On the Trail

2016 Bordeaux En Primeur Day Four

Jeff Garneau

An uncertain dawn brought a return to more typical weather for Bordeaux in April—a mix of sun and clouds, cooler temperatures, and near constant wind. Undaunted, we headed for Saint Julien and our first appointment of the day with Lilian Barton-Sartorius at Château Langoa Barton. Conditions for the tasting were ideal, even idyllic, with the room just above cellar temperature and the morning sun casting the perfect light to highlight the incredible depth of color to be found in the 2016 Langoa Barton and the 2016 Léoville Barton. Beyond the color, however, the wines were difficult to assess, reticent and shy. Fortunately, I had the opportunity later in the day to retaste both wines at the UGC Saint Julien tasting at Château Talbot. The Langoa Barton was everything I had hoped it might be: wildly aromatic with bright, sweet red fruits and fine tannins. The Léoville Barton held notes of spice and flowers. Brooding and reserved, it showed a lively acidity and very firm tannins. The experience brought home to me the importance during en primeur week of tasting a wine two or even three times. Results can vary a lot from sample to sample, and even varying weather conditions on different days can affect them. It’s difficult to be definitive, but more samples are better than fewer.

Having visited Léoville Las Cases the day before, we completed our trifecta of Léovilles at Léoville Poyferré. The quality at this château just keeps getting better and better each year and the 2016 did not disappoint. With 60% cabernet sauvignon in the blend the wine was quite firm with plenty of youthful tannins. Yet, perceptibly, there is great concentration and depth here, and certainly plenty of sweet black fruit. Our next appointment, Château Branaire Ducru, was also a bit closed with nearly two-thirds of the blend cabernet sauvignon, but gave an immediate impression of bright, sweet fruit with lovely weight in the mouth. The wine is a model for the vintage, very precise and marked by elegance and complexity.

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In anticipation of lunch at Marquis d’Alesme, we left Saint Julien and headed south to Margaux, stopping on the way to visit Jean-Luc Zuger of Chateau Malescot St-Éxupery. The 2016 vintage marks another triumph for the winemaker, whose 2015 effort was one of our best sellers on pre-arrival last year. “Less exuberant,” than the 2015, the wine is “more precise and perfectly balanced,” reflected Jean-Luc. 2016 marked the second vintage completed at the new winery of Marquis d’Alesme. Touring the state of the art facility we looked across the property’s fifteen hectares of vineyards (small by the standards of the Médoc) towards its famous neighbor, Chateau Margaux, where we would taste later in the afternoon. Marquis d’Alesme was purchased by the Perrodo family in 2006, the same family who owns nearby Chateau Labégorce. Both of their 2016 wines are typical of the vintage with lively acidity, fine tannins and ripe, sweet fruit. Labégorce, with a higher percentage of merlot in the blend, offers perhaps just a bit more sweetness of fruit, but without becoming overripe or jammy.

We completed our tasting of the first growths at Château Margaux in the afternoon. 2016 represented a singular vintage at Margaux with a whopping 94% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. A mere 28% of total production went into the grand vin. The wine is powerfully aromatic and very fresh in the mouth with notable acidity and loads of bright, sweet fruit. Not surprising with a mere 13% alcohol. A substantial wine with more than sufficient structure to age beautifully. After Margaux where else could we go but Chateau Palmer, where we met with CEO Thomas Duroux to taste the 2016 vintage. The wine is frankly majestic, breathtaking even, one of the finest Palmers I have ever tasted. “A more intellectual effort than the 2015,” noted Duroux, “but with such purity, such balance, such precision.” An equal blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon with a small percentage of petit verdot, it is a wine of remarkable depth and concentration, rich yet restrained, and quite possibly one of the wines of the vintage.

Our final stop in Margaux was at Château d’Issan. Passing over the ancient moat and into the castle courtyard I felt like one of Arthur’s knights, hoping to be found worthy to catch a glimpse of the Holy Grail. I confess it eluded me, but we did get a chance to taste the 2016 d’Issan, which is perhaps the next best thing. The wine was far too easy to taste for a barrel sample with the fine tannins and lively acidity that have become the hallmarks of the vintage for me. Another high Cabernet blend at 64%, the wine offers plenty of ripe sweet fruit yet remains very fresh and balanced.

