As I write this, I am just back from two weeks in Burgundy. It was a good trip, where I had the chance to taste hundreds of 2004 Burgundies, both white and red. The 2004 White Burgundies are less variable and easier to evaluate. They are charming wines, with a clear sense of place. Perhaps not the perfect vintage for aging for more than a decade, but that long a time frame is hardly a problem for most whites (or for most of us). The vintage has a sense of sweetness on the palate, even for those wines with no hint of residual sugar, which makes them delightful. 2004 Red Burgundies are more variable, and the skill of the winegrower and careful cellar work are critical. I tasted some wonderful wines in Volnay, as well as Chambolle, so there is no generalization about Cote de Beaune versus Cote de Nuits that I can see. However, this is a vintage to talk to your wine merchant about how individual producers fared, and pick your wines well. If you do, there are some wonderful things to be found, and you will be delighted to have them in your cellar. Á Santé. —Keith Wollenberg
It’s a good time to be a white Burgundy enthusiast. Currently on our shelves with have plenty (a relative term) of 2004s. This is one of the better vintages in current years to celebrate the dirt of Burgundy. By this I mean that these wine practically scream their terrior. A fun and interesting way to approach this would be wines from these two producers, Denis Barraud and Paul Pernot. The wines, like the men who make them, come from two very different worlds. The first is a small farmer, the second one of the very largest land owners in the Cote de Beaune. 2004 Pouilly-Fuissé, Les Chataignieres, Domaine des Nembrets, Denis Barraud ($18.99) The Domaine des Nembrets is a small hold that Dennis has been able to put together by sharecropping and leasing. The entire holding are on the slopes of the Roche de Vergisson, a giant basalt monolith, surrounded by complex and folded rocky, well-drained soils with limestone outcroppings. It is these limestone outcroppings that are home to Pouilly-Fuisse, and it is only the vines planted in this area that can be called so. This is not Saint-Veran or Macon. The wine is bright and fresh, showing cool yellow fruits with hints citrus and a stony mineral undercurrent. This wine sees a little new oak, which serves to frame and accentuate the fruit. 2004 Puligny Montrachet, Domaine Paul Pernot ($39.99) In spite of having some of the largest holdings, this estate never produces much wine, selling almost 80% of their grapes. What they do keep (the best fruit, naturally) is reflected in their wines. They are not one of the superstars of Burgundy but the have a solid, quiet following. Preferring to have the wines speak for themselves, very little new oak is used. And speak they do! For young white Burgundy they are very approachable with lots of juicy, ripe stone fruits, citrus and the classic Puligny minerality. This wine has an open knit texture but never loses it focus and it betrays its intensity. It is almost like you’re getting away with something at this price. Drink now or hold onto it for a few more years. —Kirk Walker
As we sequeway into Spring, I have two fantastic Champagne jewels. The first, and one of our most popular, is the NV De Meric, Grande Reserve Brut Sous Bois ($27.99). This is a very small, quality-conscious negotiant begun by the Besserat family in 1843 in Ay. Only Grand Cru and Premier Cru grapes are used in De Meric’s Champagnes. The wines are aged in chalk cellars with rumage still being done by hand. Half oak-aged and half stainless steel-aged, this organic beauty has a big, toasty nose with a roasted hazelnut/almond character and a touch of sea salt. A blend of 80% pinot noir, 15% chardonnay and 5% pinot meunier. On the palate, golden and granny smith apples with an elegant, small bead. Anjou pears and a hint of cocoa at the forefront. A zesty finish with light yeast and toast. Champagne jewel number two is a name that most of you will recognize. The 1996 Laurent Perrier Vintage Brut ($39.99) is one of our top-selling Champagnes from this vintage. Am I selling out, you say? Nay! Although I usually focus on small estate-produced Champagnes, I am crazy for this larger (but, not HUGE) production bubbly. A masterful blend of 55% pinot noir and 45% chardonnay that received an amazing 92 point score from the Wine Spectator. A concentrated nose of citrus fruits, wet stones, lemon and spice. While brisk in the mouth, there is a nuanced texture with lemon cream, honeysuckle and (faint) ginger flavors. Starts out soft and ends with a long, lingering, complex finish. It is also available in half-bottles and magnums. The 1996 will also age well over the next six years. —Scott Beckerley
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