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A Tasting of Grower Champagnes and Sparkling Wines

The Vienna Wine Company and WineWise Oakland, California presented a tasting of 89 Grower-Producer Champagne  and 11 Sparkling Wines from Terry Theise Estate Selections and WineWise in November at Campanile Restaurant in Los Angeles.

The Champagnes and Sparklers are delicious, hand-crafted and estate-bottled, grown and produced by a vintner or by a family.  Generally, the Champagnes imported by Terry Theise sell for about $40-100 for non-vintage and $55-140 for vintage.  The sparkling wines  sell for a range of $15-35 for non-vintage and $30-40 for vintage.


Cote des Blancs

Pierre Gimonnet comprises 28 hectares of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir in Cuis, Chouilly and Cramant.  The Gimonnet family has been growing grapes in Cuis since 1750, selling the fruit until in the early 20th century, Pierre began to vinify the fruit himself.  His wines are well-made, showing the classical character of the northern Cote des Blancs.  The high standard has been maintained from generation to generation, passing first to Pierre’s son Michel and now to his grandsons, Olivier and Didier.  Didier says  that “For me, we much have concentration, but also balance, elegance and harmony.  The six wines are polished, elegant and sophisticated, suave, creamy and silky, with a soft minerality, rating from highly recommended to outstanding.

The Pierre Gimonnet 2004 Fleuron Blanc de Blancs, pale yellow color, is fresh and clean, dry and minerally, redolent of peach, apple, apricot, hay, nuts, spice and chalk.  3stars

The Pierre Gimonnet 2000 Special Club Blanc de Blancs, (made primarily from old vines up to 89 years), yellow color, with lovely perfume, herbs, quince, pear, chalk and spice, full-bodied, balanced and long.  3stars

The Pierre Gimonnet 2002 Oenophile Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut, a light hue, imbued with flowers, fruit, chalk and mineral, a rich, extracted, flowery wine with power.  2stars

The Pierre Gimonnet 2004 Cuvee Gastronome is fruity and floral, with mineral and yeast. 2stars

The Pierre Gimonnet NV 1er Cru Blanc de Blancs shows nice rich fruit and good length.  2stars

The Pierre Gimonnet 2003 Paradoxe is firm and full-bodied, with bright fruit, spice and chalk. 2stars


Jean Milan has 5.5 hectares in the heart of the Cote des Blancs, producing 100% Chardonnay, using 100% oak barrels.  It is a family operation with father and brother involved in the vineyards and cellar, mother in the office and Caroline doing sales and marketing.  The wines have good body, with a lead pencil quality, well-balanced and concentrated, with nuances of grass, fruit and honey.   Of the nine wines tasted, two are outstanding, five are highly recommended and two are recommended.

The Jean Milan 2004 Selection Terres de Noel Blanc de Blancs, light yellow, rich and creamy, shows green fruit, grapefruit, toast and caramel, balanced, with good length.  3stars

The Jean Milan NV Speciale Blanc de Blancs (a blend of 2005 and 2006, disgorged in early 2009), pale yellow, offering an array of apple, citrus, flint, toast, nuts and brioche.  If you like refreshing, zingy acidity, don’t miss this wine! 3stars

The Jean Milan NV Grande Reserve 1864 (a blend of 1998 and 1999 vintages), gold color, with lovely fruit, mineral, spice, tea, truffle, yeast and toast, is rich and lush yet full and structured.  2stars

The Jean Milan NV Cuvee Millenaire Blanc de Blancs is creamy, doughy and lush, with good fruit and a toasty finish.  2stars

The Jean Milan NV Carte Blanche Blanc de Blancs is a bright, fresh wine with tasty fruit.  2stars

The Jean Milan 2004 Symphorine Blanc de Blancs is racy, with apple, spice and chalk.  2stars

The Jean Milan NV Rose, a lovely pink color, is a delicate, fruity wine.  2stars

The Jean Milan NV Cuvee de Reserve Blanc de Blancs has ripe fruit with spice, vanilla and oak. 1star


The Jean Milan NV Cuvee Tendresse Blanc de Blancs Sec is dry and grassy, resembling Riesling. 1star

Pierre Peters has 19 hectares of 100% Chardonnay in the Cote des Blancs.  The firm was established in 1940 but the family has been growing grapes here in Le Mesnil Sur Oger over 100 years.  The wines produced are elegant, finesseful, textured wines packed with exotic fruit, laced with butterscotch, honey and nuts.  Made from Grand Cru fruit, they display a Krug profile.  Two of the four wines tasted are outstanding and two are highly recommended.

