Last night Cinnamon and I treated ourselves to a fantastic bottle of Champagne. I had prepared seared Ahi marinated in olive and sesame oil with fleur de sel and rice, and Cinnamon roasted a medley of vegetables. We went into the backyard, and she tried her hand at the saber, skillfully knocking the top off the bottle without losing a single drop of the Champagne… Better than I have ever done! Our evening was already off to a good start!
The 2004 Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Vintage Champagne ($59.99) is composed of half Pinot Noir and half Chardonnay, entirely from very old, estate grown vines in the grand cru of Bouzy. The vineyard sites used are the same as the single vineyard Champagnes they offer, with the Chardonnay coming from the the Motellettes parcel planted in 1961 and the Pinot Noir coming from the Les Maillerettes plot planted in 1970. These old, massal selected vineyards are very impressive to visit, and if you ever make it to Champagne, a stop at P. Paillard is a must. This Champagne has been aged for seven years on the lees, and dosed at only 3.5 grams per liter, making it one of the driest Champagne’s labeled as Brut that we carry.
When we sat down, the first thing I noticed about the Champagne was how good it looked in the glass. The wine has a light gold color and a fine streamer of compact bubbles that form quite a nice halo on the top of the glass. Aromatically the 2004 delivered on the promise of top vintage Champagne with a complex array of dried fruit, pie crust and walnut on the nose. In the mouth it is concentrated and authoritative without being heavy, and has the kind of texture that rarely comes for under $100. The finish showed off the best features of the 2004 vintage, with chalky focus and a finish that I can almost still taste the next day.
The Pierre Paillard went very well with the Tuna, with the rare Ahi bringing out the deep cherry fruit of the Pinot Noir and the tangy soy almost mirroring the chalk on the finish. I wish that Quentin and Antoine Paillard had been over to check it out, as the combination was far from a traditional French pairing! As usual with a great bottle of Champagne, Cinnamon and I thought it disappeared to quickly… I am looking forward to the magnums being released next year!
This is Champagne that should keep for decades, and if you have room in your cellar for fantastic wine at a fair price, you should consider putting some away. When I visited Bouzy this April, we tasted a bottle of 1985 that was showing very, very well indeed. These wines take on more nutty complexity with time, and I believe that the 2004 vintage has great potential for the future as well as delivering great pleasure now. A toast to you! –Gary Westby