fridge, added salt and pepper and tossed it in the cast iron pan. We let it rest with a dab of black truffle butter on top and made some fries and a salad to go with it. The 1997 Potensac, Médoc, $26.99 is one of the most youthful 1997’s I have tasted, and needed the hour that we gave it in the decanter. It is very, very dark, and if I had tasted it blind I am positive I would have missed the vintage. That being said, I think the wine has a lot of charm now as well as power. This is a virile wine with plenty of strict tannin and acidity, but with plenty of black currant fruit to balance it out. It was perfect with the steak, but I would not trifle with this wine with finger food. It got better and better as the night went on and by the last glass was quite layered and complex. This is a steal and $26.99. If there is a steak in your future, don’t miss it!
Drink from 2012 to 2020
2005 Island Distillery (Ledaig) 7 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Exclusive Malts" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 10-2-2013
I love the balance of this young peaty whiskey. Unlike many young "craft" type malts, it does not try to hide the fact that it is young with tricks, and its freshness is a great part of its charm. It is a lovely dram as an after work drink with one large ice cube, and a bracing after dinner drink on its own. The texture is full without being oily, and the finish is remarkably long. I wonder who made it? I'll keep sipping and guessing!
2002 Piper-Heidsieck "Cuvée Rare" Brut Champagne
Review Date: 9-25-2013
The wonderfully rich Cuvee Rare from Piper Heidsieck reminds me of the great tete de cuvee's of years gone past. Like those, it is made in tiny quantities and only in the very best years- only 8 vintages have been made in 36 years! We drank this wine at a staff sushi and Champagne party at my house, and loved it with the eel especially, but I think the ultimate pairing for this wine would be a nice sunset. It doesn't need anything! I love the warm toastiness of this wine and its fine balance. The refreshing finish will have you coming back for more!
Drink from 2013 to 2022
City of London Gin 1L
Review Date: 9-19-2013
This is the new house pour for Cinnamon and I. It is a good high juniper style with plenty of excellent ginny taste. I love it for gin and tonics with fever tree, but best of all I love it for Negroni's. This, Campari and Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth don't all come in liter bottles for no reason- in equal proportions they make my favorite fresh mixed Negroni!
2004 Pierre Moncuit "Cuvée Nicole Moncuit Vieilles Vignes" Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne
Review Date: 8-20-2013
Champagne doesn’t get better than this- I could not believe how much class this 2004 had, even though I have been lucky enough to have many, many past vintages of this cuvee. This great bottle of Mesnil Grand Cru is made from two over 90 year old plots, some of the oldest vines in all of Champagne. The nose is restrained, detailed and multifaceted: I found perfect baguette, savory spice and fresh pineapple in the bouquet. On the palate it had both the lush richness of ancient vines and the fabulous mineral focus of some of the best chalk vineyard in all of Champagne. This wine sings with both ripe fruit and mineral freshness… Too bad there is so little!
Drink from 2013 to 2024
Ruinart Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne
Review Date: 8-17-2013
The Ruinart Brut Blanc De Blancs is a wonderfully different style of Chardonnay based Champagne than any other that we have. While almost all of the others that we carry rely on the laser precision of Cote de Blanc fruit exclusively, this wine balances this electricity with the rich, nearly grapey Chardonnay of the Mountain of Reims. The result is magic; a full bodied blanc de blancs that still finishes dry and long!
2008 Louis Roederer Brut Rosé Champagne
Review Date: 8-17-2013
This fantastic vintage Champagne is the first of the 2008's that we have received from a grand marque and a big statement on the quality of this long awaited vintage. The 2008's combine great ripeness with incredible acidity and the Louis Roederer Brut Rose balances these two features of the vintage perfectly. I have had the wine on three occasions already, and the best experience was at Quince, where the wine was paired with royal osetra caviar on brioche with edible flowers and hollandaise. The fine quality red fruit component and electric acidity of the wine was ideal for this great roe. This is subtle rose with a huge future!
