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
We (Clyde, to be more precise) are still finding an occasional 2000 Bordeaux (mostly of the Cru Bourgeois level) floating around from our sources both here and in France, and, in some cases, at very reasonable prices. One positive aspect of these classified lesser growths is that in exceptional vintages like 2000, they will be ready to drink at a much earlier date than the major growths. A perfect example of this comes from a 150-acre, northern Médoc estate, the 2000 Château La Cardonne Blaignan, Médoc ($14.99). Comprised of merlot (50%), cabernet sauvignon (45%) and cabernet franc, this puppy is deeply colored and exhibits lovely, opulent aromatics of black cherries to blueberries with just a touch of cedary oak as a back note. In the mouth, this well-balanced, medium-full bodied Médoc offers tons of ripe fruit, upfront and on through to the finish, soft integrated tannins, good complexity and a warm lengthy finish. Along the same thought patterns as the above, we have just received our third shipment of 2003 Château Souvenir, Bordeaux Superieur ($9.99), also from a very serious vintage. This excellent Bordeaux from Saint-Medard-De-Guizieres, just northwest of the city of Bordeaux, is totally vinified to drink now. A blend of merlot (60%) and equal amounts of cabernet sauvignon and franc, you will discover a wonderful wine that is lush, round and soft, loaded with cassis to blackberry fruit, good length and a very forward appeal. Buy this to drink near-term while you wait for your 2003 classified growths to evolve. One of the most unique and compelling red wines that I can recall tasting of late is the 2004 Domaine L’Attilon Marselan Rouge ORGANIC ($8.99). Marselan is a new grape that is a cross between cabernet sauvignon and grenache, and is being planted in southern France around Aude and Bouches du Rhone. This 2004 organically produced wine from Domaine L’Attilon explodes with currant to blackberry fruit with spicy undertones on the nose and in the mouth. There is a hint of floral tones reminiscent of jasmine, too, with excellent acid structure, excellent firmness and depth of character, and with a long, delicious finish. Anderson has told me that this is most definitely our house red for the month, with the other two in strong contention. Our Burgundy wine buyer, Keith Wollenberg, discovered the Mâcons of Denis Barraud, an extremely small but super-high-quality producer, in 2002. His estate productions have been exceptional, and the 2004 Domaine des Nembrets St-Veran ($13.99) from Barraud is, without a doubt, one of the finest village Mâcons that I have ever put in my mouth. It is very broad, very rich, almost creamy on the palate, yet bright and vibrant and has that classic minerality that comes from the hills of Roche De Vergisson. This is a must buy for those of you who are looking for excellent white Burgundy to buy but do not want to take a second mortgage out on the homestead to be able to afford to do so. If you have any questions regarding these wines, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy this month’s selection or else! —Jim, Anderson, & Eby
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