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Staff Favorites - Gary Westby

Gary Westby
Gary Westby  | Send Email  |   Subscribe to My Sommelier Service
I started at K&L in February of 2000, after 4 years of working down the street for another retailer, and although I take care of the Champagne buying here at K&L, I love to drink wine from all over the world. I prize authenticity in wine, and love representative examples of many different styles, whether it is a spicy dry creek zinfandel or a mineral driven Manzanilla. I almost always drink my wine with food, and am drawn to food wines rather than the softer styles that are good for drinking on their own. My wife Cinnamon and I cook a lot of Italian & French food at home, and my list of wines reflects those food choices. I also love value, at every price point, and can't stand "prestige" labels that under deliver in the bottle. I love honest wines for the table. If you love good wine to go with your good cooking too, I think that by joining my personal Sommelier list you will be treated to a wide variety of wines that represent a strong value for money at what ever price range you feel comfortable with. Give it a try!


Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knob Creek Small Batch 100 Proof Bourbon (750ml)
Review Date: 05-07-2010
What a deal! This excellent 9 year old Bourbon is an extra aged selection from the Jim Beam distillery. The Knob Creek is a whiskey of authority, and has the richness one would expect of an extra aged bourbon. It is not at all heavy however, and I love to drink it on the rocks with a couple Luxardo Maraschino cherries now that the weather is getting warmer. It is also very good neat, or for that matter, in a sour. I have to guess that it is the scale of production at Beam that allows them to sell it for such a fair price!
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart
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Luxardo Maraschino Cherries (400g)
Review Date: 05-07-2010
When I bought these for myself, I joked with my colleagues here at K&L that I must either be a fool or a gourmet... $16 Cherries! That is crazy! Well, I have discovered that like white truffle oil and very old condimento balsamico, the Luxardo cherries are worth it. First of all, they are very small, but have more cherry flavor individually than a whole fistful of the normal "red" maraschinos. Just one or two and a smidgen of the syrup in the bottle make a big impression on a cocktail. The 360 gram jar lasts a long time, even if you dip into it as often as Cinnamon and I do. My favorite use for them is to simply pop a couple into a bourbon on the rocks... Yum!
Price: $15.99 Add To Cart

1994 Clos du Marquis, St-Julien
Review Date: 05-06-2010
This is the kind of Bordeaux that I put a tie on to drink- mature, classy and powerful. I found it to have iron and cassis on the nose, and a substantial mid palate full of black Cabernet fruit. The finish is big, stuffed even, but also long and interesting. This would be perfect with a standing rib, Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes. I can't wait to get this home and drink it!
Drink from 2010 to 2010
Price: $79.99 Add To Cart

1963 Taylor Vintage Port
Review Date: 04-15-2010
A lot of famous wines from famous vintages let me down. This 1963 Taylor is not one of them. This spectacularly aromatic, effortless port brightened up a Thursday here at K&L with its vinous perfection. The only thing that I can imagine improving this wine would be a little time to settle, and a wheel of stilton.
Drink from 2010 to 2010

Four Roses Yellow Label Kentucky Bourbon (750ml)
Review Date: 09-09-2009
Bourbon & Rye are the USA's great contribution to the world of spirits, and the Four Roses has been an ambassador bottle for the category internationally for many years. This delicious Bourbon makes a fine Manhattan, as recommended above, but it also makes a great Whiskey Sour, my favorite cold brown liquor cocktail. At home we use equal parts Meyer lemon from our dwarf tree and Bourbon, with one teaspoon of superfine sugar per shot of whiskey, mixing it all thoroughly before pouring over ice in a rocks glass. We then garnish with a slice of Meyer lemon and a maraschino cherry. This old-fashioned drink is a classic for a reason; it is very refreshing and synergistic. I hope you will try it!
Price: $15.99 Add To Cart
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North Shore No. 6 Gin (750ml)
Review Date: 08-25-2009
This top-notch gin made was a fabulous partner to tonic last night. With a strong hint of rosemary and winter spice, I found it to be incredibly refreshing and all to easy too drink. It took a lot of self discipline to only have one! This is a must in the cabinet of any gin lover.
Price: $31.99 Add To Cart

Brouwerij De Ranke "XX Bitter" Belgian IPA, Belgium (750ml)
Review Date: 08-12-2009
This extraordinarily drinkable Belgian IPA is from Wevelgem in West Flanders - and I have been drinking it to celebrate the spring classics in Flanders - particularly the Ghent-Wevelgem bike race. It has a straw/golden color and a bubble train that would make tête de cuvée Champagne blush. The picture is completed by a gorgeous head of Belgian lace that I could imagine floating a quarter on top of. Unlike the new world style of IPA, this robustly hoppy and refreshing ale has balance. Get some before I drink them all!
Price: $15.99 Add To Cart

North Shore No. 11 Gin (750ml)
Review Date: 07-30-2009
Don't hesitate when you see this gin in stock, it is very small production and quite sought after. The last batch all sold before touching the shelf! The number 11 has a relaxed exoticism that reminds me of Hendricks, with a dry refreshing streak that only the Junipero can equal. The balance is fabulous, and combined with a lime from our dwarf tree, a glass full of ice and a splash of tonic, I was in after-work-cocktail heaven.
Price: $31.99 Add To Cart
WE 90

