Subscribe to our mailing list

 

HOURS
Normal Hours:
Mon 9-7
Tues-Sat: 9-7:30
OPEN
PRESIDENT'S DAY
9-7

 

CABERNET VALUE

AMAZING ALBARIÑO

CAB DRIVER'S CARmenere

SOULFUL RED RHÔNE

SURPRISINGLY GOOD TEN BUCK MERLOT

BIGFOOT CABERNET

COOL PORTUGUESE WHITE WINE

2007 VINTAGE CHAMPAGNE 

CIRO' BIANCO!

GOOD RIESLING KNOWS NO BOUNDARIES

CHAMPAGNE DE
MERFY

A FIESTA OF A TEMPRANILLO

OBSCURE ITALIAN RED

CIÙ CIÙ
PECORINO

COOL VERDEJO

FLASHY RED BORDEAUX

NEW STONY SANCERRE

MAN, OH MAN, WHAT A WINE!

ELEVEN BUCK
AMADOR ZIN

HARD-TO-BELIEVE PASO ROBLES CABERNET

STYLISH WASHINGTON MERLOT

SLEEPER of A CHARDONNAY

SUSSUDIO ???

FLORAL ALBARIÑO

SARDINIAN WHITE

NEW SONOMA RHONE-ISTE OF NOTE

REMARKABLE PINOT

LAKE COUNTY ZIN

STELLAR NEW ARTISAN RIOJA

NICE LITTLE PINOT $9.99

STONY RIESLING

DRY MUSCAT
FROM AOSTA

FORAGING FOR PINOT NOIR

MARSELAN...A HYBRID OF CABERNET & GRENACHE

BEST BUYS
Good Wines for $5-$15

CASTELÃO BARGAIN

STELLAR BLAUFRÄNKISCH ESTATE

CAMPANIAN DELIGHTS

COLORFUL ZIN

DOURO DYNAMITE

PORTUGUESE RED BARGAIN

GRAND SYRAH FROM AN UNUSUAL PLACE

WHITE BURGUNDIES OF NOTE

MARSANNE BARGAIN

CHERRYISH TUSCAN RED SALE $12.99

PROSECCO FOR ADULTS

BILLIONAIRE'S WINES UNDER $30!

BARGAIN WHITE BORDEAUX

PIERCINGLY GOOD
WHITE

TOP OF THE LINE
CREMANT

ANOTHER RULLY GOOD WHITE

RESERVE QUALITY RIOJA

BARBERA OF NOTE

SUPER VERONESE SALE $12.99

PIEMONTE'S GRAND VIN BIANCO?

DELICIOUS, FRESH ROSÉS

GREAT GRUNER VELTLINER

GOOD ELEVEN-BUCK CHIANTI

FLOWERY, CURIOUS RED

OLD FAVORITE KIWI SAUVIGNON IS BACK

OLD PATCH RED
ZIN BLEND

MONCUIT'S GRAND CRU CHAMPAGNE

HONEYED MUSCAT

SPICY 
GEWÜRZTRAMINER

Napa Valley Grape Info
2002

2010

Amazing FRENCH CIDERS

FIZZY LAMBRUSCO

 

 

HOME PAGE

AMERICAN WINES

CALIFORNIA PINOT NOIRS

RHONE WANNABEES

ZINFANDELS

SAUVIGNON BLANCS

MERLOTS

OREGON WINES

CALIFORNIA CHARDONNAYS

CALIFORNIA CABERNETS

RIESLING & GEWURZ

WASHINGTON STATE

CANADIAN WINES

Adventuresome  Wines

ROSÉS !!

FRENCH WINES
ALSACE
BEAUJOLAIS
RED BORDEAUX
WHITE BORDEAUX
RED BURGUNDY
WHITE BURGUNDY
RHÔNE VALLEY
THE FRENCH ALPS
SOUTH OF FRANCE

LOIRE


CHAMPAGNE

 

ITALIAN WINES
PIEMONTE

VALLE D'AOSTA

NORTHERN ITALY

CENTRAL ITALIA

TUSCANY

SOUTHERN ITALIA


SPANISH WINES
Spanish Sherry
& Other Delights


PORTUGUESE WINES

SWISS WINES

GERMAN WINES

AUSTRIAN WINES

ARGENTINA

CHILE

AUSTRALIA

NEW ZEALAND

SOUTH AFRICA

OBSCURE WINES

DESSERT WINES

CHAMPAGNES

HALF-BOTTLES

SPIRITS

CIDERS

BEER
Even Real "Bud"!

