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One of the most serious English Sparkling producers. This historic estate has been in the Goring family since 1743. The tiny 16-acre vineyard is close-planted on a steep south-facing chalk escarpment described as 'similar to the Côte des Blancs' in Champagne. The fruit is picked very selectively with quality being the absolute focus. The grapes are pressed gently using a traditional Coquard press. After three years on the lees this wine, composed of 45% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay & 22% Pinot Meunier, is hand disgorged and balanced with a minimal dosage of just 4g/L. It has a fine counterbalance between toasty richness and power from the wines élevage in Burgundian French Oak barrels, with racy acidity, tension and a focused chalky minerality.

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Entries in Champagne (74)

Friday
Aug172012

Champagne Friday: Grand Marque Roundup

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Grand Marque Round Up

This Tuesday, Scott, Mari, Kyle and I- K&L’s Champagne team, tasted 46 wines from Champagne’s biggest names. This decadent exercise (I added it up and it was $4649 worth!) took all day and was accompanied by presentations from each houses representitves on the composition, vinification and ageing of the wines as well as their business plans for the rest of the year. We all learned a lot about the wines and doing it all in one day gave us all good perspective on the various styles and value for money that each house had to offer.

We started with Champagne Louis Roederer, which from top to bottom might be the best house in Champagne. If you haven’t had it in a while, the Louis Roederer "Brut Premier" Champagne is a revelation- with more and more organic work in the vineyard, and long ageing of the reserve wines in oak, this bottle delivers a tremendous amount for $39.99. All of the vintage wines, including the 2005 Louis Roederer "Cristal" Brut Champagne which is about to come out are entirely estate grown, and that fact shows through in the finish product.

Next we tasted Charles and Piper Heidsieck and had a chance to see the new package for the “repositioning” of the Charles Brut Reserve. As I mentioned in my email a couple of days ago, this wine is about to take a drastic price increase. Grab some at $34.99 while you can! The 1995 Charles Heidsieck Champagne Blanc des Millénaires was brilliant, and although it will be very expensive, it sure is special! It is great to see older Champagne like this being kept and released late.

Speaking of great old Champagne, the night before, the team and I had dined together at my home and enjoyed the 1990 Veuve Clicquot "Cave Privee" Brut Champagne and the 1989 Veuve Clicquot "Cave Privee" Brut Rose Champagne with salmon. Less than 12 hours later we were tasting them again- a charmed life moment for sure! These are wines have been stored in Clicquot's cellars and are perfect examples of aged, but not old Champagne. They will be in the $200 range when they arrive in October and we will be the exclusive retailer for northern California.

The 2000 Moet & Chandon "Dom Pérignon" Brut Rosé Champagne ($329) like all the vintages before it impressed me greatly. This wine is made in small quantities (especially tiny compared to the colossal production of the blanc) and is the most subtle and elegant of all the Moet wines. It makes the Champagnes next to it seem like they are trying too hard.

We moved on to the Krug line, including 1998 & 2000 vintage, rosé and the classic Krug "Grand Cuvee". Krug always presses the point that their range is flat (even though the prices are not!) and that the wines are equals. For drinking in the near term, nothing could be further from the truth- the Grand Cuvee is much superior. Using the new code on the back of the bottle, we learned that the current batch is based on 2004, and has 12 vintages total in the blend, the oldest being 1990. Greatness in wine requires complexity that only age can bring, and this wine had developed, mature authority matched with youthful vigor. It was the complete package. Having had the 1990 vintage the night before (with plank salmon) I am confident the 1998 and 2000 will get there if you have the cellar and patience to keep them!

From barrel fermented, vinous Krug we made the transition to the bright and light wines of Billecart-Salmon and continued to be impressed. The standout here was the 2000 Billecart-Salmon "Cuvee Nicolas-Francois- NFB" Champagne, which we can now offer for $89.99. Velvety and elegant, this wine makes a perfect gift. It is one of those rare wines that manage to have no edges to offend, and yet retain depth and personality- I would love it if someone gave me one!

I love it when a good wine comes back down to earth, and Laurent Perrier has taken advantage of a stronger dollar to great effect. As many of you remember, in 2008 they decided to “reposition” and doubled prices over night. They are now back to being good values, especially the toasty and rich 2002 Laurent-Perrier Brut Champagne ($49.99) and the 1996, 1997, 1999 combination Laurent-Perrier "Grand Siècle" Champagne ($109). The latter was based 60% on the great 1996, and their patience with this top end juice has paid off. This is the richest, roundest of all the top cuvees from the grand marques and one of my favorites of the day.

