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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La Caudrina "La Selvatica" Asti
Review Date: 02-01-2013
This tasty wine is almost full Champagne pressure at 5 atmospheres. It is produced from 37-year-old vines at about 900 feet. This spumatne is perfect for wine lovers looking for something a little bit drier, more bubbly and fuller bodied than Moscato d’Asti. I found it to have lots of exotic aroma, a nice mousse and a sweet but clean finish.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
GR 2

Cocchi Vermouth di Torino (375ml)
Review Date: 01-26-2013
Cocchi makes my favorite red vermouth. I use it for Manhattan’s, in a Negroni, or in my favorite Champagne cocktail, the Negroni Sbagliato. If you are interested in seeing the recipe, search "Negroni Sbagliato" on the blog (blog.klwines.com) to find it, complete with video. If you don’t mind waiting, you can also send me an email with the button above, and I’ll send you the link.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart

Cocchi Vermouth di Torino (750ml)
Review Date: 01-26-2013
Cocchi makes my favorite red vermouth. I use it for Manhattan’s, in a Negroni, or in my favorite Champagne cocktail, the Negroni Sbagliato. If you are interested in seeing the recipe, search "Negroni Sbagliato" on the blog (blog.klwines.com) to find it, complete with video. If you don’t mind waiting, you can also send me an email with the button above, and I’ll send you the link.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

The Durand Corkscrew for Removal of Old Corks with Confidence
Review Date: 01-25-2013
This excellent tool revolutionized opening old wine for me. It used to be that I planned on the corks disintegrating into a crumbly mess and I would have a tea strainer on hand to aid in the decanting of the wine. Now, I can even get bottles of port from the sixties open without breaking the cork! Be warned, this is not an all purpose corkscrew, and the same support that it brings to an old cork will jam a young cork in the bottle. If you have occasion to open great old wines, you should definitely own the Durand Corkscrew!
Price: $124.99 Add To Cart

Riedel "O" Riesling/S. Blanc/Zin/Sangiovese Wine Tumbler 414/15 (226053)
Review Date: 01-25-2013
Every wine fan should own a pair of these great tumblers. They are just as good for drinking out of as the Vinum Zinfandel/ Chianti which says a lot, since that glass is the most flexible instrument I have ever enjoyed wine from. Since they have no stem, they fit in cupboards that would not fit regular glasses and you can't break the stem off of them, which is the most common way glasses break. The best thing is, that if you keep the two glass box they come in, you can take them anywhere with you. No more Dixie cups for your wine on picnics, no more awful thick, rolled hotel room glasses ruining your carefully chosen vacation wine!
Price: Hidden View Price

Riedel Vinum Cuvee Prestige Champagne Glass 6416/48 (317179)
Review Date: 01-25-2013
This is a great design for drinking Champagne. While I prefer to taste our of a regular wine glass for the larger bowl that allows more aroma to develop and a wider pour of liquid over my tongue at work, this is a great shape when you have more time to spend with the Champagne. The tulip shape allows the bubbles to cascade up and makes the wine a lot more enjoyable to look at than a regular wine glass. It also has a wide enough opening at the top to allow one to smell the Champagne and pours widely enough across the tongue to taste properly. Straight sided flutes are very hard on Champagne- if you are still using them, you should audition a pair of these Riedels!
Price: Hidden View Price

Riedel Cabernet Decanter 750ml 1440/13 (87047)
Review Date: 01-25-2013
Cinnamon and I collect decanters, and use them almost every night we are home drinking still wine. At last count we had 30 of the things, taking up a lot of the surfaces in the house- on top of the liquor cabinet, on top of the record racks and on the kitchen counters. This is the one that we use most, and for good reason. It takes up the least amount of space on the table, pours the best, cleans up easily, and inverts nicely for drying. If you are only going to have one decanter, this should be it! If you buy a second, take a look at another shape, otherwise you will forget which wine is in which carafe at dinner parties!
Price: $49.95 Add To Cart

