This past Monday, Cinnamon and I were honored to host Vincent Pages, director of Dom Perignon for the USA for lunch at our home. He was joined by his regional marketing director Julia Fitzroy and Lester Lopez of Moet Hennesy USA. I am sure many of you would recognize Lester from our tent events… He has poured at every one we have ever hosted in northern California!
This lunch was a great opportunity to learn more about this iconic brand while drinking a couple of great vintages. Cinnamon and I prepared Dijon rabbit for the occasion, and our guests treated us to the 2004 Moet & Chandon "Dom Pérignon" Brut Champagne for the aperitif and the other worldly 1976 Moët & Chandon "Dom Pérignon Oenothéque" Brut Champagne for the meal. Cinnamon and I also opened a nice bottle of 1970 La Rioja Alta "Viña Ardanza" Reserva Rioja so we could have some red, which my father had given me for Christmas- it was a very nice afternoon.
One of the questions I had for Mr. Pages was regarding the disappearance of “Moet and Chandon” from the label of Dom Perignon. I was curious about this, because legally a certain percentage of every harvest must be made as non-vintage by every house. Julia showed me that the label does indeed have the name of the grand old house still on it, but just in very small letter on the side of the shield... So small that I thought it was gone! Vincent explained that they felt that the Moet brands were becoming overshadowed by Dom Perignon, and that the change of focus on the label was a move to create more separation. Whichever part of the name you would like to use we here at K&L will be ready to talk to you about it!
We enjoyed the 2004 Moet & Chandon "Dom Pérignon" Brut Champagne ($149.99) with some parmesan tuiles and some black truffle and cheddar popcorn. This is a tremendous return to form for Dom Perignon, and I have no doubt that it is the best quality blanc that they have released since 1996. Stylistically I find it the most appealing current release Dom Perignon I have ever had- it is clean, racy, elegant and full of chalky drive on the long finish. The signature DP yeast character is still there, but more of a feature than a focus in the wine, and I think that restraint, along with considerably less evident dosage than in the past made this a huge hit with me. Many regular readers of this blog have are aware that I am a huge proponent of the classic style of the 2004 vintage in general. Not since 1988 have we had a Champagne vintage in this old fashioned, balanced, fresh style… And not again since! While the DP could not be called a value bottle at $149.99, it sure does taste great!
We poured the 1976 Moët & Chandon "Dom Pérignon Oenothéque" (n/a) just before sitting down to eat. The first thing I noticed about this tremendous 38 year old was the light golden color that still had a little bit of green in it. The bouquet was like the bread basket at Guy Savoy in Paris with the most perfect brioche and baguette aromas jumping from the glass. It was an aroma that I could never get tired of and solidly in the top class. The wine was even better in the mouth, with giant texture and richness. This vintage was the earliest and hottest in Champagne for generations and it wasn’t until 2003 that they saw another like it. But 1976, unlike 2003, had plenty of good Chardonnay to balance and freshen the wines. This DP was on the scale of Krug, but had lip smacking vivaciousness of a Grand Cru Blanc de Blanc half of its age on the finish. I was very, very impressed- this is sure to make my top 10 Champagne experiences of 2014!
The 1976 went very well with the rabbit, and the food brought out the savory, Burgundian style of the wine. It seemed to combine Batard-Montrachet earth with Corton like red currants, but the finish was still chalky and precise… 100% Champagne! Surprisingly, the last few sips of this wine went exceptionally well with the walnut cake that Cinnamon had baked, and brought out the exotic fruit nuances in the wine instead of obscuring the complexity like most dessert and Champagne combinations. The bottle was disgorged in 2005.
The red was also a success. I thought it would be interesting to serve Rioja Alta to our guests as it, like Dom Perignon, makes important quantities of wine. The 1970 La Rioja Alta "Viña Ardanza" Reserva Rioja was as leathery, gentlemanly, subtle, elegant and complex as I had hoped. Structured like old Burgundy, it went very well with the rabbit as well. It was digestible and mellow and perfect for lunch.
I hope that I can squeeze a little bit of older Oenotheque out of Vincent for our auctions… I hope he will part with some. In the meantime, I need to pop open a bottle of the 1996 Moët & Chandon "Dom Pérignon Oenothéque" ($349) and see how that is showing these days. My work is never done!
A toast to you!