The month of December is always full of friends and family and there is no better way to celebrate with them then by drinking Ariston Carte Blanche Brut ($22.99). This graceful, flavorful blend of 40% chardonnay, 30% pinot noir and 30% meunier has been aged for a full four years before being disgorged and sent directly to us here in California. For the many of you who have traveled to Champagne and stayed with the Ariston family in their home in Brouillet, the wine needs no introduction. For those of you who have not, I cannot think of a better “liquid hospitality” than this Champagne. It has a pleasant toasty aroma and flavor from its four years ageing on its yeast, and wonderful apple fruit from the steep, well-exposed vineyard sites and late harvesting policy of the Aristons. We are able to offer this fantastic Champagne at such a low price because we purchased it directly from Paul Vincent and Caroline Ariston. I hope that you will join me in drinking some of this fabulous Champagne with friends and family this year. Another Champagne that will definitely be on my holiday table this December is the De Meric Grande Reserve “Sous Bois” Brut ($27.99). Almost everyone on the staff enjoyed this bottle at Thanksgiving, and it was a huge hit. Made in the same kind of masculine style as a Bollinger or Krug, this wine is composed of 80% pinot noir, 15% chardonnay and 5% meunier, all from grand and premier cru vineyards. Since half of the juice is fermented in old oak without malolactic fermentation, this wine has the black cherry fruit that you would expect from such a high pinot content without sacrificing any elegance or snap. It is primarily made of fruit from the very good 2000 harvest, with a small amount of 1999 and 1998 reserve wines added in. Fans of toasty style Champagne will appreciate the honest yeastiness that this long ageing on lees has given the De Meric. Once again, this wine is purchased direct from the producer, so expect it to perform way beyond its price point! For special gifts this year I would like to recommend my very favorite of all of the big house tete de cuveés once again. The Laurent Perrier “Grand Siecle” ($74.99) is in the real spirit of a luxury cuvee, as it represents far less than 10% of their total production. This allows them to really take the very best of their large production to make a very special wine and is a stark contrast to the gigantic production numbers of the two most famous (and far more expensive) tete de cuveés. Composed of 30% 1993, 30% 1995 and 40% 1996, the Grand Siecle (pronounced ‘See eck’) is more mature, mellow and complex than its much more expensive competitors. Made with half pinot noir and half chardonnay from seven grand cru villages, this wine has a powerful toastiness on the nose, a very refined bead and a super long finish. Hopefully one of the gift bottles will be a gift to you! Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 877-559-4637 ex 2728 with any Champagne questions. Please also ask to be added to my list of Champagne fans for up-to-the-minute notification on new arrivals and breaking news from the Champagne region. My picks for December: Ariston Carte Blanche Brut Champagne $22.99 Laurent Perrier Brut Champagne $27.99 De Meric Grande Reserve Sous Bois Brut Champagne $27.99 1996 Laurent Perrier Vintage Brut $39.99 Laurent Perrier “Grand Siecle” Champagne $74.99 A toast to you! —Gary Westby
K&L Wine Merchants will soon be opening a retail store in Los Angeles. This marks K&L’s first foray into the Southland. As K&L’s emissary down here, I will be posting a weekly blog on the food of Los Angeles and Orange County, along with recommendations on a few of my current favorite wines. October 19, 2005 Long Beach… home to Snoop Dogg, Boeing’s corporate headquarters and what may be the most abysmal food scene of any major city in the western reaches of the U.S. Many consider this port town to be a mere suburb of the sprawl that is Los Angeles, but Long Beach is actually the fifth largest city in California. As befits a major American metropolis there are many dining establishments here, some of them pricey too. And most should be very very ashamed of themselves. In an effort to keep this, my first K&L post, on a somewhat positive note, I will let you in on the best food in Long Beach. It is not that spendy Italian place downtown (although it’s good, and will get its own review in time), or that newish fusian eatery in Long Beach’s toniest strip mall (I kid you