Wow! Many thanks to the hundreds of consumers that came out to our Grower Champagne Extravaganza on January 25th, 2014! The room was packed with wonderful people enjoying incredible Champagnes all produced from boutique-sized houses.
It was an afternoon to remember!
But for many (us included!) some of the nuance and details of many of the wines are a bit of a blur. Hence, this comprehensive list assembled by our very own Nicholas Livingston. Tasting notes on every Champagne poured at the event (plus a couple of extras). Click on any of the hyperlinks to learn where to find them in Minnesota.
Although the Chiquet family has been growing vines since 1746, the history of Chiquet’s champagne production dates from 1919, when Gaston Chiquet and his brother Fernand began bottling wine under the label Chiquet Frères. Gaston left the company in 1935 to start his own label; Chiquet Frères changed its name to Chiquet Père et Fils, and thirty years later that branch of the family would eventually buy the house of Jacquesson. Gaston Chiquet, meanwhile, continued to expand his vineyard holdings and produce estate-bottled champagne, eventually passing the estate on to his son Claude. Today the estate is in the hand of Claude Chiquet’s two sons: Antoine, who has been at the estate since 1982, and Nicolas, who began in 1991.
The vineyards are composed roughly of 40 percent Chardonnay, 40 percent Meunier and 20 percent Pinot Noir, largely in the villages of Aÿ, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Dizy and Hautvillers, in the Grande Vallée de la Marne. Although the Chiquets own vines in other areas such as the Vallée de l’Ardre and the Vallée de l’Aisne, these grapes generally go into an inexpensive cuvée called Carte Blanche, and from the Tradition on up, the wines are composed entirely of premier and grand cru grapes. Incidentally, Nicolas Chiquet notes that they always seem to harvest a slightly lower quantity of grapes than their neighbors. He attributes this to old vines, old soils and the lack of high production clones, as almost all of the Chiquet vineyards are still selection massale (i.e., replanting a vineyard by propagating cuttings from a small number of plants in the vineyard).
There is no wood used in the cellar, as the Chiquets feel that the wines already have a lot of body and character in this area, and barrels would make the wine too heavy. “We are not making wines as winemakers,” says Nicolas Chiquet. “We are adapting our methods to the land.” In fact, Claude Chiquet had already decreased the barrel program here in the 1950s in favor of concrete and glass-lined tanks, as he sought to impart more finesse into his wines and make them less weighty. Malolactic is always allowed to occur in order to decrease the harshness of malic acidity, as well as to allow for the use of less dosage at disgorgement, and in fact, dosage is carefully thought out here: dosage has been steadily decreasing in recent times, not because of fashion, but because of the greater maturity of the grapes due to increasingly warmer weather.
On the latest disgorgement June 2012 | 12.5% | Rich and blousy come hither sort of champagne both true to the Vallée de la Marne and the Pinot Meunier that drives this blend at 45% with 35% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Noir rounding this out into a fragrance of fresh apricots and red plums, talcum and apricot croissants. This is sensationally good champagne from the clay and limestone soils that top the belemnita quadrata chalk of their vineyards around the villages of Hautvillers, Dizy and Mareuil-surAÿ whose plantings average around 25 years old and show more depth and concentration for it. Orchards of fruit, crackling chalky minerality, and ethereal floral top notes –and yet plush! 1er Cru champagne par excellence!
This cuvée is elaborated with 70% of Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir. Only the members of the Club Trésor de cuvée Champagne can develop a “Spécial Club.” Each member draws up its own assembly with grapes harvested exclusively at their own domaine. Each member must meet the rigorous demands of tight regulations maintained by a board comprised of all winemakers and wine experts whose purpose is to maintain the highest of standards for the Special Club. Only cuvées that have successfully passed the tests are permitted to bottle this special property of Club Trésor de Champagne.
Tangy mandarin scents with talc and mineral notes in the forefront and lemon rinds and a cool impression overall considering the warmer 2005 vintage –still starched and tightly fit like an Etruscan arch to last and last. Chalky yet round, floral and cherried yet mineral. As it opens up it rounds out to Bosque pear and pastry notes.
While this prominent grower estate has recently moved to the village of Aÿ, the Geoffroy name is inextricably linked to that of Cumières, where the family has winegrowing roots that date back to the 17th century. Today Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy and his father René farm 35 acres of vines, 27 of which are in Cumières. A few parcels are located just across the border to the west in the adjacent village of Damery, while the rest is all Meunier in the nearby village of Fleury-la-Rivière.
Geoffroy’s vines average about 20 years of age, and the oldest are from 1926. Viticulture is described as lutte intégrée, or “integrated pest control”—it is heavily aimed at sustainability, eschewing all chemical weed killers and employing methods such as the planting of cover crops, tilling of the soil and the encouraged habitation of predatory insects to combat vine pests.
Previously, Geoffroy’s cellars were located in the heart of Cumières. While the location was certainly convenient for its proximity to the vineyards, the family’s old cellars weren’t large enough to support the growth of the estate over time, and for many years Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy had to shuttle his wines between three different storage locations in the village.
In May of 2006, he purchased a historical and beautifully-appointed facility in Aÿ that once belonged to Champagne Raoul Collet, located on the same street as Deutz and Henri Goutorbe. In addition to its aesthetic value, the building attracted him for two practical purposes: first, it is spacious and ample, easily consolidating his entire production into one location; and second, it is built on five levels—three for the cuverie and two for the caves—allowing him to work entirely by gravity.
The top level of the cellar houses two traditional Coquard vertical presses that feed into the settling tanks on the level below, with enameled-steel fermentation tanks and wooden foudres located on the level below that. Only the coeur de cuvée, or the middle 1,800 liters (~475 gallons) from a standard 2,550-liter pressing (~675 gallon pressing), is used for the upper-tier cuvées: Empreinte, Volupté and vintage wines. In addition, Geoffroy vinifies all of his parcels separately in order to retain their individual identities and to provide as diverse a palette of wines as possible for blending his various champagnes.
