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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 Chardonnay (56)

Friday
May032013

Champagne Friday: Lanson Opens Their Wine Library!

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

On Wednesday Scott Beckerley and I were invited to lunch at Spruce Restaurant in San Francisco by Enguerrand Bajiot, the managing director of Lanson Americas. The occasion was the launch of their Lanson Vintage collection- a magnum only program that offers the Champagne fan the unique opportunity to buy disgorged-to-order bottles straight from their deep cellars in Reims. The bottles that we tasted were so fresh that our Lanson sales rep, the charming and knowledgeable Jennifer Guptill had to drive to Sacramento to get them out of customs! They had all been disgorged in April and come by air directly from the cellars of Lanson.

Just cleared from customs!All of these wines have been made available to K&L and to you on a special order basis and they are extremely limited- only six magnums of each vintage. They don’t disgorge it until you order it… Provenance does not get any more perfect than this. It will take two or three months to get the bottles as they need time to label them and then ship them from France, and of course they must clear customs! I would recommend not ordering these if you need them for a specific occasion as they are currently 20 feet underground half way around the world and still on their lees.

Lanson was founded in 1760, making it one of the oldest Champagne houses and Bruno Paillard who now owns the group has a huge amount of respect for that history. Cellar master Jean Paul Gandon has been working at Lanson since 1972, and managed the vineyards before taking over the cellar in 1982. No cellar master of any big house has been running a house for as long.

Didier Elena and Gary.The wines showed spectacularly and had the sparkle and freshness that one rarely experiences in old Champagne, except for in the caves where they were born. Part of this has to do with the magnum format but the majority of the reason for the excellent vigor of these wines is Lansons non-malolactic policy and the excellent estate vineyards they had up until 1991. All of the wines that predate 1991 in this offering are entirely estate grown- only the 1996 and 2002 use any purchased fruit. All of the vintage wines are approximately 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay and fermented in stainless steel without malolactic.

We started off our lunch with the 2002 Lanson Gold Label Vintage Brut Champagne ($74.99), the only wine in 750ml of the lunch and the only one currently in stock. This Champagne is composed of 53% Pinot Noir and 47% Chardonnay entirely from grand cru sites. Because Lanson never allows the wines to go through malo, this is a spectacularly fresh 11 year old that has lots of flowery Chardonnay character as the savory Pinot Noir side has yet to fully develop. This will be a spectacular bottle for the future if you can resist its ample charms right now. Chef Mark Sullivan had prepared a fabulous Big Eye Tuna crudo with avocado and olive oil to pair with the 2002 Lanson and it brought out the Pinot Noir character that had been hiding in the wine. It was a fabulous wine, and Lanson’s patience with their vintage program has given the Champagne lover a big reward.

Tuna crudo.For the next course, we had the 1996 Lanson Vintage Collection Brut Champagne 1.5L ($499- disgorged to order, due in August). I first tasted this wine at Lanson in Reims in 2002 when this was a current release. This Champagne is also composed of 53% Pinot Noir and 47% Chardonnay and also all Grand Cru. They use four Mountain of Reims villages for the Pinot and Chouilly, Cramant and Avize for the Chardonnay. It is dosed at only three grams per liter of sugar, but labeled as brut- not extra brut. The producers in Champagne call 1996 the 10/10 vintage, because it was so unusually ripe (10% potential alcohol) but also still very high in acid (10 grams per liter of total acidity) and the Lanson is a great example of the vintage. I am positive that I would guess this was 10 years younger in a blind tasting! I found this 1996 completely fresh and transparent. This is electric, high toned, Champagne that almost seems like a blanc de blancs! Chef Sullivan paired this with roasted diver scallops, brassicas and caramelized shellfish nage. It was an inspired pairing, as the rich, buttery scallops needed a wine that could cut them, and this 1996 is like a razor!

Scallop course.

Our main course arrived and we were treated to two vintages side by side, both from magnum! The 1988 Lanson Vintage Collection Brut Champagne 1.5L ($749) is a spectacular bottle, from one of my very favorite vintages for drinking right now. This is one of the last “classic” Champagne vintages with a nice, long, even growing season. This wine only showed the slightest tinge of gold in its straw color after 25 years. The nose is developing the white truffle aromas that only time can bring, framed by the savory Pinot Noir character that this house is rightly famous for. This Champagne had a little nutella and smoke on the deep powerful palate. The finish is vibrant and chalk- this wine still has time in hand! Chef Sullivan’s  pan roasted salmon brought out the youthful side of this wine, and it would have been very hard to guess that it was a quarter of a century old! I just drank the 1988 Krug on Sunday, and I have to say, this Lanson is fresher. A showstopper!

