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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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Entries in Ariston (2)


Champagne Friday: Champagne for the Cellar

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Champagne for the Cellar

Nothing compares to mature wine, and Champagne is one of the greatest wines in the world for lasting and gaining complexity over the passage time. However, information on how to age Champagne--and even the question of whether one should--is often contradictory and confusing. Many of you have been to Champagne and undoubtedly been told from the big houses that the ageing has been done for you at the winery, and the wine meant to be drunk as soon as it is released. Well, in this week's Champagne Friday video, I hope to debunk these and other myths and contradictions related to Champagne ageing and storage. Along the way, you'll be taken on a tour of my home walk-in cellar and wine locker, and be given the run down on several different wine cabinet storage options. 

Is your cellar is in need of a Champagne boost? Here are some of my favorite cellar candidates that are in stock now:

Ariston Aspasie "Carte Blanche" Brut Champagne $27.99: Non vintage Champagne in the cellar? Are you crazy? We put a bottle of this in the K&L cellar for 5 years as an experiment, and served it next to the current release at a staff tasting. The verdict was unanimous, the older bottle was just better, with absolutely no lack of freshness. The time had allowed the wine to integrate beautifully, extra complexity to develop and the texture to fill out: all without sacrificing zip. This doesn’t just apply to this bottle- try putting down half a case of your favorite non-vintage and compare it to the current release next year, then the year after that etc. You will be impressed!

2005 Michel Loriot Vintage Brut Champagne $44.99: Traditionally, vintage Champagne is the stuff to put in your cave for the future, and this effortless, elegant Meunier based Champagne will repay keeping for a decade with lacey complexity. Many of the big houses say that Meunier doesn’t age- except for Krug, who use a lot… This wine will prove them right in five years, I bet you it needs 10 to start to toast up!



2002 Launois "Special Club" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne $59.99: After drinking 1964 with Bernard Launois on my last trip, and 1995 earlier this week, no producer excites me more for keeping than Launois. This Champagne, like the 2002 Paillard that is listed next is the ultimate open ended proposition for the cellar: Drink tomorrow or in 30 years! Powerful Blanc de Blancs that gets its richness from old vines and a delayed harvest. It might seem strange that the top bottling is offered younger than the regular vintage, but Mr. Bernard Launois is adamant that extensive sur-lee ageing is reductive and shortens the ultimate life span of the wine. He goes against almost every other producer in Champagne with this iconoclastic opinion, but for anyone who has tasted perfectly stored, great Champagne that has aged on cork, we know it can work! Made from two plots of 65-year-old vines, one in the Grand Cru of Oger called the Chenys and one in Mesnil called the Derriere Maison, this is one of the ultimate expressions of Chardonnay that we have to offer.

2002 Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Vintage Champagne $59.99: This even blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir comes from very old plots in the Grand Cru of Bouzy. It is an intense, concentrated Champagne with a lot of black cherry Pinot character. Like the Launois, you can enjoy it now at 10 years old, or sock it away for your children.



2004 Louis Roederer "Cristal" Brut Champagne $189: This all estate Champagne is nearly always drunk to young. I did not understand the wine for many years, until I was able to taste older bottles and then I got it- this is great stuff. I think the 2004 is very much like the great 1988, which is just now starting to show its stuff. If you have the budget and the patience, it will not disappoint.


A toast to you!



Check out more educational wine & spirits videos from Gary and the experts at K&L on YouTube!


First Stop: Ariston!

It is great to be back in Champagne, and even better to be welcomed by the Aristons for my first stop of the trip. I experimented with the TGV for the first time; Air France Flight 83 arrives at 11:15 and the train for Champagne-Ardennes leaves at 12:54. With the slow baggage delivery at CDG I am not ready to recommend this way of getting to Champagne! I made it by the skin of my teeth, but set a new personal record for arriving in the region: 1:24. Traveling at 300 kilometers per hour on the ground is a thrill for anyone who is into speed, but almost missing the train is a stressful way to start a business trip…

The Aristons, as usual, have been working very, very hard. Paul Vincent just took delivery of a new Coquard diagonal press, which promises to improve quality at his domain by allowing for far gentler pressing. Since these machines are also very quick to unload and clean, they also speed up the process, getting the grapes out of the bins and into the press, which will further increase quality.

Paul Vincent with the new diagonal press

They have also changed their labels; now the entire range will use the Aspasie name. They have an uncle in the village that has the same name, but trades his grapes for bottles at the local co-op, and then makes his labels look as much like theirs as possible. The quality of this 15 month old co-op wine is not anywhere close to the fantastic wine that they make here, so they are happy to have a name that they can protect: their great-great grandmother's!

Paul Vincent with the new Ariston Carte Blanche - now Aspasie!

We were joined at the tasting by the most serious Champagne journalist writing in the English language, Peter Liem. He has been uniformly impressed with the quality of the 2008 harvest, and the vin clair (Champagne that has not yet been made to have bubbles) from the Aristons certainly told that story well. We tasted seven, and they were all fantastic. The Aspasie Brut Prestige, made from 60-plus-year-old vines impressed me the most, with its butterscotch power, vinous weight and generous aromas—a big wine that came together with an effortless lift on the back palate, and a long, mineral finish.

We also tasted the entire range of current releases, starting with a new wine: the Cepages d’Agntan. This is from new plantings of ancient Champagne varietals and is composed of 40% Petite Meslier, 40% Arbanne and 20% Pinot Blanc. Paul Vincent dosed this at 9 grams per liter, though it tastes even drier, due to the extremely punchy, direct influence of the two native varieties. I think this is the most special wine that the Aristons have yet released and that it will take its place among the best Champagnes we have to offer. Like the vin clair of the Aspasie I mentioned above, the Cepages d’Agntan had very impressive breadth, lots of exotic (Peter called it pine sap- like) flavor and a completely dry, very long finish.

Paul Vincent pours the ancient varietal Champagne

He is also ready to release his 2002 now, and it too will be wearing the Aspasie label from now on. This wine was unlike any Ariston, or for that matter, any Champagne I have ever had. It is oeiul du perdrix-colored; like dark onion skin; almost rosé! Apparently some of the young vines, that had great flavor, also took on a lot of color. It has a huge nose of caramel apple and a super-rich, winey mid palate. Fans of a big style Champagne will love this; it is the fattest, richest 2002 I have had.

Caroline shows us the 2002

My next stop is Krug!

—Gary Westby, reporting from Champagne