Warre's "Otima" 10 Year Old Tawny Port (500ml)
Review Date: 05-07-2009
We were honored by a visit from Dominic Symington, the Director of Warre on Tuesday, and this was one of many Ports that he poured for us. I was extremely impressed by this 10-year-old tawny, which he served quite cool. He explained that tawny, and other Ports for that matter, are often served far to warm in the US. At cellar temperature (around 55 degrees) this Port showed an amazing amount of depth, and even some tannic structure that is usually only found in vintage ports. This is a great way to end an evening, and will keep quite well after being opened.
Price: $23.99 Add To Cart
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Ardbeg "Uigeadail" Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 05-01-2009
I love Ardbeg, and the Uigeadail is one of the most special expressions that I have had from this great Islay distillery. No other distillery makes a malt quite as peaty as Ardbeg, and this one has an additional twist: sherry wood aging. The sherry wood gives another dimension of richness and weight to this typically light and piercing single malt. I have a bottle at home, and I love it for a cold night by the fire - but Alex Brisoux (the Redwood City store manager) swears by it with oysters! That is a combination that is hard for me to imagine, but I don't doubt a professional like Alex on a topic as serious as pairings!
Price: $56.99 Add To Cart
WA 94

Brouwerij De Ranke "XX Bitter" Belgian IPA, Belgium (330ml)
Review Date: 04-07-2009
This extraordinarily drinkable Belgian IPA is from Wevelgem in West Flanders - and I have been drinking it to celebrate the spring classics in Flanders - particularly the Ghent-Wevelgem bike race. It has a straw/golden color and a bubble train that would make tete de cuvee Champagne blush. The picture is completed by a gorgeous head of Belgian lace that I could imagine floating a quarter on top of. Unlike the new world style of IPA, this robustly hoppy and refreshing ale has balance. Get some before I drink them all!
Price: $4.49 Add To Cart

Hendrick's Scottish Gin (750ml)
Review Date: 03-27-2009
Scotland has more to offer than just great whisky... This gin is world class too! Cinnamon and I are both big fans of the old "mother's ruin" and always keep a variety on hand. Along with Fernet Branca and Rittenhouse Rye, this is one of the most repeated bottles of spirits in our liquor cabinet. This is a gentle style of gin, not extra proof or supercharged with juniper, yet it is could never be given the old put-down "vodka lovers gin"- it has far too much balanced flavor for that. The cucumber and rose petal elements in this fine spirit lend a cooling and subtly aromatic touch rather than being overt flavorings. I love it with tonic, and just the smallest corner of one of our homegrown Meyer lemons.
Price: $27.99 Add To Cart
WE 92

Sandeman 20 Year Old Tawny Port
Review Date: 03-25-2009
This is my top 20 year Tawny, and perhaps my favorite tawny in the store. It has a very pale amber color and a serious old solera nose. On the palate the Port is full bodied, with candied citrus and roasted, salted almond flavors. The perfectly balanced sweetness and long finish complete the package. This is a great tawny - at any age. I am looking forward to pairing it with a cheese course at my next dinner party, and Ligia from Sandeman showed us how well it works with milk chocolate as well!
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart
WS 93 WE 91

Anchor "Junipero" Gin (750ml)
Review Date: 03-14-2009
Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing fame is a hero of mine. Everything he is involved with, from Anchor Steam beer (my personal desert island beer) to his exceptional York Creek wines and his Protero distillations, are among the best in the world. I always blame my English heritage for my strong attraction to gin, but this all-American creation is certainly one of my favorites. While very light in body, this is strong stuff at nearly 100 proof, and has a huge amount of very clean juniper flavor. I love it with ice, lime and tonic, but it is also a fantastic martini gin.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart
WE 91

Fernet Branca (750ml)
Review Date: 03-05-2009
Fernet has a following that borders on a cult here at the K&L. The ultimate in "acquired tastes" this herbal digestif is rarely enjoyed by the imbiber the first time. But, in the wine business, we often times have meals that are a little bit bigger than normal, and need a little something to settle our stomachs, and nothing on the planet is better than Fernet. Cinnamon is an evangelical convert to this magic elixir, and having less than half of a bottle of it in our liquor cabinet is an emergency situation. We even have Fernet posters in our living room - no lie! Try this out the next time you need a little help settling your stomach after a big meal... You'll learn to love the herbal taste.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart

Ramos Pinto "Quinta de Ervamoira" 10 Year Old Tawny Port
Review Date: 02-19-2009
A single-vineyard Port is an elegant way to finish any meal, and since this particular wine has already been aged 10 years in barrel, it is ready to go. One needn't worry about if suffering from oxidation either, after 10 years of slow exposure in oak, a few months re-corked in your cellar or liquor cabinet will not hurt it. This has more vintage-like power and full black fruit than your average 10 year tawny, and goes very well with cobblers and pies as well as the more traditional match with cheese.

Aperol Aperitivo Liqueur (750ml)
Review Date: 02-11-2009
Quite a few Aperol bottles have made it into the Westby family recycling bin by way of our liquor cabinet. Cinnamon and I love to make Champagne cocktails with it, a habit that K&L's own Doug Davidson got us started on. Since Aperol has quite a moderate alcohol content (at 11%, it is even less than Champagne!) it isn't quite as dangerous to drink while cooking as other cocktails we enjoy. The recipe is simple: fill a rocks glass thoroughly with ice, add one shot of Aperol, fill the remainder with Champagne (it is great with the Michel Dervin) and add a twist of orange. It is also great with just plain soda and a twist.
Price: $23.99 Add To Cart
WE 90

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

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

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

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

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