Tag Archives: champagne

Champagne: Not Just for Celebrations

One of the immense pleasures I get from working at B-21 is that I’m surrounded by world class Champagne and sparkling wines. Our selection is the best in Florida and is as good as you will find anywhere in the U.S. I drink it every chance I get, and find that it is one of the most food-friendly of all wines. So, why do so many just buy it for special occasions, or to use as a gift? Here are three reasons to drink more Champagne and sparkling wines:

Champagne Glass

  1. It’s not as expensive as many other “everyday” wines. We have outstanding sparkling wines from California, Italy, Spain and France that are less – much less – than $20 per bottle. And, they are not sweet or dilute like so many commercial wines. Check out our California sparklers, Cava from Spain and the Italian Prosecco shelves. You’ll be very glad you did.
  2. It’s very food friendly. I can’t think of anything better with Asian food, batter-fried fish, calamari, salty foods, spicy dishes or sushi than a dry sparkling wine. For you pizza hounds, give the Lambrusco a try – it’s a better match than you think!
  3. It’s refreshing – especially in the dog days of summer. Most sparkling wines are also a bit lower in alcohol than many table wines, making them easier to drink, and less heavy on the palate. They make near perfect aperitifs because they stimulate the taste buds and appetite.

Now, click on over to B-21 and start shopping. You’re in for a special surprise.

Almost Salon And No Waiting: Guy Charlemagne’s Luscious ’04, 94RAS

Buy 2004 Guy Charlemagne Mesnillesime Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru, Mesnil-Sur-OgerGuy Charlemagne is one of my most delicious discoveries, great grower Champagne in the grand cru village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger (yes, that Mesnil!) and this is his beautiful “Mesnillesime” cuvee from the best vintage since 1998. Easy to find since Charlemagne is right across the street from the great house of Salon which may be why so many people overlook it. Not me. Charlemagne’s ’04 is a gorgeous wine, their very best. All the elegance and unctuous palate, 100% chardonnay and low dosage. When I was visiting Salon last week, the ’02, ’04, ’06 and ’08 bottles were stack high in the cellar but you won’t taste the ’04 Salon for another 4 or 5 years. Yet the ’04 Guy Charlemagne is yours now. Why wait? This is an exceptional Champagne you should pop now!

2004 Guy Charlemagne Mesnillesime Grand Cru
…one of my most delicious discoveries… a gorgeous wine… All the elegance and unctuous palate, 100% chardonnay and low dosage…. an exceptional Champagne you should pop now!

94 points, Bob Sprentall, B-21 Proprietor

Stars Of The Brasserie: Billecart-Salmon Beauties, 91-95 Points

A spectrum of elegant Billecart fits perfectly with the fin-de-siecle magnificence of La Cigale in Nantes.

A spectrum of elegant Billecart fits perfectly with the fin-de-siecle magnificence of La Cigale in Nantes.

I’m bowled over by a place like La Cigale, the gilded 1900 brasserie on Place Graslin the heart of Nantes. Outside the guy on the street is shucking shiny Gillardeau No. 4 oysters; inside is a Sistine Chapel for gourmets where every ceiling and wall is ornately painted and tiled. And in pride of place, a full line-up of Billecart-Salmon. But, of course. For me, Billecart-Salmon, from NV to vintage rose, may be the best food wine in Champagne: blanc de blancs with shellfish or sushi and tete de cuvee with a French steak. Critics love it as much as diners. Parker, Tanzer et al. rave on structure, the big pinot flavor, and finesse. So do I. Which explains why B-21 may have more cuvees than La Cigale’s winelist. The 1999 and 2000 you have to have. Now’s the time to learn Champagne’s perfect for summer; this is more than a once-a-year pleasure.

