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
Last September, Kirk Walker and I were lucky to visit Champagne Hubert Paulet. Benoit Marguet, of Marguet-Bonnerave and Launois fame, had told us all about his friend Olivier Paulet, the young man in charge of this tiny Champagne house. When we arrived in Rilly-La-Montagne, on the north side of the mountain of Reims, we were not disappointed. Olivier took over Champagne Hubert Paulet in 1998 and works exclusively with estate fruit from Rilly. They sell half of their grapes to Billecart-Salmon, and make a little less the 2000 cases a year with the other half. The quality of the Champagnes is amazing. The style is friendly, and the value (due to our direct import) is fantastic. Olivier ferments in both tile and stainless steel vats, and is one of the rare producers to have a pragmatic view on malolactic fermentation. Ideally, he likes to put half of the blend through malo. He is also leaning toward organics, with grass growing between his rows even just days before the harvest, a rare sight in the chalk and vines landscape of Champagne. His Hubert Paulet Brut Tradition ($27.99) is a blend of 50% meunier, 25% chardonnay and 25% pinot noir. It is composed of the 2000 and 1999 harvests and has seen eight months of extra age on the cork as well as on the lees. It is very charming on the nose with ripe golden apple and fresh spring flower aromatics. It has very solid apple and pear fruit on the palate as well as an uncommon mineral note. It is quite dry, dosed at only 9 grams per liter with concentrated grape must instead of the more common beet sugar. The 1999 Hubert Paulet Brut Vintage ($32.99) is a blend of 40% chardonnay, 40% pinot noir and 20% meunier. Since 1999 was a very ripe and relatively low acid year, Olivier chose to completely stop the malolactic. This is a bigger, more serious Champagne that would go very well with barbequed chicken. It has a generous nose of dried apricots, wildflowers and cashews. The flavors are bold and full of fruit, but have a very nice counterbalance of minerality and acid. Contact me at email@example.com or by phone at 877-559-4637 ex 2728 with any questions. A toast to you! —Gary Westby
Happy May everyone. Jim Barr here, taking over for Joe Z., as he is on vacation. I have been chosen to write his column. With my selections, of course. In lieu of my usual barking dogs scoring system (though I know you all love it) I will use Joe's stick men, or “stickies” as he likes to call them. After all of the abuse I’ve taken from Joe, it will be fun to “sticky” it to him! I made a joke hahahah! Joe Zebra head thinks he is way funny when he makes fun of me. Like HE hasn’t mistaken a water pitcher for a spit bucket. Like HE’S never said to Robert Mondavi “I thought you were dead?” Like HE hasn’t asked a winemaker what percentage of red wine and white wine did he use to make his rosé! 1975 Poujeaux (1.5L $169.99). Poujeaux is French for “Joe is an idiot!” Haha! I’m stone deaf but funny as a doorknob, you bet I am. Poujeaux is a small-production, high-quality wine from Moulis, which is not a cow town. (Moo-lis! A great play on weirds!) Anyway, the 1975 Poujeaux (French for… oh, did that one already) is showing beautifully, at once sturdy and evenly balanced with ripe fruit flavors that dance between layers of earth and cedar. My next selection, the 1910 Barbeito Sercial Reserva Madeira ($189.95) is a lovely old soul. Sercial is considered a very dry style, with a quality of almonds (and a hint of bittersweet chocolate with extended age). The dry side is represented by crisp notes of orange peel and a refreshing tangy acidity. Madeira wines are tremendous values and guaranteed to serve up a unique wine experience. Also in stock is the 1933 Justino’s Malmsey Madeira ($179.95), which shows more richness and chocolate/fudge notes as well as orange essence. They are different. They are lovely. Hard to believe that wine makes an appearance in Joe’s column! I see that Joe bought the 1970 Graham Port ($199.00) as well. Once in a while he gets it right. This is a full-flavored 1970, as befits the Graham’s style. Over a decade ago, Michael Broadbent described the wine as having… “lots of fruit, grip, length, tannin and acidity.” That was true, but that was then. This now mature. This is a wonderful, complete, stately wine that deserves top ranking. Now, I would like to tell a mean-spirited story about Joe, just as he does every month at my expense: On April first of last year I came to work at the usual time. Everything seemed normal, or as normal as it can be for K&L. I hung up my coat and reached for my clipboard, without which I cannot function. And then all heck broke loose. The clipboard had Superglue on it, and it became cemented to my hand. Someone called out “April Fools!” as I ran about the shop flapping my arm. With all of the flapping I could not see where I was going and POW! I ran right into a floor stack of Bloody Mary mix and went butt over teakettle. Now covered in tomato mixture, I walked by the checkout counter on my way to the washroom and a customer screamed “Call an ambulance! This man is bleeding to death!” I was tackled by fellow employee Susan Purnell, who held on to my back. I hate people on my back, and so I ran into the parking lot, still all red. Customers screamed. Employees laughed. Before I could open my mouth the paramedics had strapped me onto a stretcher and were about to close the ambulance doors. That’s when I saw it: Joe getting out of his car… with mismatched socks! Take that, Joe Zebra head! Ah, revenge is sweet. —Joe Zugelder
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