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Give the Gift of Membership to ‘The Champagne Society’: Six Months ($279) or Twelve Months ($499) + STANDOUT DOZEN OF THE YEAR: Buy All for $479


A Membership Subscription to ‘The Champagne Society’ Gift

Lily Bollinger once said, “I only drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory; I trifle with it if I’m not in a hurry and drink it when I am, otherwise I never touch the stuff unless I am thirsty.”

Not only is Champagne the quintessential drink of celebration, it has traditionally been a gift given with ramped-up sentiments. This year we are offering a couple of variations on this theme, beginning with an opportunity to gift a special someone a six-month or twelve-month membership to The Champagne Society. Our pick for December, Champagne Fleury, will be packaged in a wrap-ready gift box along with a congratulatory certificate explaining what lies ahead in bi-monthly installments:

Six-Month Membership Gift ($279) – Bimonthly

You will take home a pre-packaged, ready-for-gift-wrapping box containing The Champagne Society December Selection bottle, Champagne Fleury, with a certificate congratulating the recipient on their new membership to the Champagne Society, a select community of like-minded folks who appreciate the exceptional in life and recognize that wine is a superlative among man’s culinary creations. Then, in February and April, they are eligible to receive two more installments, one Champagne bottle each month (described in detail, in advance, by email), which they can stop by the store to pick up in person or have shipped directly to their home at no additional cost.

Twelve-Month Membership Gift ($499) – Bimonthly

A full year’s membership in the Champagne Society includes a pre-packaged, ready-for-wrapping gift box containing The Champagne Society December Selection bottle, Champagne Fleury, along with a congratulatory certificate informing the recipient that they are now part of the Champagne Society, whose members are eligible for discounted prices on highly allocated Champagne, many bought directly, and many available only through Elie Wine Company. Then, in February and April, June, August and October, they are eligible to receive five more installments, one bottle of Champagne each month (described in detail, in advance, by email), which they can stop by the store to pick up in person or have shipped directly to their home at no additional cost.

Three-Bottle Gift Box

Choose three bottles from this year’s ‘Standout Dozen’ (below) and it will be pre-packaged for you to gift-paper wrap and put under the tree or gift to express appreciation.

A third option, of course, is to choose any number of wines from this year’s Standout Dozen, and we will package them in a gift box ready for wrapping. Or all 12 bottles for ($479).


Among the multitude of wines we taste every year, there are a select few that we believe genuinely represent over-achievement by a winemaking team, both in terms of the quality of the product and the innovation used in technique. Younger winemakers tend to be iconoclastic in their approach to the craft, but when it’s done for the wrong reasons, the results are often forgettable. These twelve wines represent the best of the best in wines that we’ve sampled and purchased over the past twelve months; many were created by old friends, and many were new discoveries.

1. Champagne Laherte Frères, ‘Blanc de Blancs’ Brut Nature ($53) (Champagne, France): (Disgorged January 2021) Coteaux Sud d’Epernay is a lesser-known Champagne sub-region sandwiched between the Côtes des Blancs and the Vallée de la Marne; there, Aurélien Laherte—a devoted practitioner of organic and biodynamic viticulture—is turning heads. Dynamic and innovative, ‘Blanc de Blancs’ Brut Nature is drawn from the best parcels of Chardonnay from the southern slopes of Epernay and the Côte des Blancs. Primary fermentation takes places in foudres and barrels with regular lees stirring; the wine goes through partial malolactic fermentation and has zero dosage, producing a Blanc de Blancs representative of the purity and minerality of Chardonnay found in the chalky soils of the area.

*click on bottle for more info


2. Domaine Jean Vacheron, 2019 Sancerre ($48) (White Loire, France): Two young cousins, Jean-Laurent and Jean-Dominique Vacheron, have transformed an elite estate into an elite biodynamic estate. Having inherited some of the most coveted parcels in the appellation and then, purchasing more of the same, the cousins are trying a Burgundian approach to Sancerre winemaking, with parcels being vinified by terroir and blends varying from year to year. The 2019 contains 20% juice from single-vineyard plots, hand harvested and fermented on indigenous yeasts in a combination of cement and stainless-steel tank. It shows bright grapefruit notes with gunflint, sea salt and lime zest.

