My sister came out to Naknek to visit us during fishing time. It is the first time she has been back to Bristol Bay for 9 or 10 years and we have been anticipating her visit with great excitement. I have been waiting to drink a special bottle of Champagne with her for quite some time. There is an interesting story associated with it.
It started almost two years ago when I ordered some Champagne from K&L Wines and thought I might have been sent a bottle that I had not ordered. The head of the Champagne department, Gary Westby, was kind enough to contact me personally and we had quite a nice conversation. When he found out that I was from Alaska he mentioned that one of the Grower Champagne producers that K&L represents takes a fishing trip to Alaska every summer and asked if there was any chance that I had ever crossed paths with Olivier Bonville. As big as Alaska is, it can be small that way. I had not ever met Olivier, but later that winter a chef from Kodiak, Joel Chenet of Mill Bay Coffee, came to Juneau to lend his talent to a Savor Bristol Bay event that I was helping organize. We were talking as we were driving around and sourcing a few items that we didn’t already have and his talk of hunting and fishing trips that he had taken caused me to believe that he may know Olivier. It turned out that Joel was able to join Olivier’s fishing party on the trip that they had taken to Kodiak the previous summer. Small world. I went on to tell Joel about the connection to K&L and the fact that my sister and I like to collect Champagnes to drink when we are reunited. Later that spring I was able to work with Joel and his wife Martine on putting another Savor Bristol Bay event together in conjunction with the Kodiak ComFish expo. After our big push was completed Joel and Martine, who had also served as Olivier’s translator at a Champagne expo in the U.S., were kind enough to have me over for dinner and as I walked in the door they gifted me with a bottle of Olivier’s Champagne; a 2004 Millésime Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru named for his Grandfather, the estate’s founder, Franck Bonville. They told me that they wanted me to be able to enjoy it with my sister. It was so generous of them and so thoughtful, made all the more special because of the storyline and connections behind the bottle.
That was over a year ago and I had not seen my sister since before that time. Last night when she arrived we were able to enjoy the long awaited bottle. It was a lovely light lemon color with zesty lemon notes and roiling boiling bubbles. There was a bit of floral tasting honey on the finish that did not weigh on the brightness of the acidity.
Thank you Joel, Martine, Olivier, and Gary Westby for creating such a nice framework to my sister’s homecoming.