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The Freewheel line with a couple of English friends.

It takes a lot of beer to keep the wine business running smoothly. Here in Redwood City, we are very fortunate to have a great English style ale producer right in our backyard: Freewheel Brewing Company. The staff of K&L are fictures at our local pub, and it is a rare moment when one of us isn't there having a pint and a bite of their excellent food. We are also lucky enough to be the first place to offer their bottled beer for sale. If you have never had it, the Freewheel Brewing "FSB" Freewheel Special Bitter, California (500ml) is the benchmark in fresh, balanced, smashable ale. We will do our best to keep some in stock for you, the customer too!

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Friday
Nov132015

Champagne Itinerary #4: The Aube

The "Cadole" is an ancient stone hut that Aube vignerons used in the past for shelter when working in the vineyards. Vivien Lamoureux showed me several on our tour of Les Riceys.

Taking a trip down to the Aube is a worthwhile adventure, and for any wine loving traveler who is visiting both Champagne and Burgundy it is a must. From Epernay, it is about 1 & 1/2 hours trip on the A26 & A5 motorways, from Dijon in Burgundy it is the same time on the A5 & A31. On the way down from Epernay you will pass through miles and miles of France’s cow town- the production area for brie, and the hilly farms between Dijon and the Aube are equally gorgeous.

Most of the producers here feel closer to the vignerons of Burugndy than the marketing masters of Reims, and there is a tremendous amount of creative energy in the region. In the past, this was the poor part of Champagne. In fact, the harvest party in the Aube is called the “Chien”, the French word for dog, while in the Marne it is the “Cochelet”, or pig. Apparently, a pig was too valuable, even when the harvest was done, to slaughter for the party. In 1911 the producers from the Aube staged a demonstration to keep the right to grow Champagne that turned into a famous riot. Nobody has questioned them since!

The soil is very different here to the chalk of the Marne area. The Aube is mostly kimmeridgian clay, and very similar to Chablis which is just south of here. This soil lends Chablis like character to the base wines, and also makes for shallower, higher caves… This stuff is not easy to excavate! The weather is also decidedly more continental here, with colder winters and warmer summers than in the Marne. With spring frost always a threat, very little Chardonnay is grown in the area, but the warm weather in summer makes Pinot Noir reliably ripe and it is by far the most planted grape in the region. This was not always the case in the area, and lately many visionary producers have returned to planting Champagnes ancient grapes. The Aube is the place you will find the most plantations of the native Arbanne and Meslier, as well as the Champagne selections of Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc.

The most central base for a Champagne adventure in the town Aube is Bar-sur-Seine. I stayed four nights at a hotel just outside of that town and right next to the motorway. I found this to be a great location for getting to appointments around the Aube, and I recommend it strongly. Here is my list of places to visit in the Aube:

The fish course from one of several good meals at the Val Moret.

Le Val Moret, Rue du Maréchal Leclerc, 10110 Magnant, France Phone:+33 3 25 29 85 12, http://www.le-val-moret.com/en/: This hotel and restaurant is a great base in the Aube, and could not be more centrally located. It is under 10 minutes away from Bar-sur-Seine, one of the few towns in the area big enough to have a laundry, a couple of bakeries, restaurants and a couple super markets. It also has a quite good restaurant, with a solid list of local producers at very fair prices, as well as a reasonable selection of Burgundies. I love the “Terroir” menu of local specialties, and tried most everything on it with great pleasure. It is listed on the English website as the Local Selection menu. The rooms are simple, but very clean, spacious and comfortable. Unfortunately, internet connectivity is a problem in the whole region, and the wifi here is not much good beyond email. On vacation, I would see the lack of connectivity as a bonus! They also have a heated, indoor pool here, which unfortunately I did not have the time to enjoy, but looked fantastic! Light sleepers will rejoice in the quiet here- although the motorway is close, I heard nothing in the room.

If Champagne is a small world- the Aube is a tiny one! Here I am with Jeremy Fluteau, Vivien Lamoureux and Jean-Pierre Fleury... All out to dinner at the Val Moret!

The first wineries are in the south Aube, and if you are planning a day out tasting, would be good to group together. I think two appointments a day are plenty for fun trips… One in the late morning and one in the afternoon.

Jean-Sebastian Fleury and his excellent range of Champagne.

Champagne Fleury: Address: 43 Grande-Rue, 10250 Courteron, France Phone:+33 3 25 38 20 28 http://www.champagne-fleury.fr/ champagne@champagne-fleury.fr : The granddaddy of biodynamics in Champagne, Fleury converted fully to organics in 1989 and has been Demeter certified since 1992. The wines here are the best of their kind, always lively, pure and full of the complexity of long lees ageing. It is worth the trip to see the giant Fouderes used for the Blanc de Noirs alone.

The Fluteau's grandmothers notebook with harvest dates, and harvest party menus going back decades!

