Thanks, Jon and Jayne, for the Bolly! :)
I really enjoyed Eric the Red’s article this week in The New York Times, “Weighing the Importance of Setting a Date (Champagne disgorgement dates provoke debate).”
It brought to mind a wine that Tracie P and I shared earlier this year, a baby gift from one of my best friends, and a wine that made me question the wisdom of Alfonso’s excellent post today on “The Ultimate Wine,” in other words, as Alfonso put it, That by which you can taste, but that which you can never taste.
The 1999 Bollinger Grande Année Rosé was simply one of the best wines we’ve ever shared together… pretty much as close to an “ultimate” wine as you can get…
Perhaps only in Barbaresco have I encountered this wine’s ineffable, sublime balance of power and lightness (the “unbearable lightness,” I like to call it). But where Barbaresco tends toward earth and truffle, great Champagne like this bottling evokes salinity and the sea.
Of course, Tracie P and I shared with our sommelier (Mark Sayre, who generously allows us to bring special bottles into Trio at the Four Seasons and who expertly serves them to us). And he, too, was stunned by the elegance, focus, and precision of this nearly perfectly formed bottle.
I write nearly because as Alfonso rightly points out in his superb post today, the ultimate wine cannot and does not exist — even if for a brief fleeting instant, Tracie P and I, had a glimpse of it.
Thanks again, MAS, for the wine! And buon weekend, yall!
From the department of “ubi major minor cessat”…
Bolly is one of his top picks.
We’ll be bringing little Georgia P home today. She’s passed all her tests with flying colors and she and Tracie P are doing great. We loved how the last page of her birth certificate form welcomed our “new little Texan.” :)
I know that every new father thinks that his little girl is the most beautiful of all and I’m no exception. I’ll have two gorgeous girls at home now… I’m the luckiest guy ever…
We are so lucky to have the support of our family: it’s been a joy to have Rev. and Mrs. B here with us and they’re staying at the house all week to help us get settled.
What a joy to watch Rev. B. rocking his new granddaughter! He’s so big and she’s so little! :)
Modesty won’t allow me to reveal a photo of Tracie and Georgia P nursing. But to see Georgia “latching” just minutes after she came into this world was like viewing a living and breathing allegory of maternity. This drawing by Raffaello will have to suffice: words cannot express the emotion we both felt in that precious, precious, unforgettable moment. We’re happy to report that nursing is going great.
The staff at the Seton maternity ward was fantastic. Maybe it’s Texas: everyone was so friendly and sweet and all the nurses shared their own personal experiences. Dr. Abikhaled, our ob/gyn, was awesome. And our anesthesiologist — the only male health care provider in the crew — wore cowboy boots.
And what did we drink to celebrate our joy? As if you have to ask…
Georgia P, Tracie P, and I would like to thank all the folks who commented, tweeted, texted, emailed, and posted on Facebook from the bottom of our hearts. Our lives are so rich right now: full of joy, full of happy tears, full of laughter, brimming with love for a newborn child, overflowing with love for each other… Our virtual community — spanning the Atlantic ocean and the continental U.S.! — means so much to all of us. G-d bless you all…
Just had to share these photos snapped by Tracie P the other night when we opened a bottle of 1999 Bollinger Aÿ Rouge Coteaux Champenois La Côte aux Enfants with Coalminer Mark and Annie Oakley the other night at Trio in Austin.
The bottle had an immensely powerful aura about it. After all, how often do you get to taste a still red wine from Champagne? By our favorite house no less!
The wine was excellent, a rich and tannic expression of Pinot Noir that seemed to have mellowed at 12 years out from harvest. But the most thrilling part of the experience was the bottle itself, the mushroom cork, and the metal seal. Note the old-school lip of the bottle (no crown cap here!).
Not necessary in chronological order…
The legacy of the canicular 2003 vintage in Europe continues to express itself in fascinating ways (the fallout of the Brunello controversy is probably the ugliest manifestation of the ripples it sent through the wine world). It was one of those challenging vintages when the honest and true made interesting wines nonetheless.
While in New York, a colleague gave me a sample bottle of the 2003 by Bollinger, an anomaly for a winery that only vintage dates its Grande Année releases.
Tracie P and I are huge fans of Bollinger and drink it every chance we get. This wine was most definitely not in the classic “yeasty” and “toasty” style that is the winery’s signature. I’m not sure what went into the assemblage but this wine was crisper and brighter than the traditional “Special Cuvée” and it drank beautifully.
I was told that the winemaker decided to release this “second label,” vintage-dated wine because the estate’s 03 crop was not destined for the classic bottling. (For the record, I always find that Champagne blended from different vintages tends to be more complex and interesting to my palate.)
An anomaly and a curiosity from one of our favorite estates, it made for a wonderful and refreshing aperitif at a good friend’s house.
Next up: 2002 Joly at Alice’s Restaurant.
When our friend Howard isn’t writing screenplays or composing poems to recite at our wedding (glass of Bolly rosé in hand), you can often find him tasting and discussing wine at his (and my) favorite wine bar in LA, where he and I have spent many an eve discussing the epistemological implications in the nuanced semiosis of a bottle of Cascina Francia by Giacomo Conterno (1998 was the last one we opened together).
He’s even been known to wine blog now and then, like this wonderful post he did today for a film promotion (click on the images to read his wine and cinema pairings).
Chapeau bas, comrade Howard! I will raise a glass to you tonight as I quote my favorite passage from Gramsci!
Tracie P and I take SXSW pretty easy. Since we live in Austin, Texas, the “live music capital of the world,” we’re treated to the good stuff year around. For me, SXSW is special mostly because so many of my good friends from the music world come to town. Here are some highlights from our personal SXSW…
Tracie P had an heirloom martini (above) and I sipped some bourbon with my old bud Billy at the High Ball.
