Wine of the Week; Daniel Ginsburg #Champagne Grande Reserve Sous Bois Brut

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  My Wine Of The Week is the Daniel Ginsburg Grande Reserve Sous Bois Brut.

The Winery

Daniel Ginsburg (1956-2009) was the majority owner of Champagne de Meric.  For a time, it was the only American-owned winery in Champagne (Sports and music mogul Jay Z recently purchased Champagne Armand de Brignac)

Ginsburg was a man of diverse interests. He was a graduate of Northwestern University and made his professional mark in advertising and marketing.  He was an avid wine collector, founding member of the Society for American Baseball Research (which he joined when he was 15!), author (The Fix Is In: A History of Baseball, Gambling and Game Fixing Scandals, and The Art and Business of Champagne), and part-owner of the Class AA Norwich Navigators.

Champagne De Méric was founded in 1843 by the Besserat family in the village of Aÿ. The Besserat family sold the House to Ginsburg in 1997.  The house has been managed since 2005 by Reynald Leclaire, wine broker and also owner of Champagne Leclaire-Thiefaine.

The Wine

I purchased this wine from K&L Wine Merchants.  According to K&L “This is the exact same wine as the De Meric “Grande Reserve Sous Bois” Brut Champagne, now being sold under the name of the late founder, Daniel Ginsburg.”  It’s a blend of 80% Pinot Noir from Ay, Mareuil-Sur-Ay and Mutigny, 15% Chardonnay from Cramant, Avize and Oger and 5% Meunier from Cumieres.

More from K&L..It is vinified half in old oak barrels and half in stainless steel tanks for the perfect balance of rounded richness and zesty refreshment. It is in a big style and has plenty of toasty complexity, but also an elegant, small-beaded texture.”

12% alcohol Retail – $34.99

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My tasting notes follow: 

Golden color with plentiful pin-prick sized bubbles and a  steady bead.  It aromatically exuberant with brioche, hazelnut, quince, and a bit of citrus aromas.  On the palate, it’s full bodied and dense with a delicate creamy mousse  and a toasty baked apple, lemon and a hint of spice flavors.  It’s moderately complex, well-balanced and delicious with a lingering finish.

Rating: A-; If you’re looking for value in a full-bodied Champagne, this one is a winner!

Pair with: Main dishes like Chicken in Garlic Almond Sauce or Rabbit Ragu

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
_________________________________________________________________

Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

 

Wine of The Week: 2001 La Rioja Alta “904″ Gran Reserva #TempranilloDay

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  My Wine Of The Week is the 2001 La Rioja Alta “904″ Gran Reserva

The Winery

La Rioja Alta, S.A. was founded in 1890 when five Riojan and Basque families who shared a passion for wine, founded the ‘Sociedad Vinícola de La Rioja Alta’. According to importer Michael Skurnik, “Few dispute that La Rioja Alta S.A. is the leading quality orientated producer in the Rioja. With more than 50,000 casks and 6.4 million bottles stored at any one time, the equivalent of about 8 years sales, La Rioja Alta S.A. is unique in its ability to supply large quantities of fully mature wines of world-class quality“.

La Rioja Alta rose to prominence at a time when vineyards in France were ravaged by phylloxera, and wine lovers were looking elsewhere for fine wine.  La Rioja Alta was one of the wineries in Rioja  that capitalized on the opportunity.

The Bodega’s first winemaker was a Frenchman, Monsieur Vigier, and the first wine he produced was what is today known as “Gran Reserva 890″, their flagship wine.

They will celebrate their 125th anniversary next year!

I was discovered La Rioja Alta a couple of years ago when I read some of the reviews about the 2001 Viña Ardanza.  I picked up a couple of bottles.

So often in a situation where a wine is hyped up, it’s not unusual for one to be let down because expectations have been built up.

Not so for the 2001 Viña Ardanza.   It lived up to the hype and delivered for me.

My other experience with La Rioja Alta was when I traveled to Spain last year.  When we arrived at our hotel -  Los Augustinos Hotel, we were starving.  The first thing we did was grab a bite to eat.  They was a special on a combination cheese plate and a bottle of Viña Alberdi Crianza.  What a great introduction to the wine and cheese of Rioja!  It was such a memorable meal! The wine and the cheese were perfectly matched.

Fast forward to this year.  When I saw my favorite wine store, K&L Wine Merchants had a nice selection of wines from the 2001 vintage – one of the strongest vintages in Rioja in recent memory, it was a “no-brainer” for me to pick up a couple of bottles of this wine because I’ve had great experiences with other wines from La Rioja Alta.

The Wine

In 1904, La Rioja Alta absorbed Bodegas Ardanza, which was owned by Don Alfredo Ardanza.  This wine commemorates this important milestone in the company’s development.  Originally referred to the “Reserva 1904″, it is now known as the “904″.

These wines offer a wonderfully complex bouquet, rich flavours, a seductively smooth texture, and are all ready to drink on release.

The “904″ is a blend of Tempranillo and Graciano. The base grape is Tempranillo (90%) from vines over 40 years old grown in the municipalities of Briñas, Labastida and Villalba, perfectly complemented with 10% Graciano from our Melchorón I and II vineyards in Briones and Rodezno.

After fermentation, the wine was aged 4 years in custom-made American oak barrels, that were racked twice a year, and then further aging in bottle.

12.5% alcohol $50 Retail

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My tasting notes follow:

Slightly bricking tawny color with alluring baked cherry, balsamic, tobacco, vanilla, spice and sweet floral aromas. On the palate, light-medium-bodied with a freshness that belies its 13 years.  It’s  shows great finesse, concentration and is impeccably balanced with tart raspberry, cherry, vanilla, spice and mineral flavors. Long finish. [Note: I aerated the wine for 90 minutes]  >>Find this wine<<

Rating: A; Highly recommended!

