Sparkling Wine Club
Sparkling Wine Club - February
February 17, 2012
Dear Champagne Lover:
This month we present a Champagne house that I discovered on my recent French trip: Pascal Doquet. Your allocation is for your choice of either Champagne Pascal Doquet Brut Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru NV, Champagne Pascal Doquet Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Le Mesnil sur Ogier, or Champagne Pascal Doquet Brut Rosé NV.
Pascal and his wife Laure own and operate this fabulous small grower Champagne domaine in the town of Vertus, located near Avize. The Doquet’s Champagnes are made entirely from their 15 hectares (2.5 Grand Cru / 12.5 Premier Cru) which are all farmed organically and hand harvested. The vines are planted at 7500 vines per hectare and the ages range from 7-71 years of age, with an average of 28 years old.
Pascal and Laure Doquet are based in Vertus, at the southern tip of the Côte des Blancs, with parcels located in Grand Cru Le Mesnil sur Oger.
In the Cellar the wines ferment in both tank and cask before being bottled to under go secondary fermentation where they are allowed to rest on their lees for a minimum of 2 years but often up to 3 before disgorgement; much longer than the law requires. This technique and patience allows for the wines to develop richness and depth.
Unlike many Grower Champagnes, the Doquets have a great stock of reserve wines which they use to make the final blends. Even their entry level wines are at least 40% reserve wines, ensuring a consistent, deep, and leesy wine.
Sparkling Wine Club - November
This month we offer a choice of two amazing American sparkling wines from Roederer Estate, in the cool, fog shrouded Anderson Valley: Roederer Estate Ermitage 2002 Brut and Roederer Estate Ermitage Rosé 2003. These wines represent Roederer's têtes du cuvées, or the best wines they produce at the estate.
We offered these wines to the Club last year, and offer them again as a perfect accompaniment to your holiday table.
The Louis Roederer Champagne house in France, famed for its high-end Cristal bottling, first put down California roots in 1982, choosing sleepy Anderson Valley in northwest Mendocino County because of its marginal climate. Cool air and fog from the Pacific Ocean, 10 miles away, funnel down through the 15-mile-long valley, keeping high acidity in the grapes and resulting wines. That's perfect for sparkling wines.
Since its first vintage in 1988, Roederer Estate has been known for its non-vintage brut blend and then its stellar rosé. The L'Ermitage vintage bottling debuted in 1993. It's made only in exceptional years -- they skipped 2001, for example, and there will be no 2005, 2008 or 2010. Amounts are small, just over 8,300 cases in 2002, a fraction of the estate's 180,000 case production.
Winemaker Arnaud Weyrich walked me through the process -- only the best pinot noir and chardonnay grapes from the vintage, the use of the traditional méthode champenoise, and aging the blend on the yeast for 5 1/2 years to obtain more complexity and finesse.
All this, and the L'Ermitage costs less than most non-vintage French Champagnes. I think of it as an affordable luxury to drink now and a collectible you can put away to get even better.
Roederer Estate L'Ermitage Estate 2002 is a blend of 52% Chardonnay and 48% Pinot Noir, with fine tiny bubbles and a long lasting mousse - the usual footprints of the L'Ermitage cuvée. This cuvée from the palindromic vintage 2002 is showing great notes of "tarte tatin": baked apples and buttery crust, with notes of apricot and delicate vanilla bean. The mouthfeel is creamy, expresses flavors of quince, and bread crust with a clean and crisp yet long finish.
