Becoming a Champagne Critic
In keeping with my New Year's Resolution "drink champagne more regularly," I recently stopped in at the Roederer Estate tasting room in Anderson Valley. We were headed to one of our all time favorite places on earth, The Harbor House on the Mendocino Coast, to celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary. Ok, stop right there. How many people do you know who have actually been married that long? And of those, how many are partners in life as well as partners in running a business? And of those, how many are actually still in love? Exactly! That's why I figured it was perfectly OK to be drinking champagne in the middle of a Friday afternoon.
Sipping through the Roederer line-up of bubbles was a delightful way to kick off our special celebration. They have numerous bottlings at various price levels, but by far the best is the 2002 L'Ermitage. If you like traditional French champagne, this one is for you. It is delicate and creamy, with exactly the right combination of fruit and richness. It's not cheap, at $50. But when compared to the cost of a large pizza and a pitcher or two of beer, well, it wasn't hard to justify the investment.
A little later, it was time to open the Bollinger Brut Special CuvÃ©e that I had picked up at my local grocery store. A shelf talker boasting a 94 point score from Wine Spectator caught my eye so I figured it must surely be worthy of our milestone. It too falls into the pizza and pitcher of beer price range.
"The bubbles are a little big for me" commented The Husband. Huh?? His comment seemed snobbish at first, but upon closer examination, I realized he was right. While the wine was creamy and yeasty, it was not seamless. The bubbles are so big that they fight with the subtle richness and savory nature of the wine. It was like the wine had two distinct personalities and they were definitely not getting along.
I'm no champagne critic, but this was getting fun!
Our next selection was the Krug Grande CuvÃ©e non vintage, ordered right off the Harbor House wine list. Ahhh, heaven on earth. Now here was champagne with tiny bubbles, complex flavors and a delicate yet sophisticated mouth feel that scored very high on the Yum Factor! It paired magnificently with Chef Adam Able's petrale sole with French beans, onion rings and sauce hollandaise. Talk about sublime. (Note: at this point in the evening I was in direct conflict with New Year's Resolution # 8, Lose Some Weight.) For you foodies, Adam is definitely a chef to watch. Trained in the south, he did a stint at Cyrus Restaurant in Healdsburg before taking the Executive Chef position at Harbor House. His cuisine is marvelous. Besides, anyone who finishes a meal with homemade beignets is a star in my book.
As the evening progressed, I realized we were having an all champagne meal. Oh boy, I could get used to this.
Other champagnes we tasted were a 1996 Veuve Clicquot (oxidized with no pop), Roederer Estate Brut RosÃ©, (also high on the Yum Factor) and an old standby, J Vintage Brut, Late Disgorged.
As for my New Year's Resolution, I've added to it slightly:
ÂEach and every week, I shall enjoy some type of bubbly grape-based beverage to celebrate the basics of life: love, marriage, family, friends, health, happiness, and harmony. If those don't seem fitting, there's always feeding the dog, folding the wash, or emptying my in-box...
This is a blog about what it's really like to be in the wine industry...so sit back, take a sip and enjoy!
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