Staff Favorites - David Othenin-Girard

David Othenin-Girard
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Reviews

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Old Potrero "K&L Exclusive Barrel #9" Single Malt Straight Rye Whiskey (750ml)
Review Date: 10-17-2018
The Old Potrero brand is venerated particularly among California spirits geeks. For years the stocks were so small that we couldn't even get the standard releases consistently. When I saw it out at bars I ordered. When the supplier had it, we bought everything. Over the last several years a lot has changed at Mr. Maytag's old distillery, but they've always made this idiosyncratic single malt rye that is unparalleled anywhere else in the world. Now they're starting to have enough stock to sell barrels outright, usually it's cask experiments, but when we knew we had to jump on the new charred oak barrels as soon as they came up. With the recent sale of the Anchor Beer brand to the Japanese, the distilling component is moving away from the old branding, so these will be the very last Old Potrero barrels we'll ever see. And what a way to go out. Barrel 9 is showing less minty rye and more deep dark malt, cacao and savory spice. Textured and full bodied, this stuff is truly palate coating. Not for the faint of heart but an impressive example of why the Old Anchor Distilling Company was one of the great craft distillers of the modern era. A new chapter begins.
Price: $99.99 Add To Cart

Old Potrero "K&L Exclusive Barrel #3" Single Malt Straight Rye Whiskey (750ml)
Review Date: 10-17-2018
Well this is it. Kind of the end of an era. And we scored two of the most special barrels I've ever tried yet from these guys. Both casks come a lot closer to the insane and unavailable Hotalings offerings that are sold at 10-16 years old than the younger offerings that are regularly available. The power rye malt and six years in a new charred oak barrel are a heady combination. I found cask 3 to be the drier of the two showing tons of baking spice, minty woodsy tones, and a rich malty character that sets the Old Potrero apart from other modern ryes. Bold spicy and dry, there's almost nothing on the market quiet like these, but they easily rank as some of the finest craft whiskies we've ever sold. A truly special offer that is will never be available again under this label.
Price: $99.99 Add To Cart

Daniel Bouju "K&L Exclusive" Cognac Fines Saveurs (750ml)
Review Date: 10-17-2018
The wonderful underrated house in some of Grand Champagne's prime terroir has long been a staple of the K&L Cognac portfolio. Bouju really represented a transitional figure in my thinking of Cognac. I had first come to Cognac incensed by the use of additives to soften and correct the products, but after tasting through thousands of casks strength products I realized the reason they made it the way they did is because they products tasted better. When done correctly the "classic" elevage is definitely the way to go. But certain producers, who are able to take the time and care needed to raise untouched brandies, can create something in a different class. Dudognon was the first example of that and Bouju was confirmation that there was a different way to create that didn't require the traditional techniques. Needless to say, Mr Bouju is the master of elevage, coaxing the soft nuances and subtle complexities of his impeccable fruit to the table while soften the raw power of young Grand Champagne eau-de-vie. Only one thing is ever added to this special cognac, water. The result is delicate, but not feeble, complex without being hard to understand. Certainly on the fruit and floral, but for the price no other additive free cognac offers a better experience than this one.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart

1988 Port Dundas 28 Year Old "Old Particular" K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Grain Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 09-13-2018
Port Dundas has distilled some of the best single grain whisky I've ever tasted. What was a simple whisky in its youth has concentrate after nearly thirty years in a refill hogshead into something utterly delectable. This whisky is all about nuance showing impeccable but slightly shy orchard fruit on the nose. With air it starts to open up, reminding me of Williams Birne eau-de-vie, a light toasty nose of creamy grain, and hints of herbs and dried leaves. On the palate we have tons of candied apple, big vanilla bean, sprinkled with a little cocoa. I love to sell these as drier less oaky bourbon although we'll never know if it was distilled from corn or wheat, but this is the perfect gift for someone when you don't know their tastes or if you want to offer something unusual without scaring off your less experienced friends. Plus 28 years for less than $90, that's impressive on its own.
Price: $89.99 Add To Cart

Michel Couvreur 16 Year Old "Mrs Couvreur" Single PX Sherry Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 09-13-2018
This no hiding the fact that I'm completely in love with what Couvreur is doing. The quality and complexity of each offering is reshaping how we look at blended whisky, but occasionally they'll put together a product so superlative and over the top that we just can't resist even if the prices are high. Yes on paper this whisky seems crazy. 16 Year old Malt Whisky from a single cask for $300? We've had high end offerings from Couvreur before and they're often met with skepticism, but as soon as you taste them all disbelief is suspended. The initiated usually know right away that this is something they should strive to acquire, but for the uninitiated it can seem almost farcical. Why would we pay a French man extra for Scotch that I can get from the Scottish for less? But the truth is, you CAN'T get this from Scotland. There are so many reasons why these whiskies are so unique and this particular bottling doubly so. Mrs. Couvreur's choice represents the absolute best evidence that little house in Bouze-les-Beaune's hypothesis is correct: the old ways were BETTER! Yes entry into their highest level isn't cheap and on paper you might find better values from the Scots, but in the glass no whisky on the market today will deliver what this special whisky offers at this price. Not to mention that the US release is sold exclusively at K&L and is two years old than the European version which sells the same price. Beyond it's incredible rarity, the idea that exemplifies this whisky most accurately is the word balance. Yes it's from one of Scotland's peatiest distillers -my money is on Laphroaig or Ardbeg although Couvreur won't come close to confirming those suspicions - but the peat is not out of control. Instead it melds and mingles so perfectly with the sweet nutty sherry character and provides backbone against which the rich maltiness unfolds. The nose is one of the most complex things I've ever come across; reminding me of some of the true ancient legends I've had the incredible privilege tasting. On the nose fresh plum preserves, ozone, dried yuzu peel, ripe pear, crushed oyster shell, roasting nuts from afar. Entry is surprisingly peat driven but not at all rugged. It proceeds to open up to the sweet stewed fruits of the sherry tamped down by an invigorating briny sea spray. More yellow plums build to a long smoky ultra pleasurable finish. It feels like a privilege to be selling this whisky and I can already see the future of me nursing my last bottle in terrible fear of never tasting this wonderful whisky again. That terrible feeling is well worth with it considering the pure joy the rest of the bottle made me feel.
Price: $299.99 Add To Cart

