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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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Tasting with Oliver Krug

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For the complete calendar, including lineups and additional details related to our events, visit our K&L Local Events on KLWines.com or follow us on Facebook.  

 

Free Spirits Tastings at K&L! Now that we have our license for spirits tastings in Redwood City and San Francisco, we’re excited to host regular free spirits tastings in those locations.  Check the Spirits Journal for an updated tasting schedule.

All tastings will feature different products from the Spirits Department and take place on Wednesdays in Redwood City and San Francisco. Visit our events page on Facebook or the K&L Spirits Journal for more information.

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Entries in Chardonnay (56)

Friday
Jul052013

Champagne Friday: To the Winner Goes the Spoils

 

By: Chiara Shannon| Champagne Lover and Director of the K&L Personal Sommelier Service

K&L staff members have great fortune to taste a lot of wine and compare notes with leading experts in the the business on a routine basis. We participate in weekly staff tastings hosted by our respective buyers, and rare is the day when assorted wines aren't opened in the tasting room for the purpose of staff education. Seriously! Listen in on a conversation between two K&L staff members discussing a wine, beer, or spirit at any given time, and you will come away reaffirmed that you are shopping at the right place, assisted by folks who know their stuff. I am constantly humbled by the depths of knowledge and experience of the collective K&L palate.

Which is why I am inspired to write this week's Champagne Friday. You see, in the latest round of the K&L Staff Blind Tasting Competition (although tasting roulette is more like it), I miraculously won. The prize? My all time favorite Champagne, Amaury Coutelas "Cuvee 1809" Brut Champagne ($59.99) Here are my notes from my first tasting of this marvelous Champagne:

This is incredible Champagne, and very unique. Drawing on winemaking techniques of the 19th century, it was fermented in barrel (no malo), aged for 8+ years on the lees in bottles sealed with corks, manually disgorged, and finished with a cork and twine closure. Stylistically, you could say it's to Champagne what Lopez de Heredia is to white Rioja, but unlike 19thcentury Champagne, this modern revival is dry, with a very low dosage. It offers a stunning array of complex earthy and nutty aromas and flavors with biscuit, mineral, mushroom, and honey accents. The texture is luxuriously rich and layered, but naturally high acidity and the low dosage keep this Champagne fresh and invigorating, with a dry, crisp finish that goes on and on. If you like white wines from the Jura, traditional white Rioja, or are a Champagne fiend looking for something to blow your mind, here you go. Highly recommended.

In late January this year, I brought this Champagne with me to dinner at a well-known restaurant in Napa. I was stunned at the way it revealed layer upon layer of complexity throughout the evening, complementing each course from start to finish in different yet profound ways. It is hard to imagine having the patience to allow a Champagne to last through multiple courses, but this one has so much substance and depth that every sip is a new experience worth savoring for as long as possible. The standout pairing was the duck liver mousse course, but this Champagne held its own with both lamb and steak entrees as well!

As if that isn't praise enough, it is worth mentioning that this Champagne was also K&L Senior Bordeaux Specialist (and HUGE Giants fan) Ralph Sands' choice for toasting when the Giants won the World Series. Now that says something. 

The Challenge

This past Tuesday, the Redwood City managers generously offered to man the store and phones while the rest of the staff members enjoyed a prolonged, catered lunch together. Lawn (well, parking lot) games like ping pong were set up, hip-hop was blasting on the stereo, delicious food was abundant, and so were the wines, which is why when I learned that a ten wine blind tasting had been organized with a prize going to the winner, my first reaction was to mentally decline. Blind tasting is hard! It requires a lot of focus and can be intensely frustrating. Enjoying my ice cream doused with caramel after a huge lunch, I figured my palate was not in the best condition for such a challenge. The potential for embarrassment was high.  

My curiosity got the better of me, however, and eventually I wandered over to the tasting table. There were ten wines, brown bagged; eight in 750ml bottles and two in large format. The tasting sheet demanded five sets of criteria per wine: Vintage, Varietal Composition, Country, Region, and Producer. The rules were simple--No Peeking!--and one point would be awarded per correct answer for each criteria, leading to a total of five points per wine.

My strategy in casual blind tasting is to run through the lineup first, jotting down very short notes on aroma and flavor, but making no conclusions. Then I go through and consider each wine again, with the intention of making a swift decision with minimal mind-changing based on a combination of first and second impressions. I am a big believer in going with the gut; over-thinking a wine has only pushed me farther from accuracy in past tastings.

