Yesterday kicked off a week of Champagne festivities in the U.S., including two Grand Tastings in New York and San Francisco. This marks the first time tastings of this nature have been hosted in the United States by the Champagne appellation.
Sommeliers, members of the wine industry and yours truly were invited to sample Champagnes from more than 30 houses and growers, each of whom brought up to three selections from their portfolio.
The Champagne Grand Tasting was hosted at the historic Plaza Hotel. Upon entering the Terrace Ballroom we were checked in and given our credentials and tasting book. From there I experienced champagne like I have never experienced it before.
I started in the same order of the sampling book to stay on track. Alfred Gratien Champagne featured three selections which included their Brut Rose Classique and Brut Classique.
From there I went next door to Ayala. Their Blanc De Blancs 2004 was nothing short of impressive. I really experienced the Chardonnay grape in all its splendor as it was deliciously powerful but light and crisp.
One champagne house that really took me by surprise was Besserat De Bellefon. Their Cuvee Des Moines Brut had a rich cheese aroma on the nose. It was full bodied and is a perfect pairing for a red meat entree.
From there I was treated to Boizel. This champagne house was founded in 1834 and runs 5 generations deep so I knew I was in for something special. Their Brut Reserve ($45.00) and NV Brut Rose ($75.00) were my two favorites.
Before I could continue I needed to take a break to clean my palette beyond eating crackers between each sampling. The Champagne Bureau provided a snack table as well which included various cheeses, fruits, crackers, breads and other finely prepared hors d’œuvres.
After I had something to eat I went off course and started pinpointing the more popular champagnes houses. My first choice Bollinger truly exceeded my expectations. Their Special Cuvee NV was incredible! It was razor sharp with a crisp finish and was delicious throughout.
Next up was a brand that should be known to all bubbly enthusiasts Piper-Heidsieck. I was very impressed with their Brut Vintage 2004 ($75.00) and even more so with their Rare 2002 selection. Aside from a very complex and rich taste, the bottle is stunning visually with a floral plating on the base.
Pol Roger was also present and their Brut 2000 was definitely a highlight for me. In my opinion this vintage was a contender for ‘Best In Show’.
With only an hour left in the tasting I really slowed down and just had sips of various houses including a spectacular Grande Reserve from Gosset, the stunning Palmes D’or 1999 from Nicolas Feuillatte and the always impressive Taittenger Comtes De Champagne Blanc De Blancs 2000.
Overall The Champagne Bureau put together a very well run and prestigious event. I want to personally thank Shannon Hunt and Kate Connors for the invite and Jade for giving us a very warm introduction.
Champagne is always my first choice so this will be a moment I will never forget. Cheers!