The Pierre Peters 2000 Cuvee Speciale Les Chetillons Grand Cru Le Mesnil, (over 70-year-old vines), pale yellow in color, this rich, exotic, toasty, buttery wine showcases a lovely mandarin orange character, laced with herbs and mineral.  3stars

The Pierre Peters 2003 Millesime Blanc de Blancs, a pale hue, offers lovely aromas and flavors of flowers, bright fruit, spice, chalk and mineral, well-balanced, with a vibrant acidity.  3stars

The Pierre Peters NV Cuvee Reserve Blanc de Blancs, light yellow, reveals rich orange blossom, spice and chalk.  2stars

The Pierre Peters NV Rose, plum/pink in color, is very fruity, with sharp acidity, nuanced with pink grapefruit, mineral and chalk.  2stars

Varnier-Fanniere grows 100% Chardonnay on four hectares in the Cote des Blancs.  Denis Varnier produces wines from 55-year-old vines that are prized for their lovely and intense fruit and flavors, elegance and finesse.  The five wines tasted, mostly non-vintage, disgorged in late 2008, range from highly recommended to outstanding.

The Varnier-Fanniere 2003 Grand Vintage Blanc de Blancs, a pale hue, offering ripe, exotic fruit, nuanced with hay, seashells, lead pencil, truffles and a chalky finish – gorgeous wine.  3stars

The Varnier-Fanniere NV Cuvee Saint-Denis Blanc de Blancs, (a blend of grapes from 2003 and 2004  made from 70-year-old vines), pale yellow, is very distinctive, revealing Chinese 5-spice, apples, chalk and a panoply of fruit that permeate the nose and mouth, ending in a fine chalk finish. 3stars

The Varnier-Fanniere NV Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru is aromatic, very fruity and long. 2stars

The Varnier-Fanniere NV Cuvee de Jean Fanniere Origine Blanc de Blancs  is full, silky and dry. 2stars

The Varnier-Fanniere NV Rose Grand Cru is delicate, offering red berries, melon, spice and chalk. 2stars

Vallee de la Marne

Marc Hebrart has a 14-hectare domain, growing 75% Pinot Noir grapes in the Vallee de la Marne and 25% Chardonnay from the Cote des Blancs.  He and his son Jean-Paul make wines that are charming, packed with hand-selected, mineral-etched, juicy fruit.  All five wines are highly recommended.

The Marc Hebrart 2004 Special Club, a yellow colored wine, which is silky, with lovely chalk-toned fruit.  2stars

The Marc Hebrart NV Rose, reddish-pink in color, is elegant, sensual and expressive,  aromatic, with very nice red fruit, spice and chalk.  2stars

The Marc Hebrart NV Cuvee de Reserve shows generous, rich, ripe fruit. 2stars

The Marc Hebrart NV Blanc de Blancs is bright, clean, crisp and fresh, with very nice fruit.  2stars

The Marc Hebrart NV Selection is vibrant, with citrus, spice and chalk. 2stars

Rene Geoffroy has 14 hectares in the Vallee de la Marne growing grape varieties of 42% Pinot Noir, 39% Pinot Meunier and 19% Chardonnay that produce lovely, vibrant, fruity, red-grape dominated wines.  The Geoffroy family was winemakers as long ago as the 17th century.  Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy produced these five highly recommended to outstanding wines.

The Rene Geoffroy NV Cuvee Volupte, (100% Chardonnay from 2004, disgorged late 2008), light yellow, layered with mineral, flowers, chalk, hay, apple, pear and citrus, is balanced, with good grip.  3stars

The Rene Geoffroy NV Cuvee Empreinte, (92% Pinot Noir, 13% Chardonnay, 5% Meunier, disgorged 12/07), light colored, is soft, spicy and elegant, with lovely apple and cherry fruit.  3stars

The Rene Geoffroy NV Rose de Saignee Brut is a big, full, fruity wine, hinting of smoke.  2stars

The Rene Geoffroy NV Expression Brut reveals spicy red fruit with some complexity.  2stars

The Rene Geoffroy 2000 Millesime Extra Brut is dry, with fresh fruit and brioche notes.  2stars

Gaston Chiquet, also in the Vallee de la Marne, has 22 hectares, growing 20% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier and 40% Chardonnay.  Nicolas Chiquet planted his first vines in 1746 and since then eight generations have farmed the property, with Gaston establishing the firm in 1935.  It is now run by Claude and his two sons, Antoine and Nicolas.  The six wines tasted, rated highly recommended to outstanding, are rich, creamy and delicious, with good fruit definition.

