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Bubbly Events, Champagne, Drinks

Best Discoveries from the Champagne Grand Tasting

June 3, 2011

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.


Bubbly Events, Champagne, Drinks

Isn’t it Grand? Champagne Tasting in San Diego

November 13, 2009

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.

Champagne, Lifestyle, Pop Culture

Of Spies & Champagne: The Movie Duplicity Sparkles

March 23, 2009

Apparently champagne is the drink of choice among international corporate spies. That’s one of the take-away’s from Duplicity, a new romantic thriller starring Clive Owen and Julia Roberts. They’re former government spies carrying on a secret romance while playing out a high-stakes game of corporate espionage. The pair meets in Dubai, but the romance takes off with an extended tryst in what appears to be a luxury suite at the St. Regis Grand Hotel in Rome (it’s really a space at Convent of Sacred Heart in NYC). The champagne–mostly the bold Moët Grand Vintage Brut and off-dry White Star –keeps flowing in London and Miami, with champagne corks becoming a signal for a rendezvous.

Moet et Chandon Grand Vintage 2000 is one of the champagnes poured in the new film Duplicity.

The assertive and distinctive Moët et Chandon Grand Vintage 2000 is one of the champagnes poured in the new film Duplicity.

Duplicity was written and directed by Tom Gilroy, who wore the same two hats on the superb and dark movie Michael Clayton, also about corporate spying — but with less champagne. Duplicity is fast-paced and fun, with a rising tide of dramatic and romantic tension that at turns reminded me of the films Prizzi’s Honor, The Thomas Crown Affair and The Sting. Even at the dénouement, there’s Dom Pérignon. It’s a lovely piece of product placement, which adds to the plot and underpins the ideal of the glamorous life.

But spies and fine champagne have gone together ever since Ian Fleming created the archetypal international spy James Bond. The literary Bond drank Taittinger, but it hasn’t been featured on-screen since the Blanc de Blancs was sipped in 1963’s From Russia With Love, according to the site Atomic Martinis, which chronicles every ounce of booze consumed in James Bond films. Over the years, the cinematic Bond has been torn between two loves: Bollinger and Dom Pérignon. According to luxury site Bond Lifestyle, Sean Connery turns up his nose when offered Dom ’55 instead of the ’53 in Dr. No.  Roger Moore’s Bond comments that the villain in The Spy Who Loved Me can’t be all that bad if he serves Dom Pérignon ’52. And Moore wishes he had been greeted with a Dom ’62 instead of ’64 when he gets busted sneaking onto the villain’s private island in The Man with the Golden Gun.

In Goldeneye, Pierce Brosnan’s Bond pushes a button on the dashboard of his Aston Martin to open a compartment with a bottle of Bollinger La Grande Année 1988 and two flutes. Daniel Craig, the newest Bond, sips Bollinger in both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace which is available on DVD March 24.