With the blowing ice and snow riding atop the cold frigid winds today, it was hard to not think about the holidays. The weather today provided a perfect backdrop for one of my favorite holiday season traditions, the annual Champagne Bash at Binny’s Beverage Depot over on Ogden Avenue near Cress Creek.
In a nutshell, Binny’s brings together importers representing a wide spectrum of the bubbly wonder with a collection of 109 different bottles for a three hour period where everyone from the curious to the afficianado pay $50-$55 to sample to their hearts content. Meson Sabika provided food as well. The best part of the event is all proceeds are donated to Little Friends of Naperville.
This event is always allot of fun and this year was no exception. Given my great love for champagne and sparkling wine, I always feel like a kid in a candy store at the Bash. This year, I brought my father-in-law along who I am slowly converting to a fan of the bubbly wonder.
Here’s an account of my experience. Feeling a little giddy, I eagerly headed through lane 5 to pay for our admission. It was easy to tell the gruff women on the other side of the counter really knew how to move a crowd through the line. Being a Binny’s member, we recieved $5 off regular admission. As my credit card was being processed, we were given raffle tickets to fill out. Now, I have to say I have a long history of not winning much of anything when it comes to drawings. Nontheless, being the eternal optimist that I am, I hastily scribbled down my name and contact information. I was given a receipt and blue food ticket and finally given the greenlight to remove a rather sturdy champagne flute from a box on the counter. Additionally, we were given the eight page list detailing all 109 wines as well as special pricing for the day.
With the wintery weather, the crowd was light at opening time. My father-in-law followed behind me over toward the wine desk area where all the tables were nicely set. Now, as you can imagine, there is a little bit of strategy that goes into not only enjoying but also surviving an event of this magnitude. Anyone who has indulged in this alluring of all beverages knows what I’m talking about. Undeterred, we dove right into the mix. Unexpectedly, within five minutes, an announcement came over the intercom informing everyone that Stuart Meyer had been drawn as a winner. I couldn’t believe, I actually won something… a $25 gift certificate to Cafe Buarno over at 5th Street Station. After picking up my prize, we were back into the thick of the Bash.
Now, you really have a wide range of representatives who are pouring and providing you with the details and backstory of the wines you are drinking. One of my favorite aspects of the Bash is the fact these reps are there to help you learn more about what you are drinking. At the same time, a few of the reps seemed like it was one of the first times they had opened a bottle of bubbly. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a big thanks to the rep at the table serving the Gosset champagne (Ay, France). First, she was French and in addition to talking about Gosset (great wines for the money), she really went the extra mile in methodically talking about winemaking as well as the whole champagne culture in France. She was extremely approachable and friendly to everyone, including my father-in-law who, as I mentioned, is still a bit new to these wondrous wines. You cannot help but have respect for those who clearly have a true passion for their trade.
Our tasting expedition started out crisp and clear. The aroma’s of the different variety and blends made distinct and glorious impressions with each and every inhalation from the narrow champagne flute. We moved from Gosset, Pommery and Louis Roederer to Krug, Bollinger and Perrier Jouet. In between, we had a wonderful opportunity to explore many lesser known sparklers, which is one of my favorite aspects. A couple of years ago, my wife and I paid a visit to Reims, France in the heart of the Champagne region and I had a great deal of fun searching for small, lesser-known champagne houses who had no shortage in quality for what they lacked in brand recognition.
As I was moving around the different tables, I had the pleasure of running into Ray Kinney who also was enjoying the bash. It was great catching up with him briefly and talking a bit about Richard Greene, the new President/CEO of the Naperville Chamber of Commerce. On a side note, having read quite a bit about Richard, Naperville is very fortunate to be luring him from the West Coast to help provide his proven brand of business leadership within our community. After catching up for a few moments, we bid farewell and headed back to bubbly.
As the first hour passed, I notice my father-in-law slowing down a bit and immediately directed him over to the Meson Sabika table where he enjoyed a couple of wonderful stuffed mushrooms. This isn’t a food event, but it was nice to have some appetizers to put in the stomach.
After having been satisfied that we had tried all the wines we were interested in trying, it was time for the most important part of the bash…. the phone call to my wonderful wife to come rescue us from our indulgence. The phone rang a couple of times and when she answered, I simply said repeatedly “S.O.S… S.O.S……S.O.S…..come save us”. To me, the golden rule of the Bash is “Thou Shalt Not Even Think of Driving Home”. By the time I had one last tasting of my favorites, I picked up a couple of selections, checked out and awaited the pick-up.
For those who may be interested in my recommendations for the holidays, here are my picks from the day ($ – relatively inexpensive; $$ – moderately expensive; $$$ – expensive; $$$$ – just once before you die)
Gosset Grande Millesime, Vintage 1999 ($$$ purchased)
Gosset Grande Reserve, NV ($$)
Louis Roederer Brut, Vintage 1999 ($$$)
Krug Grand Cuvee, NV ($$$$)
Drappier Carte d’OR Brut Demi-Sec, NV ($)
Drappier Val des Demoiselles Brut Rose, NV ($)
Bollinger Special Cuvee, NV ($)
Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage, 2000 ($ purchased)
Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame Brut, Vintage 1996 ($$$$)
Perrier-Jouet Fleur de Champagne, Vintage 1998 ($$$)
G.H. Mumm Carte Classique, NV ($)
Laurent-Perrier Brut, NV ($)
Laurent-Perrier Rose, NV ($$$)
Laurent-Perrier, Vintage 1997 ($$)
Vesselle Cuvee Rose, NV ($)
Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve, NV ($$)
Bruno Paillard Premier Cuvee Brut, NV ($ small production, purchased)
Henriot Brut Souverain, NV ($)
Enjoy… pick up a couple of bottles and share them with special loved ones… as for everyone else, give ’em the Korbel…. count your many blessings and sit back and celebrate another wonderful year. Thanks for the event Binny’s! SM