Single vineyard Champagne is a passion for me, and I feel very lucky to have had a chance to taste more than my fair share of them. Not many are made, fewer make it to the USA and of the handful here, most are very expensive. The Bruno Michel Premier Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($39.99) is an exception- it offers great value for money as well as the thrill of specificity.
This past spring, I had a chance to visit Bruno in Pierry, just south of Epernay. This is a premier cru rated village, and famous for the Chardonnay planted on chalky, east facing slopes. Bruno took my father and I up to Les Brousses, one of the best sites in the village to show us the terroir and explain the impact it has on the wines. It was a freezing day in April, but exhilarating to be up at the top of the village looking back at Epernay, surrounded by the organically grown vines that were planted all the way back in 1964. Bruno uses this vineyard as one of his sources for his massal-selected Chardonnay, as he prizes diversity in his vineyard and never uses clones. He has been certified organic since 2006 by Ecocert.
The wine from this site is always among the most focused, precise and electric of all the Champagne’s that we carry here at K&L. This is due to the fact the Pierry is located in a sub area of Champagne known as sud-Epernay, one of the coldest micro climates in all of Champagne. Virtually no Pinot Noir is grown in this area, as it just won’t ripen. Meunier is grown on most sites, and Chardonnay on steep slopes that face east- they need the slope to carry away the frost that is a constant danger in the spring.
I love this blanc de blancs with shellfish and last week Cinnamon and I got a very welcome call from my friend Henry Hiatt, who manages the Fish Market Restaurant in Palo Alto. He told us that they just received an air shipment from Alaska of fresh King Crab, and it turned out to be a one day engagement. These fabulous crustaceans were from test pots, and because of the government shut down, it remains to be seen whether there will be a season or not. Luckily, we had our chance… And brought the best possible bottle to go with it!
The buttery decadence of the King Crab calls for a very high acid wine and the Bruno Michel Premier Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs is a perfect match. It cut through the rich meat with ease, and the sweetness of the crab brought the subtle white fruit in the Champagne to the forefront. This was one of my top Champagne experiences of the year, and I loved every sip of this mineral laden masterpiece. I also find this wine a great partner for our local Dungeness (only weeks away!) as well as East Coast blue crab. If it has a shell, the Les Brousses is the Champagne for the job!
A toast to you! -Gary Westby