With Valentine’s Day behind us, it means that the unofficial but traditional Bubbly Buying Season that started with Thanksgiving is over. But really, why does the fun have to stop? There are plenty of ways and reasons to enjoy sparkling wine and champagne, especially with events like these coming up. This year, expect to see lots of events highlighting grower champagnes which are made by Champenoise families who grow the grapes and make it into small quantities of finely crafted champagne.
Grower champagnes with names like Pierre Gimmonnet, Henri Billiot, Gratien and Vilmart are sought after in Europe and they’re what savvy sommeliers sip at home. Their reputation is growing here thanks to the work of people like Terry Theise of importer Michael Skurnik who believes this “fun family fizz” offers a much more interesting flavor experience than a mass-produced bubbly. This year the Independent Champagne & Sparkling Wine Invitational – first large U.S. event devoted to exploration of grower champagne – pops off from April 15-18, 2010 in New Orleans with classes, pairing dinners and tastings.
Here in California, Dr. Champagne aka Jerry Horn is presenting a champagne-soaked four course dinner showcasing grower wines at Picco in Larkspur on Feb. 23. The dinner created by chefs Bruce Hill and Chris Whaley starts with hamachi crudo with tarragon, blood orange and crispy onions paired with Egly-Ouriet Premier Cru Brut, a family owned winery with vineyards in Ambonnay and Bouzy, some of the best areas for pinot noir. Next comes poached lobster and caviar with another grower champagne, the Jean Vesselle Brut Oeil de Perdrix, an elegant wine blanc de noirs Dr. Champagne introduced me to. It has a hint of rosiness, like the eye of a partridge.
The dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. cost is $150 per person, plus tax and gratuity. To RSVP, call 415-924-0300 or visit the Picco web site to download a faxable reservation form.