Posted by: Juliann Budimir | November 14, 2010


Schramsberg & the art of sabrage

It was last minute and fairly expensive, but I was compelled to do it, to do it for Stéphane.  For me, it was a pilgrimage of the grape.  After years of thinking about Stéphane and his “Schramsberg deal,” I had a Schramsberg deal, too. 

As Schramsberg has woven its way into my heart through my novel, it was especially delightful to drink such splendid sparkling wine with the vintner, himself.  My leitmotif was looking for words that float off the page and pause ever so slightly like the tingling texture of the sparkling wine.  

“Stéphane Poussin was the proud heir of Château Poussin, purveyor of fine champagne.  A relatively young label for French champagne, Château Poussin was well respected for its quality and consistency, especially at a price that would not sour the celebration.  Many would say that Stéphane lived the enviable life of a bon vivant, with decadent luxuries that far exceeded his efforts.  After fifteen years of dedication, during which time he tended more and more to the business than the grapes, he had a veritable empire and a true place in society.”

What could be more befitting, then, than an evening with California’s preeminent sparkling wine, Schramsberg Vineyards, and its esteemed vintner, Hugh Davies?  Donning pearls and black satin, I was White House ready, just as Schramsberg was when it became the first American sparkling wine served at an official U.S. State dinner.  It was an effervescent evening with scintillating notes that wafted like fond memories across my mind.  It was a moment suspended, a moment to be savored along with every culinary delight, and a moment that would transcend our ephemeral feast.  This was an evening I would not soon forget.

The lovely Napa Valley Grille succeeded in designing and preparing a splendid culinary event.  From the hors d’oeuvre to the Southern Fried Quail to the delightfully decadent dessert, the flavors paired wonderfully with each Schramsberg selection.  What began as my first Wine Dinner would hopefully inspire many more.

Amidst the gregarious and charming people with whom I conversed at the always elegant Napa Valley Grille, I thought of Stéphane.  I thought of Stéphane as I listened to Hugh, and I couldn’t help admire their oenological knowledge and their charm.  Both shared an intense love of the grape, a passion for winemaking, and that je ne sais quoi.  They took great pride in creating sunlight in a glass and stepped back for the rest of the world to enjoy it. 

 “In preparation for the 150th anniversary of Château Poussin, it had been suggested to him that he personally promote the champagne on a grand scale.  He was to become so indistinguishable from the champagne that his name would touch the tip of the tongue with each effervescent sip.  

“Once he warmed to the idea of celebrating the sesquicentennial, he was surrounded by the dizzying entourage of snarling, cooing men and women who filled his life with endless meetings, fittings and phone calls.  He responded with reserved enthusiasm only to be transformed into a snazzy dandy of a man.  He had an innate elegance that befitted the Poussin tradition, yet his hubris had long gone unchecked.  What he may have lost in his home-and-hearth appeal, he doubly gained in style.  Stéphane was the quintessential Frenchman in every respect.  His taut, compact frame was elegantly clothed by the best couturiers, his social graces were impeccable, and his taste in everything was without rival.  If there was criticism to make of him, it was that his passion was broad rather than deep, superficial instead of profound.”       

Yet for those of us lucky to be sharing in that softly lit repast, we had experienced the profound.  We were ripe with inspiration and bursting full of joy. 

With charms afloat in bubbly, we would always be
Filled with hope and promise doubly, endlessly.

Juliann Budimir, 2010.  All rights reserved.

Hugh Davies demonstrating the art of sabrage... La confrérie du sabre d'or


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