Sat 31 Dec 2016
So, My Readers, it’s New Year’s Eve, and we’re on the cusp on entering the Unknown. Let’s celebrate then with three bottles of different styled Champagnes, all guaranteed to offer great pleasure and satisfaction. Remember, as you stand in some house or apartment or bar, singing that dreary “Auld Lang Syng” with a bunch of drunken strangers you actually care nothing about that this is a pivotal and symbolic moment and that you’re having fun. Whee! Also remember that if you’re opening a bottle of any kind of sparkling wine that however fraudulently festive it may seem to pop one of those corks with a tremendous explosion and frothing of bubbly foam everywhere, that the cork comes rushing from the neck of the bottle at about 60 miles per hour and that it can do real damage to objects, animals and the human eye. Let’s use caution, moderation, forethought and get home alive to enjoy another year.
Happy New Year, friends, be well, be content and do the work you were intended to do.
The J. Lassalle Preference Premier Cru Brut is predominantly pinot meunier, with 20 percent each chardonnay and pinot noir, from vines averaging 50 years old; the vintages in the current disgorgement are 2009 and 2010. It aged 48 months in bottle on the lees. The color is pale gold; the bubbles are tiny, energetic, flourishing. This Champagne is as crisp as a cat’s whisker and as chiseled and faceted as a geode; it’s all smoke and steel, roasted lemon and spiced pear, limestone and flint, enclosed in a bright, brisk and brilliant structure that scintillates with dynamic acidity and an undertow of clean earthiness. 12 percent alcohol. Always a favorite in our house. Excellent. About $45 to $50.
Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants, Berkeley, Calif.
The Breton Fils Brut Rose is an unusual blend of 40 percent chardonnay, 42 percent pinot meunier and 18 percent vin des Coteaux Champenois, that is, still wine that is also allowed to be produced in an AOC contiguous with Champagne itself and using the same permitted grapes. It aged three years in the bottle. The color is a wholly entrancing and intense copper-salmon hue; notes of blood orange and tangerine rind are permeated by hints of macerated and slightly bruised raspberries and candied citrus, displaying just a hint of dried herbs, all of this animated by the liveliest of tiny frothing bubbles and, extending to the palate, a striking arrow of clean acidity and an edge of limestone that burgeons from mid-palate back through the spare, austere finish. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. I paid $60 locally, but prices around the country seem to start at about $48.
Imported Heritage LLC, Corona, Calif.
The Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve is a blend of 40 percent pinot noir, 40 percent chardonnay and 20 percent pinot meunier aged three years in the bottle on the lees. The blend contains about 40 percent reserve wines, up to 10 years old. The color is a brilliant medium gold hue, shimmering with a torrent of tiny bubbles; seamlessly layered notes of heather, honey and Granny Smith apples, fresh-baked brioche and hints of toffee and almond skin are twined with seashell and salt marsh, hay and baked pears. This is formidably dry yet rich and elegant, its stone-fruit and citrus notions buoyed by a stream of bright acidity and a coastal shelf of limestone minerality; its sense of heft and presence on the palate is fleet-footed, long-lasting and ultimately delicate without being attenuated. 12 percent alcohol. Beautifully-made and a great pleasure to drink. Excellent. About $65.
Imported by Folio Fine Wine Partners, Napa Calif. A sample for review.
Fri 30 Dec 2016
The reason for the ambivalence in the title of today’s post is because, while this sparkling wine is made in France’s Jura region, it is fashioned from grapes not traditional or officially recognized in the area, hence, no mention of Jura on the label. In any case, if you’re looking for a bargain-priced sparkler produced in the methode traditionelle of second fermentation in the bottle, this is it. The Francois Montand Brut Blanc de Blancs nv would be perfect for your New Year’s Eve party or your blackeyed peas-greens-cornbread open house on January 1. It’s an unusual blend of colombard, ugni blanc and chardonnay grapes (“among others,” says the estate’s website coyly), aged nine months on the lees. The color is pale gold with faint green undertones; the bubbles are generous and lively. Aromas of hay and heather, roasted lemon and green apple are twined with notes of jasmine, lime peel and grapefruit. This sparkling wine is crisp and round on the palate, adeptly fitted with elements of steel and limestone — like architecture — quite dry and chiseled in structure. 11 percent alcohol. Don’t look for great depth or profound character here; rather the effect is of charm, elegance and simple pleasure. Winemaker was Arnaud van der Voorde. Very Good+. About $14, marking Terrific Value.
Imported by The Country Vintner, Ashland, Va, a division of Winebow Group. A sample for review.
