An epic, once in a lifetime champagne event featuring tete du cuvees from some of the top houses and vintages including Krug, Cristal, Dom Perignon, Salon and Taittinger

Once I became passionate about all things wine, it took me 15 years to actually get into sparkling wine although I’d had many a bottle {it did not take as long to get tnto Burgundy}. Once hooked, I sought out every opportunity to explore the global vastness that exists from new world sparklers to Cava, Prosecco, Moscato d’Asti, Lambrusco, Cremant, Champagne and more. I had enough motivation to then spend 10 days in Champagne visiting numerous houses throughout the region.

I’ve had one of kind, private tastings in the Champagne region, attended champagne events in various cities around the world and many more on the local scene and up until this last Monday, the best one ever was a party I had to celebrate a special birthday too many years ago.

This last December, a friend reached out to encourage me to resurrect a champagne/ Valentine’s event I had done for about 20 years for a wine tasting group I co-founded in 1988.

The event had been held in the barrel room of the Santa Barbara Winery and coordinated with one of our tasting group members who was and still is their winemaker, but the winery lost their lease, moved out into the county and we lost our venue.

Then, Covid issues occurred and the event got put on hold for the next 2 years.

Once it was clear this event would not occur this year due to no suitable available venue, I suggested he and I should do at least a quality champagne event for a select few and he agreed to host it at his wonderful ocean/ mountain view Hope Ranch home.

To do this righteously, we agreed on a theme to do tete de cuvees from some of the top houses and top vintages, keep the number of participants low and serve caviar and other quality champagne compatible dishes. I even offered we should do this black tie, but we deferred to do business casual, ties for men optional.

Selecting the other 6 people was easy as we have some other serious bubble heads that would be up for such an event.

Once the invites were accepted, the list of wines was put together and we ended up with a stellar lineup with everyone contributing. Our host also graciously offered a magnum starter champagne.

The next thing in line was to arrange the bottle order and I posed a question to the folks who participate in the ongoing Wine Berserker champagne thread as to what order and number of flights we should consider and thanks to Jon Lawrence, Benjamin Weiss, Brad Baker and Warren Taranow, it came together although it turned out one of the wines I listed, 1996 Krug, was not available and replaced later on by a 2002 Krug and one brought another Clos de Goisses that was added to the last flight at the last minute.

I’ve long felt the most welcoming thing I can do for wine drinking guests once they arrive is to offer a glass of champagne and that is what we did on this night. Additionally, delectable appetizers including an 8.8 oz tin of Plaza Osetra Farmed Bulgarian Sturgeon Caviar, quality cheeses, fresh salmon, popcorn, crackers and breads were made immediately available as we prepared for the grand experience of sitting down at a perfectly arranged dining room table and tasting through the champagnes.

We had requested each person bring 6 champagne glasses, but in retrospect, it should have been at least 10 in order to retain each wine for further evaluation throughout the evening.

During the tasting, lots of discussion occurred as everyone shared opinions, insights and stories while assessing each wine for what it was and not so much for what we were biased to expect.

Starter champagne:

2002 Franck Bonville “Millesime” Brut Blanc de Blanc in magnum- this was absolutely fabulous as it delivered just what we wanted as a pleasing palate cleanser and then went way beyond that with a wondrous taste profile and soft and frothy, almost cotton candy like mousse; following aromas of citrus coated butter, ginger and vanilla, came tastes of lemon, lime and apricot finished by a touch of peppermint; it had nice acidity and was in perfect balance, which remained consistent over the course of the evening. A great start.

We moved into the dining room and poured the wines in each flight at the same time by having the one who brought it do the honors.

First Flight:

1996 Salon Le Mesnil Blanc de Blanc- my bring and one that has a great story attached to it as this bottle was a gift in 2014 from a dear friend, Archie McLaren {founder of the Central Coast Wine Classic}; on the day before he took an euthanasia drug, Archie had invited Jim Clendenen {also now deceased/ Au Bon Climat} and I to join him for some last remembrances and when we left, he gifted with us some treasures from his cellar, this bottle being one of them which I was able to select.
When pouring it, some remarked that Salon has a history needing more time almost regardless of vintage although that had not been my experience plus I’d had a 1996 last year that was wonderfully open and ready, but this bottle started off with mild, suppressed notes and then slowly took its time to reveal some of its treasures; after an hour or so, it moved into a beautiful place and delivered magnificently, but still seemingly not to its fullest potential. I now could relate to the earlier remarks.
It had a light, youthful yellow color and aromas and flavors of honeyed lemon which expanded over time while gaining more body, weight, substance and taste expression while remaining elegant and graceful with its hallmark of elegance most evidenced as well as “needing more time”.

