After a hearty lunch, that actually included vegetables at Le Bistro in Vertus, I took a quick trip up the Cotes des Blancs to Mesnil-sur-Oger. I had a bit of time to kill some I wandered around and found the park over looking Krug's Clos du Mesnil. I didn't know what to expect, but I thought it to be rather small. Apparently it's about the same size as Romanėe Conti in Burgundy. A moment or two of awe, then up the hill for an equally awe inspiring viist with Salon.
This is one of the storied producers in Champagne. The started near the beginning of the 1900's, with their first official release being 1921. Contrary to popular belief they are not a single vineyard estate, rather they are a single village estate. Salon focuses solely on Mesnil-sur-Oger, certainly one of the best in all of Champagne. Salon owes 2 ha and purchases fruit from another 6 ha to create 60,000 bottles when they decide to declare a vintage. All of the parcels are mid slope, and in more or less a line starting from the wineries backyard, 2002 marks the release of the 38th vintage since the house began, and the next vintages will be 04, 06, 07, 08, and 12.
In the other years the wine goes to their sister house, Delamotte, usually into the reserve library for blending, but sometimes in the vintage blanc de blanc. The other big facts about the estate - generally no malolactic fermentation, 10 years minimum aging before release, and all bottles are hand riddled. The hand riddling isn't for the luxury as with some estates, but rather due to the crest on the bottle being a trap for sediment and a person needs to make sure the yeast doesn't get stuck.
It was interesting to visit Salon after two very passionate growers. Salon is certainly more refined in terms of facilities and presentation, but couldn't match the enthusiasm of the growers. I didn't expect them to, and the tour was very enjoyable with plenty of discussion of selling champagne and the world in general, but there was little discussion of the farming methods, etc. Unfortunately, I wasn't offered the chance to taste vin clair, which would have been awesome. However, after tasting through the Delamotte wine, which continue to improve in recent years, my host brought out 2002 Salon! I was expecting to taste the 1999, which is starting to show quite well after a dumb phase. The 2002 was quite a treat, and apparently I'm about the 20th American to taste the wine, as it won't be released until April. This is one of those sad and amazing wines that is from a well known vintage and is drinkable enough that too much of it will be drunk far too young. The wine is built to last for decades. Already it was showing a more open and obvious side than any other young Salon I've had. Tons of complexity, but quite tight. Plenty of focus on chalk that is a texture as much as it is a flavor. Other notes included a bit of peach, apricot skin, ginger without the burn, a touch of smoke. Disgorged Q3 2013, 5 g/L, no wood, no malo. I highly recommend buying this wine if you have the means. It will treat you well, particularly if you allow it to spend some time in the cellar.