Also with the salmon, the 1983 Lanson Vintage Collection Brut Champagne 1.5L ($849) was a huge treat. The color of this Champagne was amazing- white gold with even a touch of green- from looking it would be easy to guess that it was a 2007! This toasty Champagne has great aromas of chestnuts and buttery chanterelles. On the palate it is full and rich with a surprising amount of viscosity. Flavors of exotic pear and ripe apple fruit resolve into a clean, dry, mineral laden finish with this 30 year old bottle of Champagne.

Salmon course.

Before the dessert the real treat of the lunch was served, the 1976 Lanson Vintage Collection Brut Champagne 1.5L ($999). This was a wine that I had tasted once before- more than 10 years ago when I visited Lanson in Reims. Amazingly, this freshly disgorged bottle tasted far younger than the old disgorgement that I had back then! This vintage was the hottest of the 20th century and a rare (at the time!) August harvest in Champagne. The wine had a light gold color and a super bright nose of wild raspberries- it was so generous that it was hard to believe! On the palate it had tense Pinot Noir fruit that reminded me of Volnay.

This is definitely a bottle for the connoisseur! They saved the best for last with this one, and I won’t ever forget having tasted it.

A toast to you,

-Gary

 

Friday
Apr262013

Champagne Friday: Thienot - A Different Kind of Negociant

Garance and Alain Thienot in their winery in Taissy.

 

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Thienot- A Different Kind of Negociant

Visiting Champagne Thienot in Taissy just outside of Reims is a completely different experience from visiting other negociants and a refreshing change. I was shown around by Garance Thienot and later met Alain Thienot for the tasting along with chef de cave Laurent Fedou this month and I was very impressed. The facility is brand new, built in 1992- above ground with humidity control and air conditioning. It is the only negociant I have ever visited in Champagne that I did not have to worry about destroying my rental car when I pulled in…Most have ancient gates that don't look like they would accommodate a car! This new facility, with all the convenience of an open warehouse space is just a small detail compared to the impact the genesis of the business has had on the wines.

Most of the big name (and the unknown for that matter!) negociants in Champagne are very old operations. In contrast, Alain Thienot started his company in 1985, after working for decades as a grape broker for other houses. This is the perfect background for starting a Champagne house, as Mr. Thienot knew all of the vineyards and growers intimately. When he started, the prices for grapes were completely fixed by the cru rating of the vineyard sites each year - as he said, the price for the poor, the OK, the good and the great was all the same - and he was in the best position to know who was doing a great job in the vineyard. The prices are no longer fixed in Champagne, but this basic structure of pricing, by cru, is still very much the way business is done. So Mr. Thienot started small, buying the best of what was available, and shopping for vineyards of his own.

By the beginning 90s Alain Thienot had managed to collect up a number of gem vineyards, including a large parcel of Grand Cru Ay that belonged to Krug but was sold off when they were acquired by Remy. Now they have a little over 67 acres of their own estate and contract a further 32 acres from other growers. This large amount of prime estate fruit, and small amount of truly excellent contracts explains their very high quality in the bottle. Thienot also owns Canard-Duchenne, and this allows further flexibility in sourcing high quality grapes since it enhances their buying power.

The style at Thienot is very clean and fresh, and they use small stainless steel tanks for the fermentations to keep the various parcels separate. Alain Thienot is a huge believer in traditional assembelage and said that he is not wedded to using certain parcels in certain wines, but rather uses what nature gives him each vintage to create the style that he is after in each individual wine. The exception to this is the single vineyard “La Vigne aux Gamins”. This is a house making Champagne on the level of greats like Roederer and Bollinger, and very worth your attention. I hope that you will try some of these Champagnes! I brought in everything they have available and think the world of the wines- here is what we have got:

Thienot Brut Champagne ($39.99) This is a great way to check out the style of Thienot at a very fair price. It was the surprise of the Oscars- the small upstart house that kicked out Moet! It is composed of 45% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 20% Meunier. The light gold color and big brioche, cream and baked apple nose gives way to a wine that is packed with power and complexity on the palate. This full bodied Champagne has a luscious finish that is very impressive.