We headed next to the UGC Haut-Médoc and Moulis and Listrac tasting at Château Cantemerle. As we exited our van we were met by Philippe Dambrine, who has steered Cantemerle on an increasingly successful path since 1993. The 2016 Cantermerle, Haut-Médoc is a marvel. The grapes, picked very late according to Philippe, yielded a wine of just 12.8% alcohol. Inky-hued, wildly aromatic, with notes of wild blackberries, tart and sweet, picked fresh off the vine. The wine was remarkably easy to taste at this youthful stage with very fine tannins. Other standouts were Chateau Clarke and Fourcas Hosten from Listrac, and from Moulis, Chateau Maucaillou and perennial staff favorite Chateau Poujeaux.

It was a long day but well worth it. We learned two important things today. One: the quality and unique character of the 2016 vintage is not limited to a single appellation. We can say definitively that wines from across the Left Bank in both the Médoc and the Graves proved to be of exceptional character. Two: despite the challenges that the vintage posed, quality is not limited to a handful of first and second growths, but seems to be across the board, with even the humblest of Haut-Médoc properties showing some of the character of the more prestigious estates. We head tonight to Chateau Siuarac in Lalande de Pomerol for a tasting and dinner with owner Paul Goldschmidt. We will spend the next two days working our way through Pomerol and Saint Emilion to see what the 2016 vintage brought to the Right Bank.

-Jeff Garneau

Day Three of the 2016 Bordeaux En Primeur

Jeff Garneau
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We had another early start today as we headed north to meet with Bordeaux legend and Lynch Bages owner Jean-Michel Cazes and his son Jean-Charles at their St-Estephe property: Ormes de Pez. (Château Lynch Bages itself is undergoing a complete renovation with a projected re-opening of 2019, hence our need to meet elsewhere). The 2016 Lynch Bages sample we tasted was a study in quiet power, confident and self-assured. “Perhaps the best we have ever made from a technical perspective,” said Jean-Michel. Quintessential Pauillac, the wine is—so far—one of the standout wines of the vintage. But there were other Pauillacs yet to taste, names that for over a century and a half have represented the best that Bordeaux can offer: Mouton, Lafite, Latour.

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We discovered that the magic of the 2016 vintage—some alchemy of variable weather and essential terroir—was merely to allow each to show their true character. The 2016 Mouton was not showy, but still grand and magisterial. The 2016 Lafite was weighty and opulent, while the 2016 Latour was lush and convivial. A quick detour northward to St-Estephe led to more revelations. The 2016 Cos d’Estournel brought tears to my eyes; a return to form that recalled their many great, classic vintages from the 1980’s. Montrose was a marvel—intense, concentrated and brooding. Calon Ségur understated and reserved.

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We finished up the morning with Alfred Tesseron at Pontet Canet. Their very justified reputation has brought increasingly larger crowds to their door, but we were able to sneak in for a peek at the 2016 vintage. It’s bound to please many palates with a lush, rich texture and above average ripeness with hints of blackberry jam. Before sending us on our way, Mr. Tesseron was kind enough to offer us a delicious lunch, which was accompanied by the delightful 2007 Pontet Canet.

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After lunch we added another Dexuième Cru to our tally with a tasting at Pichon Lalande—a genuine classic, polished and elegant. We found time also to stop by Léoville Las Cases and Ducru Beaucaillou. Both showed excellent form and great typicity, in keeping with the vintage. Running a bit ahead of schedule in the afternoon we took a few moments to stop in to the UGC tasting for St-Estephe and Pauillac hosted by Château Batailley. Château d’Armailhac and Clerc Milon, along with Grand Puy Lacoste, were particular standouts.

Overall, 2016 looks to have been a very successful vintage for the northern Médoc, much improved over 2015. The wines are notable for their freshness and liveliness, and for their moderate alcohol levels. Most are in the 13% to 14% range. Warm days and cooler nights in the late summer and fall meant that the most successful wines are intensely aromatic. Of the six allowed Bordeaux grape varieties, cabernet sauvignon flourished in such a late-ripening vintage, and many blends incorporate it in the 75% to 95% range.

