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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 Pinot Noir (78)

Wednesday
Apr242013

{Terra Ignota} The Exceptional Wines of Fromm Winery

We are pleased to announce the next wave of releases is here from the brilliant Fromm Winery in Marlborough, New Zealand. We have cultured a great direct relationship with winemaker Willy Hoare at Fromm and are very excited to offer these wines exclusively in the USA.

I visited Fromm estate back in April of 2011 and knew that these wines were something special. I had previously experienced the wines in the UK selling wine in London. The wines have always been very pure, balanced and structured for great longevity. In fact I have had many great experiences drinking wines from this property at 10+ years of age, including Pinot Noir and their phenomenal Rieslings. The most recent Fromm releases from the excellent quality 2009 and 2010 vintages have struck me as even more exciting than the wines of old. The winemaking seems to be finding a way of combining a little more youthful exuberance and richness with the same classic underlying structure for extended cellaring. This means great wines for now…and the potential to lay some down if you can keep your hands off them long enough!

Fromm farms several estate vineyards in Marlborough’s various sub-regions. The vineyards are well down the road in conversion to organic and Biodynamic viticulture. Total production for the winery was around 5000 cases when I last checked. Winemaker Willy amazingly got his start in wine at the tender age of nine “helping out” at the world famous Cloudy Bay. You could say his Marlborough roots run as deep as some of Fromm’s old vine plantings in the gravel soils of the Wairau Valley. He, along with winemaking partner Hätsch Kalberer, certainly craft what I think are some of the best examples of truly inspiring Marlborough Pinot Noir I have tasted.

Thankfully I am not the only person waxing poetic about these wines of late. James Suckling’s recent visit and tasting of the wines brought a flood of 94-95 point ratings and comparisons to Grand Cru Burgundy! This high praise was a very welcome development for us as long time believers in the wines and was a great reinforcement for our direct relationship that had just recently been forged. We have just emailed the latest Fromm wines to our mailing list and they are probably going to snapped up quickly so grab some asap if you are interested. Below is a list and notes on the current Fromm offerings:

2010 Fromm Winery "La Strada" Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand $21.99

94-95 points James Suckling “A seamless red that starts off with pure strawberry and berry aromas and flavors. Full with beautiful tannins and natural beauty. It goes on for so, so long. Yes!” (12/ 2012)

This Pinot has a phenomenal bright, perfumed nose of crushed spicy red fruits and dark rose petals complicated by rich soil tones and a subtle Thyme note. This is a layered wine of real depth and intrigue. On the palate beyond its pure dark red fruit character lays an array of subtle complexities that really take it to another level of distinction. The wine has an effortless balance and silky elegant texture. This is wonderfully complete and stylish Pinot Noir at an everyday price thanks to our direct purchase from the winery. An exceptional value that will continue to develop and impress for another 8-10 years without a doubt.

Comments from the Winemaker: "Dense with nice clarity. A bright and lively wine offering ripe plums, black cherries and a hint of blueberries. Adding to the mix are spicy aromas (cloves, liquorice) and violet florals which combine with an earthy complexity to round off the nose. The palate opens with ripe, sweet fruit and shows good depth and concentration with ripe tannins providing structure. Quite a powerful wine yet one of refinement."

2009 Fromm Winery "Brancott Valley" Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand $29.99

95 points James Suckling “This is so powerful and rich with a dense structure and lightly chew tannins. So long and structured. Grand crus Burgundy character. Muscular. Better in 2015.”

A powerful nose of dark red fruits, black cherry and bramble. This wine is rich, dense and fleshy. A subtle whole cluster stem character adds structure and complexity and brings brightness to a fairly saturated mid palate. This wine is currently exuberant and youthful, brimming with fruit and has a plush texture. Despite this obvious density and power, the wine retains elegance throughout finishing with exotic warm spices and a tickle of fine tannins that suggest this wine will be a fantastic prospect for the cellar, as well as immediately rewarding. I have had many releases from this estate with 10 years of bottle age and can attest that they develop beautifully.

Comments from the Winemaker :"The 2009 Fromm "Brancott Valley" Pinot Noir shows intense, bright black plums and dark cherries with subtle mocha aromas and an underlying savouriness. On the palate, again generous cherry/plum fruit with trademark Brancott Valley spice. Ripe fine tannins contribute to a lovely silky texture. An expansive wine of refined structure and elegance - a juxtaposition of power and finesse."

2010 Fromm "Clayvin Vineyard" Pinot Noir Marlborough New Zealand $40.99

92+ points Robert Parker  “Medium deep ruby-purple in color, the 2010 Clayvin Vineyard Pinot Noir is slightly closed, revealing subtle hints of cranberries, black raspberries and red cherries plus suggestions of lavender, cardamom and pepper. Medium-bodied and crisp with a medium level of grainy tannins, the fruit is taut and it finishes long and layered. It needs 6-12 months more in bottle and should drink to 2019+”. (92+)

Comments from the Winemaker: Dense, deep plum-cherry colour. Intense, vibrant wild berry aromas with dark, lightly toasty mocha notes. Concentrated, spicy fruit with lots of underlying power and richness; well structured and supported by fine, ripe tannins. Dense and silky textured with great presence and harmony, resulting from pristine fruit in a top year. A classic Clayvin Pinot Noir.

2010 Fromm "La Strada" Syrah, Marlborough, New Zealand $21.99

James Suckling “Blackberry and tar and asphalt undertones with hints of black peppers. Full and rich with lots of fruit, yet balanced and delicious now.”

Comments from the Winemaker: "Deep crimson in colour. This Syrah shows dense but bright blue fruit with lifted sweet aromatics of juniperberries and five spice, all combining with florals of dark violets. The palate is concentrated and mouth filling but retains an elegant, easy drinking quality thanks to balancing acidity. Ample flavour and fine, well layered tannin support provide for lovely length. An expressive young Syrah, drinking well now but will happily develop for another 2-3 years."

2012 Fromm Riesling, Marlborough, New Zealand $18.99

Fromm is well known for their spectacular Rieslings. This wine is made in a Spätlese style at 7.5% Alc and 94g/L of Residual Sugar. The wine is so concentrated and powerful. Tons of honeyed apricot and tangy preserved lemon is punctuated by lime zest acidity. Some subtle river stone mineral notes and citrus peel linger on the very long finish. This wine is very young, forward and primary right now, despite it being super moreish and drinkable at present, experience with older bottles from this great estate tells me this wine will continue to develop as only great Riesling does for another 10yrs+. This is a spectacular value and a must try for all Riesling lovers!

Comments from the Winemaker: "Clean ripe fruit on the nose of limes, nectarines, pristine red apples and subtle mandarin. Also offered are lifting florals of orange blossom and honeysuckle all combining with focussing minerals. The palate is one of rich concentration, bright fruit and alluring sweetness - refreshed by cleansing acid. This is a Riesling of purity, free of botrytis and low in alcohol. Drink well chilled. Alcohol 7.5 % Total acidity 9.4 g/l pH 2.76 Residual sugar 94 g/l

Cheers!

Ryan Woodhouse, NZ / Aussie Specialist

***

 Terra Ignota is Latin for "Unknown Land". It was the name for the South Pacific region during intial mapping and exploration of Australia and New Zealand. As we are going to be exploring new and exciting wines from this region, we think this is a fitting title for our blog series on wines from this part of the world. Stay tuned for more!

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

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