Published in The Ventura County Reporter, Winter, 2003
Dom Perignon Teaches Self Actualization. And It’s Really Expensive
By Mark Storer
The words still ring in my head whenever I’m drinking a glass of wine. “Remember, Dom Perignon is first, a fine wine that you can drink everyday. You’re worth it, aren’t you?” I stare into the abyss long enough to take a sip of my $12.00 Rhone blend and sadly smile. Lisane Lapointe, Dom Perignon Ambassador’s words enter like daggers into my ears. In this one moment, I am stripped bare of all my disguises and my sense of snobbery is laid waste as I claw at the shreds of what is left of my sad and obscure life. And I want to believe that she is right. If one likes wine, one should be able to drink fine wine, fine Champagne, the real thing from the Champagne region of France and appreciate its intricacies, nuances, delicate tastes, textures and the tiny bubbles that tickle your nose. But, no—no I am not worth it. And what’s more, you’re not either. No one is worth a hundred dollar bottle of wine on a daily basis. That’s $700.00 a week, though I suppose if you bought that much you’d get some kind of volume discount. No, it’s just not possible, laws of Capitalism, diminished return and all that.
My wife and I were invited to the Tower Club by my friend Mike Asaad, owner of Best Buy Wine and Liquor in Camarillo, to enjoy a special tasting and food pairing of Dom Perignon’s three vintage Champagne’s. All three were delicious and Chef Kevin prepared three different dishes, one for each taste. Of course, the first two courses were both shellfish and so I humbly drank my wine and tasted no food, fearing that my metaphorical death would become real, sucking air and turning brilliant shades of red and purple while sinking to the floor. My wife said the scallops and the lobster were tremendous. How happy I was for her. I took advantage of the view out the Tower Club’s windows, which was magnificent, if somewhat marred by the thought that at any moment, I should be found out a commoner, not worthy of such an evening of hoity toitiness and pushed out said windows falling to a cold, cruel and really messy death.
The wine was really good did I mention that? Oh man, Dom Perignon is amazing. There were hints of earth and mineral and the little bubbles brought all of those flavors to the nose and there was a creamy finish. I swear it, really. Creamy. The 1995 vintage offered that night at $89.99 a bottle, a bargain so I’m told, was probably my favorite. I even bought one. I’m worth it sometimes, I guess. The other was called Oenotec and it was a little deeper, a little richer. The wine had been left on the lees (or skins) longer and so its profile was more structured, more firm. It was $175.00 a bottle. I’ve bought digital cameras for less.
The third course, paired with D.P.’s Rose Champagne, which was dry but fruity and really quite nice at $195.00 a bottle, was roasted quail with herbs, stuffing and a delicate stock reduction. I know it was supposed to be good. I know that snobs like me—or like I thought I was– talk about “squab” and its charms, but I think my snob level got sucker punched and knocked down a peg that night. My tablemates assured me that this was good quail, quality quail (I tried saying that five times fast, too) and that it was delicious. But I thought it was gamey, coarse tasting and even had an unpleasant lingering aftertaste.
I felt so unrefined. I’d fallen from grace. I thought at any moment, a glass of Budweiser would appear, it would have to be a glass, I don’t think the Tower Club allows cans, on the table next to a McDonald’s hamburger and a box of cold fries. I’d be forced to drink it, tied to my chair and head pried back while people dressed in evening gowns and suits drained the nasty beverage, Liquid Plumber-style, down my throat. My façade was down and I had been disabused of my illusions of true snob hood. I quietly squeezed my wife’s hand and she, good soul, took pity on me and smiled that knowing, wife-smile that says, “I know you’re a cretin. It’s O.K. I still love you.”
I suppose I should be thankful. I learned much about myself that evening and self-actualization is an important thing. I learned about my not really belonging to the snob-class and about how good Dom Perignon really is. I mean I liked their wine a lot. I like filet mignon a lot too, but I’m happy with Top Sirloin and a good bottle of Syrah from the Central Coast. Sometimes, I’ll spend as much as $20.00 on a bottle like that. I feel like I’m splurging, but I guess splurging is all relative. One thing I did learn, though: I’ll eat a McDonald’s hamburger, but I still don’t like Budweiser.
by Mark Storer