Stay Connected
What We're Drinking

 

Bruno Michel "Blanche" Brut Champagne $34.99One of our best non-vintage Champagnes, this organically grown blend of half each Chardonnay and Meunier comes entirely from Bruno Michel's estate. It has been aged for six years on the lees and shows wonderful natural toasty quality as well as incredible vibrance! This was the big hit of our most recent staff Champagne tasting and we think you will love it too.

Recent Videos

Tasting with Oliver Krug

Upcoming Events

We host regular weekly and Saturday wine tastings in each K&L location.

For the complete calendar, including lineups and additional details related to our events, visit our K&L Local Events on KLWines.com or follow us on Facebook.  

 

Free Spirits Tastings at K&L! Now that we have our license for spirits tastings in Redwood City and San Francisco, we’re excited to host regular free spirits tastings in those locations.  Check the Spirits Journal for an updated tasting schedule.

All tastings will feature different products from the Spirits Department and take place on Wednesdays in Redwood City and San Francisco. Visit our events page on Facebook or the K&L Spirits Journal for more information.

>>Upcoming Special Events, Dinners, and Tastings

See all K&L Local Events

Archives

Entries in sparkling wine (38)

Friday
May102013

Champagne Friday: Tasting the Varietals

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Champagne Friday: Tasting the Varietals

One of the best and easiest ways to get more enjoyment out of Champagne is by getting an understanding of the grape varieties used in the region. A simple tasting of three wines (or four if you want to be a complete imbiber!) over dinner is all that is needed to get a pretty firm handle on these grape varieties. I promise this won't just be educational- it will also be fun!

The most planted grape in all of Champagne is Meunier, a variety that used to be thought of as a relative of Pinot Noir but is now recognized as completely indigenous to Champagne. The second most planted variety in the region is Pinot Noir and like the third- Chardonnay- is an import from Burgundy just a few hundred kilometers away. These three grapes make up more than 99.9% of the vineyard in Champagne, but they are not the only varieties in the region. Before phyloxera struck the region in the late 1800’s, Gamay, Pinot Blanc and local grapes Arbanne and Petite Meslier were widely planted. Now, these grapes are making a comeback among some of the best and most adventurous growers. Arbanne and Meslier are especially prized for being late ripening and high acid- two great properties in a warming environment.

To start off the tasting, I would recommend a blanc de blancs to cover Chardonnay. These bracing wines are perfect for the aperitif, and if you plan on doing the tasting over a dinner make a fine wine for the welcome of guests. You can easily transition from the aperitif into oysters, scallops or crab salad with this wine, since its lively acid and chalky character flatter shellfish like nothing else. I would recommend using the Launois "Cuvée Reserve" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($34.99) for this as it is round enough to be friendly on its own, but packs enough cut to pair with the richest of crustaceans.

In this bottle you will find classic Champagne Chardonnay aromas and flavors like white flowers and strong minerality. You can learn more about Launois here.

I would follow up with Meunier, which is often dismissed as simple and fruity by the big houses, but is capable of gorgeous purity and deep savor when handled by a contentious grower and made by a talented wine maker. If you are pairing the wines with food, nothing brings out the best in Meunier like pate or mushrooms. Cinnamon and I have treated ourselves many times to old vintages from the master Rene Collard paired with foie gras, but the wines shine just as brightly with a mushroom tart. I would recommend the Michel Dervin Brut Champagne ($32.99) for the representative of this varietal- the blend is 80% Meunier and 20% Pinot Noir, but the Meunier takes command.

By tasting this you will get plenty of the apple and pear fruit that this variety is known for, as well as a hint of the chantrele and truffle components that makes Krug prize this grape so much.

After the Meunier move on to Pinot Noir and taste the Elisabeth Goutorbe "Cuvée Eclatante" Brut Champagne ($34.99). While this wine is only 70% Pinot, the power of this variety, in this case primarily from the top village of Ay, is firmly in control of this Champagne. Pinot dominated Champagne loves a piece of salmon, and if it is warm enough my favorite preparation in on a cedar plank on the grill. Pinot Noir is hard to ripen in Champagne, and the last variety to be harvested, and even though the wines have no color, they still have the cherry aroma and flavor that one expects in the reds.

This is the most structured variety in Champagne, and you will feel the difference in concentration and power in the Goutorbe.

If you want to go for a bonus round, we have a very special bottle for you that is composed of 40% Meslier, 40% Arbanne and 20% Pinot Blanc. If you taste it, you will be among very few in the world to ever have had these ancient varieties. The Ariston Aspasie "Cepages d'Antan" Brut Champagne ($99) is worth every penny, and is high toned, incisive, exotic and long finishing. This would be excellent to open alongside the Goutorbe with the main course! You can learn more about this wine from the winemaker here.

