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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.

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Entries in sparkling wine (38)

Friday
Apr052013

Champagne Friday: Reporting from Champagne! The First Day at Aspasie

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

The first day in Champagne at Champagne Aspasie

I am very lucky on this trip to have my father Jim with me. He and I left for France on Easter Sunday and arrived on Monday, which--no surprise--is a holiday in France! Our friends the Aristons of Champagne Aspasie invited us to visit them and stay for dinner, so as soon as we got off the plane we drove straight there.

Paul-Vincent Ariston had arranged a tasting of the base wines from the 2012 harvest for us, and we had a chance to learn the crazy story of this unique season in Champagne. This vintage had every challenge that a vigneron could face: freezing temperatures in the winter (as low as -20 centigrade) killed vines, spring frosts followed destroying many of the fresh buds, cold and rain during the flowering stunted grape growth, and horrible weather in July produced so much mud that it was often impossible to get into the vineyard to treat the vines against mildew. All of this lead to drastically lower yields, but miraculously the weather turned around in August and the grapes came out perfectly ripe, with plenty of acidity, but very scarce. Aspasie harvested more than 1/3 less in 2012 than average.

The base wines from Aspasie, as well as the other producers we have visited have been some of the best I have had. They are concentrated and quite full bodied, but have immense freshness and transparency. After tasting with Paul, we went to the winery were he moved more than 20 full palettes of Champagne to get our prize- a bottle of his 1983, which he disgorged manually, on the spot for us to enjoy. You can watch him doing it in today's video.

Try the Ariston "Aspasie Brut Prestige" Champagne ($39.99, $84.99 1.5L) with the fresh asparagus of the season!

Paul’s father Remy made this bottle, as Paul was only 11 years old! It was a sunny year with lots of grapes, and Remy Ariston worked day and night to load the press. It was still super fresh at 30 years old, and full of honeyed bread aroma and flavor. The wine had no sugar added to it as it was disgorged on the spot, and didn’t need any. We had it with Marie-France Ariston’s incredible white Asparagus with homemade mayonnaise… I was over the moon for it all.

We just received a new shipment from Aspasie, and with Asparagus season in full swing, I suggest you try this pairing your self with the Aspasie Brut Prestige ($39.99, $84.99 1.5L). This old vine blend is rich without being at all sweet, and I am sure you will love it!

A toast to you!

-Gary

Friday
Apr052013

More Champagne Friday: Pierre Moncuit Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

I have been recommending the Pierre Moncuit Champagnes here at K&L for nearly 15 years, and just received a shipment of their latest wines. The Moncuit’s farm 37.5 acres of grand cru vineyard in Mesnil, Champagne’s most sought after and expensive cru for Chardonnay. Nicole Moncuit has been making the wine here since 1977 and prizes old vines for their ability to transmit the maximum of this great terroir into the wines. The average age of the vines at the property is 30 years old, much older than the average in Champagne. She also has some very old vines that she makes her namesake wine from, the tiny production cuvee Nicole Moncuit.

Pierre Moncuit "Cuvée Pierre Moncuit-Delos Grand Cru" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($39.99): When I tasted this electric batch of Pierre Moncuit I would have bet that it was based on 2008. I have a call in to Charles Neal, the wines importer but didn’t want to wait to send this email out until he called back- I am afraid the Nicole Moncuit could disappear before then! This wine has a big nose that is Meursault like in its scale but without the oak. I found it full of ripe fruit and fragrant wild flowers. On the palate it is dry and cutting on the back end but full and ripe up front. This all Mesnil, all estate Champagne really shows its class on the finish, which is very, very long for its low price. So good!

2005 Moncuit-Delos Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne ($54.99): This Champagne has an immensely creamy nose with hints of brioche and ripe pear. On the palate it shows the best of the 2005 harvest in Champagne with plenty of exotic, candied fruit and fancy pastry dough. This is rich and full bodied blanc de blancs and has a very good finish, which is focused but not austere in any way. I can’t wait to try this with some scallops!

