Tag Archives: champagne

Bubbles and the Beast: Bollinger “Special Cuvee” and the Cuisine of Animal

24 Feb

My good friend Jaclyn came to visit LA a few days ago.  It was lovely to have her.  Our friend Jeff and I shared some good meals with her, including a much-anticipated tour to that bastion of snout-to-tail eating, Animal.

The prospect of a nearly-exclusive animal-based meal got me to wondering what to select as the alcoholic accompaniment.  I could have safely selected a Burgundy, or a Beaujolais, but instead I went for another B: a Bollinger “Special Cuvee” Brut Champagne.

Bubbles.

Many commentators have noted that Champagne and other sparkling wines are rather underutilized pairing partners for food.  This is a shame, as a brut (not sweet) Champagne is perhaps one of the most versatile wines: the mineral notes in a good Champagne can serve as a perfect complement to oysters, for instance, while the effervescence can enliven the palate after a rich bite of ribeye.  

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Champagne Day at Weygandt Wines (and a Whole Lot More)

7 Nov

I had the opportunity to go to a media night at Weygandt Wines last Friday, on the occasion of International Champagne Day.  This was Weygandt’s first effort to reach out specifically to DC food and wine bloggers, and from what I can tell it was a great success.

Weygandt Wines, located in Cleveland Park, reminds me a lot of Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant.  That venerable Berkeley institution is one of my can’t miss shops whenever I visit my alma mater, and for good reason: the wines I buy from the store are perhaps the freshest, most vibrant wines I’ve ever found.  KLWM is sort of like a farmers’ market for wine.  If that is the case, then Weygandt Wines is sort of like the Eastern Market of wines.

The namesake of the shop, Peter Weygandt, and his wife Maria (née Metzler) have been importing boutique French wines since 1987.  He has recently expanded his portfolio to include wines from Italy, Germany, Austria, Australia, and Spain.  He imports some killer Beaujolais and Burgundy, and has an excellent Rhône selection.  In all, they import around 70,000 cases of wine from over 100 producers.

The Weygandts were not at the media event, but the event was run by the store’s general manager, Tim O’Rourke.  Tim has an interesting history, having started out as a chef.  He graduated from L’Academie de Cuisine in Maryland in 2000, did tours at Café Atlántico, Ristorante Tosca, and Citronelle, and has cooked with such celebrity chefs as Daniel Boulud and Michel Richard.  Being the general manager of a wine store probably has its own set of stresses, but I can imagine that it might also be very relaxed in comparison to working in some high-profile kitchens!

I had been to Weygandt only once before, and recently: I picked up a bottle of Cabernet France for an ongoing dinner with friends at Dino (which is right across the street).  The store was technically closed but I sneaked in and asked who I found out later to be Tim whether he could recommend a good Cab Franc, which he did.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember which bottle he selected, but it was good, and I appreciated being able to pick up a bottle after closing time (and at a substantial discount to boot!).

The event started out with a flight of six sparkling wines–one Crémant de Bourgogne and five Champagnes.

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A Judgment of Paris: How the Sparkling Wines of Schramsberg Stacked Up Against Champagne

26 Oct

Considering sparkling wine is like considering heaven and hell.  On the one hand, you have sparklers that barely qualify as wine–Andre and Cook’s come to mind–while on the other hand you have Champagnes that will take you to the sky (related to price).  I haven’t had too much sparkling wine in my life, which is a shame because they are fun, well-made, and, as many are coming to realize, are absolutely terrific with food.

Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited to a trade tasting of the sparkling wines of Schramsberg Vineyards, a venerable California sparkling wine institution located in Napa Valley, at Marcel’s in DC.  I had had their wines once or twice before, but was never in a condition to remember too much about them.  With this tasting I was in luck, however, because not only would I try a number of Schramsberg’s wines but would also participate in a blind tasting of Schramsberg wines and the finest French têtes de cuvée (prestige cuvée) wines.

Yikes!  A blind tasting at a trade event?  I felt outclassed, but I decided I would drink more than I spoke. I rolled up (on foot) to the tasting in my black suit (featured in my previous post) and heavy black backpack (at least it matched my suit!) and was greeted with a glass of Schramsberg’s Brut Rosé, which had pretty strawberry and peach aromas that were mirrored on the palate.

