"The intersection where great wines meet reasonable prices"

Thursday, April 24, 2014

7th Time is the Charm: Pebble Beach Food and Wine Redefines Luxury

It's time to uncork another insiders-look, into the world of high-end Food and Wine, an article written by regular guest contributor; Ilona Thompson She's the Editor in Chief for Palate Exposure, a self-described believer in the Sustainability of Critical Thinking and Personal Responsibility. She is also a regular contributor to the Brenner Brief.

The Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival ("PBFW") titled "7th Time Down the Line," to commemorate its seventh year, is a four day feast for the senses; a cornucopia of food and wine that borders on obscene opulence. It seduces patrons with a never-ending array of events; showcasing food and wines that are captivating, awe-inspiring and just plain fun. Set in a breathtaking community of Pebble Beach, it is the epitome of hedonism brought to the attendees by 250 acclaimed wineries and 125 chefs. Dozens of top notch sommeliers from around the country oversee the meticulously choreographed wine service during lunches, dinners and seminars. A number of expert mixologists and beer purveyors are available should your palate require an impeccable cocktail or a refreshing craft beer.

One of its distinguishing characteristics is that there is truly something for everyone:

  • Fun-filled food demos with colorful TV Chef personalities
  • Wine and food pairing lunches and dinners
  • Walk around wine and food tastings, with offerings presented by vintners and Chefs
  • Once-in-a-lifetime seminars: Featuring extremely rare wines, supplied and presented by the legendary producers themselves, moderated by industry luminaries
  • Decadent, inspired meals prepared by world-class Chefs enjoyed in a glorious setting

For the price of a wine and food pairing dinner at a nice restaurant, you can pal around with the likes of Michael Symon, Robert Irvine and Guy Fieri while they serve you an unforgettable multi-course meal. Oenophiles will enjoy exclusive seminars and uber-luxurious tastings. Brilliant chefs, sommeliers and winemakers host an exhilarating weekend jam-packed with cooking demonstrations, chef's tastings, wine seminars, gala dinners, and over-the-top after-parties.

Nearly 8000 discerning guests flock from all over the world to enjoy this extravaganza. In it's seventh wildly successful year, with the events selling out in record time, PBFW has earned a reputation as the ultimate wine and food event for a very good reason. To quote Phil, from Groundhog Day, "One can have a perfect experience, it just takes a really long time to create it." Pulling off this ultimate food and wine fantasy requires a gargantuan behind the scenes effort. To sum up four days of sensory overload into a few paragraphs is a near impossible task, but I’ll do my best.

Highlights and Notable Vitals:

1. Lexus Grand Tastings: For a bargain $225 price of admission; this event presented a myriad of tasting opportunities from rockstar wineries such as Archery Summit, Bedrock Wine Co, Beringer, Black Kite Cellars, Blackbird Vineyards, Brand, Capture, Carlisle, Caymus, Chamisal, Chappellet, Cliff Lede, Davis Family Vyds, Duckhorn, Dumol, Fel, Flowers, Gandona, Gary Farrell, Hall, Hestan, Joseph Phelps, Jonata, Kistler, Kosta Browne, Ladera, Pahlmeyer, Paradigm, Pisoni, Quintessa, Realm, Silver Oak, Scribe, Turley and lots more.