Pair with: Grilled lamb chops with Patatas a la Riojana, or Chorizo and lentil stew with Morcilla (Spanish blood sausage)

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
Other posts you might enjoy:
_________________________________________________________________

Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding with Donkey & Goat Stone Crusher for #winePW

Wine Pairing Weekend is a monthly collaborative event for wine/food bloggers started by David Crowley of Cooking Chat.  It’s a great way to find food and wine pairings that work; along with tips on how to create your own food and wine pairing magic.

The theme for this month’s Wine Pairing Weekend is “Creative Thanksgiving-Inspired Dishes and Wine Pairings”

The Food

As a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies, I almost always decide which wine I want to try, then decide which dish to pair it with.

But this time was different.

All I knew is I wanted an atypical main dish.  I poked around the web and found this Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding recipe.  What’s atypical about it is that it’s intended to be a vegetarian main dish - a dish that can command the table…

A delicious savory bread pudding that rivals the big roasted bird.

This dish does the trick! It capture the eye with a brilliant splash of fall color, and it smell even better.  And despite the name it includes a healthy dose of kale too!

I pretty much followed the recipe, except that I cut the recipe in half because the baguette I didn’t yield enough torn bread pieces.  I also added a bit of Herbs de Provence to the custard used to soak the bread.

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I was turned on to savory bread puddings a couple of years ago when I tried one as a side dish for Thanksgiving.  That turned out good. This one turned out great!

Beside presenting beautifully, it’s hearty and it tastes sweet, and savory all at once!

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The Wine

For my wine, I went orange.  An orange wine that is!

For the uninitiated an orange wine, is essentially a wine made from white wine grape varieties (in this case Roussanne) that spends some time fermenting on grape skins (i.e. it’s vinified like a red wine. It’s the skins that give the wine its color).

This white (orange) wine will surprise as it spent 15 days on the skins in a 4 ton open top wood vat before we pressed off to complete fermentation in neutral oak barrels. Orange wines, as they are called, are fascinating for many reasons but most exciting for us is the incredible versatility at the table.

This one is from Donkey and Goat Winery, a family owned and operated urban winery located in Berkeley California.  They make food friendly wines from hand harvested, sustainably farmed grapes grown in Mendocino & the Sierra Foothills. The wines are vinified as naturally as possible with minimal intervention and minimal effective SO2.

I firsT tried this wine a couple of vintages ago, and I make sure I pick up a bottle of two each year (Doh! That reminds me I’ve got to get my ’13 for this year’s Thanksgiving!)

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I aerated this wine for 20 minutes or so to let it warm up to cellar temperature and to give it some air. Unlike most wines made from white grapes this one has tannins and benefits from some aeration

My tasting notes follow:

Slightly hazy golden-orange color with charming, exotic honeysuckle, baked apricot, spiced orange rind, and jasmine aromas. On the medium-bodied, dry and fresh with dusty tannins and baked apricot, nectarine, heirloom apple, mineral and spice flavors, and a lingering finish.

The Food and Wine Pairing

This was a great pairing on all levels for me.  The wine possesses a combination of very good acidity and just enough tannins to complement the full-bodied richness of the bread pudding.  The wine has ample exotic fruit flavors and those flavors are amplified with you take a bite of the bread pudding followed by a sip of the wine.  The bread pudding made the wine taste better and the wine made the bread pudding taste better.

And that’s what food and wine pairing is all about!

Check out what my fellow #winePW bloggers have created for the November “Creative Thanksgiving-Inspired Dishes and Wine Pairings:

Sides

Turkey, Tempranillo and Sweet Potatoes by Cooking Chat
Thanksgiving from the Veneto: Turkey, Pomegranate Sauce & Valpolicella by foodwineclick
Norwegian Meatballs by Confessions of a Culinary Diva
Shepherds Pie Casserole with Barnard Griffin Syrah Port by Wild 4 Washington Wine

Sides
Purple Sweet Potato Soup with Roasted Lobster + Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Arugula Pear Salad paired with Torrontes from Argentina by A Day in the Life on the Farm
Layered Sweet Potato and Apple Bake with Cranberry Blush by Curious Cuisiniere

Desserts
Walnut Tart with Sparkling Brachetto d’Acqui by Vino Travels — An Italian Wine Blog
Can we skip to dessert? by Pull That Cork

Don’t Forget Leftovers!
Day After Turkey and Seafood Gumbo by It’s Ok To Eat The Cupcake
Turkey Pot Pie and Boedecker Cellars Chardonnay by Tasting Pour

Don’t forget to our Twitter chat today, November 8th at 11 a.m. Eastern Time! We’ll be talking about our tips and tricks for the best Thanksgiving wine pairings. We’d love to have you join us!

And, be sure to mark your calendars for December’s Wine Pairing Weekend, hosted by Jeff of foodwineclick. Just in time for Holiday parties, we’ll be sharing sparkling wine and hors d’oeuvre pairings. Join in the #WinePW 7 conversation on Saturday Dec. 13!

You can also visit our group Pinterest board to pin some great pairing ideas for later!

__________________________________________________________________

Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Wine of the Week: 2010 Robert Craig Affinity

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  My Wine Of The Week is the 2010 Robert Craig Affinity.

The Winery

The eponymous Robert Craig Winery was founded in 1992; he has been involved in the wine industry for many years, most notably at The Hess Collection as their General Manager. In addition he helped develop 300 vineyard acres on Mt. Veeder and was instrumental in forming a sub appellation for the Mt. Veeder area. Bob has been focused on hillside vineyards since he became interested in wine in the 1960’s. It’s fair to say he spends a significant amount of time in some of the major hillside producing regions of Napa including at his house which is built on Mt. George. Robert Craig’s wines are sourced from Mt. Veeder of course as well as the Spring Mountain and Howell Mountain AVA’s.(Source)

The winery is located at an elevation of almost 2300 feet high up on Howell Mountain. .At this elevation they do occasionally see some snow in the winter.  Their estate vineyard is among the highest in the Napa Valley.  The location can be a challenge to get to, and their permitting limit them to a small number of visitors, so they maintain a tasting room in Downtown Napa.

