At K&L Wine Merchants' Tour of Champagne Tasting held in the San Francisco store June 17, 2006 These were the selections on hand: No. 1- N/V Ariston Aspasie Blanc de Blancs, Brouillet-$29.99 100% Chardonnay. Blend from the 1998 and 1999 vintage. See map-14 miles Northwest of Reims. No. 2- N/V Franck Bonville Brut Selection Blancs de Blancs, Avize-$23.99 (1.5L-$49.99) 100% Chardonnay. Blend from the 2000, 2001 and 2002 vintage. See map. No. 3- N/V Hubert Paulet Brut Tradition, Rilly a Montagne-$27.99 50% Pinot Meunier, 20% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir. 1999/200 vintage. See map-Close to Mailly-Champagne. No.4- N/V Hubert Paulet Brut Prestige Risleus, Rilly a Montagne-$49.99 50% Pinot Noir, 50% Chardonnay. 1999, 2000 and 2001 vintage. 100% barrel fermentation. No. 5- N/V Philippe Gonet Brut Reserve, Vertus-$27.99 (1.5L-$59.99) 60% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Meunier. 70% 2001 and 30% 2000 Reserve vintage in the final blend. See map-about 1 mile South of Les Mesnil-sur-Oger. No. 6- Fleury “Carte Rouge” Brut, Courteron-$29.99 (1.5L-$64.99) 100% Pinot Noir. See map-In the Aube 30 miles South of Reims. No. 7- N/V Tarlant Cuvee Louis Brut Prestige, Oeuilly-$39.99 (1.5L-$99.00) 50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir. 1996 and 1997 vintage. See map-6 miles West of Epernay in the Valley of the Marne. No. 8- N/V Laurent Perrier “Grand Siecle”, Grand Cru-$74.99 (1.5L-$159.00) 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay. 20% from the 1993 vintage, 20% from the 1995 vintage and 60% from the 1996 vintage. Various vineyard sourcing primarily in the Valley of the Marne. No. 9- N/V Franck Bonville Belles Voyes, Avize-$59.99 100% Chardonnay from Oger. From the 1998 vintage. See map. No. 10- 1985 Rene Collard Cuvee Speciale Rose Brut, Reuil-$69.99 100% Pinot Meunier. 88% vinified as sparkling white and 12% vinified as still red. See map-3 to 4 miles West from Epernay in the Valley of the Marne.
This month I want to talk a little about the Beyond, a word that I incorporated into the title long ago to allow for a broader exploration of wine. This somewhere is called Jurançon, and I visited there last month. The grapes are gros mansang and petit mansang and a bit of courbu, not French names for other grapes but real indigenous wonders, grown here for centuries on terraced hills in the shadow of the Pyrenees. Ripeness is essential here, as the Mansang Brothers have very high natural acidity that when tamed by the sun produces a fresh, snappy dry wine with aromas of red grapefruit, fennel and white flowers. Try 2004 Jurançon Sec Clos Lapeyre ($12.99) as an aperitif or the 2004 Jurançon Sec Charles Hours “Cuvee Marie” ($17.99) with more involved cuisine. There are also the traditional Moelleux wines made from grapes that have been naturally dried on the vine, rich and textural, yet never cloying with flavors of pineapple, quince and acacia honey. Open the 2004 Jurançon Moelleux Clos Uroulat Charles Hours ($26.99) for an unbelievable treat with foie gras. Other exciting news is that we just received our first shipment from Joël Taluau, a fabulous grower in St. Nicolas de Bourgueil known for making some of the purest expressions of cabernet franc in the Loire. All is hand harvested, cuvees are based on vine age and soil composition, wines are fermented and aged in stainless steel, with a light fining and no filtration before bottling. We have two wines that just arrived. The 2002 Joël Taluau Cuvée de Domaine ($14.99) is from 20-40 year old vines. I actually drank a bottle with lunch by chance at Deletang in Montlouis with a beautiful grilled steak as big as my head. The wine was juicy and luscious with bright violety aromas and a core of sweet supple fruit. The 2004 Joël Taluau Vieilles Vignes ($16.99), from a single plot planted in 1934, has power, depth and grace, this their flagship wine will improve for the next 7-9 years but can be enjoyed now for those of you who like a mouthful of wine. Here’s to you! —Jeff Vierra
I just returned from a week in Germany and Austria tasting the new vintage and getting to know new growers. I mentioned last month that I was to visit Stadlmann in Austria and hopefully taste older Zierfandler, which I did. A 1992 Zierfandler Igeln was proof positive that this is a wine of substance, powerfully dry, dense and firm with a wondrously spicy nose and length to die for. Also newly arriving are some 2005 Grüner Veltliners from Bernard Ott in the Wagram-Donauland an up and coming young star in Austria who works only with stainless steel to preserve the fruit and fully express what the soil has to offer. His wines have verve and a steely firmness that drives the flavor home. The 2005 Ott Grüner Veltliner Am Berg ($13.99) is is his lightest wine at 11.5%, but this baby is fresh, juicy and peppery, not at all slight in size. It will put a smile on your face. Coming soon we will have the 2005 Ott Grüner Veltliner Rosenberg ($14.99), made from younger vines and the first pickings of his oldest vines, all hand harvested. A purely mineral wine with a high note of wild cherry, pepper and plum. Also on the way is the 2005 Ott Grüner Veltliner Faß # 4 ($18.99), a blend of five vineyards, from his second picking. He calls this his gastronomic wine. It is deeper, more textured yet still fresh and vibrant. Germany, too, has a tale to tell this vintage. For now let us just say that the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer is King. Johannes Selbach feels this is his greatest vintage since he has been in charge of the winery. Manfred Prüm has stated it is his best in the last 40 years, I heard similar things from most growers, and the wines backed it up. More on that front soon… Live in the Light! —Jeff Vierra
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