OTHER STUFF

WINE TASTING

WHAT'S OPEN


UPCOMING TASTINGS

TASTING RESULTS
  
NEWSLETTER

SHIPPING INFO

ETC.

 

TASTING REPORTS

HOW TO ORGANIZE A BLIND-TASTING

BLIND TASTING ARCHIVE

MY 2013 EURO WINE ADVENTURE BOOK

CHATEAU MONTELENA
VERTICAL


ALBA WINES EXHIBITION 2007

ALBA WINES EXHIBITION 2008

SCHRAMSBERG vs THE FAMOUS FRENCH

German Wine "Master Class" Tasting

S & M FOR WINETASTING GEEKS

TEAR-WAH
TASTING

2016 SF
INTERNATIONAL
WINE COMPETITON

2015 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2014 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2013 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2012 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2011 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2010 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2009 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2008 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION
Periodically Amazing

2007 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION
The Nose Knows!

2006 SF INTERNATIONAL  WINE COMPETITION.
SPIT HAPPENS

2005 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION.

2004 SF WINE COMPETITION TASTING

The 2003 SF WINE COMPETITION

2002 SF WINE COMPETITION TASTING 

A Vertical Tasting of Nalle Zinfandels

 

 

ETC.

RANTINGS & RAVINGS

WINE ROADS of EUROPE

Food/Wine/Friends
A Photo Gallery

MASTER OF WINE ESSAY TOPICS

Old Bottles: A TASTE OF HISTORY

Bob's Venetian Diary

Bob's Paris Notes Updated Spring 2007

Wine Writer's Confession

NEW "CULT" WINERY

Some Restaurant Reviews

HOW TO SELL WINE.
Info For Brokers and
Wine Distributors.

HOW TO HOLD A TRADE TASTING

$100,000 WORTH OF WINE MARKETING ADVICE:  FREE!
Mainly for Foreign Vintners

MOLDY CORKS

Study Reveals Experts Taste More Than What's In the Glass!

OKANAGAN VALLEY WINE TOUR-2010

BRIAN'S 2005 SUMMER VACATION WITH UNCLE

Gerald's Tour de France 2006

GERALD'S TOUR DE FRANCE 2008

A TOUR OF PORTUGAL-2009

HOW TO SPEAK BETTER ITALIAN

PONZI'S 40th
ANNIVERSARY

ROOSEVELT'S 2005 CHILI COOK-OFF

ROOSEVELT'S 2007 CHILI COOK-OFF

Grape Goddess

Ross Bruce Birthday

ALESSIA DALL'U

CCIV

FAQs

BURLINGAME

Links

MORE CHAMPAGNES & BUBBLIES

 

RUELLE-PERTOIS
Owning 3 hectares of vines in Moussy and 3 in nearby Chouilly, the small Ruelle-Pertois winery has managed to stay below the radar screen of most Champagne drinkers.  When you make 40,000 (or so) bottles annually, you're producing a half day's work at the big houses such as Mumm or Moet!

Michel Ruelle married Martine Pertois, hence the name Ruelle-Pertois.  Michel has been making Champagne since 1970, so he's not exactly a new kid on the block, though he's only been in our shop for a handful of years.

His wines are imported by our pal Charles Neal who was introduced to Ruelle-Pertois by his friends the Lafitte's at Domaine Boingnères, famous Armagnac producers in the South-West.  
In fact, when we first visited Boingnères, "Mom," Marguerite Lafitte insisted upon opening a second bottle of this Champagne, even knowing we were late for our next rendezvous!  Charles, who's no dummy, contacted Ruelle and now imports tiny quantities of very fine Champagne.  


There are some gyro-palettes in the cellar.



Here's Michel rotating the box and "riddling" the bottles.


