We have been invited to the studios of WCCO Television to discuss the world of Grower Champagnes with their superstar reporter Jason DeRusha. We will be talking about three wines in particular to profile different parts of the Grower Champagne movement.

This segment will air Saturday morning, December 29th, during the 8:00 hour.

To help follow up on their report, here are more details on the wines presented (and at the far end of the post a list of where to purchase these gems).

Marc Hebrart “Cuvee de Reserve” Brut n/v
When you hear Hebrart owns 38 acres of land, a Minnesotan is inclined to imagine standing at the corner of a field, watching Jean-Paul Hebrart open his arms wide and proclaim “Here are my 38 acres!” But the truth is far more complicated: he owns 38 acres of land across 68 different parcels. So imagine, if you will, the complexities involved in harvest of those 68 parcels, many of which are planted to multiple varietals. This is part of the magic of the grower-producers: they are working their own land instead of waiting for the truck to arrive with the goods (in Champagne it is legal, and all too common, to purchase finished sparkling wine en masse and blend into a selection … travel in Champagne is frequently interrupted by tanker trucks whaling down the freeways).

The main characteristic of Hebrart Brut, besides its price (often the same price or even a touch less expensive than the Yellow Label That Shall Not Be Named), is the combination of absolute top quality Premier Cru Pinot Noir from Vallee de la Marne with absolute top quality Grand Cru Chardonnay from the Cotes de Blanc. To combine these stunning parcels into a bottling of this price is crazy … and lucky for the consumer!

Rene Geoffroy Rose’ de Saignee n/v
Jean-Baptise Geoffroy is perfectionist in the most perfect and precise sense of that word, which is a great trait to have in the complicated world of Champagne. This level of perfection almost forces him to be doing his own thing, for he would be over-bearing in his demands if working for somebody else. An example: when the grapes are harvested and brought in for pressing, the first pressing is of the highest quality. While most Champagne houses continue the first pressing until 2000 liters are released, Geoffroy limits it to 1800. This may not sound like much, but in the end he’s reducing the amount of the first press by a full 10% just to keep to his own high standards. Economically, it makes zero sense, for most consumers wouldn’t notice the ever so slight shift in the bottle. But that’s the beauty of grower-producers: they do what they want, not what a spreadsheet tells them to.

The color of this wine is dynamic: a full frontal blast of cranberry hued goodness. It’s a Saignee, which is French for ‘the bleeding’. Rather than add still (non-bubbly) Pinot Noir and Pinot Munier to the Champagne to achieve the pinkness, they make this from a gentle pressing (i.e. “Bleeding”) of the red grapes at the time of crush. It’s a painstakingly difficult process, but one Jean-Baptise is up for.

Gimonnet Special Club 2004
Three things of note for this wine: The producer and his love of Chardonnay, the quality, and the Special Club designation.

While Pinot Noir and Pinot Munier might constitute the bass and rhythm of the region, Chardonnay plays the special role of the lead singer, the Bono or Mick, the frontrunner, the one that often defines who you are as a producer. Why? It’s high toned, it’s lovely, it’s precise, it’s bright, and it perfectly delivers all that goodness you want in a glass of Champagne. And there are few people in the land more in love with this varietal than Didier Gimonnet. He owns some of the oldest parcels in the region (and Champagne is notorious for young vines), averaging 40 years and at times upwards of 100 years old … unheard of anywhere. He cares for these vines as his children, and the loving care translates into wines so sublime they defy description (even for his ‘entry level’ Premier Cru Blanc de Blanc).

The quality of this wine is simple to define: it’s his best wine, period. There is no ‘higher rung’ on the ladder. There is no super-uber-reserve under the table. This is the gold standard for Gimonnet and the 2004 vintage. But it gets better than that….

This is a Special Club. Here is the skinny on this most exclusive of groups. Twenty six members. All small grower-producers. They wanted to form a group to help counter the bigness of the big houses, while offering something truly special to the wine world. The members gather every year to taste the best of the best vintages from the members, and decide as a group who is allowed to release their wines as a Special Club (and use the Special Club bottle). This tasting is performed blind, and not all wines make it through (embarrassingly, producers have sometimes rejected their own wine when presented in this peer format). The wines that do make it through indicate a small production of truly monumental wine: best wine, from best vintages, from the top small producers, chosen by their peers. It’s a special club indeed.

***

Where to find the wines

Following is a list of accounts that have purchased these wines in the previous twelve months. Please call ahead to assure availability. Accounts are listed alphabetically by city.

