This afternoon, as the microwave clock turned one and the bell rang, I left a roomful of eighth graders and their fictional constructs, booked it down the stairs, and caught a gypsy cab to the subway at 149th and 3rd Avenue, in the Bronx. From there I hopped the 5 to the 6 to Eleven Madison Park, for a winemaker’s lunch with Chantal-Brégeon of Champagne Philippe Gonet.
I arrived late, but just in time for an aperitif–Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru Le Mesnils/Oger 2002, which was great, because I’d had bubbly on my mind…Light and fruity, despite the low dosage (3 grams), it revealed notes of butterscotch pudding as it sat, and did not favor the Wild Mushroom Risotto, which was salty–though it did pair well with the Parsnip Velouté with Ruby Red Prawns, or so I’d heard.
To accompany our appetizers, we also tasted Champagne Extra-Brut 3210 (3 years of aging, 2 terroirs, 1 grape variety, and 0 dosage). As a big fan of zero dosage, despite its recent dismissal as a marketing device by a couple of sparkling winemakers on Long Island, I enjoyed this wine, which happened to have paired best with my risotto. With initial aromas a nectarine glazed tart, the 3210 is chalk-dry, with flavors of light ginger (without the heat), and candle wax.
The Champagne Blanc de Blanc Brut is yeasty with a gingery-floral-minerality that brought to mind, Angel Food Cake. (Don’t ask.) With lime fruit, there are eventual notes of a hot iron that rise from the glass.
I love these events. As much as they stress our mid-day commitments, it’s such a lovely opportunity to sit and sip, and savor and chat and pair, while listening to the winemaker talk about her wines. Chantal-Brégeon (pictured above) and her brother, Pierre Gonet, are the 7th generation of growers at Champagne Philippe Gonet, where in the village of Le Mesnil sur Oger, their Grand Cru Chardonnay vineyards border those of Champagne Salon. Producing 200,000 bottles annually, Gonet exports 50% of their production, though in New York, one can only purchase the Brut NV and the Rosé.
Because it was a lucky day, we had the opportunity to taste 2 bottles of Belemnita 2004, Confidentielle Edition (above left), the first of which was disgorged two months ago, and the second, which was disgorged six months past. Wow. What a difference! The first bottle showed a yeast so lively that it was almost human. It was minerally, lean, and citrus fruit forward, with a u-turn mid-palate that rode the wine’s acidity. The second bottle offered a brioche yeastiness that hovered above a ghostly citrus, stone fruit. Says Chantel, this wine “…has the strongest potential for aging…10-20 years…a mainline of acidity and minerality…still in a straight forward style.” Yum.
There were other wines, that were just as delicious. The Champagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, Aged in Oak Barrel, which adored the Nova Scotia Lobster Poached with Celery Root and Meyer Lemon that I had for lunch, and the Champagne Rosé Brut. But I know it’s a brain strain to read long blog posts, and so with note this I offer thanks to Chantel for her wines, to Oumy for arranging, and to Eleven Madison Park for hosting this lovely event.