Wines Of The Week: Champagne Perrier-Jouët, Antica Terra Pinot Noir, And A New WhistlePig Rye


Last week, for only the 8th time in more than two centuries, Champagne Perrier-Jouët made the transition from one Cellar Master to another. After 35 years, Hervé Deschamps has handed over one of the most prestigious positions in the world of Champagne to Séverine Frerson, who has become the very first female Cellar Master in the history of the great house, which traces its roots back to 1811.

This is why the Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs 2006 is my white Wine of the Week: This is a momentous time in the history of the house, for both Deschamps and Frerson, as well as for fans of the great maison.

Deschamps, after all, is responsible for creating Perrier-Jouët’s first vintage blanc de blancs, as well as their first non-vintage blanc de blancs back in 2017, which was a logical step considering the house’s fame for their work with Chardonnay. The Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs 2006, as opposed to the non-vintage bottling, is crafted from grapes grown in the Grand Cru village of Cramant—and, amazingly enough, from just two specific plots there, Bouron du Midi and Bouron Leroi, totaling less than 17 acres.

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That highly specific grape sourcing, combined with exceptional winemaking and blending, have resulted in a Champagne of unforgettable character. It rested for at least six years on the lees, and while it has the potential to continue aging for a long time to come, it’s at such a delicious stage of evolution right now that there’s really no need to wait.

The nose sings with acacia, honeycomb, and honeysuckle joined by a hint of grilled stone fruit, French toast, and fresh brioche spread with pear butter. There is also the suggestion of dried pineapple: It’s gorgeous. On the palate, this is lively, anchored, and deeply soulful with honeysuckle, honeycomb, beeswax, acacia, and apricot conserve with a hint of nuttiness in the pistachio vein, especially through the finish. This is long and elegant and absolutely delicious: A fitting tribute to Deschamps, who is responsible for its creation, and Frerson, who will now have the opportunity to take the name and history of Perrier-Jouët, and all that Deschamps did before her, and make it her own.

My red Wine of the Week is the Antica Terra “Obelin” Pinot Noir 2016, from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It’s produced by Maggie Harrison, who over the years I have found to be one of the most thoughtful, insightful, and passionate winemakers I’ve ever had the privilege of sharing a glass and a conversation with. Her wines tend to shimmer with the kind of inner strength that only the best typically do.

Harrison is a Pinot Noir specialist. She also produces wines crafted from other grape varieties—her Chardonnay is remarkable, her expressions of Syrah are stunning, and the Antica Terra “Angelicall” Rosé 2018 is one of the most unexpectedly profound wines I had this past summer, regardless of style—but it’s with Pinot Noir that she really seems to show the true depth of her talents. The “Obelin” bottling is only produced in specific vintages, and the 2016 is fantastic. The nose shimmers with black licorice, spice, black raspberry, blackberry, scorched earth, and beef bouillon fortified with a hint of soy sauce, then turns to a palate weighty and full of energy, deeply savory, and impossibly deep. Flavors of beef bouillon dance with whole cloves, black peppercorns, scorched earth, forest floor, dried porcini and dried violets, a hint of rose petals, and blood orange and its oils.

Her other Pinot Noirs are just as excellent, though each in its own unique way. Tasting the Antica Terra “Botanica” Pinot Noir 2017 Willamette Valley next to the “Obelin” was fascinating, the “Botanica” showing more brambly and licorice notes on the nose, more assertive spice to the rose hips, as well as tea and cherry pipe-tobacco hints. The palate, again, is silky in texture, with cherry pits and black cherries joined by black plums, star anise, allspice, and blood orange. I’ll be covering her other wines in greater detail in an upcoming piece on Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills AVA, but for now, I cannot recommend these wines strongly enough.

Finally, a spirit more than worthy of a place of pride on every serious home bar: WhistlePig The Boss Hog VII: Magellan’s Atlantic Straight Rye Whiskey. This is a show-stopper. It’s a 17-year-old rye that, after spending all of that time in American oak, was transferred to Spanish oak barrels for three weeks, after which it culminated its journey with a three-day stint in South American teakwood. It’s an aging technique that has never, as far as I’m aware, been attempted before, and the results are spectacular.

Pure, deeply evocative aromas of cinnamon stick, grilled stone fruit, fresh coconut, and a hint of flowers are all kissed with maple syrup aromas that wrapped around my desk as soon as I poured it into the glass: Like a warm, white-raisin-studded cinnamon bun. These set the stage for a palate of cracked peppercorns, cinnamon- and clove-kissed brandied cherries, honey-drizzled hazelnuts and macadamias, the suggestion of allspice and black cardamom, and vanilla pod weaving throughout, all of it finishing with coconut, almonds, and nougat that lingered for well over a minute. It’s bottled between 105.1-107.8 proof, but the elegance and frankly stunning complexity of this never come off as hot in any way. It’s a benchmark release by WhistlePig, a deeply exciting whiskey that challenges perceptions and rewards immensely with every sip.