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NEW & NOTABLE
CHAMPAGNE DISCOVERIES
by Jim "Bubblehead" Duane

The fall is always a busy time when we are inundated with new Champagne arrivals and this year is no exception. In fact we can’t recall encountering more worthy contenders vying for shelf space in our cellar. This month we are proud to have three exciting new producers representing the Côte des Blancs and The Montagne de Reims.

CÔTES DES BLANCS
CHAMPAGNE SUENEN

Semi-pro basketball player Aurélien Suenen made an about-face in 2008, leaving basketball and returning to the family estate to help his ailing father Daniel. A year later, upon the passing of his father, Aurélien assumed management of the domaine at the tender age of 23 and hasn’t looked back since.  He farms five hectares of Chardonnay vines in the Côtes des Blanc (Cramant, Chouilly and Oiry-- all Grand Crus), and Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay in the St. Thierry hills, due northwest of Reims. Approaching sustainable viticulture with the same zeal as his athletic training, he has been steadily revitalizing his soils—implementing mostly organic practices—and seeks longer hang-time for the grapes than his neighbors. Heavily influenced by Burgundian winemaking and his mentors Anselme Selosse and Pascal Agrapart, he seeks slow, gentle, temperature-controlled vinifications and a separation of cuvées by individual parcel to achieve rich, ripe and mineral-driven Champagnes.

 

SUENEN BRUT RESERVE

This Brut “Reserve” is a blend of 45% Pinot Noir, 45% Pinot Meunier and 10% Chardonnay, all from the 2010 harvest and finished off with moderate dosage of 7 grams/liter. The result is a deftly crafted Brut that showcases exceedingly fresh aromas of red apples, kiwis and orchard fruits. The palate is mouthfilling and expansive with plenty of lively bubbles that support peach, apple and honey flavors that are accented by pleasing acidity and a touch of chalk. A real standout for it freshness and vividly rendered fruit.

$47.98 750ml [377847] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

 

SUENEN EXTRA BRUT BLANC DE BLANCS

This Chardonnay Champagne is sourced exclusively from Aurélien’s Grand Cru parcels in Cramant, Chouilly and Oiry, and as one would expect it is more linear, tense and focused than the Brut Reserve. John Gillman (Notes from the Cellar) writes: “...The wine is a blend of the base years of 2008 and 2009, did not undergo malo and its dosage is four grams per liter. This is truly a stunning debut wine, soaring from the glass in a complex and very refined aromatic blaze of pear, fresh apricot, crème patissière, complex, limestone minerality and white flowers. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, crisp and absolutely rock solid at the core, with very elegant mousse, great focus and grip, zesty acids and superb length and grip on the very poised finish. Stellar juice! 93 Points.”

$52.98 750ml [377318] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

 

SUENEN 2007 EXTRA BRUT MILLESIME GRAND CRU
BLANC DE BLANCS

This 2007 is drawn from Aurélien’s best two parcels of Chardonnay, one in Chouilly and one in Oiry. This beauty combines and expands upon the best attributes of the above wines. It has the ample texture of the Brut Reserve even at its very low 3 g/l. dosage, yet displays more length, flavor facets and minerality than the non-vintage Blanc de Blancs. While already a showstopper, this 2007 will surely develop event more flavor intrigue over the next five years or so.

$67.98 750ml [377055] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


DOYARD MAHE

Philippe Doyard is understandably proud of his grandfather Maurice Doyard who founded in 1941 the CIVC (Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne). Today Doyard farms 15 acres of vineyards (90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir) in the southern Côte des Blancs village of Vertus. The soil and climate of Vertus produces fruitier Champagnes than those of its northern neighbors a factor that dovetails with the Doyard Mahe house style. For twenty years the family’s has been guided by a keen respect for the environment--i.e. viticulture raisonnée. Philippe strives to make accessible, fruit-forward Champagnes that reflect all his hard work in the field. To this end he employs stainless fermenting vats with temperature control, malolactic fermentation and extended aging on the yeast.

