Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Best of the Best Champagne Night

Friday night we did our annual Best of the Year, or Best of the Best Champagne tasting, easily my favorite tasting of the year. This is where I put together a lineup of the Champagnes that I love above all others, (or that is the idea) but this year I got to throw a spin on things. Last July Amy and I attended a trade tasting that featured Champagnes from the Becky Wasserman portfolio, (did a blog post about it…can’t think of the name right now….something about Champagne and Nasty In A Good Way Burgers) and we fell in love with too many things there…problem was that it was a pre-offer tasting so the wines would not be available until October, such a bummer. Not so good at the waiting and with all the things we taste it is easy to let something we tasted months ago slip to the back of our minds, that was until the damn things we ordered, (and almost forgot about) showed up.

Knowing that the sales of Champagne in the store, (and in the Southern California market) have been tanking all year I went easy on my pre-order, and by easy I mean I ordered quite a few things but only one or two cases of each. Conservative but in the long run, not that smart as I really couldn’t write them up because there was not enough to go around and then because I didn’t write them up they just sat there on the shelf because no one knew anything about them, I know very few people that are willing to drop $60-$70 on a bottle they have never heard of. So my plan for this Best of the Best Champagne class was to focus on a few of the wines from that tasting and throw in a few old favorites for good measure.

Gotta tell you, I have never seen a more punctual group of class goers…ever, these folks tend to dribble in a tad late and our 7:30pm start time is often more like 7:45 but on Friday they were there, in their seats ready to go by 7:30. Randy had stayed a little late and commented that it seemed as if the group was ready to have a good time the second they walked in the door, the mood was fun and the energy was palpable. Now I am one of the shyest people on the planet and standing in front of these classes makes me want to hurl, no lie…hate it and when I do open my mouth to speak the whole damn room goes silent….ACK! I know they are waiting from some pearls of wisdom to fall out of my mouth, (as the specialist and all) but I feel my face go fire red and my throat begin to cinch up. I end up rushing through the conversation while pouring the wines which ends up taking the focus off of me and putting it where it rightly belongs…in the glass. This Friday I found myself having to shhhh the crowd and at one point having to clink my glass on an empty bottle of bubbly just to get their attention!

The crowd was boisterous and having a blast and the wines….well if I do say so myself, were some of the best we have ever had at a Best of the Best event…truly remarkable. There was not one “just alright” wine in the bunch…not that ever really is but sometimes the order will make some wines outshine others but that night….each wine just set up the next. There was one exception and that was one bottle of NV Godme Integral, ( a Non Dosage) was very slightly corked only a couple of people caught it and when I tried to poll the class they were already finished with it…guess they didn’t notice! (I did open another bottle at the end of the night for those that had noticed and the new bottle knocked them out! Even after 10 other wines they able to taste the sexy as all get out complexity of that wine…brown butter, seashells and caramel…damn)

The wine of the night for me….the 2002 Marcel Moineaux Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, ($69.99). I had tasted this wine in previous vintages and always found something fascinating about it but something kept me from pulling the trigger and bringing it in the shop….pretty unusual wine in that while it had some lovely fruit it was, (and is) all white flowers on the palate….can’t remember the last time someone came in and asked me for a Champagne bursting with white flowers, hence the hesitation to stock it. Well I did pull the trigger and shit howdy am I glad I did, this wine is absolutely stunning and so unlike anything else we have, it is long, sensual and so delicately beautiful that it is haunting me four days later. Wasn’t just me either, people came in the day after to pick up a few bottles…like the wine had been haunting them too. I brought in 2 cases and we are already down to less than a case….and when I get to work tomorrow I will be snagging a couple for myself.

Other Featured Wines:

NV Camille Saves Grand Cru Brut Rose, ($72.99) the only Rose of the evening, ( highly unusual as they are some of our favorites) this wine was all about in your face ripe red cherries. Broad in the mouth with a long rich finish.

NV Godme 1er Cru Integral, ($65.99) as I mentioned above one of the three bottles we served was slightly corked but the rest, sexy and full of complexity with an almost savory like finish.

NV Pierre Peters Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, ($52.99) now this was my Champagne of the year pick and it came damn close to winning but was shot down by the Camille Saves 2000. That being said, this wine continues to please me…and the rest of us beyond its price tag. Very deep and rich for Blanc de Blancs with long buttered bread flavors and powerful mouth feel.

NV Roland Champion Blanc de Blancs, ($64.99) the first wine we served, (the first wine has always been a bit of a throw away wine….hate that) I was floored by the balance of grace and power in this wine. Explosive citrus and apples on the palate, very curvy and playful in the mouth with a sexy snappy finish.

NV R.H. Coutier Grand Cru Brut, ($39.99) another Wine of the Year candidate, this Pinot Noir heavy wine is beyond a super value! Tremendous weight, texture and flavor with a saucy little hit of baked apples on the long super full finish.

NV Jose Dhondt Blanc de Blancs, ($55.99) year in and year out a staff and customer favorite this Blanc de Blancs drinks like it has some junk in the trunk, so not your delicate little Chardonnay based bubbly. Toasted bread slathered with sweet butter then topped with orange marmalade..um…yum.

2000 Godme Grand Cru Brut, ($77.99) as I am typing this I believe this wine sold out that night if not the next day…no wonder why as it was the most serious wine of the night. Nothing playful here this is a wine for the major wine geek…kept changing in the glass, each sip was a new wine and the finish held on for dear life…not that I wanted it to go away anyway.

NV Paul Bara Brut Reserve, ($49.99) one of Randy’s favorites I like to call this wine the “loose woman” of the evening…nothing shy or restrained, the wine gave it up from the first sip. Luscious red fruit, pie crust and butter…loads of it, complex…hell no…tasty…you bet yer ass!

1998 Billecart-Salmon Cuvee Nicolas Francois, ($109.99) this was my nostalgic pick for the evening, it was something like 10 years ago I first tasted this wine, (well the 1989) paired with a pot of homemade chicken soup no less and that was when I fell in love with Champagne, never knew anything that good existed. Have I had better since, sure but this wine will always have a part of my heart…aww…snarf! This wine showed that old school roasty almost coffee or toffee like flavors that so many people love, paired with a very fresh vibrant core of fruit it was beautifully balanced and pretty damn easy to suck back.

Could not have been happier with the group, the wines and the final tasting of the year…is there any better way to kick of the holidays than with bottles of bubbles….if you say yes I will flick you in your melon and denounce you a fibber…..(snicker)

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