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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 (57)

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

 

 

Friday
Apr192013

Champagne Friday: Visit to Billecart-Salmon

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Earlier this month, Antoine Rolland-Billecart hosted my father and me at Champagne Billecart-Salmon in Mareuil-sur-Ay. This house rightly has one of the most famous names in all of Champagne, but produces relatively little in terms of quantity- about 2 million bottles a year. The family has been in the business a very long time, and will celebrate their 200th year in 2018. We started our tour with a walk in his Clos St. Hilaire, featured in today's video.

Walking with Antoine at Billecart-Salmon.

Of the 750 acres that Billecart-Salmon works with its 30 vineyard workers, only 25 acres are owned by them. They rent 300 acres and contract the rest of their supply, making them very much a traditional negociant. Of that land, over 42 acres are dedicated to growing Pinot Noir for red wine for their rose. These vines average over 50 years old and are located in the grand cru villages of Ay and Ambonnay as well as in Billecart’s own premier cru village, Mareuil-sur-Ay. In these special vineyards they prune extra short and even employ green harvesting to get the concentration needed to make the most famous rose Champagne in the world. For the rest of the vines, they are most concerned with picking at the right acid level, and look for a very high total acidity of 10 grams per liter at harvest.

The caves at Billecart-Salmon.

This high acidity is something that they seek to preserve in the wines, and fresh clean flavors are the focus of the house style at Billecart-Salmon. Antoine Roland-Billecart's grandfather was a brewer, and in 1950 they were the first house to utilize cold stabilization to clarify the must before fermentation. The alcoholic fermentation is done at a very cold temperature here- so cold that they have developed their own selected yeast strains that can operate in an environment that never goes above 57 degrees Fahrenheit. This primary fermentation is very slow- three weeks- creating less than half a degree of alcohol per day!

They do not have a specific policy on malolactic fermentation at Billecart, and have the cellar split into three separate zones so they can choose to allow certain lots to go through the process and block others. I was surprised to learn that Billecart-Salmon is now the fourth biggest house for the use of wood, behind Bollinger, Krug and Alfred Gratien. Only 3% of their production is done in barrel, and you can see the lots in the picture below. This goes to show that Champagne is still primarily a tank appellation!

Billecart barrel list.

Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé Champagne The most famous wine from this great house is the Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé Champagne ($74.99). It has earned its reputation as the benchmark for all rose 2000 Billecart-Salmon "Cuvée Nicolas-François- NFB" Champagne Champagne with its ethereal elegance, purity and lightness.

My personal favorite is the 2000 Billecart-Salmon "Cuvée Nicolas-François- NFB" Champagne ($89.99) which is less than 3% of their total production. This is classy, understated Champagne with just the right amount of nutty, bready richness to balance out its bright fruit. The bead and texture is near perfect- if you feel like a treat you will not be disappointed by the NFB!

A toast to you!

–Gary

Friday
Apr122013

Champagne Friday: Visiting Bruno Michel

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Bruno Michel Visit

Always a K&L Staff Favorite: Bruno Michel "Blanche" Brut Champagne ($34.99)One of the highlights of my trip to Champagne this year was visiting the Michel family in Pierry. First we took a trip up to the Brousses vineyard at the top of the village, the two-acre plot that his single vineyard cuvee de la terre bottling comes from. This southeast facing site was planted in 1964 and is one of the sources for the plant material that Bruno propagates himself for his massal selection vineyard plantings. This chalky site is high on the hill in the already quite cool climate of Pierry, and makes the most high-toned, incisive Blanc de Blancs that we carry. This Champagne is a huge favorite of mine, so it was great to get acquainted with the vineyard.

Superb Blanc de Blancs for a special occasion: 2002 Bruno Michel "Pauline" Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne($69.99) After our trip to the vines, we came back down to the winery and tasted his 2012 vin clairs. Bruno explained that he lost half his crop in 2012 and that it was a very difficult year, especially for organic producers like him. All of the producers I spoke to, organic or not, had very low yields in this very difficult year. In the winter the temperature got so low that it killed some vines outright. In the spring, late frost on the 26th of April destroyed many of the buds, especially for the Chardonnay. During the flowering rain and cold temperatures interfered with the pollination of the plant further reducing yields. A rainy July caused mildew in the vineyard and the ensuing mud made getting into the vineyard to work almost impossible.

Last year, speaking to my grower friends in Champagne in spring and summer, they were all convinced that 2012 would be a near total loss. But mid-August brought a very fortunate turnaround, with sunny weather and some beneficial wind. While the sun began ripening the grapes at an even pace for a moderately late harvest, the wind dried out the vineyard and helped to get rid of the mildew. In late September Bruno, like most of the producers we visited, harvested a top quality, if tiny quantity vintage. I suspect that if the summer had been as bad with a generous amount of grapes on the vine, this quality would have been impossible.

Stunnin single vineyard Blanc de Blancc: Bruno Michel Premier Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($39.99)The 2012 vin clair samples that we tasted were very precise and aromatic. The Chardonnays were tightly wound; concentrated and very long while the Meunier was savory and round but still high toned and persistent. We also had the opportunity to taste the assembelage with the reserve wines added for his non-vintage wine, and I was impressed with the finesse even at this early stage. Bruno is obsessed with his wines, and his vin clair showed his attention to every detail.

Need a killer sushi pairing? Opt for the super dry Bruno Michel "Rebelle" Extra Brut Champagne ($39.99)After the still wines, Bruno started popping crown caps off of two flights of Champagne to do a dosage trial. First we tasted five different levels of sugar for the Extra Brut and after six examples of the regular brut. It was pretty dramatic to see the caps pop at a full six atmospheres- and you can see it in today's video.

The flights were done in random order of dosage level so we wouldn't be biased. Luckily, he didn't want us to guess which had more and which had less dosage, but rather just which ones we preferred. Bruno explained that it was perfectly normal for particular Champagne to taste sweeter with less sugar and drier with more on occasion, since the sugar mixture reacts with the other flavors in the wine in complex and unexpected ways. After tasting we found that the group consisting of his assistant wine maker, my father, his wife Catherine and I had decided on the same level of sugar in both wines as he and his oenologist had.

In my notes below, the first number is the order for the flight, and the bottom number (which is circled) was my preference. The dosage is abbreviated g/l for grams per liter.

 

At the top of the brut page I wrote MCR, which is rectified grape must, since this is the kind of sugar Bruno uses for dosage. Producers also sometimes use beet or cane sugar.

The fantastic 2002 Bruno Michel "Cuvee Millésime" Brut Champagne ($59.99) is better than ever.For the last part of our appointment we tasted through the current releases. The 2002 Bruno Michel "Cuvee Millésime" Brut Champagne ($59.99), which we have carried for almost four years is more impressive than ever. He has kept this wine he didn't sell right away on the lees so the batch that is for sale now has an extra 36 months of yeast contact, and it has become even more creamy and effortless. This blend of 80% Chardonnay from 45 year old vines and 20% Meunier from over 70 year old vines was one of the top wines of the trip.

For something to look forward to, we also managed to grab another importers batch of non-vintage rose in magnum- a batch based on 2006 that is full of spices and freshly baked bread. This excellent rose is completely different from his rose de rose that we carry in 750s even though they are both saignee Meuniers. The magnum is rich and has a subtle, laid back elegance and fantastic length. These should arrive in late summer.

I hope that you will taste some of the excellent Champagnes from Bruno Michel. His wines are among the most complex that we carry, and worth the effort to taste!

A toast to you,

-Gary

 

 

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