The Toronto Wine Elitist Cabal™ held its second Champagne and Fried Chicken Dinner this past Thursday Dec. 14th, 2023 to kick off the holiday season. Fellow TWEC ™ members Jay Shampur, David He, Debbie Shing, Michael Wright, Dylan Provencher and I convened at member Mike Grammer’s condo for the second iteration of what will surely become an annual tradition.

LAHERTE FRERES ULTRADITION EXTRA BRUT – An intriguing NV Champagne to start. This was baked apple pie in a bottle, with sweet baked apples, toastiness, spiciness and a slight hint of vanilla. We actually double-checked to make sure the bottle is Extra-Brut. It is indeed Extra Briut at a mere 5 g/L dosage but the perception is definitely much sweeter. 60% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir. We certainly did double takes on this Extra Brut due to that perceived sweetness but it is very tasty and went very well with an appetizer of Popeye’s fried chicken, cheese and crackers.

We moved to the dining table for the main event. This year, we mixed things up by going for Korean Fried Chicken. We had quite the adventure ordering this as UberEats seemingly lost our order with the condo’s front desk attendant confirming she never saw the UberEats driver come in, forcing us to reorder, and then go pick it up ourselves from the nearest chain location which happened to be literally across the street from Michael’s condo. So I volunteered to do the walk and went to pick it up. As I returned, I noticed that there were a bunch of bags and boxes on a side table in the lobby where guests and visitors can sit. You know, the side area every apartment and condo building has when you enter that usually has couches to sit on and a table. I went over and realized some of them was our original food order! :open_mouth: For some bizarre reason, the UberEats driver came in, veered right and dropped the food off in the guest area, and left! So he never even approached the front desk so nobody knew our food had arrived. Seemed odd but there were also other food orders there for other people, so I told the front desk what was happening. Never seen that before from a food delivery service.

With the confusion cleared up and now with a double order of tasty Korean fried chicken which I think you’ll agree from the pic was well worth going through all the trouble for, it was time for TWEC ™ to get down to business:

TSARINE 2006 GRAND CRU BLANC DE BLANCS – This was just fantastic, with bright crisp tropical fruit, a light touch of yeasty breadiness, and a cristalline smooth texture. Refreshing and extremely quaffable. Practically a Champagne flavored soda, and I actually mean that as a very positive compliment. Insanely good and easy runaway winner of WOTN. Gave the other bottles a lot to live up to. 100% Chardonnay, natch.

A. MARGAINE NV PREMIER CRU BRUT ROSE – Pale salmon color. Medium acidity, medium toastiness, this is all about the fruity strawberry, watermelon and cranberry. Quite a bit denser than the last two, and I found out on the Internet that it’s got a relatively high dosage of 9 g/L. Interestingly, its perception is a lot drier and sweeter than the Laherte. Good stuff.

DUVAL-LEROY BRUT RESERVE – This had the misfortune of following the amazing Tsarine and pretty good A. Margaine Rosé. Heavy on the yeasty breadiness which it emphasizes over the green apple flavor. It’s okay but not very complex. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a very high acidity which actually made it a poor match for the chicken. 60% Pinot Noir, 30% Meunier, 10% Chardonnay. 9 g/L dosage.

MARC HEBRART 2018 GRAND CRU NOCES DE CRAIE EXTRA BRUT – This was a special contribution from Debbie who also owns and runs the Quvé boutique wine agency here in Toronto. Happy and shameless plug for her agency which you can find at This is a 100% Pinot Noir grower’s champagne. Running neck and neck with the Tsarine, this is an extremely well balanced champagne with equal amounts of strong fruit and toastiness. It only got beaten by the Tsarine due that wine’s pristine texture, but the length of the Hebrart far outclassed the Tsarine. The finish lasts forever on the palate. The Tsarine did a great job of clearing the palate, but this was a much better food match for our Korean fried chicken due to the flavor being so complementary. It was a tossup and I believe a couple of the attendees may have put this ahead of the Tsarine. 100% Pinot Noir, this is really a Blanc de Noirs though not stated on the label.

LAURENT-PERRIER NV CUVEE BRUT ROSE – The ever reliable LP Rosé happens to be the best selling Rosé Champagne in the world. Strong red currant flavors blend with fresh strawberry and watermelon. That distinguishing red currant note I find very unique to this Champagne to the point where I’m surprised to have not found it in any other commercial or grower Rosé. That may explain why it sells so well.

