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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 Franck Bonville (10)

Friday
Aug302013

Champagne from a Styrofoam Cup

Sometimes Styrofoam is all there is.When customers ask me if it is OK to fly with Champagne, I always respond that I never fly without it. Now that all liquids must be checked, the bottles go into the luggage area, which is far cooler than the often times hot cabins of airplanes and fully pressurized. This week I flew down to Los Angeles to present the staff Champagne tasting at our Hollywood store and meet with our biggest distributor in Cerritos. Since I was bringing a few samples with me for the staff, I figured I would through in a bottle for my dinner as well.

I went out to my cellar and grabbed a bottle of the Franck Bonville Brut Rose Champagne from last year as I had just got news from Olivier Bonville that we will get a little for the end of the year. As soon as I got to my basic hotel in Cerritos, I put it on ice and started to look for something to drink it out of. The room was equipped with Styrofoam coffee cups, the thin, lined kind. I thought I could do better so I went down to check- but the only thing they had were thicker, milk shake style Styrofoam cups. I didn’t give up.

I ordered sushi at “Sushi Ya” just around the corner from the hotel, and when I went to pick it up, I asked them if they had a little plastic cup… No luck, I got another thick styro! It was time to make do. When I got back, I decided to try both styles and experiment. The thinner, lined styro was much better, and the Champagne surprised me with its resilience in such a poor container. It shouldn’t have surprised me so much.

A few years ago, Cinnamon and I hosted some gentleman from a consulting firm looking into drinking vessels impact on sensual experience with beverages, and we put on a tasting for them. We laid out Riedel glasses; the Sommelier Burgundy, Sommelier Vintage Champagne and Vinum Chianti/ Zinfandel, as well as plastic solo cups, coffee mugs and curled lip Libby-style glasses. We served them Champagne, Burgundy and Zinfandel in the different vessels, and were very surprised with the results.

Our gorgeous bottle of Volnay was not worth drinking out of anything besides the Burgundy glass. It was tight and closed out of the Zin glass and not much more than red, wet and acidic out of anything else. The Zin was better out of different vessels, and although the Somm Burgundy glasses made it seem a little hot, it was only the plastic solo cup that really ruined the experience. The Champagne was the champion, with the CO2 doing a lot of the work that a glass would normally do, delivering aroma to the drinker.

Drinking the Bonville rose out of the Styrofoam cup, paired with tasty sushi, was a great way to make the best out of a night on the road. While the wine might have lost a beat or two aromatically, it tasted better than straight out of the bottle. I was happy that I brought it and found that the Ambonnay Bing cherry Pinot had great synergy with the salmon and tuna nigiri. Next time, I’ll try to remember my Riedel O’s, but if I forget I won’t despair!

A toast to you- from a Styrofoam cup!

Gary Westby

Friday
Aug162013

Champagne Friday: Magnums!

Launois Special Club magnum.

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Anytime I can fabricate the occasion I like to open a magnum of Champagne. If there are four or more people, it is the right size for the aperitif; I can't remember the last time I had to stopper one up and put it in the refrigerator for the next day. Whenever I do a customer tasting, anything that is available in magnum gets poured from magnum, and when I tell the customers that I am cheating by doing this, they usually just laugh...but I am serious.

Magnums have many advantages over single bottles of Champagne. The most obvious one is that you get half the amount of oxidative ageing in this format, since the opening at the top of the bottle is the same as a 750, but the volume of the wine is doubled. Because of the slope of the bottle, you also get more contact with the lees while the bottle is ageing. But the biggest advantage of all is in the attitude of the producers to this great format, since they feel that they benefit from more ageing, they almost always keep them on the lees longer.

2002 Dom Perignon 1.5L ($449)One can see this trend in vintage Champagne easily. While we are offering the 2003 & 2004 Dom Perignon in 750, we still have the 2002 Dom Perignon in magnum. They are just starting to release the 2003 now, more than a year after the release of the 750s. We have moved to 2004 with Pierre Paillard in 750s, but have 2002 Pierre Paillard in magnum. With Champagne Bonville it is 2008 in 750 and 2007 in the big bottle. Louis Roederer’s Brut Rose is the same story, 2008 in 750, 2007 Rose  in magnum. Pol Roger’s excellent Winston Churchill is 2000 vintage in 750 and 1999 in magnum.

