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Champagne in the $100 Range

I am planning to propose to my girlfriend in January and I need a wine recommendation. We'll be going to a restaurant where a chef acquaintance of ours will be serving us a special tasting menu. They'll take care of most of the wines (the chef mentioned that he'd find us some cool boutiquey stuff), but I wanted to bring a special bottle of champagne to start off the evening. (The nicest bottle on their list is Yellow Label.)

Given the expenditures on the ring and on dinner, my budget is not unlimited. I want to spend about $100. Complicating matters is the fact that we live in Pennsylvania, so we are at the mercy of the state as to which champagnes are available. Here is the list of champagnes available in PA (there are 18 pages, but you can sort by price):

http://www.lcb.state.pa.us/webapp/Pro...

I'm definitely looking for something on the dry end of the spectrum. Thanks for the help!

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  1. Here are three recommendations:
    The Heidsieck Champagne Charlie at $121
    Laurent Perrier Brut Rose at $86
    Gosset Grand Millesime Brut at $96

    I've noticed, frustratingly so, that in that list, some
    vintage dates are left off some of the vintage wines.

    There are more knowledgeable Champagne lovers than I who write on this board...
    Whiner is one of the most passionate and informed...hope he weighs in.

    Here are some other threads with good recs that you can check against the PLCB list:
    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/429815
    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/457486
    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/413632

    1. You cannot go wrong with Cristal

      5 Replies
      1. re: Tay

        You can when
        a) it's $200+ retail and
        b) they don't sell it in your state.

        :)

        1. re: Tay

          Yes, but it's $300 for the 2000 vintage on the list.

          1. re: Tay

            Well, Cristal can be excellent, but you can go "wrong" by a) spending too much for it; b) passing by several "better" wines which cost less.

            But that's MY taste; YMMV.

          2. I think you should lean toward a rose. Not to generalize but most women like the pink color and the rose Champagne is quite good. All of the following would work well for the occassion:

            LAURENT PERRIER BRUT ROSE
            HEIDSIECK CHARLES BRUT ROSE
            VEUVE CLICQUOT RES ROSE 2000
            DELAMOTTE BRUT ROSE NV
            GOSSET ROSE
            POL ROGER BRUT ROSE' 99

            1. In addition to ML's recs...

              POL ROGER BRUT CHARDONNAY 1998
              POL ROGER BRUT ROSE' 99
              JACQUESSON BRUT NV CUVEE 730
              JACQUESSON BRUT GRAND CRU AVIZE 1997
              PIERRE PETERS CUVEE SPECIALE BRUT 99
              EGLY OURIET PRESTIGE MILLESIME

              1. More or less in ascending order by weight (based on memory):

                POL ROGER BRUT CHARDONNAY 1998
                JACQUESSON BRUT GRAND CRU AVIZE 1997
                JACQUESSON BRUT SIGNATURE 1996
                GOSSET GRAND MILLESIME BRUT
                BOLLINGER GRANDE ANNEE BRUT

                The '85 Heidsieck CC is intriguing, as is the '90 Henriot Enchanteleurs (which I've never had) but before buying them I'd want to be 100% sure about their storage conditions. A fan of rich, winey champagnes, I'd probably opt for the Bollinger (though I agree with Maria that the lack of vintage dates is disconcerting).

                1. Yes, treat yourself to the 1990 Henriot Enchanteleurs. A wonderful aged champagne, beautiful and balanced. This is what you're looking for.

                  1. Thanks for all of these great suggestions, everyone. I'm sure to find something fantastic. Thanks!

                    1. My own choices would include -- staying UNDER $105 . . .

                      065747 POL ROGER BRUT CHARDONNAY 1998 $94.99
                      057033 JACQUESSON BRUT NV CUVEE 730 NV $94.99 1.5 L (!)
                      059792 GOSSET GRAND MILLESIME BRUT $96.39
                      029507 LAURENT PERRIER GRAND SIECLE NV $98.69
                      060874 JACQUESSON BRUT SIGNATURE 1996 $101.99
                      029582 FEUILLATTLE PALMES D'OR 97 $104.99

                      1. saw nv krug grand cuvee for $109.99

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: rickym13

                          Doesn't count! Keep in mind the OP is in Pennsylvania . . .

                          At the PLCB:

                          069001 SLO KRUG GRAND CUVEE $155.59 750 ML

                          and . . .

                          029464 Specialty KRUG GRANDE CUVEE $152.99 750ML

                          I don't understand why the $2.60 difference, but . . .

                          1. re: zin1953

                            I'd also recommend the 1996 vintage...trouble is the PLCB board doesn't list the vintages on most the vintage Champagnes.

                            1. re: maria lorraine

                              I've heard tell of '96 and did the same search. What should I do with the search results? Anything catch your eye as a great value?

