Staff Favorites - David Driscoll

David Driscoll
David Driscoll  | Send Email  |   Subscribe to My Sommelier Service
David Driscoll likes to drink alcohol when he is not working at K&L. His main interests include wine, beer, and distilled spirits. Before he worked here he went to college at a decent school, got a masters degree from an OK school, worked as a waiter and taught elementary school in Chinatown. He decided to get into the wine business after reading a few books about wine and realizing that one cannot seriously learn about wine solely through reading. His career goals include: trying to convince K&L customers that he does know something despite his youthful appearance, and learning everything about everything about every single wine ever made.


Reviews

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Petit & Bajan Nuit Blanche Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne
Review Date: 04-12-2018
The nuttiness on the palate of this graceful and elegant "Nuit Blanche" is the stuff of pure magic. I was immediately taken aback by this new arrival when Gary poured me a glass. It's fresh, lively, and simply gorgeous on the palate with plenty of depth, but that note of toasted almond brioche on the finish is simply to die for. I'd buy as much of this as you can afford.
Price: $42.99 Add To Cart

Petit & Bajan Ambrosie Grand Cru Brut Champagne
Review Date: 04-12-2018
I absolutely LOVED this. This little husband & wife operation is the latest discovery here at K&L and I was immediately impressed by how the 70% Chardonnay in the Ambrosie cepage enveloped my taste buds. This is definitely as promised = pure ambrosia! It expands on the palate with round, creamy textures and lots of crisp acidity and pop. More importantly, it tastes expensive and the label is sleek and modern. I'm going to bring this to a few parties and see how my friends react.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart

1997 Bowmore 20 Year Old "Old Particular" K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 04-12-2018
This 20 year old Bowmore is more like an edition of the Compass Box Flaming Heart than a concentrated single cask expression. It's so balanced with mild peatiness and plenty of sweet vanilla to add richness on the finish. Fans of more gentle Islay flavors will go gaga for this as everything is in perfect harmony here, even at 52.7%. Add this to your bar at your own peril: it's too delicious to sip slowly.
Price: $149.99 Add To Cart

El Tesoro "K&L Exclusive" Single Barrel #110 Reposado Tequila (750ml)
Review Date: 02-28-2018
Carlos said two things to me when talking about distillation that stood out: 1) smaller copper pots are better, in his opinion; and 2) every distillation is itself a blend. Tequila is double distilled in copper pot stills much like single malt whisky, but whereas a number of Scotch producers will talk about the importance of the height of the still, Carlos believes a more concentrated and flavorful Tequila results from a smaller still due to the increased contact with the copper. As many of you already know, copper creates a number of reactions that result in various flavor profiles and it also eliminates any of the sulphurous components released by the fermenting yeast. There are a number of different sized stills at La Alteña, but not one of them is all that large. When we asked him about blending the spirits after distillation, he said: "Every distillate is itself a blend because the spirit tastes different every minute it comes off the still." I thought that was fantastic. In essence, you could cut each minute of every singular run into its own batch and each would taste slightly different from the next. To categorize a spirit as singular because it's from one single distillation is to ignore the fact that it's still a collection of liquids with various flavor profiles. So while this is a "single barrel" of Tequila, it's much more a product of a very specific time and place than it is the product of a single wood vessel.
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart

El Tesoro "K&L Exclusive" Single Barrel #117 Reposado Tequila (750ml)
Review Date: 02-28-2018
Any great wine's reputation will (and should) always begin with the quality and the location of its vineyards. In the case of La Alteña, the agave is planted in the vibrant red soils of the Jalisco Highlands, which create a much different flavor profile than those planted in the Lowlands. Whereas Lowland agave produces a greener, more vegetal and herbaceous style of Tequila, Highland agave piñas tend to be larger, fruitier, and sweeter in flavor due to the difference in both soil types and climate. I've heard people compare Highland Tequilas to Highland single malts, but I've never liked that analogy. The classic Highland single malt profile has much more to do with stylistic choice than terroir. The difference between Highland and Lowland Tequila is more like the different between Napa mountain and valley-grown Cabernet. Due to the recent shortage of agave, many large producers (especially those using diffusers) don't distinguish between the geographical origins of their piñas, but that's no different than buying a bottle of red wine that says "California" on the label and one that very specifically indicates "Howell Mountain." When you buy a bottle of El Tesoro, you know you're getting Tequila made from Camarena family estate Highland agave.
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart

2014 Amapola Creek "Monte Rosso Vineyard" Sonoma Valley Zinfandel
Review Date: 02-09-2018
What we need to realize about Zinfandel as California citizens is that this wine IS OUR HERITAGE! This is what we do; it's what makes our wines unique in the world. We have old vines around the state that are more than a century old, as is the case with Monte Rosso Vineyard, a site in Sonoma that was originally planted in the 1880s. It's an incredibly historic source of fruit and the grapes have been used in expressions from Ravenswood, Biale, Ridge, Rosenblum, and Martini over the decades. This specific 2014 edition from Amapola Creek is like a mouthful of California history in your glass, running the gambit of flavors from sweet blackberry to savory spice and everything in between. This is a wine I'd like to sit outside with on a warm California evening while grilling up a few burgers. These are the wines that make me proud to be a Californian.
Price: $34.95 Add To Cart
RP 94 JD 90