Notes on the bottling disgorged in April 2012 and weighing in at 12.5% | What fragrance! Rye and mushroom dashi aromas make for an appetizing first impression mixed with lemon peels, the freshly squeezed juice of yellow grapefruits, and punchy red plums each lending their top-of-the- morning snap to this. The ‘Expression’ Brut is a blend of 43% Pinot Meunier, 32% Pinot Noir, and 25% Chardonnay from Premier Cru sites in Cumieres and Hautvillers.. The wine did not undergo malolactic fermentation, and spent 30 months sur latte.
Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy, or “JB” to his friends, is “the most excited guy in Champagne” – the 3rd generation of his family at the Estate and now at the age of 43 he is completely in charge and has a brand new state-of-the-art winery. He is a fanatical winemaker, always curious and meticulous – and the result is 10,000 cases each year of vibrant, fruity Champagnes. Working with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes from Cumières in the Vallée de la Marne, JB does a very traditional fermentation in wood and then bleeds the juice off of the skins when the color is just right – the saignée method. The Rosé that results is very rare, and “lovely, graceful, elegant for such a juice-bomb”.
PIERRE GIMONNET & FILS
The Gimonnet family has been growing vines in Champagne since 1750. Pierre Gimonnet, for whom the estate is named, began making wine in the village of Cuis in 1935; today Pierre’s grandsons Didier and Olivier are in charge of the estate. Of Gimonnet’s 69 acres of vines, 27 are in the grand cru villages of Cramant and Chouilly, and another 2 1⁄2 of grand cru land in Oger was purchased in November of 2004. The remaining acres are all in the premier cru village of Cuis, except for 5 acres in Vertus purchased in 2008, 1.2 acres divided between Aÿ and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. Didier Gimonnet believes that the preservation of old vines is crucial to maintaining the high quality of his wines, and the average age of his vineyards is 35 years. In the grand cru parcels, 70 percent of the vines are over 40 years old, and there are two parcels, totaling an entire 2 1⁄2 acres between them, of remarkably old vines in Cramant: one in “Fond du Bâteau,” planted in 1911, and the other in “Buissons,” planted in 1913.
Despite owning a high proportion of grand cru vineyards, Gimonnet refuses to make a cuvée exclusively from these parcels, as he feels that the old vines would result in too much strength and intensity. “I am against ultra-concentration,” says Gimonnet. “I prefer balanced wines, with a lot of finesse and elegance.” Cuis, with its freshness and acidity, is seen as the ideal counterpart to balance the depth and richness of the grand crus, and all of Gimonnet’s vintage Blanc de Blancs combine these three villages in some proportion.
For similar reasons, Gimonnet uses no wood in the cellar, as he feels it would overpower Chardonnay’s intrinsic delicacy. All parcels are vinified separately to preserve their distinct identities, and both primary fermentation and malolactic take place in stainless steel tanks. Since 1982, a portion of the reserve wines have been stored in 750ml bottles rather than in tank, with the addition of a few grams of sugar to create a hint of pétillance that keeps them very fresh. “When you conserve the wine in bottles rather than tank, you don’t have the same evolution at all,” explains Gimonnet. “In tank, the wine oxidizes much more rapidly. In bottle, we conserve part of the non-vintage blend with four grams of sugar [and a little yeast], and the wine stays much fresher for a longer period of time. Also, the lees nourish the wine, giving more complexity.” Since 1997, Gimonnet has opted to use the base blend from a given vintage as reserve wine rather than keeping individual parcels or villages separately, and he feels that this has improved the overall consistency and complexity of the Brut, N.V.
Delicate apple aromas greet the nose with a rising perfume penetrating the whole olfactory. Lithe structure is bright and dry with an expert tension that’s taut and stimulating with a chalky mineral quality and a kiss lifted fruit. In a word: delightful. This is 100% Chardonnay from Cuis. It is 74% from 2007, 6% from 2006, 14% from 2005 and 6% 2004. Gimonnet is has 25 ha of vines in the Côte de Blancs which makes him one of our largest growers. His Grand Cru holdings are in Cramant, Chouilly and Oger for Chardonnay and he also has a little Pinot Noir in Aÿ (Grand Cru) and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ (1er Cru). His 1er Cru Chardonnay is all in Cuis, which some say gives more power than Cramant (Bollinger is the largest land owner in Cuis). Over 70% of Gimonnet’s plantings are vines over 30 years old, which is very rare in a region with the average age of vines being only 25 years. Gimonnet is always stainless fermentation and full malolactic. The dosage is 8 grams
A truly special Special Club, this is stunning and rightly labeled Grands Terroirs de Chardonnay as this hails from established plots of old vine vineyards among the great Chardonnay plots of Champagne Oger and Cramant from the Chardonnay headwaters of the Côte des Blancs and the Gimonnet’s very own Cuis. Starchy tangerine and chalky citrus open onto pastry notes and a haunting minerality that holds your focus long into the finish.
The Goutorbe family has been producing estate-bottled champagne in Aÿ since the late 1940s, but even before that they were already established as nurserymen for propagating vine cuttings. Emile Goutorbe established the nursery business just after the First World War, while he was the vineyard manager for Perrier-Jouët, and the success of this business eventually allowed him to purchase some parcels of vines in the area. His son Henri created the Goutorbe label, bottling and selling some champagne while continuing the nursery business.
In 1970, Henri’s son René took over the estate, expanding the vineyard holdings and enlarging and modernizing the winery. Today they own 62 acres, a considerable quantity for a champagne grower, planted with 70 percent Pinot Noir, 27 percent Chardonnay and three percent Meunier. The jewel of Goutorbe’s vineyard holdings is their 15 acres of Aÿ Grand Cru, although they also own vines in several other villages, including Mareuil- sur-Aÿ, Bisseuil, Avenay Val d’Or and Hautvillers.