Herbrart Brut Cuvee de Reserve Brut n/v

The Beanery Internet Cafe
Aitkin
(218) 927-7811

Cash Wise Liquor - Baxter
Baxter
(218) 829-9286

Mgm - West Bloomington
Bloomington
(952) 888-9421

Haskell's - Burnsville
Burnsville
(952) 435-7551

Dolce Vita Wine Shop
Chaska
(952) 361-0044

Dennis Brothers Liquor
Cottage Grove
(651) 458-8932

Kitchi Gammi Club
Duluth
(218) 724-8589

Boston's Gourmet Pizza Rest.
Faribault
(507) 331-3255

Liquor Hutch
Hutchinson
(320) 587-2762

Lincoln Square Liquor Barrel
Mahtomedi
(651) 770-0692

The Wine Market
Mendota Heights
(651) 452-9463

Ken And Norm's Liquors
Minneapolis
(612) 822-0030

Mcdonald Liquor Store
Minneapolis
(612) 721-6686

Red Cow - 50th St
Minneapolis
(612) 676-4411

Zipp's
Minneapolis
(612) 333-8686

Spoonriver
Minneapolis
(612) 436-2236

South Lyndale Liquor
Minneapolis
(612) 827-5811

France 44
Minneapolis
(612) 925-3252

Lake Wine & Cheese
Minneapolis
(612) 242-0073

Stinson Wine, Beer & Spirits
Minneapolis
(612) 789-0678

Hennepin-lake Liquors
Minneapolis
(612) 825-4411

Haute Dish
Minneapolis
(612) 338-8484

Elevated Beer Wine & Spirits
Minneapolis
(612) 384-2980

Sapor Cafe
Minneapolis
(612) 375-1971

Falls Liquor
Minneapolis
(612) 729-5498

Kings
Minneapolis
(612) 354-7928

North Loop Wine & Spirits
Minneapolis
(612) 338-5393

Sorella Wine & Spirits
Minneapolis
(612) 339-4040

Harbor Wine & Spirits
Mound
(952) 472-0648

Grand View Lodge
Nisswa
(218) 963-2234

Spirits Of Nisswa
Nisswa
(218) 963-7488

Cork & Barrel Wine & Spirits
Oakdale
(651) 739-0804

Pour Bottle Shop
Otsego
(763) 222-5151

Travail
Robbinsdale
(612) 669-5231

Liquor Boy
St Louis Park
(952) 512-2200

First Grand Liquors
St Paul
(651) 227-7039

Solo Vino
St Paul
(651) 602-9515

128 Cafe
St Paul
(651) 645-4128

Meritage
St Paul
(651) 222-5670

Big Top - Midway
St Paul
(651) 644-4501

Thomas Liquor
St Paul
(651) 699-1860

The Wine Thief
St Paul
(651) 698-9463

Wayzata Wines & Spirits
Wayzata
(952) 473-7191

Tonka Bottle Shop
Wayzata
(952) 473-5469

Do Not Use - Top Ten -woodbury
Woodbury
(651) 501-1199

 

Geoffroy Rose de Saignee n/v

Cafe Lurcat
Minneapolis
(612) 374-1776

France 44
Minneapolis
(612) 925-3252

Cafe Barbette
Minneapolis
(612) 827-5710

W.a. Frost
St Paul
(651) 224-5715

Solo Vino
St Paul
(651) 602-9515

Heartland
St Paul
(651) 699-3536

 

Gimonnet Special Club 2004

Tournament Liquor - Blaine
Blaine
(763) 786-4992

New Scenic Cafe
Duluth
(218) 525-6274

Brookside Bar & Grill
Marine On St Croix
(651) 433-2440

The Third Bird
Minneapolis
(612) 767-9080

Corner Table
Minneapolis
(612) 823-0011

Cafe Lurcat
Minneapolis
(612) 374-1776

Alma Restaurant
Minneapolis
(612) 379-4909

North Loop Wine & Spirits
Minneapolis
(612) 338-5393

Sorella Wine & Spirits
Minneapolis
(612) 339-4040

South Lyndale Liquor
Minneapolis
(612) 827-5811

Terzo
Minneapolis
(612) 925-3113

510 Restaurant (la Belle Vie)
Minneapolis
(612) 874-6440

Solo Vino
St Paul
(651) 602-9515

Meritage
St Paul
(651) 222-5670

Thomas Liquor
St Paul
(651) 699-1860

Do Not Use - Top Ten -woodbury
Woodbury
(651) 501-1199

 

 

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