By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer
Happy Champagne Friday! I am looking forward to seeing 550 Champagne-loving K&L customers this weekend, and I hope that you will be among them. We are hosting two back-to-back sold out Champagne Tent Event tastings, starting on Saturday from 4pm-6:30pm at our Hollywood store, followed by Sunday from 2pm-5pm in San Francisco. These should be the best Champagne Tent Events we have hosted to date.
Folks often approach me at these events to ask what they should look out for, so this year I have prepared a little guide with my highlights.
Quentin Paillard from Champagne Pierre Paillard will be attending for the first time. He is pouring one of the most intriguing flights of wines under the tent, with two single vineyard, single varietal Champagnes: the Pierre Paillard "Acte 1" Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Champagne and the Pierre Paillard "Acte 1" Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs Champagne. These two sites are blended together in equal proportions in the 2002 Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Vintage Champagne. I can count on one hand the number of times that I have been able to taste sites like this separately as finished wines, and then blended together as an older vintage… Don’t miss it!
Also brand new this year are the Louis Sostene wines. They are being shown by Martine and Pierre Gonet, and are primarily made from vineyards in Chigny-les-Roses, the same village that brings us Lassale and the Ace of Spades. These are great values and far too easy to drink.
Another young producer, Jeremy Fluteau will be returning for the 2nd time. His families vineyards are in the far south of the Aube, and they make one of the darkest, most intensly fruity, all Pinot Noir roses in the world of Champagne. This is a love it or hate it style, and a must to taste. His mother is from Chicago, so don’t pitch him easy questions. He speaks perfect English!
One wine that does not get enough respect is the 2004 Perrier Jouët "Belle Epoque" Brut Champagne. Just because it has a pretty flower on it doesn’t mean that it isn’t serious on the inside! No vintage is more recommendable to collect right now, as classic, cool, even growing seasons are now very rare due to climate change. This Belle Epoque gets its soul from great estate vineyards in the grand cru of Cramant, and will more than hold its own with any tete-de-cuvee.
The biggest Rodney Dangerfield wines in Champagne are the sweeter styles. They really have a hard time getting any respect at all, and usually for good reason. To many producers treat them as a throw away, and figure that people with bad palates are going to drink them with cake when they are already half in the bag. On producer who is coming wants to change your mind about them, Michel Loriot. He makes a great sweeter style in his Michel Loriot "Marie-Leopold" Sec Champagne which shows how good these wines can be. He created it as a historic style to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his family as growers in Festigny. He is the current president of the independent vignerons of Champagne, and all of his wines are worthy of the respect his peers have bestowed on them.
Champagne Lanson, most famous for being stolen out of Prince Charles fridge, will be showing two great tete-de-cuvees that they just premiered. Both the Lanson Extra Age "XA" Brut Champagne and the Lanson Extra Age "XA" Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne are great examples of long aged non-vintage wines without malolactic fermentation, this batch of Lanson Extra Age is based on a blend of 2000, 2002 and 2004. It is composed of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay from Grand and Premier Cru villages and aged for more than five years on its lees. Check it out!
Two producers will be showing Champagne made from varieties that almost went extinct after phyloxera, and if you have never tried wines like this, now is the time! The Ariston’s will be showing the show stopping Ariston Aspasie "Cepages d'Antan" Brut Champagne made from 40% Meslier, 40% Arbanne and 20% Pinot Blanc, which is one of the best Champagnes at K&L at any price. Morganne Fleury, who is coming to pour for the first time, will show her tribute to her great-great grandfather, the Fleury "Cuveé Robert Fleury" Brut Champagne, which is a barrel fermented blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. This is big stuff!
At the Charles and Piper Heidsieck table, Jim Pollock (one of the most fun guys in the wine business!) will be pouring the brand new Charles Heidsieck, which I wrote about last week. (If you mised this post, which includes the video of my interview with CEO Cecile Bonnefond, you can catch up here). This brings an almost Krug like solera of old vintages (which are 40% of the blend and average 12 years of age) to the Champagne lover for a very reasonable introductory price of $44.99. This wine has it all- freshness from great chalky crus and honest depth from the generous portion of old wines in the blend.
Speaking of old Champagne at reasonable prices, head over to talk to Eric de Brissis at the Champagne Baron Fuente table. His Baron Fuente "Esprit" Brut Champagne gets seven years on the lees! This wine is a must try for anyone who loves the toasty style. Instead of using dilute fruit to bring the toast to the front, at Baron Fuente they get the toast the old fashioned way- they age this bottle for seven years on the lees!
See you at the tasting!
A toast to you,