Buy Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose, Mareuil Sur Ay

Buy Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve, Mareuil Sur Ay


Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose
…offers appealing flavors of ripe black cherry, raspberry and orange peel that show hints of toasted raisin bread, anise and sweet smoke. Offers a beautiful texture, with a long, mouthwatering finish….
92 points, Wine Spectator

Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve
Made with a high proportion of Pinot Meunier, this is elegant, fruity, with plenty of good acidity and a wonderful floral character. It is so fruity, fresh, a wine for real enjoyment.
91 points, Wine Enthusiast

Other Champagnes by Billecart-Salmon:

  • Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut …complex bouquet displays scents of green apple, pear, lemon zest, toasty lees and honeysuckle. Packs a solid punch but conveys a weightless quality, offering sappy orchard fruit and citrus flavors…
    93 points, S. Tanzer’s Int’l Wine Cellar
  • Billecart-Salmon Extra Brut Just returning from Champagne where I tasted the Extra Brut among other sparklers. This was impressive, yet not for everyone. Lots of nerve and without standard dosage shows off the underlying material…
    94 points, Bob Sprentall, B-21 Proprietor
  • 2000 Billecart-Salmon Cuvee Nicolas Francois Brut A wine that strikes a great balance between its intense fruitiness and a pure steely character. It makes it a dry Champagne, with the richness of a great wine. It has weight, intensity and several years more aging.
    95 points, Wine Enthusiast
  • 1999 Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs Brut A beautifully crisp wine, very mineral, with its citrus and green apple flavors given a fine texture of bright acidity. It is still so young, with just a hint of toast to show some maturity. The finish is shockingly fresh.
    94 points, Wine Enthusiast
  • 2002 Billecart-Salmon Cuvee Elisabeth Salmon Brut Rose This is a beautifully balanced, elegant and mature sparkler. There is fruit—ripe strawberry—but the main character is its fine balance and richness. It can age, though it is at its best now.
    94 points, Wine Enthusiast

More Agrapart Has Arrived!

You know I love grower Champagne and place great store in terroir and the ground beneath it. I’m thrilled when they come together with an artisan like Pascal Agrapart and his expressive wines. So much so that it is my house Champagne and maybe yours, too. Pascal works naturally by hand and plough horse (and Mini Cooper!) in little Avize and other cru villages in the chalky Cote des Blancs. Prize territory for chardonnay and Agrapart puts together distinctive cuvees of grand and premier crus, from the lean and crisp 7 Crus to the majestic old-vine 1998. The barrel-fermented Terroirs, coming entirely from grand cru sites, is a rich and complex wine equaling the big guy’s tete de cuvee at three times the price. Amazing that one grower, so small and meticulous, can make such a beautiful range. Each wine is honest and pure, earthy and sophisticated, and a rare taste of handcrafted Champagne. Agrapart is a producer of remarkable value. Every shipment sells out quickly!

 

Agrapart Blanc de Blancs Les 7 Crus

…I think it’s the best value in Champagne, carefully crafted from seven top vineyards to make a beautifully lean and lively wine… distinct elegant taste of peaches and almonds and an escape from the ordinary….

 
Agrapart Brut Rose

…a secret and is sold only to those of us who work with all of the wines of Agrapart as production is very limited. As with all wines of Agrapart, this is dry and sophisticated.

 

 
Agrapart Terroirs Blanc de Blancs

…exceptional Champagne. …heavier and richer yet very clean and bright with the complexity rarely found at this price. Artisanal, honest and pure…

 

 
2006 Agrapart Mineral Grand Cru
Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut

…purity of fruit backed up with intense layers of buffering acidity and minerality. Hazelnuts, dried pears, smoke and crushed rocks are some of the nuances that linger on the muscular, resonant finish….

 

 
2006 Agrapart Venus Grand Cru
Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature

…Rich yet weightless, the Venus impresses… Sweet floral notes, Chamomile, spices and citrus resonate with tons of class and sheer personality. This is yet another great showing from Agrapart….

 

Meet Pascal Agrapart

You all know how much I love Agrapart’s wines. Heck, I love Pascal Agrapart too, the fourth generation Cote des Blancs Champagne grower who tends his vineyards by horse. Pascal is a true agrarian who loves his old vineyards, some nearing 60 years of age, and the stunningly crystalline translations we sip from them.

…And guess what?

Pascal is coming to B-21 March 2nd to taste and share with us the passion of his life’s pursuit. Would you like Pascal to sign bottles for you? Who wouldn’t love to receive a gift bottle of Agrapart personalized by Pascal? Place your orders now with the instruction to have the bottles signed and we will take care of the rest. Come meet Pascal if you can.

 

Agrapart Blanc de Blancs Les 7 Crus

…I think it’s the best value in Champagne, carefully crafted from seven top vineyards to make a beautifully lean and lively wine… distinct elegant taste of peaches and almonds and an escape from the ordinary….

