Kitty's Champagne Year Go confidently in the direction of champagne. Live the life you've imagined! Wed, 10 Jan 2024 12:44:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Kitty's Champagne Year 32 32 Champagne #6 — Taittinger Sun, 02 Dec 2012 00:07:00 +0000 [...]]]> Taittinger is my mother in law’s favourite champ.  It is her go to for all occasions that need to be appropriately fêted.  I love that Grace Kelly was their spokesperson and they did indeed have a brilliant marketing campaign.

I have written about the Tattinger demi-sec and adore Domaine Caneros–their sparkling house in Napa Valley that is fashioned after a French chateau–amour!  I will not be addressing either of these here, but specifically reporting about their Brut.

There is no question that Tattinger Brut is good. The bigger question here is how does it compare to other bottles in a similar price point?  The only true way that this can be decided is by a blind tasting which we will definitely do at some point again this year and will surely include the Germ’s mother who is such a fan.

The bottle that we had was yummy–but it was lacking.  One glass into it, I became quickly snuffed up.  This is a relatively new phenomena that I have inherited from my mother and is the result of a mild  sulpha allergy which is getting worse.  Growing up, I recall my mother becoming extremely congested, often with red wines, but the bottom line was the congestion was the result of sulphites present in the bottle.  Sulphites in champ?  It didn’t cross my mind.  I checked the back label of the bottle and there it was.  The disclaimer–this bottle contains sulphites.  Since we always have many bottles of champagne on hand, I checked a few others.  Surprsingly, Taittinger was not the only bottle to contain sulphites.  Since I haven’t had this reaction from many other bottles of champ, I am going to be on the watch, trying other bottles that do contain sulphites and see if the reaction (which I will say is quite a sniffly unpleasant mess) continues.

Founded in 1734, the Taittinger Champagne house is based in Reims. The flagship wines of the house are the Comtes de Champagne (composed of 100% Chardonnay) and Comtes de Champagne Rosé (1

Champagne Taittinger was established in 1931 by Pierre Taittinger on the foundations of Forest-Forneaux, itself established in 1734 and the third-oldest wine producing house of Champagne. Taittinger is today proprietor of approximately 600 acres of vines among which are included parcels in the one hundred – percent rated villages of Cramant and Avize in the Cote des Blancs; and Bouzy, Mailly, Ambonnay and Verzenay in the Montagne de Reims. The Taittinger Estate is one of the three most extensive in the Champagne district, and the firm’s major holdings in Chardonnay vineyards are the physical expression of the Taittinger philosophy and style.Medium straw color, with an impressive mousse and a fine, active bead; plenty of yeasty bread dough on the nose, which, with a good dose of minerality, takes on a supporting role to the rich under-ripe apple in the flavor profile. Plenty of froth in the mouth, zippy acidity, good intensity and nice length on the finish. Solid, straightforward Champagne, making no pretension to be anything more than it is, and quite enjoyable for all that; frankly, I could drink this two or three times a week.

That being said, we finished the bottle–snuffed up be damned.


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New Things #8 — Calendar Girl Thu, 29 Nov 2012 15:32:47 +0000 [...]]]> Living a truly blessed life, I am on a chartered yacht for a birthday party in South Beach. I see this girl and people tell me we look so much alike we could be sisters.  Clearly I must meet her and talk to her. Immediately.

Introductions are made to Ms Cara Garbarino–A Chicago based photographer, owner of The Atelier.  Cara’s images have graced Town and Country, Forbes and all the top wedding publications. We click instantly.  I mention the Champagne Year and my commitment to 12 new things and her actual sister, the lovely Genessa, declares that I must have Cara take boudoir photographs of me.  Boudoir photography is Cara’s focus and expertise.  Cara is able to turn you into an icon. Her work is in such high demand, there are waiting lists to get a session.

The Germ catches wind of this conversation and immediately wants to have a calendar.  He’s serious.  I think this is going to be the best birthday gift ever.

I was scheduled to be in Chicago a few weeks later.  I changed my flight plans and take Cara up on her gracious offer to squeeze me in.  Enter stage right glam squad.  First, a makeup artist starts working magic.  Next, a hair stylist takes over and turns me into Brigitte Bardot meets playboy bunny.  Champagne provides me with the liquid courage I need to strip right down.  It is the champagne year!

