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In December, we drink Champagne at closing at K&L- and we prefer to drink it out of magnum when possible. The highlight this year was the Ariston Aspasie Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne (1.5L) magnum ($74.99) that we had on Christmas eve. This single vineyard beauty comes from the Gouttes d’Or, a very steep east facing parcel in the little village of Brouillet. It was creamy, delicate and perfectly refreshing! We all say to cheers to you, and hope your holiday is filled with fun and friends!

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Wednesday
Dec232015

Elisabeth Goutorbe Champagne

Elisabeth Goutorbe in her new cellar in Ay.

The Champagne buying job here at K&L has to be one of the best jobs in the whole world. It is such a pleasure to get to work with producers that make such incredibly good wine and are also so incredibly nice. Elisabeth Goutorbe is one of those people. She comes from a long line of vignerons in the village of Ay, and her father still makes wine under the grandfathers name; Henri Goutorbe. When I first visited in 2007, they had never had a US importer visit. That very week they had four! Terry Thiese ended up getting the Henri Goutorbe line, and K&L got the Elisabeth Goutorbe line. We were both lucky.

This batch is actually the very last batch we will receive under her name, as they are switching to her husband’s Jean Maries’s name, Egrot, to avoid confusion with the Henri Goutorbe line. They have already made this change in France, but I managed to get one last batch under the Elisabeth Goutorbe name for the holidays since December is not a good month to change names. They purchased a new winery and caves last year, but the stuff that we have for sale was made at the Henri Goutorbe facility, and will continue to be for a number of years to come because of the long ageing of the wines.

The two of them own six hectares of vines, but are currently only keeping one or two hectares of the fruit to make their own wine. They sell the rest off to a roll call of famous negociants. The production is tiny- around 10,000 bottles a year, and besides Jean-Marie and Elisabeth they only have one full time worker. These are super Champagne’s at very fair prices. This is what we have:

Elisabeth Goutorbe "Cuvée Éclatante" Brut Champagne $34.99: This is a blend of 80% Pinot Noir from the grand cru of Ay and 20% Chardonnay from the 1er cru of Louvois. The wine is composed of 70% from a 2008 base and 30% is reserves from 2007. It is dosed very lightly at only 8 grams per liter. The Pinot comes through on the nose with very pretty candied cherry interlaced with fresh baked bread. On the palate it has a lot of body, firm, dry black cherry fruit, and tons of savory, masculine Pinot Noir flavors. It has a good finish with a line of chalky minerality that is uncommon in Pinot Noir-based Champagnes, but the signature of Ay grand cru.

2009 Elisabeth Goutorbe Extra Brut Champagne $39.99: This 100% Ay grand cru Champagne is composed of 2/3 Pinot Noir and 1/3 Chardonnay all from the family estate. Although the Champagne has no dosage whatsoever, it is still full and rich. It has a great nose of baguette toast, cream and some of that famous Ay chalk. The finish is long, clean and very dry, but not too strict.

The next time we get these Champagne’s in, they will be labeled as Egrot et Filles. Enjoy the last of the wines with Elisabeth’s name on them!

 

A toast to you!

Gary Westby

Friday
Dec182015

Baron Fuente- Great Champagne from the Aisne!

Sophie Baron and I in the Chantemanche Chardonnay vineyard.

The Champagne’s of Baron Fuente come from the Western edge of the Champagne region, mostly from the Aisne department, but some even from the Ile-de-France- the same district as Paris. The vineyards here are on more varied soil than in the Marne, and are usually steeper. Because of the proximity to the big city, much of the production is snapped up in France, and we are one of the lucky few to be able to import some Champagne from this important sub-region.

Baron Fuente is a negociant, but most of their needs are met from their estate. In fact, less than half of the wines that we import from them use purchased fruit at all. All of the grapes they buy are bought on the vine, they handle all of the picking themselves. This is a stark contrast to large negociants who deal in everything from juice to ready to-be disgorged bottles. The wines all go through malolactic fermentation and everything is vinified in stainless steel.