We were then led to long tables, where I sat next to David (the proprietor of the excellent Pearson’s Wine & Spirits in Glover Park) and the wine director of the Ritz-Carlton.  The phalanx of glasses reproduced above awaited us, as well as scoring sheets:

Hugh Davies, son of the founders of Schramsberg Vineyards, gave excellent commentary and production notes throughout the whole tasting.

For the first flight, which was the blind tasting of the Schramsberg sparkling wines and the Champagnes, the idea was that we were supposed to rank the wines from first to seventh and determine if we could which were blanc de blancs and which contained Pinot Noir, and which were the Californian wines. These are my transcribed notes from A to G:

  • A | aromas reminiscent of white Burgundy–hazelnut and lanolin.  A long finish but a noticeable burn.  | MY RANK: 6
  • B | thin bodied and high acid, with notes of green apple.  | MY RANK: 7
  • C | wow!   Clover honey and bread, tart but rich.  Really freaking good.  I thought this could be the oldest wine in the lineup, and could contain Pinot.  | MY RANK: 2
  • D | some aroma I couldn’t place… more of the Burgundy, maybe… really evocative and old-smelling.  Well-balanced, with tangerine notes.  | MY RANK: 1
  • E | gentle floral aroma, with lemon curd.  | MY RANK: 5
  • F | a rich color which made me wonder if this was an older vintage.  Burgundian aromas, with a round, full taste evocative of papaya and tropical fruits.  I thought this might contain Pinot.  | MY RANK: 3
  • G | pineapple on the nose, less fruit-driven and more hazelnut on the palate.  | MY RANK: 4
So how did I do on the blind tasting?

A Burgundy Moment

4 Dec

I’ve been meaning to update this blog with the results of a fantastic Burgundy tasting I hosted for the staff of the Nota Bene a few weeks ago, but I never got around to it (I think finals, which start next week, has something to do with it).  However, a post on the Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant blog “Inspiring Thirst” inspired me to post at least a short entry on a few of the wines we drank that evening.

We had a spate of seven wines for the tasting, starting with the decidedly NOT Burgundian Drappier “Carte d’Or” Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne which I included because, hell, it’s 100% chardonnay, and hell, who doesn’t like Champagne?  We went through three whites–a basic Mâcon-Villages, a Chablis, and a Chassagne-Montrachet–and three reds.

The first red, the 2005 Domaine René Leclerc Bourgogne, was a basic rouge I picked up at MacArthur Beverages for around $25.  However, it was really, really good, with nice acidity, some spice, and a hint of funk.  This is definitely something I’d pick up as a “house Burgundy” if I ever make that much money in the future.

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How French Women Are Great for a Wine Blog and for Champagne Sales

21 May

One of the cool things about being the administrator of a blog–at least powered through WordPress–is that I am able to see what search phrases people are using to get to my site.  Some of the most direct are phrases like “joon song wine blog” or “vinicultured.”  Others are things like “wine blog” or “hip wine blog” (since when did my blog become hip?).  The most popular phrases involve “pinot noir” or “best pinot noir”–my most popular entry, actually, is suitably titled “Mission Wines Tasting: The (Second) Best Pinot Noir I’ve Ever Had.”

Then, others are… well… not what I would have ever anticipated for a wine blog.  “Wisdom teeth coffee” has come up–presumably for my entry on how getting my wisdom teeth pulled temporarily ended my wine drinking career.  “LegalZoom sucks” has come up 24 times since I started my blog–and I can assure you quite readily that LegalZoom does not, in fact, suck.  A morbid series of phrases deals with how to throw a party for a dying person–which is somehow derived from my post on the psychology of a dying party (as in a party that is winding down, not a party for… well… dying).

But perhaps one of the most enjoyable series of phrases shows how the Internet is truly being used: the second most popular search phrase on my site is “French women,” the fifth is “women smoking,” and somewhere lower on the list is “French women smoking.”  My post isn’t really about drinking per se but is about the relatively recent ban on smoking in France.  (Look out for the nasty comment comparing me to a Southern slaveowner!)

