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2000 Labégorce, Margaux $39.99

A great value in Bordeaux! This bottle is mature enough to drink now, but has time in hand if you want to keep it in the cellar for the future. We love it for its laid back elegance and classic balance. A must try for your next nice steak dinner.

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Entries in Krug (13)

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

Friday
Jan042013

Champagne Friday: Top 10 Champagnes of 2012

Bernard Launois and the 1964 Pertois Blanc de Blancs Champagne (#3)

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Happy New Year and here's to the first of many Champagne Fridays in 2013! I think it's only fitting to start off the new year reflecting on some highlights from last year in the Champagne department. 2012 was so full of great bottles that it seems a pity to choose only ten to talk about, but since ten is the traditional number for lists like this, I am going to stick to it. Champagne is impossible to take out of its context, so I have not made any attempt to be empirical with this list. It is simply my top personal 10 Champagne experiences of the year, each great for a different reason.

Before we get started, I want to take moment to thank each and every one of you K&L Champagne-loving customer out there for your support in 2012, and look forward to helping you in 2013!

Gary's Top 10 Champagnes of 2012

A real birthday treat: the 1995 Launois Vintage Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne Jeroboam!10. 1995 Launois Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne Jeroboam: Why not start big? The K&L crew gathered for 'Friday Night Uncorked' at Quattro Restaurant on my birthday, and we brought this to enjoy with the menu of the evening. This Jeroboam was disgorged for the millennium and covered in references to 2000, which confuse the heck out of people looking for the 1995 on the label! This big bottle worked great for the dozen of us and easily got around for seconds. It was creamy, with great vanilla cake butter richness braced by electric Mesnil minerality. It showed perfectly at 17, and should be good for decades of birthdays to come!!! Many of the crew commented that this was the “wine of the night” even after enjoying magnums of 1986 and 1966 Pichon Lalande that were in top form!

Charles Heidsieck "Brut Reserve" Champagne 9. Charles Heidsieck "Brut Reserve" Champagne ($49.99):  My jaw almost dropped when I learned the story of the new Charles Heidsieck from Cecile Bonnefond, the CEO of both Charles and Piper. Instead of the normal package change / price increase rationalized by currency fluctuation or “increased international demand” this wine had been improved at great cost to the producer before the price went up! The new package contains a selection of half the vineyard sites of the old one, and older reserve wines. The result is non-vintage Champagne that is better than most big house vintage wines and a stronger value now at $49.99 than the old was at $34.99. When we drank this with Jim Pollock at the K&L party at my house it was one of the stars of the night, and reflecting back, of the whole year! This Champagne has depth, combining maturity and freshness, nutty intrigue and minerality! To learn more, check out my interview with Cecile posted in October. Enjoying the "new" Charles Heidsieck "Brut Reserve" Champagne with Jim Pollock and K&L staff.

Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Rosé Champagne 8. Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Rosé Champagne ($49.99):  My friend Henry Hiatt who manages the Fish Market in Palo Alto brought several dozen big Miyagi oysters from Fanny Bay in British Columbia and shucked them expertly for all of us. We had some Chablis and a few Blanc de Blancs with them and they worked well, just like one would expect. We were thirsty on Thanksgiving, and the only cold bottle of Champagne left was this rose… Which I did not think would work at all. What a surprise! This ultra dry rose, with its very high (70%) Chardonnay content was the best pairing of the night with the oysters. While we could taste the black cherry flavor of the Bouzy rouge, the wine interacted with the oysters like an extra brut- clean refreshment and mineral zing!

Franck Bonville Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne 7. Franck Bonville Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($39.99): Cinnamon and I drank this at home the night before flying down to Los Angeles for the annual Champagne tent events. This was our last chance to enjoy Champagne like regular citizens before the madness of the big tastings, and we took advantage of it! Cinnamon picked up sushi to go from our favorite spot, Akasaka in Menlo Park and we enjoyed the pairing immensely. The extra brut from Bonville is always the same wine as the concurrent vintage, but not declared as such. It is all Avize Chardonnay and although the current batch had over four years on the lees, it is still very austere on its own. With sushi it is magic. The sweetening effect the hamachi had on this bottle was striking, and its flexibility with the spicy and pickled flavors from the embarrassing rolls that I like to order amazed me. The unbelievably clean, precise chalkiness of this wine put the Avize terroir center stage!