1991 Invergordon 26 Year Old "Old Particular" K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Grain Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 09-12-2018
I used to look at Single Grain like Single Malt light. Great values and solid whiskies, but never with the oomph I was craving until they were 40+ years old. But my views on single grain have been amended in the past few years as I got more experience enjoying the delicate subtleties of our single cask selections. It's one thing to taste a determine that these whiskies valuable and saleable, it's quiet another to sit down and drink a bottle over the course of a few days, weeks or months. I do find that that's what it takes for me to become intimate with a whisky and while it's easy to tell good from bad whisky in a tasting environment, I consider an open bottle in the shelf a long term relationship. Like any relationship it evolves. I've found my relationship with this category evolving as well. While it's undeniable that Single Malt is king, it's really hard to argue that for those who crave a nuanced and long term relationship with their tipple of choice, Single Grain offers a lot of benefits. The first thing about this Invergordon, like many great single grains, is that the first nosing is pleasant and appealing, but never grabs hold of you like a big bold Islay or chewy Highlander. But, if you sit for a while and let the whisky come to you instead of forcing yourself onto what you believe it should be, there's so much more going on there. The easy going flavors of coconut and candied sugar evolve into a timid yet vibrant mixture of dried citrus, wet gravel, agave nectar, honeysuckle and vanilla flower. And despite all the very subtle listless aromas on the nose, the moment this stuff hits your lips, it explodes. Rich, buttery, warm and structured, there's absolutely nothing boring about this! Some of the citrus comes through as well the darker rock tone from the nose. Otherwise, we're moving more toward yellow plums and cream soda. Some cracked pepper and woodsy barrel spice keep it nice and dry, but I'd avoid putting any more than the tiniest drop of water here just to open up the nose. This is esoterica for the masses, opaque, in need of a bit of teasing to open up, but with just the right amount of life to keep you coming back.
Price: $89.99 Add To Cart

2016 Felton Road "Calvert" Pinot Noir Central Otago (Biodynamic)
Review Date: 09-06-2018
The Calvert is always my favorite from Felton, but often it feels a bit shut down when we taste it young. Not so with this new vintage which was extremely expressive although obviously in the very beginning stages of what will be an extremely intriguing life lasting at least 10+ years here. This is top tier Pinot for $40 and while I hesitate to compare it to Burgundy since it really exists as a singular expression of the best Otago has to offer, I think its representative of the commitment to quality that the best producers of the finest burgundy put into their wine. The nose starts with shrubby black growing growing on some craggly limestone cliff. Dark and brooding but with tons of nuance. Subtle hints of flinty fireworks exploding in the distance. On the palate, it's powerful structure is balanced by deep red fruit, wild leafy herbaceous quality and a big soft tannin. An absolute UNIT!

2014 Wine & Soul "Manoella" Douro
Review Date: 09-06-2018
I really appreciate the quality that's coming out of the Douro and find that it's an easy place to find wines that make our customers VERY happy, but I often find that the ripe styles coming out of the region aren't what I'm reaching for after a long day. But I can't keep my hands of the sexy little number from the Queen of the Douro! Manoella has the subtle complexity that I find lacking in some of the more internationally styled offerings from the region and while you're still getting tons of juicy red fruit, there's an elegance and a refinement that's undeniable. Gorgeous structure and fabulous length - this is a world class wine hiding in the under $25 category. The lucky few who stumble down this road will not regret it.
Price: $21.99 Add To Cart
DC 92

2016 Raul Perez "Ultreia St-Jacques" Mencía Bierzo
Review Date: 09-06-2018
This is an incredibly serious wine for $18. Dark brambly black fruit, crushed ferrous rock, gorgeous subtle cracked pepper. The palate is textured and extremely well balanced. It's not heavy or overly rich thanks to the wonderful acidity and while the nose starts a bit primary, with air a gorgeous sanguine undertone starts to creep forward, bringing out earthy exotic herbs and spices. There's obviously an incredible amount of work and some seriously good taste behind these wines and no wonder Perez is becoming a legend in the modern Spanish wine scene. Some how these wines seem wildly undervalued by the industry at large, which is GREAT news for our customers.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart
WS 90

2016 Algueira Joven Mencia Ribeira Sacra
Review Date: 09-06-2018
Another stupendous value from the Sacred Riverbank. The nose is full of high toned wild red fruit, flinty minerals, fresh hibiscus. On the lighter side of things, but still with great character and an undeniable quaffability. I like the Sacras because they tend to have more acidity than the Bierzo and overs a ton of wine for your dollar.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart

Barbadillo "Solear" Manzanilla Sanlucar de Barrameda
Review Date: 09-06-2018
Wow, it's been a while since I've had this. Perfect nose of powerful flor and dense saltiness. The palate is slightly atypical for Manzanilla since we've got a lot more weight, but the texture is balanced perfectly and there are no edges at all. The fun fabulous wine from Sanlucar are such stupendous values and while you need to be initiated into the flor club to really fall in love, once you catch the bug it's so hard to go back.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2014 Akilia "K" Blanco Bierzo
Review Date: 09-06-2018
Never imagined Palomino could be like this. The nose is a stunning mixture of crushed rock, exotic citrus peel, fresh herbs and ripe mirabelle. The chalky mineral quality continues on the palate leaving a lot of the fruit behind in the front with tons of racy acid. Something not altogether un-chenin about this one. I'm totally into it partly because of the gorgeous length and acidity, plus the surprising complexity of a grape that I always thought to be more neutral. Not inexpensive, but no one blinks an eye about spending $30 on a well made white from Loire or Burgundy.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart
JS 92 RP 92