 

DOYARD MAHE 2008 EXTRA BRUT “E.B.” BLANC DE BLANCS

From the outstanding 2008 Champagne harvest, this E.B. was and was aged sur latte for four years in the cellars prior to a manual riddling just prior to disgorgement. Dosage is a minimal 4 g/l which works well to rein in this Champagne’s copious Chardonnay fruit. It sports a burnished straw hue that serves as a brilliant backdrop for its numerous strands of bubbles which releases delicate aromas of lemon blossoms, pears and dried apricots. The kinetic palate tingles with stone and citrus fruit flavors that are surprisingly generous for such a low dosage bottling. The memorable finish reverberates long and pleasingly with notions of limes, lemon drops and wet chalk. Here then, is a lively, but balanced Champagne that showcases the brilliance of the 2008 vintage at a very affordable tariff.

$44.98 750ml [378662] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


MONTAGNE DE REIMS
MAURICE VESSELLE

Fifth-generation vignerons Didier and Thierry Vesselle proudly follow the footsteps of their father, Maurice Vesselle, and the classic, grower-Champagne house-style he started in 1955. These talented but humble récoltants-manipulants might go unnoticed if it weren’t for their fabulous vineyards from the Montagne de Reims appellations of Bouzy and Tours-sur-Marne—known for producing some of Champagne’s finest Pinot Noir. The duo is part of the avant-garde of Champagne’s sustainable viticulture movement, and they have earned the rigorous HVE III Certification (High Environmental Value) by the European Union for their high standards in sustainable farming. In the cellars, the brothers prefer quick fermentations without malo but employ long, costly élevages for up to five years in order to attain the texture and complexities that can only come from such aging. As Didier Vesselle says, “...the mark of a great wine is when you can finish it without even realizing it. It should be easy to drink.”

 

MAURICE VESSELLE BRUT RESERVE GRAND CRU

Displaying fine bubbles and a deep straw color, this Brut is a blend of 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay. It beckons the taster with effusive aromas of wild strawberries, red currants, and mandarin oranges. Ample and extroverted on the palate with Queen Anne cherry, apricot, and citrus sensations that gather pleasing inflections of chalk and stones in the long-play finish. Rich and harmonious, this easy drinking Champagne performs the deft trick of being sleek and well-toned at the same time. Wonderful all on its own but possessing the gravitas and red berry flavor profile that is tailor-made to work wondersl with rich Holiday fare.

$47.98 750ml [377638] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


SPARKLER OF THE MONTH

GRAHAM BECK 2005 BRUT ZERO

Graham Beck is no stranger to quality, especially when it comes to sparkling wine. Award winning Cellarmaster, Peter Ferreira, gained valuable work experience in Champagne before returning to his South Africian homeland to take on his duties at Graham Beck. Brut Zero is a blend of 87% Chardonnay and 13% Pinot Noir that is aged no less than 6 years on the yeast, a costly practice which imparts a satisfying richness to this bubbly’s flavors despite its having had no sugar added in the dosage. This is truly a study in mouth-filling minerality that features impressions of fresh green apples and citrus with hints of brioche. This may not be Champagne, but we dare you to deny its similarities. Or course when it comes to bang for the buck, this limited bottling is really in a league of its own.

$15.58 750ml [376143] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


Bordeaux DIY

As much as we may joke that our French wine buyer, Josh Hoover, secretly vacates to the Côte d'Azur every year to hang out with George Clooney and the like (we're looking at you, Joe!), we know that he actually takes quite seriously the role of "doing it yourself' regarding the store importing our own hand-picked selections from Bordeaux (in partnership with another Southern California wine shop). The vast majority of our wines comes through an importer or distributor-- this has to do with legalities (alcohol, as you may imagine, is pretty heavily regulated) and practicality. While we would love to visit each and every winery (or brewery, distillery, etc.) to try the various bottlings at the river's mouth, as it were, while talking tête-à-tête with the winemaker gleaming their insights, there are just too many places and too little time to really do it justice.

That said, our wine buyers and wine staff relish their chances to get into the field, eye some vines, touch some dirt, taste firsthand some wines, chat with the good folks making the juice we all love so much. And, while he was suspiciously tan coming back from his last visit to France, Josh also came back with a list of what turned out to be quite a fantastic haul of red wines from Bordeaux that he picked for our store and for our friends and customers-- you! Even the California wine guys were impressed!

