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2000 Labégorce, Margaux $39.99

A great value in Bordeaux! This bottle is mature enough to drink now, but has time in hand if you want to keep it in the cellar for the future. We love it for its laid back elegance and classic balance. A must try for your next nice steak dinner.

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Entries in Champagne (74)

Friday
Feb082013

Champagne Friday: 2002 Moet & Chandon Dom Perignon Rose 

2002 Moet & Chandon Dom Perignon Rose paired with mushroom risotto.

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

One bottle: 2002 Moet & Chandon Dom Perignon Rose

Cinnamon and I do not drink a lot of tete de cuvee Champagne from the grand marques at home. They don’t suit our tastes as much as the more human-scaled, terroir-specific grower wines, not to mention the fact that they are very expensive! This past Saturday night was an exception; we wanted to make the most of it and enjoy this bottle of 2002 Dom Perignon Rose in the spirit that it was intended. Cinnamon came up with the idea of making a mushroom risotto to pair, and her instinct for pairing was right on.

I cannot think of another producer that has such a huge difference in production scale and wine quality between their rose and regular blanc bottling than Moet with their Dom Perignon. While Moet has released 38 vintages of the Dom Perignon blanc, they have only released 22 vintage of rose skipping widely declared vintages such as 1976 and 1999. While no producer guards their production figures as closely as Moet guards their Dom Perignon figures, it is easy to see how much less of the rose is made. Every Costco stocks big stacks of DP blanc, you will find it on nearly every nice restaurants wine list and available at hotels from Norway to Chile, while the rose is rarely seen. It is always allocated to K&L and we can never get enough to satisfy demand.

Details on the composition of Dom Perignon wines are almost as difficult to come up with as the production figures. The two websites of Dom Perignon, http://www.creatingdomperignon.com/dom-perignon-rose-2002/ and http://www.domperignon.com/rose2002/ have lots of descriptive notes, and in case of the second some very fancy flash graphics, but no objective facts on the wine. This approach is frustrating to me, since real information on the wine itself allows the wine fan to make an informed purchasing decision and give us a deeper appreciation for the bottles that we drink.

Richard Juhlin in his book 4000 Champagnes describes Dom Perignon as a blend of approximately 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay, and notes the source of the red wine as Ay when he notes it at all. Since I can’t think of any writer that has spent more time at Moet or tasted more bottles of Dom Perignon (all of them, multiple times) we’ll use that as a reasonable approximation of the composition of the 2002. I wish I could do better, and will endeavor to!

While researching the background of this bottle was frustrating, drinking the wine could not have been easier. The 2002 Dom Perignon Rose is among the most elegant Champagnes that I have ever drunk. While past bottles of DP rose have been full of Vosne-Romannee savor, this 2002 has a much more pure strawberry like fruit at its core. The mushroom risotto that Cinnamon and I prepared to go with it coaxed out the Burgundian elements, but this wine could easily have made a great partner for wild salmon, or just a sunset. The wine is also very, very dry for grand marque Champagne, especially Dom Perignon, which has always leaned to the richer side. The cleanliness of the finish, with nice hints of chalk is not austere. Nothing sticks out 11 years from the harvest, and I can only imagine how much depth and complexity this wine will have with another 10, 20, 30 or more years in the cellar. If I could buy a case and follow its evolution over the years, I would.

I am certainly lucky to have had a chance to drink this wine once - certainly a better thing than getting to taste it twice! Wines of complexity do not reveal their secrets quickly; they give me the most pleasure with charming company and a thoughtful food pairing. Cinnamon provided both to me, as well as the recipe that follows for the risotto that we enjoyed.

Porcini, Chanterelle, and King Trumpet mushrooms.

Cinnamon Westby's Mushroom Risotto

Using a wide shallow pan, soften 1 diced shallot in a generous glug of olive oil on medium heat, add aprox 1 cup Arborio rice to coat with oil and stir around for about 4 minutes. Pour in a glass of dry white wine. (Don’t forget a glass for the chef!)

Begin adding hot chicken stock (homemade is best) one ladleful at a time, and stir until fully absorbed before adding the next. (It’s useful to have a second person in charge of adding the stock, and stirring the risotto)  While this is happening, soak approximately ¼ cup dried porcinis in hot water to reconstitute them, and coarsely chop your other mushrooms. (We used chanterelles and king trumpets). 

After soaking for about 10 minutes, the porcinis can be chopped and added to the risotto as you continue to incorporate the hot chicken stock. 