That’s where my wife and I first tasted Robert Craig wines.

We were hosted by Tia Simon, and since it was Valentine’s weekend, she asked if we were interested in a chocolate and wine pairing.   I’m not crazy about pairing chocolate and wine, but it was a fantastic experience.  The pairing all worked, but more importantly, we loved the wines!

The Wine

Robert Craig has been bottling this Bordeaux style wine since 1993.  It’s a blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec.  The Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from a hillside property.  The other four Bordeaux varieties are added to enhance the structure of the wine; giving it depth, dimension and layers.

The fruit is hand-picked and hand sorted, then kept in separate lots during fermentation and barrel aging. The wine was aged 18 months in French Oak.

14.5% alcohol; Retail – $51

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My tasting note follows:

Opaque dark ruby color with appealing cassis, black cherry, and roast espresso beans with hints of violet and mineral aromas. On the palate, it’s elegant with a silky smooth texture and black cherry, cassis, vanilla and spice flavors with a long mineral accented finish.  >>Find this wine<<

Rating: A; Highly recommended!

Pair with: Lamp chops, or grilled tuna!

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
_________________________________________________________________

Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Wine of the Week; 2013 Copain P2

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  My Wine Of The Week is the 2013 Copain P2

The Winery

Copain Winery was founded by winemaker Wells Guthrie in 1999.  According to the Copain website…

Wells Guthrie discovered early on that his taste in wine gravitated toward Europe in general and France’s Rhône Valley in particular. So much so, he picked up and moved with his new bride to the region to learn from the best. For two years, Wells apprenticed for esteemed winemaker and living legend Michel Chapoutier in France’s Rhone Valley. During that time, Wells was deeply inspired by the traditions and practices of French winemaking, not to mention the European attitude that wine is an essential part of life.

Guthrie started the winery with an old friend, and named it Copain, which means ‘friend” in French.

Copain is focused on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir,and Syrah. They offer three lines of wines, the entry-level “Tous Ensembles”, mid-level “Les Voisins”, and their top of the line “Single Vineyard” Wines.  In addition to this interesting blend they also produce an interesting and delicious estate Trousseau Gris.

The Wine

This is an interesting blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Pinot Gris.  The fruit was sourced from the Hein, and Klindt vineyard located in the Anderson Valley. The grapes are co-fermented and aged for five months in neutral French Oak barrels.

You get more Pinot Gris on the nose and more Pinot Noir on the palate.

12.7% alcohol; Retail – $25

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My tasting notes follow:
Light ruby color with strawberry, a bit of cherry and hints of floral and spiced orange rind aromas. On the palate, it’s light bodied, fresh and balanced with strawberry, spice flavors complemented by a tangy minerality and touch of tannins round out this well structured wine.  Satisfying finish. It’s very good on its own, but really shines with food!  Serve slightly chilled (~55 degrees).

Rating: A-;  An interesting blend that works so well! Positioned as a chillable summer red (which it is), but this also make a great Fall wine too!

Pair with: Thanksgiving dinner!

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
_________________________________________________________________

Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Champagne Chronicles – Day 5; The Aube

This is the last of my five-part series about my visit to Champagne last month. Check out the previous four posts about my phenomenal week!

  • Day 1 - Guided tour of Reims Cathedral and Champagne dinner
  • Day 2 - C.I.V.C., Roger Coulon, and Veuve Clicquot
  • Day 3 - Louis Roederer, Rene Geoffroy, and Jacquesson
  • Day 4 - Bereche & Fils, Billecart-Salmon, and Bruno Paillard

_______________________________________________________

Last month, I had the privilege of traveling to the Champagne region in France as a guest of the U.S. Champagne Bureau for the 2014 Champagne Harvest Media Trip. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about what makes the Champagne region special via visits to 10 producers including large houses, growers and cooperatives. Our visit included exquisite meals too – all paired with Champagne!

My only regret in life is that I didn’t drink enough Champagne” John Maynard Keynes

Our itinerary for Day 5 was as follows:

Champagne Chronicles - Day 5; The Aube

This photo of the Ource River was taken in the picturesque village of Essoyes – where Renoir spent his summers.

The Aube

Our last full day in Champagne featured a trip to the Côte des Bar  in the Aube department of the Champagne region. The Côte des Bar is one of five regions of Champagne (with the three most well know being, Montagne de ReimsCôte des Blancs, and Vallée de la Marne).

Champagne Chronicles - Day 5; The Aube

Image courtesy of the New York Times

It’s about a two-hour drive south of main Champagne towns of Reims, Epernay, and Aÿ.

I like the way the New York Times put it..Côte des Bar is closer to Chablis than to Épernay, and its limestone and clay soils are more like those of Chablis than the chalky soils to the north. Yet, despite the geological resemblance to Chablis, which makes the most distinctive chardonnay wines in the world, the vast majority of the grapes in the Côte des Bar are pinot noir.  

The Côte des Bar has an often uncomfortable attachment to Champagne that has existed since the Middle Ages. Though its main city, Troyes, was once Champagne’s provincial capital, counterparts in the Marne Valley have generally regarded the area with disdain – enough so, that they rioted in 1911 as part of an effort to block Aube grapes from Champagne. Ultimately the Aube was ushered in, but even today, its 17,000 acres of vineyards receive none of Champagne’s top classifications. Even so, many of the big houses in the north like Moët & Chandon, and Veuve Clicquot source grapes from the region. In fact 50% of the Pinot Noir in Champagne is grown in Côte des Bar

Yet today, the spotlight is unexpectedly shining on the Aube, and its primary growing area, the Côte des Bar. Now, the region is coming to be known for its independent vignerons, whose distinctive, highly sought wines have caught the attention of Champagne lovers the world over. – The New York Times

If you’ve got the time, a visit to the Aube is well worth the drive! The country side is breathtakingly beautiful, and the many of the villages have an almost medieval feel with cobblestone streets.  And put a visit to Troyes on you list –  I know I will!

