Sometimes it’s really hard to tell where the truth ends and unreality begins at this establishment. The saying “truth is stranger than fiction” is never more true than within these walls. In the spirit of the month of fooling, I invite you to play the April True or False game with me. Our Champagne buyer Gary Westby has introduced all of us to the great Champagnes of Rene Collard. Mr. Collard is a perfectionist to the point of producing a grand total of three vintage-designated wines in the last 26 years. The 1990 Rene Collard Cuvee Reservee Millesime ($49.99) is the third of the latest of the triumvirate. Collard Champagnes show abundant breed and finesse. This bottling, consisting of 90% meunier and 10% chardonnay, is focused and fresh. As no secondary fermentation is induced, the Cuvee Reservee is crisp and intense with notes of melons and peaches. Fresh as a daisy at the sweet age of sixteen. Westby once went dumpster diving for a bottle of Thomas Kruse non vintage Sauvignon Vert that I tossed out. He drank it! True or false? 1996 was a watershed vintage in Bordeaux, producing wines of great power and longevity. A prolific vintage such as this presents the opportunity for additional bottlings, or “second” wines. The 1996 Pagodes de Cos ($29.99) is such a wine, the little brother to the world-class Cos d’Estournel. The Pagodes carries the house style of exotic ripe black and red fruits and allspice. The quality is absolutely superb, better than many châteaux produced with their flagship bottlings. A great value. Jim Barr once mistook a plastic decoy owl for a real one, and claimed to have seen it spread its wings. True or false? Time for dessert: 1997 was not a year for greatness in Sauternes. Yet it is an important one, as these are the wines to enjoy while the longer-lived wines mature. The restaurants of France are so adept at selecting and showcasing wines from years like ’97, as the wines are more evolved and marry with the food sooner. Here in the states we go for the great vintages, disregarding where the wine may be in its aging cycle. The better houses produced wines of balance in ’97, but with the plump, forthcoming fruitiness that suggests early enjoyment. The sweet 1997 Guiraud ($47.99) has two faces: A lovely drink now with warm, buttery fruitiness, and the potential to age gracefully for a number of years. Clyde Beffa once drove through an outdoor restaurant in the Rhone valley, scattering diners. True or false? O.K. Two more: Jim Barr is the only K&L employee to throw up on the vines of Château Latour. True or false? Trey Beffa once listed the city of an Iowa-based customer as Cedar Rabbits. True or false? Answer: All true of course. —Joe Zugelder
There has been some new and interesting wine terminology that has evolved the last several years; for instance, the term “Vintnervous: to worry that wine comes from a non-prestigious winery.” With that in mind, I am extremely happy that our group of wine buyers at K&L are not vintnervous when they are scurrying around Europe, South Africa, South America, New Zealand and Australia, finding wonderful wines of incredible quality from some very talented, and, in some cases, obscure producers. I am also extremely happy that our ever-expanding customers have come to respect our buyers’ wine-buying decisions and are not afraid to venture where many vintnervous customers will not, and experience some truly remarkable productions. The first case in point is the fabulous 2004 Maison Champy Bourgogne Chardonnay “Signature” ($14.99) that Keith discovered on one of his buying trips to Burgundy last year. The 2004 whites from Burgundy are breathtaking, wondrous creatures. As one of the oldest houses in Beaune (founded in 1720), this very fine production from Maison Champy is a blend of barrel-fermented (80% new French oak) chardonnay from vineyards from Puligny-Montrachet, Meursault and Rully, and is a pure statement as to the greatness of this vintage. With just a touch of toasty oak, the bouquet erupts with wet-stone minerality intermingled with white peach and hints of honeysuckle. Your tongue will be rewarded with lush, complex, finely honed fruit flavors that offer incredible structure and backbone, and a mouthwatering finish that goes on forever. This is the perfect, everyday chardonnay, and Eby has told me it will be our house white for the month or else (put the claws away, girl; it will be!). The second case in point is the 2004 Château Marjosse Entre-Deux-Mers Bordeaux Blanc ($9.99) that Clyde and Ralph discovered on one of their buying trips to Bordeaux last year. Under the leadership of Pierre Lurton (Cheval Blanc), this new property’s 2004 production is a blend of semillon (85%) and sauvignon blanc. Providing a lovely aroma of lime zest, lanolin and fig, in the mouth, this pretty white offers a nicely framed wine that is clean and crisp, yet with an underlining richness that carries into the finish. The third case in point is the 2003 Château Peyraud Premieres Cotes de Blaye ($9.99), another Clyde and Ralph discovery. This deeply colored wine is vinified to drink now. Aged in tank only with no small barrel aging, it is mostly merlot (90%) with the balance being cabernet. Lush, ripe cassis to currant-like fruit on the nose and in the mouth, this drinking Bordeaux is soft and silky and is perfect to consume for the next three-plus years while you wait for your classified growths to pick up some bottle age in your cellar. Anderson says this will be one of our two house reds for the month. Finally, the fourth case in point is the 2004 Domaine Phillipe Alliet Chinon ($16.99), a Jeff Vierra Loire Valley discovery from one of his buying trips last year. This is one of my favorite red wines in our massive inventory. Deep ruby in color, this exhilarating cabernet franc is flashy and bold on the nose, yet not over-the-top. There is an uncompromising purity on the tongue with this wine showing complete balance, fleshiness, focused dark fruits, terroir, complexity, tons of structure, soft tannins, and a silky, sleek finish. This is a Gem de la Gems, and Anderson and I both agree it will be our house red for however long it is available. If you have any questions, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy this month’s selection or else! —Jim, Anderson, & Eby
This month, dear reader, I have stumbled (no, flitted) my way onto Jeff Vierra’s German wine page in order to talk about one of my favorite, and in my opinion, most beautiful wines in the world: riesling! Now don’t get me wrong, I do love wines from my old stomping ground of, say, Corbieres, Cornas and Cahors. On the palate these hearty reds can be full of black fruit, beef blood and exhibit a magnificent sinewy texture. But could I, would I, drink these wines all the time? Hell no! Enjoying wine, as with Life, is all about finding balance, and along with the brawn, I absolutely must have beauty to make my wine drinking life meaningful. The 2004 Schmitt-Wagner Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg Kabinett ($19.99) is a riesling that puts a smile on my face and a kick in my step. I’ve even been known to start dancing with myself after a glass or two. This ’04 Mosel is so pure and clean, that drinking it makes me feel like a kid again. Young, alive and VIBRANT!! And would you believe that this snappy, zippy, bright, lithe gem of a wine hails from 107-year-old un-grafted vines grown on pure Blue Devonian Slate? Despite all of its green apple and nectarine charm, this assuming kabinett has the structure to last 15 plus years. Have you fallen in love yet? There is a Chinese proverb concerning beauty that encourages the following: When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other. Well folks, riesling is my lily, and my world is certainly more rich and beautiful for drinking it. —Mulan Chan
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