After a long day, Clyde treated us all to a casual dinner at Le Lion d'Or in Arcins, a restaurant frequented by many château owners and wine industry persons and famous for its classic Medocaine cuisine, especially the Lamproie a la Bordelaise: eel cooked in red wine. Celebrating his birth year, Clyde opened a bottle of the 1945 Grand Puy Lacoste, and ordered a bottle of the 2007 vintage from the wine list for comparison. We also enjoyed the 2001 Lynch Bages, and the 2000 Clos du Marquis (a sample from Barrières Freres—Clyde is considering it for the stores), both absolutely delicious. Then, back to the hotel and a well deserved rest.

A busy but exciting day. Tomorrow we will be headed to Saint Julien and Margaux—stay tuned.

-Jeff Garneau

The King of Brouilly Hill

David Driscoll

When esteemed hills are mentioned in Burgundy it's usually those in the Côte d'Or where the region's primo real estate generally lies. The hill of Corton, for example, home to the largest grand cru vineyard in the region. I once went so far as to have a picnic lunch there a few years back because the romanticism involved. However, rarely do people speak romantically or reverently about the hills of Beaujolais, located further south of the golden slopes and planted with gamay instead of pinot noir. Yet, it was from the great hill of Brouilly, one of Beaujolais's most prestigious cru-level communes, that two incredible wines were created by the Perroud brothers, one of the last estates we visited on our recent trip to Burgundy. Full of granite and schist, and easy to drain after the annual rainfalls, the hill is known for producing some of the most elegant and meticulous wines in the region—an easy characterization to believe after having tasted both the 2015 Brouilly "Vieille Vignes" and the 2015 Brouilly "Amethyste" expressions. Packed with lush fruit up front, but bolstered by structured tannins, black licorice, earth, and a surprisingly mineral core, the Perroud brothers have just made a serious a case for this oft overlooked Burgundian dune.

In addition to collaborating on four acres of fruit in Brouilly, Michel and Robert Perroud took over their father's winemaking estate in Colgny, a family tradition that goes back seven generations all the way to the French Revolution! Over time they've made a few changes to that family legacy, investing in new rootstock, planting additional varietals like chardonnay, pinot noir, and viognier, as well as making a committed effort to organic and sustainable farming, They've built upon their father's foundation and wholeheartedly managed to bring the wines into the new millennium. Their commitment to sustainability didn't end in the vineyard, however. In 2007, Michel and his wife built an energy-producing home on the estate, along with a bed and breakfast for visitors. We caught up with the brothers this past March at their winery where we tasted through their entire portfolio. While the Vieille Vignes comes from selection of older vines on the main hill, the Amethyste comes from a single plot on the southern slope that has amethyst crystal buried deep in its terroir. "There's a typicity to that site," Robert told us as we tasted. It was juicier and plumper on the palate than the Virile Vignes, with more power and bolder fruits. There's a pureness to the Perroud wines that is palpable across the line-up. It's a liveliness that to me is as invigorating as their passion for precision. 

While the Perroud brothers are Beaujolais winemakers, they're so good at what don't overlook their absolutely charming 2015 Bourgogne Rouge, a wine that honestly may be the best sub-$20 Bourgogne rouge we've ever carried. Farmed entirely organically as well and seductive on the palate, the soft red fruits almost melt in your mouth: raspberries, strawberries, cherries, and hints of baking spice on the finish. I was instantly smitten! Their fifteen dollar 2015 Bourgogne Blanc is no slouch either, rounded on the palate with baked fruits and hints of oak, but never lacking in acidity. It's rare that we find a portfolio of exciting and intricate new wines from serious producers, farmed organically, with true character of place and dynamism, let alone for under twenty bucks. The wines have just hit the warehouse and are now making their way on to the sales floor. Come meet the new king of the hill at K&L. You'll likely fall head over heels and tumble for Brouilly much like we did. 

-David Driscoll

More 2016 Bordeaux Notes From the Boss

Clyde Beffa Jr.

Monday was our first full day in Bordeaux (left hotel at 7:30 AM and returned at 10:30 PM) with fabulous weather on our side. We got a good idea of the vintage on the Left Bank and Pomerol today. We started early in the north at Pichon Baron and tasted the AXA/Medocaine stable of wines from Pibran to Tourelles to Pichon Baron and also Petit Villages and the Suduiraut dry and sweet wines.  The Pichon Baron was real Pauillac—85% Cabernet with rose and red berry aromas and flavors that were thick and creamy. It's big and balanced—but what will the price be? Could Pibran be quite a good value in comparison? Suduiraut was telling us immediately we've had another great Sauternes vintage.  

