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Bubbly Events, Champagne, Drinks

Best Discoveries from the Champagne Grand Tasting

June 3, 2011
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The Champagne Grand Tasting by the Champagne Bureau featured more than 32 champagne houses pouring their best bubbly.        Courtesy Dakota Fine Photography/CIVC

The Grand Champagne Tasting at the Westin St. Francis last week was glorious. Walking into the light-filled room done in gold and crystal on the 32nd floor of the Westin St. Francis was like stepping into champagne heaven.

Around the room that offered a panoramic view of San Francisco on a sunny day, more than 100 different styles of icy champagne rested in silver buckets, just waiting to be tasted.

The first of its kind tasting was presented by the Champagne Bureau, the U.S. office of the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC), a 70-year-old trade organization. The CIVC’s main mission is making sure the trademarked word champagne isn’t applied to sparkling wines from other places in the world.

“We have to defend this idea that champagne is from Champagne,” said Thibault le Mailloux, the new communications director of the CIVC visiting from France.

One of the best ways to do that is by letting people taste fine champagnes from smaller houses that often don’t get as much attention from consumers.  “We thought this was an opportunity to show the diversity and richness of the Champagne area,” le Mailloux said.
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My favorite discovery of the day was the brut rosé by Charles de Cazanove, a lively wine that tasted of wild strawberries. It’s also poured at Daniel Boulud’s DBGB Kitchen + Bar in NYC’s East Village, so you know it’s gotta be good.

I experienced some other new wines as well:  Champagne Thienot 1999 Grande Cuvée Alain Thienot, a $150 prestige cuvée that offered bread and toasty notes and finished with a surprising youthfulness; and the Champagne Mailly 2000 Grand Cru Les Echansons.  The wine crafted from 75% pinot noir/25% chardonnay had lovely notes of quince jam followed by brioche. Juice from their oldest vines goes into the 11,000 bottles of this cuvée dedicated to sommeliers.  Oh, and the 82-year old Mailly doesn’t use pinot meunier.

But as the ultimate comfort beverage, I think champagne is also about re-experiencing favorite flavors in wines like:

  • Vilmart et Cie’s 2001 Coeur de Cuvée, a delicious rosé that tasted of dried stone fruit and toasted nuts;
  • Bollinger’s 2002 La Grande Année, disgorged just two months ago and tasting richly of dried stone fruit;
  • The juicy and crisp Bruno Paillard Brut Premiere Cuvée, an amazing champagne value from the newest house in Champagne – (also love the Aria from La Wally on their website)
  • Pol Roger‘s NV Brut, a wine with a remarkable balance of freshness, delicacy and age;
  • Philipponnat’s 2004 Grand Blanc bursting with apricot flavors poured by Msr. Philipponnat himself and
  • Devaux’s Cuvée D with its delicate flavors of mushroom and subtle fruit.

 

Champagne, Drinks, Sparkling Wine

Big Bottles of Bubbly Make for Big Fun

December 19, 2010
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As magical as it is to open any bottle of sparkling wine, opening a big bottle of bubbly when entertaining makes an even grander statement. Whether it’s a magnum that holds the equivalent of two regular bottles of wine or a massive 4-bottle Jeroboam, bigger bottles are a smart and easy way to please a crowd.

Looking back on bottles of bubbly with friends over the years, the larger format bottles seem to stand out. We celebrated wrapping up shooting for my book The Bubbly Bar with a magnum of Veuve Clicquot; I remember sharing the same wine with Tony Hawk and his friends at a party in his oceanview backyard. Krug’s rich and toasty Grande Cuvée flowed freely from magnums at an over-the-top press trip to show off the brand’s custom hot air balloon.

The cool thing about larger bottles is that ounce for ounce, they’re no more expensive than the 750s. And besides their impressive size, larger format bottles win in the taste department when compared to the usual 750 ml bottles. I learned this lesson after a long and windy drive up to Mendocino County to visit Roederer Estate. The tasting room hosts pour their non vintage brut from a 750 ml bottle and a 1.5 liter magnum and letting guests taste the two side by side. The wine from the 750 was deliciously crisp and bursting with fresh green apples; the same wine from the magnum had these richer, toasty notes that usually are found in a wine that’s much older and more expensive.

Krug's Grande Cuvée tastes even better when its poured from a magnum.

Krug’s Grande Cuvée tastes even better when its poured from a magnum.

Some fun larger bottles to try include Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut, the nearly organic Drusian Prosecco, Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut and Joy!, a sparkling wine from Iron Horse that’s aged for 10 to 15 years. It’s only available in magnums, to make sure there’s enough liquid happiness to go around.

Champagne, Drinks, Shopping, Sparkling Wine

10 Great Bubbly Bargains for New Year’s Eve – All Under $30

December 30, 2009
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This cremant from Burgundy is French, eminently drinkable, and $10 at Trader Joe's.

