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In December, we drink Champagne at closing at K&L- and we prefer to drink it out of magnum when possible. The highlight this year was the Ariston Aspasie Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne (1.5L) magnum ($74.99) that we had on Christmas eve. This single vineyard beauty comes from the Gouttes d’Or, a very steep east facing parcel in the little village of Brouillet. It was creamy, delicate and perfectly refreshing! We all say to cheers to you, and hope your holiday is filled with fun and friends!

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Friday
Nov062015

The Complexity and Elegance of Champagne Coutelas

Angelique Coutelas personally hand ties every bottle of the Cuvée 1809.

Damien and Angelique Coutelas are eighth generation growers with seventeen and one half acres spread from Villers-Sous-Chantillon to Trepail in Champagne. While their heritage goes back to 1809 and the family has been making Champagne since the 1920’s, they are not traditionalists at all and each year I see them pushing the boundaries in the cellar further. This year they purchased some amphora, clay vessels used in antiquity to ferment and age wine.  Amphora have been steadily making their way back into the most progressive cellars in the region. They are believers in old wood, and have a fine collection of barriques, foudres and demi-muids in their cellars in Dizy and Villers-Sous-Chantillon.

The new label for the Victor- the picture on our website is old... And I am working on it!

I think the most exciting work they are doing is with fractional blending. They have a 7500 liter Foudre that they first filled in 2007, and every year they pull 2500 bottles (one quarter) for a bottling that they call the Louis Victor. I have been following these blends as vin-clair for many years now, and I have to say that the Krug like richness that they are achieving from this novel method is astounding. This is a Champagne that anyone with enough interest to be reading this should follow… Especially given the very fair price that the Coutelas offer this wine for!

The wine from this foudre is called the Amaury Coutelas "Cuvée Louis Victor" Brut Champagne ($34.99) and I had a bottle of it on Halloween with Cinnamon’s gougers. This bottling is a blend of 2007 through 2011 vintages with three years of ageing on the lees. It is a brassy gold color and has a generous nose of fresh forest aromas and brioche toast. In the mouth it has a round, rich, seamless texture and an amazing array of flavors… It is easily one of the most complex Champagnes that we have on the shelf. The truly amazing thing to me is the focus of the wine. It stays completely refreshing, vibrant and mineral on the long finish, which makes the 750ml format seem to small! With only 2500 bottles being produced a year, this is a very limited item. We only received ten cases on the past shipment, but I am angling to get more for the next one!

Damien and Angelique Coutelas in their tasting room.

Their 2006 Amaury Coutelas Vintage Brut Champagne $34.99 is a blend of even parts Meunier and Pinot Noir from 70 year old vines. This is mostly  stainless steel fermented Champagne and shows the power and ripeness of the vintage. It is a very full-bodied wine, with super power in the middle, yet refreshing on the finish- a characteristic that runs through their range of Champagnes. We only received five cases of this, and it is dosed at just six grams per liter.

If you like dark, nearly red, full powered roses, you have to try the Amaury Coutelas "Elixr" Brut Rosé Champagne ($34.99). This is composed of 67% Pinot Noir and 33% Chardonnay but assembled in a completely unique way. Half of the Pinot Noir, sourced from very old vines is macerated into red wine, giving this Champagne strong vinous power and a tremendous amount of savory black cherry fruit. This is a great choice for game birds or turkey. A real powerhouse!

The solera for the Louis Victor continues!

We have already sold 1/3 of their top of the line wine, the Amaury Coutelas "Cuvée 1809" Brut Champagne ($59.99) from the waiting lists that the last batch generated. This stunning all barrel fermented blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir is all 2008 and has the length and finesse to compete with the finest Champagne in the store. Angelique Coutelas ties the top of every one of the 3000 bottles they produce of this with twine- a rewind to the methods of 200 years ago in Champagne. She is one of only three of four people left in the region that knows the technique and has one of the ancient machines for this process! The Champagne is subtle, compelling and loaded with the long mineral driven drive that the great 2008 harvest is famous for.