2. The Champagne from elusive, boutique, and exclusive producers was flowing freely. Champagne houses that were pouring included Champagne Billecart-Salmon, Delamotte, Henriot, Lanson, Louis Roederer, Nicolas Feuillatte, Perrier-Jouet and Champagne Salon.
3. Notable wine personalities: The list included a host of Master Sommeliers; who were conducting guided tastings, seminars, a variety of demonstrations as well as attending as guests:
  • Tony Abou-Ganim Mixologist
  • Gillian Balance MS Treasury Wine Estates
  • Didier Depond Champagne Salon President
  • Paul Draper Ridge Vineyards
  • Fintan Du Fresne Chamisal Vyds
  • Frederic Engerer Chateau Latour
  • Andy Ericssson Mayacamas Vyds (former Screaming Eagle winemaker)
  • Antonio Galloni Vinous Media
  • Ray Isle Food and Wine magazine
  • Paul Lato Lato Wines
  • Jordan Mackay SF Magazine
  • Archie McLaren, Central Coast Wine Classic
  • Puri Mancebo Bodegas Vegas Sicilia
  • Chris Mazepink Archery Summit
  • Roland Micu MS Rose. Rabbit. Lie
  • DLynn Proctor Penfolds
  • Michael Silacci Opus One
  • Larry Stone MS Huneeus Vintners
  • Morgan Twain-Peterson Bedrock Wine Co
  • Bryan Talley Talley Vyds
  • Laura Werlin Cheese Essentials
4. Marquee wine seminars that supplied once-in-a-lifetime tasting opportunities were:
  • 2010 Burgundy; An Exploration of the Great Terroirs of the Cote D'Or
Moderated by by Antonio Galloni, Vinous founder (former lead critic of Wine Advocate) and Larry Stone, MS with wines from Domaine Dujac, Mugnier, Rousseau, Louis Jadot, Comte Armand, Marquis d'Angerville, Robert Chevillon, and Domaine de la Vougeraie was a feast for the Burgundy-phile senses.
  • Opus One Seminar
Moderated by Michael Silacci, winemaker, it offered the admirers of this iconic brand not only to taste but also to blend their own version Of Opus One.
  • 2008 Barolo: Modern day Classics Barolo
Featured Barolos from Elio Grasso, Roberto Voerzio, Bartolo Mascarello, Giuseppe Rinaldi, G.D.Vajra, Elvio Cogno, Luciano Sandrone and Vietti. A study in Italian greatness with great insights by Antonio Galloni, with some wines provided from his personal cellar!
  • Chateau Latour - A Historic Tasting
Wines/Vintages poured were Pauillac 2009, Les Forts 2006/00/10, Chateau Latour 1990/96/00/01/03. Moderated by Frederic Engerer, it was truly once in a lifetime opportunity to taste the grand First Growth in a side by side format.

  • Vega Sicilia Unico - 150 Year Anniversary
Moderated by Vega Sicilia's own Puri Mancebo and featuring Unico wines from 1975, 1989, 1994, 1998, 2000 and Valbuena from 1998/00/03/04/05. Clear takeaway is an extraordinary QPR these elusive wines represent, and what an impressive showing, especially given their size and girth. Age Worthiness galore.
  • The Singular Majesty of Champagne Salon
Moderated by Didier Depond and Antonio Galloni, featuring Delamotte Blanc de Blanc NV/2004 and Salon 1970/1983/1988/1995/97/99/2002, some out of Magnums, flown directly from Didier's cellar, this could only be described as "wow" - this event alone was worth showing up for an entire weekend for.
5. Marquee Lunches and Dinners: The Founder's Dinner, Grand Finale Dinner, A Tribute to a Legend - Charlie Trotter.  A Taste of Italy featured Top Cheftestant Antonia Lofaso, who brought eggplant straight from her grandma's garden for her playful version of eggplant parmigana, made with caciocavalo cheese. Forage to Feast: Lexus Chef's Table Lunch (with Michael Symon and Joseph Lenn), The 4 Martini Lunch (with Ben Spungin of CLM, Michael Hung of Faith and Flower LA, Wesley Hoiton of Rose. Rabbit. Lie and Abby Burk of Restaurant 1833.) were as tasty as they were playful and whimsical.
6. Exclusive After-parties: It is at the lounge where you get to rub elbows with celebrities, nosh on stunning small plates by Hubert Keller (Fleur de Lis), sip cocktails and dance till 2 am to the tunes of local celebrity DJ.

7. Noteworthy for "Foodies: Food Network star Robert Irvine poured copious amounts of wine, while snapping photos and chatting with awestruck fans. He then strolled over to the station manned by the ever cool and wildly funny Guy Fieri to sample his Macaroni Cheese Burger (which caused patrons to stand in the longest line in the tent.) Guy Fieri and Robert Irvine also joined forces for "Dinner in the Kitchen" the night before that guests described as the "most fun they've ever had at dinner"

8. Heard:
  • Guy Fieri's choice of profession other than his own was a bullfighter; Robert Irvine's - firefighter.
  • Robert Irvine asked the military servicemen in the audience to stand up during dinner and offered  them a well deserved round of applause.
  • Rochelle Trotter's moving tribute to her late husband, the legendary Charlie Trotter, didn't leave a dry eye in the room.

