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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 Tour de France (2)

Friday
Jul062012

Champagne Friday: Celebrate the Tour de France with Launois

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Hello All,

Today is a special Champagne Friday, because the Tour de France started in Epernay today. All of the Champenois have been out in the start village or lining the roads as the race goes through the Cotes de Blancs and the Grand Valley of the Marne. I thought that there would be no better way to celebrate than with one of our very best Cotes de Blancs producers, Launois!

For eight generations, the Launois family has been making some of the best estate-grown Champagne available from their sizeable estate. They have vines in the grand cru’s Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger, Avize and Cramant, and all of the wines that we purchase from them come from these top villages.

Bernard Launois does things differently. He has invested in three top of the line, computer controlled Coquard diagonal pressed, but still uses enamel lined iron (think Le Creuset cookware!) vats for fermentation and ageing because he does not like the way stainless steel fermented wines taste. While many in the Cotes de Blancs pride themselves on pure steel in their wines, Bernard values richness to balance his Champagne's naturally intense minerality. He harvests about 10 days after everyone else in his are done, and instead of paying gypsies to pick, he has Dutch and Belgian business men pay him to work the fields.  

The best introduction to his style is the Launois "Cuvée Reserve" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($34.99) which is made from the flatter vineyards on the estate. The current batch is based on the great 2008 harvest and the aromatics are like polished white Burgundy with a touch of pine nut and minerals. The flavors are broad and rich. This is serious wine, with small bubbles and a refreshing finish.

 

 

I might be making a mistake to mention the Launois "Quartz" Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne ($34.99) since its cult following wipes out the tiny amount that we get almost immediately. It is made entirely from the Les Chetillons parcel that Pierre Peters sells as single vineyard, and only brought up to 4.5 atmospheres of pressure instead of the traditional 6. This pure Champagne is one of the few to show off the flowery side of Chardonnay, and is a show stopper. If we are out, get on the email waiting list for next time…it always sells out, but we always get more later!

If you like to cellar Champagne, grab a few of the 2002 Launois "Special Club" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne( $59.99) before they are gone. This wine comes from the families two best plots, Les Corroies in Mesnil and La Justice in Cramant, both of which are over 60 years old. It is Bernard’s top wine- and certainly one of ours.

 

 

Coming in by the end of the month is the Launois "Veuve Clemence" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($39.99), made from the top and bottom parts of the steeper vineyard sites, and gets 4 years on the lees, an extra year over the Reserve. It comes off as more vinous, elegant and developed than the reserve.

On the same container, the 2005 Launois Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne ($49.99) is made from mid slope parcels, and is the richest, creamiest, toastiest of the bunch. This decadent wine will go great with lobster, and given the freshness of the ’64 I tasted on my last visit, the wine should last a very long time. Stay tuned!

Happy Champagne Friday,

-Gary Westby

Check out more educational wine & spirits videos from Gary and the experts at K&L on YouTube!

 

Tuesday
Jun292010

Follow the Tour de France...with Bottles!

The 2010 Tour de France Organizers Must Like Wine!

The organizers of the Tour de France have been very kind to the wine lover this year, sending riders pedaling through many of the best wine regions of France. Why not sip while the riders suffer? I like the idea so much that Cinnamon and I are going to head out to Champagne to see the Reims finish and the Epernay start this July… I am sure we will be able to find something to drink there!

The Tour starts Saturday, July 3rd with a prologue in Rotterdam. The race heads into Belgium on the next day, and on the 6th the drama begins with seven cobbled sections on the stage to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut. This is a great day for a bottle of the La Chouffe Belgian Ale (750ml $9.99), the classic beverage of the Ardennes. The Tour could be lost on these godforsaken roads. The only guarantee besides excitement on this stage is that the fans will show up, drink beer and eat frites by the kilo.

On the 7th, the riders will enjoy a flat, fast stage to Reims for what promises to be a bunch sprint in the largest city in Champagne. For this stage we look to one of the few Grand Marque houses that are still family-owned, Louis Roederer. Mr. Frederic Rouzaud, the man in charge, is even a bike rider himself. The Louis Roederer "Brut Premier" Champagne ($36.99) is a Reims classic, and as predictably good as Mark Cavendish after a fast Team Columbia lead out.

The next day, the riders start in Epernay, according to the itinerary. If you dig a little deeper into the map, you will see that the actual start is in Moussy, just south of the city. I will be there with Mr. Bruno Michel, who makes great Champagne in that village. I hope we can get a good vantage point with him to see the start! The AG2R pro John Gadret, who rode so well in the Giro d’Italia, used to work for him. I invite you to join us in drinking the Bruno Michel "Blanche" Brut Champagne ($32.99), an organically grown, meticulously made blend of half Chardonnay and half Meunier. Have a toast to Gadret; he could end up winning a stage in the mountains this year.

On Bastille Day, July 14th, the Tour will go from Chambéry to Gap, covering some of the lavender-covered fields of Provence on a rolling course. What could be more French than dry rosé from the region? The 2009 Commanderie de la Bargemone Coteaux d'Aix-En-Provence Rosé ($15.99) will be the perfect thing to sip while watching Cofidis, AG2R and Boygues Telekom kill themselves to make the break and get some TV time. Watch for the seasoned veteran Christophe Moreau, he might be free to fly now that his team leader has been suspended!

On July 23rd, after many brutal days in the mountains, the race winds down with a flat, sprinter's finish in the greatest wine city in the world: Bordeaux. For many years, my father and I would always plan a special wine dinner in honor of the Bordeaux finish. I suggest that you do the same, and start with the bracing Sauvignon zip of the 2008 Reynon "Old Vines" Bordeaux Blanc ($13.99) with a nice piece of halibut, since turbot is hard to get here. You could then move on to steak au poivre with a bottle of the 1999 Lanessan, Haut-Médoc ($19.99), which is a perfect, medium-bodied Cabernet, and to me one of the finest values in the entire K&L portfolio. Finish the evening out with a half bottle of the scandalously underpriced nectar 2007 Petit-Védrines, Sauternes (375ml $11.99) and a cherry clafoutis. Perhaps we can toast a great win by American Tyler Farrar on the most beautiful sprinting boulevard in the world!

The next day, when your guests have left your Bordeaux dinner party, the riders will be battling it out on the last decisive day of the 2010 Tour, the 52km individual time trial from the city of Bordeaux up the Médoc to Pauillac. Along the way the riders will go past a roll call of the finest Châteaux; at 22k they will pass Château Margaux, then pick off Ducru at 45k and the great Léoville estates at 47k, before finally ending in the town that gives us Pichon-Lalande, Mouton, Lafitte and Latour. This is a night for a simply-made steak, potatoes and asparagus, paired with a great bottle of Médoc from your cellar. If you would rather plunder our cellar, I would recommend the 2005 Cordeillan Bages, Pauillac (Was $60 Now $34.99), which is a great value that just needs some decanting… We always have some interesting older Pauillacs at good prices as well, so check our website. Long time trials like this can be devastating, so look for rarely-fed climbers like the Schleck brothers to give up large amounts of time (and positions on GC) while Contador, Armstrong and specialists like Fabian Cancellara dominate the day.

I can’t wait! Tour fever has already taken hold of me.

Gary Westby