Chardonnay


brutzero
The Graham Beck Brut Zero 2011, from the Robertson district of the Western Cape in South Africa, was made from 100 percent chardonnay grapes and spent five years in bottle on the lees; it was disgorged in April 2016. This sparkling wine displays a pale gold color and a steady upward drift of glinting bubbles; it’s deeply spicy, savory and saline, with a foundation of limestone and seashell buoying notes of roasted lemons and pears, almond skin and grapefruit pith, jasmine and just a hint of peach. Lean and lithe on the palate, it features pleasing weight and presence and dynamic acidity to keep it flowing smartly across the tongue; some moments in the glass bring out elusive touches quince and cloves. All told, though, this is a sparkling wine planted firmly in the smoky, sinewy, steely camp. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $25.

Imported by Maritime Wine Trading Collective, San Francisco. A sample for review.

bruno_paillard_brut_premiere_cuvee
I have written about the non-vintage Bruno Paillard Premier Cuvee in several contexts, but in March 2015, a version was disgorged as Extra Brut, after a minimal dosage. The Bruno Paillard Premier Cuvee Extra Brut is a blend of 45 percent pinot noir, 33 percent chardonnay and 22 percent pinot meunier; the blend measures almost 33 percent reserve vintages going back to 1985, ensuring a continuity of style and character for the house. The color is medium gold-platinum, encapsulating a lovely froth of tiny silver bubbles, in an array of precious metals; aromas of spiced pear, quince jam and crystallized ginger are highlighted by notes of sage and almond skin, and as it warms slightly in the glass, this Champagne unfurls hints of toffee and smoke, sea-salt and lightly buttered biscuits. It is, sensuously and beautifully, one of the most floral Champagnes I have ever encountered, though that impression — of lilacs and wisteria — fairly quickly dissolves in the face of its mineral nature. On the palate, the Bruno Paillard Premier Cuvee Extra Brut seethes with a scintillating limestone and flint quality and lip-smacking acidity, all of this edge and liveliness supporting spare flavors of roasted lemon and spiced pears aimed at a lithe, lean finish. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $50.

A sample for review.

This post looks at the Champagne and sparkling wine we drank half a bottle each of on New Year’s Eve — and finished today. The Loimer Extra Brut nv from Austria we sipped while watching the news last night; the Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru nv we drank with Royal Ossetra caviar after midnight and the turn of the year. Both products were samples for review, as I am required to inform My Readers by ruling of the Federal Trade Commission.
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loimer-x-brut
The Loimer Extra Brut, made by Fred Loimer in the Austrian region of Niederösterreich, is an unusual blend (to me) of 42 percent grüner
veltliner grapes, 33 percent zweigelt and 25 percent pinot noir, grown in vineyards farmed on biodynamic principles; it aged 12 months in bottle on the lees. This sparkling wine was, frankly, a revelation of bright, clean, crisp attractiveness married to an interesting fruit profile and a chiseled limestone structure. The color is very pale gold, enlivened by a swirling upward surge of tiny bubbles; scents of apple and pear compote, ripe and spicy, are wreathed with notes of peach, heather and camellia. It’s cool, clean, crisp and steely on the palate, and its scintillating acidity leads to a vibrant crystalline finish. 12 percent alcohol. Not merely charming, but exhibiting lovely, transparent, significant weight and presence. Excellent. About $30.
Imported by Winebow Inc., New York.
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Champagne Egly-Ouriet is a grower house that rests in the top echelon of estates that farm and harvest their own grapes and turn them into egly_traditionChampagne. The Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru nv derives completely from the highest rated vineyards on the grading system used in the region. It’s a blend of 70 percent pinot noir and 30 percent chardonnay, aged four years on the lees. The current release was disgorged in July 2016, so it’s about as fresh as a Champagne gets. The color is pure Jean Harlow, that is, platinum blond; the bubbles erupt in a tempest-like froth. The overall effect is of something elegant, elevated and austere, finely-knit and integrated; hints of roasted lemon and spiced pear open to faint but persistent notes of lilac, lemongrass and green tea; this Champagne is soft and reticent on the toasty brioche quality, focusing on crispness, a permeation of limestone-flint minerality and bracing seashell salinity, all at the mercy of an encompassing vibrant, resonant character. 12.5 percent alcohol. This should drink beautifully, becoming more honed and burnished, through 2020 to ’22. Winemaker was Francis Egly. Excellent. About $68, but found on the internet from $50 to $80.
Imported by North Berkeley Wines, Berkeley, Calif.
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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.
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The J. Lassalle Preference Premier Cru Brut is predominantly pinot meunier, with 20 percent each chardonnay and pinot lassalle_preference_nonvintage13_webnoir, 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.
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breton-roseThe 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.
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The Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve is a blend of 40 percent pinot noir, 40 percent chardonnay and 20 percent pinot meunier aged ch_brut_reserve_front-largethree 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.
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francois-montand-brut
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.