1996 Krug Clos du Mesnil Blanc de Blanc- the color was amber, gold and the darkest of all on this evening; I wondered if the nose would show some oxidative notes, but that was not the case as it had inviting and delightful baked apple and red cherry aromas that contained on once tasted to be joined by honeyed yellow apple, apricot and peach; it was full bodied, super rich and seriously concentrated with layered depth and complexity; later on, a touch of coconut added another accent to the fruit profile as it finished showcasing its power and yet with lots of finesse; fabulous champagne. We are off to a great start. After re-tasting all of the wines, it was clear to me this was one of my favs.

Second Flight:

2002 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut- light yellow color; the nose offered amazing aromas of honeyed yellow apple, lemon and lime that prevailed in the taste profile as well, along with a light toasty dusting; it got better and better in the glass and it started off stupendously; it was rich and creamy and had a hallmark of being in perfect balance; a great Cristal that is in a really good place now.

2002 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc- omg, the nose had the toasty brioche/ Maillard reaction character that is so prevalent in aged Comtes and got everyones’s attention and rave; and, there was so much more to love; following its medium yellow color, the palate included lovely honey laced mature yellow apple and lemon delivered in a creamy, feel good mousse; it was super rich, tasty and tangy and immediately became another favorite so far amidst some serious competition and we’d only had 3. An hour later and after having tasted and re-tasted all of the champagnes, it was still in the running.

2002 Krug Brut- this had a yellow gold color, understandably a shade or two lighter than the ’96 Krug Clos du Mesnil in the first flight; again I checked the nose for oxidative influence and found none initially, but later on got some subtle hints of advanced notes; this had a bit of a chill on it and took some time to warm up and release some of its treasures that included honey, ginger, caramel and butterscotch accented lemon extract and white nectarine; it expanded immensely within an hour and reached a place of sublime excellence showcasing its profound power, depth and layered complexity. WOW!

Up to this point in the evening, we were able to sit with every champagne, including the starter, and allow for some of the changes to occur for about an hour before moving on. Most of us kept some in our glasses to revisit even later on and my tasting notes reflect both, the initial samplings and the later ones although I did deviate by not including disgorgement dates, dosage, blend % etc in all.

We took a much needed food break here with freshly made cheese quesadillas and green chili peppers also served.

Third Flight:

2002 Dom Perignon Brut- this had a medium yellow color; I was finishing my last bite of quesadilla when the others had already tasted this wine and once I got the nose on it, I was surprised no one had mentioned it was corked; once I did state it, then one found the wet cardboard character, but it took some time before others did and then the TCA seemed to become more prevalent and it became more easily apparent; however, this had some redeeming qualities that made for a much better experience and I actually had more than a sip; in the foreground was some mint accented white peach, apricot and nectarine that was delivered in a soft and creamy textured medium; the TCA was more apparent at the finish as it sort of moved other notes out of the way. Thankfully, this was our only flawed champagne.

2002 Dom Perignon P2 Brut- this had a light yellow color and a nose that suggested something really good was going to happen for all who ventured beyond; white Burgundian flint and mineral notes were first noticed in the aromatics and then nice citrus fruit in the form of lemon, lime and orange zest came in and it was all up hill from there as it expanded and expressed even more; this was super rich, full-bodied and beautifully balanced throughout; it had a little weight that added to the textural component and finished making an impressive statement with everything coming together and then holding on for seemingly forever. I’m thinking WOTN candidate if not THE ONE. Later on, it was confirmed.

Fourth Flight:

1999 Philipponnat Clos de Goisses Brut- I’ve had a few of this vintage and have to think this bottle was a variant from the norm in that it was ultra tasty as in super spicy with a streak of minerals running through it all the way to the back end while making a statement of being big and bold with little finesse and minimal acidity; it was delicious and sported pure expressions of ripe tangerine, white peach and yellow apple fruit; I kept expecting it to lighten up just a bit, but it just held on to its masculinity and kept flexing; we needed more time ti hang with this one.

