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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 Frank Bonville (3)

Friday
Jun282013

Champagne Friday: Avizes – A Reservation Worth Wrangling

Cindy Westby outside Les Avizes.

By: Cindy Westby | K&L Staff Member

Hotel (and Restaurant) Avizes – A Reservation Worth Wrangling

As many of you know, my husband “Champagne Gary Westby” keeps a running list of the very best places to eat and sleep in Champagne. After visiting the region every year for well over a decade, I think he has just about tried them all! I was lucky enough to join him on his most recent visit to Champagne (his second trip this year), and we were both thrilled to discover a brand new restaurant for “the list”.

Located on the Cotes de Blanc in the tiny village of Avize is Hotel and Restaurant "Les Avizes". It opened in 2011 and is operated by Corrine and Anselme Selosse, who are also associated with the intriguing Champagne house Domaine Jacques-Selosse. The hotel offers only ten rooms, and reservations at the restaurant can be difficult to obtain if you are not a hotel guest. Nevertheless, if you are planning a trip to Champagne, I recommend trying to wrangle a reservation however you can!

As is tradition in the nicer restaurants of France, you are invited upon arrival into the salon prior to dinner in order to take the aperitif, peruse the menu and plan the meal. This is perfect for Gary and me - we have no problem spending several happy minutes trying to convince each other to order a certain dish so that we can have a favorite wine with the dinner...Fortunately, at Les Avizes, the daily menu is fixed and so the only thing we had to agree upon were our wines.

 

Try this at home! Franck Bonville Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs ($39.99) It was a great pleasure to look over their wine list, which contained many things I wanted to drink at very reasonable prices. We selected the Franck Bonville Extra Brut Blanc de Blanc for our aperitif. And, after sneaking a peek at the daily menu which was chalked on the door of the kitchen, we also selected 2007 Lafarge Volnay as the red wine for our meal.

The menu that day struck me as very “provincial” with courses featuring mussels in a curry broth, cod with pesto and lamb accompanied by a modern riff on ratatouille. The extra brut with its super-low dosage was the perfect aperitif to revive us after being awake for some 36 hours en route to France, and played surprisingly well with the curried mussels, emphasizing their sweetness. After all, the Champagne had only traveled around to corner from its birthplace to reach our lips! 

The 2007 Lafarge Volnay, decanted in advance, was also a winner. Already showing a touch of brick color on the edges, this was open and aromatic, nicely structured, and elegant in the mouth.

The atmosphere of the hotel and restaurant is very fresh with soaring ceilings, tons of windows and a clever mix of antiques and modern design elements.  Service was warm and comfortable, with the Chef overlooking his guests from a small elevated kitchen and one bustling woman acting as host, sommelier, AND waiter…all supervised quite competently by an elderly wire-hair terrier who ensured that all guests were greeted, and that no crumbs hit the floor.

A toast to you,

–Cindy

Friday
Jan252013

Champagne Friday: Epernay and the Cote des Blancs

Cinnamon Westby explores the Launois museum.

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Champagne Itinerary #1, Epernay and the Cote des Blancs

Travelling to Champagne is a lot of fun. Last week I started off a mini-series of posts on destinations in the area at the top with Chateau Les Crayeres. This week I have set up an itinerary that could be covered in one or two days, depending on how ambitious (one) or leisurely (two) you want to be: Epernay and the Cote des Blancs. The Hotel Ibis in the center of Epernay will be our home base; this is where I always stay when on business in Champagne. All of the recommended wineries will require an appointment well in advance, and only Moet is open on the weekends. Note: trips to Champagne are best done mid-week - quite the opposite of Napa!

Hôtel Ibis, Epernay

This is a great hotel for folks who have come to Champagne as travelers to taste and learn about the wines instead of hanging out in your hotel room. The rooms are clean, simple and comfortable, the friendly, professional, accommodating staff is there around the clock and many of them I count as personal friends. The wifi always works, so it is easy to get back in touch with home, and the location could not be more central for visiting the vineyards. Epernay is a small city, and everything is in walking distance. Given how good the food and wine is, walking to and from dinner is a must!

