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Château de Brézé has a long and storied history, first being mentioned in texts in 1068, lauded by King René of Anjou in the 15th century and served at all the royal courts. In 1957, when the AOC of Saumur Champigny was established, the owner of Château de Brézé refused to be part of the appellation, saying that his estate's vineyards were the best and deserved an appellation all their own. And he was probably right. Unfortunately, the wines from those exceptional vineyards were terrible. Lucky for us, the winery sold in 2009 to Le Comte de Colbert, who recruited Arnaud Lambert from nearby Domaine de Saint Just to make the wine. He changed the vineyards over to organic farming and began producing truly stellar wines worthy of their source. The 2012 Château de Brézé Clos David is all estate-grown Chenin Blanc raised in stainless steel to preserve freshness. It has the slightly-oxidized note of a great White Burgundy and a lovely richness that allows it to pair with a variety of foods.

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Tasting with Oliver Krug

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Champagne Trip, Day 2: Krug!

Krug has become one of the great wine monuments of France by making and delivering great Champagne in the bottle since 1843. The only other producer that I can think of in all of France with a longer track record for perfectionism is Chateau d’Yquem in Sauternes. I love the vinous, powerful style of the Krug wines, which are all barrel fermented and aged for a long time. It was my father's and my choice for the millennium; I contributed a bottle of Grand Cuvée, and he generously contributed his last bottle of 1976, and the two of us had a private party.

I arrived at Krug a half an hour late because half of the roads in Reims were closed—some because of road construction and some because of a strike. If I could have found a place to park, I would have ridden my bike the rest of the way. (I was less than a mile away when the police turned me away!) When I finally arrived, I was welcomed by Julie-Amadine Michel, and we took a tour of the Krug caves, where they store a mind boggling amount of reserve wines for the Grand Cuvée.

This Pinot from Bouzy will likely be included in the 2009 bottling, for release in 2017!

At Krug they use 40% reserve wines in their Grand Cuvée, with some of them dating back 12 to15 years at the time of bottling. After bottling, they keep the wines on the lees from 7 to 10 years—so a completely fresh disgorgement of Krug Grand Cuvée will contain some wines of 19- to 25-years-old. Blending many vintages allows the wine to have a complexity that only age can bring, but with vigor from the younger elements in the blend.

Olivier Krug Joined us for the tasting

After the tour, we sat down to taste Grand Cuvée, and the 1998 and 1995 vintages with Olivier Krug. The Grand Cuvée delivered the complexity that the story promises; it was a Rubik’s Cube of terroir, grape variety and time when I studied it closely, and at once a disarmingly delicious drink when simply enjoyed. The 1998 is only the second Krug vintage (1981 being the other) to be dominated by Chardonnay in the blend. Because of a scorching August, much of their Pinot and Meunier were overripe. This Champagne is drinking very well already, with a golden color, an amazingly toasty nose of brioche, a buttery rich mid-palate and a powerful finish. The 1995 was also drinking well, and seemed to be even toastier still.

Olivier and I also talked about a tasting he next time he was in the US, and I am pleased to say we will have a small gathering in the Redwood City store on Wednesday June 10th at 5 p.m. It will be an honor to have him in the store. Please send me and email at if you would like to come. It will be very limited, so please do not wait to drop me a line.

—Gary Westby