2016 Talley/K&L Wine Merchants Edna Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 02-05-2018
Our latest collaboration with Talley, the 2016 K&L Edna Valley Chardonnay, displays the winery's textbook Burgundian character beautifully, weaving lemon zest and apple notes between toastier elements and the richness that they impart. Put together for us by Brian Talley, the wine is indicative of everything we love right now about the wines from Edna Valley and the Central Coast: quality, value, volume, and drinkability. At $22 a bottle, the wine delivers supreme complexity for the money, but it doesn't skimp on charm either. In tasting the wine again this morning, I'm imagining everything I love about the San Luis Obispo area with each sip: the setting, the relaxed environment, the down-to-earth mentality, and the commitment to enjoying life's simple pleasures.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

George Dickel "K&L Exclusive" 9 Year Old Single Barrel #L7233K1007 Tennessee Whiskey (750ml)
Review Date: 02-02-2018
With the lockdown on Kentucky's single barrel programs hindering our procurement of interesting new Bourbon casks, we've switched our focus over to neighboring Tennessee, a state that has always made plenty of outstanding Bourbon they just happen to call Tennessee whiskey. Jack Daniels and George Dickel have been opening up their stocks to us over the last year, and we've been getting to know their barrels quite intimately. This particular Dickel cask clocks in at 9 years of age and with plenty of punch at over 100 proof. The creaminess of the high corn recipe means plenty of sweetness and the finish is all toasted vanilla and crème brulee. We've been paying similar prices for 5-7 year barrels from Kentucky, so getting a 9 year old Tennessee whiskey for sub-$50 is definitely a deal we're going to continue moving on.
Price: $44.99 Add To Cart

Compass Box "No Name" Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 01-31-2018
If you're an Ardbeg fan, you're going to want a bottle of this. Same goes for any fan of John Glaser's outstanding Compass Box expressions. However, if like me you're a super fan of both Ardbeg and Compass Box, then this is the type of whisky you go ga-ga for. In essence, it's a malt that exudes the bold peated character of Islay's most famous whisky distillery, tempered by the finesse and the keen palate of Mr. Glaser. You get loads of smoke, brine, salt, and sweet barley flavors right off the bat, but the finish rounds out with more oak and weight than you usually find in any of the official Ardbeg editions. In short, the "No Name" is a perfect example of how an already fantastic single malt like Ardbeg can be heightened and improved with the addition of other whiskies, a feat unachievable in an official brand capacity. It's a beautiful expression of Islay, presented in an entirely different way than we're used to. It's the definitely the iron fist in a velvet glove. You're gonna want one.
Price: Hidden View Price

Baron-Fuenté "7" Brut Champagne
Review Date: 01-11-2018
This is beautiful, majestic, and transformative Champagne, the kind that combines all of the regions most characteristic elements into one perfect package. You get the freshness of that laser-like acidity, mineral, oyster shell notes from the chalky Champagne soils, a leesy brioche creaminess from the seven years of lees aging. Champagne is both famous and expensive because only wine from Champagne can taste this way. Anyone can make sparkling wine, but nowhere else do you get such a combination of these distinct elements: they are what make a great Champagne stand out from the pack. In this Baron Fuente "7" edition, you get everything I describe in clear, delineated flavor profiles, easy to pick out, yet seamless in their integration.
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart
WE 93

2009 Baron-Fuenté "Grand Millesime" Brut Champagne
Review Date: 01-11-2018
First and foremost, it's always good to mention that vintage Champagnes are only produced when the harvest warrants it, which usually means you can add an extra $10 -$30 to the bottle cost. Hence, when I see vintage Champagne from a grower who actually owns and farms his own grapes selling for $29.99, my ears perk up. Getting real Champagne of any level of quality for less than $30 today is a rarity as is, let alone vintage Champagne from a grower/producer. So let's talk about the quality: the nose is lively, fresh, and enticing. Citrus notes dance along side brioche and bready notes, and everything about the aromas screams out FUN! When you taste the 2009 Baron Fuente, however, and the clean flavors give way to a nutty, almond skin finish with leesy richness and texture, you begin to wonder just how the Baron family managed to pack this much incredible quality into such an affordable and accessible package. I'm still scratching my head seven bottles later.
Price: $29.99 Add To Waiting List
WE 91

Real McCoy 10 Year Old Limited Edition Virgin Oak Rum (750ml)
Review Date: 01-11-2018
Now that I'm deep into my late thirties, I'm having a bit more trouble finishing off a number of my cask strength, high alcohol whiskies. I'm developing a huge appreciation for distillers and bottlers who can hit the ABV sweet spot inside the bottle, and that's most definitely the case in this new Foursquare edition of Real McCoy, a limited blend of rums aged in both ex-Bourbon and virgin oak casks. If you're becoming a fan of the new unadulterated, unsweetened rum market, this is a must have bottle. It's loaded with the same sweet spices, vanilla, and dry-finishing richness that will remind you of your favorite bottle of Bourbon, yet the hints of molasses and tropical splendor underneath tell your mouth this is clearly rum. This my favorite edition yet from the Real McCoy's Foursquare series and I'm going to think long and hard about bunkering a few extra bottles for the cellar.
Price: $59.99 Add To Cart

