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One of the most serious English Sparkling producers. This historic estate has been in the Goring family since 1743. The tiny 16-acre vineyard is close-planted on a steep south-facing chalk escarpment described as 'similar to the Côte des Blancs' in Champagne. The fruit is picked very selectively with quality being the absolute focus. The grapes are pressed gently using a traditional Coquard press. After three years on the lees this wine, composed of 45% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay & 22% Pinot Meunier, is hand disgorged and balanced with a minimal dosage of just 4g/L. It has a fine counterbalance between toasty richness and power from the wines élevage in Burgundian French Oak barrels, with racy acidity, tension and a focused chalky minerality.

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Entries in vintage Champagne (13)

Friday
Jul192013

Champagne Friday: One Great Bottle - 2000 Krug Brut Champagne

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

One Great Bottle: 2000 Krug Brut Champagne

A bottle of vintage Krug is a fine centerpiece for a meal, and last Friday Cinnamon, her mother Margaret and my father Jim lived it up with the 2000. In my father’s piece on capsule collecting on the blog he mentioned that he had never tried the 2000, and the team at Krug decided to change that. When I received this great windfall with instructions to drink it with my father, I immediately started thinking about pairings.

For me, very rich Champagne goes best with pate, and the very best of rich Champagne, Krug Vintage, deserves the very best of pate. I got online and ordered a Torchon of Foie Gras from Hudson Valley Farms in New York which they shipped overnight to me. This farm-direct Foie Gras had been cooked in Sauternes and was every bit as good as the best I have had in France. We did almost nothing to it- I sliced it into generous blocks and Cinnamon plated it with fleur de sel, pepper, brioche soldiers and fresh fig. My father poured the Krug and it was time to enjoy Champagne Friday!

Torchon of Foie Gras from Hudson Valley Farms in New York was shipped to me overnight!

Dad and Krug

This batch of 2000 Krug Brut Champagne ($219) is currently in stcck. The bottle of 2000 Krug we enjoyed was from the ID# 210008 batch, the same as what we currently have on the shelf at K&L. Looking this up at www.krug.com, I found that this wine was disgorged in spring 2010 after ten years in the Krug cellar deep beneath Reims. I love the new transparency at the house of Krug, and these ID numbers are great on the vintage wines, but even better for the multi-vintage bottling which had always been a mystery in the past. Now, it is easy to see which harvest these wines are based on and how many reserve vintages went into them.

Our bottle of 2000 showed so well with Foie Gras that I am worried for both my waistline and my bank balance! The liver brought out the scintillating, electric side of the Champagne and highlighted the chalky drive of the top notch Chardonnay in the blend. This refreshing character made it far too easy to take big bites of the duck liver! As the wine opened up, hazelnut depth from the Pinot Noir and savory intrigue from the Meunier developed, and that savor mirrored the flavor of the Foie Gras perfectly. This wine is at the very beginning of its drinking window, and has a huge amount of time in hand. At the end of the evening, after our main course and much conversation, the last drops of this bottle showed even more complexity. This is a great cellar candidate!

A toast to you,

–Gary

Friday
Jun142013

Champagne Friday: Collecting Champagne Capsules

By: Jim Westby (Gary's Dad!)

Champagne Friday: Collecting Champagne Capsules

Champagne drinkers receive an attractive memento with every bottle they open—the metal capsule that covers the cork. These usually feature bright colors, strong design, and the maker's brand identity. They aren't easy to throw away, and I'm sure that many of you have some capsules in your drawer that contains corkscrews, foil cutters, decanting funnels, miscellaneous corks, or other wine paraphernalia.

Maybe you have 10 or 20 capsules in that drawer, and in this case you have a collection even if you don't realize it. In France you would be called a "placomusophile", perhaps a compelling reason to conceal the fact that you collect these things.

There is plenty of material to collect. Capsules have been used for over 150 years and there are now more than 10,000 Champagne brands. Most brands have several capsule designs in current use, and old houses may have used hundreds of different ones in the past. These designs may themselves vary not only by color, but also by typographic style and sizing of the elements.

