99 Bollinger Grande Année Rosé, one of the best wines we’ve had this year

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…

BTW, if you’ve never heard the song that Céline and I wrote and recorded about Bollinger, here’s a link to listen. It’s from our album Ménagerie (Aeronaut 2009).

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!

Pizza & Bollinger? Ummm… I think I told you so…

From the department of “ubi major minor cessat”…

Eric the Red writes today on the virtues of pairing pizza and, ahem, Champagne

Bolly is one of his top picks.

Umm, where have I heard that before?

Our good friend Charles Scicolone (above) – with whom we have shared many a pizza and great wine — also gets a nice shout out in Eric’s piece

Flute elitism in this day & age? Assessments from Franciacorta

Above: Many late evenings tasting Franciacorta and kibitzing with my good friend and extreme life force Giovanni Arcari in Brescia…

Franciacorta lover Franco Ziliani’s post this week on “Which Glass for Our Bubbles?” got me thinking fondly about my visit to Brescia and Franciacorta in October of last year for the European Wine Bloggers Conference.

Over the course of five or so days that I spent there, I drank sparkling wine from Franciacorta at nearly every meal and it was never served to me in a conventional flute. Nor was the question of what glass to serve Champagne-method wines ever even posed.

Above: At the restaurant Novecento in Brescia, our server — who wasn’t particularly wine savvy — poured Gatti’s Franciacorta Nature in Bordeaux glasses.

In Franco’s post, he quotes Champagne scion Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger (in a passage culled from a pseudo-advertorial post on Drinks Business).

    “Champagne is not only a wine but a symbol of love and generosity and if we forget that we are dead, and I am fighting that,” [Taittinger] stated.

    Continuing, he referred to a battle with “marketers” who, he said, “want us to drink Champagne in a wine glass.”

    “But we have a specific glass…”

The Taittinger quote brought to mind the infamous statement by Frederic Rouzaud of Cristal from a few years ago: we can’t stop them from drinking it…

It’s been many years since I’ve served Champagne or any other sparkling wine in a flute. In fact, I don’t even own any flutes: in my view and experience, the flute is the worst possible glass to serve any wine in because it obstructs the wine’s aroma, especially when your drinking a Pinot Noir-based wine that can tend toward the tannic and tight (we’ve even begun decanting certain sparkling wines at our house).

Above: The Lago d’Iseo in Franciacorta. I still need to post my notes from some of the interesting tastings I attended in Franciacorta in October. The photo, above, of the Lago d’Iseo gives you a sense of the Morainic subsoil and the maritime climate that give the wines their minerality and make them so fresh. Click the image for the hi-res version.

How do you serve sparkling wine at your house?

Isn’t she lovely? The most beautiful mamma in the world…

Just had to share this photo I snapped of Tracie P last week. Isn’t she lovely? :)

The day after Thanksgiving, we recycled her scalloped potatoes as a spuntino for out-of-town guests who came over for a visit…

Did I mention that the girl can cook? ;)

A little bubbly helped to wash it down…

I always love the focus and precision of Jacquesson… one of our favorite houses (among those that we can afford!)…

Cork porn: Bollinger 1999 Aÿ Rouge

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.

Earlier this year, BrooklynGuy did a fantastic post on an amazing tasting of still red wines from Champagne organized by him and Peter Liem in NYC.

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!).

Crazy good wines tasted in New York last week

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.

Black-eyed peas and Champagne for New Year’s day

On New Year’s day, Tracie P cooked up some black-eyed peas with the ham bone reserved from the spiral ham Mrs. B had served on Christmas day. Her buttermilk cornbread (baked in her grandmother’s cast-iron skillet) was unbelievably delicious, especially when used to sop up the bean liquor (as it is called in the south, i.e., the beans’s cooking liquid). Neapolitan-style cabbage braised with onions gave the combined flavors just the right twang of sweet and sour.

And the perfect pairing for those creamy beans? Henriot NV Blanc Souverain, 100% Chardonnay. Ubi major, minor cessat: I am always one to agree with Ed McCarthy when notes that Chardonnay finds one of its greatest expressions in Champagne. This wine was an ideal pairing for the flavors of our New Year’s day meal: its acidity and white stone fruit flavors combined with its elegant fizziness were wonderfully refreshing against the richness of the cornbread, the dolce amaro of the cabbage, and the texture of the legumes.

Black-eyed peas for New Year’s is now a three-year-old tradition at our house and de rigueur in the south. I loved Jessica Harris’s NY Times op-ed on its origins as a New Year’s dish.

What did ya’ll eat on New Year’s day?

The aura of BrooklynGuy’s table

From the “through a glass darkly” department…

Above: Anyone who reads BrooklynGuy’s blog knows the “aura” of his famous table. Tracie P took this photo of through a wonderful glass of Jura that he poured us when we visited with him and BrooklynFamily on a beautiful spring day in late May.

Alice has sat there. McDuff has sat there. Eric has sat there.

