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Champagne and Sparkling Wines

Feb-Mar 2001

96 Gosset, Grande Rose Brut
Deep salmon pink color, minuscule bead, active effervescence. Cherry-blackberry aromas, just on the edge of off-dry, extremely creamy texture, full-bodied and fruity on the palate, with some leesy complexity in the finish. A big rose champagne that will please both connoisseur and neophyte.

95 Gosset, Grande Reserve Brut
I’m a Champagne enthusiast, but I’ve never had Gosset before, and this is a great treat. It’s a blend of three vintages, 54% Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and 46% Chardonnay, aged 5 years on the yeast. The bead is minuscule and active, eventually settling into a slow, steady stream. The nose is wonderfully aromatic of Hawthorn blossoms and roasted coffee, while on the palate it’s rich and creamy, with a tart citrus and muted cherry fruit, nuances of toasted almonds and a dosage on the high end of Brut. Quite a mouthful.

94 Taltarni, Brut Taché
The pink of poached salmon, lively effervescence, muted strawberry fruit on the dry palate, with tart acidity, complex yeast autolysis and great finesse. Somewhat creamy, beautifully balanced. Year after year one of the best rosés on the market, regardless of origin.

92 Acacia 1993, Carneros, Brut
An anomaly among California sparkling wines, Acacia’s ‘93 Brut was barrel fermented and barrel aged 6 months, and spent almost 6 years on the yeast. Bone dry, it’s full-bodied and toasty, with a creamy texture, a tiny bead and persistent effervescence. Under the toast you’ll find nuances of vanilla custard and hazelnuts. The long, complex finish shows some finesse. Designed to stand up to food, it would be a good match for grilled meats.

84 Ste. Chapelle, American, Sparkling Brut
This isn’t methode champenoise, but it is made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and it’s dry, creamy and tart. A good value at just

Jun-Jul 2000

92 Iron Horse 1996, Green Valley Sonoma County Wedding Cuvee, blanc de noir sparkling wine
Beautifully constructed, delicate and fresh with a tiny bead, Wedding Cuvee is on the drier side of Brut. It presents a delicate wisp of strawberry fruit throughout and some interesting yeast autolysis flavors lurking in the background. One of the classier renditions of the style. Perfect as an aperitif or with shellfish, it could also serve to accent veal or pasta primavera.

89 Korbel, California, Chardonnay Champagne
A blanc de blanc by any other name would smell as sweet"–but Chardonnay has more cachet. To my mind this blanc de blancs is Korbel’s very best, reminiscent of a cremant or "creaming" style of Champagne: very soft on the palate, with fuji apple overtones and just a touch of yeastyness to give it breadth. Barely off-dry, this is great sipping wine that you could also serve it with poultry, veal or pork chops.
Jun-Jul 2000

89 Chandon, Napa County, Reserve [sparkling wine]
Mandarin zest with subtle fresh walnut flavors, creamy texture, tart citrusy finish. Moderate dosage, fine balance. o

Dec-Jan 2001

98 Bollinger Champagne, Special Cuvée
Sublime – Bollinger’s Special Cuvée has the distinction of having the perfect balance between the "English style" and the "American style;" i.e. full, mature flavors (toast and poached pear), and lighter, fresher, more citrusy notes. The texture is creamy, and it displays a load of yeast autolysis character from the nose through the finish. At

96 Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut Champagne
Pale salmon colored with a tiny, active bead, LP’s Rosé is astonishingly good, delivering subtle strawberry fruit, a creamy texture, and leesy-minerally notes. Quite dry, this is a perfectly balanced wine with a complex finish that lingers for minutes.

94 Champagne Grand Siecle, La Cuvée par Laurent-Perrier
Consistently one of the finest tête de cuvées, the current release of LP Grand Siecle is a blend of the 1985, 1988 & 1990 vintages. It fills the room with fresh yeast bread aromas, apple and vanilla, and on the dry palate some citrus tones leading to a tart toast and vanilla finish. the bubbles are fine and active, the texture somewhat creamy. A great Champagne for the connoisseur. If I ever get rich, this will be my daily indulgence.

93 Laurent-Perrier 1993 Brut Champagne
A subtle 50/50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, on the dry side of brut, with lemony fruit, and complex yeast characters, toasted nut undertones, and great length.

92 Bollinger 1992, Champagne Grande Annee
Lemon meringue nose with some fresh bread yeastyness and complex toasty undercurrents; dry, light-bodied, austere, with a complex, yeast, mineral and toasted nut finish of extraordinary length. Very like the Special Cuvee, but a little fuller.

92 Chandon, Napa-Sonoma Counties, Etoile Rosé
To my mind, the Etoile Rose is far superior to its fraternal twin, Etoile. Creamy, but with a crisp acidity, the Etoile Rose possesses a complex, though subtle, earthiness that comes from Pinot Noir. At the same time it has light, muted strawberry fruit, and complex yeast autolysis character. Altogether, a very refined rose.

91 Clover Hill 1996, Tasmania
A méthode champenoise sparkler from traditional varieties, made by Taltarni Vineyards in Tasmania, Clover Hill is a medium-bodied, bracing brut with yeast and apple aromas, lots of lees autolysis complexity on the palate, backed by muted pear and apricot fruit, a creamy texture and excellent finish.
Dec-Jan 2001

90 Laurent-Perrier Brut LP Champagne
Tart, dry, lean and minerally with citrusy fruit, great yeast autolysis and a lean, leesy finish.

90 Gloria Ferrer Brut
The advantage of a non-vintage sparkler is that older vintages can be added to the blend to give more dimension, and that’s the case here. The nose is round and subtle, with nuances of apricot, vanilla and toasted nuts. Dry and medium-full bodied, with creamy texture, and a complex lees, citrus and nuts finish, Gloria Ferrer’s flagship wine is the most complex of its current releases.

89 Chandon, Napa-Sonoma Counties, Etoile
Etoile is a dry, full-bodied, creamy sparkler with ripe apple and tart citrus fruit character, moderate yeastyness, and a citrusy finish.

89 Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut Champagne
Without any dosage (added sugar after disgorging), this is a bone dry Champagne. It has a fresh nose of apple, yeast and toast, followed by citrusy flavors, lively effervescence, crisp acidity and a tart lemon/lees finish.

88 Gloria Ferrer 1991 Carneros Cuvee, Late Disgorged Brut
This wine was aged "en tirage" for almost 8 years before "degorgement," yet it’s quite fresh and citrusy. On the dry end for Brut, it has some round bread and butter aromas, creamy texture and lemony fruit with mineral overtones on the palate.

88 Gloria Ferrer 1992 Royal Cuvee, Vintage Reserve Brut
Fresh yeast bread nose, tiny bead, creamy texture, delicate fruit and yeast on the mid-palate, quite dry and refined, with tart, citrusy fruit on the finish.

87 Piper Sonoma, Methode Champenoise Blanc de Noir
A true BLANC de Noir, having no color, and a nose of strawberry and raspberry. On the palate it’s lively and fresh, and has a creamy texture.

86 Piper Sonoma, Methode Champenoise Brut
Tight and balanced, lemon and apple aromas, with a little toast and vanilla on the palate.

84 Gloria Ferrer, Blanc de Noirs
Pale copper, light, tart and leesy, with tiny persistent bubbles. Somewhat creamy on the palate, dry, with muted strawberry fruit and an ephemeral finish.
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