At the big UGC tasting in town we concentrated on the very fine wines from Margaux with Malescot, Giscours, and Siran shining brightly. In fact the wines as a whole were quite good—another successful Margaux region vintage like 2015. The Pomerols were fat and big. The Pessac-Léognan reds were very good again as in 2015. Looks like all regions of Bordeaux did well in 2016. Keep an eye on the fabulous Malartic Lagravière as well as Smith Haut Lafitte, but others were also very good. We'll come back later to focus on the intricacies of this region. Walking out of the tasting I stopped to try a mind blowing Pichon Lalande—could this be another 1982 for them? We'll pay them a formal visit tomorrow.

We spent the rest of the day in the Pessac-Léognan region with the very unknown but quite good Carmes de Haut Brion followed by the prestigious wines of Haut Brion proper along side La Mission. Haut-Brion was off the charts good. Pape Clément was stable with Grands Chenes standing out as a value. From there it was down to Domaine de Chevalier. They are on top of their game these days with the red tasting as good or better than 2014 and 2015. Watch for Peyrabon 2016 for a value as well as Lespault-Martillac red. Next was Malartic and I was wowed by their 2016 red. We have sold over 200 cases of the 2015 and this 16 is right there with it in quality—maybe even a bit fresher.

We finished the long day with Veronique Sanders at Haut-Bailly; the perfect ending to a fine day.  The Le Pape was stunning and the Parde de Haut Bailly the best I've ever tasted. But the Haut-Bailly was other worldly. Perfection in a bottle. Let's hope it is affordable as well. We had a fabulous dinner there to cap off the day.

-Clyde Beffa Jr.

Bordeaux En Primeur - Day Two

Jason Marwedel

We woke up to dense fog which burned off by the end of our first appointment, just in time to reveal the château at Pichon Baron. The weather was beautiful and provided a very dramatic start to our second day. What a truly amazing property! 

2016 is truly a tale of two vintages as we continue to learn about the unique growing conditions. The first half of the year was cool and wet—in many cases the vineyards flooded and threatened to drown the vines. By summer the weather was hot and very dry. This was not a long, easy growing season. Winemakers worried throughout the year, but were rewarded in the end. According to one wine maker, “God loves Bordeaux.” Pichon Baron had one of the latest vintages in memory according to Jean René Matignan, Pichon’s technical director. They finished picking on Oct 19th with the last of the petit verdot. But the strength for Pichon in 2016 was the Cabernet Sauvignon—85% of the blend with just 15% Merlot. “Classic Pauillac style”, says Clyde.

The most exciting visit for me was Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion. This was a first time-visit for the K&L team and it truly offers the perfect tasting experience for our customers traveling to Bordeaux. Carmes is the only estate with an address within the city limits, located just minutes from the historic downtown area. The five hectare vineyard is planted with predominantly cabernet franc.

The wines and the facility stand out from its peers. The facility was designed by Phillipe Starck, and sits twenty meters below the surface in the middle of an underground river bed (Stark designed packaging for Roederer’s bio-dynamic vintage offering we currently have on the shelf). The château itself is classic, but the wine making facility is quite modern (it looks like a huge metal submarine). Most impressive were the large egg-shaped concrete fermenters. Each year a new artist will paint one, creating an art gallery. So far two of eight have been completed—one from Phillipe’s daughter Ara Stark and another from Spanish artist Sergio Mora. It’s going to look amazing! Wonderful wines and a great visit.

-Jason Marwedel

Opening Night Wines

Clyde Beffa Jr.

We arrived in Bordeaux with only a few hours between our landing and our opening night dinner at Château Rauzan-Ségla, so we rushed to taste at the Barrière negotiant warehouse with Laurent and Jean—always our first stop! It was there we tasted our first 2016s, including an excellent Beychevelle and yet another outstanding Cantemerle. This could be a special vintage; it's somewhat like a cross of 2009 and 2010, but we will see as we go along. The wines have lower alcohol contents than most recent vintages and so far are very aromatic on the nose. Some say that's because of the wet spring. We also grabbed some more of the outstanding 2009 and 2010 Malartic-Lagravière vintages, as well as a few cases of 1995 and 1998 Gruaud-Larose. 