All parcels are vinified separately, to allow for maximum flexibility in blending. The wines are all fermented in stainless steel, and in Goutorbe’s deep cellars, no thermo-regulation is required. Malolactic is performed for all of the wines, and blending and bottling generally take place in March, before the season of heavy pépiniériste (nursery) work. In addition, Goutorbe is one of the few houses that make mathusalems with the second fermentation in bottle—naturally there aren’t a lot of these produced, but they are interesting nevertheless
67% Pinot Noir and 33% Chardonnay | Though Goutorbe is labeled as Vallee de la Marne and runs with its friends of the Marne Valley with great pride, these wines cannot hide a striking resemblance to those of the Montagne de Reims and this is because Aÿ is made up of soils more akin to Montagne de Reims and even the portion of Pinot Noir reflects this in turn as it is so often greater -and sometimes the cepage remains, as in this case, completely free of the Marne’s Meunier. Pinot Meunier really only makes up 3% of the estate’s plantings… and it shows: Alive, compelling and ripe with a full bodied presence and a full flavored palate, this has all you want from champagne in spades. Which from my chair is a fine bead, an engrossing but delicate bouquet of biscuits and pastries, the scents of lemon peels, the zing of lemon curd, and a gentle orchard fruit that washes over your palate and washes away the day’s concerns, restoring ones spirit as if life were simply a picnic beneath a stately oak planted by your great grandfather at the edge of a broad now sun soaked meadow and you’ve nothing to do but enjoy being. All this and more awaits you in the first sip of this exceptional vintage champagne.
Jean-Paul Hébrart has been in charge of this estate since his father, Marc Hébrart, retired in 1997. Marc Hébrart had been producing estate-bottled champagne since 1964, and since 1985 the estate has been a member of the winegrowers’ association called the Club des Viticulteurs Champenois (now called the Club Trésors de Champagne). While Jean-Paul had been making wine for several years under his own label, Jean-Paul Hébrart, he consolidated the two estates upon his father’s retirement, and now works 35 acres of vines under the original family label of Marc Hébrart.
Hébrart’s vineyards are spread over 65 parcels in six different villages: Aÿ, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Avenay Val d’Or, Bisseuil, Chouilly and Oiry. Viticulture here is lutte raisonnée, avoiding synthetic treatments as much as possible, and parcels are vinified separately to preserve their distinct identities. Fermentation has traditionally been done in enameled steel tanks; thermo-regulated stainless steel was purchased in 2003, but Hébrart says that the difference in quality isn’t very pronounced. Since 2002, Jean-Paul Hébrart has been experimenting with fermentation in barrel for some old-vine parcels.
As an aside, Jean-Paul Hébrart is married to Isabelle Diebolt of Diebolt-Vallois in Cramant. While they live in Mareuil, they each work at their respective family properties, with little to no overlap. “We function completely separately, each with our own estates,” says Isabelle.
Here is a compelling glass of champagne to restore ones faith in great Champagne. 100% Chardonnay and both delicate and penetrating, lovely in youth and even more charming over even decades under glass, Blanc de Blancs remains the most enduring touchstone for many a champagne drinker. Although the roots of this great house are in the Vallée de la Marne known more as the haunt of Pinot Meunier, Hebrart also has Grand Cru holdings in Chouilly and Oiry in the Côtes des Blancs that yeild exemplary fruit. All is handpicked, gently bucher pressed, fermented in petite cuvée and hand remuaged.
Lemon curd and membrillo paste combine with the appetizing scent of brioche dough on the nose. A mouthfilling lift flushes every corner of the cheek, tongue, and seemingly every part of the mind with apple scented flavors, a persistent mineral edge, and a soft sided floral note that rises above the orchard fruit so vibrant in its youth but certain to fulfill its promise over years of rest in the cellar. Fresh yet ripened acidity makes this a comforting example of equipoise -the charming balance of superlative Blanc de Blancs.
In describing a past disgogement, Terry Theise perhaps put it best: “As always this is an intellectual lady-librarian with, shall we say, an ooh-la-la taste in undergarments, and perhaps a fetching tattoo hidden beneath them. You think it’s “correct,” it starts to vamp, you think it’s “sexy,” it starts to admonish you with its elegance and command. 46% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir and 9% Mareuil still Pinot Noir (from ’06); the blend is 70% ’07, 30% ’06. 12/09 disgorgement. This is an extroverted rendition of this always-delicious rosé. It’s almost giddy, silky, with crisp diction, yet baby, what ripe berries are in this basket.”
Recent notes from this degorgement: Half Chardonnay and half Pinot Noir with 8% of which is red Pinot Noir for color | Spends 25 months on its lees for texture and fragrance. Lovely cerise cover and smother the face in bright, constant kisses of cherries along a persistent bead and lovely mousse. Absolutely lovely color, this is elegant and graceful but with more flesh on its bones than say a Keira Knightly but not far off the mark, perhaps more so the lovely Kate Mara –although with the Champagne being rose and she a darling red head, this might be color biased. All the same, the palate on this wine is bright as the day is long and awash in cherries and wild plums with a lovely texture, an equipoise balance without a single heavy low note but rather the lofty ethereal power of delicate rose Champagne as it ought to be.
Marc Hebrart Cuvée de Réserve Premier Cru Brut Champagne à Mareuil-sur-Ay | Dégorgé le 04 janvier 2013 | Terry Theise says the fruit of Mareuil Pinot Noir is unlike any he knows in Champagne: “firmer and less malty than Aÿ, altogether less chunky than Bouzy, not unlike Verzy but richer, far more comme il faut than the savage power of Verzenay, less softly perfumey than Ambonnay, less smoky than Cumières. Indeed if it were Burgundy, Mareuil could well be Morey-St.-Denis.” Which might be why I love this so –and for its swooning scent of rye dough and bright Mirabelle plum which speaks of the fruity pumpernickel of the Vallée de la Marne within Champagne –even though it doesn’t have any Pinot Meunier – chalky, tangy with apple skin tannins and a chirping texture and fragrantly flavored finish, this is LOVELY!
Jean-Luc Lallement has officially been at the helm of this estate since his father retired in 1999. His family has been growing vines in Verzenay for some time, as Jean-Luc’s great-grandfather already had some parcels of vines here, but it wasn’t until after the Second World War that his grandfather Jean began to produce estate-bottled champagnes. His father Jean-Charles took over the estate in the late 1970s, and Jean-Luc worked at the estate part-time between 1978 and 1982 while attending a local oenological school. In 1984, he returned to the estate and has been involved in the winemaking ever since.
