What Are Your 99 Wines? (Part 6) Sparkling!


“I only drink Champagne on two occasions, when I am in love and when I am not.”

– Coco Chanel

I have had hundreds, perhaps, thousands of wines in my life. How do I narrow it down to just 99? What if I have not had 99 worthy wines and experiences? Sometimes, it is the wine that is worthy of writing about, but the experience is not. At other times, it is the other way around. Surely, I have had 99 great wines, yet I am only at 42 wines and experiences. That is the difficulty I have had writing about my 99 wines. Perhaps, the solution is in the next bottle. I think I will open another bottle and pray that I have a good time with it.

I hope you are enjoying this series as much as I am writing it.

21. P2, or not to P2.

Shannon as Rosie the Riveter
Shannon (sorta)

My friend Shannon was a member of our wine group before the Covid-19 quarantine. She is also someone I admire. You see, Shannon was a high school teacher. She is also a very determined woman. Shannon wanted to leave teaching, become a sommelier, and work in the wine industry. Shannon has achieved her goals. She now resides in Napa, where she is working as a Sommelier.

Service is part of the requirements to become a Certified Sommelier. One must learn not just what wine to serve, but how to serve the wine to advance as a Sommelier. Shannon was working at a restaurant in the evenings and weekends to pass the service requisite whilst still teaching weekdays. One day she asked me if I had ever had P2. I had not. In fact, I had never heard of it. P2, she explained, is a Champagne by Dom Pérignon. It rests on the lees much longer than the green labeled bottle most people recognize.

Shannon told me that her restaurant had shared P2 with some of her co-workers and her the night before. Shannon, who is very discriminating, was effusive in her praise. I needed to know more based on her excitement. A week or so later, I was at Marché Bacchus restaurant in Las Vegas. I noticed that the proprietors, Jeff and Rhonda Wyatt, had P2 cases stacked next to the wooden racks of wine. I asked Jeff if he was now carrying P2. He said that it was a special order for a guest.

I suppose it is like a new car. You have never seen that car or color, and suddenly you see it everywhere. I had never heard of P2 just two weeks prior; now, I have not only heard of it, but I was looking at cases of it.

I had a business trip to London at the end of that month. Whilst in London I stopped in Harrods. Harrods has a wonderful wine shop on the basement level. (I wrote an article where I spoke of Harrods’ wine shop entitled, “In Search of English Wines,” which you can find in the vegaswineaux.com archives.) I was perusing the wine racks when I overheard one of the clerks say that they were having a P2 wine tasting that evening. I had to attend. Now, I had gone from never having heard of P2 to having seen cases of it to preparing to attend a wine tasting featuring it, all within a month.

Harrods was presenting a broken vertical of Dom Pérignon Plenitude 2 (P2). P2 was a project that had been kept under wraps until 2014. Technically, every bottle of Dom Pérignon will reach at least the P2 phase, if properly stored and cared for.

Dom Perignon P2

The evening was unparalleled. There were only about 30 people in attendance. They began by pouring the traditional Dom Pérignon Plenitude 1, perhaps as a benchmark for the wines to be poured the rest of the evening. Plenitude 1 is aged for a minimum of eight years before release, whereas P2 is aged for a minimum of 16 years before release.

They began pouring copious amounts of P2 from the various vintages. The wines were interspersed with servings of lobster, Beluga caviar, oysters, cheese, and charcuterie. I have always loved the brininess of seafood, such as caviar and oysters when paired with Champagne.

The best way to compare a wine is to judge it against the same wines of different vintages. A wine produced from grapes from the same terroir, at the same facilities, by the same winemaking team, and other constants can produce differing results from vintage to vintage. The variable is the weather. A side-by-side comparison allows one to see how weather can affect the wine. The result can be remarkable. One could enjoy a wine savoring one vintage alone. However, flaws are readily apparent in that vintage you had so enjoyed when compared to other vintages of the same wine.

My friend Sam is a Certified Sommelier at Harrods whom I have come to know and trust. Sam, short for Samantha, is always very helpful to me when I come in. She is knowledgeable about wines and has a judicious palate. I loved listening to her describe the nuances of each vintage as she filled my glass that evening.

The evening concluded with a pairing with succulent desserts. I could not wait until I returned to the United States and could share my experience with Shannon. I probably would not have had P2 until much later, if at all, had Shannon not asked me her question. Dom Pérignon also has a Plenitude 3 (P3), which is aged 25 to 30 years before its release. Ah, I am happy there is longevity in my family!

22. Prosecco v. Pol Roger – “I hate you.”

My brother, Bert, cannot be considered a “wine guy.” Bert has just never gotten into wine. It is not that he has anything against wine or alcohol, in general, although he, like me, does not drink beer or spirits, out of choice. My brother likes sparkling wine, particularly, Prosecco.

Pol Roger

Bert and I went to New York in 2014. Bert and I had not seen each other in a long while, and we had not shared a hotel room since we were kids. We stayed up until early in the mornings talking like we were a pair of sorority girls. We agreed that this ended up being one of the best trips we have ever had.

We were staying at a hotel in TriBeCa, in lower Manhattan. My favorite wine shop in New York just happens to be in TriBeCa, and I was going to take Bert there. Bert and I walked through TriBeCa on our way to the wine shop on our first night. We stopped when we discovered another wine shop that was having a tasting of Spanish wines. Bert had enjoyed Sangria but had never had Spanish wines before.

The shop was presenting a selection of wines from Northern and Southern Spain. The lineup included various red, white, and rosé wines. My brother heroically tried them. It was when they poured a Cava that Bert finally began to smile. He liked it as much as his precious Prosecco. We bought a Prosecco for him to try as a comparison. I explained the differences between Cava, Prosecco, and other sparkling wines, and we bought a Prosecco for him to try as a comparison.