Champagne Fluteau: Address: 5 Rue de la Nation, 10250 Gyé-sur-Seine, France Phone:+33 3 25 38 20 02, http://www.champagnefluteau.com/?lang=en : The Fluteau’s make great Aube Champagne and have been blessed with a very large proportion of Chardonnay for the region. Thierry and Jeremy Fluteau speak perfect English- no surprise as Thierry’s wife (Jeremy’s mom) Jennifer is from Chicago!

Les Riceys is the largest of the Champagne villages with 866 hectares. Vivien Lamoureux stands in front of one of his small parts of it.

Champagne Jean-Jacques Lamoureux: Address: 27 Rue du Général de Gaulle, 10340 Les Riceys, France Phone:+33 3 25 29 11 55 http://www.champagne-jeanjacques-lamoureux.com/gb/ champlamoureux@orange.fr : Any trip to the Aube would be incomplete without a visit to Les Riceys, just 3 miles from the boarder of Burgundy. The edge of Champagne is not just famous for bubbles, but also for a still wine called Rose des Riceys, certainly the most ageable and complex of all still roses. Vivien Lamoureux makes great, fruit driven, Pinot Noir dominated Champagne primarily, along with some great specialties like his wood fermented trilogie.

Jean-Felix Josselin and I in his clean, modern cellar in Gye.

Champagne Jean Josselin: 14 Rue des Vannes, 10250 Gyé-sur-Seine, France, +33 3 25 38 21 48, http://www.champagnejeanjosselin.fr/index.php?lang=en contact@champagnejeanjosselin.fr Jean-Felix Josselin is making the most transparent, terroir driven, kimmeridgian flavored wines in the area. They have finesse and texture that is all Champagne, but a range of flavors that are startlingly Chablis like. There brand new reception area was still under construction when I visited, but it will be gorgeous when it is done. The best part of the visit is the friendly old winery cat… He jumped right in my lap when I sat down to taste and take my notes!

 

The following wineries are in the north-eastern part of the Aube, and once again would be good to group together. Be mindful of how long the appointments last in France and don’t overbook yourself!

Delphine and Francis Brulez in the middle of their excellent, organic vineyards.

Champagne Louise Brison: Hameau du Grand Mallet, 10360 Noé-les-Mallets, France +33 3 25 29 62 58 http://www.louise-brison.fr/en/welcome-champagne-louise-brison The all organic, mostly wood fermented Champagne’s of Francis and Delphine Brulez have almost broken our website on a couple of occasions due to the overwhelming demand. These are sleek, complex Champagnes of great finesse and worth driving to the middle of nowhere to taste at the source. The trip to Noe-les-Mallets can be disorienting- you will past a giant wind farm and seemingly endless wheat fields before dropping into a valley of gorgeous vineyards. They also have oaks on their property with truffles… But they don’t sell them! They are all to eat!

Michel Drappier next to one of his Fromenteau vineyards- the Champagne selection of Pinot Gris.

Champagne Drappier: Rue des Vignes 10200 Urville – France +33 (0)3 25 27 40 15 - +33 (0)3 25 27 41 19info@champagne-drappier.com http://www.champagne-drappier.com/en/champagne-drappier Drappier is one of the very few grand marque houses in the Aube, but is run more like a great Burgundy domain than a Reims Champagne selling factory. The house is loaded with history, and the family has been making wine for eight generations. Drappier is at the cutting edge of Champagne in so many ways- low sulphur counts, the largest plantations of all the old varieties, plowing with horses, barrel fermentation, the list goes on and on. This is one of the great visits in the Aube… Don’t miss it!

Inside the Clos du Bligny with Champagne natives Arbane and Meunier.

Chateau de Bligny: Address: Rue du Château, 10200 Bligny, France Phone:+33 3 25 27 40 11 http://www.chateaudebligny.com/en/welcome/index.php The only Chateau bottled Champagne is located just one village over from Drappier. This gorgeous castle has 30 hectares of vineyards, and produces one of the very few Clos bottlings in Champagne. The Chateau de Bligny Cuvee Six Cepages Brut Champagne is a field blend of Pinot Noir, Meunier, Chardonnay, Arbanne, Meslier and Pinot Blanc and comes from a walled vineyard just behind the castle.

I hope this encourages you to explore the Aube on your next trip!

A toast to you!

 

Gary Westby

Thursday
Nov122015

Parent: Our Best from the Cote de Beaune

Anne Parent with Gary and a basket of fantastic Burgundy.

I have loved the wines of Domaine Parent for a very long time, and I am proud to say that they are now a direct import for us. I first became acquainted with these wines in Champagne as they are prominent on the lists of some of my favorite places to dine in Epernay; Les Berceaux and Chez Max. Anne Parent, who runs the domain has a sister that lives in Champagne and sells her Burgundy in the region. They are 12th generation growers, and even list Thomas Jefferson as a former client! Trey, Alex and I were lucky enough to meet Anne over lunch last month in Burgundy and her wines were spectacular. We are so excited about them that we are offering them as pre-arrivals. They should arrive in April of 2016.