After Barrière it was off to tasting at Rauzan-Ségla, followed by dinner there. Despite what felt like early summer weather, we were welcomed into the parlor by a rip roaring fire, Champagne, duck breast, and the Buena Vista Social Club playing in the backgound. Their 2016 was absolutely superb with cassis and rose petal aromas, sweet middle palate fruit and a lingering finish. The aromatics come through on the backend. There's more cabernet here than usual and overall it's a bit more substantial than 2015. It could be a value if priced right. The château also poured a fantastic 1998, that along with the Gruaud-Larose from earlier showed signs that this vintage might finally be coming around. We'll definitely be buying some of that as well. 

As we were wrapping up our tasting at Barrière and sharing our notes, Laurent surprised us all by opening and decanting side by side the 1986 Leoville Las Cases and the 1986 Mouton Rothschild, two of the most highly regarded wines from one of the best vintages of the 1980’s. An exceptionally generous gesture and a perfect cure for jet lag.

-Clyde Beffa Jr.

Bordeaux 2016: An En Primeur Week Intro

Clyde Beffa Jr.
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We're heading for Bordeaux this weekend to taste the 2016 vintage and make our assessments. As we leave for the trip, a few things stand out:

1) I planned this trip around July of last year and at that time the weather had been terrible—so wet in May and June that there was standing water in the vineyards. There were whispers of another 2013. I had assumed that the flowering was very uneven and drawn out and that the vintage could be a bust, so I condensed what is normally a ten day trip down to eight days.

2) But it looks like we may have another miracle vintage in Bordeaux and because we have fewer days in the region we will have to deal with long days of tasting many wines. The hype is sky high right now, probably because the rumors were so bad early on. People are saying that this is in realm of 2009 and 2010 in terms of quality, but I have to see or taste it to believe it. Better than 2015? Historically, back-to-back blockbusters have spelled trouble for pricing and therefore our ability to get people excited about Bordeaux. 

3) Thus, I am worried about the pricing. The same thing happened in 2009/10. They thought the success of the 2009 vintage would mean continued momentum in 2010, but that wasn't the case and higher costs led to decreased sales.

These three points now have me thinking about a few other things:

1) I remember back in 1987 when we tasted the 1986 vintage. In fact, I am bringing my old 1987 notebook to write my notes in this year. I just recently looked at the July 1987 K&L newsletter that I also have with me. I mentioned back then how I was worried about the pricing and therefore I only listed fifteen wines to buy. The 1986s were priced above the 1985s and the en primeur campaign was not great.

2) I remember back in 1997 when we tasted the 1996s, coming off the fantastic 1995 vintage; the 1996s were priced above the 1995s and the campaign was also not great.

3) I also remember 2007 when we tasted 2006s (just a good vintage). They were priced only a bit lower than the great 2005s and it turned out to be a disaster of a campaign.

4) I remember 2011 when we tasted the great 2010s, right off the back of 2009. Some were priced higher than the great 2009s and the campaign fizzled as a result. 

5) So now it's 2017 and we're tasting what looks like another back-to-back duo as with the previous examples. What will happen with the pricing of the 2016s? I'm hearing rumors the châteaux will raise their prices, but by how much? Too much and we could have another disasterous campaign just like the ones I mentioned above. I'm hoping they'll finally learn from history. 

Remember that last year the 2015s came out at increased prices over 2014, but they were far more reasonable early on in the campaign (and we sold quite a bit of them). Then that fateful Monday hit when Pichon Baron opened too high and the Northern Mèdoc guys followed suit. That marked the end of the campaign for us. Our customers bought the value wines and ignored the late openers. As a result, the 2014 vintage is attracting new interest with better pricing and a reassessment of quality.

We shall see what happens this time around. We'll keep you updated from the road.

-Clyde Beffa Jr.

A Grand Marque Among the Vines

Gary Westby

Almost all of the big houses of Champagne are located in the cities of Epernay or Reims. One of the very few exceptions is Laurent-Perrier; they have their cellars and production facility smack in the middle of the Champagne vineyard in Tours-sur-Marne. It takes forty-five minutes to get there from Reims, but it is one village away from the Mountain of Reims and the Côtes de Blancs and located in the heart of the Grand Valley of the Marne. Being close to the vines gives the entire operation and the wines a very different feel, and I think that proximity is one of the reasons that they make such great Champagne.