1996 Dom Perignon Oenotheque- disgorged in 2008; this had a surprising youthful yellow gold color and loads of flavor along with a tactile pleasing smooth and creamy texture, lots of body and more finesse; it featured bright acidity expressed in the nice citrus fruit with lemon and orange zest most notable; it was generous and yet had a subtle quality that just reeked of class and elegance and a hallmark of perfect balance; I stayed with this as long as I could and it just kept getting better and more impressive to the extent in short time it became one of my top 3 favs and when it came time to vote, I had it #2 with the ’02 P2 my WOTN.

2007 Philipponnat Clos de Goisses Brut- as with most champagnes I buy, I drink a few early on and have had 4 bottles of this one before retiring the remainder for a few years even though I loved every bottle; this one was different from what I had experienced in that it started out making a statement of being big and buttery with bracing acidity, then moved into a shutdown stage before starting to open up again and time ran out to allow it to continue to evolve; ginger and honey accented yellow apple, lemon and lime highlighted the taste profile and its creamy mousse added to its allure aided by the buttery component.

What a night! Any one of these bottles could have been a feature for an evening to build a nice wine event around. We were also graced with having so many bottles showcasing their peak performance or close to it albeit with only one flawed bottle and that one was drinkable and had enough goodness to support its pedigree beyond the cork taint.

I felt extremely grateful to be in the presence of the shared passion and generosity of every one in attendance and especially our host who created a class environment for us to enjoy such an epic, memorable, once in a lifetime champagne event, the best one I’ve ever experienced.

As I usually state when something is extra stellar, “I could only do this once a week”.


The WOTN was the 1996 Dom Perignon Oenotheque which got one more vote than the 2002 Dom Pedrignon P2, then came 2002 Krug in a tie with 2002 Taittinger Comtes.

To be double posted on the champagne thread

@Jon_Lawrence @Steve_Nordhoff @Brad_Baker @Warren_Taranow @Bweiss @Chris_Seiber @AstridKG @Frank_Murray_III @ToddFrench @brigcampbell @Viet_Ly @Mikael_OB


Thnx for posting Blake sounds amazing. Well done.

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Thanks for the notes Blake, sadly I have not had enough 02’ champagne but reading this is creating some motivation purchase some.


Wow! That definitely was an epic night. That is a young looking '96 Salon. Amazing the difference in color between that and Mesnil. Too bad about the '02 DP, it looks like a Warhol label which I always felt were a little more generous than the green shield labels. We have the '02 Cristal and Krug lined up for tonight, I hope they show as well as yours did. Cheers!

what great notes, Blake. Also, an amazing lineup

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I would feel privileged to taste any one of those bottles by itself. What an event!

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That’s exactly how I felt.

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Thanks Blake. Great tasting.

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Great event. Maybe go for smoking jackets next time?!

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Epic sounds like an understatement!

And what a way to honor your friends memory by including that bottle in this lineup.


I have 2 other bottles, but knew immediately, this was the one to take to this event and share with friends who also knew Archie, and Jim for that matter.

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Interestingly I’ve actually found the bottles with best provenance taste open and wonderful right now. Like absolutely gorgeous. It sounds strange, but the bottles that I’ve known had unknown or less than stellar provenance are the ones that taste young and not ready. Leads me to believe they are actually closed and muted because they aren’t in the best shape and won’t be improving.

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Super lineup, super writeup!

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Beautiful writeup Blake. Looks like some great wines and fun.

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Nice to see some familiar faces there.

Sounds like it was a fantastic evening!


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Your kind of tasting Don. Thanks

Well done Blake!

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Wow. Absolutely epic! :star_struck:

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I have not heard that theory before, but could very well be what has happened here.

New to me as well. I can only speak for the storage/ handling from 2014 on and can say that period of time was solid unless there is an issue with a constant 52 degrees temp as it sat in the bottom of a stand up unit.

I do know, the one who gifted me the bottle had a world class cellar with settings at 55 degrees and 70% humidity, but I do not know how long he had the bottle.