2015 Tapiz "Alta Collection" Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza
Review Date: 09-06-2018
So I'm pretty skeptical of inexpensive South American Cabernet. Yes we've had some serious deals in the category previously, but a lot of what's being produced just doesn't offer in the category, while maybe boasting some good scores and a low price, just doesn't taste that much like Cab to me. The new Tapiz is an outlier in that respect. It gives you everything you want in a cabernet. A great bouquet of deep dark fruit pointed by undertones of gravel and herbal spice. The structure on the palate is there with a soft supple tannin keeping the fruit in check and great length. If this said Napa valley on it most people would quickly shell out $40+ for the same wine. At $15 a bottle pizza is on me tonight!
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart
JS 93 RP 90

Kilchoman 9 Year Old 100% Islay Barley K&L Exclusive Cask #549 Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 08-30-2018
I've been visiting and tasting the outrageously good malts from the Kilchoman Distillery since just a few years after they opened. Always when faced with the wonderful, delicious, approachable young malt that lay in barrel there, the big question was how will this do as it ages. An old adage in Scotch, expressed to me by more than one master distiller, was that if your new make and young whiskies were too pretty they wouldn't hold up for the long run. Kilchoman's new make was downright delicious and their young whiskies were already absolutely world-class at 4-5 years of age. These pretty distillates have continued to develop as they age and certainly show no signs of losing the inherent delicacy. The exception to that was the spectacular Islay Barley, which is hand-malted on site. This special spirit was always more rugged and austere. In its youth it reminded us more of mezcal than of the other Islay malts and while it was equally drinkable, it never exhibited the finesse and elegance of the standard distillate. But the distillery was never able to put anything from the Islay barley program on the table much more than 5 years old. Now with this incredible game-changing whisky we're beginning to see what truly mature hand-malted Kilchoman is going to look like and it's freakin' fabulous. This is a world-class whisky that may not have the pointed elegance of the standard releases, but more than makes up for it in wild complexity and rich texture. While it was sort of hard to peg the young Islay Barleys into a category, this 9 year old cask has arrived and is so distinctly of Islay it's astounding. Now, it's not a peat bomb by any means; the smoke is very integrated, it has the ocean quality that reminds me of the very best modern Bowmore and the singular character of one of the Springbank local barley. Touches of green olive poke through behind mountains of overripe yellow plums, citrus peel and freshly spun cotton candy. The gorgeous nose contrasts wonderfully with the salty peat that cuts right through the front palate. This beautiful tension between wonderful orchard fruits and salted savory things continues through all the way to the end where a big candied and smoke lemon peel remains. Not nearly as limey or mezcal-like as younger versions and easily one of my new favorite Kilchoman to date. Good work Whiteley!
Price: $149.99 Add To Cart

Launois "Quartz" Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne
Review Date: 08-27-2018
I have to say, not only do I love to drink the special wines from Launois, I'm legit proud that we're the only source for this incredible products. The quality-to-price ratio is unprecedented and it's easy to argue that Launois should be considered one of the region's top producers. The fact that we can get this gorgeous cuvée to our customers for less than $40 is nothing less than a miracle. Vibrant, complex and so absolutely quaffable, the Quartz is a go-to for literally any occasion, but is especially fabulous with oysters. Just saying.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart

Launois "Cuvée Reserve" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne
Review Date: 08-27-2018
The benchmark wine from this wonderful producer makes big-house Champagne look stupid. Sure there are some fabulous offerings from the great names in Champagne, but none come close to this magical bottle even at a $20 premium. This has everything you want in a Blanc de Blancs. Exquisite structure and vibrant creamy texture. Gorgeous aromatics filled with nuanced mineral, citrus and stone fruit flavors. There's no wonder this is one of our best-selling wines of any kind, but I'm still shocked more people don't stockpile it. Also, these do amazingly in the cellar if you want to put a few years on there.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart

2016 Liquid Farm "La Hermana" Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 08-22-2018
La Hermana probably offers the most value from the wonderful Liquid Farm line up. The cool climate Santa Maria valley fruit is so delicate and elegant, it's impossible not to love it. Add in the cool and collected team at Liquid Farms and you've got easily one of the exciting wines under $40 in the store. Designed like all the LF wines to retain natural acidity, this wine exhibits incredible freshness and a deep complex minerality. Those gorgeous structural elements are framed by some heady notes of underbrush, beautiful candied citrus, wild honeysuckle and juicy white fruit. I could easily imagine putting a few cases of this down for the next 5-10 years. At this price it's a total winner.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart
JD 95

2015 Liquid Farm "Golden Slope" Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay
Review Date: 08-22-2018
We've always had a sweet spot for Liquid Farm. The people who make it are great and they've been able to secure some absolutely top notch fruit. But it doesn't take just good fruit to make great wine. Someone over there has a real vision and you can feel it every time you pop a bottle of the Golden Slope. This is absolutely stunning Sta Rita style Chardonnay. It truly doesn't feel like their forcing a particular region on this special terroir to the north of Santa Barbara. But what they are doing is putting our world class Chardonnay that easily stands shoulder to shoulder with the greats from Burgundy, Margaret River, or Sonoma. An absolute stunning nose of exotic citrus jams and bright stone fruit - the opulence is not overpowering though and the thing I kept coming back to while tasting was the word balance. The palate is textured and full of life. It pops in all the right places. If you'd force me to make a comparison I might say Puligny, but it's truly its own creature and a gorgeous thing at that. There aren't many superior wines to this for the price in the store.
Price: $49.95 Add To Cart
VN 93 RP 90

