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Sunday, November 23, 2014

A 'RARE' Vertical Tasting of Piper-Heidsieck with Chef de Caves, Regis Camus by Philip S. Kampe

It was a rainy evening in Manhattan when the taxi dropped me off at a pop-up space (Isn’t that the fad?) for what was going to be a truly ‘Rare’ vintage Champagne event. As the raindrops disappeared, the warmth and brightness of the evening was revealed immediately, as I was handed a flute of the current vintage of the 2002 ‘Rare’ Piper-Heidsieck Champagne.

As I was sipping this magnificent reception cuvee, made from 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir, I caught the attention of the honoree of the evening, Regis Camus.


        Chef de Caves and twenty year veteran with Piper-Heidsieck, Regis Camus

Mr. Camus embraced me and we talked about what we were going to experience at this soiree. He said quite humbly that this was an evening that would honor his accomplishments in winemaking for the estate.. 

Regis Camus is the Chef de Caves for Piper-Heidsieck and was proud that this event focused on his ’20th Anniversary with Piper-Heidsieck.  He explained that he joined the company in 1994 and moved up the ladder methodically.

After seven years of grooming and the passing of Chef de Caves, Daniel Thibault, the legacy of the talented wine student from the University of Reims began. The Chef de Caves (main winemaker) explained that the road to his stardom has been anything but easy.

In his French accent, Mr. Camus explained the road ‘has been very bumpy’. His job, he said, is to make the road straight.

The ‘Rare’ vintage years are the years, according to Camus, when the environment causes havoc with the grapes. Nature shows its dominance and as the chief winemaker, I must show mine, as well.

The evening proved that the ‘Rare’ wine years were years of unparalleled taste profiles.

The 2002, the first ‘Rare’ and current vintage for Mr.Camus, showed amazing acidity paired with abundant creaminess and a full-body. Its spiciness with Asian overtones will age well over the upcoming years. 

The 1999 ‘Rare’ was fresh and vibrant with spice and citrusy overtones. The vintage year of 1999 was characterized as very hot and dry, the factors which create historical, opulent vintages. This vintage was one of them.

1998 proved to be a year of short periods of exceptional heat, thus creating a rich, mineral driven, elegant vintage that is on its way to stardom. Notes of orange blossom coupled with nectarine rind and cedar dominated my palate.

1990 proved to be a vintage where the rich, lush, full-bodied characteristics dominated the palate. Aromas of vanilla and ginger gave way to the pleasures on the palate of dried mango, white peach and peppercorn, thus creating a really elegant vintage.

The 1988 ‘Rare’ vintage year was a sunny, yet cool year, resulting in a fruit forward, spicy vintage that is full of personality and elegance.

1985 was a year of frost and frozen vines. The ‘Rare’ vintage showed its sturdiness with concentrated Hawaiian fruit paired with figs, dates and spice. The amber color indicated that this wine was in transition, at least visually. Pairing the wine with squab risotto resulted in a marriage made in heaven.

1979 was considered a banner year for Champagne. The ‘Piper-Heidsieck ‘Rare’1979’ exemplified the myth of that harvest. Elegant floral notes went hand in hand with a backbone of Madagascar vanilla and Kenyan coffee.

The Champagne region remembers 1976 as the year of the drought. Somehow, the Chef de Caves at Piper-Heidsieck had different thoughts. This, the oldest ‘Rare’ vintage available, spoke to purity and flavor.

When you say Champagne, say 'Rare' vintage Piper-Heidsieck. And take your hat off to Chef de Caves, Regis Camus and all his accomplishments for the last twenty years.

 Philip S. Kampe

Friday, November 21, 2014

Wines that go with Thanksgiving Pie by Philip S. Kampe

                                                   Joseph Carr of Josh Cellars

 I know I may sound a little like a Joseph Carr ad in this article, but, after reading the latest issue of The Tasting Panel magazine, where Joseph is featured, it was only fitting for me to sample his wines for the Holiday season.

Joseph and I have been friends for years. We met originally at the Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival, followed by the Tanglewood Wine & Food Classic, when, at the time I was involved behind the scenes.

Since those early days, Joseph Carr has become a large wine personality. He teamed up with winemaker Aaron Pott and has successfully made Napa wines at the fraction of Napa prices. He has a new line of wines from his JOSH Cellars collection.

JOSH Cellar wines
are available at your local wine merchant, as well at restaurants throughout the America and all over the world. Mr. Carr is a marketing genius.

As you will see, the results of the wines I sampled should rate 90+, on most critics lists. Pairing the JOSH Cellars collection with Thanksgiving or Christmas desserts has its advantages.

Below are the results.
           Always lay your wines down sideways says Joseph Carr.

Apple Pie, the American tradition
Josh Cellars Sauvignon Blanc
Aromatics of fresh lime and citrus are the core of this Sauvignon Blanc. The bouquet is intense, with nectar, peach, and tropical melon. My palate was crisp, acidic and alive with clean, balanced fruit flavors of apple, kiwi and pear.

Pecan Pie, the southern tradition
Josh Cellars Chardonnay
Chardonnay pairs well as it is a medium bodied wine that is versatile enough to stand up to some of the richer flavors and sweetness in the pie. Tropical fruits and citrus, beautifully marry the background  notes of oak. Bright yellow and white stone fruit lingers on the palate followed by fresh acidity.
Pumpkin or Sweet Potato Pie, a New England tradition
Josh Cellars Pinot Noir
Aromas of cherry and strawberry on the nose with layers of spicy oak are captured in Josh Cellars’ Pinot Noir.  On the palate, the wine is plush and subtle, yet has a firm texture. Dark cherry and chocolate flavors fill the mouth with a rich intensity and lingering finish.  The earthiness and spice of the Pinot Noir compliments both pies’ cinnamon and spice.
Mincemeat Pie, our parents tradition
Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon
This Cabernet is an approachable blend with aromas of rich, dark fruit and baking spices on the nose yielding to fresh plum, blackberry, violet, dried fig and vanilla bean. The cab has intense plum and blackberry flavors, prominently layered with smoky and sappy maple oak followed by roasted almonds and hazelnuts. Its firm tannins and full body will stand up against the rich fruit flavors, spices and brown sugar featured in this decadent pie.
Philip S. Kampe