Thu 29 Dec 2016
Posted by Fredric Koeppel under Abruzzo
, Rose wines No Comments
When you discover that the Wine of the Day for December 29 is a rosé, you’ll possibly say, “FK, I need a rosé now like I need Miley Cyrus as U.N. ambassador.” (Which might not be a bad idea, considering the alternatives.) And I will reply, “My friend, this is a rosé for the season.” The wine in question is the Villa Gemma 2015, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, made by the Masciarelli estate completely from montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes given 24 skin contact and kept in stainless steel tanks. The color is an entrancing copper-cherry-robin’s breast hue, brilliant and totally transparent; the wine is fresh and bright but a little fleshy, as if it touched on something slightly carnal and bruised. Aromas of spiced and macerated red cherries and plums are highlighted by hints of orange rind, pear compote and black tea, creating a rather autumnal effect with a wafting of leaf-and-wood smoke. Pert acidity cuts a swath through a lovely silken texture; the wine is very dry, spare in structure and fine-boned, while a few moments in the glass bring in notes of violets, cloves and pomegranate. 13 percent alcohol. A product of inspired winemaking, the Villa Gemma 2015, Cerasuolo d”Abruzzo Rosé should be served chilled and allowed to warm a bit in the glass. Try with veal Milanese, a selection of salumi, deviled rabbit or dry but not too aged cheeses. Drink through 2017. Excellent. About $15, an Insane Bargain.
Imported by Masciarelli Wine Co., Weymouth, Mass. A sample for review.
Thu 29 Dec 2016
There’s Prosecco, and then there’s the — don’t try to say this all in one breath — Maschio dei Cavalieri Rive di Colbertaldo 2014, Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, made from 100 percent glera grapes, though Italian wine regulations allow for up to 15 percent other grapes in a blend. It is not fashioned in the traditional Champagne method of second fermentation in the bottle, most Proseccos being made in the Charmat process of second fermentation in tank. Maschio dei Cavalieri tells us, however, that they accomplish the alcoholic and carbon dioxide fermentation simultaneously. OK. The Maschio dei Cavalieri Rive di Colbertaldo 2014 displays a pale straw yellow hue and a fervent rush of refined bubbles; this is a fresh and clean sparkling wine, offering gentle aromas of jasmine, green apple and pear, lime and lemongrass, smoke and steel. It’s crisp and lively on the palate, bringing in flavors of roasted lemon and melon, while at the core a cloud-like tenderness of texture prevails. Quite dry and more invigorating as the moments pass, this sparkling wine concludes with a fairly austere flinty finish. 11.5 percent alcohol. While the 2014 is now two years old, I recommend it for the sense of burnish and nuance that it reveals; drink through 2017. Excellent. About $20, representing Great Value.
Imported by Cru Artisan Wines, Old Brookville, N.Y., a division of Banfi Vintners. A sample for review.
Wed 28 Dec 2016
Les Cadrans de Lassègue is the second wine of Chateau Lassègue, an ancient property with Benedictine roots in Bordeaux’s Right Bank Saint-Emilion district. The chateau was erected by Jean Taillade, who purchased the estate in 1738. Great changes occurred after the late Jess Jackson and his wife Barbara Banke, along with winemaker Pierre Seillan and his wife Monique, acquired the property in 2003, inaugurating an era of revamping the vineyards, improved farming methods, new equipment in the winery and additions to the old chateau. The principle wine, Chateau Lassègue, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, sells for $150 a bottle; the more approachable second wine costs less than a third of that. Les Cadrans de Lassègue 2012, Saint-Emilion, a blend of merlot and cabernet franc grapes, offers a dark ruby hue that shades to a lighter, transparent rim; seductive aromas of cedar and violets, spiced and macerated black currants and cherries with a touch of plum, emit notes of mint, iodine and loam. The wine aged 10 months in French oak, 20 percent new barrels, a factor that lends structure to the sweet black fruit flavors, also energized by bright acidity. Moderate tannins display plenty of dusty, graphite-laden velvet, while a few minutes in the glass bring in more rigorous elements of walnut shell, wheatmeal and evocative wood-smoke on the finish. 13 percent alcohol. Perfect now with a medium-rare ribeye steak, hot and crusty from the grill, Les Cadrans de Lassègue 2012 will provide enjoyment through 2020 or ’22. Excellent. About $35.
Acadia Imports, Santa Rosa, Calif. A sample for review.
Wed 28 Dec 2016
Frank Family Vineyards, owned by Rich Frank, former president of Disney Studios, and his wife Leslie, produces a wide range of still wines — cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir, zinfandel, chardonnay and such — which lean toward the side of power and dynamics, and a handful of sparkling wines, always among my favorites from California’s growing roster of wineries that make sparkling wines. FFV now releases its first reserve effort in sparkling wine, the Frank Family Lady Edythe Reserve Brut 2010, carrying a Carneros-Napa Valley designation. It’s a blend of 52 percent chardonnay and 48 percent pinot noir, aged in bottle on the yeast for almost five years before disgorgement. The color is a medium gold that shimmers with the tempestuous upward flow of tiny bubbles; aromas of toasted brioche, lightly buttered cinnamon toast, roasted lemon and spiced pear are enlivened by notes of quince, hazelnuts and almond skin and hints of toffee and limestone, this array all beautifully balanced and harmonious. While quite dry, Lady Edythe 2010 is zesty and energetic on the palate, matching, to a degree, the power evinced in FFV’s still wines, though feeling finely-etched and detailed with its undertow of chiseled flint and chalk, its sense of transparency and filigree. Still, the somewhat theatrical finish brings a bracing tide of marsh-grass and seashell salinity. 12 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2018 to 2020. Winemaker was Todd Graff. Excellent. About $110.