Helios Distillery "Kura The Whisky" Rum Cask Finished Pure Malt Japanese Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 08-08-2018
It's not often that we come across a new Japanese whisky. Yes there are new brands being developed and launched all the time, but this little whisky from the wonderful Helios distillery on Okinawa arrived as a total surprise. What's unique about the excellent new whisky from southern Japan are a couple of little words that separate it from a number of other pure malts on the market, "Distilled By". Pure malt is whisky terminology the Japanese continue to use which has been banned in Scotland for a number of reasons. It is the legal equivalent of saying, "a blend of single malts," but in Japan it is also used to refer to single malt as well. Even more confusing is the fact that Japanese Whisky must be aged in Japan but not necessarily distilled there. We're very skeptical of many new brands because they're legally allowed to import blended malt, age it in Japan and call it Japanese Whisky. That doesn't mean that the whiskies are bad, just that they don't deserve a premium over scotch in any sense. But, this technique is not only used by little upstart brands, but also the large producers. While there's been some grumbling about clarifying the rules, the potential downside for the popular blends in Japan is significant, hence the strong resistance to change. The reason they haven't been able to replicate the process for products labeled "single malt" is that Scotland prohibits the export of single malt in bulk - it must be bottled in Scotland to be considered such. So many of new brands bring in Scotch (or Canadian Malt) and sell it as Japanese Whisky thanks to the lax regulations of the Pure Malt designation. But the Helios Distillery is doing something very different. According to their importer they're not just distilling malt whisky on their old pot stills, they're using malt dried with Hokkaido peat. This is blended with an unpeated malt whisky from the distillery and aged in used American oak. This is not Rice Whisky like so many of the southern Japanese distilleries produce but made from 100% malted barley. There is a long tradition of distilling and aging rice in the south, but Helios is actually most famous for their rum internationally. They produce a coveted 21 year old Japanese Rum and finish this whisky in those exceptional barrels. The result is one of the most unique and appealing peated whisky in the shop. The nose is a mingling of dried stone fruits and round maritime smoke. The roundness continues on the palate and the sweetness of the rum casks offers opulence, but not to cloyingly so. It's gentle but interesting. Despite the peat it's seems somehow refreshing. It's hard to compare this to anything else on the market, but if you can imagine dumping some Hakushu 12 year into one of the Nikka Malts you might get close. Needless to say, I purchased every bottle the importer had in stock and plan to continue to do so for as long as they'll let me.
Price: $59.99 Add To Cart

2014 Varner "Upper Picnic Block - Spring Ridge Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
Review Date: 07-25-2018
Here is some big boy Pinot from one of Santa Cruz' very best! Varner has kind of made it's name producing heady wines with great expressiveness and tons of finesse. This awesome offering turns the intensity right up to 11. An aromatic monster right out of the bottle but tasting like a dream after a few hours open in the bottle. Dark wild cherry, deep savory spice, tense fresh earthiness to balance the nearly syrupy fruit on the nose. And while the weight and texture is there, the wine doesn't cross the line into the danger zone. Pulled back from the edge by a wonderful structure, supple acidity and a thoughtful use of oak. The bold pinot standing up to the new oak regime easily. Slam dunk for anyone into domestic Pinot and worthy of at least a case worth in the cellar at this price.
Price: $44.95 Add To Cart
RP 95 VN 95

2016 Mas Codina Xarel-lo Penedes
Review Date: 07-25-2018
Just totally blown away by the quality of this special little wine. Besides the astonishing fact that it's only $15 and made with great care - this wine is just FUN! The nose has incredible purity - subtle gravelly, hints of herbs, white pepper and exotic citrus. The palate is heavier than expected but not over weight. Perfect line of acidity keeps it all focused as the ripe yellow plum and pithy stone fruit softens the wild mineral quality. This could be high-end Saumur or something, but instead it's $15 flat Cava. I'm fully on board.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart

Kavalan Solist "Sherry Cask - Artisanal Group Exclusive" Cask Strength Single Barrel Taiwanese Single Malt Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 07-25-2018
This is the sister cask to our wildly popular single cask selection from last November. It wasn't easy choosing between the two and ultimately I'm still not sure which cask is better. The one we got had a certain suppleness that is not typical with these powerful Kavalan, so while it was very intense it lacked some of the punch of this special cask. Here we're right in line with the most classic Kavalans -namely an inky dense core of wild sherry aromatics. Immediately showing bold cocoa, dense coffee, dried damson plum, black fruit syrup and fresh cut hardwood. Powerful jammy entry pointed by exotic spice, pepper, dark chocolate, over ripe fruit and cigar box. Deep and penetrating on the palate with a feeling of complexity that get's you worried that it might never let you go. This stunning interplay between savory and sweet flavors is the true calling card of the wonderful Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask. Another stupendous offering from that special distillery in Taiwan. Not totally clear how they do what they do, but very little in the world compares to this.
Price: $209.99 Add To Cart

Arawaks Distillery "Clairin Vaval" Single Estate Haitian Sugarcane Juice Rum (750ml)
Review Date: 07-11-2018
Wow the incredible Vaval is easily the equal to the other two Clairins, but a third distinctive style. Not having the vegetal intensity of the Casimir or the clean crispness of the Sajous, it might be the most versatile of the three. The nose is the most phenolic of the three as well. Pungent and bold nose of camphor, fresh soil, sweet grass, pickles, smoked meats, but then freshness behind. On the palate less phenolic but still very meaty -diesel oil, asphalt/gravel, mineral salts and touches of roasted citrus peel. The finish is dry and distinctive with a strong zesty lime note coming through. An absolutely idiosyncratic experience and something I want people to love as much as I do. This one will be extremely fun to mix with as well.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart

Chelo Distillery "Clairin Sajous" Single Estate Haitian Sugarcane Juice Rum (750ml)
Review Date: 07-11-2018
Clairin is so hard to pinpoint, but there's no question that these special spirits are the next level for real lovers of distilled spirits who crave complexity and depth. They fall squarely in a round hole. Or is that roundly in a square whole? The sum of the squares is great than the whole. Anyway, expect something in between Agave, Agricole and Islay. Sajous is a pretty different terroir than the other two Clairins and has a slightly different style type, but we're no less impressive. This one can use a bit of water just a tiny drop. Still tons of savory, but less black olive and more castelnuovo, fresh teatree bark, engine oil, sour dough, underbrush and endless bouquet of aromatics. The palate just explodes. It's so delineated and enjoyable I can't stop drinking it. Crushed rocks covered in lime juice. Sea water thrown on a smoldering fire. Mangos covered in Tajin. Just ridiculous. Unfair. Nothing else matters but this...
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart

