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Notes from IMW Champagne Tasting in San Francisco

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Notes from IMW Champagne Tasting in San Francisco

Melanie Wong | Sep 20, 2006 07:46 AM

On Monday I placed an excited call from the Ferry Building, "Richard, I'm in Champagne heaven! You gotta come by this afternoon, three different Krugs are open, Bollinger RD, Dom Perignon Oenotheque . . . " The public tasting included 35 houses and nearly 90 different wines enjoyed from Riedel crystal flutes. Now totally guilt-ridden for not telling more of my friends in San Francisco about it, I'll post my "quick and dirty" notes so that they'll remember to come next year. And, hopefully the New Yorkers will catch the event next week in Manhattan (hint: www.localwineevents.com )

The styles represented included non-vintage, vintage, rosé, blanc de blancs, prestige cuvée, and sweeter (dosé). Concerned that some of the top bottlings might disappear, I started with the vintage, then prestige cuvees, and then b de b, nv, rose, and dose. I mention it because this may have had the effect of underrating the non-vintage wines. As one of my tasting companions quipped, "We'd be happy drinking just about any of these in a lounge somewhere, but compared to Salon, well..." Anyway, here goes, in order of tasting (with * next to my favorites) -

BRUT VINTAGE:

Bollinger Grande Annee 1997 - EXCELLENT, bold, robust, creamy, toasty vanilla, smoke-filled rooms, earthy Pinot Noir dominating, very long, soft finish

Nicolas Feuillatte Cuvee Speciale 1999 - VERY GOOD minus, fruity, youthful, lacking complexity

Piper Heidsieck 1998 - EXCELLENT, very creamy and lavish mousse, green apple snap, refreshing personality

Lanson Gold Label 1997 - VERY GOOD minus, frothy bead, zingy unripe acid, touch metallic

Bruno Paillard 1996 - GOOD plus, disappointing for the year, steely, lean, vegetal, very tart, unripe character

Taittinger Brut 1999 - VERY GOOD plus, flowery nose, quit pale, somewhat coarse in the mouth, slight astringency in finish

Vilmart Grand Cellier d'Or 1998 - EXCELLENT, very ripe and rich biscuity nose, medium toast, touch sweet in the finish overshooting the acidity

PRESTIGE CUVEES:

*Bollinger RD 1995 - EXCELLENT plus, full-blow biscuity nose, thick textured, floral high tones and earthy Pinot Noir depth, harmonious, very good length

*Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 1996 - EXCELLENT plus - vivid nose with white flowers and chalky minerals, intense yet light, statuesque and graceful carriage, most feminine of the lot, years to go

Comte Audoin de Dampierre, Family Reserve Grand Cru Ficelee a l'Ancienne 2000 - VERY GOOD, too young, hollow middle, lean and mean currently

Nicolas Feuillatte Cuvee 225, Eleve en fut de chene 1997 - VERY GOOD minus, not integrated, gangly impression, citrusy, green streak

Nicolas Feuillatte Palmes d'Or 1997 - VERY GOOD plus, restrained, closed in, very good length and weight, but little expression now

Krug Grand Cuvee NV - EXCELLENT minus, creamy, toasty, shrieking acidity, needs time to integrate, slight vegetal notes in aftertaste

Krug 1995 - EXCELLENT plus, fat with vanilla and autolytic character, medium straw yellow, almost waxy in texture, touch of honey, somewhat clipped finish in relation to volume, bit low in acid, but so deliciously complex

*Krug Rose - EXCELLENT plus, the palest of the pale with the faintest blush of pink, sweet floral nose, exquisitely delicate, mineral-driven, excellent length, clean and crisp ending

Lanson Noble Cuvee 1997 - VERY GOOD plus, bit of tannic etch, full-bodied, crisp acidity

Lanson Noble Cuvee Blanc de Blancs 1997 - VERY GOOD, very floral and sweet nose, less intense and interesting on palate

Perrier-Jouet, Fleur de Champagne, Blanc de Blancs 1999 - VERY GOOD minus, verging on overripe, low on acidity, flaccid, dumb?

Perrier-Jouet Fleur de Champagne, Rosé 1999 - GOOD plus, skunky, bitter aftertaste

Dom Perignon 1998 - EXCELLENT, lithe, graceful, great carriage, seems sweeter than the others

*Dom Perignon Oenotheque 1990 - OUTSTANDING, disgorged in 2003, full-blown winey nose, extremely complex and generous, toasted nuts, autumnal smoke, baked fruits, full and weighty, fat finish, vibrant acidity, truly majestic

*Philipponat Clos des Goisses 1996 - OUTSTANDING minus, my first encounter with this bottling for a wonderful discovery, great nose, perfect for drinking now, brioche, chalky minerals, floral, layered and long on the palate, great presence, creamy rich finish

*Salon 1996 Blanc de Blancs - OUTSTANDING, tiny pinpoint bead, light silken texture, higher acidity for many more years in the cellar, snappy verve yet remarkable refinement, great persistence

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc 1998 - EXCELLENT, very pale, backward, youthful and undeveloped, sizzling acidity, sugar protrudes in the end, very long

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rose 1999 - EXCELLENT minus, prickly personality, not integrated enough yet for drinking, very flavorful, excellent length