2004 Pierre Moncuit "Cuvée Nicole Moncuit Vieilles Vignes" Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($74.99; wait-list only): Champagne doesn’t get better than this- I could not believe how much class this 2004 had, even though I have been lucky enough to have many, many past vintages of this cuvee. This great bottle of Mesnil Grand Cru is made from two over 90 year old plots, some of the oldest vines in all of Champagne. The nose is restrained, detailed and multifaceted: I found perfect baguette, savory spice and fresh-from-the-tree pineapple in the bouquet. On the palate it had both the lush richness of ancient vines and the fabulous mineral focus of some of the best chalk vineyard in all of Champagne. This wine sings with both ripe fruit and mineral freshness…

On another note, we managed to get another little allocation of 2002 Dom Perignon Rose at $299. These bottles were available for pre-sale, but sold out very quickly. If you click to 'add to wait list' on this or any other out-of-stock Champagne on our website, you will be notified by email the moment more becomes available, in the event that we are able to get more. You can read about the 2002 Dom Perignon Rose on the blog here and about Dom Perignon in general here.

A toast to you!

Gary

Friday
Mar292013

Champagne Friday: 2004 Moet Grand Vintage has arrived!

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Moet Grand Vintage- the 2004 has arrived!

2004 Moet & Chandon "Grand Vintage" Brut Champagne ($64.99) "Judging by the excellent structure and acidity of this wine and the history of older vintage of Moet, this wine will make a great candidate for the cellar!" This past Sunday I was lucky enough to be invited to Tamarine Restaurant in Palo Alto for the debut of the 2004 Moet Grand Vintage. The group was hosted by Moet winemaker Elise Losfelt who is part of the ten person team that oversees Champagne's largest producer. Elise comes from a long line of female winemakers, from the other side of France near Montpellier. She also has experience in Bordeaux, having worked at Chateau Beychevelle in St. Julien and was extremely qualified to speak on the subject of Champagne- not just as an insider, but also with great perspective.

Moet is a giant landholder in Champagne and owns more land than anyone else in the region by a long shot. They currently own just under 3000 acres of vineyard - easily over a billion dollars worth of land under vine. In addition, they have many long-term contracts with growers to supply the house more fruit for their very large production. If you take a look at the Larmat Maps that are available on this blog for free download, you can see the spots in red that they owned back in 1943. These have changed some in the past 70 years and their holdings have expanded, but the amount of vineyard marked red as belonging to Moet is simply amazing.

Moet & Chandon "Imperial" Brut Champagne ($37.99) "This was certainly the best Imperial I have drunk, with a discreet nose of bread dough and apple-like Meunier fruit. It was easy to drink, dry and clean and a nice way to start an evening."We started off with an aperitif of Moet & Chandon "Imperial" Brut Champagne ($37.99) which I learned got its name from Napoleon, who was close friends with the Moet family. This wine replaced the White Star in the US market in the fall of 2009, due to the fact that American Champagne lovers were demanding a drier style. The White Star was an Extra Dry, and curiously the first Imperial to arrive on these shores was as well - but not labeled with any style statement. If you see a bottle of the Imperial that does not say 'Brut' on it, snap it up… One day it will be a collector's item!

These first bottles were dosed at 13 grams per liter for the US market only. At the same time they were selling bottles to the Asian market at 11 grams per liter and the rest of the world at 9. Starting in the summer of 2012, all the Imperial began to be labeled 'Brut' with the dosage the same worldwide at 9 grams per liter. It is composed of what Elise describes as a “big third” of Pinot Noir a third of Meunier and a “small third” of Chardonnay. I thought this was a great way to describe the moving target- since they blend four batches of the Imperial a year, keeping the winemaking team and bottling lines busy. She also mentioned that since they use the produce of over 200 villages in the bottle, the blend of Imperial closely matches the percentages of plantings in Champagne as a whole. Elise explained that the first blend in January following the harvest uses the most reserve wines- around 30%, while the last blend of the year will use around 20% because of the better maturity of the base wine. Since they want a fresh style of wine at Moet, they only use one to two year old reserve wines. All Imperial produced is aged for 30 months on the lees before release.

