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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 Launois (8)

Friday
Mar152013

More Champagne Friday: Updates on Direct Import Champagnes 

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Happy Champagne Friday (again)!

Earlier this morning I posted a piece about the Dom Perignon seminar lead by Stephane Henry, Senior International Brand Education Manager from the maison, that I attended yesterday. He shed a little bit of light on this very secretive Champagne brand.  The star of the show was the 2002 Rose, which I wrote up last month- it showed spectacularly, and I will be getting a little bit more in later this month. We also tasted the 2002 Moet & Chandon "Dom Pérignon" Brut Champagne, which we still have available in magnum, the 2003 Moet & Chandon "Dom Pérignon" Brut Champagne and the excellent 1996 Moët & Chandon "Dom Pérignon Oenothéque" Brut Champagne.

I'm also excited to share some important updates about our Direct Import Champagnes due in soon.   Elisabeth Goutorbe "Cuvee Eclatante" Brut ChampagneWhile our Launois and Aspasie are late in arriving, they should be back in by the first of April. The Bonville wines will be right behind them. I've shared the video I made last summer during the Tour de France about the Launois family and their wines so you can get excited about their arrival as I am!

We also just received a container with the Goutorbe Champagnes, and this great producer from Ay is one of the jewels of our direct import program. I visited them for the first time in 2007, the same week as Terry Theise. He chose the Henri Goutorbe wines for his portfolio (which are excellent as well) and I chose the Elisabeth Goutorbe wines from the daughter’s vines. They are all made in the same facility in Ay where the Goutorbe family has worked since 1918.

2005 Elisabeth Goutorbe Brut ChampagneSince we work direct, we are able to offer these estate bottled Champagne’s at fantastic prices. The Elisabeth Goutorbe "Cuvée Eclatante" Brut Champagne ($34.99) is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and 5% Meunier, a composition that matches the estate's vineyard make up almost exactly. The wine is composed of 85% 2007 and 15% a blend of 2006, 2005 and 2004. It is dosed very lightly at only 9 grams per liter. The Pinot comes through on the nose with very pretty candied cherry interlaced with fresh baked bread. On the palate it has a lot of body, firm, dry black cherry fruit, and tons of savory, masculine Pinot Noir flavors. It has a good finish with a line of chalky minerality that is uncommon in Pinot Noir-based Champagnes. The 2005 Elisabeth Goutorbe Brut Champagne ($39.99) is a more concentrated, longer finishing wine with excellent ageing potential. If you haven’t tried these- don't miss them!

Just this week, we received our first shipment of Thienot Champagnes, which were selected for this year's Academy Awards. I don't know how the Academy did in regards to selecting the best of Hollywood in 2013, but they sure did a very nice job picking out this Champagne. The Thienot Brut Champagne ($39.99) is composed of 45% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 20% Meunier and has surprising red fruit driven concentration and power at this reasonable price point. The Thienot Brut Rosé Champagne ($64.99) has the same composition, but 7% is Red Pinot Noir from very old vines in Ay. It is a very focused, driven rose with great black cherry fruit from the Ay rouge.

Also new in stock are the very reasonably priced Champagnes from Canard-Duchene. The Canard-Duchene "Authentic" Brut Champagne ($29.99) impressed me and the rest of our staff with its easy drinking, toasty style. It is composed of 43% Pinot Noir, 25% Meunier and 20% Chardonnay and comes off very well balanced at 10g/L of dosage. The Canard-Duchene Brut Authentic Rose Champagne ($34.99) is our best priced rose from a big house and very tasty. This Champagne is composed of 45% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 25% Meunier. It has a great strawberries and cream nose, yet is completely dry on the palate. This is a delightful wine at a bargain price!

A toast to you!

-Gary

 

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
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