This cremant from Burgundy is French, eminently drinkable, and $10 at Trader Joe’s.

On the whole, I think 2009 will be remembered as the year of moderation. Nearly everyone is looking for ways to be smarter about how they spend their money. While champagne and sparkling wines seem like a luxury — and they are a luxurious experience — they don’t have to come with a high price tag. One of the most useful features of my book The Bubbly Bar is a guide to buying bubbly in every price range. Since I wrote the book, I’ve continued to discover affordable sparkling wines that are great for sipping alone or in cocktails. Here’s my list of bargain bubbly available nationwide for New Year’s Eve 2010.

1. Michel Dervin Brut Champagne – crafted by a small grower in Champagne, this is toasty just the way you want, about $29.99
2. Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut or Extra Dry – made just outside Seattle, these wines are fresh and easy to like, about $8.99
3. Juve y Camps Reserva de la Familia Cava Brut Nature – an elegant and delicate mouthful, about $15
4. Blason de Bourgogne – a sparkling wine from Burgundy, made especially for Trader Joes available in brut and a brut rosé, about $10 – At Trader Joe’s
5. Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs – crafted from pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, a satisfying bubbly with a hint of richness, about $17

The Domaine Carernos Brut is a perfect marriage of California and France, with its fresh fruit balanced by toastiness.

The Domaine Carernos Brut is a perfect marriage of California and France, with its fresh fruit balanced by toastiness.

6. Domaine Carneros Brut – fresh and toasty, a marriage of California and France, about $24
7. Roederer Estate Brut – crisp green apple abounds, about $19
8. Mionetto Prosecco Brut – fresh green pear and soft bubbles, about $14
9. Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rosé – sophisticated and juicy with pinot noir, about $20
10. Domaine Chandon Brut Classic – a bright and bubbly wine, always a classic about $15

Celebrity Chefs, Champagne, Drinks

Champagne Daniel: You Can Take it Home with You

December 14, 2009
Cuvee Daniel Champagne

Cuvée Daniel Champagne

I’ve been in NYC for a few days of press interviews and book signings to promote The Bubbly Bar. The highlights included taping a Better.tv segment with Audra Lowe that airs later this week, making cocktails for Betsy on Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food with Betsy Karetnick.

But in between all the running around, I was lucky enough to be able to steal away to a few of Chef Daniel Boulud’s restaurants that included the fabulous new DBGB Kitchen & Bar where we had the most perfect gourmet burgers and housemade sausages and DB Bistro Moderne, where I enjoyed a a light lunch of an Indian spiced squash soup, Alsatian tart and an Eliot Spitzer sighting.

One element that I found in all three restaurants – besides the amazing food, interesting decor and top-notch service, was the Cuvée Daniel Champagne. It flowed most freely at Restaurant Daniel, where we sipped glasses of the house bubbly along with a series of little morsels including scallops and satiny fluke that were on the appetizer menu. It was elegant and crisp with a richnesss that unfolded around gorgeous streams of tiny bubbles.

Daniel’s champagne is made by Pierre Paillard, a small producer in Bouzy that has specialized in pinot noir-driven wines and champagnes since 1768!

And it turns out, it’s available for purchase from Sherry-Lehman in NYC. This week they’re offering Cuvée Daniel for $45 a bottle; even with cross country shipping it’s a quite affordable way to experience a bit of luxury from one of New York’s top restaurants.

2017 Update: Cuvée Daniel is no longer available.

Bubbly Events, Champagne, Drinks

Isn’t it Grand? Champagne Tasting in San Diego

November 13, 2009
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The Tour de Champagne — a fabulous tasting event that I just attended in Washington DC — hasn’t made its way to San Diego just yet. But we have an annual tasting that’s just as spectacular: Le Grand Champagne this Saturday Nov. 14 at the WineSellar & Brasserie.

This year, the pre-holiday tasting and appetizer pairing will feature 37 different marques (aka brands) of champagne and sparkling wines. They range from wines from small producers such as Charles Ellner and Bruno Paillard (check out the site if you love the movie Diva) to tête de cuvées by well known houses like Taittinger, Bollinger and Moët & Chandon. It’s not just NV brut; there will be several fine rose champagnes, the somewhat elusive Veuve Clicquot Demi Sec and Iniskillin’s amazing sparkling ice wine. Special pricing is being offered on Saturday for people who want to take their favorites home.

Matt Smith, the creative new chef at WineSellar & Brasserie, has created a delicious menu to enhance the different bubblies. Enjoy honeydew and grapes with delicate wines, lavender-scented goat cheese with crisp ones, celery root soup and crispy pancetta to pair with bold toasty champagnes and smoked salmon mousse with brut rosés.

The tasting is from 2 to 6 p.m at the WineSellar & Brasserie, 9550 Waples St. Suite 115 in Mira Mesa. Tickets are $85 per person or $70 for Wine Club members. For reservations and more information, call 858-450-9557.