CHAMPAGNE PALMER: excellence and elegance; fine wines from Dutton-Goldfield

Champagne Palmer is an unfamiliar Champagne name, actually new brand to the United States, but its history is long and distinguished. With established vineyards in Villers-Marmery and Trepail, Champagne Palmer utilizes traditional and otherwise forgotten techniques, which developed their reputation as one of the strongest producers of high-quality champagnes in the region.

Champagne Palmer was founded as a co-operative. Instead of focusing on their specific terroirs, seven Grand Cru growers decided to blend them and created Champagne Palmer. Today there are 320 growers who are all shareholders, committed to a minimum of 10-year contracts and are committed to producing excellent quality grapes.

The 415 hectares of vineyards in the co-op, of which 200 hectares are from Grand Cru and Premier Cru designated vineyards, are in the Montagne de Reims. The Montagne de Reims is one of three parts, along with the Vallée de la Marne and the Côte des Blancs, of the Champagne region. The Montagne de Reims is known for some of the best vineyards, due to the slopes of the vineyards and the deep chalk beneath a thin layer of topsoil. Known as an area primarily for pinot noir, there are also 80 hectares planted to chardonnay in the premier cru areas of Viller-Marmery and Trepail.

The Palmer portfolio available in the United States consists of four fabulous sparklers:

Palmer Brut Reserve ($52) is 50-55 percent chardonnay, 35-40 percent pinot noir and 10-15 percent pinot meunier. Older wines have been added to the current vintage to make a distinctive “house style.” Champagne Palmer uses a higher proportion (25 to 30 percent) of reserve wine than most other houses. The wine then spends three or four years sur lie aging. The result is a rich and nutty NV Champagne with aromas of citrus, pear, apricot and hazelnut and is rich and deep, as well as fresh, on the palate.

The Palmer Rosé Reserve ($65) is made in a Burgundian style with 40-45 percent chardonnay, 40-45 percent pinot noir, 10-15 percent pinot meunier. Like the brut reserve, this cuvee has 25 to 30 percent of reserve wine blended in and the wine is aged sur lie for two to three years. To make it a rosé, 10 percent of red wine is added. The red wines are aged in a solera system resulting in a wine with aromas of wild strawberries and red and black currants. On the palate, it is luscious and round with a spicy and fruity finish.

Palmer Blanc de Blancs ($79) is 100 percent chardonnay coming from the premier cru areas of Viller-Marmery and Trepail, a more powerful style wine with great minerality. The wine is aged sur lie for three to four years. The resulting fizz has more depth and subtle complexity than the brut reserve, with notes of citrus, white flowers and almonds with that yeasty quality beloved in Champagne.

Amazone de Palmer ($140) is the top of Palmers’ line, 50 percent chardonnay, 50 percent pinot noir. Crafted with 100 percent reserve wines, this wine is also aged sur lie for more than 10 years. It is a rare cuvee made from a selection of most outstanding wines and vintages of Champagne Palmer. The high-spirited wine of vivacity and elegance has aromas of exotic and dried fruits, toasted hazelnut and brioche. Visit

While we’re raving about wines, we want to rave about 2014 Dutton-Goldfield Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Dutton family has been working the land in Sonoma County since the 1880s. Today, they sustainably and organically farm 1,300 acres (1100 in vineyards, 200 in apple orchards) in the Russian River Valley and Green Valley AVAs. Their grapes are prized by some of the most respected wineries in California. The Dutton-Goldfield classic Russian River Valley Chardonnay, about $38, is made from grapes especially chosen based on the winemaker’s desire to offer wines with fruit intensity, richness and great acid structure, even after full barrel and malolactic fermentation. Dutton Ranch farms over eighty unique, separate vineyards located in the coolest areas of the Russian River Valley, primarily in the Green Valley sub-appellation, and their Dutton-Goldfield Pinot blend, $44, represents their best vision for the character of this special region: juicy berry fruit in both the nose and the mouth, solid structure and fine tannins, and alluring balance.

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