Frank Family Vineyards, owned by Rich Frank, former president of Disney Studios, and his wife Leslie, produces a wide range of still wines bub_res_champ— 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.

Gloria Ferrer is owned by Freixenet, the Spanish company that introduced us to cava decades ago in the deep recesses of our gf-bt-bdb-nv-1flaming 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.

As you make your celebratory imbibing plans for the holiday season that runs from Thanksgiving to Epiphany — and happens to include my birthday — don’t forget Schramberg Vineyards, a Napa Valley-based producer of sparkling wines that has been around for 50 years and might be in danger of flying under the radar of all the other sparkling wine makers in California that emerged after its pioneering efforts. I rated three of these recent releases Excellent and one Very Good+, a better than decent outcome. In fact, I enjoyed these wines immensely and heartily recommend them for your Yuletide revels. Samples for review.
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schram-b-de-b
The Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2013, North Coast, is 100 percent chardonnay, a blend of grapes from Napa County (63 percent), Sonoma (30 percent), Mendocino (4 percent) and Marin (3 percent), hence the North Coast designation. A blanc de blancs is the first sparkling wine that the producer made, in 1965, and the touch remains deft and fluent. The color is very pale gold, and the tiny, glinting bubbles are exuberantly effervescent; beautifully layered aromas of roasted lemon, lemon balm, spiced pear and toasted and lightly buttered brioche are twined with acacia blossom and almond skin. A few moments in the glass bring up a bright edge of flint and chalk bolstered by vivid acidity, both elements lending this sparkling wine tremendous verve and appeal, while notes of slightly candied quince and ginger round out the citrus-stone fruit flavor profile. 12.7 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to ’23. Excellent. About $39.
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schram-b-de-n
The opposite of blanc de blancs — “white from white” — is blanc de noirs — “white from black” — through the Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs 2012, North Coast, blends 12 percent chardonnay with the balance of pinot noir. Counties of origin are Sonoma (44 percent), Mendocino (33 percent), Napa (19 percent) and Marin (4 percent). The color is very pale gold, enlivened by a surging flurry of tiny bubbles; this is pure lemon in all its aspects, married to fresh bread, cloves, ginger and quince, with a dry scent like dusty heather and a deep bell-note of currant. It’s a high-toned and elegant sparkling wine, vibrant with energy, full-bodied, almost lush except for the rigor of prominent limestone-flint minerality and a seam of resonant acidity. 12.7 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $41.
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schram-rose
The Schramsberg Brut Rosé 2013, North Coast, is composed of 61 percent pinot noir and 39 percent chardonnay. The county make-up is 41 percent Sonoma, 26 percent Mendocino, 25 percent Napa and 8 percent Marin. The ravishing color is pale copper salmon, with abundant bubbles swirling upward; aromas of macerated strawberries and raspberries open to notes of dried red currants, lime peel, melon and sour cherry, with follow-up hints of cloves and orange rind. You might think that this sparkling wine is all about sensual appeal, which it obviously does not lack, but there’s real structure, too, with elements of chiseled limestone and chalk minerality borne by chiming acidity; it flows across the palate with crisp vitality. 13 percent alcohol. Now through 2019 through ’23. Excellent. About $44.
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shrams-cremant
The Schramsberg Crémant Demi-Sec 2012, Napa Valley — a departure from the winery’s usual North Coast designation — is a blend of 74 percent flora grapes, 16 percent pinot noir and 10 percent chardonnay. Flora is a crossing of gewürztraminer and semillon, created in 1938 by Harold P. Olmo (1909-2006), a professor of viticulture at University of California, Davis, who pioneered the crossing of vinifera grapes for warm climate regions; among his other creations are ruby cabernet and symphony. To 85 percent Napa Valley grapes, this sparkling wines adds 10 percent from Sonoma and 5 percent from Mendocino; that 85 percent allows the Napa Valley designation. The color is pale straw-yellow; the bubbles are tiny but gentle, a stream but not a froth. Scents of green apple, peach and apricot are delicately floral and lead to a sweet entry — in fact sweeter than I thought it would be. This sparkling wine offers elegance in body and texture, a lively impression from clean acidity and flint-limestone minerality for background and a touch of dryness from mid-palate through the finish. 13.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2020 or ’22. At 2,387 cases, this product has the smallest production of this quartet. Very Good+. About $40.
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The wine aged ……… The color is pale straw-yellow