I take an ok picture and usually feel comfortable in front of a camera.  That said, I am always wearing clothes and smiling. In the Atelier studio, I flip between wearing absolutely nothing to wearing sexy lingerie.  It feels like an editorial shoot with no toothy grins.  Definitely out of my comfort zone.  More champagne please. Yes, please give me a serious pour–fill it right to the top…

The shoot was nothing short of amazing.  I had an absolute blast and the final product is like nothing I have ever seen.  These pics are of me?  I can’t believe it.  The Germ LOVES his birthday calendar. I loved being Brigitte Bardot.

Here is a sample of some of the images from the calendar…

Cara is an incredibly gifted artist, outstanding artistic director and nothing short of fabulous.

Anyone going to Chicago or looking for any excuse beyond the magnificent mile to visit the Windy City needs to put a photo shoot with the Atelier on their to-do list.  It must be booked.  You can’t afford not to do it and you certainly won’t regret it. Cara’s approach, the super fun, out of the box experience and most importantly–the final product will leave you beyond satisfied. And a little breathless.

I am now officially a calendar girl.  Please call me Ms April.

With my highest of recommendations…

1500 West Augusta Boulevard  Chicago, IL 60642, United States

(773) 661-9011


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Champagne #5 — Cristal 2004 Tue, 13 Nov 2012 21:56:55 +0000 [...]]]> For our anniversary this year, we splashed out and treated ourselves to a bottle of Louis Roederer’s 2004 Cristal.  I was obsessed with trying Cristal, not only because of the roll it has played in hip hop culture, but mainly I wanted to see for myself what all the hype was about.  This Cat loves rap music and just how many times can one hear Jay-Z mention popping bottles of Cris without wanting to pop your own?

One of the reasons that Cristal was so influential in the rap and hip hop community is because it was considered the highest status (most expensive) champagne you could purchase.  In economic terms, it is considered to be a Veblen good–an item that is perceived as exclusive as long as the price remains high–think Rolls Royce Phantom or an Hermes Birkin bag.

In 2006, Frederic Rouzaud, the managing director of Cristal was asked how he felt about his product being accociated with the hip hop ‘bling’ community and he answered “That’s a good question, but what can we do? We can’t forbid people from buying it. I’m sure Dom Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business”. Rouzard then said he approached the new hip hop Cristal relationship with “curiosity and serenity”. As a result of these comments, which were perceived by the hip hop community as both racist and patronizing, there was a huge down turn not only in sales, but also in references to Cristal in music.  In 2005, Cristal was the 8th most referenced product in all of Billboard music only after brands such as Mercedes and BMW.  A boycott led by Jay Z ensured that the hip hop community substituted their champagne allegiance to any other house.  Jay Z  favours Dom Perignon and Armant de Brignac.

None of Jay Z’s night clubs 40/40 carry Cristal any longer nor does Crissy find its way into his personal flutes.

Here are my thoughts on our bottle of 2004 Cristal:

The bottle is clear glass and comes wrapped in gold cellphone to avoid exposure to UV light.  Most champagne bottles are dark brown or green glass so cellphone is not needed.

Cristal is considered to be the first prestige cuvée and created for Alexander II of Russia.  Legend has it that there was political unrest and Alexander feared assassination.  Alexander demanded that his champagne to be served in a clear bottle so he could ensure there weren’t any bombs inside which would be too hard to detect inside the typical dark green bottle.  He also and he wanted watch the bubbles. The now iconic Cristal flat bottom clear glass bottle was born (via Flemish design).

The blend of grapes is 55% Pinot Noir, 45% Chardonnay.  The champ was delicious.  It was smooth and creamy, but not with much minerality which I really missed.  I loved the silky persistent bubbles, but the absolute bottom line for me, is that the price of this bottle does not reflect the deliciousness.  The cost was 4-6X that of a non-vintage, and easily doubles many other houses vintages (like Dom or Grand Dame).  My preference would be to have more as delicious bottles than this Veblen bottle which was  definitely good, but not 4X the price good.

Champagne Detail #4:  Scarborough Research found that people who have attended a hip-hop concert are 77 percent more likely than the general public to buy Champagne.

Just a few hip hop Cristal referencing videos to get you going…

Jay-Z featuring Mary J Blige – Can’t Knock The Hustle
Jay-Z – Dead Presidents
Nelly – Ride Wit Me feat. St. Lunatics
Jay-Z – Feelin It
Puff Daddy ft. The Notorious B.I.G., The LOX & Lil’ Kim – It’s All About the Benjamins


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New Things #7 — Indoor Skydiving Fri, 09 Nov 2012 22:34:03 +0000 [...]]]> We are in Las Vegas and have signed up to indoor sky dive.