Champagne Drappier

Drappier is located in the tiny village of Urville (pop. 151).  Upon our arrival at Drappier, we were greeted by Michel Drappier, who is in charge of this family owned and run business these days.  He led us on a tour of the Drappier cellars and the tasting.

Since we’d arrived a bit late we were running behind schedule.  We actually wanted to skip the cellar tour (by the 5th day we’d seen plenty of Champagne cellars). But Michel convinced us it would be worth our time.

It most certainly was!

The history of the house dates back to 1808. But the history of the cellars and vineyards dates back to the 12th century when Saint Bernard had an annex built to Clairvaux Abbey in Urville in 1152! . Part of those cellars still exist and are in use today.

During the tour we learned that Drappier has the distinction of inventing the world’s largest sized Champagne bottle, the Melchizedek, which holds the equivalent of 40 regular size bottles. They also bottle in 11 different sizes from quarter bottle to the aforementioned Melchizedek. Michel indicated that Drappier is the only Champagne house to carry out secondary fermentation in all bottle sizes.

Drappier is the closest thing to a grand marque in the Aube.  They are most certainly doing some very interesting and unique things in the cellar:

  • The amount of sulphur used in the wines is one of the lowest of any Champagne. And they also produce a cuvee - Drappier Champagne Brut Nature Zero Dosage Sans Ajout de Soufre with no sulfur.
  • They have been producing a Brut Nature, which are become more and more popular these days for over 20 years
  • Their liqueurs d’expédition used in their dosage are aged in oak casks, then in demijohns for more than 10 years. In fact, some of their liqueurs d’expédition are 30-40 years old!

After the tour, we were joined for the tasting by Michel’s charming father André, who at 80 is still active in the business.

We tasted the following wines:

  • Drappier Champagne Brut Nature Zero Dosage
  • Drappier Champagne Brut Carte d’Or
  • Drappier Champagne Brut Nature Zero Dosage Sans Ajout de Soufre
  • Drappier Champagne Brut Nature Zero Dosage
  • Drappier Champagne Quattuor – Blanc de Quatre Blancs (An interesting, and damned delicious cuvee featuring Chardonnay, and three forgotten Champagne grape varieties: Arbane (25%), Petit Meslier (25%) and Blanc Vrai (25%)
  • Drappier Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs
  • 2008 Drappier Champagne Millésimé Exception
  • 2006 Drappier Champagne Grande Sendrée

Wow, the wines were a revelation!  Drappier certainly had the most interesting lineup of wines for tasting during our trip, but more importantly, I found the wines were characterized by a distinctive combination of purity of fruit and balance.

It’s a challenge to pick a favorite, but I was very impressed with the Brut Nature Zero Dosage, and their prestige cuvee, the 2006 Grande Sendrée.  Both are wines I highly recommend! The Brut Nature is 100% Pinot Noir and is light-bodied, dry, polished and crisp with apple, peach, lemon, and citrus character.  The 2006 Grande Sendrée is a blend of 60% Pinot Noir, and 40% Chardonnay sourced from a parcel of land covered by cinders after the fire which ravaged Urville in 1838. It spend 6.5 years on lees. It’s shows perfumed aromas of hazelnut, apple, brioche,and chalk. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied and impeccably balanced with baked apple, peach, and citrus flavors.  Dosed at 5g/L with a long finish.

See below for gallery of Champagne Drappier visit

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Champagne Devaux

The House of Veuve A.Devaux, a co-op was founded in 1846. Created by brothers Jules and Auguste Devaux the brand was immediately successful and contributed to the worldwide reputation of Champagne wines. After them Madame Veuve Augusta Devaux a feisty “Champenoise”, took over the company and ran it with energy and talent. At the end of the 19th century three-fourths of the production was exported. For a century the House of Devaux was located in Epernay and remained the property of the founding family for 5 generations. The last of these and without an heir. Jean-Pol Auguste Devaux decided in 1987 to entrust the prestigious brand to the Union Auboise and its president Laurent Gillet. (Source)

We tasted the following wines:

  • Veuve A. Devaux Champagne Blanc de Noirs
  • Veuve A. Devaux Champagne Brut Grande Réserve
  • Veuve A. Devaux Champagne Cuvée Rosée

My favorite was the Blanc de Noirs.  Surprisingly, it was one of the few Blanc de Noir tasting during my week in Champagne.  Blanc de Noir is a Champagne made completely with black grapes, such as Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. This one is was made from 100% Pinot Noir and included about 20% reserve wine. It has a delightful soft, elegant, fresh brioche red fruit, roasted apple, dried herb character with some earthy notes.

After our tasting we adjourned to the Devaux what I’ll call the “Guest House” for a fabulous lunch paired with some of the more exclusive Devaux Champagne including a couple from Magnums!

See below for gallery of Champagne Veuve Devaux visit

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Espace Renoir

The attractive Renoir Space was opened in summer 2011. It’s not a museum, as there are no paintings, furniture or artifacts associated with Renoir, but it’s well set out as a series of spaces where you learn more about Renoir the man, and his life. It’s interactive, using films and photographs as well as recordings.

Champagne 9-2014

After we had a chance to see the exhibit in the Espace Renoir, we were treated to a on-site education tasting of Rosé des Riceys with Champagne DeFrance.

Champagne Defrance

I’d never heard of Rose des Riceys prior to the tasting (although unknowingly we had a Veuve Devaux Rosé des Riceys) That’s because very few producers make Rosé des Riceys wines, and in limited quantities, so they are very rarely seen outside France. They are just even rarer than those of Champagne’s other still wine appellation, Coteaux Champenois.