Thienot Brut Rosé Champagne ($64.99) This brassy pink Champagne is composed of 45% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay and 20% Meunier. The color comes from 7% red wine from old vines in the grand cru of Ay-one of the plots purchased from Krug in the 1980’s. The Champagne has a very creamy nose and absolutely outstanding Ay black cherry fruit. This rose is one of the best we have in the blended style with both clean, abundant fruit and chalky drive. If you love rose, don’t miss this one!

All of the vintage dated Champagne from Thienot are entirely estate grown, and exceptionally good:

2006 Thienot "Cuvee Garance" Blanc de Rouges Brut Champagne ($99) This bottling is named after Garance Thienot, who handles the communications and marketing for the family firm. They have chosen to call this Champagne “blanc de rouges” instead of “blanc de noirs” because of the effort that they put into keeping the wine feminine. This is 100% Pinot Noir and a large proportion of the fruit comes from the grand cru Ay that the family purchased from Krug as well as from Garance’s own personal vines in the village of Tauxieres, on the border with Bouzy. This is one of the most intriguing, delicate examples of pure Pinot Champagne that I have tasted, and the quality of the fruit reminded me very much of Volnay even if the wine was straw golden in color. This very elegant, lifted wine won’t make you doubt it’s all Pinot Noir composition and the long chalky finish will leave you wanting more. This was one of the discoveries of my 2013 trip!

2005 Thienot "Cuvee Stanislas" Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne ($99) The "Cuvee Stanislas" Blanc de Blancs is made entirely from Chardonnay from the Cotes de Blancs, all of them grand cru except for a little bit of premier cru from Vertus. This high toned, smoky Champagne has great focus and precision and superior, long, mineral finish.

1999 Thienot "Cuvee Alain Thienot" Brut Champagne ($99) This classy vintage Champagne is composed of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir. The Alain Thienot has so much aroma that I thought it would be giant Champagne from smelling the walnut bread and dark cherry fruit that was jumping from the glass. On the palate this is a very balanced wine with great clarity of flavor and a light bead. The long ageing of this Champagne has done so much for it- to think that the most famous names in Champagne are selling wine that is four or even 6 years younger shows the Thienot’s commitment to quality in the bottle. It is extremely focused and long on the finish and a must try for anyone who loves luxury cuvees!

2002 Thienot "La Vigne aux Gamins" Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne ($149) This rarity comes from a miniscule one and a quarter acre plot of the Thienot estate in the Grand Cru of Avize called the Vigne aux Gamins near the border with Oger. The vines were planted in the 1950s and are massal selected rather than clones. This wine blew me away with its fantastic combination of white flowers and candied fruit. If you are looking for a toasty Champagne, this is not it- the Gamins is completely fresh and chalky style for Champagne fans that like it live and direct. It is also a great cellar candidate and will be even more fabulous as a twenty or thirty year old bottle. This great vintage is going for a low price for what it is…future vintages are bound to be more expensive! Use the link above to add this to your wait list so you can be notified when inventory is available.

I hope you'll try some of these great bottles from Thienot!

A toast to you,

Gary

Tuesday
Apr232013

Keith's Burgundy Hotline: 2010 Comtes Lafons 

By: Keith Wollenberg | K&L Burgundy Buyer

Hello Burgundy Lovers,

Our usual tiny quantities of the Domaine des Comtes Lafon wines arrive next week, and I wanted to give you all first crack at them.

Please email me, and I’ll do my best to allocate the wines. As always, we have fewer bottles than we have demand, so I cannot promise to even give you the allocation, since we have so few bottles, but I’ll do what I can.

These are NOT YET here, so PLEASE EMAIL YOUR WISHES

The Reds:

2010 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Monthelie 1er Cru "Les Duresses", $61.99  3 per person

            89-91 Burghound : This is earthier and most aromatically rustic compared to its Volnay stable mates with a pungent nose of warm earth, underbrush and cassis. There is fine volume to the relatively full-bodied flavors that possess a velvety mouth feel as the supporting tannins are well-integrated on the persistent finish. Lovely. 

            89 Tanzer : Good deep, bright red.  Sexy oak spices, mint and menthol on the nose.  Sweet, round and deep, with lovely vinosity giving shape and lift to the dark cherry and spice flavors.  Offers excellent texture and palate presence for Monthelie.

 

2010 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Volnay, $84.99 2 per person

            89-91 Burghound : An elegant, pure and attractively complex nose of ripe violet, plum, spice and earth hints precedes the rich, round and nicely voluminous medium-bodied flavors that possess the same solid depth as the nose, all wrapped in a balanced and persistent finish. This will certainly age if desired but there is enough mid-palate fat such that this should please those readers who elect to pop their bottles when they're still on the young side.