Here's a photo of Michel opening a bottle of Champagne that's not yet been disgorged...


Entering the cellar, you'll see this sign urging you to "Drink and Forget, but don't forget to drink!"

The domaine owns approximately 15 acres of vineyards, so it's quite small, producing perhaps 4,000 cases of Champagne annually.

They own some Grand Cru sites in Cramant, Chouilly and Oiry and these comprise half of the estate's holdings.  The other half are in the hometown of Moussy along with Pierry and Vinay.

 

We've featured their "Premier Cru" Champagne, a Blanc de Blanc bottling that's mildly yeasty and rather dry.  The aromas hint at citrus and stones, with a faintly floral tone there, too.   New label (as you can see above)...

An honest importer allows us to offer this at a very attractive price.

 

Currently in stock:  RUELLE PERTOIS Blanc de Blanc Premier Cru  SALE  $33.99
MAGNUMS   SALE  $79.99 

CLICK HERE TO SEE A HOME-COOKED CHAMPENOISE LUNCH Chez Ruelle-Pertois
(And Dinner, too, one winter's evening!)

 We enjoyed a magnum of Ruelle Pertois recently...


It was remarkably effervescent and really nicely balanced...perhaps a bit "finer" than usual?
Despite hosting a relatively small crowd, we finished this sized bottle with ease.

 

 

 

 

VOIRON-JUMEL


This is a small domaine with stories dating back to 1945 as the turning points for each side of the family.

In that year, Uncle Jean Voirin's baskets of fruit were rejected by some large Champagne house and he decided he's start making his own bubbly.   Meanwhile, Monsieur Jumel married Mademoiselle Richomme who had a small parcel of vines.  Jumel was more involved in the trucking business but ended up selling his modest fleet of wagons and buying more vineyards.

Fast forward a few years and you have Monsieur Gilles Voirin from the grand cru village of Chouilly marrying Mademoiselle Françoise Jumel.   Since Champagne tradition calls for the bride to remain in her hometown, the winery is situated in Cramant, not Chouilly.  This is a few kilometers south of Epernay.

 

 

 

The estate comprises something like 12 hectares of vineyards spread amongst several Cotes des Blancs villages...Cramant, of course.  But also Avize, Chouilly, Oger and Ay amongst the elite sites.  Vertus, Mareuil sur Ay and Cuis for premier cru sites.

 

 

We currently have their Brut Tradition in stock.  This is 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir.  Nice and dry...mildly yeasty...well-made, fresh and ideal as an aperitif.

 

 

Currently in stock:  VOIRIN JUMEL GRAND CRU BRUT  $39.99

 

 

 

 

MARIE COURTIN

If you locate on a map the town of Polisot, you might notice that it's actually closer to downtown Chablis than it is to downtown Epernay.

And Polisot is where you'd find the Champagne firm of Marie Courtin, in all its glory.  

This is in the vast region called the Aube, well south of the prestigious addresses in the Champagne region.  In fact, the Aube had long been viewed as an area of secondary quality and grapes there were sought after by the big Champagne firms, as fruit cost less.  Having tasted many Champagnes from the Aube I can't say the region produces second-quality wines, but if you're accustomed to some top bottlings from vineyards around Reims and Epernay, you may notice the Aube wines simple taste different.

The firms of Drappier and Serge Mathieu are good quality producers who make wines which represent the region nicely.

But now there are numerous small grower/winemakers producing some good quality wines as it may be financially a bit easier to establish a new company in the Aube.  

Every good wine merchant and sommelier is always looking for something new, something different and maybe even something "good."  Once there's some "buzz" about a wine, all of these people play "follow-the-leader" as they have to have a particular product which enjoys a period of fame and maybe fortune.  

As a result, some Aube wines now cost stratospheric prices as these are trophies for sommeliers who believe having such wines makes a positive statement about their restaurant and validates them as "credible."   An Italian sommelier told me every American wine geek is thrilled to order a currently-fashionable, trophy-of-a-Champagne from the wine list...expensive and maybe lacking in character.  The somm was not impressed as much by the wine in the bottle as much as they were by the sales!