                              1. re: mhoffman

                                Just a coupla personal notes:

                                I think a Rose Champagne would be sexy, given the occasion. Here are some from the list, more or less in order of preference:
                                Taittinger Cuvee Prestige Rose $78.49 750 Ml
                                Gosset Celebris Rose 98 $70.99 750ml
                                Heidsieck Charles Brut Rose Av $77.49 750 Ml
                                Ruinart Brut Rose $62.19
                                Laurent Perrier Brut Rose $61.49 And $85.99, listed twice, 750 Ml
                                Pol Roger Brut Rose 99 $75.99
                                Gosset Rose $83.19 750 Ml
                                Gosset Grande Rose Brut $40.39 375 Ml half-bottle

                                In regards to the 1996 Champagnes, well, @#$%!
                                I'm sure there are plenty of 96s on the dang list, but they aren't listed.
                                Just a few are, and they've already been noted.

                                Honestly, if you didn't get a Rose Champagne, I'd take a list of 96 recs
                                to the store to see what they actually have, since they're not listed
                                in the database. There are some really, really good 96 recs on those
                                other CH threads I referred to you above.

                                More personal notes:
                                I love the Gosset Celebris, both regular and rose
                                ****The 95 Gosset Celebris is $69.99.
                                I also love the Champagne Charlie and it won the Critics Challenge Platinum Award (this is a wine competition where all the judges are wine writers) -- this was the very top wine of the entire competition. Don't normally give a hoot about awards but this one actually means something.

                            2. re: zin1953

                              If they're both the NV Grande Cuvée, the only difference I can think of is the gift box. It is quite nice, and probably worth the $2.60 in price considering the special occasion.

                          2. I think that I will look into the 1990 Henriot Enchanteleurs, though I will certainly inquire about storage. Looking around the net, this seems to be a bottle for which the state monopoly works to my advantage. I haven't found it available on online for under $100, but it's $83 at in PA. We love food and wine (she's actually a young food writer), but we've not yet had much opportunity to try vintage champagne. There is something nice about having a somewhat older bottle.

                            Now to decide whether to drink the bottle at the restaurant, or to have it on ice at the location of the proposal (probably home, so we can be with our beloved doggie).

                            Decision, decisions...

                            (I'm still open to more advice, especially from anyone who thinks this bottle is the wrong choice.)

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: mhoffman

                              Forgot to add...where are my manners???...hope she says yes.

                              1. re: mhoffman

                                Why, thanks. We've talked about it quite a bit, so I'm pretty confident. ;)

                              2. You don't have to exceed $100 to find some really sensational champagnes on this list. Focus on the 95, 96, and 2002 vintages to find your best values, btw..

                                Here's your best choices, roughly in order of preference but they're all great and under 100...

                                1) DUVAL-LEROY Brut 1996 ($49) from the incredible 96 vintage. Truly worth twice the price, a great champagne.

                                2) PIPER HEIDSIECK Brut 1995, ($65) also an incredible vintage

                                3) FEUILLATE Palmes D'Or 95 ($80) A beautiful champagne... if a stunning bottle makes any difference then this is it.

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: Chicago Mike

                                  Chicago Mike: Thanks for these. Since she is a food and wine person, the price really doesn't matter so much as the quality. I think she'll be most impressed if I find a bottle she loves that she loves from a less-well-known prodicer. So a wonderful bottle that costs $50 isn't a bad idea—I just wasn't sure that there were such deals to be had.

                                  One question: These are in descending order of your preference? Your favorite is first?

                                  1. re: mhoffman

                                    Hoff:

                                    Because your intended is a food & wine buff, you might just get two bottles so the two of you can sample and compare your impressions. Yes, my list is in preferential order but I think they're all great champagnes and great values.

                                    You could do BOTH the Duval-Leroy 96 Brut AND the Piper-Heidsieck 95 Brut for around 114 and tax, and you'd have two incredible bottles to enjoy (be sure you have a designated driver, lol).

                                    The Feuillatte Palmes D'Or 95 is a beautiful champagne in a super-slick bottle, a bit pricier at $80 but still well within your range. You had a question about it, here's a blurb reference to some recent awards it's won:
                                    http://www.millissime.com/PR_Section/...

                                    I don't think you can miss with any of these....

                                    1. re: Chicago Mike

                                      In theory, I do love the idea of trying two. In practice, however, my girlfriend is a bit of a lightweight, and I want her to be able to enjoy the meal and other wines. I suppose the that the enormity of the occasion justifies the profligacy of drinking half of each bottle, but I know that I would be pained to do so. Maybe I should just get over it...

                                      1. re: mhoffman

                                        You might look at the entirety of your menu and see how champagne friendly it is... If you don't have much in the way of champagne food then 2 bottles for 2 "lightweights" is probably an unecessary excess. On the other hand, if you're having a fair amount of compatible food and your intended expresses an interest in trying two, then it's really worth considering.

                                        But realistically, you could also put that 2nd bottle money on a fair amount of the rest of the vino... perhaps a glass of white, and glass of red, and a glass of dessert wine for each of you... $60 would go a long ways towards putting a dent in that,

                                        Your chef pal puts together a great menu, you have the champagne all night long, along with a glass of red and white wine to match the apps and entrees and a glass of the perfect wine to match your desserts... doesn't get much better for a proposal than that

                                        1. re: Chicago Mike

                                          "[The] restaurant...will be serving us a special tasting menu [and] they'll take care of most of the wines (the chef mentioned that he'd find us some cool boutiquey stuff), but I wanted to bring a special bottle of champagne to start off the evening."
                                          OP

                                  2. re: Chicago Mike

                                    Oh, and I guess that gorgeous bottle couldn't hurt. After all, there's a fair chance we'll be saving it for sentimental value.