The Gosset and Bollinger wines showed as they should with trademark authority from the village of Ay. The highlight for me was the Gosset "Grand Reserve" Brut Champagne ($59.99) which has power to spare and a fantastic nose of candied nuts. I need to drink more of this stuff this year- it shows the “blenders art” that is more talked about than realized in Champagne.

We wrapped up the day with Nicolas Feuillatte who count more than half of the growers in Champagne among their cooperative membership. The best of what these growers has to offer is very good indeed. The 1999 Nicolas Feuillatte "Palmes d'Or" Brut Champagne ($109) is much more than just a pretty bottle. Made of even parts Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it is given 10 years on the lees and has an honest toasty, honeyed character that would make a great treat on a special occasion. The 2004 Nicolas Feuillatte "Palmes d'Or" Brut Rose Champagne was one of the most interesting of the day, as it was made in an ultra savory, aged red Burgundy style, much like the Bruno Michel "Les Roses" Brut Rosé Champagne ($49.99). The Feuillatte will be in the $200 range when it comes in.

A toast to you!

-Gary 

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

Friday
Aug032012

Champagne Friday: Pinot Power

Patrick Arnould at his forklift during bottling

By: Gary Westby| K&L Champagne Buyer

Michel Arnould: Pinot Power Champagne

Champagne Michel Arnould is our top producers of dry, powerful Pinot based Champagnes. Located on the Mountain of Reims, Verzenay is one of the most exciting and unique terroirs in all of Champagne. The furthest north of all of the Grand Crus, it faces north away from the sun and still manages to produce some of the most powerful Pinot Noir in the region. Some of the locals say that a mysterious warm air current is the explanation for this ripening anomaly; others will say that it is impossible to explain, like the flight of the bumblebee. I love the distinct, hazelnut quality that this special village stamps on its wines, and I feel very lucky to have convinced Mr. Patrick Arnould to sell us some of his great wines.

Patrick is the fifth generation of Champagne Michel Arnould. They own 27 acres in the village of Verzenay, a quite sizable holding in this high rent area. It is planted to 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay, which reflects the average plantation for the village. The black Pinot is king here. The Arnould’s have quite a few plots of vines that are very old and positioned in the golden band of the mid slope, where the sun exposure is best. They have a high proportion of old vines (40 to 50 years old) and all of the wines undergo complete malolactic fermentation in stainless steel and enamel vats.

If you have enjoyed the wines of Lallement, Bollinger and Krug in the past, I think you will very much enjoy Michel Arnould. Here is what we have from Arnould:

Michel Arnould Verzenay Brut Reserve Champagne $32.99 750ml/ $64.99 magnum: This is a blend of 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay, entirely from estate vineyards in the grand cru of Verzenay. This is a great party Champagne, since it is full of flavor yet refreshing and moreish. The hazelnut Pinot character so unique to the village of Verzenay is pronounced in this wine, and many good tasters have mistaken it for barrel fermented (it is actually all stainless and enamel fermented) when presented the wine blinds. The texture is full and the bead is refined- a Champagne that you will be proud to serve to your guests, or perhaps not too proud to save for yourself!

 

Michel Arnould "Grand Cuvée" Brut Champagne $34.99: Exclusively from the 2002 harvest, although not labeled as such, this Champagne is composed of two-thirds Pinot Noir and one-third Chardonnay. The color is gorgeous gold studded with tiny bubbles. The aroma is amazing. The Champagne has a graceful, delicate balance that Verzenay wines sometimes lack but with the signature hazelnut Pinot core. I found it to have creaminess to complement its racy cherry fruit on the palate, and an extraordinarily long, dry finish. It is dosed at 9 grams per liter: very dry! It will age very well.

 

Michel Arnould Verzenay Brut Rosé Champagne $34.99 750ml/ $74.99 magnum:  100% Pinot Noir Grand Cru, acquired by assembling different vintages and red Coteaux Champenoises coming from old vines. This lovely Rosé Champagne offers hints of raspberry, strawberry and redcurrant. Very refined on the palate where more berries and finally grenadine notes emerge.

 

 

Michel Arnould Verzenay Extra Brut Champagne $39.99: Although not labeled as a vintage, this is based entirely on 2005 juice. It is 100% pinot noir from Verzenay, the northernmost of all the Grand Crus in this northernmost of French wine regions. The whole village faces north, the wrong way, away from the sun, and yet miraculously ripens pinot noir, the most difficult Champagne variety to ripen perfectly. Some say it’s because of a meteor that in prehistoric times hit the area that is now the village, creating the faux de Verzenay, a forest where the trees bend and fold in on themselves like a dark wood in The Lord of the Rings. Pair this wine with salmon, smoked as an appetizer or even served as sashimi.

Happy Champagne Friday!

-Gary

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 Shop our complete Champagne selection on KLWines.com!

Friday
Jul132012

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!

-Gary

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