Marie Courtin may not have yet attained the designation of being a "cult status" Champagne, but the various cuvees of this little enterprise can, in our view, more easily rival the famous growers in the Montagne de Reims, the Vallee de la Marne and the Cotes des Blancs.

The company is owned and operated by Dominique Moreau and she's dedicated her firm to the memory of her grandmother, Marie Courtin.  Moreau has approximately 2.5 hectares of vineyards, predominantly Pinot Noir (it's a tad warmer in this region, so Pinot thrives there), with a small planting of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc.  The vineyards are farmed biodynamically we're told.
 

Dominique uses this old, traditional Champagne press.


Dominique has a small cellar with wood cooperage...


Here's a bottle "in progress" showing the yeast has done its job of completing the secondary fermentation.  Now the wine is matured on this yeast sediment and it becomes more complex, aromatic and flavorful as well.



We currently have a cuvee Moreau called "Resonance" and it resonates well with us!

The local importer says the wine is mostly Pinot Noir with a bit of Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay.  Other sources indicate it's entirely Pinot Noir. Dominique Moreau sent us a note saying it's entirely Pinot Noir... No matter...what it is is really fine, elegant, crisp, snappy Champagne!

Ms. Moreau offers two styles of Resonance and the local importer (who actually married into a French Burgundy family) purchased the "Extra Brut" as opposed to the regular Brut cuvee.  And I think that is why this wine, pardon the pun again, resonates with us:  It's really dry and you can taste the special character of a Champagne of great finesse. 

We receive a few bottles of her other cuvvees and try to have these in stock...but 

 
 
EFFLORESCENCE
The base wine, made of Pinot Noir, is vinified and aged in 228 liter barriques which are about ten years old.  The name refers to something which is constantly changing and evolving.  Dominique finds this wine to be a perfect candidate for such a name since its evolution begins in the barrel.  The wine undergoes a secondary, malolactic fermentation in wood and then spends perhaps ten months on the lees.
After about 3 years en tirage the wines is disgorged, never having been filtered.
Further, there is no sweetening dosage, so the wine is in fact, Extra Brut.

 

 

ELOQUENCE
This is a Blanc de Blanc and a mere two barrels' worth of wine are made for this.  I find it even deeper and more toasty than the Efflorescence with a fantastically complex fragrance.  On the palate this is crisp, tangy and yet full-flavored.  
Our friends who import this wine receive a mere 60 bottles.

 

 

 


CONCORDANCE
Dominique confesses she really doesn't move this wine after putting it in a small tank to ferment the juice.  "I simply press the grapes, put the juice into a tank and it ferments.  After the malolactic it's racked and goes back into a clean tank.  Then I leave it for about 10 months on its sediment which helps protect the wine, as I don't add sulfur until bottling."

It's entirely Pinot Noir and the wine shows a crisp, tart apple-like quality which might lead you to expect it's Chardonnay.


 

 

Currently in stock:  MARIE COURTIN "RESONANCE" Extra Brut CHAMPAGNE $57.99 
MARIE COURTIN EFFLORESCENCE $74.99 (750ml)
MARIE COURTIN EFFLORESCENCE $179.99 (1.5liter magnum)
MARIE COURTIN EFFLORESCENCE $374.99  (3 liter Jeroboam)
MARIE COURTIN ELOQUENCE  $89.99
MARIE COURTIN CONCORDANCE  Sale $99.99





JOSÉ DHONDT

You're probably wondering why a French fellow has the name "José."  I did.  

It turns out José's grandmother was Spanish.  In French they pronounce it something like "Zho-zay."  

Dhondt is an engaging fellow and a bon vivant.  He makes a tiny amount of Champagne, though, owning about 6 hectares of vineyards scattered around the countryside.  Some vineyards are near the winery in Oger, while he has other parcels in Le Mesnil, Grauves (near Cramant) and Saudoy (south of Sézanne).  Total production tallies to, on average, 42,000 bottles annually. 

Dhondt cultivates one vineyard site simply to sell the grapes to Moet et Chandon.  "I am then invited to attend their seminars on viticulture and sometimes I learn a thing or two about grape growing.  They also invite their growers to come taste tank samples and experimental batches, so I can learn from that, too." he explained.

