Tasting Notes by
George Heritier



never thought I’d be a baseball fan again. It wasn’t so much that our home town team sucked for so many years, because I lived through a lot of bad seasons with the Tigers since the early ‘60s, broken up by those amazing and all too occasional ’68 and ’84 campaigns. It had more to do with the strike of ’94, which soured me completely on the sport, and I never went back…

…until this summer, when I could no longer ignore all the excitement down at the Copa. Before I knew it, I was listening to games on the radio while driving home from "the department," and checking out games on the tube while working on the computer. I shook my head like everyone else in Day-twah when they blew the Division title at the end of the regular season, and then went right along for that incredible ride to the World Series, where the wheels finally (and inexplicably) fell off the war wagon. Still, it was great, great fun, and we drank sparkling wine and Champagne throughout the post-season.

Sacchetto Spumante Brut RosatoIt was never a case of celebrating prematurely; it all started because of a sore throat when the series with the Yankees began, and the only wine that tasted any good to me was a nice little Sacchetto Spumante Brut Rosato, which I rode throughout the entire series. The bubbles soothed the sore throat, and when the boys charged out of the clubhouse after dispatching the Yankees in four, celebrating with the fans and spraying them with Mumm’s Cordon Rouge, I decided I had a schtick for the rest of the playoffs, come what may. Here’s what we enjoyed.

"...the bubbles flow like the stars as seen through the
viewports of
Picard’s Starship Enterprise..."

Sacchetto Spumante Rosato Brut NV, $12.99, 12% alc.: This peachy pink rosé had already been sitting in the retail department for some time when I took over a little more than 13 months ago, so when I finally tried it, it was quite likely two years old or more. Happily, only one out of six bottles that we went through over two or three weeks was a little tired; the rest were fresh and lively, with plenty of effervescence, active bead and some solid, earthy strawberry-watermelon flavors and aromas, with the emphasis on “earthy.” With good heft, zip and length, this has proven to be a satisfying everyday sparkler, so much so, that I brought four more home a week after the World Series ended. Interestingly, this has proven again and again to improve with air, so I may end up bringing the whole inventory home.  Find this wine

Imported by J&J Importers, LLC, Bloomfield Hills, MI

Taltarni Victoria and Tasmania Brut Taché NV, $18.99, 13% alc.: Made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, and a little Shiraz for color, that being salmon pink; fine active bead, with an impressive mousse; yeast and bread dough on the nose follows through on the palate with a somewhat earthy, yet slightly creamy cherry base. This shows excellent presence, giving a wealth of froth in the mouth, just the right amount of acidity and good length on the finish. A fine little Brut rosé that is well worth the money.
Find this wine

Imported by Clos du Val Wine Co. Ltd., Napa, CA

Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs1999 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs Brut 5 County (Napa 53%, Sonoma 18%, Mendocino 18%, Monterey 6%, Marin 5%), $39.99, 12% alc.: Medium straw color, with a heady mousse and a very fine, very active bead (the bubbles flow like the stars seen through the viewports of Picard’s Starship Enterprise); yeast and hazel nuts dominate the under-ripe yellow apple flavors and aromas, all with a certain creaminess underneath. Medium full body, with good heft, there’s nothing “delicate” about this; it shows excellent presence and acids, with great length on the finish. One of the three best California sparklers I’ve had to date (and one of the other two was also from Schramsberg).  Find this wine

2003 Schramsberg Brut Rosé 4 County (Napa 47%, Mendocino 33%, Sonoma 19%, Marin 1%), $35.99, 12.4% alc.: We had this one cued up for WS Game 6 back in Detroit, but since that never came to be, we enjoyed it with Bennett Traub on his triumphant return to Day-twah instead; notes are included here for the halibut. I enjoyed the non-vintage version of this in July of 2005, and this one is even better. Salmon pink in color, with mousse up the waz, a fine active bead and a pungent, yeasty strawberry nose that follows through on the palate with earthy undertones and hints of smoke and mineral. Medium full bodied, it shows excellent presence, good acids and very good length; Bennett described it as “Clean across the palate, clean, but not sterile,” with “not too much of that strawberry thing,” and in fact, the fruit is toned down perfectly, with a fine balance all around. Made from Pinot Noir, with a touch of Chardonnay for added complexity.  Find this wine

"...and even if it’s not the best Champagne around for the money,
it still kicks Veuve Clicquot’s yellow ass every day of the year.
But then, I suppose that’s not saying much…"

champagne chairsLaurent-Perrier Champagne Brut LP NV, $35, 12% alc.: Medium straw color, with ample mousse, a fine active bead and flavors and aromas of yeasty, under-ripe apples that also show hints of bread dough and a subtle minerality. Good acids, decent length, and although perfectly serviceable, an unexceptional Champagne that doesn’t stand up to the ‘99 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs in depth and character, much less any of the other Champagnes noted here. This was a sample provided by the local distributor, so it would seem to be the current release, and in that regard, our friend Brad Baker, a serious Champagne aficionado, advises us that Laurent Perrier's NV needs a good 3-4 years to start drinking well, so perhaps we should withhold judgment on this one for a while. Find this wine