2002 Pierre Paillard 1.5L ($119) On my last visit to Champagne I started asking producers about the base age of their non-vintage magnums after doing an accidental vertical of the non-vintage Ariston Aspasie Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne with Paul Vincent Ariston. We started with the 2008 in 750, which is what we have on the shelf currently, moved on to the 2009 base which is now on the water, and when we gathered for dinner he offered a magnum as the aperitif, based on 2007. This--the Ariston Aspasie Blanc de Blancs Brut 1.5L ($79.99)--is what we have on the shelf and what is coming in the next shipment...with a full year of extra ageing than what we have in 750, soon to be more when the new shipment arrives!

Pouring Marguet Brut Rose Champagne from Magnum.

2007 Franck Bonville "Millesime" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne 1.5L ($84.99)We have Bruno Michel Rose on the way that is two years older than the 750s. The Marguet Brut Rose ($79.99) that I am pouring in the picture above received more than an extra year on the lees than the 750s from the same shipment. Jacquesson released their excellent "Cuvée 736" Brut Champagne in 750 in early spring, but it is only just now shipping in magnum. Checking the IDs on Krug Brut Rose ($699), the 750 (Krug ID 212020) has a youngest element from 2006, while the magnum (Krug ID 212024) is aged a full two more years with a youngest element from 2004. Both were disgorged in spring of 2012. Additional ageing happens at almost every Champagne house.

Ariston Aspasie Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne 1.5L ($79.99)This translates into more depth, nuance and complexity in the Champagne served from magnum, without any sacrifice in freshness. In fact, I find the magnums to show more freshness. I hope that you’ll join me in drinking more from this most ideal of Champagne formats! Here is what we have in magnum:

Marguet Pere et Fils Brut Rosé Champagne 1.5L (89.99)Ariston Aspasie Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne (1.5L) $79.99

Ariston Aspasie "Brut Prestige" Champagne (1.5L) $84.99

Baron-Fuenté "Grande Réserve" Brut Champagne (1.5L) $49.99

Billecart-Salmon "Brut Reserve" Champagne (1.5L) $99.99

Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé Champagne (1.5L) $169

Bruno Michel "Blanche Brut" Champagne (1.5L) $79.99

Collard-Picard "Cuvee Selection" Brut Champagne (1.5L) $74.99

Collard-Picard "Dom Picard" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne 1.5L $129

Collard-Picard "Prestige" Brut Champagne (1.5L) $89.99

Fleury "Carte Rouge" Blanc de Noirs Brut Champagne (1.5L) $84.99

Fleury Brut Rosé Champagne (1.5L) $109

Franck Bonville "Belles Voyes" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne (1.5L) $139

Franck Bonville "Brut Selection" Blanc de Blancs Champagne (1.5L) $69.99

2007 Franck Bonville "Millesime" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne 1.5L $84.99

Krug "Grand Cuvée" Brut Champagne (1.5L) $399

Krug Brut Rosé Champagne 1.5L $699

Laurent-Perrier Brut Champagne (1.5L) $69.99

Louis Roederer "Brut Premier" Champagne (1.5L) $89.99

2007 Louis Roederer Brut Rosé Champagne 1.5L $149

Marguet Pere et Fils "Cuvée Reserve" Brut Champagne 1.5L $89.99

Marguet Pere et Fils Brut Rosé Champagne (1.5L) $89.99

Michel Arnould Verzenay "Brut Reserve" Champagne (1.5L) $64.99

Michel Arnould Verzenay Brut Rosé Champagne (1.5L) $74.99

Michel Loriot "Cuvée Reserve" Brut Champagne (1.5L) $65.99

2002 Moet & Chandon "Dom Pérignon" Brut Champagne (1.5L) $449

Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Champagne (1.5L) $79.99

1999 Pol Roger Cuvée Winston Churchill Brut Champagne 1.5L $499

Ruinart Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne (1.5L) $129

Ruinart Brut Rosé Champagne Magnum 1.5L $149

1990 Veuve Clicquot "Cave Privée" Brut Vintage Champagne (1.5L) $425

Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne (1.5L) $119

Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé Champagne (1.5L) $149

 

You are invited to click this link to browse all Champagne Magnums on KLWines.com.