Clearly he's a straight shooter and this was further evidenced by the display on the wall in his warehouse above the underground Champagne cellar.
 
 
Dhondt grows Chardonnay for the most part, though there's a small planting of Pinot Noir which goes into his "José Rosé" production.   Most of the vines are in the range of 40 to 50 years old, with the most venerable being planted in the late 1940s, early 1950s.  

His base wines typically undergo a malolactic fermentation.  "I like a supple texture in my Champagne," Dhondt tells us.  "I attribute this to some degree to the old vines which produce a wine with good intensity."  It could also be the malolactic that gives the wines some roundness, too.  Dhondt keeps the dosage fairly low, with the "Tradition" having 8 grams/liter of sugar and his Old Vines' bottling having, typically, just 6 grams.  The Rosé, of which he produces just 200 cases annually, has 10 grams of sugar.  



José Dhondt in the aging cellar.
 

Showing off a bottle "in progress."


Here's a bottle that's been in the gyropalette and you can see the wine is quite clear, with the
yeast sediment now resting on the crown cap.
Most producers then freeze the neck of the bottle, turn it upright and un-cap it, allowing the pressure of the sparkling wine to push the yeast 'plug' out of the bottle, leaving a brilliantly clear wine.

 
 
The "Tradition" Champagne is made entirely of Chardonnay.  José says the base wine typically has somewhere between 30 and 40% "Reserve" wine blended into it as he tries to produce a Champagne that is consistent from bottling to bottling.  I like the bright apple and pear notes in this wine...classic Chardonnay and it's a wine with finesse.  The acidity is noticeable, but it's not especially austere.  And, I recalled Dhondt's preference for making a wine that's got a supple texture.  So, indeed, he's made a wine to his taste.  (And mine, too, for that matter!)
 
The Old Vines wine is labeled "Mes Vieilles Vignes" (My Old Vines) and those are 64 years old.  We liked Dhondt's Rose Champagne, as well.  He makes but 200 cases annually of his pink wine...very good and nicely expressive.

Currently in stock:  JOSE DHONDT "TRADITION" Blanc de Blancs  SALE $59.99

 

 



DOSNON & LEPAGE

This is a new firm that's a partnership between Simon-Charles Lepage and Davy Dosnon.

These fellows are natives of the Champagne "outback" known as the Aube region.  

Dosnon is the wine guy, having worked at a couple of Champagne firms (Serge Mathieu and Moutarde) as well as at a domaine in Burgundy (Rossignol-Trapet).  Lepage left Champagne to study criminal law in Paris before returning to the scene of his crime:  Dosnon & Lepage.

They have a couple of hectares of vineyards in the "La Cotes des Bar" and they buy fruit from another 5 hectares' worth of vineyards in the region.  This is an area viewed by some as inferior to that of the Champagne hills between the towns of Reims and Epernay.  The region was excluded in 1911, for example, from being a part of the "Champagne" region.  It was re-instated in 1927.
The area has a terroir that's quite different from that of the main part of Champagne.  Whereas the 'classic' area of Champagne has chalky soils, the Cotes des Bar soils are more akin to those of Chablis:  Kimmeridgian, which is a mix of clay and chalk.  The wines produced from this terroir tends to be a bit fuller in body.
And while many mainstream Champagne people speak disparagingly of the Aube region in general, most of the large firms buy fruit there to add body and reduce the average cost of their wines.

The vineyards for the Dosnon & Lepage Champagnes are cultivated with an attention to detail.  They farm in a responsible and environmentally savvy manner.  Further, they've borrowed the best viticultural training and pruning methods from their neighbors to the north.  No chemicals in the vineyard...short pruning to minimize yields and maximize fruit quality.

In the cellar, they use barrels from Burgundy for vinifying the base wines.  They buy seasoned cooperage from the Cote de Beaune.  The best fruit is vinified in wood, while lighter lots see stainless steel.  

Recolte Brute is a Pinot Noir/Chardonnay blend.  Recolte Noire is made entirely of Pinot Noir.  Their Rose is made entirely of Pinot Noir, while the Recolte Blanche is produced from Chardonnay.  A Grande Cuvee Alliance is, as you might expect, half Pinot Noir and half Chardonnay.

