Thanksgiving is a time for reflection, football and the smell of a broom closet. Oops, I meant to say the smell of turkey. Thanksgiving turkey… an endless loop of Jim Barr jokes that beg to see the light of day. But Thanksgiving is about history, invasion and Sterling Vineyards wine. Let me take you back to the beginning… The Santa Maria was the first of the ships to set anchor in the Bay of Pigs. The New World. America. But it looked a LOT like Norway. Captain Ishmael James Barr (“call me Ishmael”) and his crew reached the rocky shores of Plymouth, Duster on the third Thursday of November. They bore glad tidings. They bore gifts of Sterling wine. Truth to tell, they bore everyone. The native people greeted the seafaring contingent warily; they’d already coughed up Manhattan for peanuts, and they weren’t about to get shafted again. The usual beads and pleasantries were exchanged (“How about those Yankees?” “You look great! New headdress?”). By and by the discussion turned to the evening meal. “We’ll bring the wine,” said Captain Barr. And so they did. The table was set for fifty. Not a moveable feast. An amazing array of comestibles assaulted the senses of the contingent: A maze of maize and ferries of cranberries. Haystacks of stuffing. Dams full of yams. Green eggs and hams. And the bird... my word! More wings than an airport runway. More breasts than a Russ Meyer movie. And the Patriots were playing the Chiefs on T.V. Captain Ishmael’s crew presented the wines: Sterling Vineyards library wines of such breadth, the ’76, ’77 and ’78. ’82, ’84 and ’86. ’87, ’90, ’91 and ’92. Napa bottlings, priced to buy and ready to drink; Reserves, full and rich and concentrated. Diamond Mountain Ranch selections, crafted in the style of the great wines of Bordeaux. There were larger bottles too: magnums and double magnums, six liters and nine (A whole case in a bottle!). An amazing selection, direct from the winery. Captain Ishmael flushed with pride and the change of life. The Patriots-Chiefs contest began. The meal was a great success. Until dessert. Giant pies made from pumpkins were brought out, scirocco warm and as aromatic as a French subway. What followed may have been the swiftest unraveling of diplomatic relations since the barf in the Japanese Prime Ministers lap thing. The native people brought out bowls of cream that had obviously been whipped mercilessly. Whipped and whipped, until it flowed no more. The cream lay motionless. Captain Ishmael was appalled. This blatant violation of the world torture ban would not be tolerated. He and his crew rowed back to the Santa Maria and set sail. As Captain Ishmael J. Barr peered through his telescope, he asked his first mate what part of the cargo hold he had put the Sterling wines that were brought back to the ship. “I thought you brought them,” said the mate. Reverse gear. Running up the beach. But the table... and the wines... were gone. Game over. Chiefs won. —Joe Zegulder
As we launch into the month of Thanksgiving I am pleased to have the return of two marvelous Champagnes from producer Michel Arnould. The first of these is the Michel Arnould Verzenay Brut Reserve ($25.99) . The blend is 65% pinot noir and 35% chardonnay. The nose is nutty and clean. This is a dry style with low dosage (10 grams per liter). All of the fruit used is from the 2000 and 2001 vintage. In the mouth, an initial zippy, lemony characteristic followed by flavors of Bing cherries, apples and a light bit of honey on the back of the palate. All of this combines with the hazelnut aspect of the pinot noir fruit to produce a memorable Champagne. Why drink copycats from other countries when you can have the real thing for less than $26? The “big sister” wine to the Brut Reserve is the Michel Arnould Grand Cuvee Brut ($29.99) . Drier than the Brut Reserve (only 9 grams of dosage per liter), the Grand Cuvee comes off creamier and richer. This is probably due to the fruit being entirely from the 1998 harvest (though it is not labeled as such). Identical blend to the Brut Reserve. Freshly roasted hazelnuts on the nose with lush ripe cherries and tart apple scents. On the palate, tart cherries mingle with cream and toast. Cocoa flavors on the finish. Both of these Champagnes have an elegance and delicacy and both are bold Champagnes unparalleled in value! A perfect way to start your Thanksgiving, or to enjoy with pumpkin pie at the finish. Happy Thanksgiving! —Scott Beckerley
Laurent Perrier is a big Champagne house, but unlike most of the big houses, they produce very little of their prestige cuvee. Moet & Chandon is synonymous with Dom Perignon and Roederer with Cristal. Only a few fanatics know about Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle. Grand Siecle has been difficult to sell for Laurent Perrier in the U.S. because unlike Dom or Cristal, it does not carry a vintage date, a feature that U.S. consumers associate with quality. The current cuvee of Laurent Perrier “Grand Siecle” ($79.99) that we offer is even better than one vintage. It is a blend of three very good vintages: 1993, 1995 and 1996. This is the 17th Grand Siecle that LP has released. The first came out in 1960 with a blend of 1952, 1953 and 1955. Another hurdle the Grand Siecle faces in the U.S. is the name; it is hard to pronounce. It sounds to me like “Grand See Eck” when a native speaker says it quickly. We sometimes call it the Sun King here at K&L, since the name is inspired by the prosperous period of time when Louis XIV ruled France. Name aside, it is what is inside that counts, and this Champagne is made entirely out of Grand Cru fruit, the best that they can purchase and less than 10% of their entire production. It is half chardonnay and half pinot noir. The Grand Siecle has glorious detail and complexity on the bouquet. In the mouth, the bead is ultra fine; it is hard to imagine smaller bubbles. The flavors are polished and fresh but still fully developed, a testament to the precise blending of the three great vintages. I have found this wine to be more elegant than Dom Perignon and more complex than Cristal. I hope that you will try it this holiday! We also have a limited quantity of the tiny production 1997 Grand Siecle Cuvee Alexandra Brut Rosé ($99.99) . From the masters of rosé, this is incomparable! It is composed exclusively from Grand Cru fruit, 80% pinot and 20% chardonnay. It has a gorgeous pink hue, and fine, delicate Pinot Noir fruit. It is very long and refined on the finish. Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and say “add me to your list” to be the first to know about offerings and news. Or contact me at 1-800-247-5987 ex 2728. A toast to you! —Gary Westby
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