By some fortuitous miracle bestowed upon us by the gods of wine blogging, brooklynguy and I happened to both be in Portland on Tuesday, and were finally able to meet face to face. We enjoyed a splendid dinner together at Three Doors Down, along with brooklynlady and a few of my friends, and naturally, given the company involved, there was much wine to be had. One of the champagnes that I had brought with me from France was Benoît Lahaye’s superb 2002, which is still an infant but so deliciously compelling that I am hardly able to keep my hands off of it. So compelling was it, in fact, that I completely forgot to take a photo of the bottle that night, so instead you get a photo of Benoît out in the vines on a rainy July afternoon that’s utterly typical of our dreary Champenois summer this year.
Made of 70 percent pinot noir and 30 percent chardonnay, Lahaye’s 2002 is all grand cru fruit (roughly 80 percent Bouzy and 20 percent Ambonnay), and about two-thirds of it was vinified in old barrels. It’s intense in flavor, with concentrated notes of cassis and black cherry, yet it’s not very large in body, thriving much more on intensity than on girth. It has a sense of vibrant, almost electric kineticism that makes it feel alive, staining the palate with its fragrance and finishing with outstanding length and balance. The wood is perfectly harmonious here, shaping the fruit flavors but not at all overpowering them, and as this was made entirely without malolactic, the structure is rigid and tense. We really ought to have decanted it, but the dining room hit a bit of a rush, and I didn’t want to be a pain in the ass. It opened up more with some time in the glass, anyway, hinting at the greater complexity and depth that will come with further age. I really ought to duct tape the rest of my bottles together and bury them at the bottom of my cellar, as this wine needs at least another decade to show its best.
Benoît Lahaye is imported into the United States by Jeffrey Alpert Selections, who is apparently in Tenafly, NJ, but I don’t believe that they’ve got the 2002, unfortunately. If they do, I imagine that it would retail for around $90 or so.