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How 2 Young Sparkling Winemakers Are Transforming Top Brands

By David Zivan | February 18, 2019 | Food & Drink People National

Two sparkler makers—one French, one Californian—have commandeered new top winemakers. Guess what they did to celebrate...

French Connections

vincent-chaperon.jpgThe vintage 2008 Legacy Edition commemorates the handoff at Dom Pérignon from Richard Geoffroy (left) to Vincent Chaperon.

The great Champagne houses of France do not change quickly or often, so a move at the top of the Dom Pérignon outfit is a big deal. After 28 years as chef de cave, Richard Geoffroy recently announced he was handing the reins to his longtime right hand, Vincent Chaperon. Chaperon has worked with Geoffroy since 2005, so he’s well-calibrated, and it seems a measure of the fellows’ mutual respect that they have marked the transition with an extraordinary bottle. Ranking the vintage 2008 Legacy Edition ($180) No. 5 on its much-watched Top 100 list in 2018, Wine Spectator described it as “graceful... with the vivid acidity swathed in a fine, creamy mousse and flavors of toasted brioche, kumquat, pastry cream, candied ginger and poached plum that dance across the palate.”

Born For This

pauline-lhote.jpgWinemaker Pauline Lhote from Domaine Chandon was raised in the Champagne region.

Pauline Lhote was only 14 years old when she announced to her parents she wanted to make sparkling wine. This may not be as surprising as it sounds; Lhote was, after all, raised on a farm in the Champagne region of France. She grew up, earned a winemaking degree, and worked at the Moët & Chandon and Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne houses. She arrived in Napa Valley in 2006 for a three-month internship at Domaine Chandon—and never left. Head winemaker for two years now, the 35-year-old’s first grape-to-bottle efforts have recently reached the market—and the critics says she’s making a mark. There’s a new seriousness to these party wines—without losing the brand’s longtime focus on a vibrant style it describes as “California in a glass.” Cheers to one of the youngest winemakers in Napa.

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