At a great wine tasting party the other night, I had an opportunity to sample a lovely grand cru Champagne that I hadn’t tasted in quite some time. Besides being good wine, the Champagne — more on that to come — helped set the tone and mood of an altogether fun and delightful evening of additional good wines, yummy food and agreeable schmoozing with fellow wine and food enthusiasts. The setting was the winter wine selection “pickup party” of Moti’s Wine Club, part of the local Moti’s Market family.
Just to remind folks, as noted here in the past, I’m a big fan of wine clubs. Such clubs — typically maintained by a winery or wine retailer or, as in this case, kosher food store — can be an excellent way to discover new wines and also help one maintain an adequate supply on hand to enjoy. (An additional reminder in the name of full disclosure: I help select all the wines for Moti’s Wine Club. Apart from the enjoyment of tasting wine and chatting with fellow wine lovers, I am not paid for this service and personally benefit not at all by anyone’s participation.)
I firmly believe, however, that an educated kosher wine consumer helps push the market in better directions — leading ultimately to increased quality, wider diversity and greater value. This is a very good thing. For the same reason, I believe firmly in helping the kosher consumer to learn to drink and enjoy more and better kosher wine.
At the party, members not only collected the wines I selected for the quarter (the Shiloh, Chardonnay, Judean Hills (Israel) 2013, and the now hard to find Herzog, Variations, Four, Cabernet Sauvignon 2012), they also got to taste five different wines — a Champagne, a Pinot Grigio from Veneto (Italy), a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Italy) and a Bordeaux (France) — paired with five really outstanding appetizers prepared by Carmel Caterers Executive Chef Richie Tassiello.
Here is the really outstanding Champagne with which the evening started: Louis de Sacy Grand Cru Brut Champagne, Non-Vintage ($70-ish; mevushal) — This nonvintage, very dry, delightful Champagne is a blend of 60 percent Pinot Noir, 35 percent Chardonnay and 5 percent Pinot Meunier that opens with scents of lemons, apples and pastry with a lovely layer of toasted almonds and hazelnuts. Creamy on the palate, but with bracing balancing acidity, offering flavors of red berry, citrus, toasted hazelnuts, fresh pastry, and some subtle honey flavors that lead to a mineral infused, toasty finish. Fine, concentrated, long-lasting bubbles too.
The Champagne House of Louis de Sacy was established in 1633, and the de Sacy mishpacha is, I believe, the only Jewish family in the region producing any Champagne, much less a grand cru kosher Champagne (there is a nonvintage kosher brut rosé as well; the rest of their wines are not kosher).
Spirits-wise, I thought I’d stick with something wine-based yet hefty enough to deliver the goods, like a fine Cognac. For those unfamiliar, Cognac is simply a French brandy from the Cognac region. Brandy is simply the category name for spirit distilled from fermented fruit juice. Grape wine is, arguably, the noblest base for brandy, but there are lots of other sometimes very fine alternatives that are made from apple, pear, elderberry, plum and any number of other fruits.
Here is one of my favorite kosher cognacs: Dupuy XO Cognac (40 percent abv; $85; comes in a non-kosher version too, so make sure to check for the kosher certification) — This smooth and aromatic cognac spent more than a dozen years maturing in Limousin French oak casks and showcases generous notes of vanilla and cinnamon, with a good and balanced mid-palate offering of dried fruits and additional notes of walnuts, dates and almonds, all leading up to an enjoyable and involved if slightly clipped finish. L’Chaim!