The Vignier family history in Champagne dates to 1530, the time of Nicolas Vignier of Bars sur Seine. Nicolas was a physician, lawyer, theologian, and court historian for Henry III. His descendant, Nathalie Vignier, is now the tenth generation to pursue viticulture and winemaking in Champagne, and the sixth generation to do so in the grand cru village of Cramant, in the Côte des Blancs.
In the early 20th century, Nathalie’s grandfather, Paul LeBrun, had two hectares, taken over from his father, Henri LeBrun. Paul resolved to become an independent vigneron by separating himself from the big négociants after World War I and was among the first to do so in the Côte des Blancs. He established Champagne Paul LeBrun in the 1930s. Frank Schoonmaker — a long-time collaborator with Alexis Lichene in the wine trade, and together two of the most influential figures in shaping American views on European wine in the last century — was the first to import the wines to the U.S.
Nathalie and her brother, Jean, took over the domaine from their parents 12 years ago, with Jean on the business side and Nathalie in the vineyards and cellar. Nathalie’s husband Hubert Soreau (another Schatzi!) is the winemaker at Le Clos l’Abbé in Epernay. Through him, Nathalie and close family friend Sebastian Nickel (whose grandmother’s family farmed land around Sézanne and held plots that became AOC Champagne in the 1960s) made the connections that enabled them to realize a shared vision and dream — one with roots in Nathalie’s father’s profound understanding of the land. He had always told them there were “hidden treasures” in the 16.5 hectares of chardonnay in Côte des Blancs and Côte de Sézanne that constitute the Vignier LeBrun vineyards.