June 25 2013
After landing in New York on Sunday, I head straight for The Standard hotel
in the Meatpacking District. I haven’t been here for a while, but this place,
buzzing with youthful energy, keeps pulling me back.
I always stay in room 1111, mostly because of the breathtaking view over the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty. As I enter the room I am mildly disappointed to realise that the view is now blocked by the construction of the new Whitney Museum building. It is a clear reminder that New York indeed never sleeps – and it would be petty of me to lament about the view when the world of culture is advancing.
I wake up early (a nice side effect of jet lag) and have breakfast with Stephanie Goto, the designer and architect who created the interior decor of Iron Chef Morimoto’s restaurant in New York. Her uncle is among the top sake brewers in Japan and she’s helped me discover this world, which intrigues me. She is also a Formula One racing fan and we discuss my plans for the upcoming weekend…
I spend most of the morning in an important conference call to France about various budgetary issues to do with the future of Dom Pérignon. We want to keep pushing the envelope, which translates into investing in quality. Decisions have to be taken this week.
After the call I look down from my window and feel so remote from the agitation below, yet ready to plunge into it. I go down and walk along the High Line; it’s a really different and fascinating way to experience the city. From above, everything looks so organised, as if it is part of a master plan – a theatrical vision of the city. Some might even say New York has become a bit too sleek, too polished, too sophisticated.
George and Kathy, friends of mine from Hong Kong (and Dom Pérignon lovers), happen to be in town; they invite me for lunch at Jean-Georges. I appreciate the serenity of the setting, its soothing light and weightless ambience. There is a real harmony between the meal and the surroundings. Unusually, no Dom Pérignon is served, as George has brought a bottle of 1998 Dalla Valle Maya. I savour this boutique winery from California and learn that, incidentally, the owners come from an old family of sake brewers… The whole experience is relaxing – far from the hectic atmosphere encountered at so many restaurants in New York – and I leave rejuvenated.
The main event of the day, though, is a dinner at Per Se organised by two brothers, both of whom are great wine collectors and are newly converted to – and passionate about – Dom Pérignon. Sandrine Garbay, the maître de chais at Château d’Yquem, is also joining us (along with a few friends), and some exceptional bottles will be opened: a magnum of 1929 and a bottle of 1937 d’Yquem. I have decided to contribute two magnums to match these incredible wines: Dom Pérignon Œnothèque 1966, which was recently offered at an auction held by Sotheby’s in New York, and Dom Pérignon Rosé Œnothèque 1988.
After a quick interview with a prominent US newspaper for a profile it is planning to publish, I make my way to Per Se. I meet everybody, and the 14-course menu begins. All the participants express their excitement at the thought of tasting these iconic wines, especially on the same evening.
The meal is on par with the wines. Thomas Keller proves once again that he is at the top of the game — it is a pity he had to go back to The French Laundry in Yountville and miss this event. His signature dish, Oysters and Pearls, has become one of my guilty pleasures. The freshness, intensity and complexity displayed by both Dom Pérignon magnums are simply amazing. The Œnothèque version truly sublimates the ideal of Dom Pérignon.
The evening goes on and the time finally comes to open the magnum of 1929 d’Yquem. I have to admit I have a soft spot for d’Yquem, as the estate reaches for excellence year in and year out, and does not hesitate to forego a whole vintage when it deems it not worthy of its name – as was sadly the case with vintage 2012.
The wine is very dark, almost black. Incredibly concentrated and powerful, what impresses me the most is the persistence of the finish, which feels endless. The experience reaches a special emotional level as we learn we are drinking what might very well be the last magnum of this vintage in existence.
We struggle for words after such an evening, and vow to meet again every year for a night of d’Yquem and Dom Pérignon.