To make sense of this, you need the standard reference book for Champagne capsule collectors, "Repertoire des Placques de Muselets du Champagne," by Claude Lambert (generally called simply "Lambert"). It includes over 5,000 capsule photos and lists tens of thousands of different capsules, but is only available in France in French. Don't miss the chance to buy a copy if you are in the Champagne region or Paris. The book gives prices you might expect to pay for capsules were you to buy them in a specialty shop in France. Most are listed at 1 or 2 Euros, but old, rare examples can fetch up to several hundred Euros.

Here are some suggestions for Champagnes with interesting capsules that will start or add to a collection:

Loriot capsules feature the Loriot family's namesake bird, the oriole. Vivid colors and a strong, simple design make them exceptionally attractive.

Michel Loriot "Cuvee Reserve" Brut Champagne ($29.99) This all-estate grown Champagne is 100% Pinot Meunier from the village of Festigny. Unlike many "reserve" designation Champagnes, this lives up to its name with half of the wine coming from old reserves. It is quite round, with a wonderful pie crust and spice nose, with some hints of exotic fruit in the flavor. This is medium- to full-bodied Champagne and makes great drinking on its own as well as being fantastic with patés of all sorts. (Gary Westby, K&L Champagne buyer)

2006 Michel Loriot "Pinot Meunier Vieilles Vignes" Brut Champagne ($49.99) Rated *Outstanding Plus* by the Underground Wine Letter. This stunning, single-vineyard Champagne is one of the best we carry at K&L. It comes from the l'Arpent vineyard, which is slightly less than one acre in the village of Festigny. The vines were planted in 1942 and come from an old massal selection of Meunier. Michel Loriot makes only 3,000 or 4,000 bottles of this, his top wine, in vintages that he considers good enough. Otherwise this juice goes into the other blends. This light gold color wine has the kind of streamers that I could watch all day, they seem slowed in their travel up from the bottom of the glass by the richness of the wine. The exotic spice on the nose leads to a surprisingly creamy flavor. The Meunier Vieilles Vignes is very full-bodied and powerful Champagne, yet finishes with great minerality. The Loriots like to serve it with parmesan, a cheese that is very much like it in flavor and bite! When I tasted this with the Loriots, Michel decanted it 1/2 hour ahead of time! This has a great finish, and is another must try for any real fan of Champagne. (Gary Westby, K&L Champagne buyer)

Krug has dated the capsules of their vintage bottlings since 1988. Nobody is going to forget a bottle of vintage Krug, but having the dated capsule should bring back fond memories. Maybe somebody will give me the 2000 Krug for my birthday so I can add it's capsule to my collection. 

2000 Krug Brut Champagne ($219) When toast and raciness meet, you have a great bottle of vintage Champagne. This has been my favorite vintage release from Krug for current drinking since the 1989, and it has the legs to age for decades. The wine has a bright, white gold color and a nose that is open and full of buttered sourdough aromas. The initial palate impression is tense, but this is one of those rare wines with a "peacocks tail" finish... The impression grows after you swallow it. It has a near endless finish, and seems dryer than past releases. After checking the new code on the back, this bottle was disgorged in spring of 2010, giving it about 9 years on the lees. (Gary Westby, K&L Champagne Buyer)

The Barnaut capsule has an impressionistic image of the church at Bouzy and the vineyards surrounding it that are the source of the wine. Bright and very pretty, it tells the story of the terrior of Barnaut Champagne very well.

Barnaut Blanc de Noirs Bouzy Grand Cru Brut Champagne ($42.99/$39.99 Wine Club) 90 points Tanzer: "(all Bouzy pinot noir): Vivid gold. Ripe pear and nectarine on the nose, but complicated by floral and musky herb nuances. A pliant, smooth texture, with deep, hefty orchard and pit fruit flavors and slow-building smokiness. The persistent finish repeats the pear note and leaves notes of redcurrant and floral honey behind. This Champagne would stand up to rich, buttery dishes or even strong cheeses." (12/ 2010)

Finally, let me tell you a way to get your capsules out of that drawer and displayed so that you can enjoy them. All you need is some 3/4 inch x 6 wood screws, glue, and a piece of foam core display board (from a craft or framing store). I use a drop of "super glue" on the inside of the capsule. The bond is strong enough that you can mount the capsule on wood, but it does leave residue if the screw is pulled off. Ordinary white glue leaves no residue, but it's only strong enough to hold a screw turned into soft material such as foam core board.

  

    Display with capsules glued to wood screws and mounted on foam core board. -Jim Westby

 

 

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