While you are looking for the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day, consider the following two Champagnes for enjoying a romantic dinner or for presenting as a memorable gift. For those of you on a budget (hey, you’re giving diamonds as well), the Launois “Cuvee Reserve” Brut Blanc de Blancs ($25.99) is a perfect choice. This bubbly comes from Mesnil, the home of Krug’s Clos de Mesnil and the world-renowned house of Salon. So, obviously, quality is the trademark of this southernmost Grand Cru village. The Launois is made entirely of chardonnay with 90% of the juice from the 2000 vintage and 10% from the 1998 reserve. Stainless steel vinification makes for clean fruit with a hint of minerality. A nose of pastry dough and wet stones. Rich pear fruit with a touch of key lime are the principal flavors with a finish of crème brulee and toasted almonds. Four years ageing on the lees brings richness and length. The Franck Bonville Cuvee Les Belles Voyes ($59.99) is a top of the line bubbly from Olivier Bonville. The Belles Voyes vineyard is in Oger and is miniscule, at 1 3/4 acres. Like the Launois, this wine is all chardonnay (in this case, from the 1997 harvest). All fermentation and ageing is done in old oak casks. A wonderful nose of vanilla and subtle yeast. Flavors of golden pears, cream, brioche and pine nuts. Creamy and full-bodied with a slight, elegant hint of toasted oak on the finish. One of the most lush and rich Champagnes that we currently have in stock A great effort of winemaking, and tough competition for wines selling at three times the price! —Scott Beckerley
I am extraordinarily excited to report that my favorite 1996 vintage Champagne yet has arrived at K&L. From Leclerc-Briant, the producer that brought us the (now sold out) single vineyard Champagnes Clos des Champions, Les Crayères and Les Chêvres Pierreuses is finally releasing their tete de cuvee. The Leclerc-Briant Cuvee Divine ($39.99) is being released at ten years old, a properly luxurious time in the family’s 90 foot-deep cellar for a luxury cuvee. This Champagne is the color of straw, with just the right amount of compact, streaming bubbles. It is composed of 50% chardonnay and 50% pinot noir, blended from estate vineyards in the prime valley of the Marne villages Dizy (home of Jacquesson), Cumieres (where their single vineyard offerings are from), Damery (where Mr. Rene Collard has vines) and Hautvillers (home of the monk Dom Perignon). Aromatically, the pinot noir is at the forefront, with plenty of black cherry, a very high quality, pure nose indeed! After spending nine years on the lees it is surprising how little toast is evident, and I think this is a testament to the organic farming of Mr. Pascal Leclerc-Briant. Because of the lower yields and greater concentration, there is just lots of wine in front of the yeast! In the mouth, the wine is rich and full bodied, with all the flavors present that the nose promised. The finish is where the chardonnay takes over, with zippy, subtly citric refreshment and a very persistent minerality. The Divine is dosed at only six grams per liter, making it quite dry. After having the 1988 at dinner with Scott Beckerley, I am convinced that this will provide fantastic drinking until at least 2021—starting today! Please don’t miss this fantastic Champagne; I am sure it won’t last long. We also received a very small amount of the Leclerc-Briant “La Croisette” Brut ($29.99) from a less-than-one-acre vineyard in Epernay directly above the winery! This blanc de blancs shows the cantaloupe style fruit of a valley of the Marne blanc de blancs and finishes very, very dry. Quantity is limited. Feel free to contact me at 1-800-247-5987 ex 2728. A toast to you! —Gary Westby
That headline has nothing to do with anything, but it looks dramatic, don’t you think? Anyway, in my case he is both. I’m not about to say that Jim has lost the dynamic that has made him a legend in this business, but… well heck, you may as well know: He has a grand total of three customers left. Three who trust him. Three who take his advice. Three blind friggin’ mice. Shemp must be close, ’cause apparently Larry, Moe and Curly shop with Master Barr. There is Don (not his real middle name). Don reads lips, and that helps their relationship immensely. Don is so busy that he rarely finds the time to see Jim in person, another sterling silver plus sign. Don must be a priest, as he has forgiven Barr all of his wine suggestion sins. One wine that Barr got right was the 1933 Justino Henriques Malmsey Madeira ($249.95), sweetish and rich and sporting an orange peel tang on the one hand, bittersweet chocolate on the other. In cold weather, Madeira makes easy friends. A real rarity. There is David. David makes wine with Jim, another mistake. David is a lawyer. If I were David, I’d file a class action suit against every recommendation Jim has ever made. Except the 1979 Latour ($199.95). Elegant, restrained, classy, and perfectly stored. A true claret. And there is C.T. I think C.T. has the ears of an elephant, because he can understand every word Jim says. C.T. is even o.k. with Jim’s voicemail message (“I will ATTEMPT to get back to you as soon as possible.” Like, how hard can it be to dial seven &!!@#$! numbers?) but has yet to actually speak with Barr on the phone. Fancy that. Take care of your health gentlemen. You are the last of the Barrhicans. Welcome The Newest K&L Team Members! Some have been here a bit. I should have introduced them before. But better late than never! Jorge Valencia: A prince of a man. And a fabulous cook as well. Pan-fried Marlin pancreas, sardine gazpacho, head cheese jello mold (or just plain mold), he does it all, and with panache, but you can have that on the side. Multi lingual, speaks Spanish when he wishes to say rude things about me. What does embecil de la aldea mean? Dan Buckler: Fresh from the Katrina catastrophe (only partly responsible) and looking for another. Found K&L immediately. Fits right in, never a good sign. Hobbies: traveling, placekicking and left wing extremism. Loves long walks on the beach. When he wishes to say rude things about me, he stays silent. I’ve never heard him speak. Jeff Garneau: Almost didn’t take the job because there was no resident chef (hadn’t met Jorge). Thank God he made the right decision (did we?). Jeff can (and will) discuss the global ramifications of T vine trellising, or maybe the effect the Norwegian whaling industry has on the uptick of Mondeuse consumption in the Pacific Northwest. Speaks impeccable English when he wishes to say rude things about me. Thornton Jacobs: We share an affinity for smuggling water bottles filled with Sauvignon Blanc onto airplanes. Hey, it’s a long trip. Or a short one (whatever). Used to work for a competitor, but when I Googled him all I got was a mug shot of former Phillies slugger Greg Luzinski. Maybe that’s why he looks up when a ballpark vendor yells “hey Polish!” Speaks German when he wishes to say rude things about me. What does was fur ein dorftrottel mean anyway? —Joe Zugelder
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