Live from Champagne

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Alex Schroeder and I just arrived in Champagne and we were greeted by more snow than I have ever seen in the region. Like the Californians we are, we are bundled up like a pair of Michelin men. I think the Champenois might be laughing at us, but the last time it snowed in the bay area I was three!

Our first stop of the trip was Mesnil, and we visited Pierre Gonet, the man behind Pierre Mineral Champagne. We have been working with Chantal and Pierre Gonet for more than a decade now and it was wonderful to see him again. He was in the middle of retrofitting his old concrete and tile tanks with stainless steel liners and temperature control, which is a complex job given the tiny openings that these old tanks have.

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After our visit to the winery, we tasted through the line and I was very impressed by all of them, but two stood out to me. The Pierre Mineral Brut is made from plots spanning their entire estate, from the Aube all the way to the Western Valley of the Marne. We were both struck by the effortless quality of this sub $30 Champagne. It had a little bit of everything, citric refreshment, baguette toast, and a substantial and long finish. The current batch is 50% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and 25% Meunier based on 2014 with reserves going all the way back to 2011. It is aged three years on the lees and has a very nice bead from the time it spent in his cellar. This is great aperitif Champagne, and I need to drink more of it when I get back!

The entirely Mesnil Grand Cru Pierre Mineral "Vielle En Fut" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne blew me away, and I have to say it is one of our finest deals in Blanc de Blancs. The current batch is based on 2012 with 50% reserves from 2011. After fermentation in stainless steel, the 2012 half of this Champagne spent six months in 600 liter tonneau. It was blended with 2011 that spent a year in the same size barrel, and then aged on the lees for over five years. The big oak adds roundness and creaminess to the incredibly focused, chalky Mesnil Chardonnay and the result is one of the longest and most intriguing bargains we have on the rack. The concentration and power of the 2012 vintage is enhanced greatly by the addition on the pure refreshment of the high acid 2011.

 Don’t overlook these—they are great Champagnes!

 A toast to you!

 -Gary Westby

Gary Westby