~ Champagne Outing In Style ~ With Five Sommeliers and One Apprentissage Sommelier

As a practising (and practical) Sommelier, it has long been a rule of mine to confine my examination of fine wines to dry land only, citing the importance of dexterity and balance; in other words avoiding, for instance, tasting delicate, delicious Champagnes on a 38-foot sailboat stationed several hundred metres off the coast of Lake Ontario. And yet, this is precisely what I undertook recently on the brilliant watercraft of avid boaters Liz Palmer, Wine Writer and Apprentissage Sommelier, with partner Robert Roland (jazz piano extraordinaire), both active affiliates of Port Credit Yacht Club, soon to play host to a multitude of fine wine tastings for its members. Also in attendance were fellow sommeliers Kate Hatherly, Richard Wah Kan, and Wanda Wang.

Of my hosts, let me just say that they are experts in combining the pleasures of wine and sailing with remarkable contentment — I believe the phrase “This Is the Life” was uttered on more than one occasion during my time aboard. Boarding Déjà Vu on a sunny thirty-degree afternoon, I was first treated with a refreshing serving of J’adore Tiffany Champagne Cocktail™ a creation of Liz’s own making, comprising one-thirds Champagne, mango juice, and pink lemonade. Delicious, refreshing, and strongly mango-flavoured, these were served in unusual conical-shaped glasses, which Liz had procured on her most recent expedition to Paris, from the Eiffel Tower.

The Champagnes:

Casting off and sailing out onto the water, we first partook of a lovely half-bottle of Chassenay d’Arce Brut NV ‘Sélection’ (89+/100, priced well under 20 Euros), comprising 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay, sourced from the Aube winegrowing region of Champagne: revealing lovely scents of delicate toasted biscuits, lemon, pears, dried nuts, and spice; complex and elegant, though definitely lighter-styled. Quite interestingly, the claim to fame for this smaller-scaled house is its participation with various famous artistic establishments (including the Louvre) in organizing wine-and-art events. Usually, when one hears about such activities, one tends to think of Veuve Clicquot or Moët & Chandon, not the smaller houses – a real coup if you ask me.

Our second Champagne was the exceptional Drappier Brut Vintage 2002 ‘Millésime Exception’ (93/100, approx. 90 Euros), comprising 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay: starbright, pale straw colour, offering incredible scents of fresh toast and biscuits, switching to pears, hazelnuts, lemon, green apples, brioche, and spice; extremely complex, stylish, moussy, and crisp; disgorged in March, 2010.

The Accompaniments:

With such marvellous Champagnes, Liz and Rob were wholly up to the task of providing a wide array of delightful food accompaniments for the afternoon. On her latest visit to Champagne, Liz had been able to procure a lovely packet of authentic ‘Roses de Reims Biscuits’ Champagne biscuits, used primarily as a palate-restorative by the locals whenever they partake of some bubbly. Combined with an exquisite helping of locally: (Champagne) crafted pork liver pâté, cheeses, crackers, and Californian berries (where else?), it was assuredly clear that all things edible only served to enhance what was truly a lovely Champagne-and-sailing outing … utterly worthy of mention in the inaugural column of ‘Wine Waves’ and GAM on Yachting.

Julian Hitner and Liz Palmer

Air France “l’Espace Affaires” – Crossing the Ocean in Style

I am beginning my ten-day journey to Paris, the Champagne Region of France and Belgium. I am flying “l’Espace Affaires”/Business Class from Toronto to Paris, and looking forward to the “Business Class” travel experience with Air France.

Settling into a large comfortable seat with a welcoming glass of Champagne, a copy of the Air France in-flight magazine immediately gets me into a “Parisian” mood. The magazine consists of Paris spring fashion trends, locations of the best restaurants as well as comments on what is going on in the art scene. This in-flight magazine is a fashionista’s dream come true; lots of French-styled shoes, dresses, purses…. In between sips of Deutz Brut Classic, I’m handed a dinner menu and wine list by one of the coiffed, well-mannered flight attendant who speaks both French and English.

The wine offerings are superior, and it is refreshing to see a well-constructed wine list that has ample offerings. I notice there is a reference on the menu that the wines have been chosen by Olivier Poussier, the World’s Best Sommelier in 2000 – this is an added bonus. The attendants place a white linen tablecloth on my table, immediately followed by fresh, delicious baguettes with creamy butter. I choose Saint-Veran Chateau de Fuisse 06 a nice easy Burgundy, to pair with my choice of seafood hors d’oeuvre of marinated shrimp, served with miso and ginger sauce, served with soba noodles.

