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Staff Favorites - Gary Westby

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!


Reviews

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Elijah Craig 18 Year Old Single Barrel Kentucky Bourbon (750ml)
Review Date: 05-07-2010
This Bourbon was worth the investment of time and effort that the folks at Heaven Hill distillery put into it. Of the many (I am scared to count!) nice Bourbon's that I have open at home, it has become my favorite after dinner drink. They use wheat in the recipe for this Bourbon rather than rye as the flavor grain, and it has a mellow, smooth character that is typical of wheat. The Elijah has plenty of complexity and has not dried out and "gone to wood" like many older Bourbon's can. It is a full and rich 18 year old, with flavors of vanilla and cinnamon complementing the ample texture. I am sure I will need to buy another bottle soon!
Price: $149.99 Add To Waiting List
WE 98
Limit of 1 per customer

Luxardo Maraschino Cherries (400g)
Review Date: 05-07-2010
When I bought these for myself, I joked with my colleagues here at K&L that I must either be a fool or a gourmet... $16 Cherries! That is crazy! Well, I have discovered that like white truffle oil and very old condimento balsamico, the Luxardo cherries are worth it. First of all, they are very small, but have more cherry flavor individually than a whole fistful of the normal "red" maraschinos. Just one or two and a smidgen of the syrup in the bottle make a big impression on a cocktail. The 360 gram jar lasts a long time, even if you dip into it as often as Cinnamon and I do. My favorite use for them is to simply pop a couple into a bourbon on the rocks... Yum!
Price: $15.99 Add To Cart

Campeòn Silver Tequila (750ml)
Review Date: 05-06-2010
Last night Cinnamon used the Campeon Blanco Tequila to make her fantastic margaritas, and they were delicious. First she had her juicing machine (me) squeeze six plump limes, then she added 4 teaspoons of Agave syrup, six ounces of Campeon Blanco and two ounces of Prunier Liqueur d'Orange (we like it better than Cointreau and it is less money). She then put it in a big cocktail shaker with ice and gave it a good shake. This smooth, mellow tequila made a great drink; I hope you will try our recipe the next time you are making margaritas!
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart

2005 Pichon-Lalande, Pauillac
Review Date: 01-12-2010
I can't think of a better deal for a good cellar at K&L right now. Pichon-Lalande from a classic vintage has not been seen on our shelves for under a $100 in a very long time, and I doubt that this wine will last long or ever return at this price. This is an extraordinarily concentrated wine that, nevertheless, lays out its power with elegance and restraint. And although it is far to tight to drink now, it will provide the patient with one of the wine world's greatest rewards.
Drink from 2015 to 2015

Four Roses Yellow Label Kentucky Bourbon (750ml)
Review Date: 09-09-2009
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!
Price: $15.99 Add To Cart
WE 93

North Shore No. 6 Gin (750ml)
Review Date: 08-25-2009
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.
Price: $31.99 Add To Cart

North Shore No. 11 Gin (750ml)
Review Date: 07-30-2009
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.
Price: $31.99 Add To Cart
WE 90

Warre's "Otima" 10 Year Old Tawny Port (500ml)
Review Date: 05-07-2009
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.
Price: $23.99 Add To Cart
W&S 91 WS 91

Ardbeg "Uigeadail" Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 05-01-2009
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!
Price: $56.99 Add To Cart
WA 95

Brouwerij De Ranke "XX Bitter" Belgian IPA, Belgium (330ml)
Review Date: 04-07-2009
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 tete de cuvee 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!
Price: $4.49 Add To Cart

Hendrick's Scottish Gin (750ml)
Review Date: 03-27-2009
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.
Price: $27.99 Add To Cart
WE 92

Sandeman 20 Year Old Tawny Port
Review Date: 03-25-2009
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!
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart
WS 93 WE 91

Anchor "Junipero" Gin (750ml)
Review Date: 03-14-2009
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.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart

Fernet Branca (750ml)
Review Date: 03-05-2009
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.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart

Ramos Pinto "Quinta de Ervamoira" 10 Year Old Tawny Port
Review Date: 02-19-2009
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.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart
W&S 92 WS 90

2006 Haut-Bailly, Pessac-Léognan
Review Date: 02-12-2009
This wine has all six red Bordeaux varieties in it! That's right all six: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc of course- Petite Verdot and Malbec yes, and the almost-extinct-in-Bordeaux Carmenere. The 20% "old vines" that Alex mentions in the official write-up include that rare grape, as do all Haut-Bailly bottlings. This wine is one of my stars of the 2006 vintage, and I believe it will provide more pleasure to more people than the monumental 2005, and do it at half the price. We might live to see this one ready, although I doubt that I will live to see it fade! This dark, potent Graves has lots of tight black fruit and a high quality minerality that does not exist outside of Pessac-Leognan. It is very concentrated in flavor without having a hint of syrupiness. I found it to be the longest finishing red at the UGC tasting on 1/23/09. It is a great candidate for the cellar.
Drink from 2016 to 2016