A toast to you,

Gary

 

Friday
Aug022013

Champagne Friday: Midsummer Roundup

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

As much as I like to talk Champagne with all of you, I thought it might be a fun change of pace to share  some of my co-workers' favorite Champagnes this summer. Here is a roundup of some of the top staff selections from the last month. Enjoy!

Fleury "Carte Rouge" Blanc de Noirs Brut Champagne ($39.99) Consistently one of my favorite direct import producers in our champagne section- Fleury makes complex sparkling wine from 100% pinot noir vines. The result is a rich and decadent sparkler that doesn't sacrifice minerality or brightness for its lush texture. -Mike Barber

 Michel Loriot "Cuvee Reserve" Brut Champagne ($29.99) Top Value! Apple, pie crust toastiness, chalky minerality with a beautiful, persistent bead and balanced acidity. This is the real deal, folks. I love this 100% Meunier, insanely affordable Champagne! -Sarah Covey

2005 Amaury Coutelas Vintage Brut Champagne ($39.99) I had the fortune to revisit this incredible Champagne in the company of Angelique and Damien Coutelas, who were recently in town for a producer visit and consumer tasting. The 2005 impressed me before, and upon re-tasting I was amazed at how it has blossomed over the last six months in something even richer and deeper. Worth a serious revisit! 70 year old Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir vines are the source of this enticing Champagne, and in the cooler 2005 vintage these naturally low-yielding vines yielded even less than usual. The result is a rich, complex Champagne with a creamy texture and savory elements that make it ideal for pairing with food. Lemony, bready aromas lead in the nose, followed by flavors of nutty lees and fresh-buttered sourdough toast on the palate. The dry finish that leaves lingering saline-like mineral and nutty flavors. This would be superb with many seafood dishes or a simple roast chicken, and makes a lovely gift. From a producer that is brand new to the US market and that you can only find at K&L, this is a real special deal here. -Chiara Shannon

Bruno Michel "Blanche" Brut Champagne ($34.99) I am just one in a long line of staff members at K&L to fall head over heels for this wine. It is the balance of mineral freshness with the pure and elegant fruit qualities that really set this wine apart. Great for the wine geek, and any sort of setting. Really delicious. -Kyle Kurani

2004 Launois "Spécial Club" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($59.99) Special wine and not just in name! As with all Special Club bottlings this comes from Launois' top parcels of vines. The wine has extra time on the lees which not only enhances its depth and quality but also gives the wine great oxidation resistance to allow for extended cellaring. The vibrant acidity of the 2004 vintage gives energy and life to this wine that is simply a delight to drink now and will only get better with time. -Ryan Woodhouse

Ariston Aspasie "Carte Blanche" Brut Champagne ($27.99) Vines have been cultivated on this tiny property in the hamlet of Brouillet for five generations, and it has remained a customer and staff favorite here for several years. Yeasty, full and complex, the Carte Blanche exhibits a fine intensely-focused bead with lively notes of tart apples, dried hazelnuts, vanilla and toast, all in all a remarkably well-built Brut that will compare well to cuvées at double the price. It is perfect for entertaining. Top Value! -John Majeski

Franck Bonville "Belles Voyes" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($67.99) Based on the 2004 vintage, this is a terrifically rich and very lovely champagne, made from old vines, planted in the 1920s, long before commercial clones were available. The reulting concentration and depth is a reward that exceeds many champagnes costing well over $100. -Keith Wollenberg


And of course, I couldn't resist adding one of my own...

Billecart-Salmon Extra Brut Champagne ($54.99/Wine Club) I love extra brut Champagne, and Antoine Billecart has made a great example of the style with this bottling. He and I drank this along with his team at Quince in SF the last time he was here, and with four years on the lees, it came across as dry, but without a hint of austerity. Many big houses lack respect for Meunier, but not Billecart- this wine gets its charm from the clean fruit that this indigenous grape brings to the blend. It is composed of 40% Meunier, 30% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir and the long, cool fermentation and generous lees time has given this wine the fruit and balance to please even a first time extra brut drinker. To watch the video from my visit with Antoine at Billecart-Salmon in Mareuil-sur-Ay this past April, click here.

A toast to you,

-Gary