Life in a bubble
BACHELOR GULCH Cole Porter be damned. I get my kick from champagne – as long as it’s Vintage Dom Perignon, paired by the course with a savory and exciting menu. The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch’s signature hotel, Remington’s, is featuring such an experience through the end of the month. Dom Perignon Ambassador to the United States Rob Casey lead a group of lucky diners through a five-course pairing dinner Sunday evening. The event marked the debut of Dom Perignon Vintage 1998, which, in the state of Colorado, is only available at the Bachelor Gulch hotel through February, 2006.Dom Perignon is so named for the Benedictine monk who lived in the late 17th century. He spent much of his life creating and improving upon champagne by blending wines from the region’s best grapes. He’s also credited with making the bottle larger and devising the corking system that’s still used today. Dom Perignon is unique among champagne houses in that it doesn’t release a vintage every year. The chef de cave, or chef of the cave, chooses from 340 different wines.”He goes into a room alone, surrounded by all of those wines, and he spends months creating the perfect blend,” explained Casey. In 1997, the chef de cave didn’t find a blend that met his exacting standards. 1998 didn’t only bring a worthy vintage, but Casey predicts it will become the benchmark against which all other vintages are compared.There are three grapes grown in the Champagne region, but Dom Perignon only uses two: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The chardonnay grape can be tasted in the front of the mouth, right away. The pinot noir grape lends a long finish to the wine, and can often be felt in the back of the mouth. Together, they are both effervescent and tangible, bringing the mouth to attention.After the blend is perfected, the wine is aged, with sediment from the grapes, in bottles. Usually after seven years, the bottle is gently rotated over a four-month period so that, with a flick of the wrist, the sediment can be removed with a hand-held tool resembling a shoe horn. At that point, the wine ceases to age, though it might be several years until it is drunk. Dom Perignon has discovered that its champagne comes into a first maturity after seven years, a second one between 13 and 15 years, and a third one after 20 years.”If you taste champagnes from the three levels of maturity, the differences in the three is very obvious,” said Casey.Americans consider champagne more of a celebratory toasting drink, or a dessert accompaniment. In Europe, champagne is often drunk from the beginning of the meal until the end. Remington’s Chef de Cuisine Ed Connors proved the food-friendly nature of the drink with his five-course menu. He began with a jumbo lump crab cake, paired with Dom Perignon vintage 1996. The champagne’s pear and apple notes were a good match for the rich crab cake, accompanied by a tomato-pepper ragout and lemon-caper aioli. The 1996 vintage was created with 54 percent chardonnay grapes.
The 1998 vintage, that benchmark champagne, is 51 percent chardonnay and tastes of grapefruit. Connors served a field green salad enhanced by poached pears, bleu cheese and candied pecans.The third pairing was downright stunning. Dom Perignon held back a very small amount of its Oenotheque, or wine library, vintage 1990.”It’s the vintage of a century,” enthused Casey.And he’s right. Smelling vaguely of coffee, the elusive champagne settles into the mouth and stays there. Connors presented a lobster and mushroom risotto, rich and hearty. The risotto’s vanilla essence complemented the wine with such decisiveness it’s hard for this writer to imagine one without the other.Not to be outdone in the middle of the meal, Connors’ lamb course arrived with a glass of Dom Perignon Rose vintage 1995. The idea that rose champagne is sweeter than brut champagne is a misconception. It actually has the least amount of sugar of all. It derives its color from the skins of the Pinot Noir grape. Though the fruit is pressed as normal, the juice is allowed to stay in contact with the skins. This nine-year-aged vintage is 58 percent pinot noir and tastes of strawberries, a good match for the lamb’s licorice-like star anise jus. Within the United States, this rose is only available at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch. Casey has no interest in serving sweets such as chocolate with champagne, no matter what the vintage. “They do not complement each other,” he said vehementlySo dessert was a selection of Bingham Hill cheeses, served with dried fruits and another glass of the 1998 vintage. “Remington’s has built a reputation for pairings with the successes of Grgich Hills and Swanson dinners earlier this year,” said Director of Public Relations Steven Holt. “The Dom Perignon dinner was such a rare experience with the exclusive release of the 1998 vintage that Remington’s will serve the champagne vintages by the glass throughout the holiday season.”The Dom Perignon pairing menu is available at Remington’s in its entirety or a la carte. All champagnes served with the menu are available by the glass as well. For more information or to make reservations, contact the restaurant at 343-1093.The menu
Jumbo lump crab cake with a tomato-pepper ragoutEureka lemon, caper aioli, Mountain Valley Watercress GarniFeatured Pairing: Dom Perignon Vintage 1996Field green salad with poached Bartlett pears, candied pecansMaytag bleu cheese and toasted cranberry vinaigretteFeatured Pairing: Dom Perignon Vintage 1998Maine lobster and mushroom risotto, English peas and vanilla lobster essenceFeatured Pairing: Dom Perignon Oenothéque Vintage 1990
Mustard and apricot jam-crusted rack of Colorado lambpotato-parsnip puree, Brussels sprouts, andstar anise lamb jusFeatured Pairing: Dom Pérignon Rosé Vintage 1995Bingham Hill cheese plate:Harvest Moon, Tuscan Herb, Sheepish Bleu and Aspen LogFeatured Pairing: Dom Pérignon Vintage 1998Vail, Colorado