Staff Favorites - Gary Westby

Gary Westby
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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!


Reviews

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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!
Price: $169.99 Add To Cart BC 0

Launois "Quartz" Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne
Review Date: 7-16-2013
We can never get enough Launois Quartz at K&L. Unfortunately; the production is limited as Bernard Launois only has so many grapes each year in the great Mesnil plot of Les Chetillons. Having access to single vineyard, estate, grand cru Champagne from one of the best growers in the region at such a fair price makes me proud to be the Champagne guy at K&L. This wine has a fabulous white fruit quality that few Champagnes get at any price, and a chalky laser beam finish that is pure Mesnil. Don't miss this while we have it!
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart BC 0

Billecart-Salmon Extra Brut Champagne
Review Date: 7-10-2013
I love extra brut Champagne, and Antoine Billecart has made a great example of the style with this bottling. He and I drank this along with his team at Quince in SF the last time he was here, and with four years on the lees, it came across as dry, but without a hint of austerity. Many big houses lack respect for Meunier, but not Billecart- this wine gets its charm from the clean fruit that this indigenous grape brings to the blend. It is composed of 40% Meunier, 30% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir and the long, cool fermentation and generous lees time has given this wine the fruit and balance to please even a first time extra brut drinker.

2004 Dom Pérignon Brut Champagne
Review Date: 6-25-2013
When Champagne lovers ask me about what vintage they should think about collecting, I always bring up 2004 first. While many other vintages such as 2002, 2006 and 2007 have produced fabulous wines, they have all been crazy in one way or another. Because of climate change, the only two harvests that could be counted as typical, “classic” Champagne vintages in the last 25 years are 1988 and 2004. Of course, many vintages in the past 25 years have been great; 1989, 1990, 1996, 2002 and almost certainly 2008 and 2012. All of these vintages have a story, and all of them are odd. Even vintages with plenty of water and slow ripening, which over the last 200 years would be considered typical and classic, are an endangered species. The character of the 2004’s is very transparent, revealing of terroir (especially in single vineyard wines), long and light on its feet. The wines do not have the weight and authority of the 2002’s or the crazy concentration of the 1996’s. What they have is deft, elegant balance and I believe that they will, like the 1988’s, prove to be great. The Dom is a great indicator and example of the strength of this vintage. I can’t remember liking a vintage of Dom when it was first released as much as this since the 1990, or finding one of such good potential since the 1996. I wanted to make the most out of this chance to drink the 2004 as a preview and decided to prepare a special dinner for Cinnamon and I. I picked up an ounce of Osetra and we started out enjoying the bottle with blini and creme fraiche. For the main course I cooked some local wild king salmon on an alder plank on the grill after giving it a light brine. I topped it with some fleur de sel, pepper and paddlefish roe. The 2004 is certainly the driest non-Oenotheque release I have ever tasted from DP and the white gold color has a real flash of green to it. On the nose, the signature Dom Perignon yeastiness is front and center framed by some delicate Chardonnay fruit. The Osetra blini brought out the nuttiness of the Pinot Noir very nicely on the palate. It was too bad that there was only one ounce! One of the things that I learned from the DP seminar that I wrote about in April was that the wine is always close to 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay, and this 2004 certainly tasted that way. When we had the salmon, which was very rich, the Dom showed more of its cutting, mineral driven Chardonnay side. This elegant bottle of Champagne went down very easily, and showed the strength of Moet’s massive vineyard resources and incredible store of knowledge. These wines age very well, and the 2004 has the balance to go the distance. I was very impressed!
Drink from 2013 to 2024

Absolut Elyx Single Estate Vodka 1L
Review Date: 5-15-2013
The Absolut Elyx Single Estate impressed me with its effortless presence, it seemed to tease me with a hidden flavor or texture, and this hard to describe but easy to appreciate vodka changed the way that I think about the whole category. Since I tasted it yesterday with Mr. Driscoll I have not been able to stop thinking about it! Vodka is not an easy thing for a wine guy to get excited about. It is meant to be flavorless, which seems like a strange goal for something that goes in your mouth. If you have been drinking Grey Goose or Chopin and want to see what one of the world’s top producers of vodka can do when they really put their mind to it, this is bottle is a must.
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart BC 0

2002 Thienot "La Vigne aux Gamins" Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne
Review Date: 4-27-2013
Last night at the Plumed Horse in Saratoga we drank a full 1% of the entire production of the single vineyard Thienot La Vigne Aux Gamins Blanc De Blancs Brut Champagne. The packed room was thrilled to get a chance to enjoy such a rarity with Garance Thienot and I am glad that there is still a little bit of the California allocation left to sell! This spectacular Avize Chardonnay has the exotic fruit that only a very old, well exposed vineyard can give and depth of chalky grip that comes from purest of Belmnita soils. It was a profound pairing with the Alaskan halibut course and it was worth feeling a little less than bright eyed today to drink my share of this great Champagne! Get it while you can- it won't take many more nights like last night to drain all the bottles in the state!
Drink from 2013 to 2042

2006 Thienot "Cuvée Garance" Brut Blanc de Rouges Champagne
Review Date: 4-27-2013
Even a guy as lucky as me doesn't get the chance to drink a bottle of Champagne at dinner with the woman it was named after very often! Last night Garance Thienot hosted a spectacular dinner at the Plumed Horse in Saratoga, and poured her 2006 Thienot Cuvee Garance Blanc De Rouges. This is an exceptional all Pinot Champagne that has the full flavor that one would expect, but a level of elegance uncommon in even the lightest of blanc de blancs. This wine was spectacular with the Diamond T Quail with brioche and dried apricots and I can't wait to try it again with some pate!
Drink from 2013 to 2026

