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Bruno Michel "Blanche" Brut Champagne $34.99One of our best non-vintage Champagnes, this organically grown blend of half each Chardonnay and Meunier comes entirely from Bruno Michel's estate. It has been aged for six years on the lees and shows wonderful natural toasty quality as well as incredible vibrance! This was the big hit of our most recent staff Champagne tasting and we think you will love it too.

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Entries in Amaury Coutelas (3)

Friday
Aug022013

Champagne Friday: Midsummer Roundup

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

As much as I like to talk Champagne with all of you, I thought it might be a fun change of pace to share  some of my co-workers' favorite Champagnes this summer. Here is a roundup of some of the top staff selections from the last month. Enjoy!

Fleury "Carte Rouge" Blanc de Noirs Brut Champagne ($39.99) Consistently one of my favorite direct import producers in our champagne section- Fleury makes complex sparkling wine from 100% pinot noir vines. The result is a rich and decadent sparkler that doesn't sacrifice minerality or brightness for its lush texture. -Mike Barber

 Michel Loriot "Cuvee Reserve" Brut Champagne ($29.99) Top Value! Apple, pie crust toastiness, chalky minerality with a beautiful, persistent bead and balanced acidity. This is the real deal, folks. I love this 100% Meunier, insanely affordable Champagne! -Sarah Covey

2005 Amaury Coutelas Vintage Brut Champagne ($39.99) I had the fortune to revisit this incredible Champagne in the company of Angelique and Damien Coutelas, who were recently in town for a producer visit and consumer tasting. The 2005 impressed me before, and upon re-tasting I was amazed at how it has blossomed over the last six months in something even richer and deeper. Worth a serious revisit! 70 year old Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir vines are the source of this enticing Champagne, and in the cooler 2005 vintage these naturally low-yielding vines yielded even less than usual. The result is a rich, complex Champagne with a creamy texture and savory elements that make it ideal for pairing with food. Lemony, bready aromas lead in the nose, followed by flavors of nutty lees and fresh-buttered sourdough toast on the palate. The dry finish that leaves lingering saline-like mineral and nutty flavors. This would be superb with many seafood dishes or a simple roast chicken, and makes a lovely gift. From a producer that is brand new to the US market and that you can only find at K&L, this is a real special deal here. -Chiara Shannon

Bruno Michel "Blanche" Brut Champagne ($34.99) I am just one in a long line of staff members at K&L to fall head over heels for this wine. It is the balance of mineral freshness with the pure and elegant fruit qualities that really set this wine apart. Great for the wine geek, and any sort of setting. Really delicious. -Kyle Kurani

2004 Launois "Spécial Club" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($59.99) Special wine and not just in name! As with all Special Club bottlings this comes from Launois' top parcels of vines. The wine has extra time on the lees which not only enhances its depth and quality but also gives the wine great oxidation resistance to allow for extended cellaring. The vibrant acidity of the 2004 vintage gives energy and life to this wine that is simply a delight to drink now and will only get better with time. -Ryan Woodhouse

Ariston Aspasie "Carte Blanche" Brut Champagne ($27.99) Vines have been cultivated on this tiny property in the hamlet of Brouillet for five generations, and it has remained a customer and staff favorite here for several years. Yeasty, full and complex, the Carte Blanche exhibits a fine intensely-focused bead with lively notes of tart apples, dried hazelnuts, vanilla and toast, all in all a remarkably well-built Brut that will compare well to cuvées at double the price. It is perfect for entertaining. Top Value! -John Majeski

Franck Bonville "Belles Voyes" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($67.99) Based on the 2004 vintage, this is a terrifically rich and very lovely champagne, made from old vines, planted in the 1920s, long before commercial clones were available. The reulting concentration and depth is a reward that exceeds many champagnes costing well over $100. -Keith Wollenberg


And of course, I couldn't resist adding one of my own...

Billecart-Salmon Extra Brut Champagne ($54.99/Wine Club) I love extra brut Champagne, and Antoine Billecart has made a great example of the style with this bottling. He and I drank this along with his team at Quince in SF the last time he was here, and with four years on the lees, it came across as dry, but without a hint of austerity. Many big houses lack respect for Meunier, but not Billecart- this wine gets its charm from the clean fruit that this indigenous grape brings to the blend. It is composed of 40% Meunier, 30% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir and the long, cool fermentation and generous lees time has given this wine the fruit and balance to please even a first time extra brut drinker. To watch the video from my visit with Antoine at Billecart-Salmon in Mareuil-sur-Ay this past April, click here.