2014 Tormaresca "Neprica" Super Puglia
Review Date: 01-10-2018
When you get into the various micro-niches of wine styles and situations, beyond the great twenty dollar bottle of red or the best pairing for a burger, I have to believe there is a such a thing as the perfect inexpensive bottle of Italian red wine to drink both while you’re cooking and while you’re eating a simple pasta on the average weeknight. Not only do I believe that’s a thing, I think it’s a style of wine that must be in pretty high demand given the fact that everyone loves pasta and there’s nothing better than standing there in your kitchen after a long day at work, popping that bottle open, and pouring yourself that first glass while you wait for the water to boil. There are a number of great inexpensive red wines from all over the world that pair well with pasta, but for me it always feels better to keep things in the family. I like French reds with French bistro food. I like California Zinfandel with my burgers. I like an ice cold bottle of Modelo with my tacos. There's something right about the slightly-tannic, robust, and spiciness of a classic Italian red coupled with the smell of a simmering sauce. The Neprica is from Puglia, the heel in Italy's boot and an expanse of old farmlands that date back centuries. Negroamaro, the principle varietal in the Tomaresca blend, is the region's most important grape, one that adds weight and structure to the wine in this case. The blend is balanced by a healthy dose of Primitivo (think Zinfandel from Italy) and Cabernet Sauvignon that add fruit and additional richness to that tannic frame. At $10 a bottle, this wine covers all the bases for what I'm looking for on a Tuesday night.
Price: $9.99 Add To Cart

2015 Buehler Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 01-08-2018
For as long as I’ve worked at K&L, I’ve been consistently wowed by how much Cabernet these wines deliver for the dollar and I was reminded again of that qualitative bargain this past week while tasting the recent 2015 vintage: yet another example, loaded with dark fruit, fine tannins, and real California grit, yet without all the fancy marketing and exaggerated hype. Simply put, it’s a Cabernet for people who like to drink real Cabernet. Made with 30% estate-grown fruit near St. Helena, it’s a blend of 90% Cabernet with 10% Merlot just to soften the edges a bit and bolster some of that fruit character. The best part about the Buehler Cabernets (on top of the quality and the price) is the fact that you can age them for another decade or drink them now with some decanting. Buehler is one of the true family-owned gems of the Napa Valley, a winery that for almost three decades has been producing honest expressions from its 300 acre hillside estate just above Conn Valley. The prices remain reasonable from vintage to vintage because producing value-oriented wines is part of Buehler's philosophy. In an era where getting the most money for your bottle has become commonplace in Napa, it's refreshing to find a bit of that throwback mentality.
Price: Hidden View Price
VN 91 JS 90

2007 Hampden "Golden Devil" K&L Exclusive 9 Year Old Single Barrel Cask Strength Jamaican Rum (750ml)
Review Date: 01-08-2018
The masses have demanded more Hampden from our spirits team at K&L and so we went out and found another cask of the rum world's most notoriously ester-laden pot still rum. Hampden is to esters, the chemical compounds that form when alcohol molecules merge with acids during distillation, what Ardbeg or Laphroaig are to peat: high octane and unbridled. This 9 year old edition is full of candied pineapple mixed with petrol, along with crazy combinations of brine, bitter, and sweet. Olives and mango? Banana and scorched earth? Call them crazy, but these potent and in your face flavors are exactly what the rum world is geeking out about at the moment. Do not expect an easy ride from this 62% ABV beast of a rum. Expect to have your horizons expanded and your mind blown.
Price: $69.99 Add To Cart

2015 Chateau Los Boldos "Grande Reserve" Cachapoal Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 01-03-2018
I've been advising as many Cabernet drinkers as possible to start seriously exploring the expressions emanating from South America, particularly Argentina and Chile. The quality has gone way, way up over the last decade, but the prices have remained way, way low. Case in point is this new Reserve Cabernet from Chateau Los Boldos, a property established in 1991, but working with vines planted in the late 1940s. The reinvestment in those vineyards is realized today in the 2015 edition, one that offers classic Cabernet flavors with an eye towards the Bordeaux style. There's plenty of fruit, but also tobacco and earth, herbaceous notes, and a mineral streak on the finish that speaks to the complexity of the grape, rather than just ripeness and new oak. You get all that for well under $20. Hence, keep your eyes on South America.

2015 Gagliole "Rubiolo" Chianti Classico
Review Date: 01-02-2018
We do so much work with the Sangiovese wines of Montalcino here at K&L (thanks to our buyer Greg's deep connections there) that I often forget about some of our best, old fashioned Chianti expressions, the backbone of Tuscany and often what are everyday Italian enthusiasts are looking for on a Wednesday night. The 2015 Gagliole is the best tasting and best priced Chianti I've found in some time, showcasing a textbook combination of fruit, acidity, and tannic structure with power and depth. There's a lot of wine here for less than twenty bucks. While you can pop and pour, I'd give the Gagliole a good hour to open up before drinking as the cherry fruit unlocks itself after time in the decanter. This is a slam dunk deal for classic Italian lovers. It's approachable, but in no way flashy or modern. It's managed to maintain its traditional appeal.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart
JS 92 RP 90