We have their Recolte Noire in the shop presently.  Ellen enjoyed a bottle on New Year's and commented "Hey, a Champagne that tastes like Champagne."  
I found this to be a bit minerally and stony on the nose and palate...and it's dry.  We enjoyed a bottle with some fresh Dungeness crab...nice!
 

Currently in stock:  DOSNON & LEPAGE "Recolte Noire"  $49.99 


 

 

 



EGLY-OURIET

This label is now well-known to virtually all Champagne "geeks," but it's a brand the average bear has not heard of.

Francis Egly and his father Michel run the domain.  They have 12 hectares of vineyards, ten in red grapes and two in Chardonnay.  Most of the reds are in Grand Cru sites.  The winery is in Ambonnay and most of their holdings are close to the cellar, but they have a small parcel in Bouzy and a modest-sized patch in Verzenay.  There's also an old vineyard of Pinot Meunier in the village of Vrigny.

The vineyards are cultivated in an environmentally-friendly manner and they tend to have rather low yields, much less than most.  The juice is fermented in oak barrels and they're not fans of fining or filtering to clarify the wine...low sulphur levels in the wines, as well.  And their Champagnes are kept on the lees for longer than normal, so you'll find a nice intensity to their bubbly.

The house is viewed as one of the elite Champagne producers.  We've long been fans and recall when these were attractively priced and viewed as good values.   Today you'll pay a premium for them and the quality remains high.

We have their Brut Tradition which comes from Grand Cru sites and it's so noted on the label.  The dosage is fairly low, so the wine is quite dry and you'll taste the rather "full" impact of their grand cru terroir.  
 

Currently in stock:  EGLY-OURIET BRUT TRADITION "Grand Cru" CHAMPAGNE  $64.99





 

VILMART

The Vilmart name is one you'll usually find on a Champagne fancier's list of top vintners.

The Vilmart family has been in the village of Rilly-La-Montagne since the 1800s and today the winery is run by Laurent Champs.  His mother married Rene Champs, who worked in Vilmart's vineyards.  And they are "Champs," as you'll come to find out if you put a bottle of their bubbly on your table.
 
 
 


Laurent's parents had advocated the use of small barrels for fermenting their base wines, a more costly and labor-intensive process.  It's for this reason, in part, reviews of Vilmart Champagnes some years ago would compare the wines (favorably) to those of Krug.
 

Laurent Champs with his Pop.

Laurent, though, goes a bit farther, as he uses new oak to ferment the juice destined for their top bottlings, a move that has both its fans and detractors.
 


Vilmart owns 11 hectares of vineyards in the Premier cru village of Rilly.  They cultivate organically, with 60% of the vines devoted to Chardonnay and the rest to Pinot Noir, with all of 3% planted with Pinot Meunier.  

After pressing the grapes, they let the juice settle for a day to precipitate heavy sediment.  Then it goes into the fermentation vessel...large, fairly neutral wood for the basic bottlings and small, new oak for their high end wines.  These are aged in wood for several months, too.  You see, Vilmart is about "making wine" and then they just happen to turn it into bubbly.

You can taste that behind the bubbles, there's "wine" there.  I tasted one bottling during my visit which had a lot of oak and then Laurent opened an older bottle...remarkable to taste one that's got the wood integrated into the wine...but all the bottles of Vilmart are a treat.  



We typically have Vilmart's "Grande Cellier" bottling in stock.  This is a rather dry, fairly full-bodied Champagne.  We find ripe fruit and some spice notes in the wine.  It's best when it's not ice cold, but allowed to warm up a bit from cold refrigerator temperature.  And it's interesting to taste how it blossoms in the glass as it warms up and has a chance to blow off some of the carbon dioxide.  

The Grand Cellier D'Or is their normal bottling of a Vintage Brut Champagne.  It's predominantly Chardonnay and you can easily detect the use of small oak here.  It's about half small oak barrels and half large wooden foudres...beautifully full and creamy with some wood spice notes.