19 rue Chocatelle :: 51200 Epernay:: 03 26 51 14 51 website

La Cloche à Fromage, Epernay

Start your day out by picking up some cheese from La Cloche à Fromage for your lunch. Lunch takes a lot of time in France, so if you want to visit a lot of producers it is impossible to fit a 'real' French lunch in the schedule. And frankly, two sit-down meals a day in France are simply too much for my delicate Californian constitution! La Cloche is the best cheese shop in the whole Champagne region and the envy of many Parisians. Conveniently, it is located on the same square as the Hotel Ibis! Ask the cheese monger for a piece to eat today, they will be happy to cut it to the right size for the number of people you have. 

19 rue St Thibault :: 51200 Epernay :: 03 26 55 30 18

Au Pain Délice

On the same street, three doors down from La Cloche, is the best baker in Epernay, Au Pain Delice. Here you can grab a sandwich for later (remember, in France the bakers sell the sandwiches, but they are CLOSED at lunch!!!!) and some bread to go with your cheese. You are now set for lunch in the vineyard later on in the day! You will find a little spot with a bench just at the entrance of about every one of the villages that you visit. While the producers are often horrified at my jambon (French ham sandwich) lunches,  your palate will thank you. This regular French food is not to be missed- it is every bit as good as the high end, especially when you visit the best baker in town.

3 rue St Thibault :: 51200 Epernay :: 03 26 55 25 75

Champagne Bruno Michel, Pierry

Try: Bruno Michel "Les Roses" Brut Rosé Champagne ($49.99) Just south of Epernay, the suburb of Pierry is where the town gives way to vines. It is home to one of the most careful producers that K&L has every carried: Champagne Bruno Michel. Bruno is obsessed with every detail of his wines, making every vine selection and grafting every rootstock himself. He is completely organic and Ecocert and Demeter certified in the vineyard, and works with small barrels for his vintage dated wines. His microclimate in Pierry and Moussy (the neighboring village, where he also has vines) is known as sud-Epernay, and is one of the coolest in all of Champagne. As such, Pinot Noir does not ripen well here, and he has almost all Chardonnay and Meunier vines. A visit and tasting here will teach you more about Champagne than visiting every single big house!

It will take less than 10 minutes to get to Bruno Michel, but allow a half hour- the parking garage in Epernay takes some getting used to and the city is definitely not on a grid!

4 de la Vieille Ferme, 51530 Pierry :: 03 26 55 10 54 :: champagnebrunomuchel@orange.fr 

Olivier Bonville pulls a sample of vin clair before it is bottled and transformed into Champagne.

Champagne Franck Bonville, Avize

Try: Franck Bonville "Belles Voyes" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne - only a few left in Magnum! ($139)No Champagne that we carry sells as fast as the all-estate, all grand cru Franck Bonville. If you are reading this right now, you have probably already tried their electric yet still rich all chardonnay Champagne. This is a great visit, and you can see here the difference between the stainless steel elevage of that majority of their wines and the oak aged elevage of their single vineyard Belles Voyes, which is handled in a different cellar across the street. Olivier, Isabelle and the whole crew here could not be nicer, and they all speak excellent English.

9 Rue Pasteur, 51190 Avize :: 03 26 57 52 30 :: franck-bonville@wanadoo.fr :: website 

 

Champagne Launois Pere et Fils, Mesnil

Try: 2004 Launois "Spécial Club" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($59.99) No trip to Champagne would be complete without a stop in Mesnil, the most famous and sought after terroir for the most sought after varietal in Champagne: Chardonnay. In this village you have Salon, Krug’s Clos du Mesnil, and Launois' incomparable wine museum (see picture at top). Bernard Launois does things differently, harvesting 10 days after everyone else in the village and choosing old enamel lined tanks (think Le Creuset) instead of wood or stainless for his elevage. He is also a collector of everything Champagne, and a trip down to his cellar museum is a must for any trip to the region. Here you will find fantastic exhibits on everything from growing and making cork to the glass making process for the bottles, complete with historical shapes. He has pumps from every century, and an incredible collection of old presses and stills. Don’t miss this!