I just can’t convey the delight that flowed through my veins when Tracie P and I were invited to sit there last month while sojourning in New York City (once my home, too) in May.

For the life of me, I simply can’t remember why or how I discovered and started following BrooklynGuy’s blog. Over the course of the two years or so that I’ve been a fan, I’ve found vinous and culinary inspiration, buying guidance, good-natured humor, and an honesty and integrity of writing that are rivaled solely by the genuineness and purity of the style.

Above: There it is, the famous table, the one the appears in many of BrooklynGuy’s posts. Can you feel its aura?

But perhaps even more thrilling than the thought of sharing a glass of wine with BrooklynLady and BrooklynGuy and meeting the BrooklynChildren was the prospect of sitting at the storied table that appears in many of his posts and experiencing its aura.

The bottles that grace and graze that surface have passed the Litmus and acid tests of BrooklynGuy’s impeccable palate. It’s a classic case of Benjaminian mechanical reproduction. Through the repetitive appearance of the image of this simple wooden table in BrooklynGuy’s blog, the object itself has attained an aura that assumes its own unique meaning within the paradigm of ritualistic wine tasting.

Above: Look to BrooklynGuy’s blog for great tips in growers Champagne, the “mine field” of affordable Burgundy, and the often uncharted nuance of the Jura.

Over the course of these two years or so, BrooklynGuy’s become a friend and our visit with BrooklynFamily the other day revealed that not since Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner have two schlubs enjoyed the company of two such beautiful and simpatico wives.

Thanks BrooklynFamily for the wonderful Saturday afternoon visit, for the great wines and blog, and thanks — most of all — for the friendship.

Welcome back,
Your dreams were your ticket out.

Welcome back,
To that same old place that you laughed about.

Well the names have all changed since you hung around,
But those dreams have remained and they’re turned around.

Who’d have thought they’d lead ya (Who’d have thought they’d lead ya)
Here where we need ya (Here where we need ya)

Yeah we tease him a lot cause we’ve hot him on the spot, welcome back,
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back.

Sneaking Saignée de Sorbée into the best little honkytonk in Texas

From the “it sure is good to be back in Texas” department…

ginny's little longhorn

Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon (Austin, Texas) was literally overflowing with bodies yesterday for Chicken Shit Bingo and Dale Watson.

ginny's dogs

Folks were there for the music, the bingo, and of course, the free chili dogs — “Ginny Dogs” as the song goes.

We like to sit out back, where folks gather round in lawn chairs and listen to the music through speakers Ginny’s got out there.

Alfonso and SO Kim were in town and so we snuck the most amazing bottle of Champagne into Ginny’s (given to us for our wedding by one of the nicest people I know in the wine business, Scott. Thanks again, man! You R O C K!): the Saignée de Sorbée by Vouette et Sorbée, “one of the most original wines in all of Champagne,” to borrow a phrase from one of the leading Champagne writers on our planet.

Jeremy Parzen

You’re not supposed to bring wines to Ginny’s but Ginny has a soft spot for Tracie P (it’s not hard to understand why!).

The Saignée de Sorbée may not be for everyone, but, man, it is simply so unbelievably good. So drinkable, so gorgeously fruity (think boysenberry), with alcohol, gentle tannin, and food-friendly acidity singing in four-part harmony like an old-fashioned love song. Please read Peter’s exquisite write-up of this wine. We had the 2006 (“R06”), disgorged in February 2009.

Back at the ranch, Tracie P whipped up some bucatini with tuna bottarga that Alfonso brought back from his recent, amazing trip to Sicily.

Life certainly could be worse… It sure is good to be back in Texas…

A chair is still a chair…

A chair is still a chair, even when there’s no one sittin’ there
But a chair is not a house and a house is not a home
When there’s no one there to hold you tight
And no one there you can kiss goodnight…

A flute is still a chair, even when there’s no Champange in there…

I’m not sure why I woke up with a sad song in my head this morning: today is one of the happiest days in a long, long time… even in a month and a new year that has been filled with moments of joy that I would have never imagined in my lifetime.

Last night, Tracie P and I opened a bottle of Champagne to celebrate our first dinner and evening at home… our very first night in our first home together… our very first sip from our Waterford crystal flutes, a first bite from our Charlotte flatware and Portmeirion “Sophie Conran White” plates…

A desk is still a desk…

The joy of this moment doesn’t erase the challenges we face: a dear and beloved family friend who is dealing with serious health issues, a misunderstanding and a useless quarrel with another good friend, and the financial and professional mountains Tracie P and I have yet to climb…

As I sit at my desk for the first time and sip my morning coffee (out of our new coffee cups), as Tracie P slumbers on an early Sunday here in Austin, I’m taking a moment to breath in the magic of this moment, this first sip of coffee, and this first blog post at my “new” desk… in our new home…

I love you so very much Tracie P and I love our new (and first!) home together… With you by my side, this little, humble house is so much more than just a house…

Thanks for reading and letting me share this moment with ya’ll… Buona domenica…