Spandex Surprise: Finding Exceptional Champagne (and wines) by bike

In a few reviews out there on Claude Alexander wines (Fredericksburg, Texas), one of the first things you’ll read about it is the enticing sign posted in front of a trailer (not even a double wide), “Our tasting room may suck, but our wines don’t.”  I had to go in, if nothing else but to mock the audacity of bold Texans.

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The sign didn’t lie.  Owner (from Montreal, not Hill Country, Tx) Claude poured the entire line up of wines himself, humoring my cycling entourage as we tasted French varietals in the shade. After a week of turbulent weather, bold bbq, and sharing the good ol’ Hotel 6 with three other people, the delicacy of a wide spectrum of delicate and complex wines was a treat.

Seamus Heaney wrote “The fact of the matter is that the most unexpected and miraculous thing in my life was the arrival in it of poetry itself.” I would slightly slow Heaney’s assertion and say the arrival of the unexpected is sometimes poetry itself. In life, in wine and in friends.  This wine was one of those times; as are dear friends.

One such friend–a co-worker in MN–was about to jet off to another life, and I brought the Alexander Valley Extra Brut Grand Cru Champagne by Robert Moncuit to a private dinner.

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Delicate, complex and balanced, as is my friend, the wine paired well with a mix of gratitude, sadness, celebration and crisp Minnesota night.  The wine was dry, light fruit flavors of pear and green apple, but has the signature taste of lees–which translates to brioche in the most delicious ways.

You’re right, this wine is not from Texas (conjuring some Lyle Lovett), but it is from the Champagne region in France, having undergone a second fermentation in the bottle, and so it can sport the label of “Champagne”–(trust me, I asked a few times).

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I would give up a morning workout for this wine–and another night with now relocated friends.  If you have the ability, try out this wine; order it (it’s a great deal in the $50s) from Claude Alexander wines, but better yet–roll up on a bike and try out the entire line of wines from the unassuming wine tasting room.

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