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A New Year and a Whole Lotta Bottles of Wine

11 Jan

Another year, another few scores of bottles of wine.  I’m not sure if the start of a new year necessarily engenders hope and thankfulness–usually, I feel more of a mix of relief and a creeping feeling that maybe my life is slipping past me–but 2009 in Washington, DC, has found me in a very thankful mood.

For one, I’m living in a nice, comfortable apartment with great food.  I have a wonderful family that I appreciate more as I get older; great friends.  I am going to a good law school with outstanding professors and classes.  I have nothing to complain about, and I am going to try to be more appreciative of the incredible opportunities I’ve been given.

To kick off the new year, my roommate and I hosted a champagne and sparkling wine tasting, the details of which will be coming out in the upcoming Nota Bene (GW Law student newspaper); I will write up my blog observations on that evening a bit later.  Suffice it to say that the big winner in the tasting were a beautiful sparkler from France, the Charles de Fere Blanc de Blanc Reserve Brut ($12.99)–was, as I described it, “the group’s favorite, with a nose of hazelnut and toast, a light, almost ethereal mouthfeel, and notes of apple and pear.”

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Three Days of Wine

20 Sep

I’m listening to Cannonball Adderley’s rendition of “Autumn Leaves” (with Miles helping out on trumpet) with the window open–the air is fresh, the sky is blue and flecked with fast-moving clouds, and the temperature is a lovely 64 degrees.

Needless to say, I am pretty content right now.  Washington, DC is a great town, and I find myself enjoying law school much more than college.  One of the reasons for that is there are some good people here, and fun things to do.  Like drink.  And cook.  And drink and cook I did for three consecutive days.

Wednesday

My friend Adrian invited a few people over (all guys, regrettably) on Sunday for beef stew and poetry.  I brought over my “house red”–a bottle of Nero d’Avila from Trader Joe’s (retail: $4.99)–and we discussed Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” over steaming bowls of stew and sips of wine.  To repay the favor, I invited Adrian and two of our friends to my place on Wednesday for a meal of roast lamb, honey-rosemary potatoes, and roasted garlic asparagus.

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“Champagne Makes Me Do Craaaazy Things!”

28 Dec

I’m not the biggest champagne drinker–I’ve found that champagne gives me a big headache, probably on account of the residual sugar and carbonation–but it’s absolutely the best drink for special occasions: weddings, anniversaries, New Year’s Eve, bar and bat mitzvahs, promotions, or Valentine’s Day. And, with New Year’s coming around (as Kris was kind enough to point out!) I thought I should talk a bit about champagne and its bastard half-brother, sparkling wine.

There are different categories of champagne based on the amount of residual sugar:

  • Brut Natural or Brut Zéro (less than 3 grams of sugar per liter)
  • Extra Brut (less than 6 grams of sugar per liter)
  • Brut (less than 15 grams of sugar per liter)
  • Extra Sec or Extra Dry (12 to 20 grams of sugar per liter)
  • Sec (17 to 35 grams of sugar per liter)
  • Demi-Sec (33 to 50 grams of sugar per liter)
  • Doux (more than 50 grams of sugar per liter)
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    Valentine’s Day 2006, or “Why Always to Have Rosé Champagne on Hand”, or “Why I Love Women Who Love Jack Daniels”

    26 Dec

    Valentine’s Day 2006 was shaping up to be more like Single’s Awareness Day. Having gotten out of a relationship that spanned the two Valentine’s Days previous, I found myself in my room at Clark Kerr, alone, a tea candle or two lit, drinking some tea and listening to Nick Drake.

    But then a rapping on the door! I drag myself out from under my duvet and open it to reveal my resident L. and her friend A.

    You know how sometimes you look at an attractive person and you’re like, “Sure, they’re pretty, but whatever”? And sometimes you look at an attractive person and you’re like, “My God I must holler at them.” (In my thoughts, I sound like a white suburban kid trying to be a gansta’.)

    This girl, A., was in the latter category. Pretty face, big dark eyes framed with dark lashes, supple red mouth, all framed by “long dim hair” (a point for anyone who can identify that literary allusion). I was drawn to her lips, her eyes, her hips… her hips were womanly, curved and full of life.

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