We arrive and immediately get on the scale to get weighed in. The maximum weight for women is 180 lbs and for men it is 220 lbs. After signing our waivers, we are led into a different holding room and are then shown the instructional video.

The video is making everyone in the room very nervous.  My mother, wide eyed, is starting to panic. The video footage is of real sky divers, jumping out of planes, practicing the serious moves which they have perfected in the simulator tunnel.

We are also shown a series of hand signals which become overwhelming and were never used.  The only sign used was thumbs up and not featured here.

Admittedly,  when they begin to focus on our “landing” with details of the tuck and roll technique,  my level of anxiety grows.  You literally drop from flight into the surrounding foam bumpers.

We put on our jump suits, ear plugs, googles, and helmets. My mother has opted to sit out.

Me, my father and the Germ enter the padded round room that has a monster fan underneath a metal grill.

We each take turns lying down on our bellies and then we are off.  We are flying.  I am laughing and smiling the entire time.

I love this picture–I am in a pilates full swan.

Who doesn’t love a flying Germ?

My father loved getting high.

I can’t describe how much fun we had.  One of the most fun things I have ever done.

This new thing comes with my highest of recommendations.  if you are in Vegas, just a short drive to the end of the strip (past Wynn and Encore) and there you are.

Indoor Skydiving

Take flight!


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Etiquette Commentaries #6 — Lap or Table? Thu, 08 Nov 2012 22:22:11 +0000 [...]]]> Growing up, I was always taught that unless you are using a second piece of cutlery (always a knife for me) your left hand should be placed gently in your lap.  Ahh, the British trickle down remnants of growing up in the Commonwealth… But as soon as I lived abroad, I realized that other Western cultures do not subscribe to this style.  Most European cultures will have both hands visible at all times.  Take note the next time you have the opportunity.  Who is right?  Both are.

Since a good portion of my life is spent straddling both sides of the Atlantic, I now lean into the Euro way of hand placement at a table.  Obviously no elbows.


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New Things #6 — Tying a Sari Tue, 30 Oct 2012 17:13:35 +0000 [...]]]> I am in Montreal for my oldest friend, Colette Campbell-Moscrop’s wedding.  We grew up spending every holiday together.  We are family. Colette is marrying Subibe.  Colette is a white toast (like me), has a British father and a French mother.  Subibe is Indian and they are having a traditional Indian wedding.  FUN!  My very first Indian wedding!

It is just so happens that I have a sari.  While travelling through India, the Germ was adamant about buying me one. I didn’t want a sari, but he insisted.   When I received the invitation to Colette’s wedding, I was very happy that he did.

The Germ is concerned about the end result and really wants me to bring a back up outfit.  I insist that even if it looks like a fancy toga, I am wearing it.

We leave our hotel and arrive at Dr King’s house at exactly 4:20, the day of the wedding.  I met Dr King at grad school.  She is a kindred spirit and an official bestie.

Since it is the champagne year and since I was tackling another new experience, there was no question that we needed some serious champs.  Because Dr King is a fellow champagne hound and the germ and I can hold our own, it seemed only fitting that we start the sari tying party with a magnum of veuve.  What else?

Armed with a youtube video from, we had some basic instructions on how to tie this monster piece of fabric.  To get the party started, we popped our magnum of champagne paired it with some delicious lobster rolls.

Everything was so delicious and we were having so much fun that we lost track of time. The Germ, always the voice of reason, put an end to our partying ways and insisted we get started on tying the sari.

The adventure begins.

There is a lot more fabric than we expected.

I didn’t purchase the petticoat that is called for underneath the sari, but I put together a make shift tunic with a tank and slip to ensure the waist band would secure the folder fabric.

We knew this new thing had to be captured on video.  Dr King lost the job of chief sari wrapper and the Germ took over.

Tying a Sari

After a few attempts, we were good to go.  So pleased.

At the wedding, a lovely older Indian woman approached me, asked to help me and retied the entire thing.  She was shocked I was not wearing a petticoat, but impressed with our effort.

All said, I absolutely loved wearing a sari.  The fabric was gorgeous, it was surprisingly comfortable and I felt quite glamorous.

We also had an amazing time at such a fun, festive, joyful wedding.

Thanks Dr King!  Thanks Colette!