The Coutelas’ are making great Champagne, and from the vin clair that I have tasted with them it is only getting better. This is a producer that you will want to know if you like richness and complexity in your Champagne.

A toast to you!

 

Gary Westby

Thursday
Oct292015

Loriot Champagne is Back!

Michel Loriot with two of his exquisite 1964's and his current releases.

No one is more serious about Meunier than Michel Loriot. Mr. Loriot farms 17 and ½ acres of vineyard in Festigny, a picturesque village in the Western Valley of the Marne to make his all estate Champagne and the native Meunier is his most planted grape variety. While many of the big houses will talk down the quality of Meunier it is the only one of the big three varieties (the other two being Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) that is indigenous to Champagne and in the right hands it is capable of top quality.

One thing that one hears a lot about Meunier is that it is a nice grape for getting some fruit flavors in a blend, but no good for ageing. This is a myth. Houses like Krug use a lot of Meunier in blends that last for generations, and anyone that has had an old bottle like the ones in the picture above will not need convincing. It is true that Meunier can taste better young than Chardonnay or Pinot Noir in Champagne, but that does not mean that it can’t keep! Tasting the two 1964’s from Loriot, one disgorged in the 1970’s and one disgorged that morning, is an experience I’ll never forget. The old disgorgement was deep gold, and full of dried apricot fruit and fall leaf-pile aromas. It had very full body, sweet fruit in the mouth and great leathery complexity. The freshly disgorged bottle, which received no dosage, was many shades lighter in color and much brighter and lighter in the mouth, but still very complex. Both were among the greatest Champagne’s I have ever tasted- period. Just thinking about them now gives me goose bumps… It was impossible for me to pick a favorite between the two.

While old bottles like this are not available for sale, Mr. Loriot’s top wine in current release leaves very little to be desired. I had the 2007 Michel Loriot "Monodie Meunier" Extra Brut Champagne ($49.99) earlier this week with a parmesan cream risotto that I made at home. Mr. Loriot loves the combination of parmesan with this old vine Champagne for great reason, and the risotto brought the electricity and vibrancy of this big, structured wine to the forefront.  He calls this wine monodie because it comes from one plot, a small south facing, mid slope filet called the l’Arpent. This vineyard was planted back in 1942, and is the only vineyard I have ever heard of that was planted during the 2nd world war in Champagne. These shy baring, old vines give a wine with subtle pear fruit and the 7 years of ageing on the lees give a frame of fresh baguette aromas. This wine is concentrated in the mouth, with plenty of minerality as well as body, but it finishes very dry- it is dosed at just 5g/l. Every fan should try this great wine once.

His normal range is fantastic as well- the Michel Loriot "Authentic" Brut Champagne ($29.99 750ml, $64.99 magnum, $16.99 half bottle) is an extroverted, fresh Meunier style that is aged for three years on the lees and contains 50% reserve wines. I love the pie crust aromas and rich mouthfeel of this Champagne- especially since it is married to a crisp, dry finish. He also makes the best off dry Champagne, that we carry, the Michel Loriot "Marie-Leopold" Sec Champagne ($34.99), which I did a feature on here.

I hope you will join me in drinking some of these great Champagnes!

A toast to you!

 

Gary Westby

Thursday
Oct292015

République: An Experience to Remember

publique has become somewhat of an institution in Los Angeles since its opening in 2012. Despite this reputation, I had not dined at République until this past week.  I had been to the space numerous times for industry wine tasting and seminars, but somehow completely overlooked it for dinner.  I am pretty new to LA (approaching two years), so when I began looking for places to dine for my 4 year anniversary this month, République was at the top of my list. It fit all my requirements for a special occasion: incredible wine list, small plates to share, and a beautiful space.  So last night we splurged on the... UberPlus I believe they are calling it these days, and headed over to République to celebrate.  

 

I know what I am about to say is naive, being that République used to be home to such beloved places as the La Brea Bakery and Campanelli, but since I'm new to LA I hope you will cut me some slack when I say...HAVE YOU SEEN THIS PLACE? (of course you have) IT IS F**KING BEAUTIFUL!  Apparently, it was built by Charlie Chaplin in 1928 as a mixed-use space with various shops and office spaces, complete with tiled fountains, mezzanines, and courtyard.