not). The best food in Long Beach is not served at a restaurant per se. There is no wine list, for one. No servers, and only about eight tables, if you count the three or four outside on the sidewalk. Hole Mole is the name, and it is a taqueria unlike any in San Francisco. Pay no attention to the “Mole” on all of the brightly colored signage. There is no mole offered on the menu, which is fine by me. The focus here is piscine, though many basics in the turf category can also be procured. By all means order one of them if you are allergic to fish. The chicken tacos and burritos, as well as the carne asada are all serviceable versions of their type. They are good. Sometimes really good. But in comparison to the fish and shrimp burritos they are nothing at all. And compared to the fish tacos, well nothing at Hole Mole, and nothing edible in all of Long Beach can compare to those. I am almost rendered speechless by the beauty of these fish tacos. Almost. I will write a poem, since prose is too limited, too structured for such sensory perfection. Taco taco. Fry of fish (fried fish!). Here, gilded by green cabbage, pungent salsa, tangiest of sour cream-based sauces. Soft and gummy doubled corn tortilla. Crisp, salty fish. Are you tilapia? I do not know. And then the cabbage, crunchy delight. I can eat four fish tacos. They are not big, but they sneak up on you. This might be due to the fry grease or the fat of the creamy sauce. They are not healthy, though they do contain fish. And cabbage! Rather than eat them in the exceedingly cramped though cheerful establishment or outside on the depressing street (most in Long Beach fall under this category), take your tacos home (count them first, they sometimes short change you, though I am sure this is not purposeful…see how positive I am??). Eat them in front of the TV (living in Long Beach will turn you into a TV junkie), and wash them down with rosé or a crisp, totally unoaked and very straight-forward French or Spanish white. Minerals are good, but you don’t need them here, not with these tacos. A few suggestions currently on offer at K&L are the classic 2004 Viña Sila Naia Rueda ($10.99) or the 2004 Vincent Raimbault Vouvray Sec ($13.99) in the white category, and the 2004 Bodegas Aldeanueva Cortijo Iii Rosé ($8.99) and the very juicy 2004 Saint Chinian Domaine Rimbert Rosé ($9.99) for pinks. If you ever find yourself in Long Beach you should definitely check out the fish tacos at Hole Mole. It may even be worth the detour off the 405 if you find yourself en route from L.A. to Orange County. Hole Mole 421 Obispo Ave. Long Beach, CA 90814 (562) 439-2555 1 Fish Taco $1.45 Got foodie tips on the scene down here? Please post your comments! —Elisabeth Schriber
2004 Palladino Gavi del Commune di Gavi ($17.99) Okay, the grape is cortese, and this wine is from Serralunga D’Alba. One of this producer’s most popular wines. Low temperature fermentation in stainless steel and then aged for 18 months in Slovenian oak. Beautifully balanced you will find peaches, pear and minerality and a chalky finish. Will work as an aperitif or with light fish dishes and fresh cheeses. 2002 Savese Picchieri “Le Petrose” Primitivo del Taranto IGT ($15.99) Primitivo and zinfandel share the same DNA, as one Puglian put it, “They are like twins separated at birth.” This wine’s bouquet has plum and currant and the palate brings plum jam, blackberries and raspberries notes with under tones of hay and oriental spice. This full-bodied wine will show best with red meats, game and stews. Poggiarellino is one of those small boutique wineries in the town of Montalcino. Small production, HUGH values. 2003 Poggiarellino Rosso di Montalcino ($13.99) Baby Brunello at its best! This rosso is aromatic, balanced with the terroir of Montalcino. Bright fruit jumps out on the palate, raspberries and black cherries rounded off with touches of leather, spice and a cherry stone bitterness on the finish. Try with aged Pecorino or a Tri-tip steak. Yum! 2000 Poggiarellino Brunello di Montalcino ($29.99) Yes, that’s right, $29.99 for a Brunello! Needs a couple of hours of decanting, and this baby is good to go. On this full-bodied wine you will find plum, chocolate and cherries dancing with smooth and silky tannins. This Brunello will age well for another four to five years, but no need to wait. Prefect accompaniment to hearty pork dishes or the classic accompaniment: wild boar! Salute! —Mike Parres
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