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New Things #5 — Pop Culture Pilgrimage Wed, 10 Oct 2012 13:29:01 +0000 [...]]]> Arguably, it is one of the most iconic scenes in movie history. Rocky Balboa downs 6 raw eggs, then the Italian Stallion, wearing a grey hoodie, track pants, black tuque and converse begins running through the streets of Philadelphia.  He effortlessly hurdles park benches and picks up an entourage en route.  He arrives at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, flies up the stairs, reaches the top with a grand leap to start his triumphant victory dance.  The iconic scene closes with a satisfying panoramic view of the Philadelphia skyline.  This scene is not only one of the most memorable of the film and puts the stairs on the map, but more significantly, it  introduced the revolutionary steady cam technology. Rocky’s run is captured with smooth, breakthrough footage.  Cinematic history is made!

On my list of things to do for the champagne year is to watch 12 classic movies.  I had never seen Rocky from start to finish, but I did know the infamous stair run.

After watching the classic film, I decided that I had to make my way to the city of brotherly love to pay homage to the run, the stairs, the movie and its huge role in pop culture. ADRIENNE!

The original plan was to go in the late fall, wear a tracksuit and a hat. A chance however presented itself  to go in August.  Since opportunity rarely knocks twice and is never a lengthy visitor, I figured why not?

The city is impressive.  It is known for its wonderful collection of out door sculptures and public art, museums, architecture, cuisine and rich history.

The Rocky sculpture which was commissioned for the film series was later donated by Sylvester Stalone to the city of Philadelphia.  After public outcry, they moved it from the top of the stairs (where it was during the movie) to the base of the museum where it remains today.

We make our way over to the infamous stairs.  The Germ remains fully committed to doing the run in costume as originally planned.  I on the other hand called it off when we signed on for August.   I am sweating already.

Pop Cultural Pilgrimage – Rocky Stairs

I am pleasantly surprised that I love Philadelphia so much.  We had a ridiculously fun time on our pop culture pilgrimage in a great city that we can’t wait to visit again!


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Etiquette Commentaries #5 — Knife In Wed, 22 Aug 2012 19:03:00 +0000 [...]]]> In general, everyone seems to have a basic idea of how to set a simple table.  Fork to the left, knife to the right.

The difference really is in the details.  The blade of the knife  always faces in–never out.  This may seem very elementary, but it is surprising how frequently this detail is not observed.  The blade of the knife always, always, always, faces in.  No excuses.  Now you know.


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Champagne #4 — Pierrel Fri, 17 Aug 2012 20:23:41 +0000 [...]]]>

Pierrel Brut Champagne is a gem.  With a gorgeous, non-traditional bottle, this champagne hails from a relatively new house and a young blender.  Pierrel champagne is unexpectedly delicious.

Lets start with the bottle–it is like nothing I have ever seen.  The new design keeps out harmful UV rays, shuns tradition and makes Pierrel a standout.

The champagne is refined with delicate bubbles which allows for its golden, elegant mousse.

There are notes of citrus and floral–but they are not overwhelming, allowing this champ to be enjoyed on its own or beautifully paired with food.  If you love minerality in your champ (as I do), this bottle is for you. There are lovely and complex undertones which surely come from the blend of 50% chardonnay, 40% pinot menuier and 10% pinot noir.  Pierrel should only be described as elegant.

I will continue to keep my eyes peeled for Pierrel Champagne and will look forward to popping more bottles when an occasion presents itself.  There never seems to be a shortage of occasions non?

Champagne Detail #4:   The cage, the collar or the muselet–are three different, all correct names for the wire contraption that holds the cork in place.  This cage (what we call it in our house) ALWAYS has six turns.  I finally have a favourite number!


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10 of My Grandfather’s Life Lessons Wed, 08 Aug 2012 00:37:37 +0000 [...]]]>

My grandfather passed away six months ago after a wildly successful, hugely eventful, very long life.  Outlined below are a few of the life lessons that the late James (Jim) Edward Campbell practiced, preached and lived.   Jim’s achievements as an entrepreneur, businessman, politician, pilot, father, husband, grandfather and citizen warrants his own Master Class–Oprah style.  Jim is dearly missed but left us a wonderful legacy and here is what I consider his top 10 life lessons.

1.  Dream BIG

Never set a narrow margin for what is possible.  Always keep your dreams in plain view and ensure they remain a moving target, always on the rise.  Before any goal is met, the first question should be “What’s next?”