Seriously, however, these are some top-notch examples of red Bordeaux (blends of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet France with Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carménère occasionally used in the mix) and shows why we send our people out into the world every year-- they come back with wines like these! Come taste them this month:

 

CHANTEGRIVE 2009 GRAVES

ROBERT PARKER 90 POINTS - “A major sleeper of the vintage, this blend of equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is another “best ever” performance. Notes of tobacco leaf, hot rocks, sweet kirsch and black currants are impressively displayed in this medium to full-bodied, velvety textured, very seductive style of wine. Drink it over the next decade.”

WINE SPECTATOR 90 POINTS - “Dark and winey, with lots of steeped currant and crushed blackberry fruit wrapped with tarry grip. A licorice root edge frames the finish, which stays fleshy and muscular. Very solid. Best from 2014 through 2022. 16,666 cases made.” –JM

$25.99 750ml [333818] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

 

CHANTELYS 2010 PESSAC-LEOGNAN

WINE SPECTATOR 90 POINTS - “Displays a dark profile, offering smoldering tobacco and charcoal notes wrapped around steeped plum and black currant fruit. Polished in feel, with an engaging finish. Drink now through 2022.” –JM

$19.95 750ml [333822] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

 

CROIX BOYD CANTENAC 2010 MARGAUX

Amongst the vines of Château Boyd-Cantenac in the noble Margaux terroir, a stone cross stands proudly, an emblem of the estate and keeper of the ancestral memory of this vineyard, which has always produced fabulous wines year in, year out. The cross bears the magnificent engraving “Heureux celui qui croit” (He who believes shall be happy), as if to encourage the land to produce an even better wine each year, and to implore the heavens to show generosity to the vines.

If Château Boyd-Cantenac, 1855 Grand Cru Classé, charms by its subtlety, elegance and suppleness, the estate’s selection, La Croix de Boyd-Cantenac, boasts similar qualities. Lighter and fruitier, La Croix de Boyd-Cantenac is made with grapes from vine plots that are younger yet just as rich and promising as their elders. Deep red in color, this feminine wine has a generous bouquet dominated by lightly smoky vanilla notes and forest fruits: cherry and blueberry.The tannins are supple and very silky, giving a structured, balanced 2010 vintage.

$58.99 750ml [333816] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button $51.99 per bottle if you purchase 4 or more

 

HAUT BARADIEU 2010 ST.-ESTEPHE

Over several generations the Anney family brought this vineyard to the forefront of the wine scene. With the same passion and energy as his forefathers, Christophe Anney is now at the helm of this priceless terroir he has inherited. The utmost care and attention, the strictest requirements, next-generation equipment… No stone has been left unturned to produce a rare, smooth, charming wine with elegant yet powerful tannins. Château Haut Baradieu is produced with great care and shows itself to be a dense, flavorsome wine. Perfectly embodying the Saint-Estèphe character, a strong wine with powerful, velvety tannins, it demonstrates all the richness of its terroir.

$39.99 750ml [333817] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button $34.99 per bottle if you purchase 4 or more

 

CHÂTEAU MAUCAILLOU 2011 MOULIS

This is one serious bargain-- the juice is excellent and the price is, too! On the nose, mixed red fruits blend seamlessly with light spice, sandalwood, red plum reduction and fruit leather. The palate keeps the red fruit theme with raspberry and cherry cola in the foreground. This is forward and easy-drinking, light in acidity with gentle tannins. The dominant sweet fruits mesh with warm flavors of carob and light earthiness; the finish is relaxed with a focus on, again, sweet fruit. This is very tasty wine and a great way to introduce your friends to Bordeaux at a quite reasonable price (i.e. great for holiday gatherings, celebrations, etc.).

$13.95 750ml [333826] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

 

LATOUR MARTILLAC 2010 PESSAC-LEOGNAN

ROBERT PARKER 90+ POINTS - “Abundant notes of spicy oak, elegant black currants and rich fruitiness along with hints of forest floor and damp earth are followed by a medium to full-bodied wine with sweet tannin and the classic Pessac-Leognan/Graves characteristics of tobacco leaf and smoke. Deep fruit, moderate tannin and a long finish give this wine enough potential to last for up to two decades or more.”