Lallement owns less than 10 acres of vines, 7 of which are in Verzenay and the rest just over the border in Verzy. The soil is very calcareous here, with little clay, and Lallement says that the terroirs in both his Verzenay and Verzy parcels are quite similar, with perhaps a little less slope on the Verzy side. In the cellar, fermentation with indigenous yeasts takes place in enameled steel tanks, as does the malolactic, and the wines are neither filtered nor cold-stabilized before bottling. Lallement produces three cuvées, each with a distinct personality. These are extremely terroir-driven wines, keenly expressing the northern Montagne de Reims in their poignant minerality and sleek shape, and they possess a sense of refinement and finesse that sets them apart from many other growers in this area. As the production is miniscule (1,700 cases), Lallement’s wines can be difficult to procure, but they are well worth a special search.
Hailing from the Grand Cru slopes at the very heart of the Montagne de Reims, Lallement’s Brut Tradition embodies the soul of the mountain as this is Champagne’s spiritual home for Pinot Noir which comprises 80% of the cuvée with the balance countered by Chardonnay –just the variety to counterbalance and highlight the structure, red fruit, and baritone depth for Chardonnay can lift Pinot Noir’s brooding spirit, lend its own crispy floral fruit and lofty pastry notes.
Even the first dip of the nose into smelling this glass, one finds it brimming with quince paste, plums and apricots –an engaging and fragrant burst of Montagne de Reims expressing some of its bolder character in the form of honeycomb and fragrant bruised apples in that best of ways that reminds us of an Autumn field trip to the orchard to fill our bags, our pockets and our larders with orchard keepers.
On the palate there is a little sourdough rye bread that I usually associate with Pinot Meunier and for which I love that variety so much –which must come from the Pinot Noir and its richer and rounder nature. After an exhilarating reel through lemon peels, leesy and yeasty brioche dough rising, and then chalky minerals (almost listing toward those chewable vitamins I strangely craved as a child), this then returns in a comforting gesture of texture and flavor to that membrillo quince paste that started it all and stays with us almost like a ripened cognac of a good age. In a class of non- vintage champagne all its own, this Brut Tradition is living proof that the little parcels of Jean Lallement convey Grand Cru in such compelling, coruscating clarity.
Located in the heart of Champagne Domaine Pehu-Simonet is supported by the Grand Cru vineyards in Verzenay, Verzy, Sillery, Mailly Champagne and Mesnil sur Oger to seduce you. Four generations of unfettered passion, familial discipline, and local wisdom have imbued Pehu-Simonet Champagnes with flavors true to their unique place in the world. These are vintners who make wine from the land they came. Thanks to sustainable viticulture and the calm of their silent cellars, Pehu-Simonet preserves their inimitable and enduring mark of place. Pehu Simonet is a very taste of Champagne.
In the Montagne de Reims with sloped soils atop their deep bedrock of chalk, Pinot Noir reigns supreme and in these soils the Champagne are renowned for their power, their structure and their nobility. The quintessence of Pinot Noir marks the Champagne from Verzenay as these are Pehu- Simonet’s oldest plots. The vinification of their Blanc de Noirs is realized without malolactic fermentation but rests in oak barrels from the forest of Verzy bearing the sublime character of this great wine. In the cradle of the Côte des Blancs Chardonnay marks the Champagne whose soils are comprised of chalk at floor level which lend finesse and elegance to the wines. The book on the Côte des Blancs is entirely the finesse and minerality most often described as feminine.
No matter the purity or combination of plots, Pehu-Simonets are deliberate wines that speak of Champagne in their proudest Champenoise dialect of their people, their traditions and above all the land from which they grow.
Pehu-Simonet Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru Brut | Notes on the bottling disgorged in June 2011 | 12% | David Pehu makes this equipoised Blanc de Noirs exclusively from Pinot Noir grown in his Grand Cru parcels of Verzeney and herein delivers a telling, true-to-type Montagne de Reims – exemplary in conveying the limestone into a fetching champagne of Pinot Noir. Honeycomb, poached apple and violets carry on to the palate from that first proud breath and curl about raspberries and soda bread. Broad shoulders of Verzenay don’t weigh this substantial body down but rather flex and bound to carry all its rich textured fruit over a bottomless mineral chasm of profound depth. Without a hair out of place, this is a beguiling beauty despite all its might with crunchy raspberries echoing and echoing and echoing on the finish.
David Pehu, the 4th generation of his family to make grower Champagnes, produces all of 3,750 cases of bubbly each year (versus 2 million cases at Moet). Fortunately for us, a few cases of this Grand Cru of Montagne de Reims make it to Minnesota. Disgorged February 2011 | 12% | A blend of the 2009 vintage with 30% of the previous year’s blend – the cepage is 60% Pinot Noir from David Pehu’s holdings in Verzenay and Verzy-Sillery and 40% Chardonnay exclusively from Verzenay. A billowing nose of membrillo quince paste, flint and steel, lemon curd and custard, greengage plum skins, chalky and an invigorating high hat, toe tapping lift to a voluminous Montagne de Reims whose rich character echoes on a fragrant finish.
History | Since Louis CALLOT’s birth in Avize in 1784, six successive generations have been involved with vines and wine, but it was not until 1955 that Pierre CALLOT created his own brand. As he was short of space, in 1971 he bought up the PIPER HEIDSIECK house and vineyard buildings. Since 1996, Thierry, the youngest of his four sons, has been running the family business.
The Vineyard | Set mainly in the heart of the Côte des Blancs, so-called as it produces almost exclusively white Chardonnay grapes, the vineyard stretches over terroirs classed Grand Cru d’Avize, Cramant and Chouilly as well as Premier Cru Grauves. The chalky soil acts as a reservoir for water and heat, making it a priceless ally.
Working the Vines | 17.3 acres are currently managed and cultivated using integrated pest management with the aim of practicing sustainable winegrowing methods which respect quality, people and the environment. They take great care of the vines and grapes the whole year round, working meticulously and mainly by hand. The grapes are also pressed using purely traditional Champagne methods.
