This was the first time I had the 1999 Dom Perignon, and it was probably my fave Dom P, showing the classical well-developed nuttiness. Compared to it, the just released 2002 was too young and simple at this stage. Other notables were the always reliable and incredibly inexpensive Hiedsieck & Co "Blue Top" ($25-30), the elegant Delamotte ($35, Salon's little sibling), and the well-regarded higher-end Champagnes by Pol Roger (Reserve), Egly-Ouriet (Brut Tradition Grand Cru), and Gosset (Brut Grand Reserve).
That was Sunday. On Monday, my faith in Champagne re-affirmed, it was now Italy's turn to impress.
I am a big fan of Franciacorta. Italy's answer to Champagne, it can be every bit as profound. Made in the traditional method (aka Champagne method) where the second fermentation and ageing on the lees take place in bottle, Franciacorta can evolve beautifully over many years, especially vintage examples, and can also be enjoyed young. Last night my wine/tennis group had a re-union (after I tore my achilles tendon earlier this year) at our local de-facto standard seafood hole-in-the-wall - the legendary Old Port Lobster Shack in Redwood City. To grease the wheels, we brought two of the most highly regarded Franciacorta producers - Bellavista and Ca'del Bosco. And the good news - Franciacorta, although being unknown in the non-wine circles, is readily available in this country. I got mine from WineChateau.com (Bellavista and Ca'del Bosco). Seafood, fries and sparkling wine - how can you go wrong with that combo?!
We didn't. The Lobster Shack's naked lobster roll is fabulous, and their beer-battered fish and chips are out of this world. But the dish that both Franciacortas really shone with was steamed mussels - petite, tender, flavorful in a great broth begging for dipped bread. Eric suggested that the wine really brought out the minerally tones in the mussels. I thought it went well even with the creamy New England clam chowder - another not-to-be-missed beauty from the Shack.
I gotta say - on a relatively quiet Monday night, we spent three hours chilling at this characterful joint. The folks there, especially the hostess Shay, are so friendly, she reminded me of my mom. Everyone had a great time, and with tongues un-tied, we reminisced of the old tennis follies and the crazy things that happen in the wine circles, such as the saga that followed my Sojourn post.
Bellavista is an old classic Franciacorta producer, and their non-vintage cuvee was a more serious expression than Ca'del Bosco's floral and lemony entry level cuvee "Presige" - an all-time dependable friend, that I always keep stocked in my cellar. Just for the heck of it, we followed with beers, and agreed that Franciacorta was a better, lighter, more elegant match. Enjoy!