I have mixed feelings about this one. It is undeniably unique and tasty but something about it is also tastes and feels very commercial to me. Is it possible to praise by calling out its uniqueness yet also finding it generic at the same time? To be fair, I am probably influenced by it being severely outclassed by both the Tsarine and the Marc Hebrart. On any other day, I’d probably love this. I need to come back to this at a later time in the new year.

JACQUART 2008 BRUT – This was my contribution. Both Mike G. and I have had a bottle of this before and my observations remain the same. It seems like nothing special the day that it is opened, medium-sweetish, more Golden apple than green apple, just OK. But the day after… the acidity kicks in and it becomes incredible. This is the second bottle to do this, so it’s definitely not a fluke. Perhaps it needs decanting? Or just being left open for a day in the fridge?

VILMART & CIE NV GRAND CELLIER BRUT PREMIER CRU – Another balanced winner, with very clean green pear, lemon and toast flavors. 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir. Tied for 3rd with the Laherte for me, we are truly blessed and spoiled when a Vilmart doesn’t take top spot for WOTN and has to settle for the bronze.

That concludes our second tremendous outing. For our third future iteration of this event, I will rise to the challenge and provide the fried chicken myself. This will surely happen in 2024. This was a great start to my 2023 festive season. More reporting on events to come!


Thanks for all the photos and notes, Tran. I again was a bit lazy as host and didn’t scribble, so this will be from memory.

A Margaine Brut Rose NV

This was my contribution (well, one of two. I was persuaded :slight_smile: to open the Vilmart as well as an extra bottle, just because). While it’s pleasant enough and certainly red-fruited in nature, it doesn’t rise to anything particularly special. I really liked my first bottle of Margaine (Blanc) a few years ago. I’ve had 3 bottles since and none have come up to that first effort.

Laherte Freres Ultradition Extra Brut

It’s certainly not zero dosage, as Tran points out. This is on the sweeter side, with lemon-tinged apple and perhaps a drizzle of baking spice. Decent mousse, just another that didn’t grip the senses or soul. Fine sipper.

2006 Tsarine Grand Cru BdB

My friend Dave offered 2 champagnes to choose from. I, of course, chose this, with fond memories of one drunk a few years ago. This bottling surpassed that by a fair degree. I am in agreement with Tran that it ranked as the easy WOTN. Aromatics include brioche, lemon, apple peel and darts of crushed stone. This simply delights la bouche with such animated conversation between fruit, light toast and sparkle. Everything is more integrated and harmonious than even the last good bottle. Really fine champagne drinking very well right now.

Duval-Leroy Brut Reserve

Agree again with Tran that this was missing some drive and acidity. It doesn’t put one off—the yellow fruit is not over-sweet–but it’s gone pretty much as soon as it transits the mouth. Just OK this time.

LP NV Brut Rose

one of the things I like about Laurent-Perrier is its absolute dependability, whether in the Rose field or the Grand Siecle. You will always get a smooth and expressive bottle that will never hit true heights but never disappoint either. So it was here. This cuvee showed a slightly higher level of watermelon flavour, though in no way sweet. A pleasure to drink.

2008 Jacquart Mosaique Brut

Tran says I’ve had this particular cuvee/bottling of theirs. I’ll take his word for it :wink: While not in the class of the Cristals or CdCs of the world, there is no shame to drink this bottling. Fine presence with binned apple and some sparks of minerality coursing through it. Why don’t I have more 2008 of everything? Good wine.

2018 Marc Hebrart Noces de Craie Extra Brut

I’ve had some Hebrart, but not this cuvee. Understandably young and kinetic, it does show promise with plenty of coiled energy, very good complementary mousse and real berry fruit component to the overall profile. 100% PN, it shows here and I am getting 2 more bottles to track those over the next few years, when the profile should fan out and expand some into something I expect to be very nice indeed. #2 tonight.

Vilmart & Cie NV Grand Cellier

We probably did drink this a touch too warm, but only a touch. My friend Dave found this to be a big presentation. I did not think so. I love the acidity and intensity that Vilmart usually presents, and I found that here. Lemon-lime leads the way with a small talc nuance and other white fruit–and even very slight floral—bits to it. Enjoyed it plenty.

Kwa Heri