Notes on the bottling disgorged in July 2013 | 12.5% | Scents of panettone –combining a brioche like dough with the scents of candied citrus rinds which echoes on the palate with talcy, starchy and a fragrant liqueur on the lifted finish unique to such Blanc de Blancs that unite Chardonnay with and really pretty Blanc de Blancs.
A blend of the three Grand Cru of the house: Avize, Cramant and Chouilly. These parcels from the lower slopes face several directions. Wine fermentation is slow and natural. Fifty per cent of the blend is from wines that have undergone malolactic fermentation. Made mostly with young wines, it is nonetheless aged two to three years in the cellar. The finesse and lightness of this Grand Cru make it a classic that can be appreciated more as an aperitif or later in the evening. This is a festive wine par excellence. 100% Chardonnay (including 40% of reserve wine) from 40 year old vines planted to non-pebbly limestone soil.
Traditional vinification in vats, with partial malolactic fermentation yields Blanc de Blancs that is pale gold with fine bubbles and fine bead. Highly complex, extremely delicate, with aromas of sliced apples, citrus and candied fruit, this is lively with great length, flintiness and flavors of fresh grape-fruit. A wine with great freshness combining charm and delicacy. It will be perfect as an aperitif but also with seafood.
“Les Avats” Grand Cru Millesime Vignes Anciennes | On the bottling disgorged July 2013 | 12.5%| Creamy round pleasant scents with jicama, Anjou and Bosque pears, lemon peels and lemon curd pastry notes. A lovely liqueur of floral Blanc de Blancs that captures all the senses and expresses the tender combination of reductive and oxidative champagne wine making styles into a seamless whole. From Vignes Anciennes are vines that concentrate their yields to a layered complexity at over 60 years old this Les Avats tells the storied tale of this gifted climat in Avize –at the heart of Champagne’s Côte des Blancs –among the finest plots one could hope to explore.
Here, only one year is vinified. This Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs is from a parcel of AVIZE Les Avats, which means in earnest in old French. Located halfway up the slopes, the vines, planted in 1951, are facing due south which enables them to reach maximum ripeness. Alcoholic fermentation takes place slowly and the wines, produced without malolactic fermentation, are kept for a long time in the dark and gentle atmosphere of our cellars. Such vintage Champagnes which are regularly awarded are ideal for all special events or just enjoyed on its own. 100% Chardonnay harvested in 2007 from 60 year old vines planted to non-pebbly limestone soil. The fruit is then harvested and gently pressed in the classic traditional vats with no malolactic fermentation yielding a brilliant, bright gold color, a persistent bead, and fine bubbles. Complex with a lot of freshness, subtlety and delicacy, the aromas of toasted brioche and candied fruit lead to a palate of great and delicate complexity –one that is very balanced, subtle and warm opening with a hint of citrus and candied fruit. Champagne to highlight your parties or events, great with fish verrines or seafood
Grande Réserve Premier Cru Blancs de Blancs | Notes on the bottling disgorged in July 2013 | 12.5% | Lovely fragrance of membrillo quince paste, fresh raw coconut, brioche, and tangy citrus peels, this champagne also scratches that itch for pastry notes without heavy oak. Partial malolactic fermentation calms some of the Champenoise flex and leaves a fresh fragrant apple lift on its round finish. Delicious at every turn.
Regularly rewarded at tastings, this 1er Cru cuvée is a blend of reserve wines. After an extended stay in the Callot cellars, this wine is ideal as an aperitif or enjoyed with white meat or fish cooked in a sauce. Made from 100% Chardonnay from 45 year old vines planted to non-pebbly limestone soil. Traditional vinification in vats, with partial malolactic fermentation yields a golden, brilliant color with very fine bubbles. The nose is complex and pleasing with notes of toasted buttered brioche with a hint of quince and bee’s wax. The palate is round and full, well balanced and complex, creamy, with great length, combining freshness and the warmth of spice.
This impeccably-run estate in Avize may be small in size, but its vineyard holdings are impressive, as all 9.9 acres of vines lie in the Grand Cru villages of Avize, Oiry, Oger and Cramant. The Fannière family has been growing vines in the Côte des Blancs since 1860, and Jean Fannière began producing estate-bottled champagnes in the 1950s. Fannière was succeeded by his son-in-law, Guy Varnier, and since 1989, Guy’s son Denis has been in charge of the estate. Denis Varnier places a strong emphasis on the preservation of old vines, and the average age of the estate’s vines is between 30 and 50 years old. He notes that vines under 20 years old are often deceptive: “You think the flavors are rich, but in the final wine they’re not.” Vinification takes place in stainless steel tank, and the wines are bottled relatively early. “I prefer the wine to evolve in the bottle rather than in tank, so I try to get as much time in the bottle as possible,” says Varnier.
Disgorged May 5, 2011 | Lovely rye and caraway punch to the nose, bright and textural in the mouth lovely snappy apple charm to this rich yet uplifting without careless weight –nay this is a bounding thoroughbred soaring past the others through the woods over fences and so effortless it is exhilarating yet comforting. A champagne of great finesse, this Grand Cru from Cotes des Blancs is naturally 100% Chardonnay and expresses an engaging and appetizing collection of fruit and spice with even that engaging scent of rye -all from the old vines. Certain of their quality, Varnier- Fannière has an adamant preference for stainless steel tanks so as not to obscure the purity and depth of the vines’ expression. Bright orchard fruit is forthcoming on the nose and it’s cheerful on the palate with chipper apples and acacia that then pull you into a rye spiced nuance that lifts up on the palate and lasts long into the finish. As appetizing as it is alluring, this makes the mind reel with food pairings -most salient to me as I drink this is smørrebrød; those irresistible open faced sandwiches of Copenhagen particularly one with smoked fish, red onions, fresh greens and herbs atop a buttered slice of rugbrød -ah, the power of an evocative champagne!
VILMART & CIE
Region: Montagne de Reims | Premier cru sites in Rilly-la-Montagne and Villers-Allerand | Total vineyard holdings: 27 acres | Annual production: 8,500 cases | Vines: 60% Chardonnay, 36% Pinot Noir, 4% Pinot Meunier
“Vilmart & Cie. traces its history back to 1890, when it was founded by Désiré Vilmart, and from the beginning, Vilmart & Cie. has always been a récoltant-manipulant, making champagne exclusively from estate-owned vines. Since 1989 the estate has been in the hands of Laurent Champs, the fifth generation of the family to take the helm of the house.