            89 Tanzer : (bottled in May of 2012; all of the Lafon 2010s were bottled beween April and July of 2012 owing to their late malolactic fermentations):  Good deep red.  Deep aromas of blueberry compote and smoke, with suggestions of superripe fruits.  Thick and sweet in the mouth, with moderate nuance but plenty of energy.  Finishes with slowly building length and suave tannins supported by the wine's impressive stuffing.

 

2010 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Volnay 1er Cru "Santenots du Milieu", $145.00 2 per person

from 40+ year old vines planted in shallow, high clay content soil sitting on a bed of solid rock

            94 Burghound: Outstanding! As was the case from cask, moderate reduction still renders the nose difficult to assess though it does not seem so severe as to suggest that it's permanent; in any event my score clearly offers the benefit of the doubt that it is not. There is plenty of energy and punch to the rich, concentrated and utterly delicious flavors that are at once generous but beautifully delineated before culminating in a balanced, explosive and gorgeously long finish. The amount of underlying material is truly impressive and the firm tannins are already well-integrated as the buffering sap almost makes them invisible. Again, assuming that the reduction isn't a longer-term issue, this should be one of the great vintages for this storied wine.

94 Tanzer:  Saturated red-ruby.  Briary dark and red berries are complicated by chocolate and smoky soil tones on the nose.  Hugely rich, creamy and seamless, with wild small red berries and smoke dominating.  Excellent balance and breed here; ethereal but at the same time sharply delineated.  Rich, smooth tannins come on late and are thoroughly buffered by the wine's fruit.

 

 

The Whites:

 

2010 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault, $109.95 1 per person

from a blend of fruit that includes parcels of villages vines in En la Barre and Luraule plus the usual declassified juice from young vines Genevrières and Charmes

            89-91 Burghound: Outstanding! This is restrained to the point of being almost mute at present and only aggressive swirling manages to liberate the most grudging of glimpses of what appear to be scents of apple, pear and almost invisible hazelnut and floral hints. By contrast the middle weight flavors are almost exuberant with excellent precision and punch to the lightly mineral-inflected and solidly well-concentrated finish. Lovely for its level.

            91 Tanzer: (bottled in April):  Good bright straw-yellow color.  Stone fruits, spices and hazelnut on the nose, plus a whiff of exotic fruits.  Sweet, dense and quite ripe but not at all heavy, offering lovely floral lift as well as a hint of reduction to the apricot and peach flavors.

 

2010 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault "Clos de la Barre", $129.95 2 per person

            92 Tanzer : (bottled in April):  Fruit-driven aromas of peach, apricot, pear and flowers.  Then juicy and tight in the mouth, with strong citrussy acidity leavening the wine's mid-palate sweetness.  The long, peachy finish shows lovely finesse for this bottling.

            89-92 Burghound : Outstanding! Thibodaux indicated that this had just been fined before my arrival and as such the nose was difficult to read. By contrast there was good richness to the round, delicious and impressively well-concentrated medium-bodied flavors that possess excellent volume yet no lack of detail on the balanced and wonderfully long finish. A terrific villages and even a touch better than its usual outstanding quality.

 

2010 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault 1er Cru "Charmes", $209.95 1 per person

a blend of fruit coming from 35+ and 75+ year old vines all in Charmes Dessus, which is the best part directly below Perrières and abutting Combettes

            93+ Points Tanzer: (bottled four days before my visit):  Deep aromas of fresh apricot, orange creamsicle, vanilla and spices.  Big, concentrated and rich, displaying more power and weight today than the Genevrières.  Dense and silky-sweet but a bit shocked by the bottling and not currently showing the precision or length of the last sample.  But this is still long on the aftertaste.  Lafon notes that this wine will become more floral as it settles down in the bottle. 93(+?) points

            91-94 Burghound: Outstanding!  A discreet but not invisible touch of wood sets off a highly layered nose of pear, citrus, rose petal and equally discreet spice notes. There is a subtle minerality to the energetic, delineated and concentrated flavors that possess superb depth and even better length on the explosive, balanced and bone dry finish. This should amply reward a decade or more of cellar time.

 

A Santé,

-Keith

 

Mr. Keith WOLLENBERG

Directeur Commercial Bourgogne

K&L Wine Merchants

http://www.klwines.com

+1-650-556-2724 Direct Line

Keithw@klwines.com

 

 

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