Thienot Brut Champagne
Review Date: 4-27-2013
Last night I was lucky enough to be invited by Garance Thienot to the Plumed Horse in Saratoga for an incredible Champagne dinner. I hadn't been to this restaurant in more than a decade and the story about it being the biggest fine dining remodel in all of Silicon Valley must be true- it was amazing inside. We started the dinner off with this rich, full bodied, toasty Champagne that still had the snap to make a great aperitif. What a tasty wine!
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart

Wine Club

Club Price: $34.99
ST 90 BC 0

2009 Cambon La Pelouse, Haut-Médoc
Review Date: 4-23-2013
What a great value! It is a shame that so much of this super quality Bordeaux will be drunk to young. The 2009 Cambon La Pelouse Haut Medoc has the charm to make it accessible for early drinking and a super fair price, but its best days are ahead of it. This wine is classic, curranty Haut Medoc with plenty of minerality to balance the richness of the vintage. Put some in the cellar- you will thank me for it!
Top Value! Drink from 2013 to 2029

2002 Bruno Michel "Cuvee Millésime" Brut Champagne
Review Date: 4-19-2013
One of the top wines tasted on my April trip was the 2002 Bruno Michel "Cuvee Millésime" Brut Champagne which is a new disgorgement. This current batch has four more years on the lees than the first bottles that we sold, and the dosage has been dropped to 5.6 grams per liter. This wine is so creamy and perfect texturally that it is easy to get carried away with. The honeyed pastry nose has a little hint of vanilla from the barrel vinification, but the chalky drive balances it perfectly. The pineapple like, subtle fruit of this great Champagne remind me so much of Meursault but the mineral finish could only be Champagne. Don’t miss this one.
Drink from 2013 to 2032
Price: $59.99 Add To Cart BC 0

Louis Roederer "Brut Premier" Champagne
Review Date: 4-18-2013
This is great Champagne. Louis Roederer has been pushing quality like few others in the region over the last decade, and no wine shows the heights that they have reached as well as the Brut Premier. With massive investment in organic viticulture, including a massive purchase of 1er vineyards from Leclerc-Briant, a return to plowing in the vineyard instead of chemical treatment and obsession with every detail in the winery they have created something here that has no rival among the big names, especially at this price. The 1/3 of the fruit that they buy comes from growers like Benoit Marguet- so you know they are getting top stuff. While most of my time is spent advocating for single origin Champagnes, this bottle is a great argument for blending and the balance that cellar master Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon created here is second to none. This wine has a great brioche nose and plenty of vivacious sparkle. It is a perfect aperitif!

Pierre Moncuit "Cuvée Pierre Moncuit-Delos Grand Cru" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne
Review Date: 3-20-2013
This wine has a big nose that is Meursault like in its scale but without the oak. I found it full of ripe fruit and fragrant wild flowers. On the palate it is dry and cutting on the back end but full and ripe up front. This all Mesnil, all estate Champagne really shows its class on the finish, which is very, very long for its low price. So good!

Moet & Chandon "Impérial" Brut Champagne
Review Date: 3-20-2013
This wine replaced the white star in the US market in the fall of 2009 as Champagne lovers here asked for a drier style. Starting in the summer of 2012 all the Imperial is labeled Brut and the dosage is the same worldwide- 9 grams per liter. They blend four batches of the imperial a year, keeping the winemaking team and bottling lines busy. When I drank this with Moet winemaker Elise Losfelt, she explained that the first blend in January following the harvest uses the most reserve wines- around 30%, while the last blend of the year will use around 20% because of the better maturity of the base vintage. Since they want a fresh style of wine at Moet, they only use one to two year old reserve wines. They age all of the Imperial for 30 months on the lees before release. This was certainly the best Imperial I have drunk, with a discreet nose of bread dough and apple-like Meunier fruit. It was easy to drink, dry and clean and a nice way to start an evening.

1998 Bodegas Casa Juan Señor de Lesmos Gran Reserva Rioja
Review Date: 3-7-2013
This Gran Reserva Rioja is great wine, and an unbelievable value for the quality. Cinnamon and I had this Bodegas Casa Juan Senor De Lesmos last night with thick cut pork chops and Spanish rice and were blown away by its class and intensity. This Rioja was one of the most concentrated and intense old school wines I have ever had. Rather than being blown away by oak, we were treated to intense savory red fruit and a laser finish that flattered the meal to no end. It held up to the spice in the rice with no problem and is on my list to buy today!
Top Value! Drink from 2013 to 2028
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart BC 0

La Cigarrera Manzanilla Sanlucar de Barrameda (375ml)
Review Date: 3-7-2013
Manzanilla Sherry delivers so much pleasure for so little money... With the La Cigarrera Manzanilla Sanlucar De Barrameda it might be too much! Cinnamon and I cracked this little half bottle last night for the aperitif and enjoyed some Marcona almonds with rosemary with it. Before we knew it, that half bottle was in the recycling bin! This bone dry, electric Manzanilla has a nose of marzipan and sea air that took my mind back to Andalusia. This light, delicate bottle was way too easy to drink!
Top Value!
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart BC 0

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