Domaine Parent is a 25 acre estate with vines across the Cote de Beaune, almost all red. They are certified organic, and have been working biodynamically with a certification for that on the way. All of the grapes are handpicked, and they de-stem most everything. In 2013 they used no stems at all. The wines are very well balanced and reflect their place of origin very well. Anne does not use a lot of new oak, and even the wines with a higher proportion of new barrels do not show it. A lot of this will be going in my cellar! Here is what we have on offer:

2013 Domaine Parent Ladoix 1er Cru "La Corvée" ($39.99 Pre-Arrival- scheduled to arrive in April 2016): This wine comes from 42 year old vines in the mid-slope of Ladoix. It has a very generous, cool, pure Pinot Noir nose and is medium bodied and supple in the mouth. This refreshing red went very well with the pate en croute that we enjoyed with Anne. It should improve for five years in the cellar, but is drinking great right now.

2013 Domaine Parent Beaune1er Cru "Les Epenottes" ($49.99 Pre-Arrival- scheduled to arrive in April 2016): This plot of vines is just under Clos des Mouches and adjacent to Pommard. Anne selected the 75 year old and 45 year old vines from within this plot for the 2013, but the domain also has some 7 year old vines in this vineyard. The wine went into 25% new oak. I loved this wine for its cool, black fruit on the nose and explosive purity on the palate. As it developed in the glass, it became more and more perfumed. It was a long, bright finishing wine that I enjoyed immensely.

2010 Domaine Parent Pommard ($49.99 Pre-Arrival- scheduled to arrive in April 2016): When we saw that Anne had some of the great 2010 vintage left, we jumped at the chance to secure a small allocation. This wine is made from 50 year old vines from Les Noizons near the border with Beaune. It sees 30% new oak.

2013 Domaine Parent Pommard 1er Cru "Les Chanlins" ($67.99 Pre-Arrival- scheduled to arrive in April 2016): My favorite wine of our tasting with Anne, this Pommard was loaded with lovely perfume… This is the type of wine that you don’t want to move on from, but rather keep drinking! It comes from the Volnay side of Pommard from 15 year old vines and sees about 30% new oak. I could not get enough of the delicate, savory cherry fruit and ethereal minerality. This is one of those rare wines that integrates primary fruit flavors with clean earth seamlessly… It was definitely my style of Burgundy!

2013 Domaine Parent Corton-Les Renardes Grand Cru ($99.99 Pre-Arrival- scheduled to arrive in April 2016): The Domaine Parent plot of Les Renardes is 42 years old and sees half new oak in the cellar in most vintages, but the 2013 got 80%. Only six barrels were produced in 2013. This catnip and maraschino powerhouse is wine for the long haul, with great texture and a very long finish. If you have the patience, this will develop into a bottle that will stand on the table with anything.

Gary Westby

Saturday
Nov072015

Domaine Gabriel Billard- Ancient Vine Pinot Noir

Burgundy is the most magical of all wines for the table.

Claudie Jobard, the owner and winemaker of Domaine Gabriel Billard is blessed with ancient Pinot Noir vineyards. Her vines in and around Pommard are almost all ancient massal selected granddaddies, and the wine that she makes out of them have the concentration and depth that one would expect from such a noble source. While she studied oenology, her father was a nurseryman, and her love of her vines is clear from the moment you first speak to her in her cellar.

Claudie Jobard, owner and winemaker at Billard with K&L's own Gary Westby in her cellar.

I bought a bottle of her 2012 Domaine Gabriel Billard Bourgogne Rouge "Cuvée Milliane" ($19.99) first thing when I got back from Burgundy, and served it with homemade chicken-pot-pie. This bottle comes from 60-80 year old vines just below the village of Pommard and has enough mid pallet texture to be confused for village level stuff. I love the crunchy, high energy, red fruit drive of this refreshing bottle, as well as the long finish. If you like your Burgundy for the table, this is one not to miss. It should keep very well, and I can’t wait to check in on the rest of my bottles over the next five or so years.

A great bottle at a fair price!

We were very lucky to be able to get an allocation of some older magnums from this Domaine as well. All of these come from 100+ year old vines in her parcel of Charmots. This parcel is so steep and off camber that everything must be done by hand in it. She makes about three barrels a year of this gem. Here is what we have:

2010 Domaine Gabriel Billard Pommard 1er Cru "Les Charmots" (1.5L) $109.99

2007 Domaine Gabriel Billard Pommard 1er Cru "Les Charmots" (1.5L) $94.99

1996 Domaine Gabriel Billard Pommard 1er Cru "Les Charmots" (1.5L) $149.99

Gary Westby, K&L

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