Saturday, December 01, 2007

Dom Perignon on a Friday Night

Last night a motley crew of about thirty thirsty wine lovers gathered at the brand spanking new Astor Wine Education Center. At first glance, the place looks amazing. It looks, as my friend Keith said, like Mission Control, with stainless steel Viking appliances, stainless steel sinks and motion-sensor faucets (mine seemed a bit buggy, unless a buddy was playing a prank and waving at it when I wasn't looking...). There are under-table lights that allow you to look at the color of your wine, and the chairs are comfortable and made of leather (or some leather-like material). Arrayed in a broad semi-circle, we faced a kitchen-like area with the aforementioned appliances, with three flat-screen TVs above the speakers showing us information about the wines we were tasting.

How cool is that?

Alongside the Champagne we were offered a small plate of sushi from Morimoto, which was certainly nice and better than the stale cheese and crackers most places hand out. In any case, we were thirsty and an informative Brand Manager from Dom Perignon regaled us with stories of its history while we swirled and sniffed the following wines:

-1999 Dom Perignon
Beautiful light yellow color, with yeasty almonds, hazelnuts, lemons, hints of mushrooms, some hints of light red fruits and chalk on the nose. The palate followed through, reminding me of a very young Puligny Montrachet, redolent of almond skins on a crisp frame that was full of lovely acid and structure. Somehow, this managed to be both crisp and creamy at the same time, ending with a long finish.
Quite nice if young.

-1993 Dom Perignon Oenotheque
Served in a white wine glass, interestingly. As a matter of fact, I now tend to drink all my Champagnes in white wine glasses, I find the aromas and flavors really come out more even if the bubbles diminish faster.
Creamy, lemony mushrooms with cafe au lait and toast meet the nose, this one is much more powerful, packing a fist of flavors. Yet on the palate it was crisp and elegant, with more of that lovely lemony cafe au lait and some light caramel, with a rich body offering more toast, darker nuts and a sensual, velvety mouthfeel. Sexily scrumptious.
If the 1999 reminded me of a young Puligny, this was a P-M with some nice age on it.

-1996 Dom Perignon Rose
Also served in a white wine glass.
At first this was a bit funky, making me wonder if it was a good bottle. But I think it just needed to come out of its shell, as some friends concurred. The nose was flowery, with light red fruits, chalk and some very light cafe au lait on a perfumy frame. Crisp, lemony red fruits filled the mouth, with some spicy acidity backed by strawberries and some light nuts on a nice structure.
Still, a bit young and tight. I found this to be the least expressive of the evening.

My favorite would be the Oenotheque, though I don't think I'd pay the premium for it. I really liked the 1999 and that can still be had for a reasonable price. When someone asked how many bottles of the Rose they make, the rep told us he could tell us, but he'd have to kill us. So the mystery of their total production continues...

Astor's Wine Education Center includes the tasting room and several other areas, including a beautiful kitchen. They officially open in January and I for one am looking forward to seeing the classes and events they offer.

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