It was a doozy! In this case 'winning' meant a total of 19 points out of a possible 50 - nowhere near a perfect score (technically an F!) but a respectable effort nonetheless, considering the challenge we were up against. I will spare you the details of the tasting and my notes (including those parts that I got embarrassingly wrong) but in case you are curious, here is the 'answer' key to the challenge:  

Wine #1

Vintage: NV

Varietal: Pinot Meunier   

Country: France

Region: Champagne

Producer: Loriot

 

Wine #2

Vintage: 2009

Varietal: Gruner Veltliner

Country: Austria

Region: Kamptal

Producer: Allram

 

Wine #3

Vintage: 2011

Varietal: Grenache Blanc/Roussanne/Viognier

Country: France

Region: Costiere de Nimes

Producer: Gassier

 

Wine #4

Vintage: 2009

Varietal: Barbera

Country: Italy

Region: Asti

Producer: Chiarlo

 

Wine #5

Vintage: 1998

Varietal: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc

Country: France

Region: Bordeaux

Producer: Grandis

 

 

Wine #6

Vintage: 2007

Varietal: Graciano

Country: Spain

Region: Rioja

Producer: Vina Ijalba

 

Wine #7

Vintage: 2001

Varietal: Cabernet

Country: US

Region: Yountville/Napa

Producer: Grgich Hills

 

Wine #8

Vintage: 2005

Varietal: CS

Country: US

Region: Napa/Rutherford

Producer: Nickel & Nickel

 

Wine #9

Vintage: 1971 Mouton Cadet

Varietal: Merlot/Cab

Country: France    

Region: Bordeaux

Producer: Mouton Cadet

 

Wine #10

Vintage: 1972

Varietal:Cabernet Sauv

Country: US

Region: Napa Valley

Producer: Inglenook

 

The next challenge? Choosing the perfect occasion in which to open this gorgeous Champagne!

When will I open this? What will I pair it with? Who do I invite to share it with me? So many things to consider...

I would like to thank Champagne Buyer Gary Westby for donating this bottle for the prize, and our fearless managers for organizing a great event and tasting. Your efforts are appreciated!

A toast to you,

Chiara

 

Friday
Jun212013

Champagne Friday: Brouillet: One of a Kind Terroir in Champagne

Gouttes d'Or Vineyard (Brouillet)

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Brouillet: One of a Kind Terroir in Champagne

Since I first met Caroline and Paul Vincent Ariston of Champagne Aspasie in Brouillet, I have never gone to France without visiting them. The Ariston’s make top class Champagne at very reasonable prices, and were the very first that we brought in direct here at K&L. When I first met them, they just had their daughter Bertille- now she is 14… Time goes by much too quickly! Cinnamon and I just returned from a short (only four nights!) trip to Champagne, and we spend the day with the Ariston’s. As usual, we had a great time and also learned many new things about what makes their wines so special.

Brouillet, circled on the Larmat Atlas of Champagne.

Brouillet is in the far Northwest corner of Champagne, between Reims and Soissons. This area could not be more different than the intensively planted mono-culture of the Cote-des-Blancs and Mountain of Reims. Here, polyculture is still the rule, with wheat and canola making a patchwork with the vineyards. Only hillside sites with the right soil are granted the appellation here and abundant chalk is found here alongside sand and clay. This area is one of the last in Champagne to be harvested, and Paul Vincent likes to pick ripe, so he often harvests 10 days after most of the appellation.

On this trip I learned something that I did not know about the Aspasie wines. They are in fact an RM, and sell their wines as such within France. Because of the complexities of exporting, and in order to fairly compensate the members of his family, Paul Vincent set up a negociant business for export. The only wine sold under this negociant label is their estate grown Champagne.

The Ariston Aspasie "Carte Blanche" Brut Champagne ($27.99, $15.99 375ml) has always been our number one selling direct import Champagne. This is for great reason- no producer is as patient with their entry level wine, ageing it for five years before selling it. The value for money is off the charts. This wine has plenty of richness and weight, but keeps its balance with excellent refreshing qualities as well. The toastiness of this wine is all natural and arrived at by long ageing.

