Sipping Champagne with Miami Royalty

‘Twas the kinda wine and dine you’d find in a South Beach storybook – attended by swells, consisting of delicacies, sparkling with chatter, and set in one of our town’s most fabled venues. That the fete was presided over by champagne royalty only added a romantic element to the narrative, which also provided the kinda happy ending all good storybooks rely on. In my line, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of attending more than a good few of these wondrous affairs. But on each occasion, I’ve never failed to be more than a bit pleasantly surprised by the privilege. Lunchoening at The Forge on Saturday afternoon with the scion of the mighty Krug empire was no exception to the rule.

Among the 18 swells in attendance were CBS channel 4 weather anchor Lisette Gonzalez, Morgans Hotel Group Nightlife Director Joshua Wagner, Ferretti Group PR and Communication Director Jianinna Castro, Mondrian Hotel GM Angelo Vierra, and Florida Room VIP Hostess Lauren Andrews, as well as Krug’s Southeast Brand Director Julie Andersson and Krug’s USA Director Carl Heline. All came at the beck and call of Moet-Hennessey USA Trade Development Manager and perennial gentleman Nelson Giacometto, who instinctively knows how to throw a party, of any size. But as swell as these swells were and are, it was the spark and the charm of our esteemed hosts which raised the proverbial bar to that extra-special level.

I speak of Krug’s Global CEO Margareth “Maggie” Henriquez and Olivier Krug himself, who represents the sixth generation to carry on the robust tradition begun by his great-great-great-great grandfather Johann-Joseph Krug back in 1843. As you might suspect Olivier has champagne in his blood, but as royal as his lineage may seem, there’s nothing to-the-manor-borne about his bearing. Sure, he’s impeccably mannered and understatedly elegant – then again, when much of your life consists of dining out with the crème-de-la-crème in the best establishments in the world, you’d better be both. Yet there’s a certain candor which places Olivier among the rare breed of dynasty inheritors you can actually sit down and have a drink with.

Make that a few drinks, all of which came tagged with the lauded family name. I shan’t try to recall all the various vintages we sampled Saturday afternoon (a lot of Grand Cuvee, to be sure), yet I’ll never forget the way Olivier’s eyes lit up when explaining the making and the history of Krug’s vaunted 1998 Clos de Mesnil.

“It’s not a symphony or a sonata,” he explained. “It’s a solo. All played by a single extraordinary grape.”

Paired with Chef Dewey Losasso’s pumpkin cakes with caviar and mint crème fraiche, I’d say extraordinary only began to describe this top-of-the-line vintage. As Maggie chimed in about the painstaking process behind creating such a splendid un-blend, and Olivier echoed the pride the company takes in its making, I actually kept quiet and listened. Yes, it was that delicious.

As the courses continued — jicama and cured salmon salad with dried fig and peppercorn dressing; Florida snapper flavored with truffle and sided by lentil broth — I kept quiet too, opening my mouth only to savor another savory sip or take another exquisite bite. And as I sat captivated by the stories and sated by the richness of it all, I thought to myself ‘This is what people mean when they say “Good Taste.'”

Naturally I wasn’t silent for the duration. Prior to us sitting down to table in the wine cellar, both Maggie and Olivier were kind enough to take some time to sit with me in the Forge’s recently-refurbished (and impeccably-appointed) dining room. It was there that I learned Olivier began his apprenticeship as a child, volunteering to work summers in the family’s fabled Reims facility, and that his appointment was a matter of good course.

“It was perfectly natural,” he said. “Krug is not a royal family so you don’t inherit the job. I probably had a [head start] because I was the eldest in the family, and I was the one who showed some interest.”

Olivier also contended that there is more than mere privilege to being behind one of the most famous names in champagnes.

“People talk about privilege, and that may be some of the image that we convey. But it’s also a big responsibility, because you have to look after the style and the taste of something that was created more than 165 years ago.”

“So far I still believe that Krug is still too much a secret,” he continued. “My great-great-great-great grandfather wanted to create a champagne everyone could understand. You don’t have to be a specialist to enjoy Krug. Have a glass of Grand Cuvee and you will understand what I mean. It doesn’t taste like other champagnes. It fills your mouth with an explosion of flavors and richness and happiness and it calls to your senses and your memories.”

Maggie, anticipating my question about why we were all here, said, “The purpose of this visit is to take people on a journey through Krug, so you really have an experience that takes you into the universe of Krug. In addition, it tells you everything. You don’t have to understand it; you feel Krug, and what the founder intended and what has been perpetrated by six generations of the family.”

As we wrapped our chat they both invited me to swing through Krug headquarters for lunch the next time I’m in France. “It’s only forty minutes from Paris,” they sang. “And we’d love to have you.”

After this scrumptious luncheon, consider me there.

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