Aperol Aperitivo Liqueur (750ml)
Review Date: 02-11-2009
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.
Price: $23.99 Add To Cart
WE 90

2006 Cantemerle, Haut-Médoc
Review Date: 02-11-2009
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!!
Price: $44.99 Add To Cart
RP 92 JS 91

Ramos Pinto White Port
Review Date: 02-05-2009
This dangerously delicious wine has a permanent spot in our home refrigerator door, and the empties are a constant feature in our recycling bin. A blend of several vintages that have been aged in large barrels, it takes a while for the wine to oxidize... Exactly how long we are not sure. The bottles simply have not lasted long enough for us to figure it out! I drink it as the main description recommends, on the rocks with a slice (or twist) of orange, but sometimes also use a Meyer lemon off the tree if my lovely wife is feeling generous enough to give one up. As soon as it is made, I check the clock - and won't allow myself a second one for another 15 minutes. This drink goes down far too easily, and will catch even an experienced wine professional by surprise! It is one of my favorite ways to make the transformation of day into evening!
Price: $15.99 Add To Cart

1991 Palmer, Margaux
Review Date: 01-27-2009
Sweeping declarations about the quality of a given vintage should always be taken with a grain of salt. The 1991 vintage was written off by the press and given damning reviews, because of terrible frost, yet the properties along the river Gironde were almost untouched, and many made great wines. The Palmer is one of those great wines. I love the appellation of Margaux, but often find that "big" vintages, like 1989, 1990, 2000 & 2003, obscure much of what makes the wine special- the excellent, almost Burgundy like perfume. Clyde, Alex B, Alex P and I enjoyed this bottle with a group of Bordelaise at One Market restaurant in SF after tasting the 2006 vintage with the UGC. Palmer steals the show for aromatics, and the 1991 is a tremendous example; generous and full of bouquet. The texture is also textbook; medium to full, with a mid palate so well balanced as to make it dangerously easy to drink! It was a spectacular partner to my medium rare New York steak and fit for your next special occasion.
Drink from 2009
Price: $299.99 Add To Cart

Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond 100 Proof Rye Whiskey (750ml)
Review Date: 01-20-2009
I can't say that we have anything- spirits, wine, beer or other that delivers as much value as this superlative spirit. When Susan Purnell secured our first allocation of this producer’s rye, I immediately bought a bottle of this and the 21 year old. I loved the 21 year old, which I opened first, and was completely amazed by the standard bottling. If you have never had rye, you no longer have an excuse not to try it- if you love rye, do not let the low price fool you. This is a rich spirit, but does not have any of the bubble gum sweetness that small batch bourbons are often afflicted with. It also has a wild streak- think rye bread- that is hard to pin down. I enjoy the Rittenhouse on the rocks after dinner most often, but sometimes also indulge in an absinthe sazerac with this rye as the star ingredient. Feel free to write me for the recipe!
Top Value!
Price: $23.99 Add To Cart
WE 95

Cadenhead's Old Raj Gin 110 Proof (750ml)
Review Date: 01-20-2009
When is a gin worth $50 a bottle? When it tastes like this! I have far too much English blood in my veins, and gin is part of my heritage... I can't resist the stuff. This is simply one of the best, combing the wild exoticism of saffron with the staid authority and elegance of royalty. Cinnamon and I always keep a bottle in the house; it is a luxury worth indulging in. I love it for gin & tonic, as it says on the label "after the hunt"...
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart

Ardbeg 10 Year Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 01-14-2009
How does one judge a fine drink? My father and I have talked about this subject a lot, and one of his key questions is, "would I return to it?" With this expression of Ardbeg, my answer is a big yes. Susan just sold me a bottle of what will be the sixth expression of Ardbeg in my liquor cabinet at present. I love this distillery, and jump at the chance to buy each new bottling that comes our way... Yet I am drawn back most often to the distillery ten. It is the lightest, the brightest, the most untamed by wood and time of all of the Ardbegs we carry. It is full of peat - My wife Cinnamon can often smell it from across the room as I pour and will complain about it. So, don't by it for someone who does not like peat - they will hate it! I am sure that I return to it because it has the peat flavor that I love, but without the oily heaviness that I don't want after a big meal, and after a big meal is when I want Scotch the most. Don’t get me wrong, I love the variety and still drink my other bottles (all of which were more expensive), but I just empty this one fastest. It is delicious, and well worth the modest price.
Price: $44.99 Add To Cart
WA 93 WE 90

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