Masters of Wine 9th Annual Champagne Tasting!

We recently attended the 9th Masters of Wine at the Ferry Plaza building in San Francisco. We love the Ferry Plaza location because it gives us an excuse to drive to Larkspur, ditch the car and take the Ferry directly to the event. No worries about parking concerns or traffic congestion, just beautiful views and a relaxing ride to the affair. The ferry docks right next to the Ferry Plaza and the tasting is conducted on the upper level. We chose to get there early because that affords us the opportunity to check out the merchants and food purveyors on the first level. If you’re ever in the area don’t miss the Cowgirl Creamery, Hog Island Oyster Company, Mariposa Baking Company and the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants. One could spend hours exploring the Plaza as it is a gastronomes mecca.


This Champagne tasting has quickly become one of our annual favorites to attend mainly because it is so well organized and the Champagnes on offer are of top quality. “The vision of the Institute is one of knowledge and integrity” and they, pardon the baseball metaphor hit it out of the park with this event. The tasting was held in two sessions 5 to 7 and 7 to 9 and since it was Monday a school night, we opted for the early session. A fair number of the more prestigious wine tastings are held on Mondays or Tuesdays because the event organizers are seeking to introduce their products to restaurateurs and members of the trade. This tasting is open to anyone that has a genuine interest in Champagne and wants to experience the opportunity to taste the different styles from many of the top houses from the Champagne region. There were over eighty wines available and if you had any questions there were four master sommeliers on hand to answer them.  Real Champagne is never inexpensive and the vintage and prestige cuvée of many of the producers can carry some eye popping price tags. That fact alone makes this tasting a great value and if you are a Champagne lover put it on the calendar for 2014.


When you check in you receive a small booklet that contains the Institutes vision and mission statement and a listing of all the wines that are available to taste with ample room for notes between each listed wine. The wines were presented on eleven tables and the wines on each table matched a page in the booklet.  There were a few exceptions but for the most part the wines were presented in a serve yourself format.  It’s interesting to note that no nondosage (no sweetener added) wines were on offer this year, although there were a few sec (medium dry) and demi-sec style (sweet) wines.  I’ve never seen these types of sweet Champagnes for sale at any retail stores we frequent so we had to give them a try. There was little activity at this table, however these styles of sweet Champagne were all the rage in the 1800’s.  The wine lady really enjoyed the Demi-Sec Traditionelle NV Champagne A. Margaine.  The types of Champagne available were Non-Vintage, Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Blancs Vintage, Vintage, Rosé, Rosé  Vintage and Dose. There seemed to be more people in attendance this year than in previous years but it was still comfortable and easy enough to move around.


To get a good baseline of each producers house style I elected to focus on the non-vintage wines. Each Champagne house blends several wines from different years to produce an annual Champagne that is similar from year to year. When you find a Champagne house that makes a style you prefer you can expect that same consistent style in every bottle of non vintage Champagne they produce. Vintage Champagnes are not made every year and as such do not offer this consistency and can vary more in style. The quality level of the Champagnes at this tasting was very high. This was a rare opportunity to enjoy the really good stuff in one setting and if you’re already a Champagne fan or you want to learn what all the fuss is about make room on your calendar for next years event. We’ll see you there.

Tip of the hat to Nancy Johnson for trying to accommodate our teams schedule.  We really appreciate it! 

Here are some of some of our favorites in alphabetical order.

Brut Majeur NV, Champagne Ayala

Brut Special Cuvée NV Champagne Bollinger

Brut La Grande Annee 2004 Champagne Bollinger

Brut Cuvée D NV Champagne Devaux

Brut Tradition NV Champagne Jaques Chaput

Brut Grande Cuvée NV Champagne Krug

Brut Grande Cru NV Champagne Lamiable

Brut Royale Reserve NV Champagne Philipponnat