WINE SPECTATOR 92 POINTS - “Dense, but supple along the edges, offering a packed core of cassis, blackberry and black cherry fruit. The lovely licorice, dark tobacco and violet notes glide to the finish, which shows solid, latent grip. Best from 2015 through 2025.” –JM

$49.95 750ml [333119] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

 

BRIO DE CANTENAC BROWN 2009 MARGAUX
2ND LABEL OF CANTENAC BROWN

JAMES SUCKLING 91 POINTS - “Wonderful perfumes of flowers and ripe strawberries, follow through to a full body, with silky tannins and a delicious succulent finish. Bright acidity too. Second wine of Cantenac-Brown.”

$37.99 750ml [333815] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

 

CROX DE BEAUSEJOUR 2010 ST. EMILION
2ND LABEL OF BEAUSEJOUR DUFFEAU

WINE SPECTATOR 90 POINTS - “Delicious blueberry, plum and boysenberry notes cascade over one another, allied to modest but polished structure, with lingering violet and anise on the finish. Very accessible now, but the fruit is really gorgeous. Drink now through 2020.” –JM

$51.95 750ml [333825] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

 

ESPRIT DE PAVIE 2009 BORDEAUX

Already the owner of the renowned Pavie, Pavie-Decesse, Monbousquet and Bellevue-Mondotte estates, Gérard Perse has now created "Esprit de Pavie", bearing the Bordeaux appellation. Esprit de Pavie comes from a great diversity of terroirs situated on the south-facing slopes of the Dordogne valley and enjoys the same care and attention in winemaking as its illustrious siblings to ensure each bottle's high level quality.

The heady, perfumed nose seamlessly blends violets and night florals with assorted blue and purple fruits and cocoa. Primarily Merlot (65%, with 20% Cab Franc, 15% Cab Sauv), this wine definitely bats fourth in the lineup: it's a powerhouse! Lush in the mouth, with notes of cherry kirsch, toasted earth, red licorice, a touch of dark savory spice and dried meat, both the acidity and tannins are king-sized. Red meats, aged cheeses will beg for this one. Big, brash, bold, beautiful wine.

$23.99 750ml [333819] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

 

BELLE COLINE 2011 BLAYE

Born out of a strong attachment to the appellation of which this is most representative and most distinctive, Château Belle Coline comes from a 12-hectare domain recently acquired by Christophe Reboul Salze, a merchant of Bordeaux wines for more than thirty years and owner of Château Les Grands Merechaux and of Château Gigault. Scents of spicy cherry, persimmon, raspberry tea and light florals lead to a palate filled with high-toned fruit, red plums, cherry heering, light sweet brown spices and mixed red berries. Excellent acidity and biggish tannins shore up the fruit flavors, ready for some red meats, game or similar rich fare.

$22.95 750ml [333824] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

 

BARON MALLERET 2010 HAUT MEDOC

In this second wine of Château de Malleret, fruits comes to the fore without being overbearing. Its aromas are graceful on both nose and palate, and the finish is superb. Its tannic, rounded structure reflects on the nobility of its origins. In the nose we find a nice complexity, merging dark red fruits, charred earth, campfire, autumn spice, forest mushrooms and night florals. The palate showcases forward fruits, cherry and loganberry, with strong, balanced tannins and acidity leading to a finish of fruit leather and subtle earth. Rack of lamb? Yes, please!

$18.95 750ml [333823] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

 

LA MARTINETTE 2010 BORDEAUX

Situated on the left bank of the river Dordogne in the Bordeaux appellation, this domaine is planted only with Merlot vines. Jacques Lurton is bringing a long family tradition and personal skills gained from all over the world to this grape variety offering a refreshing, modern red style, very supple and easy drinking. This Merlot-based wine is medium ruby in color. On the nose, red fruit is augmented by violets, herbs and fresh-tilled earth. On the palate, fresh bing cherries predominate with enough acidity to provide lift. The smooth, supple tannins make this an easy drinking wine to be enjoyed now.

$12.95 750ml [333827] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

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