Tasting Notes by
George Heritier &
Brad Baker

Additional Label Photos by
Brad Cook




hen one considers that, since October, I’ve tasted and reviewed more Champagne and sparkling wine than Red Rhônes and Mr. Ridge combined, one can draw but one conclusion; I’ve (gasp!) become a bubblehead. The more I taste good bubbly, the more I love it all, and the more I want to expand my horizons. Even my better half has to admit that she now likes about every fifth sparkler or so, and that’s real progress, so when our friend Jim Freidman emailed an invitation to take part in a “grower Champagne” tasting, we gladly accepted. Participants included Jim and Faye Freidman, Brad and Michelle Baker, Paul and Amy Ragheb, Brad Cook, Kim Adams and yours truly; both Brad B. and this taster recorded our impressions of the wines tasted, and because Mr. Baker’s experience with these wines is far more extensive than mine, both sets are included here, with his taking the lead.

1995 Egly-Ouriet Millesime Grand Cru Brut1995 Egly-Ouriet Millesime Grand Cru Brut
(70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay; Ambonnay & Bouzy; Some barrel fermentation; Partial malolactic fermentation; Aged on lees for 64 months; Disgorged September 2001; $50-75 US, 13% alc.)
B.B.: This wine shows very young as woody and slightly waxy pear aromas form strong shoulders for a rowdy palate to stand on. And stand up it does as vinous notes that conjure up the image of green grape and flower stems rolled in yeast and fried up rule the palate. Of course a generous dose of citrus and pear also joins in. This is a big, fun, and funky 1995 wine that stays true to the vintage. I really like this wine. Grade of Low A- (90-91 pts). 
Find this wine

G.H.: Medium straw color, with a tinge of pale peach; pungent, slightly nutty, yeasty bread dough and tart under-ripe green apple, all with bracing acidity, an underlying minerality and very good length. The “fruit” component lacks some intensity for me, but other factors (nuts, yeast, bread and mineral) seem to compensate. Brad B. describes a “waxy greenness,” adding “this is what it’s supposed to taste like.” Not “big,” but substantial; I like this quite a bit.

Imported by Michael Skurnik Wines, NY

The following two aren’t “grower” Champagnes, but were included because of their relative rarity; they were of special interest to me, since I was one of a small group of people in Michigan to taste the ‘95 in September of 2005 in a survey to see whether there was any interest as to its commercial viability here. We enjoyed that one twice over a two week period back then; unfortunately, a bottle of the ’96 tasted several months ago was seriously flawed, and didn’t give a true representation of just how good it is. This one was much, much better.

1996 Henri Giraud Fut de Chene1996 Henri Giraud Fut de Chene
(70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay; Ay, Champagne, France; Vinified in Argonne Forest oak; Disgorged ~2005; $150-220 US, 12% alc.)
B.B.: Chocolate, peaches, citrus zest, and oak erupt at the nose and knock you back a little. The palate then floors you as citrus, apples, peaches, tangerines, cloves, honey and biscuits throw the knock out punch. The more air you give this, the better it gets. The finish is long and creamy with glimpses of dark chocolate, coffee, and orange clove tea as the wine disappears. I love this wine. It is balanced and rich and shows just how to mesh big fruit with spicy oak. I don’t care how much this costs. I just want it. As this wine has only been available to the public since 1990 I don’t know exactly how it will age, but if it ages as I think it will, I may be scoring this a bit too low. This wine is spectacular and as such I am narrowing the range I gave it a few months ago from 94-96 pts to a Grade of A (95-96 pts). And as I said, it may get better.  Find this wine

G.H.: Medium straw to pale gold color; the first thing I notice on both the nose and in the mouth is the obvious oak, and indeed, Maison Giraud – Hemart stresses the importance of the selection and use of oak from the Argonne forest on their website. Less yeasty and more toasty than the Egly-Ouriet, with not exactly under-ripe apple, excellent presence and zippy acidity. Brad B. comments that it has a “waxy chocolate clove spice” to it, and although those impressions elude me, we all agree that this is one very tasty Champagne.