Ariston Aspasie Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne (1.5L)
Review Date: 01-18-2013
From my top 10 Champagnes of 2012: I opened this magnum as business petered off on Christmas eve for the staff here in the Redwood City store, and it made me a popular man at K&L. Carrying a magnum around to the various work stations put a smile on many faces here, and the wine inside the bottle kept those smiles. This wine is single vineyard, from the very steep Gouttes d’Or site in Brouillet, and has a very different style than the Chardonnay from the Cotes de Blancs. This is creamy, decadent wine, and great on its own in the final moments of the retail rush…or just about any time! I need to buy this for my cellar.
Price: $74.99 Add To Cart

Stiegl Brauerei "Goldbräu Premium" Lager, Austria (16oz Cans)
Review Date: 01-18-2013
I wonder how much of the Stiegl that we buy for our stock at K&L is sold to the staff. If I were to guess, I would say over 50%. These tall boys are perfect after a long day, and do an exceptional job of washing away the tannin after tasting to many overblown red wines. The style is Germanic; clean, lively, refreshing and the execution precise. If you love a good lager, and like having 4 oz. left after 12 have been enjoyed, this is the beer for you!
Price: $2.49 Add To Cart

Bruno Michel "Rebelle" Extra Brut Champagne
Review Date: 01-16-2013
From my top 10 Champagnes of 2012: Cinnamon was staying up in the city with her friend Jenna on a Friday night, and I grabbed some sushi to go and headed home to dine with our cat, the Morsel. While she helped with the sushi, she did not have a single sip of the Champagne. I believe in the saying that one should be moderate in all things, so I got carried away and drank the whole bottle. Drinking Champagne by yourself is a great thing- if you never have done it there is no better treat, and no better place than the home for having an extra glass or two. From my personal tasting diary: “This wine was a lot richer than I remember and I suspect the base must be from the extroverted 2006 harvest. The balance was so perfect it hardly seemed “Extra” Brut like, rather just vibrant, nervy, electrically mineral sud-Eprenay stuff. It went best with the Akasaka Roll which has eel and avocado on the outside and tempura shrimp on the inside- and very well with everything else. I got carried away by its ample charm and finished the bottle. I woke refreshed and ready for a busy December Saturday- and it turned out to be one of my best days at work all year. I guess there is something to be said for drinking organic after all!” This bottle deserves its spot on the top 10- try it out and see if you can resist finishing the whole thing…
Price: $59.99 Add To Cart

Domaine du Manoir de Montreuil Calvados Pay d'Auge (750ml)
Review Date: 01-15-2013
This very light colored Calvados is the key ingredient in making my new favorite winter cocktail, the Bentley. Charles Neal published the recipe in his excellent book Calvados: The Spirit of Normandy which is where I first read about it, but apparently this cocktail was in the original Savoy Cocktail Book. I have experimented with a number of different Calvados bottlings and red vermouths, but settled on the Montreuil and the Dolin Rouge Vermouth de Chambéry as my favorites. Here is the recipe: pour 1 & 1/2 ounces of Calvados and 1 & 1/2 ounces of red vermouth in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Add one dash of Angostura Bitters and stir thoroughly with a cocktail spoon. Strain into a martini glass. Try to drink it slowly!
Price: $44.99 Add To Cart

Camut Aperitif Normand Pommeau (750ml)
Review Date: 01-15-2013
Warning! This fabulous aperitif tastes a little too good, and much like the Ramos Pinto white Port, goes down far too easily. The Camut Pommeau has all of the virtues taste of great apple juice, the warmth of apple pie and the crispness of an apple fresh from the tree. It is great to drink chilled in a white wine glass- the only thing you need to do is pour. Be careful not to get carried away!
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart

Lemorton 6 Year Old "Reserve" Calvados Domfrontais (750ml)
Review Date: 01-15-2013
The Lemorton is a great bottle of Calvados and being from the Domfrontais has a lot of pears in it. It is round and rich, with lots of extroverted fruit flavor. It still finishes nice and dry and is far to easy to drink. I have been enjoying a snifter of this by the fire as a digestive in the evening and it is a great nightcap. Recently, Cinnamon took a flask of this mushroom foraging with her and she found it invigorating. I hope you'll try it out!
Price: $54.99 Add To Cart