The Gaston Chiquet 1999 Millesime, gold color, displays seductive red fruit, blueberry, brioche and exotic spice, full, balanced  and long – delicious wine. 3stars

The Gaston Chiquet 2000 Blanc de Blancs d’Ay, light in color, has aromas and flavors of quince, apple, bread, toast, nuts and lime.  2stars

The Gaston Chiquet 2000 Special Club, light yellow, is very flavorful, packed with bright fruit, apple, dough, mint, nuts and spice, with chalk on the finish.  2stars

The Gaston Chiquet NV Tradition is very aromatic, with ripe red fruit.  2stars

The Gaston Chiquet NV Cuvee de Reserve is bright, fresh and silky.  2stars

Henri Goutorbe and his son Rene grow 70% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Meunier on 22 hectares in the Vallee de la Marne, making big, rich, ripe, fruity, yet refined wines, with floral nuances.  The three wines are highly recommended to outstanding.

The Henri Goutorbe NV Rose, (disgorged 1/2009), a lovely pink color is refined, with lots of delicious, silky red fruit.  Having just been disgorged, give it time and it will be even better.  3stars

The Henri Goutorbe 2002 Special Club, gold color, is rich and voluptuous, with chalk, spice, buttery croissant, flowers and truffles. 2stars

The Henri Goutorbe NV Cuvee Prestige, (disgorged 12/08), a yellow hue, offers generous rich fruit, toast, hay and truffles.  2stars

Montagne de Reims

A. Margaine has 6.5 hectares in Montagne de Reims growing 10% Pinot Noir and 90% Chardonnay, producing big wines of lovely tropical fruit, with mineral and floral notes.  The five wines of Arnaud Margaine  are highly recommended to outstanding.

The A. Margaine 2002 Special Club Blanc de Blancs, pale yellow, has a lovely perfume, displaying expressive fruit, mint, wood, ginger, baking spices and chalk, ending in a long finish.  3stars

The A. Margaine 1999 Blanc de Blancs, (disgorged in 6/2008), light yellow in color, is beautifully aromatic, with lovely flowers, dough and chalk, all sweetly fruity and flavorful, silky-textured and very long.  3stars

The A. Margaine NV Cuvee Traditionelle is very attractive, with buttery fruit.  2stars

The A. Margaine NV Rose is full-bodied and very fruity.  2stars

The A. Margaine NV Demi-Sec is delicately sweet, with flowers, spice and exotic fruit.  2stars


Henri Billiot grows 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay on 5 hectares in the Montagne de Reims, producing wines of bright, fresh, ripe, deep red-grape fruit.  Serge Billiot makes wines with a racy mineral acidity and a savory yeastiness.  The five wines tasted range from highly recommended to outstanding.

The Henri Billiot NV Cuvee Laetitia, (Tete de Cuvee named after his daughter who is set to take over eventually), pale gold, is gorgeous, concentrated, balanced and rich, with notes of exotic spice, green plum, seashell, toast, butter, citrus and light herb.  Disgorged the end of 2008, it is a blend of 20 vintages.  3stars

The Henri Billiot NV Cuvee Julie (Tete de Cuvee named after Serge’s granddaughter), pale gold, is full, rich and smooth, showing toast, smoke, coffee and caramel.  3stars

The Henri Billiot 2002 Millesime, light yellow, is very fragrant, bright and lively, with ripe, expressive fruit, flowers and chalk.  2stars

The Henri Billiot NV Reserve is richly fruity and flavorful. 2stars

The Henri Billiot NV Rose, reddish pink color, offers very nice red fruit and spice. 2stars

Jean Lallement has 4.5 hectares in the Montagne de Reims, growing grape varieties of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay.  Jean-Luc and his parents, Jean and Louisette Lallement produce intense Pinot Noir-based Champagnes, that are rich, straightforward, dry and focused, showing distinctive terroir.  Only 1,700 cases are produced from close to 30-year-old vines.  The three wines tasted are highly recommended.

The Jean Lallement NV Brut, gold in color, offers aromas and flavors of mead, apple, grain, cherry, raspberry, butter and mineral that are rich, clean and full-bodied.  2stars

The Jean Lallement NV Reserve Brut, gold-colored, is rich and spicy, yet still zippy, crisp and clean, with apple, licorice, lime, caramel, red currant and quince, ending in a long finish.  This wine should appeal to fans of Krug and Bollinger.  2stars

The Jean Lallement NV Rose Brut, a plummy pink color, is rich and creamy yet dry, hinting of blackberry and strawberry. 2stars

Pehu-Simonet, a 9-hectare estate founded by Julia Pehu is now run by David Pehu and his wife, growing grape varieties of 78% Pinot Noir and 22% Chardonnay.  The three wines, which are generous, big, a bit fleshy, yet fresh and polished, are highly recommended to outstanding.