The next day, we finally made it to my favorite wine shop, Verve Wine, at 24 Hubert Street. I showed Bert some of my favorite wines from different regions as we walked around. We went to the refrigerated cases, and I selected a bottle of Pol Roger Champagne. The clerk brought glasses, and the three of us tasted the wine. I explained that there are some very good Proseccos and Cavas made, but he had not had any. However, Pol Roger is a very good Champagne and was Winston Churchill’s Champagne of choice. In fact, he drank a magnum daily for lunch. Pol Roger’s flagship Champagne is named in Churchill’s honor.

Bert took a sip. “I hate you,” he said.

“What did I do?” I asked.

Bert replied, “I was perfectly happy with my Prosecco, but even I can tell the difference. How can I possibly go back?”

“My work here is complete!” I exclaimed.

That was the idea. There is a place for most Prosecco and Cava, and that is in a Mimosa. A Pol Roger is definitely not for mixing.

I would like to say that my brother is studying for his sommelier exam. Unfortunately, that is not the case. He still drinks Prosecco, but he is also now the proud owner of a set of Riedel wine glasses, a refrigerated wine cabinet, has been to several wine tastings, and he owns and drinks Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Bordeaux blends, wines that he still refers to as “nasty wines.” However, he does that with a smile and asks to revisit them for more.

23. Domaine Chandon – Iruka had a little lamb.


Iruka, who would become my future ex-wife, and I had been dating for about a year. We relished fine dining and loved that Las Vegas had become a foodie’s destination. Iruka did not really drink. She was good for a glass or two at best, so we rarely ordered a bottle of wine when we dined together. She did not have anything against wine; it was just not her thing.

When we first met, Iruka said that she only drank sparkling wine when she would drink wine. I introduced her to the nuances of still wine, and she began to appreciate it. However, she was still only good for a glass or two. Iruka did like for me to enjoy myself, but I would not drink a whole bottle alone. Thus, I would rarely have more than a glass or two at dinner when it was just us.

Food, on the other hand, was a different story. I love to cook, and she indulged me. Iruka’s mom is a fabulous cook, and I looked forward to our traditional Sunday family brunches. Mom would cook like she was cooking for the 7th Fleet. Restaurants also became a staple in our relationship. Spago by Wolfgang Puck, then located at Caesars Palace, was our go-to spot.

A client of mine who worked at Spago moved on and became the manager of Thomas Keller’s Bouchon restaurant at the Venetian Hotel. I asked him, “Does this mean you can get me reservations at the French Laundry in Napa?”

“Yes,” he replied. “Please try to give me more than a day’s notice. Could you give me at least a week?”

Iruka and I loved to travel; we even compared travel notes and experiences on our first date. A Bedouin in Tunisia had offered Mom four camels for her when she was a teenager, so I knew she was valuable. I knew Iruka had never been to Napa and Sonoma, so we quickly planned a trip. I selected some wineries to visit that weekend and off we went.

Iruka, who would become my future ex-wife, and I had been dating for about a year.

We stayed at a wonderful boutique property in Sonoma. Unfortunately, it has since been sold. They had a tradition of serving a different breakfast risotto each morning. I never thought of having risotto for breakfast. I love rice, and I always said I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and this proved that I could. Having risotto was a great start to the day.

The Domaine Chandon winery is one of Napa’s most beautiful properties. Chandon also makes some of the best domestic sparkling wines. I had been there once before years earlier. They would always go all out on the 14th of July in honor of France’s Bastille Day celebration. Strolling peacocks roamed the property. They also had an outstanding restaurant, which, sadly, has been replaced by a tasting room.

We had dinner reservations at Chandon that evening. I had the chef’s wine paired with a multi-course seafood special, and Iruka had her favorite lamb chops. Each of my courses was paired with one of Chandon’s sparkling wines. I had never thought to have a sparkling wine with each course. Why not? A sparkling wine paired with oysters works very well. The acidity of the sparkling wine balances seafood and the white fruits complement it. A slightly sweeter rosé sparkling wine can work very well with dessert. My wine-paired dinner was delightful. However, it was Iruka’s lamb chops, or, more accurately, her interaction with the lamb chops that made the evening so memorable.

Iruka had her usual glass of wine, which she enjoyed. She would always give me a taste of whatever she was having so that I could enjoy it with her. This evening was no exception. She offered me a piece about the size of her delicate little fingernail. I did not think anything of it until I realized that she was not joking and that she had not offered me another bite. This was unusual. I put down my knife and fork, and I paid closer attention. She was really chowing down.

I put down my knife and fork, and I watched Iruka eat like a condemned woman at her last meal. She finally looked up at me and sheepishly exclaimed that these were the best lamb chops she had ever had. I sarcastically replied something like, “Really?” That was also my way of asking for another bite. Iruka is a giving woman, and she is never above sharing. Thus, her response was startling. She ignored me and kept eating.

Iruka is an elegant woman, and what happened next was certainly out of character. She looked at me, and instead of offering me another bite said, “You know I have better manners, but I have to do this.” She picked up the bone and started to gnaw on it. We both laughed so hard that our sides hurt. From that time on I would always ask her how her lamb chops compared to the ones at Chandon. Some came close, but none ever exceeded. Sometimes, I would not have to ask what she thought of the food because of the size of the bite she offered me.

Andras Wearing Champagne!

I will always think of Iruka and her lamb chops whenever I have Chandon, and I will always wonder how the lamb chops compare whenever I have them.

The next evening was the storied French Laundry.


Andras B.
Andras B.
Andras is a retired attorney, a passionate wine aficionado, and sommelier. He is an experienced and seasoned world traveler with a gourmet palate.


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