                                    But an internet search reveals no hits for the 1995 vintage of Palmes D'Or. Wine searcher has some hits, so I know it exists, but what's the deal?

                                    1. re: mhoffman

                                      Wow, for a state liquor board, I must say their selection is quite impressive.

                                      The '96 Duval-Leroy is a great suggestion. Probably the best QPR on taste alone, if you ignore all name recogition/pretty bottle. The Feuillatte Palmes d'Or bottle is actually even more beautiful looking in person than in a photograph.

                                      An idea: when did you guys first meet, or go on your first date? As long as it's 2002 or earlier, maybe choose a vintage bottle from that year? At least you can whittle down the list some from a lot of very good choices.

                                      1. re: mengathon

                                        That's a sweet idea. Unfortunately, we met and started dating in 2003.

                                        Well, I mean, that we met and started dating is not the unfortunate part!

                                        1. re: mengathon

                                          "Wow, for a state liquor board, I must say their selection is quite impressive."

                                          Well, remember: there is no one store that has all of these bottles in stock. Many of them are only in one or two stores, spread around the state. In fact, the vast majority are SLO (Special Liquor Order), meaning that the state doesn't actually own any of them, but would have to order them for you from the producer.

                                    2. A wrinkle: I just talked to my local store, and they say that any bottle that needs to be shipped for me from another state store (as many of the suggestions here would have to be) would be shipped 2-day UPS. Is such a trip in the winter likely to affect the quality of the champagne?

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: mhoffman

                                        It won't help, but it's better than shipping in late summer!

                                      2. Maybe not dry, but she might like the Perrier Jouet Fleur. If you purchased 007236 it would have the glasses, pretty and a keepsake. Very romantic bottle.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: WyCo

                                          I've actually heard her comment that she likes that bottle. Is the wine any good?

                                          1. re: mhoffman

                                            My daughter received a set like that for passing the bar, she had just been married earlier in the year and they opened it on their first anniversary. She loved it.

                                            1. re: mhoffman

                                              Perrier-Jouet's "top-of-the-line" (aka "tete de cuvee" or "prestige cuvee") is Fleur de Champange (called "Belle Epoque" in France).

                                              The wine can be (and frequently is) excellent, depending upon the vintage, and the bottle is indeed beautiful.

                                          2. The ones under $100 that catch my eye:

                                            1998 Pol Roger Brut Blanc de Chardonnay
                                            1996 Vranken Diamant Blue

                                            That said, trust me, spend the extra $21.69 and get the 1985 Charles Heidsiek Champagne Charlie. That is a truly truly special bottle of wine at its apogee right now.

                                            [Edit] Carswell made mention of the Champagne Charlie's storage conditions... don't worry, the reason it is on the list at that price is that it was re-released onto the market about a year and a half ago. 99.9% it has been stored AT Heisdsiek until then.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: whiner

                                              This are strong words, whiner, and you are clearly a respected poster in these parts. I will take your comment VERY seriously.

                                              1. re: whiner

                                                Oh, despair! This wine is out of stock, according to the PLCB hotline.

                                                The woman also told me that any special liquor order will take at least 30 days, which is frightfully close to when I want to drink the bottle. Oh well. I'll have to get something that's in stock somewhere in the state.

                                              2. So, it sounds like the thing to do is to go into the store, armed with all of the recommendations you lovely people have supplied, and pray that I get a sales person who knows something.

                                                If I lived in a proper state, I'd just go to a wine store I trusted and talk to them. That's the biggest shame about state ownership (well, one of the biggest): consumers have very little contact with expert wine and spirit professionals. There's just so little education to be had, and education is one of the primary reasons to go to a wine store in the first place, if you're like me (and not already an expert).

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: mhoffman

                                                  Don't know where you are in PA exactly, but in Philly, I know I've seen a few of these bottles at the 19th & 13th Street stores, especially the Perrier Jouet Fleur bottle (great stuff if you want to splurge for a truly special occassion).

                                                2. Thanks so much to all of you for the advice. I ended up going with the 98 Gosset Celebris Rose, which I thought was a sensational wine, and it was a big hit with my fiancée (yes, she said "yes"!) and with the chef. The chef ordered himself a bottle beforehand and designed a course specifically for it: foie gras, cooked for a long time at a VERY low temp and then seared, with blueberry, chocolate (and another element or two - i don't have the menu in front of me). We had a glass or two at the beginning as an aperitif and as a pairing with that course, and then had a glass at the end of the meal as we chatted with the chef in the kitchen. It was a stupendous occasion, and you guys helped make it that way. Thanks.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: mhoffman

                                                    Oh, what a beautiful wine. I love the Celebris, both regular and Rose. Thanks for the update and description of the evening, and I'm so glad she said yes! Happy marriage!

                                                    1. re: mhoffman

                                                      Congratulations! (And a great wine choice, too . . . )

                                                      I wish you both all the best!