This was certainly the best Imperial I have drunk, with a discreet nose of bread dough and apple-like Meunier fruit. It was easy to drink, dry and clean and a nice way to start an evening.

We sat down to dinner and the 2004 Moet & Chandon "Grand Vintage" Brut Champagne ($64.99) was served with lime coconut scallops. This wine, although significantly older than the Imperial that preceded it, smelled and tasted much younger. It is composed of 38% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Noir and 29% Meunier and dosed at just 5 grams per liter- making it eligible to be called an 'Extra Brut'. It has a very fresh, chalky aroma and the classic drive of this very good 2004 vintage.

Judging by the excellent structure and acidity of this wine and the history of older vintage of Moet, this wine will make a great candidate for the cellar! The cut of the wine was perfect with the rich scallop, and those of you who would like to open some now will be thrilled with how well this 2004 goes with shellfish.

Next we were served a fantastic plate of spiced honey seared duck to accompany the 1993 Moet & Chandon "Grand Vintage" Brut Champagne. This wine showed wonderful maturity at 20 years old and a great aroma of toast and oyster shells. This bottle was disgorged in October of 2011 as part of a special batch set aside for the future and aged on corks rather than the crown caps that they used for the initial vintage release in 1998. This was the first vintage that Moet started this program with, and Elise said that they have been thrilled with the results. The wine is dosed at 7 grams per liter of sugar and has plenty of toast and butter on the palate, flavors that the duck amplified. I loved the refreshing finish of this wine and loved the pairing with the duck.

The main course of the night was Lemon Grass Sea Bass served with both the 1983 and 1973 Moet & Chandon "Grand Vintage" Brut Champagnes. The 1983 was never released commercially and only bottled in magnums for the wine making team (and luckily for a dinner or two). It is composed of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay and a small part of the wine was barrel fermented. This 1983 was very bright for a 30 year old with a white gold color. On the nose, the crushed oyster elements of the 1993 were here in even great quantity and the wine was a real belemnita fossil experience. In the mouth the wine is very rich and buttery and yet has the lift to clean up on the long, driven finish. What a treat!

I was very excited to taste the 1973 Moet & Chandon "Grand Vintage" since it is a great vintage in Champagne, and also my birth year. The records of the blend were destroyed in a fire at Moet, so Elise said the best we could do was guess. I was pleased that it was just the records that burned up and not the wine! She did note that at this time a portion of the wine would have been barrel fermented. This was a great bottle, and I loved the truffle infused, baked apple aroma that offered so much depth and complexity. On the palate this wine is so rich and intense and the sea bass brought out great sweet, clean fruit from this forty year old. This incredible Champagne had a very long finish that had hints of prosciutto to go along with its mineral drive. I hope I’ll get a chance to taste this again!

K&L’s great friend Wilf Jaeger, who is a partner in the RN74 restaurants, was kind enough to bring a bottle of the 1966 Moet & Chandon "Dom Pérignon" Brut Champagne to share with us at the dinner, and it was a huge treat for everyone in attendance. This bottle had no signs of slowing down at 47 years of age, and the hazelnut aroma that I always associate with grand cru of Verzenay jumped from the glass. On the palate the wine was seamless, nougaty, and had plenty of citric refreshment. This bottle had it all- savor, fruit and velvet like ease. No wonder Dom Perignon has earned such a big reputation!

This great evening reinforced how much ageing potential the wines of Champagne have- and Moet in particular. I have tasted Moet as old as 1914, and have never tasted a properly stored bottle that was over the hill. These wines are worth keeping!

A toast to you!

–Gary

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