1995 Henri Giraud Fut de Chene
(70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay; Ay, Champagne, France; Vinified in Argonne Forest oak; Disgorged ~2004; $140-200 US, 12% alc.)
B.B.: Oak and bright citrus that haven’t quite made friends yet form the core for an expressive nose. Following this fight, a palate that is similar to the 1995 Egly-Ouriet appears. Except this shows more bright fruit and acidity to go with the vinous notes. This is a very young wine that does an excellent job of meshing bright fruit, oak, and racy characters. I really like this though the price is a bit steep… and the 1996 release is better. So, unless you are loaded, I would pass on this and stock up on the 1996 release (reviewed above). Grade of A- (91-92 pts).  Find this wine

G.H.: Medium straw to pale gold color, with nutty, toasty apple flavors and aromas; medium full bodied, with excellent acids and good intensity and length. This has clearly developed some secondary characteristics since we had it last, and while I like it just fine, I prefer the ’96 based on this encounter.

Champagne Henri Giraud Imported by North American Beverage Group, L.L.C.

1989 Andre Jacquart Blanc de Blancs Special Club1989 Andre Jacquart Blanc de Blancs Special Club
(100% Chardonnay; Le Mesnil-sur-Oger; $50-90 US, 12% alc.)
B.B.: This wine had the lightest nose of the grouping. It was quite delicate, but the palate was a bit more rambunctious. A few sherry notes mixed with a touch of rich tangerine to form the core flavors. Some light toast weaved in and out to close the flavors out. Over a few hours this improved quite a bit, but still was left lacking a tad when compared to the other wines at the table. And, no, Andre Jacquart is not a part of the Co-op/pseudo Negociant Jacquart. I mean that in no way as a positive or negative; I only say it in case of any confusion. Both the co-op and the grower make some very fine wines. Grade of High B(85-87 pts).  Find this wine

G.H.: Medium straw color, with a slightly oxidized sherried character that evolves to reveal some nutty, under-ripe apple; fairly low in acidity, which Brad B. says is typical of the vintage, with good intensity. This was well received, despite its relative lack of zip.

NV Jean Laurent Brut Rose
(100% Pinot Noir; Celles-sur-Ource; 5 years aging on the lees; disgorged in Aug/Sept 2005; $35-45 US, 12% alc.)
B.B.: What more can I say about this wine. I love it, you love it, everybody loves it. If you haven’t tried this, you really should. It is so, so good and it is very reasonably priced. Heck, if you can’t find it, I will tell you how to make it yourself. Take some meat and a generous serving of fresh, red, tart strawberries. Add a twist of cranberry and a small glass of 7-Up. Mix it all up and, ta-da, you have this wine. There, the secret is revealed. Now everyone can enjoy this wine all the time. Grade of High B+ (88-90 pts).  Find this wine

G.H.: My impressions are very much the same as those of the one we recently enjoyed so much with Brad and Michelle. What stood out for me on this occasion with the assertiveness of the wine, as it more than holds its own in the presence of a number of other fine (and more expensive) bottles; the 100% Pinot Noir character is unmistakable and simply delicious. I love this Brut Rosé!

Imported by Hand Picked Selections, Warrenton, VA

1992 Guy Charlemagne Millesime Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs1992 Guy Charlemagne Millesime Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs
(100% Chardonnay; Le Mesnil-sur-Oger; 10,150 bottles produced; Aged in steel and oak; Malolactic is done on the wine aged in steel; Disgorged ~ 1997-1998; $35-50 US)
B.B.: This wine was the surprise of the night for me. I’m not a big fan of the 1992 vintage, but this wine held its own with the competition. Bold, doughy, and slightly toasty notes mix with a nice battle of tart and bitter citrus to form an interesting and flavor packed palate. A wonderful grapefruit finish brings this wine home. I found this to be quite similar to the NV Pascal Doquet, only more concentrated and slightly better. As far as 1992 wines go, this is one of the top ten I have tasted. If you can find some, I would snap it up and enjoy as this is giving its all right now. Grade of High B+ (88-90 pts).  Find this wine

G.H.: Medium straw color, with a nutty, slightly sherried character that complements the neither ripe nor unripe apple fruit; medium acids, good presence, nice wine.