El Tesoro "K&L Exclusive" Single Barrel #158 Reposado Tequila (750ml)
Review Date: 07-05-2018
Visiting La Alteña distillery was truly a dream come true for me. Jalisco is one of the most interesting and dynamic places in Mexico and the drive up to Arandas was like a holy pilgrimage. What's striking about the drive from Guadalajara is how gradual the ascent to nearly 6000 is. You barely notice it. You also don't see a lot of Agave growing along the way, a sign that the agave shortage might actually be real. Once you've reach altitude, you begin to see tiny blue green dots contrasting the vibrant red earth. The tiny young agave planted in small fields near homes and around villages on any exposed patch, another sign that some locals are hoping to cash in on the current high prices of agave. Unlikely that they'll be getting the inflated price once those plants are mature, but the haphazard nature of the plantings mirrors the industry's crisis perfectly. Arriving at La Alteña, you notice the incredible security. High agave prices mean potential for agave thieves and our guide Carlos Camarenas eluded to the problem as we walked through the fields. Carlos is a wizard in the fields and his depth of knowledge is astounding. He jokes and smokes a cigarette and the green smell of cut agave wafts through the air. The striking red brick and open air distillery are exactly what you'd imagine an old tequila distillery to look like, blue agave stretches out in every direction. The old way of making great tequila isn't that complicated, but it's a lot of hard work. Simple tricks have made La Alteña more efficient, like driving the Tahona with a tractor instead of a donkey. A conveyor belt to lift the freshly cut agave to the ovens. A mesh bag to hold the bagasse in the fermenters for easy cleaning. The process is the same as it would have been when Don Felipe opened the distillery 80 years ago. We were offered 9 samples to select from when the tour was over, but they had another 40 cask samples awaiting our evaluation. IT was a race to find the best. Carlos had separated the samples into three flavor profiles going from lightest bodied to heavier. When I came across barrel 158 I knew instantly that we'd found a gem. Big bold nose of fragrant agave, steamed pumpkin, subtle mineral, deep floral and tropical fruit only accented in the most subtle way by nine months in oak. The palate was luxurious and rich, with an unexpected softness that belied the pungent qualities on the nose. The unprecedented purity of the spirit itself matched only by the purity of this most authentic of experiences.
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart

1997 Bowmore 20 Year Old "Old Particular" K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 07-05-2018
If I had to pick one distillery to drink for the rest of my life, Bowmore would definitely be in the running. They do some solid and safe stuff at the distillery, but where it truly shines are the single casks. I'm not sure why we've had such incredible luck with this distillery, but we've literally purchased every casks we've tasted distilled in the last several years (save the 1971 at Signatory, but only because it was $1000+ a bottle). While there was a weird period at the distillery from the early 80s to the mid 90s, they seem to have cycled through those casks and we're not seeing the perfume addled stuff any longer. What we have seen has been so delicious and diverse I just never get tired of them. Even more impressive is that we're able to get old Islay whisky from a blue chip distillery and not charge $300 a bottle! Even though we've done already two others this year this cask was so different and absolutely delectable we couldn't resist it. You may think you have enough Bowmore, but you're wrong. It opens with a classic Bowmore nose, medium intensity peat, sea spray, wet earth, bright citrus fruit and herbs. Crystalline and absolute purity on the palate with the sweet tropical fruit, citrus peel and smoke working together in gorgeous harmony. The first whisky for Springtime! I like this better than the last cask by a few ticks and with a drop of water it's one of the more inviting Bowmore we've ever bottled.
Price: $149.99 Add To Cart

Jefferson's "Special Wheated Mashbill" Ocean Voyage #15 Aged at Sea Very Small Batch Straight Bourbon (750ml)
Review Date: 07-05-2018
We've always enjoyed the Ocean Voyage even if the slightly higher cost seemed a touch gimmicky. It's really solid bourbon with that little salty twang, but to be honest the spicy side of the rye mashbill kind of masked any serious ocean influence. Now the softer sweeter Wheated Bourbon is really suited for embracing the subtle influence of the ocean aging. They've obviously started with really solid bourbon, which is the key to the success of any of these "innovative" bourbon products. That whiskey, whose origin remains a secret, could come from any of the many high quality wheat producers, although it seems to be distilled in Kentucky. The special wheated mashbill offers a much more supple and rounded whiskey from the start and the sweetness balances out the briny background note perfectly without masking the subtle ocean influence. That influence comes from journey unlike any other in modern bourbon production. Visiting more than 30 ports and crossing the equator 4 times, the whiskey is subjected to some of the most extreme heat and humidity our planet has to offer. The resulting whiskey is one of the most lovable little whiskies Jefferson has released in years. It might not have the pedigree of the old age stated stuff, but I would challenge anyone to argue that isn't more enjoyable than any special release from this great little producer in the last several years. Like all the Ocean Voyage's a portion of the proceeds go to Ocearch for the study and preservation of shark's in the North Atlantic. So, you can drink well and do good at the same time.
Price: $82.99 Add To Cart

A. Smith Bowman "Isaac Bowman" Port Barrel Finish Virginia Straight Bourbon (750ml)
Review Date: 07-05-2018
So I almost always dislike Port Finished bourbon. It’s not that they’re always bad, but often they don’t ADD much to the already wonderful whisky that went into those barrels. Indeed some work well. Angel's Envy and the tiniest kiss of sweet red fruit the port adds would be an example. But others simply over do it, adding a syrupy saccharine quality to already sweet spirit or even worse providing an overt bitterness from too much time in French oak. In general I believe it draws away from the inherent character of the a good bourbon, assuming you started with good bourbon. That said this new offering from Bowman strikes the perfect balance. It's not as mild as the Angel's, yet remains as balanced and delicious as all the Bowman Bourbons. Expect dense dark red fruit popping out from the first moment. Slight hints of candied stone fruit balanced by big sweet oaky vanilla and spice. This morphs into dense roasted nuts and cinnamon apple tart on the palate. Definitely on the sweet side, but avoiding the overtly sugary flavors with the highish proof and bold spice. A totally wonderful new addition to the Bowman line and my new go to pair for almost ANY dessert.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart

