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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 Point Noir dominant. The robe has a faint peach hue. The nose offers fine mélange of floral and red fruit aromas, hints of wet stone, orange oil, and toast. The palate is bright and racy, yet ample with crunchy minerality and a brisk, mouthwatering finish. John McIlwain
This bottling of the Beaufort NV Ambonnay Rosé is based on the 2011 vintage and was disgorged in July of 2018. Notes to follow.
We're fans of the Champagnes of Beaufort for a number of reasons. The farming at this historic Domaine is impeccable and the winemaking is classical and refreshingly old school. The 2015 base Ambonnay Grand Cru in handy half bottle is a pocket-sized example of Beaufort's distinctive character.
Les Contrees is a fascinating study of terroir within the Riceys. Four separate lieux-dits harvested at nearly the same time, vinified the same way and disgorged within days of each other. The expressiveness of each terrior makes this a must for Champagne obsessives. Yes, Virginia, there is terroir in Champagne!
I have a not-so-secret love for Champagnes made from Pinot Meunier. Godmé's single vineyard expression, Les Romaines 1er cru, is an especially stunning example. The biodynamically farmed vineyard located in Villedommange has calcareous soils which lend a particularly savory minerality to the wine, offsetting the sometimes over-generous nature of the variety. And in 2008 this minerality offers great cut and energy to an already vibrant Champagne. There is impeccable balance here; ripe fruit framed by the nearly pointillistic earthiness, the 2 grams of dosage is barely perceptible. This is classy, harmonious, and long, speaking vividly of place. -John McIlwain
Hugues Godmé 2009 Les Alouettes Saint Bets Brut is a single vineyard blanc de blancs from Villers-Marmery near the border with Verzy. The soils of this climat are very chalky with little topsoil. The grapes are farmed biodynamically, vinified in neutral oak with native yeasts, with no malolactic fermentation, and bottled with low sulfur. There is an electric sense of chalky minerality to this Champagne. While there is a degree of richness to the wine that hints at Verzy, and a silken quality on the palate derived from its time in wood, ultimately a cool, deft sense of fruit and chalkiness defines the nose and palate. Still a bit taut, there are floral and citrus oil notes on the nose, followed by Meyer Lemon and a subtle salinity on the palate. The mousse is fine and the finish long, complex, and supple. This should shine brightly with a bit more time in the bottle. John McIlwain
Comprised of 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay from biodynamically farmed vines in the Grand Cru village of Verzenay on the northern slope of the Montagne de Reims. Aged for 5 years on the lees. Disgorged January 2018, bottled with 4g/l dosage. tge base year is 2013 with approximately 60% reserve wine from the previous four vintages. The wine has pale salmon ink robe and a fine bead. The nose is expressive with pretty aromas of dusty rose petals, sour cherry, plum skin, crushed herbs and a hint of brioche. Distinctly savory on the palate with cool-toned vibrant fruit, nervy acidity, and impressive mineral depth on a long mouthwatering finish. John McIlwain
If the Rosé des Riceys from En Barmont is generous, verging on sensuous in nature, En Valingrain offers more linear, bordering on cerebral, pleasures (both are fantastic, I hasten to add). The 2014 En Valingrain offers aromas of wild strawberry, rose petals, wild roses, cherry blossoms on the nose. The palate displays achingly pure wild strawberry and sour cherry flavors, wet stone and a surprising, albeit pleasant, electric jolt of minerality negotiating all the supple curves of red fruit. Lightning rod or nothing but flowers. This has the crystalline structure to support the suppleness. A great young bottle of Rosé des Riceys and one of the most convincing arguments that there’s a world of terroir in Riceys. And please recall that Rosé des Riceys ages beautifully. 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.
Though perhaps unusually for a domaine located in Ambonnay (Pinot Noir terroir), vigneron Benoît Marguet prefers a Chardonnay dominant blend for his rosés. In the 2016 edition of his non-vintage Shaman Chardonnay makes up 96% of the blend.The robe is a pale pink. The palate is medium-bodied with a fine mousse offering red fruit strawberry, cherry stone, with a pleasing bitterness on the finish. This has good length, fine mineral detail, and a nice herbal uptick on back end. Delicious now, but this should gain suavity with a year of two in the cellar. John McIlwain
Mouzon-Leroux in the grand cru village of Verzy on the northern slope of the Montagne de Reims makes Champagnes of great finesse and precision through good farming (they've been working biodynamically since 2008) and astute wine-making. Made from 100% Pinot Noir and macerated for 16 hours and aged in a combination of tank and barrel. With soft mousse, fine bead, and pale salmon robe, the 2014 L'Incandescenct rosé saignée offers aromas of wild strawberry, peach skin, watermelon, orange oil, and sea spray. The broad saline palate shows flavors of wild berries, citrus peel, and red currant on a mid-weight, succulent, persistent finish. There's a subtle background spiciness here, with cool herbal nuances and a suavity that is often lacking in saignée Champagnes. John McIlwain
While it's always a pleasure to receive a fresh shipment of bubbles, it's especially gratifying to receive new wine from organic vigneron Thomas Perseval. From vines in Chamery, located in northwestern Montagne de Reims, the Perseval Tradition 1er cru Extra Brut is a blend of 43% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier, 17% Chardonnay based on the 2013 vintage. Raised 70% in enamel, and 30% in barrel and disgorged in April of 2018. The nose shows white flowers, Meyer lemon peel, red fruit, candied ginger, and sea spray. The palate has a snappy mineral attack followed by layered flavors of wild strawberry, cool crushed herbs, chalk, brioche, and shows considerable drive and power on the medium-long, suave, rising finish. John McIlwain
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
A blend of 1/3 Chardonnay, 1/3 Pinot Noir, and 1/3 Pinot Meunier fermented in tank with native yeasts, from the 2010 vintage with reserve wine from 2007, 2008, 2009. 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. John McIlwain