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Under the gun, like Chardonnay capped five and a half atmospheres of pressure, I have been writing furiously to detail my triumphant race to the finish and on the cusp of 2012 I have completed my resolution. Between Chinon and Champagne I cleared the hurdle with two great French wines.

Dinner called for a Chinon—a Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley—to makeover the simple meal I made. The wine was an ambassador, not a king from the Loire because I simply spent my last penny on great Champagne. 2008 Charles Joguet “Cuvée Terroir” Chinon from, whom else but Kermit Lynch. Surprisingly, the wine called for a decanter or at least a careful pour because it kicked a ton of sediment. Despite the coarse sediment the wine balanced fruit and greens on the nose and palate perfectly. It was masculine and paired sensibly with the meat.

Content with second, the Chinon would play supporting role to my toast. I have been enchanted with the wines of Vilmart et Cie and was hell bent on concluding an amazing wine-filled year with an excellent bottle of 2001 Coeur de Cuvée. Although I have not had it yet, I imagine it will provide a special end to the year.

With 2012 I am going to make a couple changes to my wine program, counting up instead of down to alleviate pressure and to surpass the total of 500. I hope to be a little more consistent with posts and not rush to the end of the year by catching up. All things considered… a major first for me to follow through on last year’s resolution! I hope you continue reading and have a healthy New Year.

Whether subtlety and adventure meet to rough you up for your own good or are completely absent, everything transpiring on that busy cross section of streets between La Brea and Vine in Hollywood, is titillating, perhaps obnoxiously so. I rarely drive through it, vexed by certain gridlock, and, I feel less inclined to make it a destination outside of burgers safaris (because hamburgers, like most big game, know no boundaries), due to the huge mass of people reverberating in that congested space. But, as fate would have it, in that nexus of clamor and excitement, an ethereal buzz was brewing, less overt, sure to be overlooked on most radars—a Champagne tasting at the Roosevelt Hotel. I was fortunate to be invited to the Winewise Champagne tasting, by the distributors of undoubtedly some of the finest RM’s (récoltant-manipulants)—Farmer’s fizz—in the world.

I looked forward to the tasting, clearing my schedule months in advance so that there would be no way to miss this holy experience. There were esteemed guests in attendance, winemakers, and family representatives of the boutique houses, such as: Didier Gimmonet, Laetitia Billiot, Etienne Goutorbe, Arnauld Margaine and Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy. These ambassadors would be pouring their stock and enlightening the buyers, bloggers and sommeliers as to its worth, as they would circuit the tables; eighty-eight sparkling wines were available for tasting, including some alternatives to Champagne, like bubbles from Greece, Germany and Spain.

I made my foray a little later than the start time, not quite breaking the tape, but fashionably (thirty minutes) late to hide my kid-in-a-candy-store mien. I checked in with the gracious and benevolent host of the affair—Hiram Simon—and quickly armed myself with a packet of information and stemware. The vibe was electric and tastefully casual. Like the Riesling tasting earlier in the year, some of the tables were self-serve while others were attended—even if we are “professionals”, one could presume a unanimous decision to pour liberally with the Vilmart et Cie Champagne.

I rounded the tables slowly, allowing my palate to fully receive the information, as it would undulate from flute to flute. I made it to Pierre Peters, early on, one of many standouts, with a favorable amount of toast, respectful acidity and a luscious combination of dough, mineral and fruit.

I savored my time at each table, paying scrupulous attention to each bottle of chilled Champagne. In what seemed like no time I had gone through the first forty wines, arriving at an assortment of Gaston Chiquet wines—Special Club and all. I was eager to try my first Special Club (Club Trésors de Champagne) wine, which stands as an argument for terroir amongst 26 top-growing récoltant-manipulants.

Beginning with Chiquet then Gimonnet and finally tasting through Hébrart’s Special Club they were a rare treat for me, each bottle unique in mouth feel and structure.

As I tasted through an exquisite flight of wines from A. Margaine and René Geoffroy, it hit me that though a lot of the flavors were overlapping up to this point in the tasting, the texture of most of the wines was changing dramatically. The similarity of tastes could be ascribed to any number of factors, but the most striking differences came from the encépagement (composition of the blend), some were identical, comprised of only Chardonnay, or blending the same percentages of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir—and the weight and structure… and yet each had a different feel to them. I recognized that this was a monumental breakthrough for me; my tasting notes in the past were often littered with the same adjectives and especially the same accolades but this time I found myself scribbling in new descriptors, writing sentences about how certain wines behaved. The composition-plus-weight-and-structure on the palate was paramount in differentiating all of the quality wines that were being poured as well as adding a serious dimension to my notes because I am not often forced to pay attention to this coupled aspect as I was here, although in hindsight, my other tastings had been leading me here.

The constant rhythm of texture played steadily up to Vilmart—a requisite manned station—this table had some breath-taking examples of bubbles and I was lucky enough to taste the prized “Coeur de Cuvée” before that bottle had run empty.

I had an earned palate fatigue by the end of the eighty-eight wines, but I was comfortable with it, knowing that the experience that I had gained and the intimacy of the tasting reached the zenith for an event of this kind. While Hollywood danced to another tune over the star-studded pavement, with people lining up to take photos with Shrek and Marilyn Monroe impersonators as I exited the hotel, I was spiritualized after having attended the numinous showing of sparkling wines. Divine.

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