This area of Champagne is famous for being one of the most extensively harvested for Champagne production. It is also home to some of the best pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes grown in Champagne. For April, I am pleased to present two red grape-based Champagnes. Many of you are familiar with the Philippe Gonet Brut Reserve ($27.99), a masterful blend of 60% pinot noir, 30% chardonnay and 10% pinot meunier. I have a soft spot for this producer because the vintner and his associates are some of the best people in the business. It takes more than an amiable personality to make a good wine, however! All grapes for the Brut Reserve are estate grown, Gonet fruit. The current release is a particular blend from the 2000 (30%) and 2001 vintages (70%). The 2000 stock is from reserve wine. A flavorful, slightly toasty character with a nose of vanilla, fresh-baked bread and citrus fruit. Nectarine fruit in the mouth, with subtle vanilla and a leaner character than the nose suggests. Perfection with lobster soup! Wine number two is somewhat of an oddity. In the case of the Michel Dervin Brut ($24.99), this is not a bad thing! A blend of 60% pinot meunier, 35% pinot noir and 5% chardonnay, this one’s unusual due to the high percentage of meunier used. Those of you who have come to our Champagne tastings know that pinot meunier lends an almost caramel/cognac aspect to Champagne. This results in a nose of brioche, crème caramel and delicate red fruits. In the mouth, there is a distinct toastiness with roasted nuts, dried cherry notes and a hint of lemon curd. An excellent choice for those who like toasty and yeasty Champagnes. The price makes it a MUST have! —Scott Beckerley
After an all-to-long absence the Champagnes of Michel Dervin are back. These are exciting and unique Champagnes from a little-known and very tiny village called Cuchery. They are made by Michel Dervin, who is also the wine maker for Domaine J. Laurens in Limoux. The Michel Dervin Brut Champagne ($24.99) has a wonderful brioche and subtle fruit nose. The flavors are quite concentrated and complex. The Champagne has a great toastiness balanced by lightness on its refreshing and long finish. The cuvee is a blend of 85% 2002 and 15% 2001 vintages. It is made out of 95% estate fruit from small plots in the villages of Cuchery, Damery, Reuil and Chapelle Monthadon in the picturesque valley of the Marne. The 1999 Michel Dervin Brut ($29.99) is a step up in length and balance. With more pinot noir and chardonnay in the blend (70% pinot noir, 30% meunier), this wine has more intense aromas. The flavors are big, broad and very unique. For lovers of a rich style this wine will not let you down. If you have never had a valley of the Marne meunier-based Champagne, these two are a great place to start. Please feel free to contact me at 1 (800) 247-5987 ex 728, or at firstname.lastname@example.org with any of your champagne (or sherry!) needs. Please also drop me a line if you would like to be on my list of Champagne customers. A toast to you! —Gary Westby
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
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