We only received 4 cases of the Baron Fuente "Cepages Meunier" Brut Champagne ($44.99) which is a wine with quite a following from the folks who have visited the property. This all estate grown Meunier gets four years of ageing on the lees and is full of the rich pear and apple fruit that this grape is known for, but also great cut from the cool Aisne vineyards. This wine took the staff by storm at our Baron Fuente dinner when paired with garlic prawns!

The most astounding value in the Baron line has to be the Baron Fuente "Esprit" Brut Champagne ($34.99) which gets an astoundingly luxurious seven years of aging on the lees. It is composed of even parts Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier from the estate. The Esprit has a very high-quality sourdough toastiness arrived at honestly from the long aging on the lees. It is round and easy to drink, with flavors of hazelnuts contrasting its nice citrus zip. Sixty bottles are available.

Eric de Brissis of Baron Fuente with a bottle of the excellent Esprit Blanc de Blancs

We also received sixty bottles of the Baron Fuente "Esprit" Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne ($39.99). This unique, all Chardonnay Champagne comes from a nine-and-a-half acre single vineyard in Saacy-sur-Marne called the Chantemanche. It might be the most western vineyard site in all of Champagne, and is actually so far west that it is in the Paris district, on the very edge of Champagne. It is aged for three years on the lees with reserve wines from three previous harvests. This creamy, nutty Blanc de Blancs is seamless, integrated and has good, refreshing lift on the finish. I promise you will be the only person on your block drinking Champagne from the Paris district!

If you are interested in organic, you should try the Baron Fuente "Galipettes" Brut Champagne ($34.99). Farmed entirely organically, this is both Ecocert and Demeter certified. Like the rest of the Baron Fuente Champagnes, this wine gets plenty of time on the lees: four years. It is composed of 20% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir and 70% Meunier, entirely from a friend of the family who grows grapes in Crouttes-sur-Marne. The nose reminds me of pain-au-chocolate, lots of buttery croissant and just a hint of cocoa. It is rich and fairly full-bodied; with a great high quality, savory cherry flavor from the top-notch Meunier in the blend.

For pink Champagne lovers we also received five cases each of the two roses made at the property, the blended Baron-Fuenté "Dolores" Brut Rosé Champagne ($34.99) and the 100% maceration Baron Fuente "Esprit" Brut Rosé Champagne ($34.99). Tasting these two roses side by side is an education on the two different methods of production and a lot of fun! They are both great quality for money.

On this shipment we also received our last slug of the 2006 Baron Fuente "Grand Millésimé" Brut Champagne ($29.99). This Champagne is composed of 45% Chardonnay, 40% Meunier and 15% Pinot Noir and spent more than seven years on the lees. While this nutty, well balanced, open knit Champagne drinks great right now, don’t count it out for ageing! This will be a lot of fun to drink even in 2026, and at this price you can afford to save a few.

Our biggest seller is the Baron Fuente "Grande Réserve" Brut Champagne ($23.99) which is also available in magnum ($49.99) and half bottle ($14.99). This is a giant slayer of a bottle, with more than half estate fruit composed of 10% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 60% Meunier. This wine is lavished with three years of ageing on the lees and 40% reserve wines and has none of the rawness associated with this price point. On the contrary, this is toasty, round, pleasure giving Champagne with a ton of personality without going out of balance. Don’t let the low price scare you away on this one. It is very good Champagne.

A toast to you!

 

Gary Westby

 

Friday
Dec112015

Michel Arnould Is Back!

Rare as hens teeth, the Memoire de Vigne is a definitive Blanc de Noirs from the Grand Cru of Verzenay.

We just received in a small amount of Champagne Arnould in time for the holidays, including a small allocation of his incomparable, old vine, vintages. Here is some background on him from an article I wrote last year:

 

Champagne Michel Arnould is our top producers of dry, powerful Pinot based Champagnes. Located on the Mountain of Reims, Verzenay is one of the most exciting and unique terroirs in all of Champagne; the furthest north of all of the Grand Crus, it faces north away from the sun and still manages to produce some of the most powerful Pinot Noir in the region. Some of the locals say that a mysterious warm air current is the explanation for this ripening anomaly; others will say that it is impossible to explain, like the flight of the bumblebee. I love the distinct, hazelnut quality that this special village stamps on its wines, and I feel very lucky to have convinced Mr. Patrick Arnould to sell us some of his great wines.