The 2004 Coeur de Cuvee is a remarkable bottle.  This is a Champagne for a true connoisseur of bubbly, not so much for those who revel in drinking a wine with a famous name and a correspondingly famous high price.  It's typically about 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir.  Some new oak barrels are used for the base wine and yet the wood is so well-knit in the wine, it's much less overtly oaky than the Grand Cellier d'Or...And to spend a few moments with this wine is intriguing as there's a noticeable change and evolution as the wine warms up a bit in the glass.  Truly complex...

Laurent makes a small quantity of Rose, the normal Cuvee Rubis assembled by adding a bit of red wine to a white cuvee. 

But there's a whole different Rose or "Rubis" bottling called Grand Cellier D'Or and it's only made in years when there's an ample crop of Pinot Noir and this will make a wine worthy of the Vilmart name.  And even then, only a tiny quantity is produced.
The 2009 is a 60/40 blend of Pinot Noir to Chardonnay, with the Pinot getting a brief bit of skin contact.  The wine then spends about 10 months in oak.  It's a remarkably complex Rose, not the care-free, refreshing little wine many producers make.  
A "flute" glass doesn't do this justice, by the way, so if you have some nice white wine stems, consider using those/


 

Currently in stock:  VILMART "GRANDE CELLIER" Non Vintage Brut  SALE $72.99
VILMART 2007 GRAND CELLIER D'OR  $99.99
VILMART 2004 COEUR DE CUVEE  Sale $149.99
VILMART 2009 GRAND CELLIER D'OR CUVEE RUBIS   $167.99  (Very rare)


The press at Vilmart.

Heading down to the cellar...

Bottles off the riddling racks and ready to be disgorged...

 

 


 

BENOIT LAHAYE

Valerie and Benoit Lahaye (she's from the Larmandier family, another famous name in Champagne!) have a small cellar in the famous town of Bouzy with 4.5 hectares of vines keeping them occupied.

Bouzy is, of course, famed for its Pinot Noir and there's even an appellation for the non-sparkling Pinot Noir wine:  Bouzy Rouge.  

The Lahaye's vines, though, are not solely within the Bouzy area, but in nearby Ambonnay to the east (another grand cru site for Pinot Noir) and Tauxières to the west.  By the way, in the classification of crus of Champagne, Tauxières is a Premier Cru site, carrying a 'rating' of 99, so it's a chip off the Grand Cru block, so-to-speak.

The Lahaye family has been in the Champagne business since the 1930s.  The first brand was grandpappy's and it was called "L. Waroquier."  Dad's brand was sold as "Lahaye-Waroquier."   Benoit took over the company in 1993 and now it's simply Benoit Lahaye.  Shortly thereafter, he began a move to convert their vineyards to organic farming and they're currently working biodynamically.  The property is certified by Ecocert since 2007, for what that's worth.
 

All of his various lots are vinified in wood of some sort.


Most of their vineyards are planted with Pinot Noir and the vineyards average approximately thirty-five, or so, years of age.  And in 2010 they invested in a new piece of 'equipment,' an Auxois horse for plowing the vineyards!  

The grapes are hand-harvested, as you might expect and the juice is fermented in 60 gallon French oak barrels.  Indigenous yeast fermentations and Lahaye picks selectively to avoid having to chaptalise (add sugar) the juice. Once fermented, he likes to leave the wine in wood for something like ten months, leaving it on the spent yeast before finally assembling a base wine for his several bottlings.  The wines typically undergo a malolactic fermentation, as well.  

We currently have a stellar Rose Champagne called "Rose de Maceration."  This is made entirely of Pinot Noir and its name suggests, it's made by giving the juice something like 24 hours of skin contact, not by blending a bit of red wine into a white cuvee.  The color is bright cherry red and the fragrance is magnificent, showing nice Pinot (cherry and berry) fruit.  Lahaye says the fruit for this comes from the outskirts of Bouzy.
"It doesn't make especially good red wine, though, but it makes a really good rose." notes Lahaye.  "The vines are about 40 years old, too.  I like the spic notes this wine has."

The wine is crisp and dry and Lahaye skillfully avoids picking up too much tannin during the skin contact (which would make for a bitter 'attack' on the palate).   The dosage seems to be quite low as this is seriously dry and seriously good. He explained it's critical to get the dosage just right so it perfectly balances the wine. "Too little and the wine is bitter.  Too much and it's just not right.  I usually have two or three grams per liter...that seems to be perfect."

