Favorite Holiday Champagne Pairings

Over the past week, I previewed two of my favorite Champagne and food pairings for the holidays. The first is old vintage Champagne and foie gras. While the classic pairing, Sauterenes, works fantastically, I find the higher alcohol and heavier style of the wine fills me up quickly, and given that foie gras is most often served as a first course, I prefer the lift and lightness of Champagne. Young Champagne is quickly overpowered by the noble liver, but older vintages shine with it, and it is amazing how they perk up and show more youthfully with this partner. I love my foie gras served cold, with fleur de sel and fresh ground pepper. This weekend, Cinnamon and I had the 1999 Fallet-Dart Vintage Brut Champagne, which Paul Fallet just re-released from his cellars in Drachy with foie gras mousse from the famous LA butcher shop Gwen. We had picked up a jar while we were there for the tent event, and flown home with it. The combination was fantastic. On its own, the 1999 was all about truffle savor and toasty richness, but as soon as we served it with the decadent mousse, it electrified, showing its racy, bright, clean vibrancy even after nearly 20 years of ageing!

My other favorite pairing is crab cakes and extra brut blanc de blancs. With commercial Dungeness crab season about to open, I know many of our customers will be enjoying some crab cakes soon. My oldest friend, Henry, manages the Fish Market in Santa Clara. Every year we get a call from him when they get their one and only shipment of fresh King Crab aired in from Alaska. This year he brought us over more than the three of could eat. With the left over leg, we made four giant crab cakes for the next day. Using only enough bread crumbs, shallot and egg to keep the crab meat from falling apart, these were decadent bombs of deliciousness. I am still full from them- we just had them last night! We chose the Louis Brochet 1er Cru "Extra Blanc" Champagne to have with them, and it was perfect. While this bottle comes across as super dry on its own (it is only dosed at 5g/l) it is perfect with crab. Crab meat amplifies the sweetness of whatever you drink with it, so a rich California Chardonnay that you might love on its own can taste like a vanilla milk shake when paired with the crustacean. This Champagne was perfect for the job, as the food brought out the white fruit in this mineral, straight wine. As the bottle warmed, tremendous depth and complexity, especially nuanced chalkiness and fine baguette flavors came out in it. What a treat!

A Toast to you!

-Gary Westby