Ariston Aspasie Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne (1.5L) 6. Ariston Aspasie Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne Magnum ($79.99/ $34.99 750): I opened this magnum as business petered off on Christmas eve for the staff here in the Redwood City store, and it made me a popular man at K&L. Carrying a magnum around to the various work stations put a smile on many faces here, and the wine inside the bottle kept those smiles. This wine is single vineyard, from the very steep Gouttes d’Or site in Brouillet, and has a very different style than the Chardonnay from the Cotes de Blancs. This is creamy, decadent wine, and great on its own in the final moments of the retail rush…or just about any time! I need to buy this for my cellar.

5. 1978 Veuve Clicquot "Cave Privée" Brut Rosé Champagne: Who could resist the charm of drinking Cave Privée in the Cave Privée? On April 30th I visited Clicquot in Reims and tasted with Pierre Cassenave from their winemaking team. All the wines; 1990 and 1980 Gold Label, 2004 La Grande Dame and 1989 Rose showed unbelievably well, but the star was this 1978. It was darker than the 1989 and had a giant Vosne-Romanee like nose of savory black cherry fruit. It was rich, textural wine and had me scribbling “the Richebourg of Champagne” and “one of my top Champagne experiences” in my notebook. I wonder if they will ever let any out of the Cave Privée for us? If you would like to see the Cave, check this out this video shared on Uncorked in May of last year.

The current release of Krug "Grande Cuvée" Brut Champagne ($139) is in stock now.4. Krug "Grande Cuvée" Brut Champagne

(last year's batch): Just three weeks ago I had the pleasure of tasting nearly every release from Krug over dinner with their new CEO. The best pairing of the night and my favorite wine was last years’ release of Grande Cuvee paired with the white truffle risotto. I love that a little patience and a good cellar is all one needs to steal the show from $800 wines, and boy did this bottle steal the show! This batch was based on the most unlikely harvest- 2003. It was brought into excellent balance by a big dollop of 1996 and reserves going all the way back to 1988. The wine was so full of truffles itself that I felt like the most decadent man on earth drinking it with the real Alba product. I learned my lesson from this bottle- put more non-vintage in the cellar; just a year can make such a difference! You can see the whole story in this video posted on Uncorked.

3.1964 Pertois Blanc de Blancs Champagne (photo at top): Who is Pertois you might ask? They are an important landholding family in the Cotes de Blancs, and this bottle came from Severine Launois’ mothers’ side of that family, and we drank it together at Launois. Many of the vineyard sites in this bottle are now part of the Launois estate. The 1964 vintage in Champagne was one of the greats of the 20th century, and this old disgorgement did not disappoint. This was a caramely, rich, full bodied, low mousse masterpiece that made me think of my few and precious experiences with Montrachet. This was one of only two wines that I could not spit out while on business this year… The other being my #1!

Bruno Michel "Rebelle" Extra Brut Champagne 2. Bruno Michel "Rebelle" Extra Brut Champagne ($39.99): Continuing the subject of drinking rather than tasting, this Champagne was a party for one. Cinnamon was staying up in the city with her friend Jenna on a Friday night, and I grabbed some sushi to go and headed home to dine with our cat, the Morsel. While she helped with the sushi, she did not have a single sip of the Champagne. I believe in the saying that one should be moderate in all things, so I got carried away and drank the whole bottle. Drinking Champagne buy yourself is a great thing- if you never have done it there is no better treat, and no better place than the home for having an extra glass or two. From my personal tasting diary: “This wine was a lot richer than I remember and I suspect the base must be from the extroverted 2006 harvest. The balance was so perfect it hardly seemed “Extra” Brut like, rather just vibrant, nervy, electrically mineral sud-Eprenay stuff. It went best with the Akasaka Roll which has eel and avocado on the outside and tempura shrimp on the inside- and very well with everything else. I got carried away by its ample charm and finished the bottle. I woke refreshed and ready for a busy December Saturday- and it turned out to be one of my best days at work all year. I guess there is something to be said for drinking organic after all!” This bottle deserves its spot on the top 10- try it out and see if you can resist finishing the whole thing…

The Bruno Michel "Rebelle" paired perfectly with the Akasaka Roll, prepared with eel and avocado on the outside and tempura shrimp on the inside.