The wines from this domaine are on the radar of many Champagne-savvy sommeliers and consumers, so with less than 5 hectares of vineyards, the Lahaye bubblies are hard to find.

Currently in stock:  BENOIT LAHAYE "Rose de Maceration"  $47.99

 

Lahaye is a biodynamic producer and has not only a horse, but a couple of donkeys.
That's why, in fact, they had a shed full of hay as feed for the animals.


Biodynamics...here's a little pot which will be used to make some sort of natural spray for the vines.


   




DELAMOTTE

The Delamotte brand is one unfamiliar to most Champagne drinkers.  Yet it's a thought by many people to be a large house, as it's owned by Laurent Perrier.

However, it's not even in the "Top 15" in terms of production figures and the winery is run with an eye towards quality, not quantity.

Founded in 1760, or so the story goes, this was owned by the Lanson family from 1830 until nearly a hundred years later when it became the possession of a Lanson family member who was married to a de Nonancourt (which is the family that owns Laurent Perrier).  In 1988 the brand came under the L-P umbrella, along with another famed marque, that of Champagne Salon.

Now Salon is a curious product in that it is produced maybe three or four times in a decade.  Maybe.  It's entirely Chardonnay and since its inaugural commercially-produced vintage of 1921, there have been less than 40 vintages to see the light of day.   Delamotte is manager by the same fellow, Didier Depond.  

In vintages that are not "declared" for Salon, the fruit from those hallowed vineyards is typically incorporated into Delamotte.  

Being situated in the village of Le Mesnil, Chardonnay then, of course, is the foundation of the house.  They own but perhaps 5 hectares of their own vineyards.  A friend of ours who's in the Champagne business, confided that she was a bit shocked at how demanding the manager is in terms of quality.  Little viticultural details, we were told, are of utmost importance at Delamotte.


Salon 2004
Delamotte 2007 Blanc de Blancs
Non-Vintage Blanc de Blancs
Brut Rose
Non-vintage Brut

In tasting through the line-up, all the wines were showing well. 

 

The non-vintage is predominantly Chardonnay with 35% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Meunier.
It shows a really good "Champagne" nose with a mildly toasty note.  It's rather dry, too...just 7 grams of sugar in the final wine.
We carry this in half bottle and magnum format typically.

 

 

We are also enamored with the 2007 Delamotte Blanc de Blancs. 
It comes from vineyards in Le Mesnil, Cramant, Oger and Avize according to the winery crew (yet it's not labeled as a Grand Cru wine).

No matter, the wine is grand cru caliber!

With 6 or 7 years of aging on the spent yeast, this has taken on a beautifully toasty character to add complexity to the pear-like Chardonnay fruit.  It's nicely complex and seems to have a low dosage, so it's rather dry on the palate.
I marked it as a two star+ quality wine when tasting the range of wines and it's close in quality, frankly, to the 2004 Salon we tasted in the same flight.

 

 

 

 



CHAMPAGNE LALLIER

The Lallier family had owned this house until 2004 when it was purchased by Francis Tribaut.

We've tasted a number of their bubblies from time to time but seem to  routinely prefer the one that's called Zero Dosage (meaning it does not have any residual sugar or sweetening dosage).  

The wine is a Grand Cru level Champagne.  Some 70% is Pinot Noir from Ay and the remaining 30% is Chardonnay from Avize and Cramant.  The wine then spends about 4 years on the spent yeast and when it's disgorged, no sweetening dosage is added back...

As a result, it's Stone-Bone Dry.    There's a chalky sort of character here, too...austere and tart, to say the least.



Currently in stock:  LALLIER "Zero Dosage" CHAMPAGNE  $69.99

 



ON TO THE NEXT PAGE & MORE BUBBLY


BACK TO THE 1st BUBBLY PAGE





 

 



 
 
 

winepour.gif (12696 bytes)Wine Tasting Today

TO INQUIRE ABOUT A WINE:  
Copyright © 1999 WEIMAX  February 20, 2017