“Happy Beaster!” Review: Buena Vista la Victoire Champagne NV

Only a few times in my life has my birthday fallen upon Easter, and today as I turn 36 on Easter Sunday, I took a moment to reflect back upon a few of the other times. As a child, Easter in my family had a lot to do with family, very little to do with church. Often, my cousins and I would hunt eggs out at the family ranch, and on those rare occasions that my birthday coincided with the holiday, I felt even more the star of the show. This, of course, stands in contrast to my adult life, where today I dressed my son and made breakfast, received a beautiful watch from my wife (who is now two days past due with our second child), and am preparing to take three generations of Gudgels to the Joslyn Art Museum before we depart for Sonja’s parents’ home for Easter dinner. This day could not be less about me in many ways, and frankly, at my age, that’s far more comfortable.

As I was preparing something of an elaborate waffle bar (Titus likes waffles) complete with various types of fresh fruit, syrups, chocolate chips, whipped cream, and Sonja’s homemade lemon curd, my father stepped into the kitchen. “Can I get a glass of water?” he inquired. In something of an ornery mood already, I felt like punishing him for asking a rhetorical question. “Not on my birthday,” I responded, and pulled a bottle of bubbles out of the fridge. Both a birthday and Easter (a “beaster” if you will) are celebrations, and in my household such things call not for water, but for good Champagne.

The Buena Vista la Victoire Champagne is indeed a special bottle. Sonja and I visited Buena Vista, California’s oldest commercial winery, on our honeymoon, and I had been saving this bottle to share with her. Light straw colored with a golden shade and modest bubbles, the body boasts a complex array of flavors. Most prominent are the fruits — white table grapes, tart green apples, and white stone fruits, followed by some less pronounced floral notes, with very subtle hints of that bread-and-brie profile toward the back that make good Champagne so worthy of a celebration. Most interesting to me is that while this bottle holds the Buena Vista label, the wine was made in Epernay, and is as such a true Champagne, in spite of being sold by a California producer. (Those of you who were preparing comments about “true Champagne” — you know who you are, can go ahead and delete them now). I appreciate the lengths that Jean-Charles Boisset goes to in order to provide special offerings to their customers. It keeps me coming back.

So I’m 36 years old today. I finished my doctorate a few years ago and am deeply entrenched in a  rewarding career. I have a family, a house, a dog, and all of the other things that as a child I thought constituted adulthood. I’m finding my way as a writer and sommelier, and best of all I’m surrounded by an amazing family which, if I’m lucky, may grow in number even on this day. Whether my little girl arrives today, tomorrow, or in a week, however, I couldn’t be more excited to meet her, and I’ll consider her the very best birthday present ever.

Happy Beaster,


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