2 Avenue Eugène Guillaume, 51190 Les Mesnil-Sur-Oger :: 03 26 57 50 15 :: info@champagne-launois.fr  website 

Champagne Moet & Chandon, Epernay

After visiting a few small houses, one should also so see the biggest: Moet & Chandon. Located right on the Avenue of Champagne, this is the Disneyland of the region, and spectacular in its scale. They will show you the cellars, where you will see more Dom Perignon bottles than you can shake a stick at!

20 Avenue de Champagne, 51200 :: only for visit +33 (0)3 2651 2020 :: visites@moet.fr :: website

La Grillade, Epernay

La Grillade is one of my favorite places to eat in France, and definitely the best value in the entire Champagne region. Chef Christophe Bernard is a dropout of the Michelin system, and is now feeding people delicious food in his simple restaurant in Epernay. Hopefully, you took my advice for lunch and went for a light picnic among the vines, because you won’t make it to the second course here if you didn’t bring an appetite. Since you are walking from the Ibis, feel free to order plenty of wine off of his very reasonable wine list. Why not start with Bonville and drink something from your visit earlier in the day? My favorite option here is the Traditional Champagne Menu, which includes a big slab of foie gras and the Champagne Pigeon en Croutte, a dish that I can’t leave Champagne without eating. He has a nice selection of well priced Burgundy that goes very well with this rich dish. You will waddle back to the hotel, but you’ll never forget the meal!

16 rue Reims, 51200 Epernay :: 03 26 55 44 22 :: website

 

A toast to you!

-Gary

Friday
Dec212012

Champagne Friday: Franck Bonville "Belles Voyes"

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

One of the Greats- Regardless of Price!

Franck Bonville "Belles Voyes" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne The Saturday after having dinner with Krug’s CEO, Cinnamon and I decided to stay home and have some excellent Dungeness Crab from The Fish Market in Palo Alto. We kept it simple, with Littleneck clams in garlic, aligote and butter as a starter, and shallot bread and arugula salad with the crustacean. Since we were still in the mood for good Champagne, we opened one of the wines I have long regarded as one of our best at any price, the Franck Bonville "Belles Voyes" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($67.99). With the Clos de Mesnil so fresh in our minds, this was a great opportunity for us to compare.

The Belles Voyes is a very nicely situated vineyard in the mid-slope of the Grand Cru of Oger. The Bonville’s share it with many other growers, including Launois, who use it in their vintage. Their plot is only one and three quarters acres and was planted either in the late 20’s or early 30’s, no one really remembers. You can see it here on the Larmat Atlas of Champagne:

Larmat Atlas of Champagne

The vineyard gets its name from the excellent view that one has of the village of Oger from its slopes. Making a single vineyard wine out of this site was the idea of Olivier Bonville, who wanted to make a wine in the style of his grandfather after taking over the winery from his father Gilles. To this end, he took this old, massal selected plot and made a barrel aged tete de cuvee from one marc, or single press load of Chardonnay. This adds up to just 3000 bottles. Luckily for us, Olivier’s father didn’t think a “high priced”, barrel aged, single vineyard Champagne would be of interest to their customers, so when I offered to by nearly all of it the first time Olivier showed it to me, he let me!

Over the years, our allocation of this wine has dropped, but luckily we always get more than anyone else. The current batch is based on 2004 and is simply magnificent. You can check out more about this wine and my own impressions of it in today's video segment.

It is a very rich blanc de blancs that still finishes with the persistent length and chalkiness of the top Champagne in the world. It has layer upon layer of white fruit and subtle brioche, and will grow in your memory after having drunk it. I hope that you grab a bottle and treat yourself to one of our best.

A toast to you!

-Gary