Ariston Aspasie "Carte Blanche" Brut Champagne
Review Date: 12-22-2017
I know what you might be thinking: "I've had the Ariston Aspasie Carte Blanche dozens of times at this point." I've consumed at least 100 bottles of this in my 10 years at K&L, but unless you've bought a bottle post-November 2017 then you haven't had the new and improved Carte Blanche. You can look at my colleague Gary Westby's review for the technical details, but the short version is that the technological advancements put into place six years ago at Aspasie are just now showing up in the bottle, after five years of lees aging. If you thought you were getting a bargain for a sub-$30 Champagne before, you're getting a better version today. The control that the Aspasies have over the fermentation and pressing now results in a much fresher wine. More dynamic on the palate, cleaner on the finish, and livelier in every way, my most recent experience with the Carte Blanche was like drinking it again for the first time. If it's been a while since your last bottle of Aspasie Carte Blanche, you may want to consider revisiting this soon.
Price: $27.99 Add To Cart

Real McCoy 12 Year Old Single Blended Barbados Rum (750ml)
Review Date: 12-07-2017
Four years when I first went to Barbados on a rum expedition, no one was even talking about Foursquare in the U.S. (hence I didn't visit the distillery). When you thought of Barbados, you thought of Mount Gay. Today, however, Foursquare is all anyone wants to talk about in the rum world because it's one of the few distilleries that has taken a stand against added sugar and caramel color in its spirits. That purity has struck a chord with today's modern and more conscientious drinker because there's never been a point in history when people cared more about what they're drinking than right now. Because rum is one of the most adulterated spirits there is, often darkened and sweetened with a number of various devices, Foursquare has decided to separate itself from the pack, pumping out incredibly supple, rounded, almost Bourbon-like rums with real (natural) flavor and concentration. The Real McCoy 12 year is a stunning value considering everything that went into it. It's the Weller 12 of the rum world -- the rum that we'll all be missing five years from now when the rest of the industry catches on and buys every last drop. For the meantime, take advantage of the fact that there's plenty available and for a great price.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart

2011 Viña Real Gran Reserva Rioja
Review Date: 12-06-2017
The 2011 Vina Real Gran Reserva is everything I love about both older Rioja and older wine in general. It's really in a great spot for those who still like supple fruit and a fleshy mouthfeel, but want a bit of evolution and earth in their reds. There's a lovely dark fruit note that blends in seamlessly with the oak, but the wine seems more decadent than it is. It tastes expensive. It's an effortless expression and the price is great.

2016 Ata Rangi "Crimson" Pinot Noir Martinborough
Review Date: 11-29-2017
The 2016 "Crimson" marks the first time we've carried the Ata Rangi mark here at K&L and I couldn't be more impressed with it as a side companion to the grand cuvee. In no way is this wine superfluous or simply a lesser version of its legendary mainstay. The Crimson is a darker, fleshier, and more supple Pinot Noir on every level, more like a Pommard or Volnay to the classic Ata Rangi's Richebourg. It's a juicy Pinot Noir that's almost daring you to put lay it down in your cellar, as if to say: "You really think you can resist?" It's that good already!

2014 Mindego Ridge "Estate" Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
Review Date: 11-16-2017
Tasting this next to the Domaine Eden Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay was a real eye-opener because while the Eden had the richness and the weight, the Mindego Ridge had all that creaminess, but with vibrant acidity, accents of savory herbs, and minerality in one helluva complex ride from start to finish. It's everything I wish more California Chardonnays could be: full-boded and lush, but without ever sacrificing freshness or secondary flavor. This is a home run of a wine and I'm definitely putting Mindego Ridge on my shortlist of wineries to watch.
Price: $44.99 Add To Cart
VN 94 RP 93

2014 Mindego Ridge "Estate" Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
Review Date: 11-16-2017
There's delicious, juicy, easy drinking Pinot Noir and then there's serious Pinot Noir like the 2014 Mindego Ridge. What does "serious" mean? It means balance and beauty with layers of flavor that slowly develop and unveil themselves after time in the glass. The dark and brooding fruit of the Santa Cruz Mountains is the star, of course, but under that there are hints of herbs and spice that begin on the nose and continue unwind as your swirl and sip your way through the glass. It's everything I love about Santa Cruz Mountain wines: mystery and intrigue with fresh acidity. The Mindego Ridge wines are from a tiny family-owned estate property, making this all the more fun to drink. It's rare that I find new Pinots from Santa Cruz these days that wow me, but this is another great find.
Price: $44.99 Add To Cart
VN 95 RP 92