1.  1976 Franck Bonville "Millesime" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne: My best bottle of Champagne of the year was enjoyed in its birth cellar in Avize. We tasted it blind, and I blew my guess by nearly a generation because of the extraordinary freshness of the wine. I thought it was a 1990! Olivier Bonville was generous enough to crack this for me on the same day that I had the 1964 Pertois… What a day, what a job- I was on cloud nine. This wine still had a green flash running through it and was fresh as a bottle could be. It smelled of white flowers and fresh baked bread, and had excellent mouth filling palate weight. The finish went on for so long that I can almost still taste it. What a bottle!

I hope that you too had some great bottles in 2012 and more to come in 2013. A toast to you!

-Gary

Friday
Dec142012

Champagne Friday: Dinner with Krug's CEO

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Last Friday I was invited to a very special dinner with Margareth Henriquez, the President and CEO of Champagne Krug. We dined at Quattro in the Four Seasons Hotel, which has a great program called “Friday Nights Uncorked” inviting customers to bring their own wine, without a corkage fee. For this special occasion, Chef Marco Fossati had worked with the Krug team ahead of time to prepare a menu paired with current releases from the maison. Ian Cauble, Krug’s Master Sommelier brand ambassador and Julien Pepin Lehalleur, Krug’s business development manager were also on hand to tell the story of the wines. This was a night I won’t forget.

Krug has always been a quality obsessed house. Joseph Krug left Champagne Jacquesson in 1843 to start his own maison with the idea of making the best Champagne possible. For the last 169 years this producer has not missed a beat, and this consistency at the highest level of wine making puts them on the level of Chateau d’Yquem and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti as one of the finest wine producers in the world. All of the wines are fermented in traditional 205 liter feuillattes, the traditional Champagne oak barrel. These barrels are seasoned for years with press wine so they do not impart too much oak flavor to the wine, but rather offer texture and immunization against future oxidation.

Krug "Grande Cuvée" Brut Champagne ($139.00) We had the aperitif on the tented veranda at Quattro, the Krug "Grande Cuvée" Brut Champagne ($139, $79.99 half, $399 magnum). Margareth explained the new codes on the backs of the bottles, that allow the Champagne lover to learn the disgorgement date, year of the base harvest of the wine as well as the number of vintages blended in and the oldest of them. She was far too modest about this new feature, as it reverses the secretiveness for which Krug has long been known. Now, thanks to her influence, Krug is one of the most transparent houses. The bottle that we had was from batch 311032, based on 2004, and composed of 121 different wines from 12 different vintages going all the way back to 1990. It was disgorged in the fall of 2011. All of this can be learned by going to www.krug.com and entering the code. Our bottle was Krug at its toasty, extroverted best, with plenty of buttery brioche and mid-palate weight. It also had typical 2004 zing and acidity, and showed attractive aspects of both youth and maturity.

Appetizers were then passed and the 2000 Krug "Clos du Mesnil" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($799) poured around. The iconic all-Chardonnay Clos du Mesnil comes from a four and a half acre walled vineyard in the super-chalky grand cru village of Mesnil. It was known as the Clos Tarin, owned by the Tarin sisters. It had always been famous for its quality, but now as a single vineyard wine by one of Champagne’s most quality obsessed houses, it has become one of the most desirable bottles in the whole appellation. The lobster crudo brought out the white fruit of the chardonnay, while the duck and Taleggio poppers showed off the razor cut of this no-malolactic Mesnil masterpiece. The best pairing of all was with the pancetta wrapped bay scallops, giving me a glimpse of the richness this wine has in store for the patient. I can count the number of times I have had Clos du Mesnil on one hand, and feel lucky to be able to say that! This pure Chardonnay expression, from a house whose other wines are dominated by black fruit always shows plenty of Krug style, while also revealing the chalky minerality of one of the greatest sites on the planet.