The majority of Vilmart’s 27 acres of vines lie in Rilly-la-Montagne, although there are a few plots just over the border in the neighboring village of Villers-Allerand. Vilmart is a member of Ampelos, an organization that promotes organic and sustainable viticulture, and Champs has never used any herbicides or chemical fertilizers since taking over the estate. All of the vineyards are planted with cover crops and plowed, and Champs enjoys an additional advantage in that his parcels are relatively large—only 12 different parcels over [27 acres] —meaning that he is more protected from contamination by chemical treatments in neighboring plots. Vilmart & Cie. is not only one of the greatest grower-estates in Champagne, but one of the finest champagne producers of any type in the region.” -Peter Liem, Champagneguide.net
“In the early days when I first approached Vilmart and started working with Laurent Champs, I had mixed emotions about some of the Champagnes. Please note what “mixed emotions” actually means. It doesn’t mean I doubted the worthiness of the wines or thought they were mediocre. It means I had different opinions about different aspects of the wines. I was thrilled with some, intrigued with all, and wondered whether a couple were too oaky.
Earlier in his career, I think Laurent was flying blind on the matter of oak, and his recent Champagnes have wisely—presented a more integrated and elegant profile. Yet he is adamantly a vintner first, before he is a maker of Champagne: “We do wine first, then afterward we do Champagne,” he says. Every base wine, without exception, sees at least ten months in casks of varying size and newness. Once in a while there’s a brief disconnect between fruit and wood immediately after disgorgement, but 2-3 years on the cork make for a dramatic metamorphosis. Matter of fact, I’ve found Vilmart among the most food-friendly of all my Champagnes, because they’re so gracious, so vinous, so lordly in their carriage. It’s clear to me Vilmart is a Champagne estate of unassailable consequence, a must-have for anyone Interested in the possibilities of this most suavely powerful and graceful of all wines. Casks are hardly the point anymore. Organic viticulture, (truly!) low yields, remarkable polish of fruit, and the deliberate patient pursuit of a vision of perfection make Laurent Champs’ estate a gemstone gleaming among the chalk.” -Terry Theise
Vilmart & Cie Grand Cellier Brut Premier Cru | 12.5% | ORGANIC | 70% Chardonnay 30% Pinot Noir | 10 months in barrel as a base wine | Raised with care every step of their way from Vilmart’s parcels Les Hautes Grèves and Les Basses Grèves in Rilly-la-Montagne, an equipoise defines this wine. Both mighty and angelic might sound a paradox but this combines a tour-de-force with a gentle calm that reveals we are in the presence of something beyond our understanding. Ethereal orchard fruit of apples and tangy tangerines, combine altogether into this creamy and leesy marvel that somehow despite barrel age never went through malolactic fermentation which is also why it has such a resplendent tension of acidity and fruit, sweet and sour, starch and salt, mineral and flex. It is rich like a baritone whose voice, like a reverberating bell, resonates and passes through you, trembles you, moves you –and then this suddenly relents to a floral fragrance of flavor with a lift like the surfacing memory of a fond forgotten joy. Alive in the glass and so in the mouth, it is a protean wonder always showing more than one facet and better than a cut stone because this coruscates without outside movement –it burns brightly on its very own.
Vilmart’s Grand Cellier is currently 2010 base, with 2009 and 2008 vintages. “I’m coming to realize this cuvée needs three years on the cork to realize the ideal Laurent has for it. Until that time it is a mosaic of flavors, sometimes more unified than others. I tasted the current wine, which is creamy and fondue, and the upcoming wine, disgorged July 2012, available later this year.
The new guy is `10, `09, `08 and as always 70% Chardonnay to 30% Pinot Noir, with the base wine aged ten months in large barrels. I thought this had some of the minty crackle of old Cuvée Creations (which are now going into it) but that may have been my fancy. The finish was good, and the finish is most of the way you can judge, when a young wine is stroppy. ” Terry Theise
Grand Cellier is 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir from 2 parcels in Rilly-la-Montagne – Les Hautes Grèves & Les Basses Grèves. Like all of Vilmart’s cuvees, this wine does not go through malolactic fermentation and spends time in oak. For the NV wines, oak aging is in large cask from 500-2000 liter (~130-530 gallons). The current disgorgement spent about 18 months sur latte and was disgorged in November of 2012.
THE HOUSE OF DELAMOTTE
Today, the House of Delamotte and its sister company Champagne Salon are under the direction of Didier Depond in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. A man of passion and compassion, he is continually developing the outstanding image of these two exceptional wines.
Just ten people manage the annual production of 750,000 bottles. The vinification is supervised by Michel Fauconnet, cellar master at Laurent- Perrier.
Chardonnay grapes from Le Mesnil-sur-Oger are the key ingredient in the Champagne with a small quantity of grapes from Avize, Oger and Cramant also being used to balance the harvest. Pinot Noir grapes from the 100% Grand Crus of the Montagne de Reims, like Bouzy, Ambonnay and Tours-sur-Marne are added to make Delamotte Brut and Delamotte Rosé.
The vineyards of Delamotte and those of their faithful growers receive special care to maintain uniform quality standards. A close cooperation, developed over decades of working together, ensures that pruning, nipping of buds, tying of the vines and the other viticultural tasks are done in the most efficient manner to yield the highest quality grapes. The grapes are finally sorted during the harvest by pickers who have been working with Delamotte for years.
This aesthetic, rigorous endeavor to always work better is a long lasting ideal of the House. One of the founding principles of the House of Delamotte (and of its sister company, Salon) is that Champagne is first and foremost a wine to be enjoyed and appreciated for its quality and authenticity. The wine should be – from the very start – subtle, profound, rich with the aromas and flavors which ultimately create outstanding Champagne.
