This time of year, importers approach us with rare bottles of grower champagne, and we are all-too-eager to share them with you.
"A single glass of Champagne imparts a feeling of exhilaration. The nerves are braced; the imagination is stirred, the wits become more nimble."--Winston Churchill
Mr. Churchill was a notorious lover of great Champagne, so much in fact that one of the larger Champagne houses has a cuvee named after the famed politician. So I, for one, very much value his observations on just how truly special Champagne really is.
As we run full speed into the holiday season, the feeling of exhilaration and being nimble-witted is a gift we all deserve to have, right? Holiday parties, open houses, long days shopping for that perfect gift for your loved ones, neighbors, coworkers and such, I’m thinking a bottle of remarkably lovely Champagne might just be the thing we all need. One for them, one for you kind of deal, right?
We are tremendously lucky to receive rare, luscious, complex, tiny-production grower Champagnes all year long, but right around the holidays importers beg for a few rare gems or extra cases to sell to their loyal Champagne buyers, clever retailers do the same.
So, guess who did some begging and stocking up on?! You know it. We have some of the most feverish and loyal grower Champagne customers in California, and we know you not only love to treat yourself to stunningly structured and blazingly beautiful Champagnes, you love to share them, which makes you all wicked cool in my book. I’ve compiled a short list of super-rare grower Champagne gems; get them while you can as they are in super high demand. They are very, very limited in quantity.
2008 Marion-Bosser Champagne 1er Cru Brut, Hautvillers
A few of our lucky customers have had the very real pleasure of meeting Elodie Marion, the young, gorgeous and driven winemaker at her family estate, Marion-Bosser. Elodie has been here at The Wine Country a few times, hosting classes with me, sharing the story of her family winery but also has a beautiful rental facility at the domaine in Hautvillers, one of the most charming villages in all of Champagne, where I know a few of our customers have stayed. Marion-Bosser is a matriarchal estate, meaning the running of the winery, from field to bottle, has been mastered by the women in the family, “I would ask my mother about a problem I was having in the vineyards before anyone else” Elodie sweetly shared with me one afternoon in her salon. Gotta adore that right?
This super-rare vintage bottling from Marion-Bosser is made of equal parts Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and Elodie only makes this wine in vintages she thinks deserve to be showcased. The last vintage was 2006 and while I loved that wine, this 2008 is a heart stopper. Layered floral notes with roasted citrus blossom and just barely toasted brioche. Lacy, refined, bright and airy on the palate, not unlike the winemaker herself, sturdy and royal but feminine and charming. Tasted at the estate in April of this year and then again here at the shop in November and my notes are nearly identical, this is a perfectly made Champagne with a noble feel. Only 70 cases made
$84.99 per bottle
N.V. Roger Coulon Champagne Brut Cuvee Prestige "Heritage", Vrigny
Another tiny family run domaine that makes less than 8,000 cases total annual production, so you can guess that this Heritage is incredibly rare indeed. Domaine Roger Coulon is in its eighth generation of family owned and operated winery that specialize in Pinot Meunier based Champagnes with very low dosage. This Heritage however is made from 80% Chardonnay which is aged in barrel for a year, and 20 Pinot Noir aged in tank, the outcome is a wonderfully powerful and assertive Champagne that doesn’t glide or lilt upon the palate, it stomps and leaves a crave inducing stain. I was running through the lineup of Champagnes for an event recently, pop the corks, sniff, taste for correctness and move on but the Coulon Heritage grabbed me by the palate and defied me to just, “Move on” Saturated with aromatic white flower, gardenia, honeysuckle and jasmine along with some sexy green herbal notes, lemon curd and a hint of roasted clementine. Massive on the palate, dry but not too dry, compelling and truly haunting wine.
$89.99 per bottle
2007 Maurice Vesselle Les Hauts Chemins Champagne Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Noir, Bouzy
This is a truly rare treat to be sure. I fell in love with the wines from this Domaine when I tasted their wines at a trade event in Champagne. There was something so fleshy, powerful, concentrated and elegant about them that I sort of nudged an importer friend to consider them for import to California. Luckily for all of us she and I were on the same page and in late 2014 the wines of Maurice Vesselle made their debut not just in California but in the United States! We are not only very proud that we were involved, we fall deeper for these wines each time we taste them.
This 2007 was tasted on a more recent visit to the Vesselle Domaine and I was literally rendered speechless when I tasted it. I kept hovering my pen over my tasting notes but the wine, this wine, it was too incomparable for me to find the proper words in that moment. It was too perfect to try and break apart. I dropped my pen and asked that 3 cases be imported for us.
Made from 100% Grand Cru Pinot Noir this wine is the epitome of nobility for its texture and length. A lower dosage has you truly tasting the purity and exemplary quality of fruit that made this base wine. Simply put, one of the best wines I tasted in 2018. Only 150 cases produced.
$116.99 per bottle
N.V. H. Billiot Cuvee Laetitia Champagne Grand Cru Brut, Ambonnay
The wines from H. Billiot have been a staple here at The Wine Country for nearly a decade now. They always offer richness, Pinot Noir based wines that deliver twice what their price tags demand, (shhh we shan’t tell them so we can still afford to drink them regularly) and we have turned more people onto grower Champagnes with the wines from Billiot than almost any other estate we carry. Cuvee Laetitia is one of the crowning jewels in the estate’s lineup and unusual as it is made from mostly Chardonnay when the domaine is located in Ambonnay, a Grand Cru Pinot Noir village. Named for now winemaker Laetitia Billiot this is one of those wines that shows its pedigree upon first, chest filling, groan inducing sniff. A multi-vintage blend that has wines going back to 1983 the complexity here is undeniable. Layers of red fruit, peaches, spice, slow cooked pears and apples. Warm, curvy, sexy and powerful in the mouth with a length that is impossibly long. Randy recently took this Champagne to a very high end dinner party, one with some serious collectors, and this humble wine was one of the show stoppers. Not to be missed.
$94.99 per bottle