9.  Favorite celebrity bite from a Chef:
  • Aubergine's Executive Chef Justin Cogley (one of Food & Wine magazine's Best New Chefs) brought his signature seafood dish, "Dungeness Crab Paired with Seaweed Vinegar and Beach Succulents."
  • Andrew Zimmerman said it was his favorite bite of the event.
  • Ilona's favorite bite: "Bacon and Pork Belly Jam. Slow Poached Egg" + "Portuguese Seafood Soup" by Kim Canteenwalla of Honey Salt in Las Vegas. Sublime.

Speaking of favorite meals, what would you choose for your last one?  

10.  Favorite quote from a Celebrity Chef:
  • "Get up every day and try to be the best person that you can be, and help people in any way that you can" - Robert Irvine

Celebrity portrait photographer, Melanie Dunea, asked the world's most prominent chefs exactly that. Her book "My Last Supper:50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals" served as the inspiration for a whimsical dinner titled "My Last Supper: The Next Course" at which five renowned Chefs presented their "last meal" course, paired with sublime wines.

The idea of PBFW was conceived seven years ago by serial entrepreneurs David Alan Bernahl, II and Robert Weakley, who co-founded Coastal Luxury Management. After taking the luxury food and wine world by storm in the form of Pebble Beach Food and Wine event they have gone on to create the Los Angeles Food & Wine festival; in addition to opening several popular, upscale restaurants.

The wine program would have been impossible without the tireless efforts of executive wine director extraordinaire, Lara Sailer Long, who astoundingly managed to secure the likes of Chateau Latour, Vega Sicilia and Champagne Salon among many other phenomenal wineries. My wine geek heart and palate are forever grateful.

In a word, PBFW 2014 was magnificent. All weekend long I heard "wow"  "amazing" "ultimate" and the like from guests. I've been privileged to attend a lot of fantastic wine and food events. This event was one that took it to whole new level, both in terms of content and experiential experience.

Feel Free to Comment Below: You can also catch our wine-writer-at-large on twitter @PalateXposure where she is currently soaking up fun and flavor of exploring Paso Robles.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

J Wrigley Vineyard: One Stick at a Time

"Progress always involves risk; you can't steal second base and keep your foot on first." -- Frederick Wilcox

I had the distinct pleasure of getting to know the Wrigley's a couple of weeks back, while visiting Oregon's Wine Country on a press trip. The primary goal of my trip was to get to know the McMinnville AVA  [also affectionately known as the Mac AVA] much better, I feel I accomplished that goal in spades. I stayed with the Wrigley's for two days, in their tasting room [which you see above, bathed in the glow of the rising sun] and more specifically the 'media-room' reserved for visiting writers and such.

The 'tasting room' is primarily constructed of re-purposed materials, a work in progress which John likens to the progress of a beaver building a damn, it's "one stick at a time", I believe from my observations, that he takes this philosophy into his daily life as well, as he and his wife Jody are building a winemaking legacy, one stick at a time.

As the quote above indicates, you can't steal second, while keeping your foot safely on first base. There can be no "playing it safe" if want to progress in life. John and Jody Wrigley, know and live that quote everyday in spades. John still works full-time and the vineyards command much of his free time, while Jody manages the other aspects of running a winery, marketing and raising the children. The vines planted are coming up on their fifth leaf and from what I've tasted thus far, this winery is going places.

Many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased.~ John Steinbeck

Above is the picnic table, which sits just outside the tasting room door, looking into the Proposal Block. A place where all guests are invited [albeit indirectly] to take in the view after or before their tasting, to enjoy a picnic at their leisure and to take in the spectacular view. On this particular morning, I awoke early to catch the brilliant Oregon sunrise come up in the cool, clean and crisp morning air, where you can watch the fog banks roll around in the valley below. It's a take your breath away moment, one I will cherish in my wine-tasting travels memory banks for years to come. 

You can just imagine the grapes growing in these idyllic conditions, soaking in the warm, but gentle morning sun, the temperature slowly rising over the course of the day, and then cooling down in the evening, sealing in the vine ripened perfection day in and day out, until the harvest. 

“Success always looks easy to those who weren't around when it was being earned...!”

Having spent a couple days up here, I can certainly see why the Wrigley's chose this spot, it's a premium vine growing region located to the South East side of the Mac AVA. In the picture [corner left] above, way off in the distance, you can see the Van Duzer Corridor, what some call the 'freeway' for maritime breezes.

