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Château de Brézé has a long and storied history, first being mentioned in texts in 1068, lauded by King René of Anjou in the 15th century and served at all the royal courts. In 1957, when the AOC of Saumur Champigny was established, the owner of Château de Brézé refused to be part of the appellation, saying that his estate's vineyards were the best and deserved an appellation all their own. And he was probably right. Unfortunately, the wines from those exceptional vineyards were terrible. Lucky for us, the winery sold in 2009 to Le Comte de Colbert, who recruited Arnaud Lambert from nearby Domaine de Saint Just to make the wine. He changed the vineyards over to organic farming and began producing truly stellar wines worthy of their source. The 2012 Château de Brézé Clos David is all estate-grown Chenin Blanc raised in stainless steel to preserve freshness. It has the slightly-oxidized note of a great White Burgundy and a lovely richness that allows it to pair with a variety of foods.

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Wednesday
Mar042009

Getting to Know: Chiara Shannon

What's your position at K&L and how long have you been with the company?

I have been at K&L for one year. I am the buyer liaison in the Redwood City store for the Rhône and French Regional departments.

What did you do before you started working here?

I started my career in the wine industry in the office of Schramsberg Vineyards four years ago. After spending a year in Napa, I realized I wanted to learn more about the world of wine, so I moved to Los Angeles and landed a position with a small retailer, Mission Wines. I loved working there and am forever grateful to Chris Meeske and Dave McDonald for mentoring me in all things wine. My husband Derek Hena and I were married in the fall of 2007, after which I moved back to San Francisco and here I am!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Right now my leisure activities include dancing, reading, yoga, and enjoying good food and wine. Derek manages the nightclub Mighty in San Francisco, which makes the going out dancing part pretty easy, and he's a passionate cook, so the enjoying food part is pretty easy as well. All I have to do is pick up our CSA box at the farmers' market and bring the wine! We also love to ski (I snowboard, he skis) and enjoy the occasional bike ride around San Francisco on a nice day. Family and friends are a big part of our life, too.

What's your favorite movie?

I have favorites in threes: The Big Lebowski, Being John Malkovitch and the Sound of Music.

What was your "epiphany wine"--the bottle or glass that got you interested in wine? Is there a current wine that you consider the equivalent?

For me, it was more of an epiphany wine experience: it was the first time I went wine tasting. I was 23 and, at the time, I was basically a novice when it came to wine. It was so exciting to go behind-the-scenes, tasting wine from barrel, talking with winemakers, witnessing the magic hands-on. It was then that I was taught how to taste wine from a professional perspective, noticing and contemplating details I had never paused to consider. I was interested in wine prior to that day, but afterwards I felt like a new door in my brain had been opened. I was hooked!

Describe your perfect meal (at a restaurant or prepared at home). What wine(s) would you pair with it?

A perfect meal would be a repeat of our wedding dinner, a Peruvian feast inspired by one of our favorite restaurants in San Francisco, Limon. It would be at home and it would include our families and all our favorite friends. Pisco Sour cocktails to go with the anicucho appetizers, then potatos causa, seafood ceviche, and lomo saltado. A lively Albarino, Sancerre or white Bordeaux would be nice for the white; a Rhône or Bordeaux blend for the red. Followed by hours of dancing!

How do you think your palate's changed over the years?

I started out drinking more full-bodied red wine, but now I drink a lot more crisp, aromatic whites and sparkling wines. I love acidity in a wine.

What do you like to drink?

I drink whites from the Loire Valley, Rhône and Italian reds and inexpensive sparkling wines. On special occasions I will spring for Champagne, white Burgundy and mature red Bordeaux. I like to mix it up, simple wines and fancy wines. Food is a big factor in my overall enjoyment of wine.

What words of advice do you have to offer people just getting into wine?

My advice it is to keep an open mind. I don't understand how one can profess to love wine but not drink any white wine or simply not like Champagne, period. That's half of all wine! Wines can vary so dramatically, whether by vintage or a special terroir, that even wines from the same varietal or made in a similar style can appear and taste completely different. Don't be afraid to taste out of your comfort zone! It's perfectly okay to break your own rules--that's part of the fun.

If you could have dinner with any three people in history, who would you invite? What wine would you serve each of them?

If you asked me this in college at UC Berkeley (Go Bears!), I would say James Joyce, Marcel Proust and Madonna. But now I would only really want to have dinner with my late grandfather, Edfred L. Shannon Jr, who was passed away last fall. Big Ed lived a big life, and knew so much about the world; there is so much left to talk to him about. He was a wine enthusiast, and we were lucky to benefit from his generosity over the years. A meat-and-potatoes man, the meal would be simple: ranch steak and potatoes. I'd serve him the best Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée-Conti I could find, because he was nice enough to share the last of his 1969s with me and my family. He didn't want to leave this world with anything good left in his cellar! He also shared a lot of d'Yquem with us over the years, so we'd have that for dessert.

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