Feel free to reach out to me at garywestby@klwines.com if you would like to talk about Champagne tastings! A toast to you!

 

Best,

Gary

Saturday
May042013

Food & Wine: Pass the Cheese, Please!

By: Scott Beckerly | K&L Staff Member

Pass the cheese, please!

Last Wednesday, the first of May, co-worker Kerri Conlon and I had the chance to attend a class at the Cheese School of San Francisco. We have done wine and cheese pairings for customers in our San Francisco store with them and I thought that I should probably know something about cheese...other than loving it!

The theme of our class was 'Spring Cheese and Wine' and it not only addressed cheese and wine pairings, as instructor and author Laura Werlin says (versus 'WINE and cheese', as we say here at K&L) but, also introduced us to cheeses that are released in the spring. We sampled sheep's milk, goat’s milk, cow’s milk and even raw buffalo milk cheese. These cheeses came from Missouri, California, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Tennessee. They had exotic names like “Dirt Lover”, which was silky and soft, creamy and buttery (despite the name), “Moonflower”, which was nutty, grainy and pungent with some black pepper notes, and “Dancing Fern”, one of my favorites, which was smooth and rich with cream, butter and some earthy notes. It was awesome with 2011 Georg Albrecht Schneider Niersteiner Hipping Riesling Spatlese, by the way.

The earthy profile of the 2009 Fort Ross "Fort Ross Vineyard" Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is well-matched to buffalo milk cheese. Did you know that buffalo milk cheese is high in solids and butterfat? I didn't! Earthy, mushroomy cool climate Pinot is the way to go with this buffalo's milk cheese. The 2011 Landmark Grand Detour Pinot Noir in the tasting complemented this cheese very well. I also think this cheese would be spectacular with the 2009 Fort Ross "Fort Ross Vineyard" Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($34.99).

Scharffenberger Brut California with 'Petit Marcel' cheese from Pug's Leap Farm in California - match made in heaven! In addition, we learned about washed rind cheeses in which the rind is washed in saltwater and in one case, beer...the one from Minnesota, of course! For those of you who have wine and cheese (or, as Laura would want me to say, 'cheese and wine') on a regular basis, it is best to have a sip of wine first and then to have a bit of cheese. Apparently, many types of cheese can change the flavor of some wines, making them bitter or giving them an 'off' taste.

Another interesting bit of information I learned is that it was recommended that one cheese, called “Petit Marcel”, from Pug's Leap Farm in California (this was my absolute favorite) be aged a few months after release so that it ripens a little more. Kind of like bottle shock with wines when they are first shipped in! Well, a little like that anyway. I loved this one with the NV Scharffenberger Brut from California ($14.99). This would be a top choice for Champagn, too.

Speaking of bubbles, be on the lookout for either a Champagne and cheese pairing consumer tasting in the SF store or a sparkling wine tasting and cheese pairing in the future. I’m planning for one either in June or July on a Saturday afternoon. Stay tuned...

Cheese School is in session!

If you are interested in these type of classes, the Cheese School of San Francisco is located at 2155 Powell Street (2nd Floor). Their phone number is (415) 346-7530 and the web address is www.thecheeseschool.com. BTW-I bought an absolutely killer set of laguiole cheese knives to go with my Champagne sword and steak knives. Thanks, Cheese School of SF!

-Scott

Friday
May032013

Champagne Friday: Lanson Opens Their Wine Library!

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

On Wednesday Scott Beckerley and I were invited to lunch at Spruce Restaurant in San Francisco by Enguerrand Bajiot, the managing director of Lanson Americas. The occasion was the launch of their Lanson Vintage collection- a magnum only program that offers the Champagne fan the unique opportunity to buy disgorged-to-order bottles straight from their deep cellars in Reims. The bottles that we tasted were so fresh that our Lanson sales rep, the charming and knowledgeable Jennifer Guptill had to drive to Sacramento to get them out of customs! They had all been disgorged in April and come by air directly from the cellars of Lanson.

Just cleared from customs!All of these wines have been made available to K&L and to you on a special order basis and they are extremely limited- only six magnums of each vintage. They don’t disgorge it until you order it… Provenance does not get any more perfect than this. It will take two or three months to get the bottles as they need time to label them and then ship them from France, and of course they must clear customs! I would recommend not ordering these if you need them for a specific occasion as they are currently 20 feet underground half way around the world and still on their lees.

Lanson was founded in 1760, making it one of the oldest Champagne houses and Bruno Paillard who now owns the group has a huge amount of respect for that history. Cellar master Jean Paul Gandon has been working at Lanson since 1972, and managed the vineyards before taking over the cellar in 1982. No cellar master of any big house has been running a house for as long.