Agrapart Brut Rose

…a secret and is sold only to those of us who work with all of the wines of Agrapart as production is very limited. As with all wines of Agrapart, this is dry and sophisticated.

 

Agrapart Terroirs Blanc de Blancs

…exceptional Champagne. …heavier and richer yet very clean and bright with the complexity rarely found at this price. Artisanal, honest and pure…

 

2006 Agrapart Mineral Grand Cru
Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut

…purity of fruit backed up with intense layers of buffering acidity and minerality. Hazelnuts, dried pears, smoke and crushed rocks are some of the nuances that linger on the muscular, resonant finish….

 

2006 Agrapart Venus Grand Cru
Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature

…Rich yet weightless, the Venus impresses… Sweet floral notes, Chamomile, spices and citrus resonate with tons of class and sheer personality. This is yet another great showing from Agrapart….

 

Million-Dollar Prosecco

My Biggest Score In VinItaly: Bisol Cartizze (94RAS)

VinItaly 2012 feels like it was just yesterday. The most exciting trophy I brought home is… a Prosecco! And not the ordinary Prosecco (with more bubbles for fewer bucks). This is Bisol… the original. Prosecco we never see, one that matches the grand marques of Champagne and unlike any you have tasted. In fact, Bisol made the rep of Valdobbiadene, now key to the DOCG of Prosecco. The vineyards on the hill of Cartizze, where Bisol makes its top cru, now sell for $1 million an acre. No wonder this goes so well with caviar! This is the Le Mesnil of Prosecco, the most famous in the region. Remarkably round and toasty, creamy and long. In France, this tête de cuvée would carry an extravagant price, but from Italy, royalty costs much less. I also have Bisol’s Crede, with the same great texture and a fruitier drive at an even easier price. Per favore, enjoy!

 

2010 Bisol Crede

The soils here has a good amount of clay, so more fullness on the nose. A generous attack that is very rich on the palate….

2009 Bisol Superiore Cartizze Dry

Such refinement, grace. It is complete. Bubbles are fine. It’s hard to find a champagne that can match the delicacy here. Brilliant.

My Greatest New Champagne

’06 Grand Cru Mesnil At Non-Vintage Prices

While at Salon last October, the declared vintages on aging cellar stocks I saw were 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008. However, across the street at Guy Charlemagne, they were just releasing the excellent 2004 and 2006. (Salon is now on ’99). Excellent chardonnay vintages, and here that’s all there is. We were at the very top of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, the most famous little village in the grand cru vineyards of the Cotes de Blancs south of Reims, where we come to find authentic grower Champagne. On one side is the renowned house of Salon and Delamotte that everyone knows, on the other is my best discovery in Champagne: Guy Charlemagne.

This house may not go back to the emperor, but it is 120 years old and the wines are regal. It is proud and practical, and not fussy. Every wine I’ve tasted, from rose to a string of grand crus and vintages 2004 and 2006, is luscious, toasty stuff, especially the 2006 blanc de blancs. This is the pure grower Champagne I want, the authenticity I love. Charlemagne sticks to limestone vineyards, most of them in Le Mesnil and Oger next door, and raises the wines very organically. Handling in the cellar is minimal and the dosage low. Hard to get in the U.S. but it’s at Tour d’Argent in Paris and on top lists in Tokyo too. This is the best Champagne you’re not drinking.

 

2006 Guy Charlemagne
Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs
Dry and lightly chalky, with hints of bread dough and nut accenting quince, white peach, smoky mineral and lemon curd. Open-knit and focused, with a fresh finish.

91 points, Wine Spectator

Guy Charlemagne Sampler:
High Five Starter Kit
Contains one of each of the following:

Extra Brut91WS

Brut Rose92WS

Reserve Blanc de Blancs92WS

2006 Blanc de Blancs93RAS, 91WS

2004 Mesnillesime - 94RAS

 

There’s More! Gorgeous 2005 Agrapart Mineral (94WA) Presale.