NV Pascal Doquet Grand Cru Blanc de BlancsNV Pascal Doquet Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs
(100% Chardonnay; Le Mesnil-sur-Oger; Vintage makeup: 47% 1996, 53% 1997; Disgorged ~2002; $20-75 US, 12% alc.)
B.B.: This wine was available for the ridiculous price of $20 after it didn’t sell well on release at a higher price. Anyone who snapped it up on closeout made a very wise decision. This wine shows excellent structure and is not a typical light and elegant Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs. While the mouth feel is fluffy and the wine shows a slight sweetness, this wine is really about sweet orange, grapefruit and creamy, nut laced dough that lean towards the meatier side of spectrum. This wine reportedly does not see any wood, but I would have guessed some was present. But, hey, who cares? I like it. Grade of B+ (87-89 pts).  Find this wine

G.H.: Medium straw color, with a note of nutty sherry over dry, yeasty Chardonnay flavors and aromas; I finally understand Brad B.’s tasting descriptor of “fluffy” with this wine, because there’s no other way to describe the mouth feel that it offers. He and Jim both comment that this is “sweet,” which I didn’t exactly understand, but then they drink a lot more of this stuff than I do.

Imported by Robert Kacher Selections, Washington, D.C.

~More Champagne (Grower & otherwise)~

Champagne Krug Grande Cuvee Brut NV Champagne Krug Grande Cuvee Brut NV, 375 ml, $67.99, 12% alc., disgorged in Nov/Dec of 2001: Pale gold color, with all the walk and the talk (the big mousse, the fine, active bead); yeast and flint on the nose, with more of the same on the palate over semi-ripe yellow apple shaded with nutty overtones. Big, rich and intense, with excellent acids and a long lingering finish, so with all of this, why do I come away with the impression that while it’s a very good Champagne, it’s not a “special” Champagne, especially given the price and the rep? This has seen good storage, and has probably been sitting in the temp controlled cellar of my department for around three years.  Find this wine

Imported by Clicquot, Inc., New York, NY

Champagne J-P Lamiable Brut Grand Cru NV, Tours-sur-Marne, 12% alc.: Medium straw in color, with somewhat yeasty tart green apple flavors and aromas, accented with undertones of minerality and hints of bread dough and flint. This shows plenty of zippy acidity, good concentration and length on a medium full-bodied frame, and it opens nicely with some air. Rich, but not terribly complex; still there’s more than enough here to sip over a few hours and quite like it, and I do!  Find this wine

Imported by Robert Kacher Selections, Washington, D.C.

Champagne Taittinger La Francaise Brut NV Champagne Taittinger La Francaise Brut NV, $45, 12% alc.: Medium straw color, with an impressive mousse and a fine, active bead; plenty of yeasty bread dough on the nose, which, with a good dose of minerality, takes on a supporting role to the rich under-ripe apple in the flavor profile. Plenty of froth in the mouth, zippy acidity, good intensity and nice length on the finish. Solid, straightforward Champagne, making no pretension to be anything more than it is, and quite enjoyable for all that; frankly, I could drink this two or three times a week.  Find this wine

Imported by The Kobrand Corp., New York, NY

Champagne Gaston Chiquet Tradition Brut NV, $43.99, 12.5% alc., Disgorged 3/31/06: Medium straw to pale gold color, with yeast, mineral and under-ripe yellow apple on a medium to medium full bodied frame; plenty of zip and good intensity, more so as it opens and warms, but not a lot of complexity. The Taittinger La Francaise noted above is a better glass of bubbly for my money (and speaking of which, I’d like the Tradition better if it cost $5-10 less), but still, this is a perfectly acceptable Champagne that I’d much rather drink than, say, NV versions of Veuve or Feuillatte.  Find this wine

A Terry Theise Estate Selection – Imported by Michael Skurnik Wines, NY

Champagne Henriot Blanc Brut Souverain pur Chardonnay NV, approx. $50, 12% alc.: Medium straw color, with big mousse and an active bead; flavors and aromas of smoke, yeast, flint and not quite under-ripe apple show excellent intensity and length. I’d like to get my hands on more of this!  Find this wine

Imported by The Henry Wine Group, Benicia, CA

Champagne Moet & Chandon Brut Rosé Imperial NV, $39.99, 12% alc.: Salmon pink color, with good mousse and bead; shows some yeast and earth on the nose, and a mix of cherry and strawberry in the mouth. Pleasant enough for casual swilling, but lacking depth, complexity and terroir, and overpriced for what’s in the bottle.  Find this wine

Imported by Moet-Hennessy USA, New York, NY

~Some Left Coast Bubblies~

I decided to try the following six selections from California to get a glimpse of what’s coming out of the Golden State over the past few years, and was pretty pleased with what I tasted.