You'll find the Mac AVA is located Due west of historic downtown McMinnville, home to top-notch restaurants, charming boutique wineries and urban wine tasting rooms, you could spend a week in the down to earth town of thirty five thousand folks and just begin to scratch the surface of all it has to offer the thirsty vinosapien. The only thing, I think I would add to enhance some of these amazing rolling hills would be a zip-line. They have one in Sonoma County and it's a blast. 

Now for the wines, I believe I tasted everything they have to offer, my overall impression is outstanding. I was duly impressed, with the overall complexity, finish, freshness and abundant acidity. The 2011 as many folks are painfully aware was a vintage which tested the will of many good-to-great winemakers all over Oregon. Now that said, the 2011 Proposal Block, composed of Pommard, 117 and 115 clones I tasted, will need to see a bit of time in the cellar, before it's ready for prime time. My tasting note, wet, damp earth, and cracked pepper.

The cross flow filtration, helped to suss out some of the reticent cherry, cranberry and the subtle baking spices. I did find this wine more approachable and enjoyable the second day. This bottle sells for $45, again I believe it will develop further with extended time in the cellar, where the patient will be rewarded.

Now the 2012 Proposal Block Estate Pinot Noir, I tasted that same day and again experienced the same bottle again the second day was a stunner. I also was offered and I accepted a sample of this wine to take home, to share with @MrsCuvee. She also gave this wine a big thumbs up, pronouncing it very good. Now here valuation scale is a bit different than mine, she has okay, good and very good. 

For her to say "very good' it is near the equivalent of her being at least 95 points on a wine. But of course I can't speak for her directly. To say the 2012 Proposal Block "wowed-me" would be a bit of an understatement, but that said, I was very impressed and I highly recommend this Pommard Clone dominated wine to you. This wine is made for drinking now and drinking often, but that is not to say it couldn't hold its own with more than a few years in your cellar. 
Over the period of another lovely week in Oregon's Wine Country, I had the good fortune to taste a good many of the wines from the MAC AVA and I'd have to say that self-taught winemaker John Wrigley has winemaking skills sharply honed after just more than a handful of vintages under his belt. Kudos sir, kudos! 

Jumping into the 2010 J Wrigley "Mac" Cuvée, Extended Barrel Aging: I found it a bit lighter in the core, than 11 or the 12, a light garnet color. On the nose, baking spices, cracked pepper and broken wet earth. On the palate cut black tea, rose petals, bright recently ripened cherries. A rustic, short to medium finished wine, its high toned profiles makes it a better food wine, than the flashy cocktail hour dancer some Pinot Noir's tend to be. 

Now on the other side of that Extended Barrel Aging coin, the 2011 was greatly enhanced by the EBA it experienced. All those latent flavors missing from the non-EBA "Mac" Cuvée were out in spades. A silken texture, broadly approachable dark and red fruits, baking spices, black tea, and a brightness and refreshing quality, which invited sip after sip, and perhaps even the eventual slurp or two when no one was looking, oh-my.

One of the more interesting aspects about their property, the majority of which is east and south facing slopes, the large abandoned [amphitheater like] quarry you see pictured above. From this vantage point you see the various soil types which the vineyards are planted in. The property starts at the 210 foot elevation and is 740 feet at its highest point. Their vineyards sit in various soils, which are currently classified as Jory, Nekia, Yamhill and Peavine, although those designations are subject to change via the upcoming USGS reclassification of Oregon soil types. 

But as John is fond of saying, "we are happy that we have both volcanic and sedimentary soils, and he is happy let others chose what the correct name should or will be in the future. If you ever wanted to have an in depth conversation about soil types and the soil diversity found within the Mac AVA, then John Wrigley would be your man. He can talk to you about the soils at great length, similar to the way I could go on and on about the Packers chances this year, after the draft and trade picks have been made. Oy, so don't get me started, I'm only hopefully optimistic, but more on that for another time. 

You know I meet quite a few great folks, who find themselves in the wine business for one reason or the other, but in meeting John Wrigley and his wife Jody, seeing their passion, tasting their wines and the down to earth demeanor, hearing about their struggles and successes, it's my hope this winery takes off and launches into the wine stratosphere with all the best of success, that I think they deserve and have earned. 