2015 Valravn "Old Vine" Sonoma County Zinfandel
Review Date: 11-10-2017
"Old vine" is one of those terms you see on wine bottles that I'm not sure everyone understands, but nevertheless is used as a marketing tool by wineries to tout the quality of their hooch. It's kind of like "small batch" for Bourbon in that it implies something special or unique, but there's no real regulation regarding either term; it's really up to the integrity of the producer when it comes to the usage. What's so special about old vines then? It depends on which winemaker you talk to (as it can be a controversial subject), but old vines often give more concentrated fruit and a better sense of place when it comes to terroir, as the root networks extend deep into the soil, criss-crossing like veins through the heart of their terrain. Some winemakers say that old vines have a better ability to cope with diverse weather conditions because of their life experience—they have wisdom, so to speak. With every vintage, they gain a better understanding of their environment; plus, there's a reason they're still around after decades and decades, right? Someone must think they're pretty special to have left them in place for so long, while other vineyards get ripped up, replaced, and replanted. 2015 Valravn Old Vine Zinfandel: a wine that really impresses. It's made by the same team behind the Banshee project, focusing on 50 to 105 year old bush-pruned vines in Sonoma County that are all hand-harvested to preserve the varietal's full glory. What you get is concentrated red berry flavors, rich and juicy on the palate, but accented with savory spices, brush, and licorice-like peppery notes.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2015 Jax "Y3 Taureau" Napa Valley Red Blend
Review Date: 11-06-2017
If I owned my own California bistro, I know what my table wine would be year in and year out: the Jax Y3 Taureau. It's been one of the work horse reds of the domestic department here for the last three years and I've yet to have a bottle that didn't get the job done. A blend of 50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the rest being Zin and Syrah, this is the PERFECT California red table wine that offers down-to-earth drinkability with a boutique level of detail and attention to care. It's a fleshy, fruit-forward wine, but it has acidity and character. It's balanced and it tastes like a more sophisticated wine than the price point would have you believe. It tastes good with everything, but is particularly suited to meats and heartier dishes, and it's so darn affordable. I love the Jackson family as well, a local member of our community, so like I said earlier: if I had my own restaurant, this would be the backbone of my menu.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
RP 90

2016 Prisoner Wine Co. "The Prisoner" Napa Valley Red Blend
Review Date: 11-06-2017
One of the biggest sensations to hit Bordeaux over the last decade has been the dry white movement, the lettered expressions from Yquem and Guiraud that have the weight and richness of a classic Sauternes, but without all the sugar. I've always felt that the Prisoner succeeded in providing Port customers with a similar red wine option. Everyone loves Port, but they don't always want that much alcohol and sugar in their table wine. The Prisoner has always been the happy medium for lovers of big, decadent wines. The 2016 has so much juicy red cherry fruit, bolstered by dessert notes like mocha and oak, but it comes with more approachable levels of alcohol and sweetness. It's everything it's always been: smooth, silky, and bursting with decadence. Back for another run with a new vintage.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart

Kaiyo Mizunara Oak Cask Strength Japanese Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 10-25-2017
If you're a fan of gentle, smooth, and restrained malt whiskies, then I think the standard Kaiyo is the way to go. However, if you like bold flavors, assertive spice, and lots of potency, then it's definitely worth the extra thirty bucks to bump up to the cask strength version because the Mizunara-influenced flavors explode on the palate with the extra proof. You get bursts of candied orange, coconut, and sweet malt, highlighted by sweet oak notes on the finish with lots of power. This is for the real whisky geeks.
Price: $99.99 Add To Cart

Kaiyo Mizunara Oak Japanese Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 10-25-2017
Those looking to get a taste of real Japanese Mizunara oak-aged whisky will finally get a somewhat affordable option here with the new Kaiyo expressions. Made with whisky from an unnamed distiller (although there aren't many major players in Japan so you can begin to whittle down the options when you taste it) the Mizunara is the real star here. You get exotic spices and a sweetly-scented nose that leads into incense and toasted oak flavors on the palate. Kaiyo isn't some new microdistiller or craft project. It's taking malt whiskies from some of Japan's established players and using Japan's most treasured barrels to make something dynamic and new for the market. Get it while the gettin's good because this could be the next Yamazaki.
Price: $69.99 Add To Cart

2015 Penley Estate "Phoenix" Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra South Australia
Review Date: 10-18-2017
This is such a great value and a real chance for newcomers to Australia to jump into one of the country's most interesting Cabernet regions: Connewara along the Limestone Coast of South Australia. The red soil along with the maritime climate creates expressive and characterful Cabernets that have much more than just ripe fruit and an ample mouthfeel. The Penley "Phoenix" is exhibit A, brimming with herbaceous flavors, hints of tobacco, but also a savory black olive note and a dark, decadent finish. There's A LOT of wine here for the money, but also a great learning opportunity. I've found my exploration into the wines of Australia to be incredibly rewarding, especially since visiting earlier this year. It's wines like this that keep me coming back for more.

2015 Ridge Vineyards "Lytton Springs" Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel
Review Date: 10-12-2017
The Ridge "Lytton Springs" has always been the Zinfandel to give to people who say they don't like Zinfandel. It's one of the most elegant, poised, and serious red blends made in the entire state and the 2015 takes that complex and layered formula to an entirely new level. More like a Bordeaux blend than a classic Zin, the addition of 16% Petite Syrah adds serious grit and structure, but it's brilliantly done and bolsters the richness of the fruit beautifully. When you start to think about what goes into crafting a great wine, not just the quality of the fruit or the location of the vineyard, but also the blending of different varietals to make something greater than the sum of its parts, the Lytton Springs is high on my list of iconic blends. As you decant the 2015 vintage, you'll notice more and more complexity as the air unlocks all that intrigue: berries, spice, brush, earth, excitement!

2015 Ridge Vineyards "Pagani Ranch" Sonoma Valley Zinfandel
Review Date: 10-12-2017
While the 2015 Lytton Springs is more a more structured and nuanced wine, the Pagani Ranch is the real crowd pleaser. It's so soft and loaded with sweet cassis fruit right off the bat with hints of violet on the finish and a texture that's like velvet on the tongue. I'm far from what you'd consider a big, rich California wine lover, but as a professional I like anything that's well made. I really enjoyed this wine, from its immediate charm and juicy character to its plush mouthfeel and seductive sweetness. There's a reason Ridge is one of the most iconic California winemakers in the business and it's wines like this that help to cement that reputation.