Sautee the other mushrooms on medium high heat with a pat of butter, being careful not to overcrowd the pan and giving them plenty of time to brown. You could also add another glug of wine to the mushrooms and some chopped fresh thyme to the mushrooms for extra flavor.

Preparing the risotto.

When the risotto is done to your liking and still a little runny (about 25 minutes), add salt and pepper to taste and stir in ¾ cup whipped cream. (To make things easier, whip the cream and stick it in the fridge before you start the risotto. 1/3 cup cream becomes aprox ¾ cup, when whipped).

Dish up the risotto into warm bowls and top with the sautéed mushrooms and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

If you can afford a splurge, you will not be disappointed in the 2002 Dom Perginon Rose. Drink your bottles when the occasions come- this is spectacular Champagne now, and will continue to evolve and improve for decades. We are expecting ours to arrive at the end of the month, and it is available as special order here.

Cheers!

A toast to you,

-Gary

Friday
Feb012013

Champagne Friday: The Western Valley of the Marne

 

Michel Loriot checking his vineyards by mountain bike.

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Itinerary #2- The Western Valley of the Marne

Visitors to Champagne often miss the Western Valley of the Marne, which is a pity, since I find it to be the most beautiful parts of the whole region. Here you will find steeper slopes and higher peaks than the Mountain of Reims and a more mixed agricultural landscape than the Cote des Blancs. This is the home of Pinot Meunier, the indigenous Champagne variety. It is also home to a lot of the region’s most innovative producers, vignerons working with small barrels, ancient varieties and organics.

We’ll start the day off at the Hotel Ibis in Epernay again, whose information I will repeat below. Grabbing lunch before departing to eat on the road is a great idea, as a three hour lunch will turn a good day of visits into a two stop affair. For information on great spots to pick stuff up in Epernay, check out last week’s Champagne Friday.

Hôtel Ibis, Epernay

This is a great hotel for folks who have come to Champagne as travelers interested in tasting and learning about the wines rather than hanging out in your hotel room. The rooms are clean, simple and comfortable. The friendly, professional, and accommodating staff are there around the clock; many of them I count as personal friends! The wifi always works, so it is easy to get back in touch with home, and the location could not be more central for visiting the vineyards. Epernay is a small city, and everything is in walking distance. Given how good the food and wine is, walking to and from dinner is a must!

Hotel Ibis :: 19 rue Chocatelle :: 51200 Epernay :: 03 26 51 14 51

 Taste: Leclerc Briant "Les Crayères" Single Vineyard Brut Champagne

Champagne Leclerc Briant, Epernay

Start your day on foot by walking up the hill from the Ibis to Leclerc Briant, whose historic holdings were mostly in the western valley of the Marne. The vineyards have now all been sold, and the winery is now owned by a family from the US, but the stocks are all from the original estate, and will be for at least another couple of years. Here you will be able to taste single vineyard, bio-dynamic Champagne from the village of Cumieres, which is just a few kilometers west of Epernay. On your way to your next appointment you will drive right by their Les Crayeres site.

Leclerc Briant :: 67, rue Chaude Ruelle -BP 108 :: 51204 Epernay :: 03 26 54 45 33/Fax: 03 26 54 49 59 info@leclercbriant.com

 

Taste: Tarlant "Cuvée Louis" Brut Champagne Champagne Tarlant, Oeuilly

American Champagne lovers have been sad for over a year now, because Tarlant is not available here in the USA anymore. I keep on working on my friends Benoit and Melanie Tarlant and I am sure one day these great wines will be back on the shelves at K&L. For now, we’ll have to be content to visit them in Oeuilly, and carry back as much of their great Champagne as we can fit in our luggage. The Tarlants make some of the very best grower Champagne in this part of Champagne, or anywhere for that matter. They have done a lot of work with small oak barrels and use them with Krug-like mastery. They are also the biggest proponents of low and no dosage Champagne, period. Tarlant wines have incredible depth, terroir expression and yet maintain crisp drinkability. To get there you will need to climb to the top of the village, once you have turned into what seems like a dead end alley, you have made it to the right place. Arrive early to your appointment here so you can take in the view of the Marne valley from their driveway- it is one of the best views in Champagne. If you don’t get a chance to taste their excellent Cuvee Louis while you are there, buy a bottle. You won’t be disappointed. You can check out a video that I made last year tasting with Benoit here: http://blog.klwines.com/httpblogklwinescomuncork/live-blogging-from-champagne.html

Tarlant :: 21 Rue de la Coopérative :: 51480 Epernay :: 03 26 58 30 60/Fax: 03 26 58 37 31 champagne@tarlant.com

 

