Grower Champagne and Dim Sum

Sino Restaurant, Santana Row, San Jose, California

Tasted June 13, 2010 by Richard Jennings with 825 views

Introduction


Lovely women, great Champagne, plus the best dim sum on the SF Bay Peninsula (per Christianne, who knows her dim sum) equals pure bliss (and, yes, a couple days' worth of calories). Christianne "ran the menu" for us, so we got to try most all of Sino's dim sum. The ingredients were clearly fresh, the flavors distinct; all but the Shanghai dumplings were the best of their kind that I've had in California. And our Champagnes were also top notch for a gathering of seven of us, cool choices amongst the best grower bubblies: from Salon, to a comparison of formats of '98 Vilmart Coeur de Cuvee, to Jacquesson, to a nice pair of H. Billiots. I was very full, but quite blissful when we walked out the door nearly four hours later. It had been so long since I'd had good dim sum, and dim sum and Champagne used to be a favorite treat when I lived in L.A. Thanks to Christianne for recommending Sino.

Flight 1 - '98 Vilmart CdC Mag vs. 750 (2 notes)

Vilmart is one of my favorite grower producers, and the Coeur de Cuvée is, of course, their top bottling. The cepage is 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, and the grapes are selectively picked from 50-year-old vines. It was fascinating to compare the wine from the two different formats. Both were good, but the relative freshness and liveliness of the magnum for me was more appealing than the mature, mushroomy notes that are beginning to dominate in the regular format.

White - Sparkling
1998 Vilmart & Cie Champagne Premier Cru Coeur de Cuvée France, Champagne, Champagne Premier Cru
93 points
Light golden yellow color; baked lemon, yeasty, mineral, earthy nose; tasty, poised, elegant, tart lemon, baked lemon, mineral palate with some mature mushroomy notes; medium-plus finish
White - Sparkling
1998 Vilmart & Cie Champagne Premier Cru Coeur de Cuvée France, Champagne, Champagne Premier Cru
94 points
From magnum - light golden yellow color; fresh, lemon, quince, baked lemon nose; tasty, fresh, yeast, mineral, baked lemon palate; medium-plus finish 94+ pts.

Flight 2 - Best of '97 Flight (2 notes)

1997 was not a great year for vintage Champagne, but these two producers definitely made the most of it, and Salon's bottling is thought to be the best of the vintage. Salon is 100% Chardonnay, and was the first commercial Blanc de Blancs. Although now owned by Laurent-Perrier, it started as a grower Champagne and still follows essentially a grower philosophy by making Champagne from only one varietal and from a single cru. In years when the vintage isn't up to Salon's standard, the grapes go to Delamotte. Many thanks to Al for bringing this exceptional treat. Jacquesson is one of my other favorite grower producers, next to Vilmart, and this was another strong '97. The cepage is 55% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir, and 3/4's of the fruit comes from Jacquesson's own vineyards. 2002 was the last year of Jacquesson's vintage champagne, known in '97 as the Millesime and previously as the "Signature" wine, since the brothers Chiquet have decided to focus on their numbered cuvees as their top bottling.

White - Sparkling
1997 Salon Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut France, Champagne
95 points
Light golden yellow color; toasty, yeasty, baked lemon nose; delicate and delicious, tart lemon, mineral, kumquat palate; medium-plus finish 95+ pts.
White - Sparkling
1997 Jacquesson & Fils Champagne Brut Millésimé France, Champagne
94 points
Light medium golden color; yeasty, apricot, lime nose; tasty, vivacious yet rich, tart lemon, mineral, tart apricot palate; medium-plus finish (Pinot Noir from Ay Vauzelle Terme 28%, Verzenay 17%; Chardonnay from Oiry Champ Braux 35%, Avize 9% and Chouilly 11%; dosage 3.5 grams; disgorged 1st qtr '08)

Flight 3 - More Growers Flight (2 notes)

This was the first time I've tried the Ulysse Collin, and it is quite good in a very delicate style. Louis Dressner is the distributor. Olivier Collin first began making wines under this label in 2003, when his family got back the use of the first of their vineyards from a long lease to Pommery. In 2005, the lease ended on more of the property the family had previously rented out to Pommery, so the estate now consists of a total of 8.7 hectares. The Blanc de Blancs comes from a 1.2 hectare Chardonnay vineyard called Les Perrières. Chartogne-Taillet is a family run producer represented by Terry Theise. The Fiacre bottling is from a selection of their oldest vines with a high percentage of pre-phylloxera vines from the village of Merfy. The cepage is 60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir.

White - Sparkling
N.V. Ulysse Collin Champagne Blanc de Blancs Extra-Brut France, Champagne
91 points
Light golden yellow color; apple, cream, floral nose; delicate, light bodied, tart apple, citrus, lime palate; medium finish 91+ pts.
White - Sparkling
2000 Chartogne-Taillet Champagne Fiacre France, Champagne
92 points
Light yellow color; lime, cream, yeasty nose; tasty, serious bubbles, very poised and sprightly, lime, lime cream, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts.

Flight 4 - Billiot Pair (2 notes)

Terry Theise is also the distributor for Henri Billiot. Like Salon, these wines never undergo malolactic fermentation, and are built for aging. The estate is only 5 hectares, and 100% grand cru, planted 75% to Pinot Noir and 25% to Chardonnay. These two were both impressive, and are likely to show even better with some additional bottle age.


White - Sparkling
2002 H. Billiot Fils Champagne Grand Cru Brut Millésimé France, Champagne, Champagne Grand Cru
92 points
Light golden yellow color; lovely apple, peach, baked lemon nose; tasty, tart lemon, tart peach, mineral, lime palate with grip; medium-plus finish 92+ pts.
Rosé - Sparkling
N.V. H. Billiot Fils Champagne Grand Cru Brut Rosé France, Champagne, Champagne Grand Cru
92 points
Light orange pink color; blood orange, tart strawberry nose; tart cherry, strawberry, blood orange palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish

Flight 5 - Pinot Finish (2 notes)

Having headed substantially into the world of Pinot with our Billiots, we jumped in all the way with these two lovely wines. I thought they went well with our heavier meat dishes toward the end of our meal. The Simon Bize was silky and appealing, and I'm glad I have more to revisit over the next few years. I'm a big fan of Rhys, and the Alpine Hillside is one of the best Pinots they've produced, with a long life ahead of it.

Red
2006 Simon Bize Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Aux Vergelesses France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru
91 points
Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, sous bois nose; tasty, velvety textured, tart red fruit, rosehips, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish
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Red
2007 Rhys Pinot Noir Alpine Hillside USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
93 points
Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, raspberry nose; tart cherry, tart red fruit, black cherry palate with depth; medium-plus finish 93+ pts.

Closing

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