Ayala Champagne joins World Class Wines

Two years ago I attended a French Trade tasting in Chicago and was introduced to several new Champagne producers but one of the standouts was Champagne Ayala.

The Brut Majeur which is the real value of the line-up is a dryer style NV Brut with only 9 grams of sugar (some cuvees have as much as 200 grams!) but still delivers a broad palate of richness and flavor, but with a delicate bubble bead that is creamy and elegant.  The Brut Majeur also has an average of “93” on the Echelle des Crus scale*!   I was equally excited about the rosé here, very refined style and yet persistent and refreshing.

A petite histoire……..
The only French champagne house with Latin roots, AYALA was established in 1860 in Äy, France by Edmond de AYALA, the son of a Colombian diplomat in Paris, who married the niece of a noble Viscount and received the Chateau of Äy as his dowry, along with prime vineyards located in Aÿ and Mareuil sur Aÿ.

The House of AYALA was one of the elite founding members of the “Ivy League” of the top champagne houses, the Syndicat des Grandes Marques de Champagne.  AYALA was purchased by Bollinger in 2005.

On December 26th, 2008, Ayala was named Wine Producer of the Year 2008 and Ayala Cuvée Rosé Nature named Wine of the Year 2008 by the highly regarded American writer and Champagne expert Ed McCarthy.

Ayala Brut Majeur is also one of the 8 champagnes recommended by the Wall Street Journal and in the Top 10 Affordable Champagnes of Food&Wine.

Welcome Ayala to the World Class Wines family!

Welcome the wines of Patrick Lesec!

Patrick Lesec (in red), the mad professor

Patrick Lesec (in red), the mad professor

Provence can be a spooky and unfriendly place in the winter. Winding around on narrow tree-lined roads, over treacherous bridges and aqueducts, dodging the debris kicked up by the   notorious mistral winds, its hardly the sunny place depicted by   Peter Mayle.  It was dark by the time I arrived at the manor house of Patrick Lesec. Chateau de la Barge, at the end of the muddy rutted road,  huge wooden doors dimly lit, reminiscent of Young Frankenstein, he is waving a flashlight through a swirl of leaves, lavender and maybe an occasional poodle.

I’m quickly brought into the warmth of this medieval kitchen, he tours me through his blending laboratory strewn with bottles, beakers, and tubes.  This is the workplace of a wine mad scientist. We take a seat at a paisley patterned  kitchen table to taste wines. Patrick pours the wine, his Robin Williams face is expressionless. Another wine buyer, another tasting. I ask him if this wine comes from the “arriere” of Beaumes de Venise.  His face brightens, he smiles, he pours another wine, sits back, folds his arms, and says “how about this one?”   He seems happy that he’s now got game.

The wines of Patric Lesec  are natural, true-to-type, and are excellent values. They are in fact all estate-bottled wines, vinified in the cellars of the properties that Patrick Lesec has contracted to work with.

Patrick makes great efforts to search out the finest terroirs, the best soils with old vineyards – and thus the finest sources of grapes – in each appellation. These are often growers who own parcels of the best sites, but who may not bottle wine under their own label. Historically, these growers have sold their production to negociants who blend and market their own cuvees.

lesec1Once Patrick has located and made agreements with these growers, he works closely with them to produce the highest quality possible using his principles of non-interventionist winemaking. First, he tastes through all the barrels and tanks and makes a strict selection of components he wishes to blend into his final cuvee. The variables in this process include different grape varieties, different vineyard sites, and even different lots of the same wines (since each tank or barrel has its own unique character).

Once the lots have been selected for the final blend, Patrick specifies how he wants the élevage done. Some lots will be kept in tank to preserve the freshness of their fruit; others will be aged in barrels to add richness, texture and complexity. He continues to visit the cellars and taste the lots to monitor their progress. Adjustments are made, as necessary or desirable.

Patrick’s cuvées are usually treated with as little sulphur as possible. The wines are not fined or filtered, and are hand-bottled where possible.

Patrick’s cuvées of Châteauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Cairanne, Rasteau and Vacqueyras clearly reflect the style of their respective appellations and terroirs. They have in common lovely aromatics, a distinctive purity of fruit flavors, soft, round tannins and long, pleasant finishes. His cuvées are fresh, natural and vibrant. They generally represent great values.

World Class Wines is proud to be the distributor of the Patrick Lesec selections for the state of Minnesota!

Welcome DeLoach, Bouchard, Lyeth, and Louis Bernard to World Class Wines!

We’re proud to announce World Class Wines has teamed with the legendary wines of Boisset America!