Four Pillars "Faultline" K&L Exclusive Gin (750ml)
Review Date: 10-03-2017
I've been obsessed with Four Pillars gin since the very first moment I tasted it in January of 2015 when the distillery gang flew out from Melbourne for the Superbowl that year in SF. They dropped by the store unannounced, put a bottle of the Rare Dry in my hand, and the rest is history. I'd never had a gin that good before and I've still yet to have one since—and I drink a LOT of gin. But beyond the flavor, what I respected most about Four Pillars was that they were ONLY making gin; not single malt, or vodka, or whiskey, or some other spirit to help pay the bills, but just gin. They're like gin specialists, concocting incredible flavors on their copper stills in the Yarra Valley. After two years of huge customer support, monstrous sales, and positive feedback like you wouldn't believe, I decided to head Down Under and create a special gin with distiller Cameron MacKenzie for K&L using our Faultline label. My goal was simple: make something distinct, exciting, new, but also characteristic of everything I already love about Four Pillars. I won't rehash the specs as they're all listed above, but Cam knocked this baby out of the park. Listing me on the label as the "co-distiller" is a bit misleading because I didn't do anything but taste and edit, however, I appreciate the acknowledgement. In the end, this gin is all about Four Pillars and their incredible talent. Our job is simply to put fantastic new spirits in your hands and I think we're living up to our end of the bargain there.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart

Ardbeg "An Oa" Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 09-30-2017
The An Oa is the best new Ardbeg I’ve tasted in more than five years and it’s the roundest and easiest to drink of the regularly available editions. While it doesn’t pack the power that both the Uigeadail and Corryvreckan offer with their bold proofs, it makes up for it with richness and a rounded sweetness on the finish. You get all the peat, brine, smoke, and salt that you could ever want, but with more texture and perhaps finesse—not something we normally associate with the beastly Islay profile. In any case, this is the first bottle of Ardbeg in some time that I’ve been adamant about buying for my own personal daily enjoyment, not just my collection.
Price: $59.99 Add To Cart
WA 93

Bardstown Bourbon Company "Collabor&tion - Brandy Barrel Finish" Cask Strength Bourbon Whiskey (750ml) (in store pickup only, cannot ship)
Review Date: 09-29-2017
Who ISN'T in the market for an 11+ year old 57% ABV bottle of bourbon today? Especially when it's been finished in American brandy barrels for extra richness, sweetness, and viscosity! This little project between Kentucky's newest whiskey distillery and Kentucky's best brandy producer gives fans of both rare and unique bourbon a new bottle to obsess over and it's only available at K&L in the state of California. The nose blurs the line between brandy and bourbon as heavy fruit comes through right off the bat, but the palate is dominated by big oak, heavy spice, and soft, sweet fruit, accenting the best parts of the whiskey and intensifying the very aspects that most Stagg and Weller fans go crazy for. We've only got 200 bottles, so when they're gone, that's it!
Price: $124.99 Add To Cart

Bardstown Bourbon Company "Collabor&tion - Mistelle Barrel Finish" Cask Strength Bourbon Whiskey (750ml)(in store pickup only, cannot ship)
Review Date: 09-29-2017
I LOVE the Mistelle finish on this and it's funny because I thought my co-workers and customers would prefer the classic profile of the American brandy expression, but I was wrong. The sweetness and the texture provided by the liqueur finish is simply sensational here and the orange peel notes from the Mistelle really blend well into the baking spices of the bourbon. It's done with a balanced hand all the way through and the flavor of the whiskey never gets lost in the mix. Don't miss out on this one.
Price: $124.99 Add To Cart

2015 Domaine Parent Pommard 1er Cru "Argillieres"
Review Date: 09-08-2017
This was one of the best wines I tasted on our trip to Burgundy this past Spring and it was my first foray into the Parent sisters' portfolio, one that I've come to swear by since. Anne and Catherine have pooled their inheritance together and forged ahead under the family's domaine name, making wines with real character and grace. The 2015 "Les Argillieres" showcases the dark and fleshy fruit of Pommard, but with restraint and balance. It's never too tannic, earthy, or intense, peaking in the just the right places and exhilarating the taste buds with fresh acidity in addition to all that ripe 2015 fruit. This is a wine built for the distance, however, so no matter how good it tastes now, just know that it's going to taste even better down the line.

2013 Inglenook Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 09-08-2017
Previously known as Cask Cabernet and made from the same estate fruit as the Rubicon, the big difference between the Rubcon and what is now known as simply the Inglenook Rutherford Cabernet is the barrel selection and the use of both American and French oak. While it doesn't have the sweet spices or the exotic scents from that heavier French oak influence, what you get from the standard Inglenook is a wine that has every bit the quality of the Rubicon in terms of fruit, structure, and concentration, but for a price that's about 70% less. The Rubicon typically sells for $170 - $200, but in no way are you settling here taking the Inglenook at $59.99. This wine has an incredible bouquet of dark, juicy Cabernet fruit as well as ripe tannins that reflect the impeccable quality of the 2013 growing season in Napa. However, whereas many of the $50 -$75 wines I taste from Napa today are meant to drink now, the Inglenook is a wine with loads of potential beyond 2017. It has the guts for a serious ten to twenty year run in your cellar, but with some decanting and a nice rib eye you can definitely coax all that gorgeous fruit out of the bottle and into your glass tonight. While my professional opinion would be to wait as long as you possibly can, I'm fully aware that wines this tasty tend to get opened in the short term. Either way, you're going to be very, very happy with the Inglenook.

