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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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2004 Dom Perignon Rose- Magic Champagne


We just received our small allocation of the 2004 Dom Pérignon Brut Rosé Champagne ($329), which will be arriving in the middle of June and is available for pre-order now. Just like with the 2002 vintage, I think this wine will go very quickly, and is very unlikely to be a regular in-stock item like the less sought after 2003 vintage has been. If you know you want some- don’t wait!

I had a chance to drink a preview bottle, and the Champagne is spectacular. The red wines used to make this rose are the best I have ever tasted in Champagne, and composed of Pinot Noir from the Grand Cru’s of Bouzy and Ay as well as the 1er cru of Hautvillers, the location where the Dom’s abbey is situated even today. The exact blend is proprietary, but chef de cave Richard Geoffroy explained to me that the spirit is about half and half Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for all Dom Perignon. Given that they do a short 8-10 day maceration on the red wines to reduce tannin, the percentage of red wine is very high- Jancis Robinson reports 27%- as the color is solid wild salmon pink.

Cinnamon and I drank our preview bottle with an excellent leek and mushroom tart that she made. The combination of morel and brown mushrooms worked perfectly with this wine, which has always made an excellent partner to savory food… You can check out past pairings of the 2002 (with mushroom risotto) and 2003 (with smoked salmon) on the blog. I find the magic in this rose aromatically; Christmas spices, dark cherry fruit, fresh baked pie crust and a hint of chalk. This open aroma gives way to flavors that are so elegant, laid back and subtle that it would be impossible to tire of drinking it. All the virtues of the classic 2004 vintage are here; finesse and ease as well as bright acidity and near infinite minerality on the finish.

I think this wine will make an excellent cellar candidate, but it will be hard to keep away from in the near term. After 11 years of ageing before release, this wine is spectacular right now. It might not be at its peak, but I enjoyed every drop!


A toast to you!

Gary Westby



Rey Fernando de Castilla: A Palo Cortado to Remember


Palo Cortado pairs with a variety of foods; in this case it happened to pair great with Italian food.

Rey Fernando de Castilla is a sherry bodega with passion for providing wines of the highest quality. Started by an important family in Jerez, the Andrada-Vanderwilde family, that has been involved in the wine industry here for over 200 years.  This family took over some very old sherry and brandy cellars to focus on Brandy production in the 1960s.  It wasn’t until 1999 that a Norwegian who had fallen in love with Sherry, Jan Pettersen, purchased the bodega, and shifted the company's focus to Sherry. He expanded the bodega’s sherry production with the purchase of many old soleras from the neighboring and esteemed almacenista Jose Bustamante, turning Rey Fernando de Castilla into one of the best independent sherry houses. While most of Pettersen’s wines qualify for the age dated VOS or VORS status, he does not believe in this system. Instead, his line of high-end sherry is called the “Antique Collection.”  He has an Antique Fino (a bottling I highly recommend trying) that’s an average of 8-9 years old and resembles the traditional style richer finos that existed back in the early 1980’s when Petterson first came to the Sherry triangle.  The Antique collection is always bottled unfined and often minimally filtered and see extended aging in the cellar showing incredible maturity, expression and skill.

I recently had the pleasure of drinking a bottle of the Antique Palo Cortado that my boyfriend bought me for my birthday...he knows me so well!  Palo Cortado, the unicorn of Sherry styles, is always a mystery.  Maybe that is why it is the rarest of Sherry styles, and perhaps the most celebrated. There are a couple of things we can surmise about a Palo Cortado, it was once aged biologically, like a fino, and for some reason or another refortified and sent to spend the rest of it life aging oxidatively. For what reason, why or how this decision is made, is often unknown and unregulated.  In fact the Consejo Regulador says it only to be “the existence of certain very specific characteristic,” but that characteristic is never mentioned.  Another commonly offered definition is that it has the aromas of an Amontillado and the palate of an Oloroso.  However it has come about, I’m happy it did, especially this one. The Rey Fernando de Castilla Palo Cortado $59.99 is over 30 years of average age with both tremendous aromatics and flavors.  Aromas of cocoa, roasted chestnuts, tiramisu, and nutmeg beam from the glass. The palate is bright at first, showing it’s years aged under flor with a beautifully tangy acidity, lemon rind and burnt orange peel.  The palate turns to flavors of almonds, mocha and espresso on the finish.  Potentially, the finest example of Palo Cortado that exists. Sherry lovers, if you haven't tried this bottle yet, what are you waiting for?


Single Vineyard Bouzy Blanc de Blancs

Great single vineyard grower Champagne is not cheap, but I believe that these wines offer some of the best value in top drinking in the market today. I drank a bottle of the new Pierre Paillard "Acte 1" Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne (2009) ($66.99) this week, and couldn’t think of a wine that delivered more for the money. Last year, we had the 2008 version of this wine, which was tight as a tick, and built purely for the cellar. This 2009 version has the virtue of drinkability today and the structure to keep 20 years if you care to cellar it.

This Champagne comes from a plot of vines called “Les Motellettes” planted in 1961, the old fashioned way with a massal selection. The vineyard is only 0.8 acres and is located in the grand cru of Bouzy on the Mountain of Reims. Most of this village is planted to Pinot Noir; in fact it is one of the best places in Champagne for making the red wine that goes into rose. The Paillard family planted quite a bit of Chardonnay here, with the idea to blend it with their excellent Pinot. This plot stands out so much in both excellence and individuality that they started to bottle a tiny amount separately starting in 2007. This is only the third offering of this wine. Most of the production of this vineyard is needed for the Paillard vintage, so we only managed to get five cases on this last shipment of the 2009!

Cinnamon and I paired the Acte 1 with the sashimi bowl recipe that I have been working on and shared on the blog back in February. The synergy between clean, simple, high quality raw fish and blanc de blancs Champagne is very strong usually, but this combination was a particularly good one. This plot gives a wine of extraordinary minerality, and high acid vintages like the 2007 and 2008 can come off as lean without food, but this 2009 has that extra touch of “gras” that carries the flavors of the site all the more readily. With the sashimi, the ample back end cut of this high voltage wine really came out. The Champagne has subtle Meursault like pineapple, warm baguette aromas from the four years on the lees and a pronounced chalky, long finish. It has it all- except for quantity… It will be gone soon.

A toast to you!


Gary Westby