2008 Tobermory 8 Year Old "John Milroy - K&L Exclusive" Single Refill Butt Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 07-05-2018
I'm just totally in love with some of the stuff coming from Milroy these days. Doug McIver has great taste and although his style tends to be rather restrained, he more than makes up for it with intriguing, beguiling casks like this one. Tobermory in refill sherry sounds like a solid recipe even at this young age and nothing about this whisky disappoints. That said, it does start out a bit rough and tumble and needs a bit of coaxing to really open up. In the glass it's the perfect golden hue. The nose does start a little intense with the slightest feinty funk, pithy dried citrus peel and green woodsy herbs. On the palate, the texture is creamy. The earthy malt and bright citrus dominate. It builds toward a spicy, slightly roasty finish. Now Stop! Don't take another sip. Grab some good spring water and add a healthy few drops. Watch this whisky transmute! Now an explosion of ultra ripe yellow plums, roasted spices and flinty Riesling-like fruit. The palate broadens and softens, opening on to orchards of citrus and stone fruit trees and the honey from their bees. The structure on the palate is wonderful and we start to get hints of vanilla fudge and roast pecans which remind us that this cask did indeed hold sherry once. The finish is medium long and refreshing. It's a bit dangerous when you can't stop smelling your empty glass. Altogether an instructive and enjoyable journey down the rabbit hole and another great summer whisky from Milroy. We're very lucky to be the exclusive retailer for this product in California.
Price: $54.99 Add To Cart

Lagavulin 16 Year Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 07-05-2018
Lagavulin is a pillar. Without a doubt one of the most important distilleries in Scotland. It is the darling of Diageo and cranks out ultra high quality smoky malt year after year. Even though some cranky critics like to lament about how the 16 year doesn't taste like it used to, I've had it along side bottlings from the last 3 decades and I have to say it continues to be one of the most special whiskies on the market. Quality, intensity of flavor, and depth are unsurpassed at this price point (and our price is pretty seriously low). The Lagavulin is an oily beast, rich and peaty, but with a profound balance that keeps you itching to get the glass back up to your lips.

2017 Zudugarai "Amats" Getariako Txakolina
Review Date: 06-26-2018
There is absolutely no reason to NOT have a bottle of this in your fridge ready to go at all times. It's affordable, delicious, interesting but so easy to drink. If you find yourself chugging Vinho Verde, but you're craving something slightly more adult. This is the wine for you. The zippy little stream of fizz and the bracing minerality are exactly what you need on a hot summer day. Throw some tapas at it and you'll need be reaching for another bottle before you know it.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart

2015 Savage "White" Western Cape
Review Date: 06-26-2018
Another impeccable wine from Duncan Savage. It’s so easy to spend $30-50 on a bottle of wine and get something that’s just ok. Even worse is getting something that’s downright boring. I’d almost rather have something wacky or hard to drink than absolutely soulless. This wine is neither of these. It’s full of soul and life, but also extremely polished and well put together. A graceful nose of orange sherbet, tangerine peel and wild herbal quality. The mouth feel is down right lip smacking with some serious texture and a juicy tropical acidity that cuts right through the bold lemony fruit. I see connections with some of the great wines of the Loire, Rhone and Burgundy, but I think even California Chard drinkers (while not at all in the same flavor profile) could find way to appreciate the opulent qualities of this exceptional South African. An absolute treat which we’re lucky to offer at such a stupendous price.

2013 Château Peyros Madiran Vieilles Vignes
Review Date: 06-26-2018
I have deep and borderline spiritual connection to the south western part of France. I love the people, the food, the brandy and although the regions dominated by the great wines of the Medoc to the northeast, the region offers an incredible array of delicious local wines. There's no question that Madiran stands at the top of the heap. Over the last two decades the Lesgourgues family (The same family making the wonderful Laubade Armagnac in Sorbet) have taken this rustic hard edged wine and turned it into a world class estate. While some technical expertise in the winery has softened the edges, there's no doubt that this full bodied dark fruited red has some classic flavors of the southwest. Chewy dense structure with plenty of spice but not so obvious on the oak. Brambly fruit tempered with subtle earthy gravel. There are few wines in the store with so much stuffing for so little money. This one will get better for 10+ years easily.
Price: Hidden View Price
WE 93

Tobermory 21 Year Old "Manzanilla Finish" Unfiltered Cask Strength Island Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 05-23-2018
The wonderful new limited edition from Tobermory is more proof that the new South African owners are committed to producing some of the most exciting new whiskies coming out of Scotland these days. Tobermory has always been an expensive brand, the limited production and far flung locale are part of the reason the malt is so expensive, but also the gorgeous distillery little distillery has some cache. Even their entry level malts command a serious premium over some of their competitors. Here we have a well aged version of the special malt from the Isle of Mull finished for a year in dry Manzanilla Sherry casks. The nose is all roasted nuts, flamed citrus peel, cooked red fruit, dried apricot with almonds. Still the subtle earthy malty funk of Tobermory peaks through. Just absolutely rich and chewy. More dried stone and red fruits. An earthy greenness that's hard to pinpoint, green tea or walnuts? Some pithy tangerine and a long woody nuttiness to finish. A bit idiosyncratic, but not hard to love at all.
Price: $239.99 Add To Cart

2014 Domaine de Montbourgeau "En Banode" l'Etoile
Review Date: 04-19-2018
The wines from Montbourgeau are always such a treat and in a lot of ways this one is maybe the most interesting. We often have to steer people away from some of the weird Jura wines because they're really an acquired taste, they're not inexpensive and so there's kind of this underlying fear that the uninitiated will absolutely hate it. The En Banode bridges that gap nicely, showing enough the oxidized funk to keep any die hard fan happy for days, while softening the intense acidity of a typical voile savagnin with some pretty chardonnay fruit. The nutty quality is there but more as a frame than the most prominent flavor. Almost anyone who is interested in wine and somewhat adventurous will find something to love here. The gorgeous bouquet the wonderful texture and acidity, it's really the whole package.
Price: $31.99 Add To Cart
RP 93

