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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 Champagne (75)

Friday
Feb152013

Champagne Friday: Top Value in Vintage Champagne

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Happy belated Valentine's Day! Valentine's Day and other festive occasions can provide those of us with something special to celebrate the perfect excuse to splurge on a 'special' bottle of wine, but what about the rest of the year? 

If you're like me and most folks out there, you probably can't afford (or choose not to) open pricey bottles every night. Pricing on Champagnes from the famous houses start around $50 per bottle--and that's for the entry level bottlings--and rise skyward from there. If this is out of reach for you on an everyday basis, you're not alone. Fortunately, my mission as Champagne buyer for K&L has been to focus our Direct Import program on Champagnes from the small grower-producers, where real value lies. These are true artisan Champagnes, and thanks to our direct import, we are able to offer many incredible values in $30 price range.

 The 2004 Baron Fuente "Grand Millésimé" Brut Champagne ($34.99) is hands down our best value in vintage Champagne. There is so much more class and breeding here than what you get for spending the same or more for one of the famous house's large production entry level Bruts. Made with fruit from the very northerly Aisne department of Champagne, this blend of 45% Chardonnay, 40% Meunier and 15% Pinot Noir is fresh yet rich in the mouth, with depth of flavor balanced by crisp acidity and mineral drive on the finish.

Believe me, you rarely see vintage Champagne of this quality for this price. It is showing fine development now--try it with a classic pairing of oysters or caviar--but it has the stuffing to age, too.

I hope you give it a try!

Cheers,

-Gary

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

 

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