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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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« Spanish & Portuguese Wine News 5/2/12: Back from Spain! | Main | Live Blogging From Champagne »

Live Blogging From Champagne #2: Clicquot

Visiting the wine library of Veuve Clicquot (the Cave Privee) is quite an experience. Sometime in November, Clicquot will be re-releasing a tiny quantity of old vintages which have been untouched in their deep caves in Reims- and I was lucky enough to be invited there to taste a preview by Pierre Casenave, one of the winemakers. If you are interested in his perspective on the vintage program, you can watch the interview I did with him earlier this month here:

The ancient Crayers, or chalk cellar in the video was not conducive to recording audio, so my notes on the wines tasted are here:

The Brut Vintage wines hover around 60% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 10% Meunier. The roses are the same, but include more Pinot Noir in the form of about 13% red wine from Bouzy, which is also Pinot Noir.

2004 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame: This wine is the new release of the LGD, which was last made in 1998, skipping the widely declared vintages of 1999, 2000 and 2002. It will arrive in the US around November. It is composed of 69% Pinot Noir and 31% Chardonnay and is an extraordinarily fresh style, very consistent with the other very good 2004's that I have had. Like 1988, I think this vintage will surprise and delight Champagne lovers with the space and patience to cellar some bottles. It has a pale straw color and a vivacious nose. I found it to be creamy and round, but still finished with a lot of minerality.

1990 Veuve Clicquot "Cave Privee" Brut Vintage: This is a rich, full bodied Champagne that is only just starting to show aged flavors at 22 years old. On the nose it was quite buttery with a charming chanterelle mushroom component. It was very textural and broad in the mouth, and much richer than one would expect from a Champagne that was only dosed at 4 grams per liter. Truly excellent wine. This is the second time I have tasted it, and earlier this month Pierre and I had it with lobster, which was a perfect match.

1980 Veuve Clicquot "Cave Privee" Brut Vintage: A Champagne at its peak of development, this is the first of two in this tasting that I can only compare to Burgundy. The wine was so full of melted butter and truffle aromas and flavors I would equate it to Montrachet to the nose and great old Corton on the palate. This would be a dream to have with Foie Gras!

1989 Veuve Clicquot "Cave Privee" Brut Rose: The youngster of the bunch, and the exception to the rule of the 1989 vintage, which produced mostly fat wines. This rose is young, and still quite tight, with a fresh nose of strawberry fruit that I found almost shockingly primary for a 23-year-old bottle. On the palate the wine shows more development with nougat balanced out by its considerable Chardonnay snap. It finishes super dry, and could use even more time in a Champagne lovers cellar.

1978 Veuve Clicquot "Cave Privee" Brut Rose: This bottle was one of my top Champagne experiences and on par with bottles like the 1964 Collard, 1973 Philippe Gonet and 1976 Krug. With a markedly darker color than the 1989 rose, it reminded me immediately of Vosne-Romanee because of its giant, meaty, black cherry bouquet. On the palate the wine was so decadent, I could only think to compare it to Richebourg. The finish would not stop, and writing this the morning after with dozens of Champagnes, a big dinner and breakfast between, I feel I can still taste it. I have had a few bottles of this stateside, and the immaculate storage of the Clicquot Cave Privee has made a huge difference for this 34-year-old Champagne.

If you are interested in obtaining any of these wines when they arrive in November, please contact me at We will be one of very few places in the USA to get the wines when they arrive direct from Reims.

A toast to you!

-Gary Westby

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