Knob Creek K&L Exclusive Single Barrel #5851 Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey (750ml)
Review Date: 04-04-2018
Well here is something different! I was expecting something ultra heavy and dark when I heard we'd be trying Single Cask Knob Creek Rye, but when the samples arrived I was surprised to find something totally out of the norm for Jim Beam. High-toned, fragrant and zesty, this bold little rye isn't quiet in line with any of the other Beam Ryes. Probably the closest thing I can compare it to is an old hotter version of Old Overholt, but even so it doesn't have the classic varnish quality we might expect there. The biggest parallel is the obvious maltiness that comes out at the end of the glass, which is something I definitely got in the new Overholt bonded, but the liveliness of this whiskey has no parallel in Beam's portfolio. It's not altogether traditional Kentucky Rye, but it is absolutely delicious and certainly a welcome change from some of the other high proof ryes on the market.
Price: $47.99 Add To Cart

2013 Bersano "Mantico" Barbaresco
Review Date: 02-07-2018
I'm absolutely in love with Nebbiolo. Am constantly on the hunt for Piedmont stuff that I can afford to drink on the regular. As with Burgundy, it can get a little dicey with the low end side of the market, so when we find an inexpensive and varietally correct Nebbiolo at an affordable price, we tend to hoard it. Typically, I'll direct people to the other end of the store, but in this case I felt the an absolute obligation to alert our customers to this special wine. For years, we've been led to believe that Barolo is the big masculine brother of the elegant and sophisticated sister, Barbaresco. Of course this over simplification does nothing but serve to confuse an already complex region. That said this little Barbaresco, fits rights pretty nicely into stereotype without sacrificing it's integrity or varietal character. All this at about half the price we'd expect to pay. Already drinking like a dream, but with the meat to last for years, the nose has the complexity and nuance of a top tier Nebbiolo. Baskets of savory treats, a touch of salumi, a dried floral and earthy spice. Behind all that a beautiful linear lifted red fruit tone. Lip smacking acidity, wonderful texture and a long satisfying finish tie the entire package up with a perfect little bow. Easily one of the most quaffable wines available in the price point. This is a must buy for me.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
WE 91 JS 90

2015 Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Review Date: 01-12-2018
In many ways P&H is the quintessential Sonoma Coast Pinot delivering on that promise without ignoring that it is in fact Pinot Noir. This nose is open and full of dark cherry and wild red fruit, it's open and expressive but not dominated completely by the fruit. Hints of savory herbs and earthy spice float around behind the focused fruit. On the palate everything is in line, but what gets me most excited is the structure. Instead of the overly extracted texture we're used to in Sonoma these days, we're getting vivid acid and a crunchy silky tannin that gives this one some real depth. Balanced without any overt oak or unkempt quality whatsoever. I'd love to drink a few cases of this over the next 5-10 years. I remember this being more expensive...
Price: $39.95 Add To Cart
WE 93

2015 Stolpman "La Cuadrilla" Ballard Canyon Red Blend
Review Date: 01-12-2018
Another gorgeous and balanced offering from our dear friends at Stolpman. This is exactly what I wish California could do more often. Affordable, varietally correct syrah that's approachable but by no means neutered or dumbed down. A dark purple color with garnet around the edge. A nose of peppered plums, subtle earthy spice, rip brambly fruit and heady dried flowers/herbs. Medium plus body with an evident, but very appealing soft tannin and wonderful lifted acid. Very hard to find a better $20 from California.
Price: $21.99 Add To Cart

Daniel Bouju Tres Vieux "Brut de Fut" Premier Cru de Cognac Grand Champagne Cognac 750ml
Review Date: 01-12-2018
This insane offering has always been something we've wanted to carry, but the very high price tag (upwards of $250) made it seem out of reach. Now that we're able to offer it at a somewhat more reasonable price, it might be one of the most exciting cognacs we've ever stocked. It's a total bomb, not suited for cognac drinkers looking for something easy and sweet, but will easily win over lovers of old unobtainable American whiskey. This is a selection from Bouju's oldest stocks with a minimum age of around 40 years and a significant proportion of brandies much much older, maybe 80-100 years old. It's bottled without additives according to the producer and not filtered or reduced before bottling. Mr. Bouju insists the reason for the excessively dark color is the lack of reduction, something that normally happens several times during an eau-de-vie's maturation and blending. Instead, he says, he distills and reduces slightly before barreling and does absolutely nothing else for over 4 decades. When it hits 100 proof naturally, the resulting cognac is a force of nature. This nose puts us square in bourbon land, dense dry woodsy with fruit compote (figs & plums), cacao nibs, sweet herbs, all kinds of baking spice. Relatively gentle on the palate considering the high proof, but very dry, dark fruits and a big minty herbal finish. A benchmark by any standard. 5 Stars.
Price: $189.99 Add To Cart

Daniel Bouju "Royal" Brut De Fut Grand Champagne Cognac (750ml)
Review Date: 01-09-2018
This is a monster. We rarely see high proof cognac that's both affordable and delicious, but the Royal is exactly that. The Royal is bottled at an astonishing 120 proof, yet the nose exhibits no alcohol or burn. Instead we get a pungent mixture of dried stone fruit, varnishy old wood, tobacco and wooden cellar. The palate is ultra textured and concentrated with a building peppery spice that overwhelms the fruit by the finish. Heavy almost thick and sweeter than expected entry leads to a bold spicy dry finish. It's an absolute treat. Bouju claims to add absolutely nothing to this special cognac and that big dry finish might confirm his claims.
Price: $79.99 Add To Cart

2015 Domaine Petroni Corse Rouge (Corsica)
Review Date: 11-16-2017
Another lovely little value from the coop in Corsica that's making some of the most affordable and approachable wines in the store. This years Rouge is easily the best we've tasted from them. It does away with the brambly dried fruit of the 2014 and replaces it with a vibrant dark berry, tiny hints of fresh tobacco and evergreen. The palate is medium and wonderfully lifted, with the plummy dark fruit taking over from the subtle earthy herbal quality on the nose. Super juicy length and clean. A total joy to drink and priced to move.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart
WS 90

