Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thirsty For More

You know, there are a couple departments at The Wine Country that I can stand in, looking over the selection and actually beam with pride knowing that we have one of, if not the, best and most thrilling selections in town. Some of those come with the added chest puffering and self-congratulatory, “I built this” as they are departments that I am in charge of, that I buy for and I have to say one of the most personally rewarding departments for me is our Champagne department. We have been champions of small grower Champagne houses way before it was kind of hip to do so, back when people were still gobbling up Moet White Star and Veuve Clicquot assuming they were drinking something special and long before hipster sommeliers began putting things like Pierre Peters on their wine lists. We were one of the first, (and still one of the few) to get on board with these hand crafted wines and made room for them by kicking all those factory made Champagnes right out the door. They make millions of cases, our little chunk of business isn’t going to put a dent in their bottom line. Could we put a stack of Veuve Clicquot on the floor right now and have it move? Sure but is that how we really service our customers, by stacking bullshit wines that cost twice or three times what they’re worth and hope people just grab them? And what happens when one of those customers asks me what I think of that wine and I tell them, “I think it’s utter crap and would rather drink fart water”?! Yeah, not how we do business at The Wine Country, not at all. We like to see ourselves as educators as much as pleasure seekers and I’m pretty sure the only way to get any kind of pleasure out of Moet or Clicquot is by butt chugging, (look it up) and if you think about what those massive houses are charging for the quality of wine they give you….kind of what they’re telling you to do anyway no?

So we were lucky enough to get a really big jump start to the grower Champagne deal. Tuned into which domains were and are making the most thrilling and remarkable wines, listening to those winemakers about who they think is making wines like they are or wines they can’t wait to drink and established enough, especially now, that every importer and broker is trying to get their wines shown and placed in our Champagne department. You won’t hear me say this all too often but, I am way fucking proud of the work I have put into that department, including creating a fierce and loyal customer base for those wines and the only time I feel the least bit shitty is when I hear, “So what’s new?”…..fuck.

As we all know Champagne is a place not a thing so finding something “New” is tricky seeing as there aren’t a bunch of new houses just popping up and the great importers have scoured the countryside looking for more Champagnes to give their, “So what’s new” customers, (people like me) so I’m guessing much of the great stuff is already here, although there are a few I’d love to have here on the west coast that for now are only available on the east coast….but other than that, well new is often limited to new batches of old favorites and new vintages, not that that’s a bad thing. All this being said, every so often I stumble into a web of, “Where the hell have you been all this time?” while being tasted on Champagne, (and you can bet your ass every damn sales rep in So Cal is trying to get an appointment to taste me on their bubbles right now….more popular than the preacher’s daughter on prom night) and the past two months have brought about some truly stunning wines, rippling over with pleasure, that I have been gobbling up and stacking our shelves with. “So, what’s new?” is now met with a big ass grin and some added bounce in my, “Well let me just show you” step. Damn, I love that….

A couple of weeks ago had me hosting one of our much beloved grower Champagne Friday night tastings, the room not sold out but after taking a gander at the sign up sheet, full of the right people. We have several groups that like to sign up for these classes, a couple of which just turn it into a “Girls Night Out” deal, which is fine and all but it is when I see those names, the names of the people I know are head-over-heels for these wines, the ones that support them year in and year out, well when I see those names I know it is going to be a wonderful event and this time, I even had some new things to share with them. Look, I’m a retailer and my mind is always on sales, I mean it has to be otherwise I wouldn’t have a job to go to but, one of the most rewarding parts of what I do is turning people on to something that makes their heart pound away in their chest, flicks on all the little tingle buttons and takes their breath away. Big sales are needed but it is those, “Holy fuck” looks and people shaking their heads in utter disbelief that I crave, and what keeps me out there hunting and pestering my sales reps with, “What’s new?”

New Wines

N.V. A. Chauvet Carte Blanche Brut ($45.99) Brand spanking new to our shelves, this wine arrived the day before my event which had me in knots worrying that it might not arrive in time. Thankfully it did and much to my and the attendees delight, it was showing beautifully. Classic composition of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with Pinot making up the biggest part of the assemblage, this wine displays all those achingly delicate and ethereal flavors that many of us crave in our bubbles. Citrus weaved into yeast rolls with warm butter smeared on top. Glorious wine and very deserving of a place on our racks.