For me, one of the most special wines from this estate is the Ariston Aspasie Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne ($34.99, $79.99 magnum) which is almost all from the old vine Chardonnay in the Gouttes d’Or parcel. This is the second steepest vineyard that I have walked in Champagne- only the Clos des Goisses was steeper. Unlike most Chardonnay in Champagne, the Gouttes d’Or faces West, and on this trip it was a furnace. When we got back to the car, the thermometer read 41 Centigrade- 105 in old money!

Returning back to the house, Paul Vincent treated us to a comparison of the 2008 based Blanc de Blancs and the recently disgorged 2009. The last of the 2008 just docked here in California, and it is simply spectacular. Looking back at my notes from tasting the wine as vin clair on May 25th of 2009, I found it to be both racy and rich at once. On June 17th of this year, that had not changed- it had snap and refreshment that cannot be beat while also filling the mouth with rich, creamy texture. This bottle reminded me of the quote “A bottle between four of us, thank God there aren’t more of us” and went down very quickly! Later on, just before dinner, we had the Blanc de Blancs from magnum, and this batch is still based on 2007, with a full extra year on the lees. The magnum gained a lot in complexity without losing any of the freshness of the 2008. If you have more than two people, this is the way to go!

Aspasie: a new plantation.

 

Grillmaster Caroline Aspasie.

It is hard for me to say more about the Ariston Aspasie "Cepages d'Antan" Brut Champagne ($99) than I have already said- it is simply one of the best Champagnes that money can buy. Not only does it offer the kind of incisive cut that one finds in Salon, but it is nearly exotic enough to be Condrieu. The Viognier like fruit expression on the nose also has flinty, bready elements and the palate is a kaleidoscope of complexity. The finish, which lasts and lasts has the brightness of the best of the appellation. Paul Vincent calls it “a wine for squirrels” as the high acidity raises his cheekbones! It is based on 2006 and composed of 40% Meslier, 40% Arbanne and 20% Pinot Blanc.

A toast of Aspasie to you!

–Gary

Friday
Jun072013

Champagne Friday: Krug House with Olivier Krug 

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Krug House with Olivier Krug

Krug "Grande Cuvée" Brut Champagne - click for more reviews and to browse our Krug offering on KLWines.com.

I won’t forget the day that Cinnamon and I spent with Olivier Krug this Wednesday. Of all the tastings and wine lunches that I have been to in my 13 years doing the Champagne buying at K&L, this was the best experience I have had outside of traveling to Champagne. The folks from Krug rented a spectacular house in Portola Valley that opened up to the outside completely, decorated with seven pallets of art, memorabilia and photographs of and from the domain.

Olivier Krug personally guided us through a tasting of his current releases, starting with the 2000 Krug "Clos du Mesnil" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($799) which showed not only the buttery, vinous richness of the house but also the laser like precision of the terroir of Mesnil. In the video below, Olivier explains the vision of his great, great, great grandfather, Joseph Krug as well as the story of this most-famous of all Champagne vineyards:

Krug Brut Rosé Champagne: the most consistently great rose Champagne in the world.We then moved on to the Krug "Grande Cuvée" Brut Champagne ($149), which shows the true potential of wine blended not just across vine varieties and villages but also time. This is great wine, and a value even at this high price. We also tasted the Krug Brut Rosé Champagne ($279) which showed at its ethereal best, and reminded me of the first encounter with it at the Maison in 2001. The 2000 Krug Brut Champagne ($219) was just turning the corner and showed not only nougat richness but also chalky drive- this is a wine one could drink now or for decades to come. We were then treated to both the fat, golden, spicy 1989 Krug "Collection" Brut Champagne ($499) and the extremely rare (we are only getting 8 bottles) 1985 Krug "Collection" Brut Champagne ($799- special order, due in fall) which is as close to perfect as I have had. This wine is concentrated, not just with vinous power and truffle like allure, but also with mineral drive. What a stunner!

Krug Vintage lineup from Krug House.

At the lunch, which was prepared by Meadowood star chef Christopher Kostow we were treated to unavailable wines brought by the guests of Olivier- the driven and young 1996, the layered, balanced and infinitely long 1988, and the plump, rich, clean 1990.  With the perfect California weather, the gorgeous surroundings and the once-in-a-lifetime wines, it was very, very difficult to leave- especially to go back to work.

Olivier Krug and Cinnamon Westby.

Krug House menu.

If you have been thinking of treating yourself… Krug would be a great splurge- it always delivers.

A toast to you!

–Gary Westby