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Château de Brézé has a long and storied history, first being mentioned in texts in 1068, lauded by King René of Anjou in the 15th century and served at all the royal courts. In 1957, when the AOC of Saumur Champigny was established, the owner of Château de Brézé refused to be part of the appellation, saying that his estate's vineyards were the best and deserved an appellation all their own. And he was probably right. Unfortunately, the wines from those exceptional vineyards were terrible. Lucky for us, the winery sold in 2009 to Le Comte de Colbert, who recruited Arnaud Lambert from nearby Domaine de Saint Just to make the wine. He changed the vineyards over to organic farming and began producing truly stellar wines worthy of their source. The 2012 Château de Brézé Clos David is all estate-grown Chenin Blanc raised in stainless steel to preserve freshness. It has the slightly-oxidized note of a great White Burgundy and a lovely richness that allows it to pair with a variety of foods.

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Entries in Champagne Friday (2)


Champagne XL: 2003 Dom Perignon Rose

DP Rose and smoked salmon- what a luxury!

The Dom Pérignon Rosé is the best wine in the Moet portfolio and I have been fortunate enough to have many great experiences with many vintages. I was very surprised when I learned that they would release a 2003, since as many of you know, it was one of the most difficult vintages in a generation. The summer was so hot that the harvest was the earliest since 1852. Unlike other scorchers like 1976, the big houses had hardly any Chardonnay to freshen up the wine as two thirds of the crop was destroyed in a spring frost.

 The 2003 vintage was undeniably great for one thing in Champagne: red wine. It is very rare to get the kind of heat this far north to make good, rich, red wine, but in 2003 the sun shown bright. To me, it is the high quality of the red wine in this vintage of DP rose that makes it so intriguing, and worth your time to try.

Cinnamon and I paired our bottle with some chunky, rich, peppered smoked salmon from the Mountain View Farmers Market. This oily, flavorful fish on top of olive oil basted crostini brought out the best in the 2003. I would recommend a dish like this with this wine as it is a huge wine and likes the food. This is rose Champagne XL, with breadth and weight on the scale of Burgundy, but flavors that are all Champagne: clean dark fruit, transparent toast, and a yeastiness that DP fans will find familiar and love. The bead is effusive and the texture rich and thick with a finish that is round and fruit driven rather than mineral.

How will it keep? We drank ours in an hour!

How will it age? The cellar master, Richard Geoffroy says it will go the distance. While I usually like higher acid vintages for the long haul, low acid vintages like 1959 have kept perfectly. I will be pleased to find out in a few decades! This is a unique and bold DP rose, and certainly worth your attention. We have a little in stock here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!- Gary Westby


Champagne from a Styrofoam Cup

Sometimes Styrofoam is all there is.When customers ask me if it is OK to fly with Champagne, I always respond that I never fly without it. Now that all liquids must be checked, the bottles go into the luggage area, which is far cooler than the often times hot cabins of airplanes and fully pressurized. This week I flew down to Los Angeles to present the staff Champagne tasting at our Hollywood store and meet with our biggest distributor in Cerritos. Since I was bringing a few samples with me for the staff, I figured I would through in a bottle for my dinner as well.

I went out to my cellar and grabbed a bottle of the Franck Bonville Brut Rose Champagne from last year as I had just got news from Olivier Bonville that we will get a little for the end of the year. As soon as I got to my basic hotel in Cerritos, I put it on ice and started to look for something to drink it out of. The room was equipped with Styrofoam coffee cups, the thin, lined kind. I thought I could do better so I went down to check- but the only thing they had were thicker, milk shake style Styrofoam cups. I didn’t give up.

I ordered sushi at “Sushi Ya” just around the corner from the hotel, and when I went to pick it up, I asked them if they had a little plastic cup… No luck, I got another thick styro! It was time to make do. When I got back, I decided to try both styles and experiment. The thinner, lined styro was much better, and the Champagne surprised me with its resilience in such a poor container. It shouldn’t have surprised me so much.

A few years ago, Cinnamon and I hosted some gentleman from a consulting firm looking into drinking vessels impact on sensual experience with beverages, and we put on a tasting for them. We laid out Riedel glasses; the Sommelier Burgundy, Sommelier Vintage Champagne and Vinum Chianti/ Zinfandel, as well as plastic solo cups, coffee mugs and curled lip Libby-style glasses. We served them Champagne, Burgundy and Zinfandel in the different vessels, and were very surprised with the results.

Our gorgeous bottle of Volnay was not worth drinking out of anything besides the Burgundy glass. It was tight and closed out of the Zin glass and not much more than red, wet and acidic out of anything else. The Zin was better out of different vessels, and although the Somm Burgundy glasses made it seem a little hot, it was only the plastic solo cup that really ruined the experience. The Champagne was the champion, with the CO2 doing a lot of the work that a glass would normally do, delivering aroma to the drinker.

Drinking the Bonville rose out of the Styrofoam cup, paired with tasty sushi, was a great way to make the best out of a night on the road. While the wine might have lost a beat or two aromatically, it tasted better than straight out of the bottle. I was happy that I brought it and found that the Ambonnay Bing cherry Pinot had great synergy with the salmon and tuna nigiri. Next time, I’ll try to remember my Riedel O’s, but if I forget I won’t despair!

A toast to you- from a Styrofoam cup!

Gary Westby