"This wine combines remarkable freshness with elegant richness, so that even after it's been open for several days, the flavors are still evolving, the fruit still brisk as an autumn breeze. It needs that time for the blunt chalkiness of the structure to mellow, for the cool apple and pear flavors to develop and lengthen. Built to age, this is an exceptional vintage of L'Ermitage."93 Points, Wine & Spirits
"Sleek and complex, with lovely aromas of green apple, loam and warm cinnamon rolls. The flavors show pinpoint focus, yet are nicely layered, with baked apple, lime and toasty spice flavors that linger. Drink now through 2013."91 Points, Wine Spectator
Roederer Estate L'Ermitage Brut Rosé 2003 The 2003 vintage was fairly wet with more than 11 inches of rain during the growing season. Overall, spring and summer were mild and even though we had an early bud break we ended up picking our grapes fairly late. Long hang time is beneficial to the grapes to allow for ripeness (sugar maturity) as well as phenolic maturity (aromas, tannins and anthocyanins). The crop quantity was above average and the fruit was well-balanced in acidity.
L'Ermitage Rosé brings complexity and smoothness to a higher level. The delicate salmon colors enhance the tiny bubbles and creamy mouthfeel. Notes of bread crust, baked apples and caramelized hazelnut create an elegant and complex wine. The wine is crisp with great acid on notes of quince jelly and anise.
Sparkling - September
This month, we travel back to the Aube, the southernmost region of Champagne - and it's primary Champagne growing region the Côte des Bar. While not as famous as the Marne Champagne regions to the north (centered around the towns of Epernay and Reims), the Côtes de Bar has been producing grapes for the major production houses to the north.
This month, you have a choice of either Fleury 2004 Brut Cepages Blancs or Fleury NV Fleur de l'Europe
Fleury 2004 Brut Cepages Blancs: "Fleury’s 2004 Brut Cepages Blancs is an intriguing wine laced with exotic passion fruit, citrus, minerals and flowers, all of which come together in a bracing, focused style. This shows gorgeous complexity, textural finesse and a brilliant, crystalline finish. The Cepages Blancs can be enjoyed today, although it requires quite a bit of air for its inner perfume to emerge. Alternatively, it can be cellared for another decade or so. This beautiful, harmonious Champagne from Fleury is a gem." 92+ Antonio Gallion, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate.
Fleury Fleur de l'Europe NV: 91 points Wine Enthusiast: "Organic, with clean, solid, forward aromas that blend in ginger and dust. The opening flavors are of orange and tangerine, while the second layer deals yeast and other drier elements. Great feel and balance, with zest throughout as well as touches of vanilla."
‘We were the first Champagne producers using biodynamics’, claims Jean-Sébastien Fleury. Champagne Fleury was founded by his great-grandfather in 1895, and it’s located in the Côtes de Bar, in the south of the Champagne region. In 1929, during the depression, grape prices were so low that Robert Fleury decided to take the then unusual step of bottling his own Champagne.
Sparkling Club - October
Dear Sparkle Lover:
This month, we present wine from another great Grower Producer Champagne house: Larmandier-Bernier. This month's allocation is for a choice of either a bottle of Larmandier-Bernier Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut 1er Cru or Larmandier-Bernier Terre de Vertus Non-Dosé 1er Cru.
Larmandier-Bernier Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut 1er Cru NV Only Chardonnay from Vertus Premier Cru and from terroirs rated Grand Cru: Cramant, Avize and Oger. 60% from 2005 harvest, 40% reserve wines from 2004 and 2002. The wine is vinified in a combination of stainless steel, large barrels and barrique. It has bright, crisp, classy flavors and is very, very dry. It has a 4 gram dosage.
Wine & Spirits Joshua Greene 92 Points
The tenderness of finely ripened chardonnay makes this wine a textural pleasure, while the precise mousse and potent, stoney acidity keeps the flavor tight and reserved. A smooth, sophisticated wine with enough brisk slinity for oysters.
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate Antonio Galloni 89 Points
The NV Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru is impeccably round and harmonious in its forward fruit. The wine caresses the palate with a silky, beautiful mousse. Apricots, flowers and spices linger on the impeccable finish. The Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru is 60% 2008 and 40% reserve wines from 2006 and 2005. The blend of villages is 70% Vertus (Premier Cru) and 30% Cramant, Avize and Oger (all Grand Crus). The wine was vinified in a combination of oak and stainless steel and bottled with 4 grams of dosage. This is Lot# LBB7 1009. Disgorged: October, 2009. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2015.
