Saturday, September 24, 2011

K&L Wine Merchants: Life Goes Better with Bordeaux tasting

I have some really amazing friends who are always encouraging my interest in food & wine. This last Saturday I had an exclusive opportunity to attend the K&L wine merchants Bi-Annual Bordeaux tasting & luncheon courtesy of my dear friend Kelly. For some time now she has been wanting to introduce me to a close family friend who has worked in the wine industry for many years. He provided us with this chance to not only be introduced but also enjoy some fine wines and food! I was extra excited because I have not spent a lot of time studying the Bordeaux region so this would be a great chance to taste lots of their wines and hear more about the different Chateau's.

UpStairs Tasting

K&L Wine Merchants is a California based wine import company with three brick and mortar retail locations in San Francisco, Red Wood City, & Hollywood as well as a bustling on line sales component. They have been in the business since 1976 and have built strong relationships with all of the wineries that they purchase from all over the world. This gives them unique opportunities to purchase exceptional wines for their clients often at singular values. They are also a resource for restaurants to purchase fine wines for their lists as well.

The tasting took place next door to the Redwood City retail location in the Chantilly restaurant first upstairs in one of their banquet rooms then down stairs in their dining room for lunch. Chantilly has a slightly antiquated but well maintained feel to it with lots of carved wood furniture and Burgundy floral accents. We were greeted upon check in with a glass and directed into the tasting room where 3 tables where set up showcasing 4 wines from select vintages starting with 2009, followed by 2008, and finishing with wines from 2000-2001. While there are many many more details needed to have a full understanding of the Bordeaux regions this is a jumping off point! Bordeaux is one of the foremost and oldest wine growing regions in the world. The three primary varietals in Red Bordeaux wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, & Cabernet Franc. Cab Sav Providing the back bone, Merlot creating softness, and Cab Franc contributing deep rich color and an additional layer of flavor. The only other varietals designated for blending in any bottle that can be labelled a "Bordeaux" are Malbec, Petit Verdot, & Carmenere. The French follow very strict restrictions in terms of what is grown where and how it is labelled which gives the buyer & drinker a confidence in both style and quality. Located in the areas surround the Gironde River and it's forks the Dordogne & Garonne Rivers the AOC (Appellations D'Origine Controlee- The french defining lines for separate growing areas of a distinct type) encompasses 60 unique Appellations.

The Lunch Menu
with Wine Pairings

It would take volumes to describe each wine we tasted and par usual I forgot a pen (I'm just not that handy with taking notes on my iPhone). This was definitely a tasting for those looking to buy and not so much one where people were looking to dissect each wine for different flavors and textures. That was fine by me (I have gotten really lazy with my tasting it's become a lot of "I like it" "I don't like it" and only picking out odd ball or stand out characteristics). We were by far the youngest there with a smattering of couples in their 30's being the next youngest. The primary market seemed to be the 60+. We enjoyed all the wines served upstairs and then at 1 everyone was directed downstairs for lunch. We were given a splash of Clos Flourdine Blanc a nice crisp and refreshing white wine to cleanse our palates from all the red to get ready for more... red! Each place setting had 7 glasses set with a number on each so we could easily keep track in our coinciding menu. The first two were set ready to go, the rest were poured throughout the meal by Ralph and Clyde the K&L hosts. We were lucky enough thanks to Kelly to be seated at Ralph's table so in between pours we got to enjoy his company as well. More than the wine at this point we were excited for- the bread! We were all a little extra hungry after our 12 tastes up stairs do as soon as the bread hit the table we eagerly passed it around the table. Once everyone was settled the service staff served the first course, Two plump cheese ravioli's in a creamy sauce with tender cremini mushrooms. The earthy notes were a great compliment to the dusty tones in the wines. One thing that I noticed about the second wine was the distinctly skunky or marijuana-y finish. This was a flavor I had never experienced in a wine and it was very unique! I'm sure those aren't really the most correct terms but it was what it was reminiscent of to me.

The second course was the steak. While I enjoyed the sweet notes of the Madiera wine sauce the rest of the dish fell flat for me feeling very "banquet". In this selection of wines #4 the second wine poured was a standout for me (Chateau Carbonnieux, Pessac-Leognan- a favorite of Ralph's as well!) This region is in an ancient river bed so the soil has a high consistency of seashells. This gives it such a fantastic minerality that I love in french wines and I enjoyed it a lot.  We finished with a cheese and lettuces course (how French!). One soft cheese and 3 firm, they were all very tasty. The only disappointment was that there wasn't any corresponding guide to let you know exactly what the cheeses were so we were left to guess. They definitely saved the best wines for last. We did a side by side tasting of 2 vintages ('04 & '07) of the Chateau Poujeaux, Moulis en Medoc. Yum! Wonderful fruit flavors and complexity this was actually the only wine I got a chance to purchase after the event was done (everyone is welcome to go next door to the shop and purchase the wines poured at exclusive prices after the event, in my hurry this was the only one I had time to find). I actually preferred the '04 but someone scooped it all up before I had the chance so I purchased the '07 with the intention "cellaring" it (in my half broken wine fridge) for a few years (in other words I need to forget it's in there!). Over all I had a fabulous time at the event and enjoyed finally meeting Ralph! I look forward to attending one of their more casual monthly tastings soon!

If you want more information about K & L Wine Merchants and their upcoming tastings and events go HERE!

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