Pinot Meunier
Leuvrigny, Vallée de la Marne, Champagne, France

Francis Orban has had champagne in his blood for three generations. In 1999, at just 19 years old, he jumped into the family business, fresh with a brand-new winemaking degree, and began tending the family estate started generations ago in 1929. The family is located in the Marne Valley, the heart of Meunier country, with soils rich in sand and clay – an entirely different terroir from the chalky limestone found around the Montagne de Reims and the Côte de Blancs. The sprawling Marne is devoted to Meunier, with around 70% of its vines dedicated to it; almost 90% of Francis Orban’s vineyards are Meunier, with a small smattering of Chardonnay. 


His vineyards are farmed sustainably by hand, and range over 18 acres in the villages of Leuvrigny and Sainte-Gemme. Since he took over and started bottling his own wines in 2007, he has taken a minimalist approach, doing everything by hand and fermenting with indigenous yeasts in tanks. A hallmark of his style is to use aged wines in the finished blends for added depth and complexity, usually adding around 50% reserve wines to his non-vintage Champagnes, including his rosés. This technique is a literal metaphor, a symbolic act of including the past- and family history, in each new vintage.

While the soil here may not be limestone, the nose is still a dusty blackboard covered in powdered chalk, complete with a lunch pail full of dried red fruits. There’s fresh baked bread, like a toasted rye loaf with a crust of crushed caraway and sunflower seeds, along with a hearty helping of savory cookies, like salted shortbreads and dried flaky pie dough. The aged wine portion definitely gives elegance and full bodied vivaciousness, but it is the meunier spice that drives this exotic rosé with a hint of bitter herbs, fruit leather, and a little sweet suede. This is a classic candidate for meunier-all-day, a savory, deep and meunificent pink bubble.

Dosage 3 g/L. 50% reserve wines blended in. This wine is made for Nor Cal only, it is crafted exclusively for North Berkeley Imports… and we get a tiny slice of the pie.


Pinot Noir
Bouzy, Montagne de Reims, Champagne, France

Another family planted generations deep in their terroir, the Vesselles have been growing Pinot Noir in the chalky soils of Bouzy for almost 300 years. Around 1900, Fulgence Vesselle started fermenting the grapes he’d been growing and selling, but with rudimentary equipment he over-pressed his red grapes and created the pale pink wine that was named for the red color of a partridge’s eye- the Oeil de Perdix. The style didn’t catch on as blancs dominated in popularity, but decades later in 1972, Fulgence’s grandson Jean Vesselle discovered a few old bottles of the pink stuff and was smitten by the color and aromatics of this antiquated wine, and began his own interpretation of the slightly extracted Pinot Noir rosé. 


Today the family vineyards are planted 90% to Pinot Noir, the remainder at just about 10% Chardonnay, and with a heavier skew to Pinot Noir than other houses in the region. Vines are farmed in lutte raisonée – the “thoughtful fight” – concentrating on organic, holistic practices. Vineyards are plowed to avoid herbicides and the estate uses solar, and recycles rainwater to reduce its environmental footprint. These days the wines are made by Delphine Vesselle, a daughter honoring the traditions of her many forefathers who pioneered the old style. The Pinot is macerated less than 24 hours for a hint of color then pressed and fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged for several years in bottle.

This partridge is definitely in a peach tree. There is so much orange about this pink: from persimmon snap, to parsnip crunch, to golden raspberries and even a touch of orange creamsicle.  Remember those ripe summer navel oranges, so juicy and sweet? This is a Pinot punch bowl of delight with tangerine zest, white pepper, and bright herbs. A potpourri of dried red apple and aromatic rose petals floats over a confectionary boulangerie of deep bitter almond, like creamy frangipane on toasted butter biscuits. This is Pinot Noir for the people, let them drink pink!

Disgorged Nov 2019. Aged for three years in bottle. Dosage 6 g/L. Macerated on the skins for 24 hours for color.