After the show, Tracie P and I snuck off to Max’s Wine Dive for a little Bollinger rosé and a chili dog. @TWG I know, I know! Tomorrow the diet begins again!
In other news…
There’s been a lot of chatter lately in the enoblogosphere about the futility of wine blogging. I haven’t really been following it, although I have enjoyed some of the reactions, intellectual here and visceral there.
Previously my virtual friend and only recently my real-life friend (after he and 5 other wine bloggers, nearly all of them COMPLETE STRANGERS, joined me in Asti for the Barbera-athon), Thor likes to tease me that I don’t write a wine blog but rather a relationship blog. He’s right. I don’t author a wine blog: I write a blog, a web log (as the etymon reveals) whereby I chronicle my life, my relationships, the music I like, the food I eat, and the wines I enjoy. It just so happens that a lot of my life is centered around wine. I make a living writing about, talking about, teaching, and selling wine. I also happen to be deeply in love, to enjoy music immensely, and to see poetry and inspiration in the world around me — sometimes in a glass of traditional-style Barbera, sometimes in a guitar solo played by a friend.
Wine blogging is really about sharing experiences and connecting with like-minded folks. After all, if it weren’t for wine blogging, I would have never met really cool folks (who are now part of the fabric of my life, even though I have very little real-time contact with most of them) like Alfonso, BrooklynGuy, McDuff… not to mention the LOVE OF MY LIFE.
It’s Sunday morning and Tracie P and are sitting around sipping coffee and listening to This American Life and we’re both “blogging away” (she’s working on a post about Lacryma Christi). I guess what I’m trying to say is I don’t care how useless it is… I wouldn’t give it up for the world…
Buona domenica, ya’ll…
antonomasia [ahn-TAH-noh-MAY-zee'ah], the use of a proper name to express a general idea, as in calling an orator a Cicero, a wise judge a Daniel (OED, online edition).
Above: An unforgettable bottle of 1996 Billecart-Salmon that I shared last year with Jayne and Jon at Spago in Beverly Hills. We weren’t celebrating anything. But we were being treated by a famous winemaker.
In this week’s semiotic treatment of Champagne, we neglected to address one of the most fascinating semiotic implications of the lemma Champagne (at least, one of the most fascinating to me).
The term Champagne is a wonderful example of the literary figure antonomasia, from the Greek ἀντί (anti, meaning instead or against) and ὄνομα (onoma, meaning name), whereby a proper name is used to denote a general idea, in this case, sparkling wine.
Above: A bottle of Bollinger that we popped to celebrate pulling the first mix from Nous Non Plus’s 2009 release Ménagerie. The track? “Bollinger” (click to listen)! A song about our favorite Champagne and official band beverage. (We are a “French” band, after all, n’est pas?)
Let’s face it: even though we wine professionals and enthusiasts strictly use the term (toponym and proper name) Champagne to denote sparkling wines sourced from the place and appellation, Champagne, 99% of the intelligent lifeforms in the world interpret it as any sparkling wine. In his 1953 editio princeps of With a Jug of Wine, for example, food and wine writer Morrison Wood casually and regularly makes reference to California champagne.
Above: A bottle of Initial by Anselme Selosse that Alfonso opened for me and Tracie B last year to celebrate my move to Texas. Perhaps more than any other, Selosse is the most coveted and illustrious brand of Champagne in the U.S. It’s not cheap but it’s worth every penny. Check out this great post, from earlier this year, by McDuff.
Just this weekend, I was reminded of this fact when Melvin C and I visited a Walmart in Orange, Texas in search of some Prosecco for Tracie B, and I was greeted by a “stack” (as we say in the biz) of André California Champagne (“the best selling brand of sparkling wine in the U.S.,” according to the Wiki).
Whatever you plan to drink tonight for your New Year’s celebration, Tracie B and I wish you and yours a happy, healthy, and serene 2010. Thanks for all the support and love in 2009!
Breaking news: this just in from Italy
Thanks are due to reader Elaine from Italy who identified the champagne-method Nerello Mascaelese by Murgo (Sicily).
Also just in from Italy…
According to the Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, when all is said and done, Italians will have spent Euro 2.7 billion on sausage (cotechino and zampone) and Italian sparkling wine (spumante). “Salmon, oysters, and caviar” were no match for the famed boiled sausages of Modena (both delicious, btw). Nor did Champagne, with a “a 66% drop in sales,” rival its Italian counterparts.
On that part, according to a press release issued by the Prosecco di Valdobbiadene e Conegliano Producers Association, Italian agriculture minister Luca Zaia sent 60 “3-liter Jeroboams” of Prosecco to the staff of the “national radio and television stations.”
An early celebration of his upcoming governorship of the Veneto, no doubt.
Happy new year, everyone, everywhere!
Tracie B and I are going to have a hard time topping the wedding guest welcome gifts left for us by betrothed Eileen and Greg. When we arrived last night at 2 a.m. to our hotel in West Orange, NJ, we found a chilled bottle of Bollinger Special Cuvée (the official wine of the band that both Greg and I play in, Nous Non Plus) waiting in our room. Today, as we are primping for the wedding and I am practicing the Beatles songs I am to perform during the ceremony, Tracie B ordered peperoni pizza and broccoli raab from Enzo’s in West Orange and we popped the cork on that bottle. Who could want for more? (A funny thing: Tracie B grew up in West Orange, Texas. No genuine Italian-American pizza there!)
We’re really looking forward to the wedding tonight and celebrating with Eileen and Greg!