*click on bottle for more info


3. Domaine Michel Briday, 2019 Rully ($30) (White Burgundy, France): Founded in 1976 by Michel and Lucette Briday, the original 15 acres has grown to 38, spread across the municipalities of Rully, Bouzeron, and Mercurey. Under the management of Michel’s son and daughter-in-law, Stéphane and Sandrine, the domain has forged a reputation for producing Côte Chalonnaise wines with a superb ratio between quality and price. 2019’s Rully Blanc is a blend of four parcels; the Chaponnières and Saint Jacques climats bring finesse and elegance, while Crée, a stony terroir below the Premiers Crus Les Pierres and Moulène, lends power and substance. Premier Cru La Bergerie is a deep clay soil adding hints of citrus and spice spring backed by a spine of vibrant acidity.

*click on bottle for more info


4. Coto de Gomariz, 2018 Ribeiro ($24) (White Galicia, Spain): Coto de Gomariz is located in an ideal winegrowing zone near the eastern edge of Galicia, where the slopes overlook the Avia river. The 66 acres are managed by owner Ricardo Carreiro and his winemaker Xosé Lois Sebio, who make the most of the unique microclimate (schist, granite and sandy soils) through a cornucopia of local white wine varieties including Treixadura, Godello, Loureira and Albariño. A blend of all four, Ribeiro Blanco 2018 is produced in relatively tiny quantities (around 60,000 bottles) and shows itself as aromatic with wild herbs and spring flowers, meaty with crisp stone fruit and a commendably long finish.

*click on bottle for more info


5. Château Pichon Lalande ‘Pichon Comtesse Réserve’, 2018 Pauillac ($69) (Red Bordeaux, France): Good fences may make good neighbors, but in the case of Pichon Lalande, they also make good winemakers. The property is located only a vine away from Château Latour, with perfect access to the Gironde River, and sits across the road from Pichon Baron. The terroir of Château Pichon Lalande is deep gravel with clay and limestone soil, and below that is a layer of sandstone, marl, and limestone. The powerful 2018 opens slowly to offer glimpses of dusty soil, Sichuan pepper, garrigue and tobacco over a core of warm black cherries, cassis and blackberry pie plus a waft of toast and star anise.

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6. Domaine Santa Duc ‘Clos Derrière Vieille’, 2018 Gigondas ($56) (Red Southern Rhône, France): In the verdant environs of Gigondas, heritage is as deep as the iron-rich soils. Yves Gras, Domaine Santa Duc’s winemaker for 32 years, became a standard bearer for innovation with his elegant wines; he replaced barrels with 3600-liter casks to tone down the oak and championed a greater percentage of Mourvèdre used in cuvées. His ongoing quest for cooler terroirs capable of producing great wines ultimately took him from the plateau of Gigondas to Châteauneuf-du-Pape (10 miles to the north), where he was able to purchase several choice parcels. ‘Clos Derrière Vieille’ is 80% Grenache 10% Mourvèdre and 10% Syrah; it shows diaphanous aromas of wild cherry, black currant, blackberry and spice framed by dusty tannins and a mineral driven, lingering finish.

*click on bottle for more info


7. Domaine des Roches Nueves ‘Les Mémoires’, 2015 Saumur-Champigny ($60) (Red Loire, France): With vineyards both in the Saumur (Blanc) and Saumur-Champigny (Rouge) appellations, Thierry Germain has become a superstar among biodynamic vine growers in France. His ‘parcellaires’—as he calls his lieu-dit vineyards—are producing some of the most exciting wines in the Loire Valley today. Germain refers to Charly Foucault of Clos Rougeard as his spiritual father. His ‘Les Mémoires’ comes from a 1.7-acre climat, in the commune of Dampierre-sur-Loire, of Cabernet Franc planted in 1904 in silex scree and Turonian limestone. 100% de-stemmed fermentation before 12 months aging in 2500-liter foudre and then six months in bottle. The wine offers a scent of roses on the nose followed by electric red fruits gripped by textured tannins.