DELAMOTTE Blanc de Blancs
Can you believe that in 1760, Champagne Delamotte was one of only five Champagne houses in the region? This is proof they’ve been at it a while and honed their skills. A superlative expression of Grand Cru Chardonnay, Delamotte Blanc de Blancs is made from our vineyards and partner vineyards all situated in the Grands Crus of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger and Cramant. Delamotte’s winemaking is straightforward, there are no secrets, and all the wines are fermented in stainless steel tanks. A very restrained dosage is used, so as not to alter the purity of the fruit, producing an untouched and mineral style of wine. Only 10% reserve wines are used, enhancing the essential characteristics of the vineyards, an endless crayeux expression of Champagne. Grown on chalk soil Delamotte’s Chardonnay is quite austere at birth; hence the wine is laid to rest and develop on its lees for four to five years before disgorgement (while the legal minimum is 15 months for non-vintage Champagne). The disgorged wine will improve for 2 to 6 years. 100% Chardonnay, Delamotte Blanc de Blancs is foremost a mineral wine with a textbook chalkiness that develops over time in the glass showing its complexity from the lees and white fleshed fruit. Lovely on its own, with fresh oysters, elegant seawater fish or simply a fresh radish with a touch of fleur de sel, Delamotte Blanc de Blancs is a versatile wine as an aperitif or at the table.
Delamotte Brut is a blend of approximately 55% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Meunier, which combine to give a wine of subtle power, appealing freshness, soft curves and a precise, fresh fruit finish: this is a dry and extremely attractive Champagne, balanced and elegant. Each grape plays a part, as Chardonnay sets the wine in place, its foundation and roots. Pinot Noir helps give the wine more breadth and depth. A small proportion of Pinot Meunier brings its aromatic charm to produce a pure and intense Brut. Aged on its lees for 30 to 36 months, Delamotte Brut receives a light dosage of 7g/l which is typical for this celebrated Champagne House. Pale gold in Color, it has great purity on the nose, laced with citrus, white blossom, lemon zest and mossy notes. Its creamy freshness is further emphasized by the textural delicacy of the mousse. Many occasions lend themselves to opening a bottle of Delamotte brut –a generous Champagne, clean and elegant. This is a Champagne made for tenderness and pleasure, an absolute must for the cellar of all those who celebrate life.
DELAMOTTE Brut Rosé
Delamotte Brut Rosé is made by the traditional saignée method, extracting color and complexity from the skins through maceration before and during fermentation. This traditional rosé method is seldom used in Champagne because of the complex process although it brings much elegance and structure to the wine. Pinot Noir is sourced from Grand Cru vineyards on the southeast slopes of the Montagne de Reims: Bouzy, Ambonnay and Tours-sur-Marne. The Chardonnay is from Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. Every Champagne by Delamotte incorporates Chardonnay and though saignée, the rosé is no exception –only it is all a part of co-fermentation. By co-fermenting the two grapes and to blending two varietal wines, the complexity of each personality is preserved withour hindering the elegant saignée color. The balance between the dominant Pinot Noir and the smaller percentage of Chardonnay in the Delamotte Rosé gives this wine its beautiful, salmon-pink color. Delamotte Rosé spends 3-4 years on the lees before disgorgement. 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay
DELAMOTTE Vintage Blanc de Blancs 2002
Champagne Delamotte Blanc de Blancs 2002 vintage has been produced with 100% Chardonnay grapes from three grand cru villages within the Côte des Blancs: Le Mesnil, Oger, Avize and Cramant. The wine, austere in its extreme youth, was then matured on its lees for 7-8 years, before being disgorged. It will now welcome a further 6-10, possibly even 20, years ageing. Its complexity is the result of this care and time. Fine bubbles and texture, with crystalline minerality, the 2002 vintage is structured and elegant and its honeyed depth expresses both power and finesse – the harmonious balance of a wine assured of a long and complex intriguing future.
Its color is a bright straw yellow with green hints. After an opening juicy, green apple nose come hints of white blossom, hawthorn and acacia, followed by lightly toasted notes. The initial taste is rich – a suave, creamy but refreshing wine. It is followed by peach, yellow fruit compote, the lacy feel of apple tart – with a fine persistence and a superb finish. The 2002, is an elegant, well-balanced vintage, perfectly representative of the vintage and the Mesnil-sur-Oger House.
It was in 1808, under Appoline Henriot, that Champagne Henriot was officially founded. She was the niece of the very famous Abbé Godinot, an erudite man who contributed to improvements in viticulture and the making of the Champagne wine. Appoline, an enterprising woman of great character, sold her wines both in France and abroad. The champagne wines became a huge success with royalty and it was only natural that Champagne Henriot became the favorite firstly at the Dutch court, then in Austria and Hungary with the Hapsburgs.
In 1875, Ernest enlarged the company’s holdings and developed the House. At the end of the 19th century, the phylloxera crisis reached the Champagne vineyards but Emile Marguet, (father in law to Paul Henriot) was one of the first to reconstitute his vineyards with grafted stock. From then on and from generation to generation, the House of Henriot has devoted all its talent to creating the most superb wines from grapes carefully selected from the great “terroirs” on the Montagne de Reims and the Côte des Blancs.
The strength of Henriot rests in its 220 acres of vineyards that includes prized sites in the crus of Le Mesnil, Oger, Chouilly, Avize, and Vertus. Their holdings account for three-quarters of their production requirements and include a high (40%) portion of Chardonnay, a factor which gives Henriot Champagne their subtlety, freshness and verve, as well as the foundation for extended aging after disgorgement. Champagne Henriot slowly ages in the cool, calm obscurity of the Gallo-Roman cellars in Reims. This process can last anywhere between three and ten years, sometimes more.
HENRIOT Blanc de Blancs
Standard bearer of Maison Champagne Henriot’s savoir-faire, Blanc de Blancs delights with its astonishing complexity and length. This cuvée, endowed with excellent freshness, is admirable as aperitif and also as an ideal companion at table. Champagne Henriot’s Blanc de Blancs is an assemblage of Chardonnay grapes mainly from the Côte des Blancs and village crus: Mesnil sur Oger, Avize, Chouilly, Vertus, Montgueux, Trépail, Epernay and the Vitry region. The assemblage is made up of 30% reserve wines.