These still Rosé  wines comes from a tiny terroir named Les Riceys made up with three close-knit villages named Riceys-Haut, Riceys Haute-Rive et Riceys-Bas that is only a few kilometers from Burgundy.

The idea is to flirt with making a red wine, without actually making a red wine” - Pascal Morel

The wines are renowned for their ability to age, inimitable aromatics and lightly tannic charcter.

Among our group, opinions about the wines were sharply divided. I found the wines to be very enjoyable, but most it seemed did not.  My favorite was the 2006. It has an alluring strawberry, raspberry, and a bit of sous bois character with wonderful minerality and a slightly tannic grip I quite enjoyed.  I couldn’t but wonder if the wine wouldn’t have been even better with food though…

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Since we had a two-hour drive back to Reims, I had a lot of time to reflect on my week in Champagne.

I found myself experiencing the ambivalence that one may feel at the end of such a awe-inspiring singular experience. There were the joys of experiencing a deep dive into glorious wine that Champagne is, getting to know the immensely talented, charming, and passionate Champenoise, making new friends, and the splendid Champagne pairing meals.

But I also felt a bit of sorrow because it was ending. I wondered if I’ll ever be able to return, and share the experience with my wife.

I hope so! And I wish the same for my family, friends and the readers of this blog.

A visit to Champagne should be on your bucket list.…Santé!

Recap of the 2014 San Francisco #ChampagneTasting

I attended the Champagne region’s official annual United States tasting in San Francisco on Tuesday, October 21st.   The  tasting was held at the Westin St. Francis on Union Square.

The event celebrates Champagne: the sparkling wine produced in the French region of the same name. Only after strict appellation regulations are followed – from harvesting entirely by hand to how much juice may be extracted when grapes are pressed to minimum time in the wine spends aging in bottle on its lees before release– can a wine be labeled Champagne.

The event is part of an October full of festivities celebrating America’s love of Champagne, concluding with the fifth annual Champagne Day on Friday, October 24.

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The event was organized by the Comité Champagne (Comité interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne – “C.I.V.C.”), which represents all the grape growers and houses of Champagne. The C.I.V.C. promotes and supports the growers and producers through vineyard management and winemaking research and development, international protection of the Champagne name, and of course promoting Champagne

This was the fifth time the tasting was held in the United States, and the second time San Francisco was chosen to host the event.

Recap of the 2014 SF #ChampagneTasting

Now this is the way to start one’s sunny San Francisco afternoon…flute in hand and an embarrassment of Champagne riches ahead!

The Tasting

The event was held  in the Alexandra Ballroom on the 32nd floor of the Westin with breathtaking views of San Francisco and the Bay.  There were 37 brands represented and over 100 wines available for tasting.

It was a very well-organized event that included a comprehensive and accurate booklet of the wines being poured that had plenty of room for notes.

Each brand had a table around the perimeter of the ballroom. And each brand presented three wines – a Multi-vintage Brut, a Vintage, and a wine of their choice.

Additionally there was what I’d call “Champagne Island” in the middle of the room with a bunch of tables strung together to create what appeared to be two very long tables – One each for the multi-vintage wine and the vintage wine.

Perfect for the “power” tasters, and/or folks who wanted to avoid the marketing spiel.

Since I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t have a tasting plan…but that didn’t last long.

First, I decided to taste all the multi-vintage Brut wines on Champagne Island first because those are the most affordable, and the most widely available (multi-vintage wine represent about 80% of all Champagne sold).  Next, I tasted all the Rosé Champagne. Those were available at the tables of the producers who decided to show a Rosé. And finally, it was back to Champagne Island to taste as many of the Vintage wine as time and my, by then, tired palate would permit.

Recap of the 2014 San Francisco #ChampagneTasting

Champagne Island – where Champagne wishes do come true!

I used a simple scoring system – a scale of 1-5.

Okay, let’s keep it real.  It is Champagne after all – it was more like 3.75 – 5 because there wasn’t a dud in the bunch.

I ended up tasting 70 wines.  My favorites, which I scored at least 4 points are listed below by category:

Recap of the San Francisco #ChampagneTasting

A couple of my favorite multi-vintage blends

Multi-Vintage

  • Delamotte Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs
  • J. Lassalle Champagne Brut Reserve Cachet d’Or
  • Louis Roederer Champagne Brut Premier
  • Michel Gonet Champagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru
  • Moutard Père et Fils Champagne Brut Grande Cuvée
  • Nicolas Maillart Champagne 1er Cru Brut Platine
  • Philipponnat Champagne Royale Réserve Brut
  • Pol Roger Champagne Brut Réserve
  • Taittinger Champagne Brut Réserve / La Française
Recap of the San Francisco #ChampagneTasting

A few of my favorite vintage Champagne including a couple of Prestige Cuvee!

Vintage

  • 2002 Charles Ellner Champagne Brut “Seduction” Millésimé
  • 2002 Delamotte Champagne Blanc de Blancs Millésimé
  • 2006 Drappier Champagne Grande Sendrée
  • 2007 Louis Roederer Champagne Brut Vintage
  • 2002 Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne Brut Cuvée Palmes d’Or
  • 2004 Paul Goerg Champagne Cuvée Lady
  • 2002 Pol Roger Champagne Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill
  • 2006 Taittinger Champagne Brut Millésimé
Recap of the San Francisco #ChampagneTasting

A few of my favorite Rose Champagne

Rose

  • Ayala Champagne Cuvée Rosé Nature
  • Bruno Paillard Champagne Rosé Brut Première Cuvée
  • Charles Heidsieck Champagne Brut Rosé Reserve
  • Duval-Leroy Champagne Brut Rose Prestige
  • Gosset Champagne Grand Rosé Brut
  • 2008 Louis Roederer Champagne Rosé Brut
  • Michel Gonet Champagne Brut Réserve
  • Philipponnat Champagne Réserve Rosée
  • Pierre Paillard Champagne Brut Rosé Grand Cru
  • Taittinger Champagne Brut Prestige Rosé
  • Vollereaux Champagne Rosé de Saignée

Conclusion

This is the best time to a Champagne lover and consumer. There are more choices available then ever, and the quality of Champagne is the highest it’s ever been across the board.