A sample for review.
Tue 27 Dec 2016
The Champagne house of Canard-Duchêne was founded in 1868 by Victor Canard and Léonie Duchêne, and thus does not mean “duck of oak” as some people apparently believe. Since 2003, it has been owned by the Thienot Group, which includes the house of Joseph Perrier. The Champagne Canard-Duchêne Authentic Brut nv is a blend of 45% pinot noir, 35% pinot meunier and 20% chardonnay, with 20 percent reserve wines, that is, from older vintages, in the mix. The color is pale but bright gold; a persistent stream of tiny bubbles surges upward. This is all smoke and steel, pear and quince, with notes of grapefruit and roasted lemon, lightly toasted brioche and lemongrass. On the palate, this Champagne is dry, crisp and lively, energetic and engaging, displaying a pleasing balance of moderately lush texture and chiming acidity against a background of a scintillating limestone-flint element and seashell salinity; hints of heather and hay and slightly honeyed peach fill in the edges. 12 percent alcohol. No tremendous depth and profundity but plenty of charm, elegance and finely-wrought pleasure. A favorite in our house. Excellent. About $40 but seen online as low as $30.
Imported by Thienot USA, San Rafael, Calif. A sample for review.
Mon 26 Dec 2016
Gloria Ferrer is owned by Freixenet, the Spanish company that introduced us to cava decades ago in the deep recesses of our flaming youth. Centered in the Carneros region of California, Gloria Ferrer produces a consistently well-made range of non-vintage and vintage sparkling wines that reflect careful methods in vineyard and winery. Our selection for the Second Day of Christmas is the Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs, a non-vintage 100 percent chardonnay sparking wine that carries a Carneros designation and was fashioned in the Champagne style of second fermentation in the bottle. The color is pale straw-gold, enlivened by a steady but not heedlessly frothing stream of tiny bubbles; this is exceedingly fresh, clean and crisp, endowed with notes of green apples and spiced pears, quince jam and crystallized ginger, with hints of lightly buttered cinnamon toast and seashell salinity. Lip-smacking acidity and an etched limestone element cut through a fairly lush pear compote character, creating a pleasing sense of tension and poise. 12.5 percent alcohol. A super attractive sparkler. Very Good+. Prices are all over the retail map for this wine, look for $18 to $22.
A sample for review.
Sun 25 Dec 2016
Our travelogue of sparkling wine begins on Christmas Day in Austria’s Burgenland region, specifically the Neusiedersee production area. The Szigeti Pinot Noir Rosé Brut 2012 was made on an estate founded in 1990 by brothers Peter and Norbert Szigeti, the latter being the winemaker. This is 100 percent pinot noir, aged 12 months in the bottle on the spent yeast cells after the second fermentation, you know, where the bubbles are born. In other words, the Szigeti Pinot Noir Rosé Brut 2012 was fashioned in the traditional Champagne method. The color is an entrancing copper-salmon with a tarnished silver overlay, and the bubbles are gentle but persistent swirling flecks. Aromas of fresh strawberries and raspberries leap from the glass and are highlighted by notes of orange rind, cloves and apple skin; hints of red cherries and limestone emerge on the palate, propelled by lively acidity, while the mineral element burgeons through the still delicate, finely-knit finish. 12 percent alcohol. A delightful quaff that we drank as aperitif over several evenings. It could go another year. Very Good+. About $25.
Imported by Winebow Group, New York. A sample for review. The label illustrated isn’t exactly correct, but it’s close.
Sat 24 Dec 2016
Today’s selection was already in its (neutral) barrels when Jackson Family Farms purchased Copain Wines in May 2016 for an undisclosed price, but I’ll bet that it wasn’t a pittance, since Copain is a highly regarded boutique winery focusing on single-vineyard pinot noir and chardonnay. Under the “Tous Ensemble” designation, however, winemaker Wells Gutherie produces wines blended from a variety of vineyards in broad AVA applications. The Copain Wines Tous Ensemble Pinot Noir 2015, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, offers a dark ruby hue that shifts to a transparent magenta rim; aromas of spiced and macerated red and black cherries and currants open to notes of pomegranate and cranberry, with hints of underlying leather and loam and a rooty, briery element, as if the wine were steeped in some essential black tea. These aspects segue seamlessly onto the palate, where the wine delivers lovely shape and heft in its satiny texture and liveliness in its energetic acid structure; mildly dusty tannins lend depth and substance through the bright, graphite-flecked finish. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2018 or ’19. Excellent. About $28.
A sample for review.
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