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

Cheers - Bloomington
Bloomington
952-941-0998

Mgm - West Bloomington
Bloomington
952-888-9421

Wine Republic
Excelsior
952-470-2220

Liquor Barn
Long Lake
952-473-1817

France 44
Minneapolis
612-925-3252

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

South Lyndale Liquor
Minneapolis
612-827-5811

Haute Dish
Minneapolis
612-338-8484

Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant
Minneapolis
612-332-1010

Cave Vin
Minneapolis
612-922-0100

Falls Liquor
Minneapolis
612-729-5498

North Loop Wine & Spirits
Minneapolis
612-338-5393

Spoonriver
Minneapolis
612-436-2236

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

Hennepin-lake Liquors
Minneapolis
612-825-4411

Zipp's
Minneapolis
612-333-8686

Henry & Son
Minneapolis
612-200-9517

Mcdonald Liquor Store
Minneapolis
612-721-6686

Lake Wine & Cheese
Minneapolis
612-242-0073

The Wine Shop
Minnetonka
952-988-9463

Terza
Rochester
507-413-4033

First Grand Liquors
Saint Paul
651-227-7039

Midway Liquor Store
Saint Paul
651-644-7900

Forepaugh's
Saint Paul
651-224-5606

Thomas Liquor
Saint Paul
651-699-1860

The Commodore
Saint Paul
651-330-5999

Jimmy Olson
Saint Paul


Mchugh, Mike
Saint Paul


Jeff Brown
Saint Paul


Solo Vino
Saint Paul
651-602-9515

Toasted Wine+spirits+ales
Saint Paul
651-246-8054

Scott's Liquor
Saint Paul
651-690-4434

The Salt Cellar
St Paul
651-219-4013

West Side Liquor - Waite Park
Waite Park
320-253-9511

Wayzata Wines & Spirits
Wayzata
952-473-7191

Cotroneo's Vino & Birra
White Bear Lake
651-429-7551

 

Geoffroy Rose de Saignee n/v

Tournament Liquor - Blaine
Blaine
763-786-4992

France 44
Minneapolis
612-925-3252

Alma Restaurant
Minneapolis
612-379-4909

Cafe Barbette
Minneapolis
612-827-5710

Henry & Son
Minneapolis
612-200-9517

The Kenwood
Minneapolis
612-377-3695

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

Terza
Rochester
507-413-4033

Thomas Liquor
Saint Paul
651-699-1860

Heartland
Saint Paul


Nordstrom, Mark
Saint Paul


Solo Vino
Saint Paul
651-602-9515

 

Gimonnet Special Club 2004

New Scenic Cafe
Duluth
218-525-6274

Sunfish Cellars
Lilydale
651-552-5955

The Wine Market
Mendota Heights
651-452-9463

France 44
Minneapolis
612-925-3252

Lake Wine & Cheese
Minneapolis
612-242-0073

Tilia
Minneapolis
612-618-3069

The Wine Shop
Minnetonka
952-988-9463

Colbeck
Saint Paul
651-487-1212

Mchugh, Mike
Saint Paul


Thomas Liquor
Saint Paul
651-699-1860

Angela Kallsen
Saint Paul


Wil Bailey
Saint Paul


Top Ten Liquors - Woodbury
Woodbury
651-501-1199

 

 

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