Taste: 2006 Michel Loriot "Pinot Meunier Vieilles Vignes" Brut Champagne, in stock now at K&L ($49.99)Champagne Michel Loritot, Festigny

Continuing west, our next stop is Champagne Loriot in Festigny. Michel Loriot is not just the champion of Meunier, he is also the president of the Independent Vignerons of Champagne (see him in the picture at the top of the page, checking his vineyards by mountain bike!) His wines are respected throughout the region for being all that the 'big houses' say Meunier cannot be: serious, structured and age- worthy. The village of Festigny is tucked away in its own little valley just south of the Marne, and is full of horses, cows and of course, vines. All of the wines here are feremented in enamel-lined tanks that look like giant Le Creuset cookware. The wines never go through malolactic fermentation and have plenty of crispness as well as power. His flagship, the Michel Loriot "Pinot Meunier Vieilles Vignes" Brut Champagne comes from a vineyard that was planted in the middle of World War 2, and should not be missed by any fan of Champagne. For a sneak peak of their tasting room, click here.

Michel Loriot :: 13, rue de Bel Air –51700 Festigny :: 03 26 58 34 01/fax 03 26 58 03 98
contact@michelloriot.com

Yours Truly, tasting Tarlant.

Bistro Les 7, Epernay

Drink: Franck Bonville "Prestige" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne After a busy day tasting, you will be ready to eat! One of the hottest spots in Epernay is Bistro Les 7. Make your reservations well in advance, and get ready to run into vignerons, export managers from big houses, and all sorts of Champagne personalities. This place gets full every night! Start off with a glass of the Ratafia, a Champagne specialty from the mistel family which is half unfermented grape juice from the appellation and half marc made from Champagne. While the Champagne by the glass here is always served in magnum, there is no reason not to go for a bottle from their list, which is only a little bit more expensive than K&L’s retail prices. I recommend the Bonville Prestige, which I drank the last time I was there. The prix fixe menu is very reasonable; I love the duck confit (when it is on the menu), as well as the rabbit pate! They also have a formal restaurant, Les Bercaux, which is great as well. I’ll save that for another post!

Bistro Les 7 13 Rue des Berceaux, 51200 Épernay :: 03 26 55 28 84

 

A toast to you!

-Gary

 

Friday
Jan252013

Champagne Friday: Epernay and the Cote des Blancs

Cinnamon Westby explores the Launois museum.

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Champagne Itinerary #1, Epernay and the Cote des Blancs

Travelling to Champagne is a lot of fun. Last week I started off a mini-series of posts on destinations in the area at the top with Chateau Les Crayeres. This week I have set up an itinerary that could be covered in one or two days, depending on how ambitious (one) or leisurely (two) you want to be: Epernay and the Cote des Blancs. The Hotel Ibis in the center of Epernay will be our home base; this is where I always stay when on business in Champagne. All of the recommended wineries will require an appointment well in advance, and only Moet is open on the weekends. Note: trips to Champagne are best done mid-week - quite the opposite of Napa!

Hôtel Ibis, Epernay

This is a great hotel for folks who have come to Champagne as travelers to taste and learn about the wines instead of hanging out in your hotel room. The rooms are clean, simple and comfortable, the friendly, professional, accommodating staff is there around the clock and many of them I count as personal friends. The wifi always works, so it is easy to get back in touch with home, and the location could not be more central for visiting the vineyards. Epernay is a small city, and everything is in walking distance. Given how good the food and wine is, walking to and from dinner is a must!

19 rue Chocatelle :: 51200 Epernay:: 03 26 51 14 51 website

La Cloche à Fromage, Epernay

Start your day out by picking up some cheese from La Cloche à Fromage for your lunch. Lunch takes a lot of time in France, so if you want to visit a lot of producers it is impossible to fit a 'real' French lunch in the schedule. And frankly, two sit-down meals a day in France are simply too much for my delicate Californian constitution! La Cloche is the best cheese shop in the whole Champagne region and the envy of many Parisians. Conveniently, it is located on the same square as the Hotel Ibis! Ask the cheese monger for a piece to eat today, they will be happy to cut it to the right size for the number of people you have. 

19 rue St Thibault :: 51200 Epernay :: 03 26 55 30 18

Au Pain Délice

On the same street, three doors down from La Cloche, is the best baker in Epernay, Au Pain Delice. Here you can grab a sandwich for later (remember, in France the bakers sell the sandwiches, but they are CLOSED at lunch!!!!) and some bread to go with your cheese. You are now set for lunch in the vineyard later on in the day! You will find a little spot with a bench just at the entrance of about every one of the villages that you visit. While the producers are often horrified at my jambon (French ham sandwich) lunches,  your palate will thank you. This regular French food is not to be missed- it is every bit as good as the high end, especially when you visit the best baker in town.