Sparkling, crystalline pale gold with slight green highlights to the eye with abundant effervescence, fine and regular, with fine, delicate bubbles. Pure, concentrated and expressive nose, with floral (honeysuckle, orange flower, linden), fruity (lemon, dried apricot, almond) and pastry aromas, followed by spicy notes. On the palate the attack is dynamic, full and powerful, with aromas of lightly toasted brioche, quince jelly and acacia honey. The clean, delicious finish develops on a light menthol note and shows excellent length.
HENRIOT Brut Souverain
Symbol of the precise, elegant style of Champagne Henriot’s wines, Brut Souverain appeals with its nose of white flower and citrus fruit notes, then with a balanced, harmonious palate. An ideal partner for aperitif. Brut Souverain is made up of a balanced proportion of Chardonnay, in the majority from the Côte des Blancs, and Pinot Noir, mostly from the Montagne de Reims. Pinot Meunier adds a delicate fruity note. Brut Souverain is typically composed of 20% reserve wines. More than 25 crus are assembled, including the following village crus: Mesnil sur Oger, Oger, Avize, Cramant, Chouilly, Aÿ, Verzy, Verzenay, Beaumont, Sillery, Mailly Champagne. The composition of Brut Souverain changes from year to year to take account of climate variations and to perpetuate House style but by no means is this a massive Grand Marque –Henriot instead embodies the epitome of the boutique Champagne house that, while not a récoltant manipulant, shares the principles that drive these people to make the finest wine their vineyards can yield.
The color is characterized by a brilliant light straw-gold. Effervescence is dense and persistent, with fine, regular bubbles. Initially the nose is precise, expressive and refreshing, with notes of citrus and yellow fruit; floral fragrances (vine flowers, elderflowers) and pastry aromas (brioche, toast, grilled almond) follow. On the palate: A lively, fresh and balanced attack, with pastry, spice (vanilla) and fruity (morello cherry, candied plum) notes. The full texture precedes a clean, refreshing finish marked by citrus fruit aromas.
HENRIOT Vintage Brut 2005
The Brut Millésimé 2005 from Champagne Henriot is a harmonious blend of Chardonnay and Pinot noir. Fresh notes together with more evolved aromas offer a rich, well balanced wine. A vintage in keeping with the Henriot style. The 2005 vintage began with a harsh winter without much rain, favorable conditions for the resting and regeneration of the vine. The spring was mild allowing the buds to develop well and flowering occurred as usual in June. In early summer, the rain became heavier, leading to botrytis and mildew which slightly retarded the vines’ development but the bunches of grapes formed and gradually ripened until the end of August. At the beginning of September, in spite of heavy rain, the situation looked promising with the hope of a high quality, generous harvest. Picking began on the 9th September in cool, dry, sunny weather with healthy grapes and optimal maturity, the conditions needed to produce a wine of fine quality. Over 15 “crus” go up to make the Brut Millésimé 2005, mainly from Côte des Blancs and Montagne de Reims: Mesnil-sur-Oger, Avize, Chouilly, Mareuil-surAÿ, Avenay, Verzy, Verzenay. Made of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir and then aged in the quiet, dark Henriot cellars in Reims, Brut Millésimé 2005 rests there for a period of 6 years.
Pale yellow color with gold tinges. Fine bubbles forming an attractive cordon. On the nose: A dominance of pastries revealing notes of citrus and a hint of minerality. A slight fragrance of hazelnut completes this rich, harmonious bouquet. On the palate: Lively, fresh attack revealing a rich, well balanced wine with aromas of candied citrus mixed with subtle exotic notes. Superb length with fine toast finalizes this wine with discreet notes of honey and spice, pepper, nutmeg.
The current generation of family Haton has made impressive strides in creating elegant, balanced Champagne from Damery, a village in the Marne Valley of Champagne. The beautiful cellar nestles against the hillsides between Dizy and Cumières, prime country for Pinot Noir. So good, there is a still Pinot Noir of some reputation made at Cumières. This location is very important, because Damery is one of the first villages from Epernay toward the Marne, it is one of the highest quality; venture further into the Marne Valley, and the quality declines. The Haton family champagnes reflect the special quality of excellent fruit, as well as the elegance and refined manner of the young couple who manage this small Champagne house. Yet, like the common sense prices of their Champagne, they have practicality too. Their air of nobility is quickly brought down to earth by wailing toddlers scampering across the cobblestone courtyard in pursuit of Mom and Dad’s arms. Kids always come before Champagne.
HATON Blanc de Blancs 2005
100 % Chardonnay from Great growths: Avize, Mesnil-sur-Oger and a selection of Haton’s own plots. Even the youngest portion of this exquisite Blanc de Blancs ages more than four years -48 months to lure out Chardonnay’s finest, ethereal charms and this is as engaging as they come with pristine floral lift and the gasp of lemon curd but then there are the fragrant brioche to round it out. Mineral, bright, and bracing, this is champagne to wash away all cares, to encourage that first step toward something new, to revel in propinquity. Vintage Blanc de Blancs tastes even better this way.
60% Pinot Meunier and 40% Pinot Noir | Really active mousse, like a snow globe in the hands of a 3 year old. The nose is so gorgeous; one will occasionally make notice of baked bread but this is a magnitude beyond that. Lovely baked goods with almond paste. As light on the palate as a snow flake on the tongue; a delicious wine, freshly cut melon and, don’t let this put you off ’cause it’s really great, a mimosa nuance. This is one of the great bargains in real Champagne.
Haton Champagne has a very loyal and discerning fan base, and thanks to your enthusiasm for it Jean-Noël Haton has released a small parcel of his exquisite rosé exclusively to us in the Minnesota. The fourth generation of this Champagne making family based in the Marne Valley to join the business, and the son of Jean-Noël, Sébastien Haton is one of the region’s great talents. He makes stunning, handcrafted wines with flavor, quality and value superior to many famous Grandes Marques. This superb rosé comes from the family’s vineyards in Damery. It is salmon pink with a fine, delicate mousse. Rich, fresh cherry and gentle spice aromas lead to a pure mouthful of fresh forest fruits. Very uplifting, it makes a perfect apéritif with canapés. 30% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Meunier, 25%Pinot Noir, and addition of Reserve wines.