In the picture above you see John Wrigley and I feel awful forgetting to have Jody jump into that picture. But what you see above is their simple tasting room, a quiet, off-the-beaten path, place where you can experience world class quality MAC AVA Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, if you find yourself in the McMinnville area, give them a call and then pay them a visit.  Until next time folks, remember as always, life is too short to settle for the ordinary, when for a few dollars more in many cases you can experience the extraordinary, slurp long and prosper cheers! 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ruinart: Bubbles And Batter?

Champagne, Fish 'n' Chips: Say It Aint Sole!

Okay - so eating fish and chips with a fine Champagne may seem a little weird but it made complete sense to me.  Allow me a few lines to set this appetite for degustation in a historical context. You see, as a young teen, I was sent out to the local youth club every Saturday night.  Aside from the opportunity to hang with older kids and listen to music my parents wouldn't allow in the house, youth club was my chance to get fish and chips at the "chippy" just around the corner. At 9 pm, we would collectively gather our jackets and, like a clutch of chattering ducklings, brave the cold for the hundred yard walk to our gustatory reward. 

Yes, it was almost always cold.  It was Ireland, and the youth club was closed during what we called the "summer months"), but I digress.  The smell of hot oil, freshly cooked chips and crisp batter filled the air, and we were transported almost cartoon-like on the wafting scent to the brightly lit doorway.  We would often share a portion of fish and chips between two or three - partly out of a need to combine our pocket money and partly because the servings were simply huge. At least, that is my recollection.

We would huddle together, can of ice cold Coca-Cola in one hand, and the other, frigid, carefully lifting the freshly salted, crisp and steaming delight from the paper.  Oooh, I can almost smell and taste it. I can also remember the sensory confusion of combining ice cold and intense heat, when it was my turn to hold the food. I would have to balance the hot chip packet in same hand in which I needed to hold my coke, liberating the other hand so I could still eat.  It was almost painful but all I was interested in was devouring the glorious deep fried delight before it cooled in the night air. The chilled, carbonated soda was, I thought, the ideal thing to wash it all down, leaving only a salty, greasy memory on my lips.

I was reminiscing about these halcyon days with another expat colleague, whilst complaining that no such thing existed close enough to my home outside Baltimore when I was struck by the somewhat obvious idea that I could recreate my once-favored meal.  However, this idea also presented a new and somewhat tantalizing opportunity. What would be my grown-up beverage of choice, soda?  Nah!  It would be Champagne!  Yes, it would be bubbles, and I knew just the one with which what I wanted to try my home-fried treasure - Ruinart Blanc de Blanc NV.

In Belfast, in the '70s/'80s, hot, fresh, Fish and Chips was frequently the closest thing to sunshine in a long dreary winter of conflict.

I retrieved the champagne from the chill cabinet and set about preparing my home made fish and chips.  I cubed a 1 lb piece of cod in to approximately 1" pieces while the oil heated.  I made a simple beer (Guinness) batter and seasoned some flour in which to drench the fish.  If you need details reach out to me on twitter @BruisedGrapehttps://twitter.com/bruisedgrape. The results are pictured above and I can tell you, I was once again transported back to the youth club.  So, what about the champagne?

Sample kindly shared by Moet Hennessy USA

Ruinart Blanc de Blanc NV – no need to wait here. The cork released and glasses poured, this wine was delicious. I used simple white wine glasses for the wonderfully aromatic Ruinart. Beautifully high-toned aromas buttered toasted brioche, nutmeg, candied lemon, honey and orange zest and blossom leaped from the glass. On the palate, the brioche was layered with Seville orange marmalade and great notes of honey nectarine, and ginger baking spice. (Ruinart is on twitter @CarnetsRuinart

It was clean, crisp upon entry, finishing creamy dry with lovely bitter-edge lemon pith.  I loved everything about this wine, even the fact that I might not want to cellar it for a few years as I do with some others. The Ruinart gave the impression of being a pleasure to enjoy now, no waiting required. A highly rewarding experience. Available around the USA for approximately $65, meaning it may not be an everyday sipper but if you need a reward for what life can throw at you...   Here's your wine!  If you really need a score on this, I would place this comfortably in the 92-93 point range.

Follow me on twitter @bruisedGrape

Your comments are always appreciated! 

