Not Quite CHAMPAGNE FRIDAY – FRANÇOIS LABET Brut, Crémant de Bourgogne, NV

“Not Quite Champagne Friday” because, even though it is Friday, this lovely bottle of bubbly is not Champagne. Rather, it is Crémant de Bourgogne – a Champagne-like wine made from grapes grown in Burgundy. That is not to say that the grapes for this wine were grown in Burgundy’s Cote d’Or (the area I think of when I say Burgundy). The weren’t. They were grown in what should be called “Greater Burgundy” – which includes the famous Cote d’Or as well as Chablis, the Cote Chalonaise, Macon, and a lot of other land just entitled to the name “Bourgogne” (Burgundy). Burgundy’s AOC laws require Crémant de Bourgogne to be made from at least 30% Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, or Pinot Gris. Up to 70% Aligoté (a tart, lemony, less sought after white grape common in greater Burgundy) maybe used.  Crémant de Bourgogne is made using methode champenoise but, because Burgundy is not in Champagne (although maybe Chablis should be – but going there would be a huge digression), they can’t call it that. But I can. To put it simply, the bubbles get into Crémant de Bourgogne the same way they get into Champagne (and Cava and lots of other better sparkling wines). After champenization, Crémant de Bourgogne must be aged at least one year on the yeasts (en tirage). François Labet is the proprietor of both Clos Vougeot’s Chateau de la Tour and Domaine Pierre Labet (Beaune, Savigny les Beaune, Meursault, Gevrey Chambertin, and Bourgogne Rouge and Blanc). As this François Labet Brut Crémant de Bourgogne is made from 100% Pinot Noir, it is the next best thing to a Blanc de Noirs Champagne – and is half the price.

FRANÇOIS LABET Brut, Crémant de Bourgogne, NV
Tech Note: 12% Alcohol. A blend of 100% Pinot Noir all grown in Burgundy. Made sparkling using methode champenoise.     Sensory Note: Bronze-tinted-straw in color, fully sparkling; dry, medium-bodied with freshly balanced acidity. Rich and toasty with clean mineral earth, good toasty yeast notes, and a fine mix of earthy red cherry fruit and enough ripe citrus to keep it balanced. Supple but lively feel.     Bear Note: Satisfying. Opens up nicely in the glass. Big enough to serve with food. Great everyday bottle of bubbly at a value price. Yum! BS: 90+ ($16.00).

And your (non) Champagne quote for the week is –
“Tiny bubbles in the wine … make me feel happy, make me feel fine.” – Don Ho

Aren’t you glad you stuck around for that?

CHAMPAGNE THURSDAY – PIERRE MORLET Brut Millesime 1er cru, Champagne, 2002 – and a Champagne Quote

Yes, THURSDAY. Dinner tonight was at Triniti which is clearly the hot new restaurant in town. I have mostly good to say about the restaurant: vivid flavors, lots of creativity, beautiful presentation, excellent service, pretty good wine list, and a stunningly good but-not-excactly-on-the-menu ice cream trio (brown butter, honey comb, and caramel ice creams) somewhat offset by a loud, too warm room, small portions, and a tasty but somewhat over cooked piece of fish.

Now, about the Champagne part: my hosts – Marc Laderriere of Vina Robles and Mary Dodson of Serendipity – ordered a bottle of Pierre Morlet 2002 … and it rocked my world. Pierre Morlet is an estate producer (recoltant manipulant) in Avenay-Val-d’Or which is a premier cru village in the Montagne de Reims. The Morlet family’s vineyards consist of thirty-plus parcels totaling forty acres in Avenay-Val-d’Or, Ay, Bisseuil, and Mutigny. Some of these vineyard blocks are situated next to parcels that produce the super premium cuvées for such famous Champagne houses as Bollinger, Krug, Moet & Chandon, Mumm, Pommery, and Veuve Clicquot. For example, in Ay, the prestigious vineyard La Côte aux Enfants of Bollinger, is adjacent to the Morlet family’s Gilbertin vineyard.

PIERRE MORLET Brut Millesime 1er cru, Champagne, 2002
Tech Note: 12% Alcohol. A blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay with primary fermentations in either small tank capacity or in French oak “demi-muids” (600 liter) barrels with weekly batonnage of the lees. Sensory Note: Straw in color, bright, clear, and fully sparkling; dry, medium-bodied with balanced acidity and very light phenolics. Rich with ripe citrus and earthy red berry fruit. Toasty-yeasty with minerally earth. A very long finish that starts with a hint of chocolate essence. Yes -I wrote chocolate. It is at the edge of exotic. Bear Note: My note from October of 2009 indicates that this was very nice (91+ points) but tonight (2/16/12) at Triniti, it was exceptional: rich, satisfying, fascinating. It improved in the glass as it flattened and warmed. Utterly Delicious. The last sip was magnificent. BS: 95. ($75.00???)

We also had an excellent bottle of Vina Robles new release of their VINA ROBLES Syree, Paso Robles 2008, a blend of Syrah and Petite Sirah that I will talk more about later.