As I tasted through the wines, I couldn’t help but wonder how individual wines would pair with food.  Champagne is one of the most food friendly wines you can drink. Don’t limit your consumption of Champagne to a cocktail or aperitif.  Given a bit of thought you can pair it throughout a meal. While in Champagne last month (check out the links below ), I enjoyed several Champagne wine pairing meals. What a treat!

Happy #ChampagneDay!

Related posts you might enjoy:

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Martin Redmond is a San Francisco Bay Area based Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Wine of the Week: 2010 Kenneth Volk Touriga Nacional Pomar Junction Vineyard

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  My Wine Of The Week is the 2010 Kenneth Volk Touriga Nacional Pomar Junction Vineyard.

The Winery

 From Kenneth Volk Vineyards (“KVV”)…“Proprietor Ken Volk has been making Santa Barbara and Central Coast wines for more than a quarter century. Perhaps best known as the founder of Wild Horse Winery, Ken has earned a reputation for crafting world-class wines, particularly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Santa Maria Valley.

Kenneth Volk has mentored many winemakers including Neil Collins of Tablas Creek, Terry Culton of Adelaida Cellars, Jon Priest of Etude, Larry Gomez of Lockwood Vineyards, Scott Welcher of Opolo Vineyards, and Karl Wicka of Turley Wine Cellars and The Missing Leg. He is an active supporter of the viticulture, enology and wine marketing programs being developed at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Volk has a keen interest in alternative or “heirloom” grape cultivars such as Malvasia and Cabernet Pferrer. He describes himself as an “innovating traditionalist” who likes to create multifaceted wines”.

KVV has tasting rooms in both Santa Maria and Paso Robles

My wife and I have been to KVV in Paso Robles a few times.  It’s always an interesting  and tasty visit.  We love that we get to try wine made from lesser know grape varieties like Aglianico, and Negrette.  Ken is a wonderful winemaker whose style we appreciate.

The Wine

Touriga Nacional is a red grape traditionally grown in Portugal’s Douro and Dao wine-growing regions. It traditionally plays a big part in the blends used for Port,  but is increasingly being used for table wine in the Douro and Dão

In many ways, Touriga Nacional is Portugal’s answer to France’s Cabernet Sauvignon. Both varieties display bold dark-fruit flavors, often with hints of spice, leather and violet – winesearcher.com

The grapes for this wine were source from the Pomar Junction Vineyard, which is located in the newly delineated El Pomar District of the Paso Robles viticultural appellation.

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My tasting notes follow:

Violet color with plum, blueberry, violet and lavender aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with prominent acidity and a soft texture with soft well-integrated tannins. It shows plum, ripe mixed black and red currant, vanilla and sweet spice flavors. Med long finish. 13.6% alcohol; Retail – $36;  Drink now

Rating: A-;  I love trying lesser know grape varieties, and this wine is a winner! Touriga Nacional FTW!

Pair with: Paella Valenciana, or a grilled rib-eye steak!

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Budget Friendly Wines for Budget Friendly #SundaySupper

The theme for this week’s #SundaySupper is all about budget friendly dishes.  The thing about the best budget friendly foods is that one doesn’t feel doesn’t feel cheated.  You still can still get a delicious healthy meal if you invest a bit of time into achieving satisfying results.

It’s the same with wine.  Just like it’s not hard to find satisfaction is a steak and lobster dinner from a pricy restaurant, I don’t think it’s difficult to find a great $50 dollar bottle of wine if you know what you like.

Ah, but if I can find a $10 or 15 dollar bottle of wine that’s satisfying, that over-delivers, on some level that a more satisfying experience for me because…well who doesn’t love a good deal?

With that in mind, I offer the following tips for finding wines that offer big bang for the buck:

  1. Shop the world – The first place I look for value is Spain, but you can find great value in the lesser know regions of France (Languedoc-Roussillion), Italy (Umbria, Sicily, and Puglia come to mind) along with countries like Chile, Australia and South Africa.
  2. Domestically – Look for lesser known regions.  In California for example look for wines from Amador, Lodi, or Lake County.
  3. Find website/blogger who specializes in value.  My favorite is the Reverse Wine Snob.
  4. Shop for Trader Joe’s and Costco for wine.  Both have lots of wines that offer great value.
  5. Take a look a box wines or a quality jug wine like Gallo Hearty Burgundy.
  6. Get to know high quality value produces like Barefoot Cellars, Chateau Ste Michelle, and Cline.
  7. Get cozy with a wine shop with a diverse selection of wines.  Most will have a nice selection of “everyday” wines in the $10-$20 range.
Wine Food Group

Image courtesy of somecards.com

Check out this week’s magnificent menu of budget friendly satisfying dishes prepared by the #SundaySupper food bloggers and budget friendly wine pairings recommendations that all under $15 (most are $10 or less)!

If you’ve been following my #SundaySupper wine pairing recommendations, then you KNOW I’m a  big proponent of pairing foods with sparkling wines, which pair well with such a wide variety of foods.  Pair these wine with Kirkland Prosecco ($8). It’s a terrific value with a delightful  fresh apple, mandarin orange, and honey character. 

Pair these dishes with Riesling, the white version of a “goes with virtually anything” wine. Look for the 2012 Pacific Rim Dry Riesling ($10).  It’s from the Columbia Valley in Washington State and has a delightful yellow apple, white peach, citrus and mineral character. 