Today in their cellars, with the vines growing right over my head, I tasted the range in the Grand Siecle room, just next to the small group of tanks that holds the reserves for the tête de cuvée of the same name. My friend Frederique, who has been working for LP for as long as I have been at K&L, had some great surprises for us; the best of which was a new wine that will replace the non-vintage brut: The Laurent Perrier La Cuvée. Several years ago, Laurent Perrier was fortunate enough to acquire a small Champagne group that owned vineyards and had some very good contracts in the Côtes de Blancs. This is the first product to be released that includes fruit from these marvelous sites and it is a revelation. They have increased the proportion of chardonnay in the blend to 55% (the balance is 30% pinot oir and 15% pinot meunier), and now only use the first and most delicate portion of the grape pressing, while increasing the aging minimum to over four years on the lees. The result is a Champagne with a near blanc de blancs character, singing with Puligny Montrachet-like lime and vibrant chalk. This will no doubt be one of the best non-vintage grand marques on the shelf when it arrives towards the end of the year.

We also tasted the Grand Siècle, which is still based on 2002, with large percentages of 1999 and 1997 from the tanks in the picture above. I believe this is the most underrated of all the tête de cuvees in Champagne. First of all, it is real and honest tête de cuvee, representing only a sliver of their production and allowing them to select the cream of the crop for this bottling. Some of the most famous tête de cuvees are actually the second highest production wine from their respective houses! It is entirely composed of grand cru fruit, and the reserve wines are kept in custom made seamless tanks completely isolated from oxygen. As one would expect from a Champagne that is aged this long from such excellent sources, it is very complex. This complexity is not a vinous, heavy complexity, however; in fact it is almost vanishingly subtle and elegant. I think it's necessary to spend time with the Grand Siècle to truly understand it. The wine is simply lovely with a fantastic bead of tiny bubbles to start and I always feel like a having second glass when I taste it. That is when I start to notice the complexity! That desire for more speaks volumes.

-Gary Westby

The Terroir of Champagne

Gary Westby

Champagne is a place with an incredible depth of history, but also a place of innovation and excitement. Today, visiting Champagne Pierre Paillard in the famous Mountain of Reims Grand Cru of Bouzy, I was treated to a telling experience exhibiting both of these elements. The Paillard family has history of growing grapes in this village dating back to 1799 and today I met with two generations of the family, Benoit Paillard and his son Antoine. They're working with a very clear goal: to make terroir-driven wines from the village of Bouzy. Antoine explained that the most important step is to take care of the soil and they have been working on a complex natural composting project towards that end. Next year they should have the certification for organic viticulture. When we arrived, Antoine was still toiling away in the vineyard, where the work is never done.

We tasted some of the 2016 vin clair from the vat room, where they keep a collection of exotic fermentation vessels, and tasted three versions of their old vine pinot noir from Les Maillerettes: one from a concrete egg, one from a ceramic globe, and one from a terracotta urn. They were all very different expressions and Antoine explained they were searching for the one that best told the story of the terroir. Even after sixteen vintages of tasting vin clair, I am always amazed at how the Champenois can look into the future by tasting these still wines. We also sat down and tasted the current releases and they were absolutely singing. These are wines that are not only the product of great vineyard sites, they are imbued with generations of know-how and tireless work. Although they are more expensive than many of our grower Champagnes, I believe strongly that they still represent great value in fine wine on the world stage considering what went into them.

We started the tasting with the Pierre Paillard "Les Parcelles," which is a blend of plots, sourced from eleven hectares of vines in the Grand Cru of Bouzy. This is one of the best selling Champagnes that we have at K&L amongst our employees and tasting with Antoine today I was reminded as to why. It has the powerful savory bing cherry fruit that Bouzy is famous for, fantastic concentration, complexity, and it sacrifices no freshness or chalky minerality to get that power. The Pierre Paillard "Les Terres Roses" Rosé is one of the lowest in sugar that we have ever carried at K&L at under under 4g/l of dosage, but it has so much lovely fruit that you would never guess it was an extra brut. The very light tannin of the Bouzy rouge used to give this wine its color integrates so well into the chalky finish it is hard to tell where one starts and the other finishes.

