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This is the time of the year we gather with friends and family to bask in the warmth of friends and family. And despite the dire warnings concerning the Champagne shortage, we've got plenty of bubbles to help you celebrate and plenty of large format bottles if you are entertaining a crowd. Happy hunting! John McIlwain
A staff favorite, this is the go-to Blanc de Blancs for a lean and food friendly Champagne. The nose is understated with notes of Meyer lemon, sage, and orange blossom. The palate offers a rush of freshness that carries aromas of white peaches, apricots through to a McIntosh apple finish.
Aurélien Laherte decided to retool his previous Brut Rosé Ultradition Champagne and focus on one exclusively made from Pinot Meunier. This Champagne combines 60% immediately pressed Meunier blended with 30% macerated Meunier and 10% still red Meunier (most rosé Champagnes only opt for one of these methods of production). This wine has a deep salmon robe with delicate flavors of wild cherry, salty plum, dried tarragon, and a sharp streak of chalky minerality. A Champagne with both finesse and structure, you can serve this as an aperitif or pair this with lighter meats or a rare filet mignon!
Comprised of grapes from all seven villages in the Côte des Blancs, where Agrapart has vines, 7 Crus is a blend of two vintages, aged partially in barrel, partially in tank. The wine is fermented with native yeasts and aged on the lees for three years before release. The palate balances orchard fruit flavors with racy acidity, sapid minerality, and a richness derived from its élevage. And while this is produced in greater volume, 7 Crus is a Champagne that ages beautifully and is worthy of space in one's cellar. John McIlwain
From year to year there seem to be few greater values in Champagne than those of biodynamic grower Thomas Barbichon in Gyé-sur-Seine in the Aube. From his 9 HA domaine he produces wines of purity, elegance, and precision. The current disgorgement of his Blanc de Noirs is Pinot Noir-dominant. The 2017-base Barbichon Blanc de Noirs is comprised of 93% Pinot Noir and 7% Pinot Meunier. The farming is Demeter certified. The robe has a faint peach hue. The nose is attractively floral and red-fruited with aromas of wild strawberry, sour cherry, and crushed herbs.The palate is bright and vibrant with flavors of orange oil, a fine line of minerality, with a soft mousse and fine bead.The finish is expansive and tangy with a hint of biscuit on the back end. Lovely Champagne and an excellent value. John McIlwain
4 Cépages by Robert Barbichon is a blend of biodynamically-farmed Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc from the Aube. Thomas Barbichon makes beautiful natural Champagnes that balance the ripe, ample fruit of the Côte des Bar with a firm racy core of Kimmeridgian stoniness. The 2016 base 4 Cépages shows soft stone fruit and orange oil aromas with a savory underlying mineral note on a long, mouthwatering finish. John McIlwain
A beautiful late disgorged bottling of the 1er cru Vertus "Coeur de Terroir" lineup from organic vigneron Pascal Doquet. Aged 18 years sur latte and disgorge in July, 2018. Bottled with 6g/l dosage.
Majority Pinot Noir, with Chardonnay, bottled with no dosage or sulfur. There is plenty of drive and precision here to counter the richness and fine, savory, lifted finish. The spice and stony notes make this an excellent Champagne for dim sum or heartier fare, such as Peking duck, not to mention a cracking autumnal apéritif for a Thanksgiving feast!
Roland Piollot produces some elegantly stunning Champagnes from organically-farmed vineyards in the Aube. Come des Tallants is 100% Pinot Noir from a small parcel (less than one hectare), vinified with no dosage for a crisp and fresh mouthfeel. Plenty of acidity and overall a really impressive Champagne, especially at the price. EL
Val Colas Robin is planted with Pinot Blanc, an historically important grape variety the Aube. Farmed organically and biodynamically, Val Colas Robin is a sloping vineyard, near Polisot, that faces an upper portion of the Seine. This bottling offers aromas of apple blossom, lemon oil, and beeswax on the nose. The palate is dry and pebbly with a distinctly mineral character acting as the core from which stone fruit and citrus peel flavors radiate. A fascinating and distinctly sapid Champagne.
100% Chardonnay from the well-situated Les Valnons Froid Cul lieu-dit on the upper slope of the Grand Cru village of Aÿ. Fermented with native yeasts in 80% used barrels, the balance in tank. Disgorged in Winter of 2020. Les Valnons is a lovely, albeit somewhat atypical Blanc de Blancs from a village better known for its Pinot Noir. The robe as a pale gold color with a fine bead. This nervy Chardonnay offers aromas of chalk, lemon oil, sea spray, and crushed herbs. The palate is broad and powerful offering citrus, spice, and mineral notes on a taut, complex, and lengthy finish. John McIlwain
Hubert Soreau is is a vigneron whose wine exemplifies the dedication of small growers to producing distinctive Champagnes of terroir. Farming just .49 ha near Epernay without chemicals, he produces tiny amounts of wine which ages in wood, sees long lees-aging under cork, and extended time in the cellar before release. The current Release of Le Clos l'Abbé (base 2010 with this bottling) is vinous, savory, and layered. The nose offers aromas of lemon blossom, sea spray, beeswax, and chalk. The palate is rich and layered, with a subtle, perfectly knit barrel influence lending textural complexity to the mid-palate. This is a lovely blanc de blancs with pinpoint balance between the ripe fruit, briochey, biscuity nose, and salty chalkiness. Bottled without dosage. Disgorged summer, 2019. John McIlwain
Comprised of 1/3 Chardonnay, 1/3 Pinot Noir, 1/3 Pinot Meunier. With a 2012 base with reserve wines. Aged on lees for 6 years. Disgorged July 2019. Bottled without dosage, this still has a fine sense of energy and depth on the palate due to great farming and long lees-aging. The nose tends towards orchard fruit, citrus peel, and pear skin, with fine biscuity after-aromas. The palate shows a fine bead and with a good balance of concentration, minerality, and a bracing, zesty finish.