These are dynamic additions to our portfolio, and will help to round out our American and French selections. Bouchard has a stellar reputation as one of the top ‘major’ producers of Burgundy. Louis Bernard brings us value oriented wines from the Southern Rhone Valley. DeLoach has been on a tremendous roll the last couple of years, reducing production levels to 30% of what they were years ago. In other words, less wine and far more quality (they still have many of the best landholdings in the Russian River Valley). And Lyeth needs little to no introduction … in these times of customers looking for value and huge bang for the buck, Lyeth is on the top of everybody’s lists!

We look forward to a long and healthy relationship with our new friends, and we hope you will too. Expolore more information about Boisset at their website.

New arrival: Eric Louis Sancerre

Photo by Flickr user Avlxyz

Photo by Flickr user Avlxyz

Paris brasseries and bistros pour thousands of glasses of Sancerre each year along with their “plateau de fruits de mers”. After all, what could be better with briny fresh oysters, cockles, crab claws, snails and shrimps? No doubt, this is why for the millions of tourists who have endured the brisk service of a La Coupole waiter, there really is no better choice for seafood than a nicely chilled bottle of SANCERRE. Its also easy to pronounce for linguistically challenged Americans. No wonder it’s most likely the most known of all Loire wines.

There are now 2,800ha (hectares) of vines planted here, meaning Sancerre accounts for more than half the central Loire region’s total of 5,000 ha. While the vast majority is Sauvignon Blanc, about 25% is Pinot Noir. In fact before phylloxera devastated these vineyards at the end of the 19th century, red varieties dominated – principally Pinot Noir and Gamay, and until appellation contrôlée was introduced, some of these grapes went north to be used for making Champagne. It was only after phylloxera that Sauvignon Blanc took over.

The Louis Family has been making Sancerre for over 200 years. The name of the estate is Celliers de Pauline after Eric’s grandmother. The estate operates as a “lutte-raisonée” producer, or reasonable methods, meaning they use as little non-organic intervention as possible. Fertilizers and insecticides are not used. Leaving the vineyards natural, or “grassing over” is practiced.

Mainly planted on chalky stony soils, Sancerre is 100% Sauvignon, dry, fruity, with juniper–like notes, concentrated, full-bodied in mouth. To optimize fruit flavors, yields are reduced then after the  harvest, the wine is matured on its lees until February. Several successive tastings determine the best time for the bottling. There is no oak used to make this wine.

Located near Thauvenay, one of the 15 of Sancerre AOC. This is one of the greater plateaus in Sancerre. The soils here are almost exclusively silex. Wines are friendlier here, more fruity and mineral here. More powerful, austere wines come from the Western side of Sancarre where most of the white chalky soils are.

This Sancerre is classical in its high toned gooseberry-juniper fruit aromas, mineral sea-salt tanginess, and plump palate roundness. A less austere style, more gin-cocktail style of Sancerre. Perfect for shellfish, delicate fish, like the river pike of the region, and of course, the famous goat cheese of the region “Crotin de Chavignol” or horse turd of Chavignol” name for its small round shape. If you are in the area and having a goat cheese emergency, no worries! There is a Crotin vending machine in the center of Chavignol offering 4 different ages of the cheese!

New arrival: LIOCO wines

Lioco Chardonnay bottleWe’re proud to announce the arrival of LIOCO (pronounced LEE-oh-co) wines to the state of Minnesota.

The terms ‘hand crafted’ and ‘limited production’ are tossed around endlessly in the world of wine (when you really think of it, all wines are hand crafted and limited by their very nature). But here you have something different: a specific dedication to one idea, that being the terrior of some of the best sites in California.

This label/winery was created by Matt Licklider (who brought import and distribution expertise to the table) and Kevin O’Connor (former wine director at Spago Beverly Hills, who brought vineyard contacts to the table). They formed the idea of LIOCO (a combination of their two last names) with the question: could California produce wines that are as terrior driven as the great wines of Burgundy?

To that end, the only variable between their wines is the vineyard source itself. For example, their Chardonnay ‘formula’ is this: hand harvest fruit from specific locations of character – locations that set themselves apart from all other vineyards in California, careful pressing, complete wild yeast fermentation, full malolactic, NO OAK, and bottle unfined and unfiltered. The Pinot Noir regiment is very similar, but includes a TOUCH of oak … and I mean a wee whisper of it!

To say these guys have a dedicated vision is the understatement of the year.

The wines are incredible. In addition to the single vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir program, they produce a Sonoma County Chardonnay and a red blend called Indica (a blend of the oldest old vine Carignane in California with some great Petite Sirah). Click here to see the full breadth of their selections.

Only available in nine states, we are honored to have LIOCO in Minnesota and look forward to sharing them with you.

Far more information can be found at the winery’s super cool, content rich, beautiful website: www.liocowine.com.