The two real standouts of the tasting were the single vineyard Champagnes. The 2010 Pierre Paillard "Les Maillerettes" Brut Blanc de Noirs is made from a mid-slope plot of pinot noir planted in 1970 to the family massal selection. They still propagate pinot noir from here for new vineyard plantations. After years of working with these wines, I was not surprised at the Corton like power and structure of this wine, but I was blown away by the effortless texture and fine bead of this bottle. I do not understand how they can get both elements in one little 750ml! Its sister wine, the 2010 Pierre Paillard "Les Mottelettes" Blanc de Blancs comes from their mother plot of chardonnay that was planted in 1961. This bone dry, chalk laden wine is usually a lazer beam, and I love it with oysters. In 2010, it has an extra element that almost reminds me of the subtle pineapple character that you get in the best Meursault. With the terroir-driven aspects Paillard is showcasing in these wines, anyone who loves both Champagne and Burgundy would do well to taste them all!

-Gary Westby

Burgundy's 2015 Selections Begin to Trickle In

David Driscoll

Those of you who were following our OTL updates from Burgundy will be pleased to know that a number of the 2015 expressions from some of these producers have arrived on a recent shipment, and more will continue to trickle in over the next few weeks. Today we were able to receive in and retaste the bargain chardonnays from Domaine Renaud, one of our most popular value-priced imports, and the simply incredible new bargain reds from Les Frères Perroud, our last stop in Burgundy a few weeks back. We'll start with the Renaud wines, some of which came from the vineyard pictured above.

Ranging from fifteen to twenty dollars in price, the white wines from Renaud are proof that while 2015 brought more ripeness across the board, that extra weight didn't come at the expense of acidity. California central coast fans will want to take note: these are medium-bodied chardonnays without oak aging and clean, mild-mannered fruit buoyed by faint mineral notes and just enough zip. The 2015 Mâcon-Villages is the cleanest and leanest of the bunch with the crispest fruit and the most minerality on the finish. That'll run you a cool $13.99. The 2015 Mâcon-Solutré and Mâcon-Charnay expressions are a bit riper with more stone fruit on the palate and a creamier texture, but both are only a dollar more at $14.99. The 2015 St.-Veran comes from the slopes underneath the Rock of Solutré (pictured in this post from a few weeks back) and has more depth. There's a better concentration of fruit and minerality and wine finishes with more length. The richest of the bunch, of course, is the 2015 Pouilly-Fuissé that does see some barrel aging and adds the spice of that oak maturation into the richness. It's a serious crowdpleaser for the price. 

One visit I unfortunately didn't find time to write about during our trip included Robert and Michel Perroud from Les Frères Perroud in the village of Brouilly. We started working directly with the brothers back with the 2014 vintage and now that the fantastic 2015s have arrived, I'm expecting non-stop positive feedback from customers who opt to try this year's latest batch. Simply put: the wines are incredible. They're ripe and fleshy, but with style and sophistication. They're pretty, joyous, and brimming with a juicy and pure red fruit character. Robert is the head of the Beaujolais consortium of growers and I'm guessing it's out of sheer respect for his abilities that they elected him as the leader. With the pricing we've worked out via our direct relationship, I can't think of a more impressive selection of red wines in the store from anywhere! 

The Perrouds have gamay vineyards in Brouilly from which they make their cru level Beaujolais wines, but they also have a few plots of pinot noir from which they make a Bourgogne rouge. Don't mistake their Brouilly selections for carbonically-macerated nouveau, either. They vinify their gamay and pinot noir selections just like any other winemaker in Burgundy and the results for the money are truly unbeatable. The 2015 Bourgogne Rouge is nothing short of a revelation at $16.99 because it easily beats out other village-level and 1er cru selections in the store priced between $25-$30 (especially as it's all farmed organically, to boot). The wine is a plush symphony of pure cherry and raspberry splendor with classic Burgundian accents of earth and forest floor. I could probably drink this every night and never get tired of it. The only thing I might trade it out for would be the 2015 "Vieilles Vines" Brouilly, a dark and ridiculously-concentrated mouthful of pure Beaujolais magic. The 2015 "Amethyste" Brouilly adds a bit more finesse and elegance to the same equation, but seeing that both are well under twenty bucks it's really hard to go wrong. 

The fun is just getting started, but already there's a lot to be excited about. We came back from this trip grinning from ear to ear and these wines played a big role in that initial enthusiasm. Expect more K&L-direct Burgundy selections in short notice!

-David Driscoll