I hope folks will chime in early and often.
My first visit to Champagne was over the final week of 2009 - I hope to get back in early 2011. Two of the highlights included visits at Chartogne-Taillet (one of their vineyards is pictured to the right) and Vilmart, both growers/farmers who are doing special things at their respective domains.
There was a time I loathed the beverage, though I suspect my dread had its roots in sucking down room temperature “Champagne” at weddings and other various celebrations, such as New Year’s Eve. I use quotes, as it was effervescent but hardly drinkable, let alone Champagne. (PSA time: If you’re going to serve unsuspecting folks that during the holidays, at least have the decency to chill it.) So I lay blame at the feet of various hosts throughout my life. I can’t help but look back and think: “Did they hate me?” And really, “Champagne” was the only wine I was ever offered – though perhaps a lukewarm glass of Pinot Grigio or Kendall Jackson Chardonnay was thrust upon me at some point as well. I’ve since blocked out all negative wine memories. Happy thoughts, happy thoughts.
Which leads me to December of 1999. I was living in Chicago and dating my wife-to-be, who was toiling for “Big Five” accounting firm Arthur Andersen. She received a couple of bottles of Domaine Chandon, a sparkling wine made in California and which is owned by Champagne giant Moet et Chandon, from Jeffrey Skilling. Just kidding, her boss gifted her the wine and this was pre-Enron scandal. (And no, she didn’t work on the account.) With dinner one night, she popped the cork on a well-chilled bottle and poured a couple of glasses. Instinctively, I cringed when she handed me a flute. Have you ever eaten or drank something which made you ill, and then avoided that food/beverage like you would someone stricken with SARS or the Ebola Virus? OK, I wasn’t quite at that level with “Champagne.” I’d much have preferred a cold beer, of that I’m certain. But as we are wont to do when we’re new to a relationship and hoping to impress a date, I accepted the flute, clinked glasses and took a reluctant sip.
A pleasurable sip. No gag reflex or lunging for a taste of a cold beer to chase the taste from my palate. So I took another sip and enjoyed it as much as the first. I couldn’t believe how extraordinary this wine was, it must cost $100, no? Because up to that moment in time, I had been trained like a Pavlov dog that wine tastes bad and should only be doled out to punish those you dislike.
What bottle first opened your eyes?