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
The 2005 Bordeaux prices reached dizzying heights for some properties. Those who wanted to buy the first growths and wines like Petrus and Cheval Blanc had to fork over a lot of money. Some customers such as myself were priced out of the market for these wines. The good news is that the 2006 Bordeaux prices will probably be much lower. I would advise you to do what I’m doing: Get over it! The wine marketplace is always in a constant flux. In 1961 first growths cost $3.00, people were outraged when Beaulieu Private Reserve doubled in price form $1.00 to $2.00 in the same era. Things change; that’s reality. The reality is also that the weather in Bordeaux has historically never been better than it was in 2005, and there is a plethora of great wine, correctly priced. Here are my tasting notes on some of those. Why not compare them to the price of your average vintage of Napa Valley Cabernet? The 2005 Carraudes de Lafite ($55.99) showed some nice cool dark fruit and elegance, but it was still very tight and unyielding at this tasting. Shows fine concentration. The 2005 Clos du Marquis ($49.99) was off the charts and by far the best I’ve ever tasted! A beautiful thickness of red fruits and sweet tannins, no question a better tasting wine today than Las Cases. It seems to me that with two great wines like these, they blended the first wine to stand the test of time and longevity, because it’s hard to believe how much outrageously fine fruit is in this second wine. Sweet red/black fruit with nice round tannins and a powerful finish are in the 2005 Clerc-Milon ($45.99). Never a softy, this is a very solid Clerc that will age very well. With good strong, spicy fruit entry and then grip, the 2005 d’Armailhac ($39.99) is a wine to cellar quite a few years. Showing good, forward red fruit with smoky-earthy hints, the 2005 Haut Bergey Rouge ($29.99) is a well-balanced mid-weight and mid-term wine. The producer of one of Bordeaux greatest whites has turned its red wine program around! The silky blood red fruit of the 2005 Domaine de Chevailier ($51.99) is deep, pure and outrageously attractive. A wine in perfect harmony, balanced with a sweet, long, elegant finish. The 2005 Barde Haut ($36.99) shows very ripe, large red fruit and good brightness. Not overdone, this one’s well balanced and all together. Lost in the middle of all the madness of red wine pricing is the outrageous quality of the 2005 Sauternes, a cross in style between the firm acidity and brightness of 2001, and the lush and fat 2003s. If you missed the 2001s, do not miss the 2005s. Prestigious estates of profound quality like 2005 Ch. Suduiraut (375ml $34.99), offering “great thickness and acid insure longevity,” are still available at opening prices. The deal of the vintage is once again the “very sweet and incredible honey flavors” featured in the 2005 Ch. Doisy-Vedrines (375ml $17.99). Two new 2005s have arrived and are perfect for your fall festivities: Rosé from neighbors in St-Estèphe: Rosé de Phelan Segur ($8.99) and the Rosé de Calon ($12.99). Very fun wines to serve chilled, these can handle a range of appetizers as well as traditional turkey, so save a few for the bird! Feel free to contact me anytime with questions or advise on the wines of Bordeaux at ex 2723 or Ralph@klwines.com. Cheers and Go Giants and Niners! —Ralph Sands
A small group from K&L spent part of April in Bordeaux tasting and evaluating the wines from the amazing 2005 vintage. We discovered quality and consistency everywhere, but one property stood out, the tiny estate of Château Rochebelle in St-Emilion. These vineyards near Troplong Mondott have some of the best terrior in the appellation. In fact, the parcel the owners sold some years back is the source for the expensive luxury brand La Mondotte. Find out why Robert Parker says, “This is an estate shrewd buyers will monitor closely.” Château direct, too! 1989 Rochebelle, St-Emilion ($49.99) This sensuous, mature beauty has a medium color and dusty plum aromas. The plush cherry vanilla flavors are sweet, round and seductive with very resolved tannin on the finish. Loaded with satiny fruit and tons of character, this Grand Cru from one of the best vintages of the ’80s is drinking perfectly right now. 1990 Rochebelle, St-Emilion ($49.99) This is slightly lighter in color than the ’89 but spicier and my favorite of the bunch. Here we have subtle herbs, very sweet fruit, mineral and bright spice all in perfect harmony. This amazingly elegant wine shows fantastic terrior and has the type of transparency usually found only in Grand Cru Burgundy from great vintages. It’s impossible not to taste the limestone the cellars are chiseled out of in each sip. 1999 Rochebelle, St-Emilion 1.5L ($89.99) This dark, ripe and fruity wine shows plenty of oak and very ripe tannin in a plump, full-bodied style. With its substantial mid-palate and no hard edges, this is the flashiest and sweetest wine tasted here and would be perfect for an informal gathering or BBQ tonight. 2005 Rochebelle, St-Emilion ($44.99 Pre-Arrival) Those of you who have not yet purchased this are in danger of missing one of the great bargains from this spectacular vintage. This is almost black in color and exudes an essence of intense, perfectly ripe grapes. The middle here is deep with the oak completely buried under masses of creamy fruit. Despite the powerful tannic grip on the finish, there is exquisite balance, wonderful freshness and a sense of purity here. 1996 Pontet-Canet, Pauillac ($59.99) This 5th Growth is a big, powerful wine from a classic vintage. Spice, currants, mineral, oak and tannin blend together in the burly mid palate. An hour of decanting will soften this dark, full-bodied gem but a decade of further cellaring will also be rewarded. 92+ points from Robert Parker. —Steve Bearden
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