Wow. It has been a long while since I have written one of these posts, but a ton has been going on. First, I was in France for close to two weeks; I finished packing my 120 cases of wine; I had my last wine dinner and Sip and Spin in the neighborhood; we packed up and sent off all of our non-vinous belongings; we moved into the house of our dear friends for a week; stayed a few nights at the Sofitel downtown; and finally have been driving down to Houston for the last week via the Blue Ridge Parkway and New Orleans.
I am currently sitting along side the pool at the Hyatt Regency French Quarter, sucking down a bottle of Taittinger that my wife so thoughtfully had waiting in our room for our arrival. I can hear the brass bands a block away on Bourbon Street where we will stroll in a few minutes after the boys tire from dunking each other.
For now, I am enjoying the only type of “Taitt” I will ever receive, thinking fondly of the last few weeks and these three great bottles of champagne:
1988 Krug Champagne: I bought this bottle in Paris years before I met my wife and am now sharing it with her on the last night in the home we shared for more than a dozen years. It is safe to say the wine has been through a bit of an odyssey as it has resided in seven houses, four states, and two continents. The house, however, has endured much more as it was built over a hundred years ago directly behind what was at the time an active prison (the world’s first penitentiary). I have no clue who any of the past residents were, but during our tenure the house has seen countless dinner parties, dozens of stoop tastings, several promotions for its residents, the awarding of two advanced degrees, one toddler, one baby boy, the death of the best dog anyone could ask for, and a flooded basement.
And this champagne has sat there patiently, waiting to be called into service.
When I look back at all of those memories, I knew this wine would be special even if it turned out to be vinegar. We took the bottle up to my favorite spot in the house, the third floor deck where I could take in the city skyline one more time. After removing the foil and then the cage, the cork was at best stubborn, simultaneously causing me to feel the wine was either bad or that it was not yet ready to be drunk. Eventually, the cork succumbed, ending with a soft but noticeable sigh. Slightly dark in the glass with toasted caramel, brioche, and lemon curd. I was beyond anxious to taste, but the aromas wafting from the glass were so compelling that I lingered for minutes, my nose glued to the rim. Eventually, the allure won out and I tasted. I expected a yeasty, bready croissant but found a lemon meringue pie instead. Sure, the yeastiness was there, but it was shrouded in one of the more citrus driven Champagnes I have had in a very long while. Bright, tart, and sassy, I knew immediately that this wine is no where close to its peak. And the finish? Holy goodness! Lasting several minutes, this is a game changer, a wine that causes reflection, contemplation, and humility. Whoa. Incredible. 96-98 Points.
N.V. Mailly Grand Cru Champagne: Retail $250 (from Jeroboam). Years ago, shortly after moving to Philadelphia, I found these bottles on an internet site. When I saw that they were $40 delivered, I really could not believe it, but I was able to convince my ever skeptical wife that we should order one. We tried it shortly after it arrived with some good friends (after all, it was the equivalent of four bottles), and it was fantastic. I went back to that website several times to buy more (the label stated “Deux Mille jours pour l’an Deux Mille” [“Two thousand days for the year two thousand”], so after the celebration in 2000, these bottles were somehow “dated”), and ended up buying close to 100 of them for friends and family. We estimate that we were in on the consumption of at least 40 of the bottles, and this, tragically, was the last.
We transported it over to our friends house–the same friends who shared that first bottle–and by the time we arrived, inexplicably, a bit had seeped out. I had planned to saber, but seeing the leak, I decided against it. In all, the seepage caused the loss of about a half a bottle, but that still left us with some work to do. Dark but not ominous for a wine that has been in the bottle for two decades. Not much fruit left on the nose, but loads of brioche and yeast. Older champagne is a bit of an acquired taste but once you acquire it? Whoa. Double whoa. I was worried about this last bottle (perhaps why we took so long to open it) as the last few “big bottles” were a bit “meh”but not this one–gangbusters and a fitting way to say: “Goodbye Philly.” Outstanding. 94-96 Points.
N.V. André Clouet Champagne 1911 (91/90/89): Retail $125? 100% Pinot Noir. A blend of three vintages (’89, ’90, ’91). I bought this bottle twenty years ago at the winery (before the switch to the Euro) in Bouzy and, like the Krug, this bottle has seen many homes and has travelled quite a bit (including a couple of weeks on the back of a bicycle). I had been to Bouzy several times before, but I had always arrived on a Monday, when this winery was closed. One year, I made a point to visit the town a day earlier, and I was treated with one of the best tastings I have ever had. This wine was the highlight of that tasting and even though it cost close to the equivalent of a week’s wages (cycling tour guides in Europe are not paid all that well folks, be sure to tip them!), I had to buy it. And I am glad I did.
We popped this on our last night in Philadelphia to celebrate the past and welcome the future. Certainly aged, with caramel color and a distinct baked sourdough bread aspect. On the palate, the bubbles have faded a bit, but the flavors have not. Rich, creamy, and toasty with an extraordinary finish. An appropriate send off. Cheers Philly and hello Houston! Outstanding. 93-95 Points.