The Pehu-Simonet NV Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, pale in color, with scents and tastes of creamy jasmine and chalk, finishing long. 3stars

The Pehu-Simonet NV Selection, pale gold color, has a perfume of hazelnuts, with flavors of citrus, peach, spice, mineral and chalk.  2stars

The Pehu-Simonet NV Rose, pinkish-red in color,  fruit-forward, balanced and tasty, hinting of berries, cherries, spice and chalk.  2stars

Andre Clouet, a 9-hectare estate in Bouzy and Ambonnay, is operated by Pierre and Francoise Santz-Clouet and their son Jean-Francois, growing mostly Pinot Noir and some Chardonnay, aiming for a Bollinger style.  The village of Bouzy is renowned for Pinot Noir.

The Andre Clouet NV Grande Reserve Grand Cru, yellow in color, is delicate, creamy, balanced and elegant, nuanced with grain, candied fruit, flowers, mineral and red fruit, with good length.  2stars

Vilmart & Cie, with 11 hectares growing 60% Chardonnay, 36% Pinot Noir and 4% Pinot Meunier, was established in 1890 and is now run by Laurent Champs.  The wines all show a purity of fruit, with a high acidity, from no malolactic fermentation.  Since the base wines are aged in wood, they resemble Krug, with Burgundian flavors.  They are creamy, packed with flavor, have a Muscat aroma, a structure of fine fruit, with a note of biscuitiness.  The six wines range from highly recommended to outstanding.

The Vilmart 1997 Coeur de Cuvee, (50-year-old vines), yellow in color, offering a perfume of caramel that carries through to the creamy palate, a spectrum of orange, nuts, lemon, toast, butter, coconut and vanilla.  It is very rich and concentrated — a gorgeous Champagne.  3stars

The Vilmart 2000 Coeur de Cuvee, yellow-colored, is big, rich and delicious, showcasing aromas and flavors of nuts, tropical fruit, brioche, spice and oak, with super-fresh acidity.  3stars

The Vilmart 2003 Grand Cellier d’Or, yellow in color, has a lovely perfume of apples and spice, on the palate, flowers, exotic passion fruit, herbs, mineral, smoke and vanilla, a vibrant and luxurious wine.  3stars

The Vilmart NV Cuvee Rubis hints of cherries, strawberries, vanilla and spice, with Burgundian richness that is  sweet and creamy.  2stars

The Vilmart NV Grand Cellier is creamy, with notes of citrus, spice and brioche.  2stars

The Vilmart 1999 Cuvee Creation is bright, with tropical fruit, spice and vanilla.  2stars


L. Aubry Fils has 17 hectares, growing grape varieties of 30% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier and 30% Chardonnay, with a wine-growing legacy from 1790.  The twin brothers of Pierre and Philippe Aubry make wines that are flowery and graceful, with some sweetness.  Until 2001, Aubry sold a third of their grapes to Veuve Clicquot.  The three wines range from recommended to outstanding.

The Aubry 2003 Le Nombre d’Or Campanae Veteres Vites is a cuvee of both forgotten and regular grape varieties: 15% Arbanne (herbs and honey flavors), 20% Petit Meslier (orange and lemon flavors), 25% Fromenteau (Pinot Gris flavors), 20% Pinot Meunier, 10% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, hence the name which translates as “the old vines of the countryside.”  This remarkable composition of grapes has produced an intriguing, unique, exotic wine that is aromatic, smoky, intense, fleshy and richly flavorful, with notes of quince, pumpernickel, syrup, citrus and herbs.  3stars

The Aubry NV Rose is silky, dry and graceful, laced with blackberry fruit and notes of salmon.  2stars

The Aubry NV is slightly sweet, with good concentration, and is clean and fresh.  1star

Chartogne-Taillet grows grape varieties of 50% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Meunier and 40% Chardonnay on 12 hectares of very old vines.  Fiacre Taillet was a wine grower here in the 16th century.  Still a family business, today it is run by Philippe and Elisabeth Chartogne and their son Alexander.  The wines are fresh, silky and rich with tart, spicy  concentrated fruit.  The five wines range from recommended to highly recommended.

