Los Angeles

Event Report: Champagne and Sparklers

The Slow Food LA wine committee brought together two treasured Los Angeles gourmet resources for a Champagne and Sparklers event on February 12th, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Robert Rogness of The Wine Expo showcased an eclectic portfolio of his organic, biodynamic and artisanal sparklers at Le Sanctuaire, a noted culinary boutique in Santa Monica, conceived and owned by Jing Tio.

Slow Food members sipped wines as Robert enlightened the group about the many charms and benefits of drinking sparkling wines made by the actual owners of Grand Cru Vineyards in Champagne. In contrast to brand name “corporate owned’ wines which are blended from purchased grapes to make a consistent product year in and year out, the boutique champagnes are made to express their unique terroir and vintage.

Unlike their big brand counterparts (you know the ones!), these growers are embracing sustainable agriculture, and are at the forefront of the organic and biodynamic movements in France. Finally, made in smaller quantities and without the advertising, marketing and promotional costs of their brand-name counterparts, these boutique champagnes provide incredible bang for the buck. Along with actual champagnes, Robert also threw in some Prosecco, Moscato D’Asti, and Cremant de Bourgogne, both Rose and Blanc de Blancs. It was a “sip-fest”, to be sure!

Amid the beautifully displayed collector’s edition cook books and state-of-the-art cookware, Le Sanctuaire provided the perfect setting. Jing conceived of the store from the desire to provide only the rarest choice ingredients and restaurant-quality kitchenware to passionate home chefs. Jing mixed and talked passionately about his choice products. Slow Food members sipped and shopped, snapping up copies of Corby Kummer’s The Pleasures of Slow Food and boxes of coveted Valerie Toffee.

All in all, the evening made for many a spontaneous “toast” and shared smile, creating yet another reason to slow down for regional pleasures in Los Angeles, one sip at a time.
Robert’s Champagne Rules:
The best wines are made from Grand Cru and Premier Cru Vineyards.

The best producers are maniacal, hands-on grower/winemaker types, not the jet-set pseudo-royalty types who’ve inherited the figurehead proprietorship of a “luxury brand” owned and controlled by an insurance company, bank or liquor distributor.

The best wines are NOT made in quantities of millions of cases (thousands of bottles, more likely!).
Most of the best producers are not in the industrial centers of Rheims or Epernay but in Cru villages with fanciful names like Dizy, Bouzy, Rilly and Ludes. Furthermore, just like in Burgundy, you can taste the difference from one to another! The big commercial houses blend wines from all over the place to make a mass production product with consistency and thus lose individuality of the Crus and the right to name them on the label. A special added consumer interest is that the best bubblies often cost far less than the commercial fizz due to lack of demand and the absence of giant ad budgets, the need to pour Jeroboams over the heads of athletes or giving significant proportions of the inventory away at charity functions.
Many thanks again to The Wine Expo (2933 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, 310.828.4428) and to Le Sanctuaire (2710 Main Street, Santa Monica, 310.581.8999) for their participation.