18th Annual Champagne Party – ’04 Cristal Takes Top Honors

It’s truly hard to believe this was our 18th year doing the Champagne Party!  Unbelievable how time flies.  We are grateful to Jeanne and Will Hartmann, who offered up their beautiful home in Seattle to host the party this year.  Jeanne and Will have been long time Champagne Party-goers, and when they heard that we were moving to San Francisco, they said, “We’re really sorry to see you go, but what are we going to do about the Champagne Party??”  Fortunately for us, they offered to host in their house this year, so that the tradition could live on.

Champagne Party Invite, hand painted by Jeanne McKay Hartmann of idreamof.com
Champagne Party Invite, hand painted by Jeanne McKay Hartmann of idreamof.com. (Check out her blog for more pics of the party!)

The Champagne party is a double-blind tasting of generally 10 Champagnes, with a few sparkling wines from other regions of the world thrown in for comparison’s sake.  The Champagnes will range from the low-end around $15 – $20, up to the high-end of $250 – $450 per bottle.   After everyone has tasted through – and re-tasted to be sure of their choices – we take votes for the favorite and the least favorite wines of the night.  I always enjoy seeing what people like.

The beautiful table.
The beautiful table. I can never get enough of the food – I’m behind the bar all night!
But I do slave away in the kitchen (well, a little bit anyway) - the girls did most of the work!
But I do slave away in the kitchen (well, a little bit anyway) – though admittedly, the girls did most of the work!

Here is the order that we tasted the Champagnes:

Gosset – Brut Excellence  NV  ($40)

Frank Bonville – Prestige Blanc de Blanc NV  ($55)

Pol Roger – Brut 2004  ($110)

Ariston Aspasie – Brut 2008  ($50)

Krug – Brut 2003  ($250)

Roederer  – Cristal Brut 2004  ($240)

Billecart Salmon – Cuvee Nicolas Francois Brut 1999  ($120)

Launois – Cuvee Reserve Blanc de Blanc NV  ($40)

Gloria Ferrer – Sonoma Brut NV  ($20)

Charles Heidsieck – Brut 2000  ($110)

I found it much more difficult than normal year to pick out the best and rank them in order, as did the group.  Usually, there is a clear winner or two that stand out above the crowd, or something that is completely polarizing, but that was not the case this year.  This year almost all of the wines showed well, but some (Launois, Ariston & Pol Roger) could definitely use some more bottle age to show what they have to offer.

The champagnes, all ready to go.
The champagnes, all ready to go.

Here is how the group ranked the Champagnes:

1st – Roederer  – Cristal Brut 2004  ($240)

2nd – Billecart Salmon – Cuvee Nicolas Francois Brut 1999  ($120)

3rd – Pol Roger – Brut 2004  ($110)

4th – Frank Bonville – Prestige Blanc de Blanc NV  ($55)

5th – Ariston Aspasie – Brut 2008  ($50)

6th – Gloria Ferrer – Sonoma Brut NV  ($20)

7th – Charles Heidsieck – Brut 2000  ($110)

8th – Gosset – Brut Excellence  NV  ($40)

9th – Krug – Brut 2003  ($250)

10th – Launois – Cuvee Reserve Blanc de Blanc NV  ($40)

Professional taster?  Brian Flynn and Bob Watt.
Professional taster? Brian Flynn and Bob Watt.

We generally don’t repeat an exact same Champagne in multiple tastings, but we had the 2004 Roederer Cristal in the lineup last year and I included it this year as well, to test a theory.  Last year, the group put the 2004 Roederer Cristal in 9th place and I ranked it dead last in 10th place.  The Champagne was just totally out of balance, too sweet, not enough acidity with a very short unremarkable finish.  It was exactly what you don’t want for a Champagne, especially for the price.  I felt the Champagne just didn’t show well, but I really thought it should have fared better, so I decided to give it another go around.  It’s amazing what an extra year did for the wine.  The proof is in the votes, first place for the group and 3rd place for me.

If you know me, you know I’m a Krug lover, and while I did single it out as my favorite, I was still very surprised at how the 2003 Krug showed this year.  The group ranked the 2003 Krug tied for last place, so we had a run off and it barely beat the Launois.  Neither the Krug Vintage or the Multi-Vintage has ever placed below 4th position in the 18 years that we have done this tasting, so to be ranked tied for last place is unusual for this wonderful Champagne house.  I personally liked the 2003 Krug as a Champagne, but I have to say, I don’t think it will go down in history as a great Krug.  I think the 2003 Krug is the weakest vintage Krug going back through the 1985 vintage.  Even the 1998 Krug is better and neither compare to the 2000 Krug, which is, or will be, a great Krug.

You may ask why I ranked this Champagne in 1st place?  Bottle bias?  Perhaps, but in my opinion, the 2003 Krug has all of the telltale signs of what Krug is, which I absolutely love, but is just much more restrained and subdued.  Only myself and two other die-hard Krug fans picked the 2003 Krug for 1st place.  Even my wife, Christina, went a different direction, picking the 2000 Charles Heidsieck as her favorite, and she usually can pick out a Krug Champagne in the lineup if there is one.  I will be very curious to see how the MV Krug Champagne that is based on the 2003 vintage tastes in comparison to the 2003 Krug.  Being a blend of multiple vintages could be a plus in this case and give the Champagne more of the Krug character that I love.

For the record, here is how I ranked the Champagnes:

1st – Krug – Brut 2003  ($250) – (94pts)

2nd – Billecart Salmon – Cuvee Nicolas Francois Brut 1999  ($120) – (94pts)

3rd – Roederer  – Cristal Brut 2004  ($240) – (93pts)

4th – Charles Heidsieck – Brut 2000  ($110) – (92pts)

5th – Pol Roger – Brut 2004  ($110) – (91pts)

6th – Frank Bonville – Prestige Blanc de Blanc NV  ($55) – (89pts)

7th – Gloria Ferrer – Sonoma Brut NV  ($20) – (89pts)

8th – Launois – Cuvee Reserve Blanc de Blanc NV  ($40) – (87pts)

9th – Gosset – Brut Excellence  NV  ($40) – (86pts)

10th – Ariston Aspasie – Brut 2008  ($50) – (82pts)

You're all winners in my book.
You’re all winners in my book.

The Champagne party is always a great way to kick off the Holiday season.  As many know, Champagne is a passion for me, but too many people think of Champagne as just for celebrations and special events.  It is first and foremost wine (with bubbles), that pairs great with food and is an absolute must in any cellar.  Life is too short not to drink Champagne on a regular basis!

Now, what to have for our 19th Annual Champagne Party…stay tuned!

 

 

P.S. “Like” this post?  Let us know!  If you were at the party, tell us what you thought of the Champagnes…

 

2 thoughts on “18th Annual Champagne Party – ’04 Cristal Takes Top Honors

  1. Bob, once again you’ve proven your prowess in helping people understand and appreciate fantastic wines while enjoying a great time together. I always learn something from you that I find interesting and likely useful as I select future wines. Thank you very much, and I’m looking forward to the 19th annual event!

    For the record, I was in the majority who picked Crystal as #1. The good news of the night was that the Gloria Ferrer was a great champagne for $20 though it wasn’t my #1 pick, sadly.

    1. Brian, it is always fun to see what everyone picks as their favorite Champagne. There isn’t a wrong answer since it is for personal taste. Honestly, I never know what will take top honors and what will come in last, but it is always fun to taste through them. Glad you could make it this year and I look forward to seeing you next year as well.

      Cheers,

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