BRUT BLANC DE BLANCS VINTAGE AND NON-VINTAGE:

Besserat de Bellefon Cuvee des Moines NV - GOOD plus, dirt, earth, clunky

Chartogne-Taillet NV - EXCELLENT minus, rich vanilla-laced nose, bread dough, very complete and satisfying

Comte Audoin de Dampierre Grand Cru NV - VERY GOOD, basic, fruity, not much complexity or individuality

Delamotte 1999 - VERY GOOD minus, correct but lacking personality, bland-ish, lacks depth

Pascal Doquet Grand Cru NV - GOOD plus, green streak, awkward

Pascal Doquet Grand Cru 1997 - GOOD plus, green, vegetal, more body

Pierre Gimonnet Cuvee Gastronome 2000 - EXCELLENT minus, young, good potential, very good balance but needs time to integrate

Pierre Peters Cuvee de Reserve NV - VERY GOOD minus, pretty nose, briny/bitter aftertaste

Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires 1995 - EXCELLENT minus, toasty, full-bodied, dripping with autolytic character, well-detailed, very creamy texture, goes down easy

A. R. Lenoble Grand Cru NV - VERY GOOD minus, slightly funky, awkward

A. R. Lenoble Grand Cru 1996 - VERY GOOD minus, lacking sufficient precision

*Ruinart NV - EXCELLENT plus, bold nose, full-on richness on the palate, power and intensity, creamy mousse, remarkable depth, surprisingly vivid b de b personality despite size and volume

BRUT NON-VINTAGE:

Besserat de Bellefon Cuvee des Moines - GOOD minus, overtly sweet, overly oxidized, gummy finish

Bollinger Special Cuvee - EXCELLENT minus, house-style to the max

Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label - VERY GOOD plus, mouth-filling, strikes a happy medium

Delamotte - VERY GOOD minus, again correct with good balance and no flaws, but little character

Rene Geoffroy Cuvee Selectionnee - VERY GOOD plus, lavish bread dough and toast, twingy acidity

Gosset Grande Reserve - EXCELLENT minus, low pressure, fuller and deeper with more aged character, missing a little lengthwise

Charles Heidsieck Reserve - EXCELLENT minus, flashy, very forward but falls off in finish

Lallement - VERY GOOD minus, minty, herbal notes

A. R. Lenoble Nature - VERY GOOD plus, fuller fruit and much more character than the b de b's, good balance, crisp and full ending, bone dry

*Jean Milan Cuvee Speciale - EXCELLENT, very complex, rich, forceful, deep and penetrating

Bruno Paillard Premiere Cuvee - VERY GOOD minus, bland and boring but without fault

Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut - VERY GOOD minus, high-toned, modest finish

*Philipponnat Royale Reserve - EXCELLENT, creamy mouse, layers and layers of flavor, seamless blending, great harmony, very pleasurable

Taittinger La Francaise - GOOD, skunky, metallic clink

Taittinger Prelude - EXCELLENT, has it all, great richness of fruit and autolysis, powerful yet polished

BRUT ROSES VINTAGE AND NON-VINTAGE:

Besserat de Bellefon Civee des Moines - faulty, dirty, microbial taint

Veuve Clicquot NV - VERY GOOD minus, muted and sulking

Veuve Clicquot 1999 - VERY GOOD plus, lovely nose, intense fruitiness, light step, good length, refreshing

Delamotte NV - VERY GOOD minus, gummy aftertaste

Pascal Doquet 1er cru NV - GOOD minus, brandy aromas, harsh alcohol, out of balanced hotness

Nicolas Feuillatte NV - VERY GOOD minus, very fruity nose, but lacking finesse, chunky and clunky

Piper Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage NV - GOOD, darkest purple-maive hue, metallic, marred by rotten eggs aroma

Lanson Rosé Label NV - VERY GOOD plus, crisp and steely, light body, bright flavors

Moet et Chandon Imperial NV - VERY GOOD minus, sweeter, gummy finish

Bruno Paillard Premiere Cuvee NV - VERY GOOD minus, coarse, some tannin etch

Perrier-Jouet Blason NV - VERY GOOD minus, clean, precise, pleasantly boring

*Philipponnat Reserve Rosé NV - EXCELLENT, full-flavored yet not ponderous, good carriage, mellowed acidity, harmonious

*Ruinart NV - EXCELLENT plus, great breed, plenty of fruit supported by minerality, creamy texture, precise, great persistence

*Taittinger Prestige NV - EXCELLENT minus, well-fruited in a restrained way, chalky minerals, elegant

DOSE' CUVEES:

Veuve Clicquot Demi Sec NV - GOOD plus, sweetness overtakes other elements, not much else

Moet et Chandon Extra Sec NV White Star - GOOD plus, coarse

Moet et Chandon Demi Sec NV Nectar Imperial - VERY GOOD, steely minerality, sufficient acidity to balance sweetness

Moet et Chandon Demi Sec Rosé NV Nectar Imperial - VERY GOOD minus, pleasant, simple

Taittinger Sec NV Nocturne - VERY GOOD plus, toasty, some complexity and backbone for interplay with sweetness

. . . and that's all I can type.

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