On January 28 (Saturday), we will have an exciting Bordeaux tasting and dinner at the University Club in San Francisco. We will welcome the “Crus Bourgeois Exceptionnels” nine (I said 9) outstanding châteaux and their owners/winemakers. This new Bordeaux designation includes Ch. Poujeaux, Chasse Spleen, Les Ormes de Pez, Phelan Segur, Siran, Haut Marbuzet, Potensac, Labegorce Zede, and de Pez. We will taste the excellent 2003 vintage plus an older wine from each property. $110 per person inclusive. Mark your calendar for February 9 (Thursday) to experience 2004 Burgundies, as we start with a tasting of wines air-freighted in for this event. Then have dinner with both Veronique and Laurent Drouhin at John Bentley’s restaurant in Redwood City. The four-course dinner will include older vintage Burgundies from Drouhin and wine from Domaine Drouhin in Oregon. Cost is $100 per person, including tax and tip.
On Thursday, September 1, 2005, I was lucky enough to be in Warehouse #2 at the Bruichladdich Distillery with Jim McEwan. We were evaluating whisky as part of my Bruichladdich Whisky Academy experience. When we got to the 1966 Lochside, the world seemed to stop and the only thing that existed was the beauty of this malt. The Lochside has been aging in a refilled Bourbon cask. What struck me first was the amazing color. The deep rich amber and gold of mature Sauternes. Right out of the cask it was so vibrant and alive, all strawberry jam and cranberries. It was one of the best malts I have ever had in my life to date! Lochside Distillery is no longer in existence, which makes this malt even more rare. It was located in city of Montrose, north of Dundee. Do not miss out on this extraordinary single malt. Buy two, one for now and one to put away for the future. You will not be disappointed! If you buy just one single malt this holiday season, make it the 1966 Lochside! —Susan Purnell
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 email@example.com 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
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