A toast to you,

-Gary

Friday
Jul262013

Champagne Friday: Special Coutelas Tastings with Angelique and Damien Coutelas at K&L

Angelique and Damien Coutelas of Champagne Amaury Coutelas.

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

We will have some very special guests visiting K&L over the next couple weeks, Angelique and Damien Coutelas of Champagne Amaury Coutelas from Villers-Sous-Chatillon in the Western Valley of the Marne. We will be hosting tastings with them in all three K&L locations. Many of you are familiar with them from their excellent 2005 Amaury Coutelas Vintage Brut Champagne ($39.99) that we featured last year in the Champagne club. This young couple are making top class Champagne, and this is a rare opportunity to taste with and ask questions directly of the wine-maker owners of this great estate.

The Coutelas family has been growing grapes in Champagne since 1809, and making their own wines since the 1920’s. They own seventeen and one half acres, mostly in Villers, but they also have property in Ambonnay, Bouzy, Vitry la Francois and Troissy. All of their vineyard is farmed sustainably. These are Champagnes of power and depth, with plenty of dark fruit power and honest toast from long ageing. They use a lot of old oak, and also some new, custom made large foudres. If you have enjoyed the Champagne’s of Tarlant, this is a producer you will want to know!

They will pour the following wines:

2005 Amaury Coutelas Vintage Brut Champagne ($39.99) This half and half blend of Meunier and Pinot Noir come from estate vines that average over 70 years old- among the oldest I have ever heard of in Champagne. The wine is vinified in stainless steel and finished with only six grams per liter of dosage. It is a very full bodied wine, with super power in the middle, yet refreshing on the finish. This great new (but only new to the US!) producer is one to notice!

Amaury Coutelas "Cuvée Louis Victor" Brut Champagne ($39.99)

Amaury Coutelas "Cuvee 1809" Brut Champagne ($59.99) The Cuvee 1809 from Coutelas is  spectacular Champagne composed of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir from vines of over 40 years old. It is vinified in oak without malolactic fermentation and is aged for over eight years on the lees, on a cork, not a crown cap. It is very dry Champagne, with only six grams per liter of dosage. It has flavors of white truffles and intriguing earth- this is Champagne for connoisseurs. It has a very chalky, powerful, fresh finish. This is serious Champagne, and a great thing to try when you feel like you've had it all!

Amaury Coutelas "Elixr" Brut Rose Champagne ($34.99)

Here are the dates, times and places. All tastings will be $5 and walk in only, with no advance tickets.

K&L Redwood City: Monday July 29th, 5pm-6:30pm

K&L San Francisco: Tuesday July 30th, 5pm-6:30pm

K&L Hollywood: Thursday August 8th, 5pm-7pm 

View listings on K&L Local Events

If you can’t make it, I strongly recommend that you pick up a few bottles to try- this is a serious producer!

A toast to you,

-Gary

 

Friday
Jul052013

Champagne Friday: To the Winner Goes the Spoils

 

By: Chiara Shannon| Champagne Lover and Director of the K&L Personal Sommelier Service

K&L staff members have great fortune to taste a lot of wine and compare notes with leading experts in the the business on a routine basis. We participate in weekly staff tastings hosted by our respective buyers, and rare is the day when assorted wines aren't opened in the tasting room for the purpose of staff education. Seriously! Listen in on a conversation between two K&L staff members discussing a wine, beer, or spirit at any given time, and you will come away reaffirmed that you are shopping at the right place, assisted by folks who know their stuff. I am constantly humbled by the depths of knowledge and experience of the collective K&L palate.

Which is why I am inspired to write this week's Champagne Friday. You see, in the latest round of the K&L Staff Blind Tasting Competition (although tasting roulette is more like it), I miraculously won. The prize? My all time favorite Champagne, Amaury Coutelas "Cuvee 1809" Brut Champagne ($59.99) Here are my notes from my first tasting of this marvelous Champagne:

This is incredible Champagne, and very unique. Drawing on winemaking techniques of the 19th century, it was fermented in barrel (no malo), aged for 8+ years on the lees in bottles sealed with corks, manually disgorged, and finished with a cork and twine closure. Stylistically, you could say it's to Champagne what Lopez de Heredia is to white Rioja, but unlike 19thcentury Champagne, this modern revival is dry, with a very low dosage. It offers a stunning array of complex earthy and nutty aromas and flavors with biscuit, mineral, mushroom, and honey accents. The texture is luxuriously rich and layered, but naturally high acidity and the low dosage keep this Champagne fresh and invigorating, with a dry, crisp finish that goes on and on. If you like white wines from the Jura, traditional white Rioja, or are a Champagne fiend looking for something to blow your mind, here you go. Highly recommended.

