My two picks for the month are like comparing apples and oranges. One is an old-world style while the other is a modern Champagne. Up first is the Rene Collard Cuvee Ultime Ultra Brut Champagne ($39.99). This is quite unlike our other Collard wines. Comprised of grapes entirely from the 1995 vintage, this wine has no dosage, or no sugar added. Though it is a dry Brut, it is not a tart style due to the ripeness of the pinot meunier (100%!) used in this wine. A big doughy nose with plenty of ripe pear fruit. In the mouth, ripe apples, yeast and delicate truffle nuances. The no-dosage aspect of this wine comes out in the crisp, lingering finish. Number two for the month is a huge favorite of mine. The Tarlant Cuvee Louis Brut Prestige ($39.99) is composed of 50% chardonnay and 50% pinot noir with fruit from the chalkiest hillside vineyards that Tarlant owns in Oeuilly. All of the vines are 45-plus years old resulting in fruit of the highest quality. Fermented in oak barrels without malolactic fermentation for 13 months. Aged on the lees for seven years! The current blend is equally from the 1996 and 1997 vintages. Youthful nose with crisp acidity yet, rich with apples, toast, and a bit of yeast. On the palate, golden apples, fresh bread and cinnamon spice. Don’t forget to toast the kids going back to school! —Scott Beckerley
This month I have three wines for your collection. They are not cheap, but the quality and pedigree behind them are sure to show themselves when you drink them in ten years. 2001 Heitz Cellars “Martha’s Vineyard” Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($119.00) This wine is superb. I tasted it twice at an industry-only tasting in March, and it stole the show. The 2001 Martha’s delivers on both the winery’s reputation and the vintage. At once rich and elegant, its intense color is followed by aromas of mint and cassis. On the palate, red fruit and firm tannins combine into a focused and firmly tannic wine. One for the cellar… this one will not disappoint those who are patient! 2002 Vineyard 7 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon ($75.00) A newcomer to the Spring Mountain area of Napa, this wine is one to put in the cellar and forget about for 5-10 years. This wine exhibits a complex nose of ripe, black currants and blackberries intermixed with whiffs of cedar, tobacco, spice and a hint of chocolate. There is a wonderful balance to the wine in the mouth and the rich complex flavors reflect their aromatic profile. The two winemakers are legends in winemaking. Christian Le Sommer spent years at d’yquem and Ch. Latour and is currently working Barons Rothschild’s properties around the world. Larry Langbehn has spent 30 years in the California wine industry, most notably 10 years with Freemark Abbey. 2003 Egelhoff Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($74.95) Bob Egelhoff is the winemaker for five Napa Valley wineries: David Arthur Vineyards, Amizetta Vineyards, Richard Partridge Wines, Axios Wines and Phelan Vineyard. His 2003 is very approachable with soft tannins and a long creamy finish. 100% cabernet sauvignon sourced from Sacrashe Vineyard and Glendale Vineyard in the hills surrounding Lake Hennessey. 847 cases made. See you in the City… —Mike Jordan
It is time to let the secret out about the village of Verzenay and the Champagne of Michel Arnould. Located on the Mountain of Reims, this is one of the most exciting and unique terroirs in 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. I love the distinct, hazelnut quality that this special village stamps on its wines, and I feel very lucky to have visited Mr. Patrick Arnould in this sleepy little village a couple of years ago. Patrick Arnould is the fifth generation of vignerons at 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 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. All of the wines undergo complete malolactic fermentation in stainless steel and enamel vats. If you enjoy the wines of Lallement, Bollinger and Krug, you will very much enjoy Michel Arnould. They are bold, masculine Champagnes with plenty of toasty flavor. Another very good feature is the price (thanks to a direct purchase from Patrick Arnould). Michel Arnould Verzenay Brut Reserve ($25.99) This is composed of two-thirds pinot noir and one-third Chardonnay from the 2002 and 2001 harvests. With a very pretty light golden color and the precise bead that comes from time in the bottle, this Champagne is a pleasure just to look at. The wine has an explosive, hazelnut and bright pinot fruit aroma and a flavor that manages to be both rich and clean. It is dry at only 10g per liter dosage, and it has a refreshing, long finish. Michel Arnould Grand Cuvee Brut ($29.99) Exclusively from 1998, this is composed of two-thirds pinot noir and one-third chardonnay. The color is gorgeous gold studded with tiny bubbles. The aroma is amazing. 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 well. —Gary Westby
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