The main course of grilled tournedos of beef with scallion butter, potatoes au grain, broccoli and tomato truly melts in my mouth, particularly paired with a glass of Clos Triguedina Cuvee Prince Probus 05. This is another perfect match and an excellent choice with meat and game-nice intensity and refinement.

Fine china, silver and an impressive wine list coupled with first class service, make me feel like I am in an exclusive international restaurant, not on an airplane! I skip coffee and chocolate torte, and decide to get a few hours of sleep. I found sleeping a delightful and restful experience. The tilted seats turn into a perfect horizontal position and pillows and quilts are quite abundant. Within a few hours I awaken to the smell of fresh coffee brewing…Y E S I’m almost in Paris. The French-style breakfast consisted of juice, yogurt, fresh fruits with pastries, lots of coffee, and Champagne if I want – so perfect!

My “l’Espace Affaires”/Air France Business Class experience has truly proven to be Crossing the Ocean in Style!

Liz Palmer
Wine and Travel Writer

Bouillon Chartier – ZAGAT Paris Restaurant Review … MY STEAK FRITES!

I didn’t waste any time, I just landed in Paris – I dropped off my luggage and headed to the 9th arrondissement to have lunch with Ryan Ebner, a BNP Paribas Analyst. He’s an expat Canadian living and working in France and thoroughly enjoying it. Ryan and I both picked Bouillon Chartier to meet for lunch because of its historical charm, its popularity, great prices and good reviews from my 2010 Zagat Paris Guide (page 67).

This bistro is a perfectly-preserved relic of an old Paris, with glass-globe fixtures, tables jammed together, coat racks high above the tables, and a menu that hasn’t made a single concession to any of the culinary advancements of at least the last three or four decades (so I was told by some frequent dinners).

The specialty for lunch was a 20 €/person combination of Steak Frites with a glass of house red. Just barely after putting our order in the waiter came back at rapid speed with our glasses of wine, baguette and butter. We were impressed. The house red was a basic vin de pays and welcoming.

The steak was delightfully tender and flavorful served with remarkably fresh, crispy frites, and topped off with their secret sauce.

We were very pleased with the overall service and we both felt restored. I definitely would go back again for lunch or dinner to Bouillon Chartier to soak in this old Paris setting as it is one of the last of the bouillons standing.

On to my next venture in Paris …… Shopping? Chocolate? Champagne?

Moët & Chandon Champagne Debuts Gold Award Season Bottle

Moët & Chandon has launched exclusive champagne of both the 2011 Golden Globes® (January 16) and Academy Awards® (February 27), with the debut of Moët & Chandon Impérial bottle to celebrate Moët’s 20th anniversary with the Globes.

Champagne and cinema has become a loved tradition in Hollywood. During the 2010 Golden Globes®, over 1,000 Moët & Chandon Impérial minis with chic ‘mini-flutes’ were served to celebrities on the red carpet, over 500 magnum bottles of Moët & Chandon Impérial were served inside the ballroom during the dinner and award presentation ceremony, totalling over 9,000 glasses of Moët & Chandon Impérial being enjoyed on one of Hollywood’s biggest nights.

Armand de Brignac® Presents the Midas: The #1 Rated Champagne Unveils the World’s Largest Luxury Bottle

Armand de Brignac has released the largest bottle of luxury Champagne: “Midas”, a massive 30-liter vessel (equivalent to 40 regular-sized 750ml bottles) and weighing in at 100 pounds. The name “Midas comes” from King Midas (Greek mythology – having the ability to turn whatever he touched to gold).

The first Midas bottle of Armand de Brignac was sold in 2010 for $100,000 at the famous nightclub XS in Las Vegas’ Encore Casino – part of Steve Wynn’s Wynn Hotels group. There, nationally recognized mixed martial arts and UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez hosted his UFC 125 after-party joined by fighters Gilbert Melendez, Urijah Faber, Jake Shields, and UFC announcer Bruce Buffer. Two strongmen were needed to carry the bottle to the table of the anonymous high-roller who made the purchase.

Each metallic bottle, inspired by famed fashion designer Andre Courreges, is crafted entirely by hand; each bears two Ace of Spades insignias and four hand-applied pewter labels. The striking bottle is housed in a black wooden case embossed with the Champagne’s royal crest. The box is lined with velvet and fitted with an engraved nameplate, reflecting the splendor and grand style of the French fashion world and perfectly complementing the Armand de Brignac Champagne within.