Pair these dishes with Chardonnay.  Look for the 2013 Domaine Renaud Mâcon-Charnay ($14) from Burgundy, France.  Our wine club did a blind tasting of Chardonnay from around the world last year, and this wine did well.  It’s an un-oaked Chardonnay with a classic zesty apple, citrus and mineral character. 

Pair these dishes with a Sauvignon Blanc.  Look for the 2013 Patient Cottat “Le Grand Caillou” Sauvignon Blanc ($10).  It has a lovely tropical fruit, citrus, spice and mineral character with a tangy acidity. 

Pair these dishes with Pinot Noir, the red wine version a “goes with virtually anything”. Pinot Noir is probably the most challenging the wine you can find that offers value for the price.  I recommend the 2013 Shoofly Wines Pinot Noir ($10) from Australia.  It’s show aromatic red berry, Asian spice aromas with bright cherry, raspberry and spice flavors underscored with an appealing minerality. 

Pair these dishes with a Grenache from Spain.  One of my perennial favorites is the Altovinum Evodia Old Vines Garnacha ($10). It’s produced from high-altitude 100-year old vines in the Calatayud region.  The combination of mountain fruit and old vines produces an elegant,zesty wine with strawberry, cherry character.  

Pair these dishes with a Cabernet Sauvignon. I like the 2012 Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($10).  It’s a blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with some Merlot, Syrah, Malbec and Mourvedre.  It’s easy drinking  with a plum, dark cherry, and vanilla character. 

Pair these dishes with an old Italian favorite of mine, the 2013 Maritma “The 4 Old Guys” Sangiovese ($8).  It’s from the South Tuscan coast and has an easy drinking cherry, plum and earth character.

Pair these dishes with red blend.  One of my favorite is the Sherman & Hooker’s Shebang! “Seventh Cuvée” Red Blend ($12).  It’s second label by one of California’s hottest young winemakers – Morgan Twain-Peterson that’s a blend of Zinfandel, Grenache, Alicante, Petite Sirah and Sangiovese that was aged in 50% new French oak.  It has a fruity, but not jammy brambly, ripe cherry, cassis, dark chocolate character.

Try these desserts with Moscatel de Setúbel, a sweet fortified wine form the southern portion of Portugal, made from the local variety of Moscatel (Muscat).  Look for the Moscatel de Setúbal is sweet, fortified wine made from the local variety of Moscatel(Muscat).  Look for the 2011 Bacalhoa Moscatel de Setúbal ($10).  It’s rich with fragrant orange blossom, orange peel, honeyed fruit, and raisin character. 

Pair these desserts & snacks with a Moscato d’Asti.  Look for the 2013 Saracco Moscato d’Asti ($10). It shows a sweet, fragrant, delicate, floral, tropical fruit, and a hint of honey character.  It’s “frizzante”, which means it’s not as effervescent as most sparkling wines. 

Bon Appétit and Cheers!

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtagand remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Champagne Chronicles – Day 4

This is the fourth in what will be a series of five posts about my visit to Champagne

  • Day 1 - Guided tour of Reims Cathedral and Champagne dinner
  • Day 2 - C.I.V.C., Roger Coulon, and Veuve Clicquot
  • Day 3 - Louis Roederer, Rene Geoffroy, and Jacquesson

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Last month, I had the privilege of traveling to the Champagne region in France as a guest of the U.S. Champagne Bureau for the 2014 Champagne Harvest Media Trip. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about what makes the Champagne region special via visits to 10 producers including large houses, growers and cooperatives. Our visit included exquisite meals too – all paired with Champagne!

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The Subé Fountain in the Place Drouet-d’Erlon.

Our itinerary for Day 4 included:

Bérêche & Fils

Bérêche & Fils, located in the village of Ludes, is a family run grower Champagne. It was founded by “Leon and Albert Bereche in 1847 with only 2.5 hectares of vineyard land in Ludes, Champagne.  The family mostly produced grapes to sell to larger houses.  Beginning in the 1950s, successive generations expanded the property and aquired land in the Vallee de la Marne.  Today, the estate has 9.5 hectares spread over 21 parcels in three areas of the Montagne de Reims and the Vallee de la Marne.

Although the family has been producing their own wines since the 1970s, it was the fifth generation of winemakers and the current owners, brothers Raphael and Vincent Bereche, that refocused the estate on production of their own wines and brought international fame and recognition for the impressive results.  The brothers studied vineyard management and oenology and practiced their craft in various traineeships. They joined the estate in the early 2000s and quickly established a reputation as talented grower-producers.  Through their leadership, the estate has shifted toward naturalistic growing methods that respect the land on which the wines are born”. (Source).  They have not used chemicals on their vineyards in 15 years.

In addition to their own Bérêche & Fils label, they have a new second label – Raphaël & Vincent Bérêche, which is their négociant business, where they produced Champagne from purchased grapes. They chose to run their second label under a different name in order to not have to change their status of their entire business grower to négociant.  It’s not unusual for successful small growers to supplement their production with purchased grapes.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by Raphaël, who gave us a tour of their production facilities.  It’s a small operation, and there was a lot of activity as they were preparing for harvest.  The day we visited they were racking their reserve wine, and cleaning bottles.

We tasted the following wines:

  • NV Bereche et Fils Champagne Brut Réserve
  • NV Bereche et Fils Chardonnay Champagne Les Beaux Regards
  • NV Bereche et Fils Champagne Campania Remensis (rose)
  • 2011 Bereche et Fils Coteaux Champenois Ormes Rouge Les Montées
  • NV Bereche et Fils Champagne Reflet d’Antan
  • NV Bereche et Fils Champagne Cuvée Côte Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs
  • 2002 Bereche et Fils Champagne Vallée de la Marne Brut Millésime

My favorite was the Les Beaux Regards” bottling.  It’s made with 100% Chardonnay from 100 year-old vines in an eponymous parcel that been in the family for three generations. It is dosed as “Extra Brut”(3g/L).  It’s a gorgeous, energetic Champagne with a creamy, stone fruit, tart apple, lemon peel, honey and wet stone character.  