The Chartogne-Taillet 2002 Cuvee Fiacre, yellow in color, has refreshing, attractive aromas and flavors of flowers, ginger, mint, apple, brioche and tea.  2stars

The Chartogne-Taillet 2002 Millesime, yellow colored, a generous, concentrated wine of spice and apples, is round and balanced.  2stars

The Chartogne-Taillet NV Cuvee Sainte Anne has very nice perfume and flavors of flowers, chalk, apple, butter, pear and spice.  2stars

The Chartogne-Taillet 2000 Millesime is rounded, generously fruity, hinting of apples and spice. 1star

The Chartogne-Taillet NV Rose is fruity, with strawberries, cherries, apples and spice. 1star


Forest-Marie, located in the village of Trigny, grows Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.  Owner Thierry Forest makes wines of soft, subtle, fresh fruit.  His three wines range from recommended to highly recommended.

The Forest-Marie Rose, a pink-colored wine of soft, fresh appley fruit, laced with herbs and spice, is bright and fresh.  2stars

The Forest-Marie NV Blanc de Blancs, pale yellow, offering aromas and flavors of soft, ripe apple, biscuit and spice, ends in a fruit-laden finish.  2stars

The Forest-Marie NV Cuvee St. Crespin 1er Cru, pale color, is appealing, with nice fruit and flavors, clean, fresh and crisp.  1star



Pere Ventura,  an estate in the Penedes region, makes nice, all-purpose, savvy sipping sparklers from traditional grape varieties, Xarel-lo, Parellada, Maccabeo and Trepat.

The Pere Ventura NV Tresor Cava Nature, pale color, has rounded fruit, with moderate acidity and is crisp, clean and dry, with a minerally finish.  1star

The Pere Ventura NV Cava Rose, salmon-pink in color, is dry, with scents and tastes of roses, spice, red fruit and yeast. 1star


Domaine Fouet in the Loire Valley makes attractive sparklers of good personality.

The Domaine Fouet NV Cremant de Loire (80% Chenin Blanc, 20% Cabernet Franc), light yellow, is refreshing and fruity, with white fruit and spice.  1star

The Domaine Fouet NV Cremant de Loire Rose (100% Cabernet Franc), pinkish/peach in color, is graceful, yet substantial, with floral and spice-etched red fruit. 1star


Domaine des Roches, a 21-hectare estate in the Macon area of Burgundy,  makes appealing sparklers from hand-harvested Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The Domaine des Roches NV Cremant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blancs, pale yellow, is soft, mellow, fruity and dry.  2stars

The Domaine des Roches NV Cremant de Bourgogne Rose, pink in color, is full-bodied, round and lively. 2stars

Domaine Andre & Mireille Tissot has a 32-hectare estate in the Savoie and Jura area run by Benedict and Stephane Tissot, producing pleasing, tasty sparklers blended from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The NV Cremant de Jura, yellow in color, is crisp, tart and fresh, with good acidity, displaying apple, grain, toast, yeast, lemon and chalk.  2stars

The NV Indigene Cremant de Jura, yellow color, is soft and creamy, with a sweetness, flowers, brioche, baked apple, peach and nuts. 2stars



Weingut Martin Nigl has a 25-hectare estate in Kremstal, producing sparklers from Chardonnay and Gruner  Veltliner.  Martin Nigl has transformed his family’s small, traditional estate into the Kremstal’s premier producer of fine wine.

The Nigl 2005 Sekt, gold colored, is pretty, rounded and refined, with well-integrated acidity, minerality, hinting of wet straw and white fruit, ending in a long finish.  2stars

Schloss Gobelsburg has a 38-hectare estate, the oldest winery in the Danube region, producing sparklers from Pinot Noir, Riesling and Gruner Veltliner.  Michael Moosbrugger has led the estate out of its decline and is producing wines of richness, elegance and complexity.

The Gobelsburg NV Reserve, dark yellow, is smooth and velvety, with vanilla, spice and fine fruit notes.  2stars

Weingut Brundlmayer has a 70-hectare estate in the Kamptal region, producing both red and white wines as well as lovely sparklers, made in the classic method, from Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Gruner Veltliner.  Willi Brundlmayer is renowned not only for his great personal charm but also for his winemaking skill, good business sense and reputation for being an innovator rather than a follower.

The Brundlmayer 2005 Sekt, bright yellow, is distinctive,  and complex, with fine acidity, creamy yet crisp and fresh, laced with stone fruit, lemon, yeast, mineral, honey and spice, with a long finish.  2stars