We are inching our way toward the most festive season of the year, a hectic, expensive, exhausting and frequently joyful stretch that encompasses Thanksgiving, My Birthday, Christmas, bottle-etoile-roseNew Year and Twelfth Night. Call it Yuletide 2.0. To slide into the proper spirit, I offer as Wine of the Day, No. 201, the Domaine Chandon Étoile Rosé, a non-vintage sparkling wine from the company that’s pretty much the grand-daddy of sparkling wine in California. By “non-vintage,” the common parlance, I really mean “multiple-vintage,” since this product and virtually all non-vintage Champagnes and sparkling wines contain wine from the current year as well as reserve wines from previous years, the point being to lend depth and character to the product from wines that have aged for several years. Now Chandon is surprisingly reticent about information for this sparkler and others I received recently. I can tell you, for example, that the grapes for the Domaine Chandon Étoile Rosé were grown in the cool Carneros region of Napa and Sonoma counties and that the blend includes chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, but not in what proportion. I can tell you that the sparkling wine rested on the lees in the bottle for “at least three years,” but I cannot be more specific. I can also tell you that the Domaine Chandon Etoile Rose is beguiling and irresistible. The color is ruddy salmon-copper, animated by a steady frothing stream of tiny bubbles. A cool rush of orange rind and strawberry compote is twined with smoke and seashell-like salinity with hints of cloves and lightly toasted brioche. This is lively on the palate, even sprightly and balletic, yet it delivers depths of limestone and chalk minerality, as well as flavors of roasted lemons, spiced pears and a hint of red currant. 13 percent alcohol. A very attractive and enticing brut rose. Excellent. About $50.

A sample for review.

I prefer my chardonnays untainted by the specter of toasty new oak and creamy malolactic, and if 2014-morgan-metallico-chardonnayyou inhabit the same camp, you probably already know about Morgan Winery’s un-oaked chardonnay called Metallico. If not, here’s a chance to be introduced. The Morgan Metallico Un-Oaked Chardonnay 2014, Monterey, derives from vineyards in the specific Santa Lucia Highlands and Arroyo Seco AVAs and the broader Monterey appellation. It aged five months in stainless steel tanks, seeing no oak and no malolactic fermentation. The color is bright medium gold; bold aromas of pineapple and grapefruit, green apple and mango burst from the glass in a welter of cloves, quince and ginger and a defining limestone edge. That strain of flinty minerality continues on the palate, where the wine is animated by crisp, lively acidity and characterized by ripe, spicy (and fairly rich) citrus and stone-fruit flavors; a few moments in the glass bring in notes of jasmine and honeysuckle, with bass-tones of loam and sea-shell, all encompassed by a lithe supple texture. The alcohol content is a pleasant 13.5 percent. Drink through 2017 with all manner of fish and seafood dishes. Excellent. About $22.

A sample for review.

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