1998 Krug Brut Champagne ($219) Our group sat down for dinner, chef Fossati sent out a special Puzzone cheese fondue, and the 1998 Krug Brut Champagne ($219) was served by ace server Emily Yamamoto and the rest of the Quattro team. In 1998, the first time in a generation, the winemaking team at Krug used more Chardonnay than anything else in the blend. The wine still showed the power and weight of the 1998 vintage and was very vinous and powerful, but the extra chardonnay gave it the classic back-end lift of great Champagne. This pairing was a big success, and opened my mind to the possibility of cheese and Champagne, something I have liked only once before, with Brie de Meaux and black truffles Les Crayeres in Reims.  What we have in stock now (32 bottles between the four locations at the time of writing) - is gone when it’s gone!

2000 Krug Brut Champagne ($219) The 2000 Krug Brut Champagne ($219) was fantastic with a very traditional Champagne pairing: pigeon! One of the best local dishes of the Champagne region is pigeon en croute. The rare Paine Farm squab was perfect with this refined powerhouse of a wine. Although the 2000 vintage returned to a Pinot Noir dominated blend, the relative youth of the wine and the fresh character of the vintage brought the Chardonnay to the front. This was the favorite vintage of the group, with electric acidity and chalky length. There is power in this bottle, but it does not have to show it off. The 2000 will evolve for a generation in the cellar, and I can’t wait to revisit it in 2030. A rich game bird needs a lively wine, and why not 2000 Krug!

We then went back to the previous release of the Krug "Grande Cuvée" Brut and tasted the batch based on 2003 with Ng risotto, featuring silver, gold and most precious of all, white truffles from Alba. This was my favorite course and my favorite pairing of the night. The peerless aromatics of the noble tartufo bianco and deep umami of the slow cooked, rich risotto were a fitting partner to this great multi-vintage that had a truffle character all its own. It was a more integrated and settled wine than the current release thanks to the extra year. I am a huge fan of the 2004 harvest in Champagne, and no friend of 2003, so this wine showing as well as it did was a big surprise to me. Take my advice- lay down some Krug "Grande Cuvée" in the cellar- even if it is just a bottle or two for a year or more and you will be thrilled with the results. Margareth explained that the team used a lot of 1996 reserves in this blend to balance out the fat of the 2003 base wine, and included wines as far back as 1988. I’m looking forward to tasting the 2004 based wine in a year-with some truffles!

Krug Brut Rosé Champagne ($279) Chef Fossati was daring and paired the Krug Brut Rosé Champagne ($279) with lamb loin from Elysian Fields. This Champagne needed food (and rich food!) in order to show well and was very different from the first Krug rose that I tasted more than a decade ago. My first visit to the maison in winter of 2001 was also my first experience with Krug rose, and it’s impression has haunted me ever since. The wine I drank in 2001 was so vanishingly subtle, so easy to drink, that its greatness did not occur to me until days later. I still think about that bottle. Margareth explained that this batch (311030) used Ay Rouge for its color and rose flavor, but that often times they use Bouzy Rouge instead. This batch was disgorged in fall of 2011 and was aged for a little over five years on the lees, so it must have been based on 2005. It had fresh baked bread and Nuits-St.-George like savor on the nose, and powerhouse black cherry fruit backed with firm acidity on the palate. I much preferred it with the lamb than on its own. This was large-scale wine that Margareth said she loved to cellar.

We ended things on a very high note with the 1989 Krug "Collection" Brut Champagne ($499) paired with another cheese course, this one cleverly disguised as a dessert. Chef Fossati created a Brulee by torching honey on top of some very creamy, savory Explorateur cheese served next to some unsweetened orange blossom gelato with white truffles shaved on top of it. I remembered this wine from when it first was released- ahead of the 1988, and it is evolving slowly in this freshly disgorged format. This warm harvest, already 23 years old is showing the vinous bass notes that makes well aged Krug famous. It still has plenty of chalk and zip, and showed even more truffle than the older “Grand Cuvee” did. The pairing was delightful, bringing out the ripe, sweet fruit of the 1989 harvest.

Krug is rightly famous for their great wines, and a decadent meal paired with them in the company of their team is an honor I won’t forget. If you feel like splurging on one of the benchmark wines of the world, I could not recommend any house more highly.

These are as good as it gets!

A toast to you!

-Gary