 

Patrick is the fifth generation of Champagne Michel Arnould. They own 27 acres in the village of Verzenay, a quite sizable holding in this high rent area. It is planted to 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay, which reflects the average plantation for the village. The black Pinot is king here. The Arnould’s have quite a few plots of vines that are very old and positioned in the golden band of the mid slope, where the sun exposure is best. They have a high proportion of old vines (40 to 50 years old) and all of the wines undergo complete malolactic fermentation in stainless steel and enamel vats.

 

This is what we received:

 

2008 Michel Arnould "Memoire de Vignes" Brut Champagne $69.99: We only received seven and a half cases of this 2008. This is exclusively old vine Pinot Noir (over 60 years) from the best parcel in Patrick's holdings and he only makes one press load. This is vinous, powerful, black fruited Champagne in the mold of the Vieilles Vignes Francaises from Bollinger. Because of the north-facing exposure, the wine retains its finesse even at the very high level of concentration that it has. Even the fullest cellar should be rearranged for a little of this. Again, patience is needed, but will be greatly rewarded!

 

2009 Michel Arnould Vintage "Carte d'Or" Brut Champagne $49.99: This wine is a blend of very old vine (50+ years) Verzenay Pinot Noir and Oger Chardonnay in equal proportions. The Chardonnay comes from Delphine Cazals, Olivier Bonville's wife, who trades Patrick for red wine so she can make rose. This is wine exclusively for the patient, as the two terroirs that have come together in this bottle need a lot of time to marry. But when they have had the time, it is a spectacular example of what the care of two growers coupled with the variety of two great terroirs can do, I can't really think of anything to compare the wine to, but it is an experience not to be missed.

 

2005 Michel Arnould Vintage "Carte d'Or" Brut Champagne (1.5L) $99: Only 36 magnums available. That’s right- Patrick Arnould ages his vintage magnums four extra years on the lees over the 750’s, and then charges you NOTHING for the extra time. Like many Champagne producers, he passionately believes this is the format to drink Champagne out of!

 

Michel Arnould Carte d'Or Brut Champagne Jeroboam (3L) $225: Only six Jero’s available. These Jero’s missed there vintage labels at the winery… So you will have to guess! The juice is mind blowing!

 

Michel Arnould "Grand Cuvée" Brut Champagne $39.99: Exclusively from the 2009 harvest, although not labeled as such, this Champagne is composed of two-thirds Pinot Noir and one-third Chardonnay. The Champagne has a graceful, delicate balance that Verzenay wines sometimes lack but with the signature hazelnut Pinot core. I found it to have creaminess to complement its racy cherry fruit on the palate, and an extraordinarily long, dry finish. It is dosed at 9 grams per liter: very dry! It will age very well… I had the 1990 when it was over 20 years old and it was great!

 

Michel Arnould Verzenay Brut Rosé Champagne $34.99 Magnums available ($74.99): This rosé bottling is 100% Grand Cru Pinot Noir. The wine is made by assembling multiple vintages and red Coteaux Champenoises sourced from old vines. This lovely Rosé Champagne offers hints of raspberry, strawberry and red currant. It is refined on the palate where the berry notes unfurl into subtle notes of grenadine.

 

Michel Arnould Verzenay "Reserve" Brut Champagne ($32.99) Magnums ($69.99) and Half bottles ($16.99): This is a blend of 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay, entirely from estate vineyards in the Grand Cru of Verzenay. This is a great party Champagne, since it is full of flavor yet refreshing and moreish. The hazelnut Pinot character so unique to the village of Verzenay is pronounced in this wine, and many good tasters have mistaken it for barrel fermented (it is actually all stainless and enamel fermented) when presented the wine blind. The texture is full and the bead is refined.  In short, this is a Champagne that you will be proud to serve to your guests, or perhaps not too proud to save for yourself!

 

A toast to you!

 

Gary Westby