*click on bottle for more info


8. Domaine de la Ferté, 2019 Givry ($37) (Red Burgundy, France): High density vineyards are a Burgundian tradition, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the six acres of Domaine de la Ferté’s holdings (among the most renowned Premiers Crus of the appellation) are planted in clay/limestone at 4000 vines per acre. This soil, and in particular, the southeastern and southern exposed slopes, have made Givry a renowned producer of red wine for more than a thousand years. The nose of the 2019 shows violets, strawberries, and blackberries with clove notes wrapping around firm tannins.

*click on bottle for more info


9. Domaines Lupier ‘El Terroir’, 2017 Navarra ($32) (Red Navarra, Spain): Navarra, a region in Northern Spain perhaps better known more for Tempranillo and Cab/Merlot blends, is beginning to develop an international reputation for bright, charming red Garnachas. Elisa Ucar and Enrique Basarte launched Domaines Lupier in 2006, with a goal to rescue old Garnacha vineyards in Navarra’s north while using a non-interventionist approach. The vineyards they work have been farmed biodynamically since Day One, and they now have 27 small plots totaling 42 acres, all at altitudes between 1300 and 2500 feet. The wine is a cool delight, showing black cherry, licorice, cassis and notes of spice and white pepper.

*click on bottle for more info


10. Domaine de Rochegrès, 2019 Moulin-à-Vent ($27) (Red Beaujolais, France): Moulin-à-Vent is to the ten crus of Beaujolais what Moulin Rouge is to Parisian cabarets: First among equals. Some consumers prefer floral Fleurie and charming Chiroubles, but no Beaujolais shows off a full-bodied, tannic-structure like Moulin-à-Vent. Domaine de Rochegrès covers 13 of the appellation’s 1600 acres, and the name references the greyish granite visible on the surface of the soil. The wine reflects the richness of this terroir with aromatic, electric red fruit in the foreground, evolving toward floral and spicy notes that finish with a touch of oak and elegant tannins.

*click on bottle for more info


11. Can Sumoi ‘Sumoll Garnatxa’, 2019 Penedès ($26) (Red Catalunya, Spain): Pepe Raventós was born to the vine; he spent his childhood picking grapes at Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, home of more than eighty cava producers and the cornerstone of the local economy. It’s also where 21 generations of Pepe Raventós’ family has called home since the 15th century. At 200 feet above sea level, his vineyard Can Sumoi is the highest estate in the Penedès, and it is Raventós’ mission to produce high-altitude wines that define the balance, harmony and austerity of Catalunya; when you drink them—or any wine, for that matter, says Raventós—your mind and spirit should travel to the place of origin. The wine shows boysenberry, cinnamon and pomegranate while combining rusticity with an essential elegance that is, like salinity, a Can Sumoi trademark.

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12. Artuke ‘Pies Negros’, 2018 Rioja ($22) (Red Rioja, Spain): ‘Artuke’ is a blended version of the names of the Blanco brothers Arturo and Kike; they produce from 32 different vineyard plots on 54 acres of land in Rioja Alavesa. The vineyards fall within a geographic triangle formed by the villages of Baños de Ebros, Abalos and San Vicente, each with unique terroir. ‘Pies Negros’ is focused fruit from Abalos. 85% Tempranillo and 15% Graciano, the wine is earthy on the nose with smoke, chocolate, black plum and dried blackberry in the mid-palate with soft fennel notes on the finish.

*click on bottle for more info

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Posted on 2021.12.25 in Côte Chalonnaise, Rully, Givry, Pauillac, Moulin-à-Vent, Sancerre, Saumur-Champigny, France, Bordeaux, Beaujolais, Penedes, Burgundy, Champagne, Wine-Aid Packages, Rioja DOC, Loire, Southern Rhone, Navarra, Ribeiro


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