2005 Lynch-Bages, Pauillac
Review Date: 09-08-2017
I started a penpal relationship with Lynch-Bages owner Jean-Michel Cazes earlier this summer as a way to practice my French and in doing so ended up educating myself about the history of Lynch-Bages in the process. I brought a bottle of the 2005 Lynch-Bages to dinner and the other night and watched my friends swoon, after reading an email from Jean-Michel about the harvest and wanting to experience the wine for myself. He reminisced about the ease of the 2005 growing season, and about how the long summer thankfully never resembled the heatwave of 2003. It was "textbook" vintage, he told me, and the agreeable September weather allowed the Cabernet grapes to reach their maximum maturity. You can taste the perfection of that Cabernet in every sip of the 2005 at this point with its power and drive still fully intact. This wine has a long life ahead of it still as the tannins are still showing their might even twelve years after the vintage, but man oh man does this wine taste good right now. Brooding dark fruits, a bit of iron and graphite, and a core of concentrated Cabernet splendor.

2015 Kalinda Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Review Date: 09-07-2017
In an age where customers want to know every detail about what they're drinking, it's our job with the Kalinda label to find wines so delicious and well-priced that customers forget all about the specs and dive right into the bottle based on flavor alone. This 2015 Sonoma Coast pinot noir offers the essence of a true California expression with black cherry, spice, and balanced acidity thanks to the coastal breeze. We can't reveal our sources, but I can reveal to you that this wine is utterly delicious.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart

2014 Malartic-Lagravière, Pessac-Léognan
Review Date: 09-01-2017
Every Bordeaux producer I've spoken with thinks 2014 will be looked back upon as one of the best value vintages of the last two decades. Currently sitting in the shadow of 2015/16, two harvests with HUGE scores, it's a vintage that's getting lost in the crowd, which is a good thing for those of you who hunt for value. 2014 is classic Bordeaux through and through, and it was an especially good year in Pessac-Leognan, a region from which I've tasted dozens of incredible cuvees for less than $50. The 2014 Malartic Lagraviere was right there with the Domaine de Chevalier in my book for value of the vintage. This wine has equal amounts of dark cassis, herbaceous character, and fine tannic structure, but it still needs time to congeal. Buy six of these, throw them in your cellar, and forget about them for a decade. Then call us back in 2027 and tell us how happy you are.

Louis Brochet 1er Cru Brut Champagne
Review Date: 08-27-2017
This is an absolutely outstanding new addition to our direct import portfolio, one that practically leaps out of the glass and excites just about every part of the palate. It's brimming with citrus, but it's also slightly nutty and creamy, just enough to balance out the acidity of all lemony goodness. It's like a perfectly balanced Sidecar or Bees Knees cocktail, just in Champagne form. My new favorite Champagne in the store and a bottle I'll definitely be putting in many, many hands.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart

2014 Taken Napa Valley Bordeaux Blend
Review Date: 08-25-2017
It's the ever-present question at K&L: what's a $20-ish California Cabernet (or Cab blend) that our customers can drink right now? As in tonight for dinner! Those who like their red juicy, full-bodied, with light oak influence, and plenty of soft fruit will definitely be "taken" by this wine. It has a particular set of skills...to quote Liam Neeson. If you're looking for a dependable CA table red that's a step up from the $10-$15 crowd, the Taken is a crowd pleasing choice. Meant for modern drinking in the modern age!
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart
JS 93

2014 Mount Peak "Sentinel" Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 08-18-2017
The fine and rather dusty tannins of the Mount Peak Cabernet should soften up rather quickly, giving short-term cellar fans something they can pop and pour before the end of the decade. Made primarily with fruit sourced from the Sentinel block of Monte Rosso vineyard, a shield-shaped section that marks the entrance to the property, the wine is dark and decadent, but never overtly oak or extracted. I think the big surprise of all three Mount Peak wines is how balanced they taste in the face of their huge alcohol levels. While I know most drinkers will gravitate to the highly-pointed red blend, the Cab is definitely the sleeper here. This could really open up down the line into something quite generous.
Price: Hidden View Price
RP 92

2014 Mount Peak "Gravity" Sonoma County Red Blend
Review Date: 08-18-2017
When a wine gets 95 points and a massive applause from Mr. Robert Parker himself, there's generally not much need to say anything more, but for the sake of context I'll add in a few more notes here. I was shocked by the restraint of this wine, which sounds ridiculous when talking about a massive 15+% CA red wine. The palate was fleshy, textural, brimming with black fruit, and full of concentration, but it was never too sweet, too oaky, or too much for me to handle. The blend was aged for 14 months in both French and American oak barrels, but only 30% of them were new and that's important because the fruit is what's on full display here, not the wood. For those who like big California flavor without sickeningly saturated or extracted profiles, this is great find. It's a more serious wine than something like Orin Swift's Prisoner and it's definitely going to make quite a few friends with its huge press and reasonable mid-range price.
Price: $44.99 Add To Cart
RP 95