3 rue St Thibault :: 51200 Epernay :: 03 26 55 25 75

Champagne Bruno Michel, Pierry

Try: Bruno Michel "Les Roses" Brut Rosé Champagne ($49.99) Just south of Epernay, the suburb of Pierry is where the town gives way to vines. It is home to one of the most careful producers that K&L has every carried: Champagne Bruno Michel. Bruno is obsessed with every detail of his wines, making every vine selection and grafting every rootstock himself. He is completely organic and Ecocert and Demeter certified in the vineyard, and works with small barrels for his vintage dated wines. His microclimate in Pierry and Moussy (the neighboring village, where he also has vines) is known as sud-Epernay, and is one of the coolest in all of Champagne. As such, Pinot Noir does not ripen well here, and he has almost all Chardonnay and Meunier vines. A visit and tasting here will teach you more about Champagne than visiting every single big house!

It will take less than 10 minutes to get to Bruno Michel, but allow a half hour- the parking garage in Epernay takes some getting used to and the city is definitely not on a grid!

4 de la Vieille Ferme, 51530 Pierry :: 03 26 55 10 54 :: champagnebrunomuchel@orange.fr 

Olivier Bonville pulls a sample of vin clair before it is bottled and transformed into Champagne.

Champagne Franck Bonville, Avize

Try: Franck Bonville "Belles Voyes" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne - only a few left in Magnum! ($139)No Champagne that we carry sells as fast as the all-estate, all grand cru Franck Bonville. If you are reading this right now, you have probably already tried their electric yet still rich all chardonnay Champagne. This is a great visit, and you can see here the difference between the stainless steel elevage of that majority of their wines and the oak aged elevage of their single vineyard Belles Voyes, which is handled in a different cellar across the street. Olivier, Isabelle and the whole crew here could not be nicer, and they all speak excellent English.

9 Rue Pasteur, 51190 Avize :: 03 26 57 52 30 :: franck-bonville@wanadoo.fr :: website 

 

Champagne Launois Pere et Fils, Mesnil

Try: 2004 Launois "Spécial Club" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($59.99) No trip to Champagne would be complete without a stop in Mesnil, the most famous and sought after terroir for the most sought after varietal in Champagne: Chardonnay. In this village you have Salon, Krug’s Clos du Mesnil, and Launois' incomparable wine museum (see picture at top). Bernard Launois does things differently, harvesting 10 days after everyone else in the village and choosing old enamel lined tanks (think Le Creuset) instead of wood or stainless for his elevage. He is also a collector of everything Champagne, and a trip down to his cellar museum is a must for any trip to the region. Here you will find fantastic exhibits on everything from growing and making cork to the glass making process for the bottles, complete with historical shapes. He has pumps from every century, and an incredible collection of old presses and stills. Don’t miss this!

2 Avenue Eugène Guillaume, 51190 Les Mesnil-Sur-Oger :: 03 26 57 50 15 :: info@champagne-launois.fr  website 

Champagne Moet & Chandon, Epernay

After visiting a few small houses, one should also so see the biggest: Moet & Chandon. Located right on the Avenue of Champagne, this is the Disneyland of the region, and spectacular in its scale. They will show you the cellars, where you will see more Dom Perignon bottles than you can shake a stick at!

20 Avenue de Champagne, 51200 :: only for visit +33 (0)3 2651 2020 :: visites@moet.fr :: website

La Grillade, Epernay

La Grillade is one of my favorite places to eat in France, and definitely the best value in the entire Champagne region. Chef Christophe Bernard is a dropout of the Michelin system, and is now feeding people delicious food in his simple restaurant in Epernay. Hopefully, you took my advice for lunch and went for a light picnic among the vines, because you won’t make it to the second course here if you didn’t bring an appetite. Since you are walking from the Ibis, feel free to order plenty of wine off of his very reasonable wine list. Why not start with Bonville and drink something from your visit earlier in the day? My favorite option here is the Traditional Champagne Menu, which includes a big slab of foie gras and the Champagne Pigeon en Croutte, a dish that I can’t leave Champagne without eating. He has a nice selection of well priced Burgundy that goes very well with this rich dish. You will waddle back to the hotel, but you’ll never forget the meal!

16 rue Reims, 51200 Epernay :: 03 26 55 44 22 :: website

 

A toast to you!

-Gary

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