Larmandier-Bernier Terre de Vertus Blanc de Blancs 1er Cru  NV
Produced entirely from the 2006 vintage. The fruit came from Les Barillers and Les Faucherets, vineyards situated mid-slope in Vertus. Vinification takes place in a combination of temperature-controlled (19°C) stainless steel vats, large barrels and barrique. The wine goes through malolactic fermentation, ages on sediments during winter and then is bottled in Spring after a very light filtration. The bottles then age for 3 years in their cellars. No sugar is added (non dosé). There is always a resting period of 3 to 6 months prior to release.
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate - Antonio Galloni 92 points: The NV (2006) Brut Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru Nature Terre de Vertus emerges from the Les Barillers and Les Faucherets lieu-dits, both in Vertus. Hazelnuts, pears and autumn leaves are some of the nuances that come to life as this warm, rich wine blossoms on the palate. The Terre de Vertus is fermented in neutral barrels, which adds to the slightly oxidative notes that are woven throughout. The finish is round, creamy and beautifully multi-dimensional, while the zero dosage style is not particularly evident given the richness of the fruit. This release is less minerally and focused than other recent vintages. It will be interesting to see the direction the wine takes in future vintages. This is Lot# LTDV61209. Disgorged December, 2009. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2015.
Pierre and Sophie Larmandier put an incredible amount of effort into everything they do, starting with a meticulous approach in their biodynamically farmed vineyards. The wines are fermented in a combination of cask and stainless steel, using only indigenous yeasts. In recent years the estate has moved towards a greater percentage of cask. The wines are neither fined nor filtered prior to bottling and dosage is decidedly on the low side."
About Champagne Larmandier-Bernier: Champagne Larmandier-Bernier is one of the true stars of the Côte des Blancs. Both the Larmandier and Bernier families have had a long history in the Champagne region, dating back to the French revolution, but it was not until the marriage of Philippe Larmandier and Elisabeth Bernier in 1971 that Champagne Larmandier-Bernier was established. The small house today is directed by Pierre and Sophie Larmandier, who own just under fifteen hectares in some of the finest villages on the Côte des Blancs: Cramant, Chouilly, Oger and Avize (all Grand Crus), as well as in the fine premier cru village of Vertus.
Sparkling Wine - 8th Allocation
This month we visit the southernmost region of Champagne - the Aube, and it's primary Champagne growing region the Côte des Bar. While not as famous as the Marne Champagne regions to the north (centered around the towns of Epernay and Reims), the Côte de Bar has been producing grapes for the major production houses to the north.
This month we present two wines from Champagne Marie-Courtin: Marie Courtin Effloresence Extra Brut NV (2006) and Marie Courtin Résonance Extra Brut NV(2008). Made by winemaker Dominique Moreau (and named after her grandmother), these are single-vineyard, generally single varietal, single vintage Champagnes from biodynamically-grown grapes that are farmed and elaborated with meticulous care. This philosophy is in stark contrast with the predominant mindset in Champagne which is all about blending grapes, vineyards and vintages (for a consistent product), and with a tendency towards very high yields and full-on chemical treatments.
These will be the first of several presentations of Côte des Bar Champagnes in the club.
Champagne Marie Courtin is located in the village of Polisot in the Côte des Bar, in the southern part of the Champagne region. With its slightly warmer temperatures, this area is particularly prized for its Pinot Noir grapes. Combined with the Kimmeridgian limestone sub soils, the champagnes retain a freshness similar to Chablis, which is actually closer to Polisot than Reims! In fact, many of the Grand Marques source their Pinot Noir from the Côte des Bar because of this unique combination of texture and delineation that the sub-zone provides.