Drink from 2013 to 2048
2004 Bollinger "Grande Année" Brut Champagne
Review Date: 8-7-2013
This Saturday Cinnamon and I drank a fabulous bottle of 2004 Bollinger "Grande Année" Brut Champagne with an equally great piece of Salmon from local fisherman Pietro Parravano. As I have repeated as often as possible, to anyone who will listen, the 2004’s are the vintage to collect right now and put in the cellar. While good and great vintages on either side of 2004 have many attributes to recommend them by, 2004 is alone in its classicism. The Bollinger is one of the strongest examples of this vintage that I have tasted.This great Champagne has not yet reached its potential, but like many great young vintage’s it was all too easy to drink now- especially with a meal. Cinnamon had broiled the salmon fillet with a miso-mayonaise glaze and served it with perfectly fried rounds of rosa bianca eggplant. She cooked the ultra-fresh salmon perfectly and we were able to enjoy it as seared sashimi in the middle and fully cooked on the thinner sides. The salmon played well to the vinous, Pinot power of the Bollinger that on its own was quite light on its feet. It was quite a treat to come home to this after work!
Drink from 2013 to 2034
Ragnaud Sabourin K&L Exclusive Reserve Speciale #20 Cognac 750ml
Review Date: 7-30-2013
If you love great Cognac and don't need a famous name on the label, the Reserve Speciale 20 from Ragnaud Sabourin is one of the most compelling deals in the store. Worthy of the most special occasions, this has depth of fruit, lovely French vanilla and spice as well as an ease of drinking and balance usually only found at double the price.
Ragnaud Sabourin K&L Exclusive Fontevieille #35 Cognac 750ml
Review Date: 7-30-2013
Tasting the Fontevieille 35 Cognac from Ragnaud Sabourin made me wish for a big fire, a big chair and a big snifter. This mature, old fashioned Cognac has plenty of the rancio character that the big houses reserve for their blends in fancy bottles at 10x the price. I found this expansive, deep and complex Cognac worthy of reflection at the end of the evening. It is a very fine value in top class Cognac!
Chateau de Pellehaut K&L Exclusive L'Age de Glace Tenareze Armagnac 750ml
Review Date: 7-30-2013
This brand new bottling from Chateau De Pellehaut is guaranteed to get the creative juices flowing of all of our cocktail loving customers. The l'Age Des Glace is a light bodied, very well balanced brandy that I can't wait to get home and use for a French 75. I found it very enjoyable and laid back without it losing its uniquely Armagnac personality. Now I need to make more room in the liquor cabinet!
2012 Te Whare Ra (TWR) Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand
Review Date: 7-24-2013
This is the best New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc I have ever had, regardless of price. If this is a style of wines that you like, the Te Whare Ra or "TWR" as we like to call it is a must-try. Ryan and Jimmy have used every trick in the book to get this to K&L at this price, and it is only because of our direct relationship with the winery that we have such a good deal on it. We first tasted this wine in a long lineup of top notch NZ Sauvignon Blanc's, and it was the clear winner for me with much better length and expression than even the $50 bottles next to it!
2011 Oakridge Local Vineyard Series "Barkala Ridge Vineyard" Chardonnay, Yarra Valley
Review Date: 7-24-2013
I have been lucky enough to taste this wine twice and it is an exceptional value for the money. The vast continent of Australia has been represented in the past by gigantic, high alcohol reds in the US market, but thanks to the hard work of K&L's Ryan Woodhouse, we are starting to see the rest of the story! Fine wines like this Oakridge Barkala Ridge Vineyard Chardonnay from the Yarra Valley never made it out of the country in the past, but now we have an opportunity to get access to these gems. This Chardonnay has delicacy and finesse on the level with many more expensive white Burgundy's, and those looking for a Chassagne like experience will be very pleased with this medium weight, detailed, long finishing wine from Oakridge!
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