Russell's Reserve Single Barrel "#17-089" K&L Exclusive Kentucky Straight Bourbon (750ml)
Review Date: 11-04-2017
Barrel 89 is easily the funkiest and most herbaceous of this new batch of wonderful Russell's Reserve single Barrels. While it doesn't enter the full on barnyard funk that sometimes exists in these barrels, it definitely has a bigger spice than the others. Big notes of varnish and antique wood, savory herbs, subtle notes of hay and fresh roasted coffee. Melted brown sugar round out those drier flavors on the nose. The palate continues the orchestra of herbaceous dark flavors. A bit of sweet maple notes on the mid palate keep it from being totally overpowering, but the pepper and spice build again on the finish. For those who like the big bold dry rye driven style WT this is definitely the move.
Price: $59.99 Add To Cart

Fukano K&L Exclusive Single Cask #2827 Japanese Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 10-11-2017
There's something special about Fukano that sets it apart from the other whiskies in this category. Often times I'm worried with Rice based whisky that they're trying to sell us glorified Shochu. Some brands do indeed make products that are only a tick or two away from what you might expect a high proof sake to taste like, but Fukano is in another league. I'm not sure if its the quality or intensity of the malt that is used or the distillation or perhaps the new oak Puncheons, but the depth and aromatic power that is achieved on the Fukano is simply unparalleled. The nose is a heady mix of Cola nut, dried fruit, maple wood, and bold dark spices. A bright fresh front palate of coconut and citrus fruit devolves into an incredible spiced fruit bouquet. The finish is big bold toasted Tahitian vanilla. There's something perfectly balanced about it although it's got some wild flavors and it's hard to pinpoint which category it reminds me of most. At one point, I'm thinking, "this feels like Single Malt." The next I'm drinking brandy. The fresh oak alludes to bourbon, but some of the exotic notes are distinctly rummy. Whatever you want to compare it to Fukano is producing some of the best whisky in the world right now and we're extremely lucky to get a little bit when we can.
Price: $69.99 Add To Cart

Tom's Foolery Bottled In Bond Single Barrel #31 Ohio Straight Bourbon Whiskey (750ml)
Review Date: 10-09-2017
Here's another wonderful BIB Bourbon from our friends outside of Chagrin Falls, OH. This one, much more so than the rye we've also recently acquired, is very much in the "typical" Tom's Foolery style. That means a big nose of sweet grains and toasty oak. With these pot stilled bourbons you've really got to hammer them with air to get the full experience, but once you've allowed it to mellow in the glass for a solid 30 minutes, the nuance and depth really come out. Tinctures of dark herbs, sweet corn, dark fruits (cherries?), a subtle earthy gravel notes and a deep oak spice. The palate is brighter and opens up nicely with air as well. Textured and chewy, but very much on the dry side of bourbon. Here the subtle malty tones give the impression of a roasted coffee, dried stone fruit and a long warming finish. It's definitely whiskey the old fashioned way, without all the sugary sweetness of some modern bourbons. Makes you kind of nostalgic for a time you never knew.
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart

Cadenhead's Classic 100 Proof Caribbean Rum (750ml)
Review Date: 09-13-2017
The insanity of this product is that there's not a regularly available rum on the market today that comes anywhere close to delivering this much rummy complexity for the price or any price for that matter. There are some wonderful blended rums available, but few capture the exotic intensity of this special product. Dense nose of ultra ripe pineapple syrup, funky Caribbean pot stills, sweet Tahitian vanilla, and roasting Demerara sugar. The palate entry has tons of structure, with an obvious molasses note at the front the builds to a dry mid palate filled with tropical fruit. The medium funk from nose persists on the palate, but not to the extent of taking over the other flavors. Long and satisfying like a day on the beach. Bravo to our friends in Campbeltown!
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart

A. Smith Bowman Distillery "Bowman Bros" Small Batch Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey (750ml)
Review Date: 09-06-2017
The wonderful Bowman Bros Bourbons are an odd thing. This is one of the only triple distilled bourbons out there and it starts with distillate from Buffalo Trace (mashbill #1 & #2) being trucked out to the Bowman facility in Virginia. It's distilled a third time (the continuous still and again on the doubler at BT should count as two) on the Bowman's pot still, which looks as though it might be a component on a space rocket built in the 1800s. The resulting distillate is rich and supple, unique, but familiar. The small batch is a great balance between the sweet Bowman's style and some nice rye spice. An easy going whiskey at a great price that hints at the potential of some of Bowman's higher-end offerings.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart
WE 90

2007 Haut-Bailly, Pessac-Léognan
Review Date: 08-24-2017
Another '07 that is out performing the price point. The ultra old school style, which is usually pretty darn tannic until they're 20+ years old is actually showing extreme elegance in this cooler vintage. Big perfumed nose of mineral, gravel, dark cherry and exotic aged woods. Structured and mouthfilling, but not heavy or tight at all. For the quality and reputation it's great to take advantage of the odd vintage discount.

Siete Leguas Blanco Tequila (750ml)
Review Date: 08-09-2017
The Siete Leguas Blanco stands as a pillar among all spirits. Proof that agave can produce spirits unlike almost any other spirit in that they can be superlatively good without the addition of any flavoring, aging or adulteration of any kind. I'd put the 7 Leguas Blanco up at the top of my list of wonderful white spirits along with other great authentically produced tequilas like El Tesoro, Tapatio and Fortaleza. I'm not a complete purist though as this tequila is not 100% Tahona press like the Fortaleza, but the exquisite character, supreme drinkability and obvious quality sets 7 Leguas apart from only the very best competitors. The nose is strongly floral (honeysuckle and rose hips) and surprisingly less fruity than the reposado yet showing plenty of gorgeous green agave notes and easy earthy pepper. On the palate the fruit is turned up before moving back toward this earthy almost green tea flavor. This is NOT tequila for vodka drinkers, but does stand out (as it always has) as one of the most exciting spirits in the store at any price.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart
WE 94

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