2006 Pierre Peters Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs ($75.99) I confess to being annoyed with Pierre Peters each time the new vintage comes in at a slightly higher price than the one before but….the second I put the wine in my mouth they are absolutely forgiven. Fuck, what a massive, sexy, bready, floral and crave inducing wine this is. Even thinking about it now makes my tummy flip about with want, too bad my customers bought it all that night! Going to try and get in at least another case….I need to, if only for me.

N.V. Vilmart & Cie Grand Cellier 1er Cru ($71.99) A wine I like to stock for my new world wine lovers or people that love a bit of creamy oak on their wines. The fruit here is dark, like red cherries and brilliantly mouth staining along with a big, curvy body and a finish that is all creamy cherries and vanilla.

N.V. Laherte Les 7 Extra Brut ($79.99) Now I have to say that my rep for this Champagne house has been trying to get me on board with the Laherte wines for some time now and for some reason I just can’t get excited enough about them to bring them in, that is except for this geeky wine that is. The “Les 7” refers to the seven permitted varieties that can go in Champagne all of which are grown, harvested and fermented together to make this wacky and playfully intriguing wine. I have plenty of wines on the shelf that are all about deliciousness, this wine is way, way more than delicious, it’s intellectual. One of those wines I don’t want to stop smelling, watching and waiting as each new aroma peaks out then falls beneath another right before a big wave of something else arrives. Stunning aromatics that lean far more into the wine geek camp than the, “This is yummy!” one. I took the very last case the importer had and sold most of that single case the night of my event and when the evening was over, when I could relax over a glass of whatever was left, this was the wine I went for. Think I might be madly in love…. 

Late for work....more to come!


Ed H. said...

Sam, you have every right to be proud of your fierce Grower Champagne department. It's the only one I've ever seen where somebody could just grab a random bottle while blindfolded, confident they'd picked a great bottle and a great value. You offer what have become some of the most revered small-production champagne producers, often years before anyone else does.

But what people don't get right away is how crucial you and your palate are to this process. Each of the dozens of producers you work with offers six, eight, maybe even a dozen champagnes, from which you offer...one. Maybe two at the most. I'm sure you don't buy more than 2% of all the champagne you taste, and the vast majority of the wine in the pool you're selecting from is excellent to begin with...what are the odds anyone else would select the exact same wines you do?

I know I can trust your palate --I've done so for years now-- so if you're excited about a wine, that's enough for me. You offer rare champagnes, chosen with rare discernment. I can't thank you enough.

Marcia Macomber said...

Look at you, girl, with a good, old-fashioned, this-is-what-I-love-about-Champagne post that's fresh as a daisy! Dang! Makes me wanna pop a cork from one of those lovely selections right now.

Samantha Dugan said...

You are far too kind dear man, that and I think you give me too much credit....though I'll happily take it and thank you from the very bottom of my humbled heart. Your support of me and my beloved Champagnes never ceases to amaze me and I was so thrilled to see your name, and your face, that night. xoxoxoxo

Have to confess that it's a pushing myself to write post and a way to get my notes ready for the upcoming newsletter but I did and do want to share some of these wines, or my notes on them anyway, with some of you that come here and read my silly crap! Thanks for popping by lady!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,
One of the great developments in wine over the past 15 or 20 years has been the influx of Grower Champagnes to the United States. You have turned me on to countless wines that I was completely unfamiliar with from Champagne, and each of them was a revelation. You rekindled my love and appreciation for Champagne as wine rather than as celebratory lubricant. Though it was never my favorite celebratory lubricant anyway...

Love your Champagne posts, Baby. Your passion and knowledge leap from the screen.

Let's get naked and drink some!

I Love You!

Valerie said...

You call around to any of the stores here and most folks don't even know what grower champagne is. The only one that did, well, sadly, died shortly after I met him last year. Next time I need some bubbly I should just order it from you instead of scouring the shelves of the local hooch shops trying to find something "special" - as for what's new? Some mass-produced plonk. And no one's heard of Camille Saves. Grumble. And hi!

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
I love it when you say lubricant....and "celebratory lubricant" well that drove me wild. You and I have only begun our Champagne path together. we have years and years worth of bubbles to share! I love you too.

I would love to send you bubbles lady! I know shipping is a pain, especially with your new UPS dude but one way to look at it is you will save on paying the sales tax and will be getting way, way more wine for your money! Hit me up anytime girlie and I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Sara Louise said...

I'm printing this post out and I'm going bring it to my Sommelier (yeah, he's my own personal sommelier!) and see if he has any of these at the bar. I'd love to try some (re: all) of them.