I came away very impressed all their wines (the 2002 Vallée de la Marne Brut Millésime was also outstanding). While it maybe challenging to find this wine, this is definitely a Grower Champagne to seek out!

See below for gallery of visit to Bereche & Fils 

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Billecart-Salmon

Billecart-Salmon, situated in the village of Mareuil-sur-Ay is an independent and family-owned Champagne House founded in 1818.

It all began in 1818 when Nicolas François Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon founded a Champagne House that was above all conscious of the excellence of its wines. 

Since then, every member of the Billecart family has been committed to perpetuate the family tradition through standing by the immutable oath: ‘Give priority to quality, strive for excellence’.  - Billecart-Salmon

When we arrived at the Billecart-Salmon estate we were greeted by our guide Jerome, who took us on a tour of the “house”.  Unfortunately, as Jerome began his overview of Billecart, I realized I left my notebook on the bus (Doh! – perhaps too much Champagne with lunch?) The tour included the gardens, which were striking (sorry no pics – but here a link to a post that has lots of photos).  The estate sits on top of a vast network of underground cellars.

Billecart has a reputation for producing wines that offer excellent value.  In particular their multi-vintage Rosé, which retails for $75 is widely considered to be a benchmark for “affordable” Rosé Champagne (I know, I know – $75 buck is a lot of coin, but with increasing demand for Rosé Champagne many retail for well over $100).

We tasted the following wines:

  • NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Rosé
  • NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru
  • 2004 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru
  • 2006 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Extra Brut
  • 1999 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Nicolas-François Billecart

My favorite was the 1999 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Nicolas-François Billecart.  It’s a blend of 60% pinot noir and 40% chardonnay. (10% of the pinot is fermented in barrel) with a fine bead, and a luxuriously delicate and creamy mousse with complex aromas and flavors of poach peaches, mineral, bread dough, and hazelnuts, and a long finish.  It’s a very elegant Champagne!

Learned: Champagne should be served around 12c (53-54 degrees) to fully appreciate it’s aromas and flavors.  If served too cold, you’ll miss out!  And for the first time, I heard someone suggest decanting Champagne.  Our host Jerome, suggesting decanting the Cuvée Nicolas-François for an hour. It’s an unorthodox practice, but on the surface it makes sense to me with Champagne that is mature and complex.

These are widely available Champagnes that are worth seeking out that offer very good bang for the buck. 

See below for gallery of visit to Billecart-Salmon

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Bruno Paillard

Bruno Paillard’s family lineage of brokers and growers in the two Grand Cru villages of Bouzy and Verzenay dates back to 1704. Following in their footsteps, Bruno began as a broker in 1975, and acquired a deep and extensive knowledge of the region and its wines. In 1981, at the age of 27, he started his own Champagne house – the first new maison in nearly a century. After renting a cellar for three years and purchasing carefully selected grapes from independent growers, Bruno released his first Champagnes. He then built his own cellar, allowing him total control over temperature, lighting and humidity. In 1990 Bruno built his current winery, and in 1994 began purchasing vineyards. He now has 62 acres, almost half of which are Grand Cru. The fruit from these vineyards cover 50% of his production needs and they are farmed organically and sustainably – a rigorous and delicate job given that his holdings are subdivided into 70 different parcels. Bruno sources the remaining fruit through long-term contracts with high-quality, independent growers.  Each wine is vinified separately in stainless steel (75%) and oak (25%). The exception is N.P.U. which is fermented and aged entirely in oak.” (Source) Although they are labeled as Brut, all of Paillard’s Champagnes are technically Extra Brut as their dosage is 6 grams or less per liter.  Annual production is 450,000 – 500,000 bottles.

Upon arrival at Paillard, we were greeted by Alice Paillard who gave us a tour of their facilities.  She explained to use that all their vintage wines feature original art that reflects a theme.  For example, the 1996 Brut had the them “Structure and Velvet”.   That theme was given to Italian artist Paola Marchesi, who created custom art for the label. Very cool!

We tasted the following wines:

  • NV Bruno Paillard Chardonnay Champagne Blanc de Blancs Réserve Privée
  • NV Bruno Paillard Champagne Brut Premiere Cuvée
  • NV Bruno Paillard Champagne Rosé Brut Première Cuvée
  • 2004 Bruno Paillard Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs
  • 2004 Bruno Paillard Champagne Assemblage Brut
  • 1999 Bruno Paillard Champagne Nec Plus Ultra (N.P.U.)

My favorite was the 1999 Nec Plus Ultra (N.P.U.), and the 2004 Brut Blanc de Blancs.  Both were stunningly outstanding with creamy, elegant, harmonious character. The NPU, from the excellent 1999 vintage was aged on less 10 years, then bottled aged for another 2+ years! It’s a majestic, full-bodied wine with a cherry, black currant, quince, brioche and honey character. It’s dosed at 4g/L.

Learned: Champagne producers may substitute sugar for time (i.e. rather than aging wine longer, they increase the amount of the dosage)

Paillard was my favorite visit.  The wines were all outstanding.  I can guaran-damn-tee you I’ll be buying some of these, if I can find them!

See below for gallery of visit to Bruno Paillard

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It was a another awesome day in Champagne wine-wise.  If you’ve been following this series, you may be wondering why there is no food porn. This was the only day we didn’t have any scheduled lunches or dinner combined with a visit to one of the producers.

And my waist line thanked me for it!

My next (and last) post in this series features a visit to the Cote des Bar - a relatively unknown but important region which makes up more than 20 percent of the appellation’s 17,000 acres.