An abundance of beauty ushered in the new year in Northern California
The closing moments of 2022 were, for me, marked by wine-centric experiences that were not only pleasurable but succeeded in exalting the mind and spirit. Although we rarely talk about beauty in relation to wine, both tend to rely on intersubjective judgments for valid standards, and they are inextricably linked by their connection to pleasure.
A dazzling floral display set the stage for Perrier-Jouët’s “1 With Nature,” an immersive tasting experience celebrating the 120th anniversary of the iconic painting of Japanese anemones by Art Nouveau leader Émile Gallé that has graced this Champagne house’s bottles since 1902. The al fresco event in San Francisco was the last in a multicity tour that paired the cuisine of Los Angeles–based chef Sophia Roe with Perrier-Jouët Champagnes selected by Séverine Frerson, who was appointed the eighth cellar master of the estate in 2020.
Guests were treated to a dramatic view of the Bay Bridge from the table staged on the terrace of 1 Hotel and outfitted in decorations and glassware inspired by the Belle Époque era. Each of three courses was accompanied by hands-on sensory exercises guided by Elise Cordell, manager–Champagne trade engagement and events at Pernod Ricard USA, that explored specific themes— Terroir, Awakening, and Florality —in ways that were both whimsical and visually engaging. The most alluring scents of the evening, however, were those of the Perrier- Jouët 2010 Belle Époque Rosé.
SingleThread Farm-Restaurant-Inn, Sonoma’s only three-Michelin-starred restaurant, hosted a sold-out event celebrating the release of IWA 5 Junmai Daiginjo Saké #3 ($180/720-mL bottle). Using ingredients grown by his wife, Katina, chef Kyle Connaughton paired kaiseki-inspired cuisine with three IWA 5 sakés, Dom Pérignon 2008 from magnum, and a Château Yquem 2005 for a sublimely hedonistic experience. While the food was orchestrated to play second chair to the saké, the symphony that resulted was nothing less than perfect.
With the release of IWA 5 #3, founder and creator Richard Geoffroy, best known as the chef de cave for Dom Pérignon, has realized a rich, medium-dry style that is unlike any in this taster’s experience. Beyond nuanced floral and tropical fruit aromas (that I’m told will become more integrated and refined over time), it displayed a focused freshness and a pronounced mineral expression on the palate that persisted through a seemingly endless finish, making it a standout in the ultra-premium category.
The evolution and refinement of the IWA 5 #3 was demonstrated by a side-by-side tasting of the first, second, Geoffroy attributes the brand’s success to the use of a blend of three rice varieties, Yamada Nishiki, Omachi, and Gohyakumangoku; no fewer than five different saké and wine yeasts that include Kimoto and experimental varieties; and reserve sakés in the final blend.
Geoffroy chose the town of Tateyama, in the lesser-known Toyama Prefecture, as the home for the IWA brewery, which opened in 2021. Arnaud Brachet of ABCK Corp. is IWA 5’s U.S. repre- sentative and importer.