Pascal Agrapart in his Avize vineyard

2005 Agrapart Mineral Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Grand Cru

Exhilarating wine for anyone who loves grower Champagne or grand cru blanc de blancs. You’re going to have to get this! I love the whole line from Pascal Agrapart; he gets so many terroir-driven flavors from one tiny artisanal operation. Practically the house label around here and the best demonstration why we’re nuts for small grower Champagne. So I got wildly excited when he decided to release a vintage blanc de blancs, an extra brut at that. To taste time and place captured together, the rich and ripe 2005 and the chalky soils of grand cru vineyards in Avize and Cramant, is one of the rare treats in Champagne. All that big sunny chardonnay set off by racy minerality offers a stunning breathtaking balance. Been a fan for years and this 2005 is his best; Parker thinks so, too. I tasted last year with Pascal Agrapart and prowled his rows in Avize not far behind his home (sadly, I didn’t meet his trusty plow horse). One of the most focused growers I’ve met. No wonder his wine has such drive. If you’re an Agrapart fan, you’re gonna love this bottle. Not just-for-fun bubbly, this is Champagne as serious wine, seriously racy. Which is plenty of fun for me. It’s a blast for everyone. Reserve yours now!

95 Point Cava? Indeed. Sparkling, Spanish and Proud.

Not only a major score but aged vintage cava? Cava so rich it needs an hour or two breathing time? From one of the oldest cava families in Spain, Gramona will surprise you (as much as the first vintage I had did, back in 2000). Anyone with my Champagne loyalties will be thrilled when discovering Spain’s first class cavas. Forget cheap surrogates for French bulk producers, this is cava that rivals the artisan growers as well as the grand marques. Great cava like Gramona is nothing new, the winery goes back 130 years and made its first cava in 1921. Today they make almost a dozen cuvees (and as many still wines plus marcs). Age and experience is the Gramona hallmark. All their cuvees have big proportions of Xarelo, the most ageworthy of Cava grapes, and are aged in the cellars longer than at any other house. The “liqueur” they use for dosage comes from a solera in old sherry and rum barrels that has been going for a century. I have acquired three Gramona wines you must try: the brilliant and elegant 2008 Gran Cuvee, the creamy, complex Imperial Gran Reserva from 2006, and the prized Ill Lustros 2005 shining with minerality, smoked nuts and electric fruit. I’ve priced these at great savings to make sure you start an exciting cava adventure.

2008 Gramona Cava Gran Cuvee

2008 Gramona Cava Gran Cuvee

2006 Gramona Cava Imperial Gran Reserva

2006 Gramona Cava Imperial Gran Reserva

2005 Gramona Gran Reserva Brut Nature Ill Lustros

2005 Gramona Gran Reserva Brut Nature Ill Lustros

Serious Cava: Agusti Torello Mata, Spain’s Answer To Champagne (93RB)

2009 ATM Kripta

2009 ATM Kripta

Very serious and like no Spanish bubbly you’ve tasted before. You could call these “grower” Cavas, or a Spanish grand marque, Agusti Torello Mata is one of the greats of the D.O. These are not Champagne wannabes but Cava that is its peer. Yeasty, long on yellow fruits, rich with vanilla, toasty smoke and fine bubbles. Also rich in price, and rightly so. Mata, or ATM as we’ve come to call him, pioneered quality Cava 50 years ago. He pushes organic farming and insists on long aging. Vineyard sites are in all three zones of Penedes where he grows local grapes, elegant Macabeo, robust Xarel-lo and aromatic Parellada for all except the rose made from the indigenous trepat, a red grape. The primero, Kripta, is made from 60-year-old vines and ages 4 years in bottle before release — world class wine ready to enjoy. The creamy texture and endless finish matches caviar, foie gras and smoked fish like the finest Champagne. If you admire the great advance in modern Spanish wine, you have to toast the success with a bottle of ATM.