I leave you with a Champagne Quote:
Two warm bodies and one cold bottle of Champagne will produce something more wonderful than would happen without the Champagne. – Helen Gurley Brown

CHAMPAGNE FRIDAY “Two-fer” – KRUG Grande Cuvée and DOM PERIGNON Rosé 2000

So, its Friday (actually (2/3/12), about 6:15pm. We – Robert, Ned, and I – are sipping Jansz Brut (the subject of a recent Champagne Friday posting). The white stretch limo pulls into my driveway. We bring our Champagne glasses and get in. As the limo pulls out of the driveway and down the street, Robert pulls out a bottle of Krug Grande Cuvee. He opens and pours. While the Jansz had been fine, this Krug is amazing (see note below). I don’t care what you are about to do, this is a good way to start. We sip the Krug all the way downtown to Toyota Center, finishing the bottle just as we arrive. We go inside to get a drink and find our seats (Mid-Court, 18 rows up – Sweet!) so we can watch the Houston Rockets embarrass the Phoenix Suns. After we walk out and find our car and driver, we load up and Robert pulls out another bottle, this time a Dom Perignon Rosé 2000, which we drink on the way home. Returning home took a lot less time so there is still some DP Rosé for Miss Carol to have a glass when we get there. She approves but retires from the living room as we are acting like three men who’ve been drinking Champagne and beer and … and, as she put it, being “guys” all evening. Miss Carol did not ride in the limo or go to the game as she would rather face an IRS audit conducted by a malevolent dentist than attend a professional sporting event. Here’s the run-down on the bubbles.

KRUG Grand Cuvée, Champagne, NV
Tech Note: 12% Alcohol. An unspecified blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier, possibly dozens of wines sourced from 6 to 10 vintages that, after blending and second fermentation, is aged another 6 years on the lees (en tirage). The complete, real-deal, specific tech info is unavailable. But, after drinking the wine, I don’t really care all that much. Sensory Note: Due to the siuation in which we enjoyed this wine, I have no color note. Dry, medium-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and scant but still present phenolics. On pouring, there is the expected citrus fruit, toast, and mineral. As the wine warms and bubbles a bit in the glass, the citrus expands beyond lemon as some tree fruit (apple, pear?) and subtle red fruit essence comes in, the simple toast expands to toasted brioche served in a bakery, and the mineral combines with the acidity to provide structure and depth. Bear Note: The wine starts interesting but becomes complex and intriguing. It satisfies as if it were an aged red Burgundy. Truly delicious. Goes way beyond basic “Brut Non-Vintage.” BS: 95. ($125)

DOM PERIGNON Rosé, Champagne, 2000
Tech Note: 12% Alcohol. A blend of 45% Chardonnay and 55% Pinot Noir, of which 1/4 is still red Pinot Noir.     Sensory Note:  No color note due to dark limo. Dry, medium full-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and light phenolics. Deep, rich, and satisfying with supple red fruit and enough ripe citrus to keep it balanced. There is richness from the red fruit and the distinctive toasty-yeasty biscuit character. So good in the mouth, you are reluctant to swallow.  Satisfying and delicious.     Bear Note: More than being Champagne that can stand up to food, this is Champagne AS food. YUM.  BS: 97 now and it will only improve with a few more years of age. ($375)

Thank you, Robert!

A couple of my favorite Champagne quotes seem to apply here:
“Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
and
“Champagne offers a minimum of alcohol and a maximum of companionship.” – David Niven

CHAMPAGNE FRIDAY – JEAN LAURENT Blanc de Noirs Brut, Champagne, NV

I do try to do Champagne Friday on Friday but sometimes stuff gets in the way. This last Friday brought an inadequate bottle of bubbly (of which I will speak no evil) so I decided to use my note on a wine I tasted (well, drank) Thursday evening with Rupert Symington and some friends (aka “The Gang of Pour”) after our Vintage Port tasting. Yes, we were drinking Champagne AFTER a Port tasting. Shocking … but also quite refreshing. Come to think of it, by the time I finished sipping it – it may have been Friday. The wine was Jean Laurent Blanc de Noirs imported by Hand Picked Selections. Here is a bit about Jean Laurent (distilled from the excellent HPS website  – www.handpickedselections.com – where you will find more on my friend Dan Kravitz and his excellent Hand Picked Selections), my note on the latest release of this perennial favorite, and a Dorothy Parker quote.

For more than 1,000 years Jean Laurent’s family has been growing grapes near Celles-sur-Ource in the Aube, an outlying Champagne district south of Marne that shares the same chalky soils as the heart of Champagne and Chablis. Jean farms 39 acres, split between Pinot Noir (30 acres) and Chardonnay (9 acres), with no Pinot Meunier. The Aube is Pinot Noir country and Jean Laurents bread and butter is this Blanc de Noir, typically blended from three vintages, and aged a minimum of 3 years on the yeast. As an RM (Recoltant Manipulant or Champagne estate bottler), Laurent makes Champagnes exclusively from his own vineyards. While an RM Champagne is not guaranteed to be high quality, it is your best chance for site specificity and actual terroir in Champagne. Jean Laurent offers all of that and high quality and all at a reasonable price.

JEAN LAURENT Blanc de Noirs Brut, Champagne, NV
Tech Note: 12% alcohol. 100% Pinot Noir blended from three vintages with an additional three years on the yeasts (en tirage) after the bottle fermentation. Sensory: Medium pale gold in color and fully sparkling. This is a more developed cuvee than the last I had but it is still fresh, juicy, flavorful, ripe, and fruit-and-yeast oriented with notes of yeast and chalky mineral. The fruit leans to red fruit (more strawberry than other) with some lemon drop citrus. It is long, focused, rich, and lively in the mouth with good weight and a nice mousse.     Bear Note: Solid and delicious with a fine rich feel. Finishes clean and dry. Fine food fizz. (I can’t resist alliteration.) BS: 92+. ($45.00)

FINALLY, I leave you with a Champagne quote from my favorite quip-mistress, Dorthy Parker:
Three be the things I shall never attain: envy, content and sufficient Champagne.