When the Goddess of Wine has too many events on her calendar, she enlists the aid of good friend and wineaux, Marya Glur. In this case, Marya was able to both help me and indulge in her favorite beverage.
Wally's Grande Marque Champagne Tasting by Marya Glur
As a Champagne aficionado, I have yearned for a long time to attend the Grande Marque Champagne Tasting organized by Wally's Wines every June. With the help of my dear friend, the Champagne Whoar, LeeAundra Temescu Keany, and her husband, Paul Keany, I was finally able to attend the event this year at the JW Marriott Le Merigot Hotel in Santa Monica on Sunday, June 3.
An expert in Champagne who posted numerous podcasts on the subject (which are no longer available for viewing, unfortunately), LeeAundra is also a public speaking coach with celebrity clients and a writer for Discover magazine. One of her more popular articles features the question, "Can you really fly the space shuttle after a few glasses of Champagne?" The result of the experiment was actually quite shocking: repetition trounces inebriation!
I was the first to arrive at Le Merigot, getting the lay of the land, and dismissing the offer of a Champagne Mint Julep from Moët & Chandon. This wasn't my first rodeo, and nothing was going to ruin my palate for the great wines offered at this tasting! When LeeAundra and Paul arrived, we decided to go for houses we loved before tasting other wines. We began at J. Lassalle, Paul Bara, Pol Roger, and Henriot, which were all lined up in a corner of the patio.
The J. Lasalle Premier Cru Brut Rosé Cuvée ($53) was irresistible as our first wine with its blush color of light peachy pink, its beautiful yeast and raspberry nose, balanced structure, light mousse and fantastic finish of mineral, yeast and acid. A blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, the J. Lasalle set the bar for the rest of the tasting!
Here are some of the other highlights of the evening:
Krug Grande Cuvée ($150) - According to Krug.com, this champagne is "a blend of around 120 wines from 10 or more different vintages, some of which may reach 15 years of age." A wonderful nose of brown sugar and vanilla cookie gives way to toasted brioche in the mouth with a slightly acidic finish that lingered.
Dom Perignon Vintage 2003 ($150) - That distinctive and famous nose of canned tuna is really hard to miss!
Barons de Rothschild Blanc des Blancs ($100) - This new Champagne label is presented in cooperation by the three branches of the Rothschild family: Chateau Lafite Rothschild (owned by Baron Eric de Rothschild), Chateau Mouton Rothschild (owned by Baroness Philippine de Rothschild) and Chateau Clarke (owned by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild). Released within the last year, this Blanc de Blancs is a blend of the Champagne region's prestigious Chardonnays, yielding a buttered croissant nose with a hint of golden raisins and bright acidity.
Duetz Brut Classic ($50) - This cuvée of 38% Pinot Noir, 32% Pinot Meunier, and 30% Chardonnay showed a butterscotch and brown sugar nose with a hint of floral leading to a balanced structure and citrus finish.
Canard-Duchene Authentic Brut ($40) - Beautiful, yet inexpensive and accessible, this "Cold Duck" (as LeeAundra and Paul call it) begins with a toasted nose, rounded on the tongue with a refined acidity and a yeasty mineral finish. A blend of 45% Pinot Noir, 35% Pinot Meunier & 20% Chardonnay, this wonderful Champagne can turn any ordinary day into special day!
Canard-Duchene Authentic Rosé ($50) - A cuvée of 45% Pinot Noir, 25% Pinot Meunier and 35% Chardonnay with 10% still Pinot Noir for color, this lovely wine has a bright nose of candied apple (without the cinnamon), balanced middle and a nutty raspberry finish.
It’s interesting to note that the silent auction's opening bid for the triple package of Canard-Duchene Champagnes was $300 - nearly double the retail price!! I guess we weren't the only aficionados to LOVE these wines!
Unfortunately, many great Champagnes from prestigious houses were poured too cold to really taste for reviews and many of the sommeliers were not knowledgeable enough about the wines they were pouring to give me useful information to include here. (!) My favorite ridiculous comment of the tasting was "they're all grand grapes." With four Champagnes listed in the program, there really is no excuse for Billecart-Salmon to run out of wine a mere 1.5 hours into the 3 hour event! Really! Either shorter pours, fellas, or bring more wine!
What definitely needs to be mentioned is the incredible food presented by many of Los Angeles/Westside's top restaurants. In particular, we LOVED the mushroom quiche from Josie Restaurant, the pasta from Locanda del Lago, the lamb meatballs from the Whist at the Viceroy, the oysters from Cafe del Rey, and who could resist the colorful macaroons from Bouchon!?! Thank you to the David Arana Quartet for providing the beautiful jazz and a big "merci' to Wally's Wines for organizing this Grande Marques Champagne Tasting.
And a big thank you to Marya from the Goddess of Wine for this virtual trip through Champagne!