“I should have drunk more Champagne,” the economist John Maynard Keynes supposedly said on his deathbed. (The quote is often rendered in a longer version, but parsimony seems more authentic on death’s door.)
Those are not likely to be the last words of Ramon Narvaez. “I drink Champagne every day,” says the gregarious sommelier in charge of the wine programs for Robert Wiedmaier’s empire of restaurants, including Marcel’s, Brasserie Beck, Mussel Bar and Brabo. “I love the stuff.”
As the weather turns cold and holiday decorations begin to grace the shopping malls, it’s time to think of Champagne toasts during family gatherings and end-of-year celebrations. And Narvaez is busy expanding his Champagne list at Marcel’s from about 40 labels to 75, with plans to stock more than 100 before long. These are primarily “grower” Champagnes, made in small quantities by the farmers who grow the grapes rather than the large Champagne houses who buy up grapes and fashion wines in a house style.
Last Friday was “Champagne Day,” a holiday that has no significance other than marketing the brand. At Marcel’s, however, Narvaez and Chef Wiedmaier offered a flight of three grower Champagnes with appetizers featuring oysters, quail eggs, and of course generous amounts of osetra caviar. Featured wines included the ethereal Jacquesson 734, liquid silk on the palate, and the Veuve Fourny Brut Nature, bone dry and lively with flavors that danced across my palate.
For now, the Marcel’s list is still a work in progress. Its by-the-glass selections feature only Nicolas Feuillatte, a co-op wine that is actually one of the Champagne’s best values. Narvaez promises more as the list develops. But he vows that his Champagne selection will be the most extensive in DC, which is fitting for a restaurant that is gaining national recognition, with recent plaudits from Zagat’s and Wine Enthusiast.
“The good times are coming back,” he says. Let’s hope so. These wines are worth celebrating.