The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2014

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24  /  the tasting panel  /  may 2014 SAN FRAN INSIDER A s the official Champagne of the Burgundian fête La Paulée, Didier Depond, President of the joint Champagne houses Salon and Delamotte, was in San Francisco for the occasion and to debut the release of Salon Le Mesnil 2002. Depond, who marks 30 years with parent company Champagne Laurent-Perrier this year, has guided the direction of the sister houses for the last 17 years. The 2002 release is the first of five vintages—including '04, '06, '07 and '08—to have been declared since the turn of the century. Le Mesnil, Salon's solitary wine, is never rushed to market; the 2002 vin- tage spent 12 years on the gros lees and was disgorged eight months before its release in late March, making it one of the modern world's slowest wines. Depond likened the character of 2002, with its floral, candied citrus notes and power, to the 1982 vintage when he presented it, the 2004 Delamotte Brut Blanc de Blancs and the non- vintage Delamotte wines during a tasting held in the wine cellar at the members-only Battery on Jackson Square. Content that the vintage wines have reached their apex in quality, Depond is now elevating Delamotte NV Brut by edging up the amount of Chardonnnay to 60 percent of the blend for the next release. "Le Mesnil-sur- Oger is, after all, a Chardonnay village," he said, noting that the house of Delamotte was founded there in 1760, making it one of the longest lived in Champagne. Delamotte NV Brut Blanc de Blancs, NV Brut and a captivating hazelnut-scented NV Brut Rosé, inspired by memories of his grandmother's macerated strawberries, held their own alongside the vintage wines. As he prepares to evaluate the vin clair wines of 2008 in the coming weeks, Depond recalled the quality of the difficult vintage in no uncertain terms: "The grapes were like candy; the 2008 vintage was complete and unique." The Sovereign Order of Malta has owned estates in the Fruili Venezia Giulia and Umbrian regions of Italy for the last 900 years. As a knight of the ancient Catholic religious order, Clay Fritz of Fritz Cellars aligned philanthropy with his enthusiasm for these little-known wines when he began importing a handful from The Order's Castello di Magione and Rocca Bernarda estates in 2012. During dinner in the private dining room at Tosca Café, Fritz discussed the humanitarian efforts of the storied order of the Middle Ages. "Proceeds from these wines help fund after-care services like clean water for United Nations relief efforts and, closer to home, a free clinic in Oakland." Morcinaia ($40) described by Fritz as "super-Umbrian" with black tea, earth and crisp, deep red fruit and Monterone ($27), a crisp, old-clone Grechetto, both from Castel di Magione, the retreat of the Grand Master, had plenty of integrity. While an expressive, blocky Ribolla Gialla ($27), from long-established marl and sandstone sites at Rocca Bernarda in Fruili, provided some relief of its own. Slow Wines for Modern Times by Deborah Parker Wong Champagne Salon President Didier Depond. PHOTO: DEBORAH PARKER WONG PHOTO: DEBORAH PARKER WONG PHOTO COURTESY OF FRITZ CELLARS Clay Fritz, of Fritz Cellars, is a Knight of the Order of Malta and imports the Order's wines to the U.S. TP0514_001-33.indd 24 4/24/14 10:44 PM

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