Roederer Estate Alexander Valley Brut NV, $19.99, 12% alc.: A blend of approximately 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir sourced from four Roederer Estate vineyards, this medium straw offers ample mousse, a fine active bead and an explosive nose of smoky, yeasty bread dough and under-ripe apples, all of which echoes loudly on the palate with some added mineral and rainwater. It shows great balance and racy acidity, but I get the sense that it might not be all the way there yet, and some food probably would have helped as well. This had already rested comfortably in the temperature controlled backstock room of my department for a year when I brought it home, but I’m wondering if another year or two might help it along some. Perhaps we need to try another bottle for clarification?  Find this wine

Roederer Estate Alexander Valley Brut Rosé NVRoederer Estate Alexander Valley Brut Rosé NV, 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, $27, 12% alc. Disgorged 9/05/06: Barely pink, this is about as pale a rosé as I’ve encountered, sparkling or otherwise, and what blush there is would seem to be due to a small portion of Pinot Noir that received an extended maceration added to the blend before secondary fermentation. I did my best to ease the cork out of the bottle and it still exploded and pinballed off the ceiling and wall, sending cats scurrying and Kim ducking. It exhibits big mousse, with a fairly active bead, and offers smoky, yeasty bread dough-biscuit flavors and aromas, with some added earthy strawberry and cherry lurking on the palate. Medium full body, with good concentration, zippy acidity and a long lingering finish; solid stuff here, if perhaps a little rambunctious right now. I’d like to try it again in a year or so.  Find this wine

Mumm Napa Brut Prestige NV, $19.99, 12.5% alc.: Medium straw, with good mousse and a persistent bead, giving under-ripe apple shaded with some flint and a bit of yeasty bread dough. It shows good concentration and acidity, and air definitely helps it; at first, it seems to be missing a little something, but it really picks it up and fills out after an hour and a half. This had been in the backstock room of my department for at least a couple of years, and that’s probably a good thing, as it pairs nicely with salmon patties and a green salad. Another bottle tasted recently that was disgorged in September of 2005 would seem to bear that out, as it lacked the depth and shading of the older model.  Find this wine

Mumm Napa Cuvée M NV, $19.99, 12.5% alc., Disgorged 05/03: Medium straw in color, showing a slight tinge of amber; good mousse, with a fairly active bead; flint and unbuttered popcorn first and foremost on the nose, following through in the flavors with the slightly sweet peach and citrus character relegated to a supporting role, but still quite evident. This shows excellent presence and intensity, with lively acids and a long finish, and knowing that a few cases of this have been in my department for a few years just waiting for me to discover and liberate them, I wonder if I’d enjoy a fresh bottle as well as I do this one. Does it get better and better with air, or is it simply the four successive glasses? Either works for me, and I might just bring the rest of this home and put some fresh stuff on the shelf for the semi-sweet bubbly lovers.  Find this wine

Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Blanc de Noirs NV, 92% Pinot Noir, 8% Chardonnay, $20.99, 12.5%alc.: A paler shade of salmon to the medium straw color foretells the subtle note of cherry that accents the earthy medium full bodied red apple flavors, along with hints of yeasty bread dough; it sports a fine mousse, an active bead, good acids and delightful intensity of flavor all the way through the long finish. This makes a very good match for Kim’s homemade pizza with white anchovies, and it also drinks well on its own; frankly, I could drink it on a regular basis. Yowza!  Find this wine

Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut NV, $20.99, 12.5% alc.: Medium straw color, offering a vivid intensity of flavor focused on creamy green apple with toasty overtones and hints of citrus, all kept moving along with zippy acidity right through the long finish. If it lacks complexity, the intensity carries it well at this point, and it would be interesting to revisit in two or three years to see what develops.  Find this wine

Reporting from Day-twah,


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Ten from Tablas Creek

Bubbles In October

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© George Heritier February, 2007