Didier Elena and Gary.The wines showed spectacularly and had the sparkle and freshness that one rarely experiences in old Champagne, except for in the caves where they were born. Part of this has to do with the magnum format but the majority of the reason for the excellent vigor of these wines is Lansons non-malolactic policy and the excellent estate vineyards they had up until 1991. All of the wines that predate 1991 in this offering are entirely estate grown- only the 1996 and 2002 use any purchased fruit. All of the vintage wines are approximately 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay and fermented in stainless steel without malolactic.

We started off our lunch with the 2002 Lanson Gold Label Vintage Brut Champagne ($74.99), the only wine in 750ml of the lunch and the only one currently in stock. This Champagne is composed of 53% Pinot Noir and 47% Chardonnay entirely from grand cru sites. Because Lanson never allows the wines to go through malo, this is a spectacularly fresh 11 year old that has lots of flowery Chardonnay character as the savory Pinot Noir side has yet to fully develop. This will be a spectacular bottle for the future if you can resist its ample charms right now. Chef Mark Sullivan had prepared a fabulous Big Eye Tuna crudo with avocado and olive oil to pair with the 2002 Lanson and it brought out the Pinot Noir character that had been hiding in the wine. It was a fabulous wine, and Lanson’s patience with their vintage program has given the Champagne lover a big reward.

Tuna crudo.For the next course, we had the 1996 Lanson Vintage Collection Brut Champagne 1.5L ($499- disgorged to order, due in August). I first tasted this wine at Lanson in Reims in 2002 when this was a current release. This Champagne is also composed of 53% Pinot Noir and 47% Chardonnay and also all Grand Cru. They use four Mountain of Reims villages for the Pinot and Chouilly, Cramant and Avize for the Chardonnay. It is dosed at only three grams per liter of sugar, but labeled as brut- not extra brut. The producers in Champagne call 1996 the 10/10 vintage, because it was so unusually ripe (10% potential alcohol) but also still very high in acid (10 grams per liter of total acidity) and the Lanson is a great example of the vintage. I am positive that I would guess this was 10 years younger in a blind tasting! I found this 1996 completely fresh and transparent. This is electric, high toned, Champagne that almost seems like a blanc de blancs! Chef Sullivan paired this with roasted diver scallops, brassicas and caramelized shellfish nage. It was an inspired pairing, as the rich, buttery scallops needed a wine that could cut them, and this 1996 is like a razor!

Scallop course.

Our main course arrived and we were treated to two vintages side by side, both from magnum! The 1988 Lanson Vintage Collection Brut Champagne 1.5L ($749) is a spectacular bottle, from one of my very favorite vintages for drinking right now. This is one of the last “classic” Champagne vintages with a nice, long, even growing season. This wine only showed the slightest tinge of gold in its straw color after 25 years. The nose is developing the white truffle aromas that only time can bring, framed by the savory Pinot Noir character that this house is rightly famous for. This Champagne had a little nutella and smoke on the deep powerful palate. The finish is vibrant and chalk- this wine still has time in hand! Chef Sullivan’s  pan roasted salmon brought out the youthful side of this wine, and it would have been very hard to guess that it was a quarter of a century old! I just drank the 1988 Krug on Sunday, and I have to say, this Lanson is fresher. A showstopper!

Also with the salmon, the 1983 Lanson Vintage Collection Brut Champagne 1.5L ($849) was a huge treat. The color of this Champagne was amazing- white gold with even a touch of green- from looking it would be easy to guess that it was a 2007! This toasty Champagne has great aromas of chestnuts and buttery chanterelles. On the palate it is full and rich with a surprising amount of viscosity. Flavors of exotic pear and ripe apple fruit resolve into a clean, dry, mineral laden finish with this 30 year old bottle of Champagne.

Salmon course.

Before the dessert the real treat of the lunch was served, the 1976 Lanson Vintage Collection Brut Champagne 1.5L ($999). This was a wine that I had tasted once before- more than 10 years ago when I visited Lanson in Reims. Amazingly, this freshly disgorged bottle tasted far younger than the old disgorgement that I had back then! This vintage was the hottest of the 20th century and a rare (at the time!) August harvest in Champagne. The wine had a light gold color and a super bright nose of wild raspberries- it was so generous that it was hard to believe! On the palate it had tense Pinot Noir fruit that reminded me of Volnay.

This is definitely a bottle for the connoisseur! They saved the best for last with this one, and I won’t ever forget having tasted it.

A toast to you,

-Gary

 

Page 1 ... 2 3 4 5 6 ... 13 Next 3 Entries »