Last Friday, I was lucky enough to be invited to dinner by Vincent Chaperon, who is one of the winemakers responsible for Dom Perignon. We went to the fantastic Madera Restaurant in the Rosewood Hotel in Menlo Park, which very clearly has earned its Michelin Star. Vincent was on a West Coast tour promoting the soon to be released 1998 Dom Perignon P2, short for Plenitude 2, which will replace the Oenotheque in their line.
Oenotheque translates to “wine library” in English, and when Moet first released older bottles of Dom Perignon with extra ageing on the lees, they used this name. Before this cache of old treasures was only used by the winemaking team as a reference. Now that the wines are being sold, the team wanted more precision in the name, and decided to use “plenitude” to describe the three phases of evolution of the wine. According to Merriam Webster, plenitude means “a large number or amount of something” or “the state of being full or complete”.
The current releases, now 2004 in white, and 2003 in Rose, they consider the first plenitude of Dom Perignon, while the 1996 Moët & Chandon "Dom Pérignon Oenothéque" Brut Champagne ($349) and the soon to be released 1998 Dom Pérignon P2 have entered their 2nd phase of development. The 1993 Dom Pérignon Oenothèque Brut Rosé Champagne and the 1975 Dom Pérignon Oenothèque Brut Champagne they consider to be in its 3rd plenitude or phase of development. I think this is an interesting way of looking at the development of Champagne over time, and I think that they have categorized them well.
We started the evening with an aperitif of 2004 Dom Pérignon Brut Champagne ($149.99) outside, and it showed the drive, focus and chalky cutting edge of that excellent vintage. The last time I drank this wine was at home, back in early March, and it seems to have put on some mid-palate weight over the last few months. I appreciate that this wine is not as dominated by the strong yeast character that young Dom can often have, and found it very easy to drink… Maybe too easy for a long aperitif! As Vincent had explained, this wine is ready to drink at 10 years old, but still has plenty of development ahead of it and fits the first plenitude perfectly.
When we sat down, we were treated to the first of many fantastic courses dotted with Osetra caviar, the first an amuse bouche of beets and avocado with those delicious eggs. We then moved on to Lobster Fagotelli, Tarragon, English Peas with decadent lumps of Osetra, and our second wine, the 1993 Dom Pérignon Oenothèque Brut Rosé Champagne ($699- very limited) which I felt was the wine of the night. Perfect at 21 years old, it had the savory, velvety qualities of a great Chambolle Amoureuses with the refreshing cut and pure chalk persistence that only the finest of Champagne can deliver. This would have over delivered even if it were from a more famous vintage like 1990 or 1996. With the fantastic lobster pasta and caviar, it grew in scale and intensity… A perfect match!
The next course, Liberty Farms Duck, Cherries and Arrowhead Cabbage was perhaps the best duck breast that I have ever eaten. I can’t wait to get back to Madera with Cinnamon! It was paired with the very powerful 2003 Moet & Chandon "Dom Pérignon" Brut Rosé Champagne ($329) which certainly had the size and power to go with the duck. Vincent explained that in 2003, the few Chardonnay grapes that were left were extremely ripe, and that they used more Pinot than ever before in this blend.
After the duck, we got to try a sneak peak at the not yet released 1998 Dom Perignon P2 Brut Champagne with Pacific King Salmon, Spring Squash and Porcini Mushrooms. This was in a completely different league than the initial release of 1998; gone was the big hit of yeast and instead the wine showed elegance that I rarely associate with this vintage. It had a gorgeous store of pin point streamers and a generous nose of black cherry Pinot. The finish went on and on. Hopefully it won’t cost the moon- I would love to have it again.
With the California cheese course at the end of the meal, we tried the very limited 1975 Dom Perignon Oenotheque Brut Champagne ($1999) which was an excellent demonstration of the third plenitude. The big yeast hit so characteristic of DP was gone, and the wine had an almost Riesling like purity of fruit on the nose and palate. This wine was made just before the new clones came on line in the region, and had exotic peach fruit balanced by subtle toast and a long finish. This was a piece of history that I feel very lucky to have drunk in good company.
Moet’s Dom Perignon is an enigma. They make a very large amount- so much that they won’t reveal the production numbers- which allows them to keep significant reserves of older wine to re-release. These older bottles are of amazing quality… I hope to get the opportunity to try more in the future.
A toast to you!