Disclosure: This was a media sample provided for the review process.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

In Pursuit of Wine Happiness

In part two entitled "In pursuit of Wine Happiness" we continue to take another insiders-look, into the world of high-end Food and Wine, an article written by new and weekly guest contributor; Ilona Thompson the Editor in Chief for Palate Exposure, a self-described believer in the Sustainability of Critical Thinking and Personal Responsibility. She is also a regular contributor to the Brenner Brief. Look forward to seeing Ilona's contributions here, each and every Wine Wednesday, please help me welcome her to the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog.

Due to its uncanny emotional appeal, wine has long been a source of inspiration for many. Nonetheless, some have ridiculed the cost of drinking the world's finest wines. In my experience that it's simply the price you pay for greatness. Next time someone assures you that you can get just as exciting of a bottle for $40 as $400, don't believe them. In wine, as in life, you often get what you pay for.
If you want a good bottle of wine, $40 will often get you there. If you want an experience unlike any other, you have to play the odds in a category prohibitive for most. $400 will not guarantee you an ethereal experience, but spending that much will certainly improve your chances of achieving wine ecstasy.Trends come and pricing follows, however nothing worthwhile is subject to trends of the moment. DRC may fluctuate in auction market, but it will never be a bargain, and for a good reason.
Those of us who spend quality time on 'Planet Wine' have had a few epiphanies. My initial epiphany occurred with my first sip of 1995 Bryant Family Cab, an experience that I’ll never forget. Shortly thereafter, I was privileged to taste a 1997 Marcassin Pinot Noir,  which rearranged my perception of what this varietal can deliver.

With tasting extraordinary wines comes an inevitable conclusion that truly exceptional examples transcend the original source, i.e. grape, varietal, winemaking, time and any preconceived notions you may have had.  Somehow, the confluence produces a result that is more magic than mere manipulation. An illusion that feels as real as the purple liquid in your glass.
One of  my wine-life’s defining moments came from sampling a 1978 Henri Jayer Richebourg from a Magnum. I was fortunate enough to be a dinner guest at a prominent restaurant in San Francisco that involved some extraordinary Burgundy wines. I have only had Henri Jayer wine (Cros Parantoux) once prior to that and it was a mind boggling affair. What happened that evening made me feel like my definition of wine experience was highly inadequate. One of my dining companions, a man who is not easily rattled, cried. Another one excused himself to walk around the block; to have a solo moment in order to clear his head. Instinctively, all of us knew that this was a special moment, not soon to be forgotten.
It's human nature to try to replicate these rare,  ultimate ecstasies. The rules of the game is that there are no rules. You simply don't know where your next wine revelation will occur.  On numerous occasions I have sat through elaborate, multi-course, food and wine pairings prepared by the finest chefs and served by top winemakers and felt grateful, but not turned on. Like really great sex, if you knew the precise ingredients that facilitate it, you would never stop having it.
My most recent winegasm occurred under somewhat unlikely circumstances. Yes, Champagne Krug is a revered house unlike any other in the world, which was amply confirmed by Olivier Krug who brought a stunning line-up to the GourmetFest Festival in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

The thing is, I always thought my next wine epiphany would come from a red wine, likely a Pinot Noir. I often compare Pinot to a watercolor painting, unlike Cabs or other red blends, Pinot Noir is pure. Winemaker can’t allow you to paint over or blend the flaws when producing Pinots. They cannot be manipulated post-production. Perhaps that's why Pinot folk had always struck me as a different breed of winemakers and wine drinkers.

To put it in proper context, here are some wines which were presented:

Domaine de la Romanee Conti Richebourg line-up included bottles from 1971, 1991, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010.

Chateau Cheval Blanc tasting featured wines from 1967, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2005 and 2010.

The Krug line-up of Champagnes included:
•Krug Grande Cuvée (current)
•Krug Clos d’Ambonnay 1998
•Krug Clos du Mesnil 2000
•Krug Vintage 2000
•Krug Vintage 2003
•Krug Grande Cuvee (2003 base)
•Krug Rosé (NV)
•Krug Collection 1989
Krug is regarded worldwide as the King of Champagnes and Champagne for the Kings. Third generation vintner, whose grandfather is responsible for the legendary 1928, Olivier Krug made it clear that the Krug name is synonymous with greatness for a reason. For Krug, when it comes to quality there are no compromises. Every square inch of the vineyards is meticulously tended to, harvested  at different times and by hand. Great acidity and "freshness" are key.