Imported by Laurent-Perrier U.S., Inc., Sausalito, CA

G.H. Mumm Champagne Cordon Rouge Brut NV $35.99, 12%.: Here’s another that was quite likely two years old or more, from what the distributor rep who sold it to my predecessor tells me. I brought this one home to check out the condition of the wine, due to water damage to the labels that made it impossible to sell, and I was happy to find that what is in the bottle is doing just fine. Medium straw in color, with an active bead and plenty of froth in the mouth; the nose is all flint and unbuttered popcorn, with more of the same on the palate, anchored with a solid core of under-ripe apple and a hint of bread dough underneath it all. It shows good intensity on every level, with plenty of nervosity and good length on the finish. It’s somewhat ironic that I brought this home when I did, because I read some rather unkind remarks directed towards Cordon Rouge on some internet wine forums with regard to being in the Tigers’ clubhouse for both of their playoff celebrations, but we found it to be just fine, and even if it’s not the best Champagne around for the money, it still kicks Veuve Clicquot’s yellow ass every day of the year. But then, I suppose that’s not saying much…  Find this wine

Imported by Allied Domecq Wines, USA, Healdsburg, CA

Bonnaire Champagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru NVBonnaire Champagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru NV, 100% Chardonnay, 12.5% alc.: Medium straw to pale gold in color, with a fine, active bead; flavors and aromas show a little yeast, and anise over a good dose of fairly rich apple. Medium to medium full bodied, elegant, crisp and delicious, with a nice long finish. If I’d like a little more weight and mineral, I can’t argue with the appeal here; it’s less toasty, yeasty and doughy than many, but offers more pure fruit to compensate, and gets better and better with air. By the second (and third) glass, I stopped looking for what wasn’t there and really enjoyed it for what it was, which is one very tasty Champagne. Many thanks to the Madame Mystery for this beauty, made entirely from estate grown fruit.  Find this wine

Imported by Vineyard Brands, Inc., Birmingham, AL

1990 Delamotte Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut, $38.99, 12.5% alc.: The last of five that we’ve had over the last year, and this one hasn’t held up quite as well as the other four; medium straw to pale gold in color, with a lazy bead and an accentuated toasted hazel nut character that dominates the wine’s personality. It’s not sherried, but it’s much more advanced in its secondary qualities than one tasted last December or three that were opened at this year’s '06 MoCool celebration. Those showed plenty more rich, under-ripe apple with the nuttiness taking a supporting role at most. Still, while I prefer less, rather than more tertiary character, my main concern here was with the flaccid effervescence; it’s there, with good acids to pick up the slack, but doesn’t live up to what any good bubbly should give. It does open up with air, gaining more primary fruit with some yeasty accents, and morphing into a pretty tasty Champagne, but it never completely recovers from the detraction of the languid sparkle.  Find this wine

Imported by Wilson Daniels, Ltd., St. Helena, CA

I’ve been a fan of Jean Laurent Champagnes for about a year now; like Bonnaire, he is a grower as well as winemaker, so he’s responsible for the whole enchilada… er, wine. I tasted the following two at a trade event a while back, and got just enough of a snapshot to get the sense that I’d like to get to know them better, so I took the opportunity to do just that.

Jean Laurent Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut NVJean Laurent Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut NV, $41.99, 12% alc.: Medium straw in color, with a fab mousse and fine, active bead; gives up toasty, yeasty, flinty aromatics, following through in the palate with plenty more of the same, all buoyed by a solid core of rich, if under-ripe apples, all shaded with a chalky minerality. Medium full body, with excellent acidity and length, this is down to the bone dry, and downright dee-lish, getting better and better with air. This one is lots of fun, especially while watching the Tigers only victory in the World Series. If Kenny Rogers had taken his regular turn in the pitching rotation, the following wine might have been enjoyed with a similar outcome in Game 5.  Find this wine

Jean Laurent Champagne Blanc de Noirs Brut NV, $39.99, 12% alc.: Medium straw in color, with a big mousse hairdo and another fine, active bead; this one really blows my coif back with yeasty green apple flavors and aromas accented with a streak of spicy lime and some bread dough lurking in the background. Young, primary and seriously intense, with zippy acidity and very good length, and as much as I really like this now, I’d love to try it in another three to five years to see what the bottle age will do for it.  Find this wine

Jean Laurent Champagne imported by Hand Picked Selections, Warrenton, VA

Reporting from Day-twah,


Other Recent Wine Explorations

6 From Stark-Condé

8 From Qupé

Following Up With Fisher, Ladera and Schweiger

QPR All Stars: MAN Vintners & Marqués de Cáceres

12 From the Perrin Family

Harvest Images from Berthet-Rayne

Wicked Couch & Spit

Back to November '06 Index

Back to the Underground Index

Back to the Top

© George Heritier November, 2006