In late January this year, I brought this Champagne with me to dinner at a well-known restaurant in Napa. I was stunned at the way it revealed layer upon layer of complexity throughout the evening, complementing each course from start to finish in different yet profound ways. It is hard to imagine having the patience to allow a Champagne to last through multiple courses, but this one has so much substance and depth that every sip is a new experience worth savoring for as long as possible. The standout pairing was the duck liver mousse course, but this Champagne held its own with both lamb and steak entrees as well!

As if that isn't praise enough, it is worth mentioning that this Champagne was also K&L Senior Bordeaux Specialist (and HUGE Giants fan) Ralph Sands' choice for toasting when the Giants won the World Series. Now that says something. 

The Challenge

This past Tuesday, the Redwood City managers generously offered to man the store and phones while the rest of the staff members enjoyed a prolonged, catered lunch together. Lawn (well, parking lot) games like ping pong were set up, hip-hop was blasting on the stereo, delicious food was abundant, and so were the wines, which is why when I learned that a ten wine blind tasting had been organized with a prize going to the winner, my first reaction was to mentally decline. Blind tasting is hard! It requires a lot of focus and can be intensely frustrating. Enjoying my ice cream doused with caramel after a huge lunch, I figured my palate was not in the best condition for such a challenge. The potential for embarrassment was high.  

My curiosity got the better of me, however, and eventually I wandered over to the tasting table. There were ten wines, brown bagged; eight in 750ml bottles and two in large format. The tasting sheet demanded five sets of criteria per wine: Vintage, Varietal Composition, Country, Region, and Producer. The rules were simple--No Peeking!--and one point would be awarded per correct answer for each criteria, leading to a total of five points per wine.

My strategy in casual blind tasting is to run through the lineup first, jotting down very short notes on aroma and flavor, but making no conclusions. Then I go through and consider each wine again, with the intention of making a swift decision with minimal mind-changing based on a combination of first and second impressions. I am a big believer in going with the gut; over-thinking a wine has only pushed me farther from accuracy in past tastings.

It was a doozy! In this case 'winning' meant a total of 19 points out of a possible 50 - nowhere near a perfect score (technically an F!) but a respectable effort nonetheless, considering the challenge we were up against. I will spare you the details of the tasting and my notes (including those parts that I got embarrassingly wrong) but in case you are curious, here is the 'answer' key to the challenge:  

Wine #1

Vintage: NV

Varietal: Pinot Meunier   

Country: France

Region: Champagne

Producer: Loriot

 

Wine #2

Vintage: 2009

Varietal: Gruner Veltliner

Country: Austria

Region: Kamptal

Producer: Allram

 

Wine #3

Vintage: 2011

Varietal: Grenache Blanc/Roussanne/Viognier

Country: France

Region: Costiere de Nimes

Producer: Gassier

 

Wine #4

Vintage: 2009

Varietal: Barbera

Country: Italy

Region: Asti

Producer: Chiarlo

 

Wine #5

Vintage: 1998

Varietal: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc

Country: France

Region: Bordeaux

Producer: Grandis

 

 

Wine #6

Vintage: 2007

Varietal: Graciano

Country: Spain

Region: Rioja

Producer: Vina Ijalba

 

Wine #7

Vintage: 2001

Varietal: Cabernet

Country: US

Region: Yountville/Napa

Producer: Grgich Hills

 

Wine #8

Vintage: 2005

Varietal: CS

Country: US

Region: Napa/Rutherford

Producer: Nickel & Nickel

 

Wine #9

Vintage: 1971 Mouton Cadet

Varietal: Merlot/Cab

Country: France    

Region: Bordeaux

Producer: Mouton Cadet

 

Wine #10

Vintage: 1972

Varietal:Cabernet Sauv

Country: US

Region: Napa Valley

Producer: Inglenook

 

The next challenge? Choosing the perfect occasion in which to open this gorgeous Champagne!

When will I open this? What will I pair it with? Who do I invite to share it with me? So many things to consider...

I would like to thank Champagne Buyer Gary Westby for donating this bottle for the prize, and our fearless managers for organizing a great event and tasting. Your efforts are appreciated!

A toast to you,

Chiara