2014 Mount Peak "Rattlesnake" Sonoma County Zinfandel
Review Date: 08-18-2017
Having been the spirits buyer at K&L for almost a decade, I'm quite familiar with the idea of reopening "lost" distilleries, as well as the return of old brands that has been quite the fad over the last few years. However, I had yet to hear about an ancient California wine producer coming back to life until tasting the new releases from Mount Peak, a "ghost" winery that has been resurrected by Gallo (who have been busy in the boutique world, nabbing historic brandy CA producer Germain-Robin as well). While I was surprised by the history behind Mount Peak, I have to admit I was more surprised by the combination of power, potency, and finesse in all of the wines. Normally 15+% ABV wines are not my cup of tea, but these babies had gusto. The Rattlesnake zinfandel is bursting with berries, vibrant spice, and a silky, softly-textured body that coats the palate with massive concentration.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart
RP 92

1989 l'Arrosée, St-Emilion
Review Date: 08-17-2017
I really enjoyed getting the chance to taste older vintages from the Right Bank, especially from properties that no longer exist! L'Arrosee was purchased in 2013 by Haut Brion who merged the vineyards with Tetre-Daugay and called the new estate Quintus. Those who like their old school Bordeaux, both in historical and flavorful sense of the word, will really dig this. The flavors are savory with plenty of secondary development and soft tannins that flesh out on the finish.
Price: $99.99 Add To Cart
WS 93

1989 Lacoste-Borie, Pauillac
Review Date: 08-17-2017
The 1989 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste has a reputation for superb quality, so in typical K&L fashion we went right after the property's second wine: the Lacoste Borie. Named for the Borie family, of Ducru Beaucaillou fame as well, the second wine lives up to the hype of the vintage. Still showing fruit after almost three decades, the tannins are soft, integrated, and the palate is like pure silk. Those looking for underrated value from Bordeaux should take note.
Price: Hidden View Price

2014 Haut de Poujeaux, Haut-Médoc
Review Date: 08-04-2017
If I were to summarize my tastes as a booze professional, I'd say I like "classic" flavors. I like Bourbon that tastes like Bourbon, Scotch that tastes like Scotch, Chablis that tastes like Chablis, and most importantly Bordeaux that tastes like Bordeaux. While 2009, 10, 15, and 16 get all the hype due to their fleshy fruit flavors and supple mouthfeels, 2014 is a "classic" Bordeaux vintage and what's great for people who like "classic" flavor is that "classic" is considered less exciting these days. Everything has to be the "vintage of a lifetime" or no one cares. Fine by me!!!!! I'll gladly take 2014 Haut de Poujeaux for sub-$20 pricing if "classic" claret is no longer desirable. This is an absolutely delicious Bordeaux (that tastes like Bordeaux!) with a complex and aromatic nose of oak, earth, and spice. After ten minutes in the glass there's a hint of red currant, but it's modest. The wine's strength is in its simple typicity - it's a Wednesday night claret that I would be happy to bring to dinner on Saturday evening. There's an old story about how Baron Rothschild mistook the 1953 Poujeaux for Lafite. If I would have tasted this blind, I would have easily mistaken the 2014 Haut de Poujeaux for a much more serious Bordeaux. For fans of classic, true-to-form Bordeaux with texture and nuance, this is a fantastic deal.
Price: $18.99 Add To Cart

Paranubes Oaxacan Aguardiente de Caña Agricole Rum (1L)
Review Date: 07-14-2017
The Paranubes Oaxacan aguardiente de caña is one of, if not the, best agricole rhums I've ever tasted and it beautifully balances a smooth and fruity character with the grassiness and the intense cane flavor of something like Neisson. What it removes is the funk, the earth, and the sometimes bitter notes that send some people running for the hills. The aromatics are absolutely stunning—there is a pure and unflinching note of raw cane that absolutely explodes from the bottle. At 54%, the rum is no slouch. But it's clearly distilled with a master hand because it's incredibly polished despite all that intensity. I could drink this straight out of the bottle, neat in a glass, on the rocks, in a cocktail, or simply with soda. I can't get enough of it—it's that good.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart

2015 Rustenberg Chardonnay Stellenbosch South Africa
Review Date: 07-13-2017
There are two wines from South Africa that I swear by, both for myself and for all customer recommendations. One is the Rustenberg John X Merriman cabernet. one of the best thirty dollar wines in the world, and the other is the Rustenberg Stellenbosch chardonnay, which tastes like high-end, balanced, and well-made California chardonnay or white Burgundy for a fraction of the price. In the 2015, you get the whole package: ample fruit, subtle vanilla from the oak, and plenty of acidity to balance out the two aforementioned elements. Not only is this chardonnay absolutely mouthwatering, it's versatile. You can drink it now, put it away until next year, or cellar it for an additional five. It's got the stuffing for the long haul, but it's approachable now. All that for less than twenty bucks. If you only drink one South African wine this year, the Rustenberg chardonnay is a great pick and its indicative of the great quality we've come to expect from the region as a whole.

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