The lots are fermented separately in mostly 20L lots. For Krug, the blends are not about varietal composition, it's about choosing the right combination of "ingredients" from their vast, 150 plus wine "library" and creating a wine with superior balance that is worthy of the name Grande Cuvee. 

The brand is constantly innovating and coming up with new ways to extract the essence out of the varietal many associate with joy and celebration. Arguably the most age-worthy Champagne on the planet, Krug places tremendous value on it, their philosophy is "part of the definition of quality is how the wine ages" and versatility is another hallmark, as well as food pairing.

Krug Grande Cuvée is an annual blend of well over a 100 wines (this year is was 142!) utilizing Pinot Noir , Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay sourced from numerous vineyards and vintages. Often it takes over twenty years to craft it, including several spent in the cellar once bottled.

Krug Clos d’Ambonnay hails from a postage stamp of a vineyard of 1 ½ acre, with miniscule yields, that sits in the heart of Ambonnay, a village in Champagne. Once bottled its aged for twelve plus years. Krug Clos du Mesnil is sourced from a single plot (“clos” in France) of Chardonnay: a 4 ½ acre vineyard located in the village of Mesnil-sur-Oger. It’s aged in Krug’s cellars for a decade plus.

Krug Vintage is composed of wines from a single year.  It sits in Krug’s cellars for at least a decade before release. Krug Collection is an arm of Krug Vintage, with bottles that have been cellared for at least ten additional years with the current offering of 1989.

Krug Rosé is an annual blend of several different vintages from Krug’s library of hundred and fifty reserve wines, aged five plus years. Apparently, when asked, Madonna said that her two guilty pleasures are french fries and Krug Rose. If that does not give it sex symbol status, I don't know what will.
To further contextualize what I tasted that weekend, there was Maison Joseph Drouhin, Harlan Estate, Quintessa,  Weingut Donhoff, Weingut Kunstler, Calera, Flowers, Roar, Pahlmeyer, Lail, Heitz and many, many more. As you can see, this was no ordinary wine weekend, rather the kind that evoked self-envy. To pick one bottling out of this line-up is like asking the Duggars picking a favorite child. They are all different yet beautiful in their own way.
Beauty is not a standardized notion. It is often associated with symmetry, balance, harmonious appearance.  It reveals itself in an unmistakable way and has inspired humanity since its inception. I was surrounded by it that weekend, in a form of terrific, glorious wines, thoughtful, impeccably executed food and many amazing personalities, whose paths I would not have crossed had it not been for David Fink who plotted to create an event that was nothing short of epic. By any stretch, to stand out in this lineup.

"So there I was, utterly clueless as to what's about to happen to my heart and my palate, casually putting my lips to 1998 Clos d' Ambonnay."
The world has effectively stopped moving at that moment. It wasn't abrupt, yet palpable, unmistakable, strangely comforting and disturbing all at once. Time and space became a casual if not superfluous commodities. Any tasting note I could have produced would have fallen far short of what I was actually tasting. I didn't want to merely taste that wine, I wanted to be it...by any stretch, to stand out in this lineup is a coup d'état.
"It was getting close to noon as I reclined on a balcony of a sprawling Chateau, overlooking French countryside. A light breeze was caressing my face and the air was filled with spring in all of its refreshing glory... The perfume emanating from my glass was subtle yet entirely intoxicating... alluring, profoundly seductive filled with floral, creamy, delicate notes, balanced on the palate by superb acidity, laser-like focus and vivid minerality that lingered on for a luscious lifetime...  The delicate, golden bubbles reminiscent of the tiniest, perfect caviar spheres were dancing in my sunlit filled glass and an aura of sweet anticipation filled my heart before each sip."
In my transformed world, there will always be a BC (before Clos) and after, that much was clear. What is not clear is whether I will ever get to experience the same high again. The bar has been set and it is impossibly high. Will I subconsciously compare every single glass of bubbles to my new Crown Jewel?
Over the years, I've asked dozens of prominent winemakers and vintners the same question: What is your epiphany wine? The details, varietal, producers, vintage, or circumstances all varied. However, what was constant was the way they spoke. When the recounted their experiences, their demeanor changed. Their voices became softer, their eyes glazed over with that dreamy look when someone is sharing a special, somewhat naughty, secret with a stranger. The emotion those wine experiences evoked was clear and present. Like a great book or film, wines can transport your mind and take your emotions to a whole new level. Cheers to that.

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