Lazzaroni Amaro (750ml)
Review Date: 10-03-2012
I love this Amaro, and my favorite use for it is in Black Manhattan's- a drink that I was first introduced to in (of all places!) Hollywood. I stir two parts dry rye Whiskey, usually the Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond, with one part Lazzaroni Amaro in a cocktail shaker with a dash or two of Scrappy's chocolate bitters. I serve it up in a Martini glass as a digestif. If you substitute Bourbon in this drink please select a drier style, as this Amaro has a good deal of sweetness of its own!
Price: $27.99 Add To Cart

Pierre Ferrand "1840 Formula" 90 Proof Cognac (750ml)
Review Date: 09-11-2012
This Ferrand is a great ingredient, and works far better than much more expensive (and far more subtle) Cognacs in cocktails. The 1840 Formula is made in the three star style from the 19th century, and is a full 5% higher in alcohol than standard Cognac. It is also oilier and weightier with lots of flavor- it won’t get lost in a mixed drink. Here is a great use for it: The French 75- 2 parts Ferrand 1840 Formula 90 proof Cognac, 1 Part Fresh squeezed lemon juice, 1 Part simple syrup, 2 parts Champagne (Blanc de Blancs if you have one open), Lots of fresh ice, Lemon rind for garnish. We use an ounce per part for ours- and that makes a pretty big aperitif. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the cognac, lemon juice and simple syrup. Shake thoroughly and pour into a rocks glass filled with more fresh ice. Top with Champagne, and stir if you like (I do!) finally garnishing with lemon rind.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart
WE 90

Royal Dock Navy Strength Gin (750ml)
Review Date: 08-21-2012
A great bottle of gin is a luxury that we all deserve to be treated to. This Royal dock has just the right amount of assertive juniper and balanced botanicals to make an excellent after-work gin and tonic, and at navy strength, you do not have to use as much as you would a normal gin. As I learned from Hayman's (who is the distiller) excellent website "This Navy Strength Gin at 57% vol was the strength required to enable gunpowder to still light if Gin was spilt on it." Here at K&L we recommend keeping the gin separate from the munitions!
Price: $27.99 Add To Cart

Gosset "Excellence" Brut Champagne
Review Date: 02-28-2012
Very few famous negociants are making Champagne of this quality- this is poised, balanced Champagne that has soul as well as polish. The Gosset Excellence is a great way to welcome friends to a dinner party, but also does very well with food and just one other special person!

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

Knob Creek Small Batch 100 Proof Bourbon (750ml)
Review Date: 05-07-2010
What a deal! This excellent 9 year old Bourbon is an extra aged selection from the Jim Beam distillery. The Knob Creek is a whiskey of authority, and has the richness one would expect of an extra aged bourbon. It is not at all heavy however, and I love to drink it on the rocks with a couple Luxardo Maraschino cherries now that the weather is getting warmer. It is also very good neat, or for that matter, in a sour. I have to guess that it is the scale of production at Beam that allows them to sell it for such a fair price!
Price: $22.99 Add To Cart
WE 92 WA 90

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

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: $21.99 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: $55.99 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

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

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

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

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

2001 Cos d'Estournel, St-Estèphe
Review Date: 09-22-2008
I have been lucky enough to taste this wine many, many times and each taste was a real occasion. Going back into my old notebook, I see that I tasted it for the first time in barrel at the Chateau on March 29th 2002, and it made a huge impression on me. I felt that it was one of the best wines of the vintage; with exclamation points all over my description- it reminded me very much of the 1990. We tasted it several more times on that trip, and once we compared it to the 2000. The K&L group was unanimous, the 2000 Cos was good, but the 2001 was the better wine- an opinion that has been confirmed again and again by many others in the trade that have done the comparison. This is a classic sleeper, an insider’s vintage, and a smart buy. When we tasted it again on release, when the wine's signature exoticism was really starting to blossom. This Cos is much more modern than bottles from the old days, but somehow Jean-Guillaume Prats and his team have updated the wine without compromising its soul. It is still (I have tasted up to 2005) one of the most identifiable wines in Bordeaux with its perfectly balanced components of coffee, cinnamon and clean-clay-earth. This is big Bordeaux, and while I think it would show very well in a comparative tasting now (it may even be a "spoiler") the real pleasure in drinking is still yet to come. I give this my highest recommendation for my patient friends and customers!
Drink from 2011 to 2011

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