 

I’ve been hearing about how incredible this place is, basically since the first week I moved here.  It has been hyped up to me by many of my friends and strangers alike for almost two years. There is always that fear that something won’t live up to its expectations, but the minute we walked through the door and sat down at a romantic little candle-lit table in the back, we knew it would exceed our expectations. There is a comforting feeling about the staff and the service that lets you know you will be taken care of.  

I will try not to go too far into detail, seeing as many of you have already had the pleasure of dinning here.  The team at Republique made this night so special for us. From the immediate congratulatory glasses of Krug to the moment we walked out the door, we couldn’t stop smiling.  Sommelier Adam Ohler paired our courses immaculately, starting with one of my favorite producers from the Loire Valley, Chateau de Breze’s bottling “Clos de la Rue.” This elegant white was paired with six of the most delicate, soft, and absurdly delicious East Coast oysters I’ve ever eaten. They were quite possibly the best oysters we’ve ever had, no doubt improved by the chilled glass of Chenin Blanc. The Clos de la Rue displayed notes of wet stones, honeysuckle, celery root and mouthwatering acidity coupled by a beautiful textural component that paired perfectly with oysters. Can’t find the “Clos de la Rue”? Try their other incredible bottlings, Clos David and Clos Midi.

 

We followed up the oysters with bone marrow and escargot that Adam paired with a Swiss cider that had lots of tang and just a touch of sweetness to pair with the caramelized, sweet components in the bone marrow, I don’t think I need to explain how good the bone marrow is, it's molten cow essence for god's sake. The escargot is served in a little shot glass filled with melted herb butter and topped with flakey puff pastry that is delicately wrapped around the escargo.  At Adam's suggestion, we ripped off the flaky pastry cap, nestled the escargot in its pillowy goodness, doused it in the butter, devoured it, and chased it with the remaining butter. Okay, he may not have told us to chase the remaining butter but it seemed appropriate at the time.

 

When deciding what main course to go with, we were intrigued by the options of duck and pig’s head, but Adam mentioned his favorite was the chicken.  A seemingly simple choice, but chicken cooked right can be magical.  Joe and I hadn’t had a great chicken since our year living in Germany; Germans really know how to cook a chicken. So we were intrigued and went with Adam’s suggestion.  The key to their chicken is that it is rotisserie cooked over a wood fire. At République they have a wood fire, a wood grill, and a wood oven, and they know how to use all of them. Our half chicken was moist with flakey skin and perfectly seasoned, accompanied by duck fat roasted potatoes and carrots.  If a restaurant can cook a great chicken, chances are everything else on the menu will be superb.  

 

With our chicken we had a bottle of 2013 Domaine André & Mireille Tissot Trousseau "Qvevri" Arbois Rouge $49.99 our first wine of the night from the Jura.  This Trousseau was aged in Qvevri, a traditional Georgian clay pot used for fermentation. The wine requires a bit of air and time to open up, but what’s waiting for you is incredible. Notes of cranberry, cherry and wild forest berries coupled with notes of iron, sanguine, forest floor, mushrooms and graphite all wrapped into a light-bodied wine with delicate structure and plush texture.  The combination of fruit and earth coupled with the chicken and duck fat roasted potatoes was bliss.

 

A cheese plate and an Apple Pie en Croute with vanilla ice cream, accompanied by our 2010 Domaine Dugois Vin de Paille Arbois $24.99, was the perfect end to the perfect evening. Vin de Paille is made by drying out grapes on straw mats for about 5 months until they shrivel, developing a highly concentrated sugar content. The result is a dessert wine with flavors of beeswax, fig, orange peel, dried apricot and nuts. With a bite of salty cheese and the ice cream dropped into the Apple en Croute, we sipped our Vin de Paille and savored the end of our experience at République.  


Thank you to Adam Ohler, Taylor Parsons and the entire team at République for providing us with an anniversary we will remember forever. Cheers!

 

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