2008 ATM Brut Reserva

2008 ATM Brut Reserva

2009 ATM Rosat Trepat

2009 ATM Rosat Trepat

A Cognac Dream For Two: Grand Marnier Cent Cinquantenaire and Riedel

Grand Marnier Cinquantenaire 150 Year Anniversary

Grand Marnier Cinquantenaire 150 Year Anniversary

This is the ultimate luxury for Cognac lovers, a rarity you won’t see anywhere else: a handsome special-edition trunk showcasing a beautiful commemorative bottle of Cent Cinquantenaire, the ultimate in Grand Marnier’s Cognac pleasures, with two balloon snifters designed by Riedel especially for savoring this rare drink. The gorgeous centennial version doesn’t prepare you for what we call the Great Gran Mere of Marnier. This 150th anniversary bottling is exquisite, a dream cuvee. The Marnier Lapostolle family selected rare aged Cognacs largely from Grand Champagne vineyards. Then the alchemists blended a rich liqueur based on sun-dried bigaradia oranges from the Caribbean. Remarkable aromas of cinnamon and bitter orange, edged with cocoa, and an endless and satiny smooth finish. Drinking it would be luxury enough, but the hand-finished Art Nouveau bottle packaged with the custom Riedel snifters is over the top. Together they will provide rich drinking for many nights.

1,000 wines came to the fair. What wines go with fried bubble gum?

Actually, 1,067 entries showed up for the annual wine judging at the Florida State Fair this year and 62 took home double golds. As usual, the Florida contest draws in a wide net from Minnesota to Florida as well as the major wine regions of the West Coast and abroad, unoaked chardonnay to chambourcin.
So the best of show awards were spread out: Top white was an Edelweiss from Miletta Vista in Nebraska; best red a syrah from Klinker Brick in Lodi; best bubbles went to a brut fron Laetitia in San Luis Obispo.

In Florida wines, the central part of the state did well, Lakeridge Winery in Clermont got a double gold for the 2010 Blanc du Bois. Its sister winery, San Sebastian, got single golds for a Blanc du Bois, a Stover and a port. And Florida Orange Groves in St. Pete, the perennial champ of fruit wines, claimed best of show in fruit for its Mango Mama.

For me, my best of the fair was outside the wine judging. Pork chop on a stick, fried mashed potatoes and the burgers of your dreams/nightmares: peanut butter and bacon burgers, doughnut burgers on a split Krispy Kreme, and the Wild Hog, a bacon cheese burger topped with pork barbecue, fries and slaw. All at one stand. I could have stayed all day.

My Cristal: Roederer’s Beautiful Brut Premier 92WA

Louis Roederer Champagne Brut Premier, ChampagneOne thing I like about Roederer is that it’s one Champagne house that delivers high quality at every level from the non-vintage brut to the tete de cuvée. That’s Cristal in their case and it sets a high standard for any wine with the Roederer name. Not every day, or even every New Year calls for Cristal, but whenever you open French Champagne it ought to be great wine, not just bubbles, and Roederer makes a dozen cuvees that do just that. Roederer’s most affordable Brut Premier example, drawn from the 2007 vintage and with the usual Roederer garnish of a strong hit of reserve wines as much as 10 years-old. This is a wonderful wine, made from all three Champagne grapes (mostly Pinot Noir and Chard). Very complex in the nose with pear and apples surrounded by smoke and spice. Brut Premier is more than Cristal’s kid brother; it’s a whole lot of fine Champagne for very little money. You’re gonna want that.

Louis Roederer Brut Premier

“A gorgeous wine that stands head and shoulders above the vast majority of wines in its price range. Apparently, it is quite possible to make great Champagne that doesn’t cost a small fortune. Ripe pears, smoke, spices, dried flowers and herbs are some of the many nuances that emerge from the glass…”  92 Points, Robert Parker’s WA

New York Times Best Champagne: Uncork Delamotte, Moncuit at B-21

NV Delamotte Blanc de Blancs, ChampagnePretty smart folks up in Manhattan at the Times. This Wednesday Eric Asimov announced the expert  panel had tasted 20 bottles of blanc de blancs blind. Their number one choice Delamotte and the best bubble for the money Pierre Moncuit, both three stars. Good call. Been favorites of ours for some time and my trip through grand cru village of Le Mesnil sur Oger, home to both Delamotte and Pierre Moncuit confirmed it.  The chalk and minerality of the Cote de Blancs is obvious on every hillside, just as it is in the wines.  Asimov praosed the Delamotte as elegant and fresh and Moncuit as precise and chalky.

His full notes read ”Delamotte, Blanc de Blancs Brut NV: Great combination of finesse and complexity, with brisk, fresh flavors of minerals, herbs and chalk.  Pierre Moncuit, Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut.  NV: Chalky and herbal with fine, clear, lingering citrus and fruit flavors.”  A toast all around!