When Jim was a boy, he dreamed of owning one of the mansions that was on his grocery delivery route.   Not only did he attain this dream, but Jim also continued to strive and dream of higher levels of greatness even though he already achieved a remarkable level of success.

2. The worst thing they can say is “NO”

There is a freedom one experiences when the fear of hearing NO is removed from the equation.  This winning mentality and life lesson transcends many successful people. Never be afraid to ask because the answer might be no.   One of Jim’s life long mantras was If you don’t ask, you’ll never get.  Ask for the promotion.  Ask for more money.  Ask for a discount. Ask for the better table.  Ask for the better seat.

Not only did I hear this life lesson regularly from my grandfather, but more importantly, I constantly saw it in practice–and it works!

3.  A short pencil is better than a long memory

Write it down.  Always maintain multiple running lists.  ALWAYS date the back of your pictures.  Don’t put your faith on a delicate, sure to eventually fail, memory.

Jim was a extensive list writer.  There were always a few lists on the go that ranged from groceries to new projects to restaurants he wanted to try.  All of his newspaper clippings were marked with the date and source.

4.  Never stop learning

Read what ever you can get your hands on.  Learn at any and every opportunity.  Retain and recall facts.  Always be aware of important current and local affairs.

Jim was a lifelong, self-taught naturalist and historian.  For decades he subscribed to many publications which he read diligently from cover to cover.  His favourite was National Geographic and never missed any of their programming–fascinated by all things living on the planet and anything to do with WWII.  Jim devoured whatever he could get his hands on; books, movies, magazines and newspapers–everything except for the sports section.

5.  Travel is the greatest classroom

When ever presented with the opportunity to travel–always jump at it.  Go whenever and wherever, and learn while the world’s classroom comes to life.

Stationed overseas during WWII with the Royal Canadian Airforce, Jim took every opportunity to see as much as possible.  When on leave, he would rent bicycles from the village children and visit everything worth seeing that he could ride to–from castles to cathedrals. Throughout the 80s, Jim and my grandmother Mary, his wife of 68 years would volunteer their time to chaperone and lead young Canadian musicians throughout Germany so they could compete in international music festivals.  Jim was the first person to take me to Paris, ensuring that my first trip to the city of lights was with a man I would always love.  He travelled abroad on various trips with all of his grandchildren in their teenage years.

6.  Give back

For those who have been afforded much, much is required.  Giving doesn’t need to involve monetary transactions–most importantly it involves the gift of time and service.

Contributing to the work of the community was a resonating theme throughout Jim’s life–both in Hamilton and during his retirement in South Florida.  His years of public service were followed by relentless private support of numerous causes.

7.  Work hard

Work hard and continue to work hard.  Surround yourself with people who share this work ethic.

Jim believed that hard work was what set highly successful people apart, and was mandatory to be able to achieve any type of goal.  Jim viewed laziness as a character flaw.

8.  Don’t be afraid of Failure 

Never let fear determine the risks you are willing or not willing to take.  Not every endeavour will end in a success, but hopefully most will. If there is nothing to be risked, there is nothing to be gained. Sometimes in life you fail–it happens. You learn from it.

Jim would tell the story about his first business idea–Day & Campbell (still in successful operation 66 years later) and recall the people who didn’t accept his offer of partnership because they were afraid of risking failure.  He was an elected official for many years.  He ran and won, but also ran and lost.  It is the risk you take putting your name on the ballot.

9  Live well, love often and be generous.

Buy the best quality you can afford.  Repair before you replace.  Do not hesitate to tell those closest to you that you love them–You can’t hear it or say those words often enough.

Another motto I frequently heard was “you can’t take it with you” (directed to my grandmother) but equally balanced with “save your money” (directed to me).  My mother spent her life telling her father “I love you” and he would always reply “I love you more'”, then “no I love you more”, repeat.

10. Always toast

Before that first sip, raise your glass and make a toast.  Never miss an opportunity to acknowledge life, happiness, health, good friends and good fortune.

Scotts wa hagh where Wallace bled  was the toast I would hear for much of my life.  Toasting remains a wonderful tradition where you take time to connect with people and share the experience. Never forget, ALWAYS make eye contact.


These life lessons are only a few of the countless ones bestowed on me by my beloved grandfather.   Without a doubt, these lessons have shaped the course, the vision and purpose of my life.  Unbeknownst to me,  I grew up with my very own Master class already in session.  I am hopeful that you will consider adopting at least one of these life lessons.  I believe that the results will be exponentially positive and inspiring.


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