Interview with Jean-Michel Jussiaume of MJ Sparkling

9th June 2023

MJ Sparkling

Winemaker Jean-Michel Jussiaume inherited his passion for the art and craft of winemaking on his family’s estate in the Loire Valley of FRANCE.

In 2005, he arrived in the USA with the dream of sharing these artisanal family traditions, and establishing his own “Maison.” This quest ultimately led to Southern Oregon, where he found grapes uniquely suited for the production of Handcrafted Sparkling Wine.


Winemaker Jean-Michel Jussiaume

We ask Jean-Michel some questions to get to know him and his winery better:


Q: You are a relatively young winery, established in 2005 – Does being a younger winery have any obstacles to overcome compared to more senior wineries?

Well, MJ Sparkling is even younger than that! “Est. 2005” marks the date of my arrival in the USA with the plan of creating my own wine here in America. My first sparkling release was not until the 2015 Vintage.

But yes, what you suggest is true: the industry of wine production is very mature and extremely competitive to say the least. It has its own unique expectations and challenges, many of which favour the larger, more established producers. At least I was already aware of these hurdles when I arrived – I grew up working on my family’s estate in France, farming and producing Muscadet (a sometimes-under-appreciated varietal with incredible tension, freshness, liveliness, and wonderful acidity). My father has always been very active in all aspects of the wine industry in the Loire Valley, from farming, to wine production, to politics, and even varietal-heritage issues (he was one of the “Group of 12” who saw the re-certification of the c.1640 ‘Berligou’ Pinot Noir varietal in France). As you can imagine, it was a lot of hard work, but through it all my family’s Muscadet has always been a wine of ‘happiness’ – an attribute that, in my opinion is almost as important as its taste, and one that remains paramount in my approach to MJ sparkling, and the quest for recognition in an already crowded field.

As a newcomer into the sparkling wine world, there was no easy way to compete with so many huge, recognizable, and well-distributed brands. I knew I wanted to offer a Sparkling Wine with as much ‘happiness’ as I found in my family’s wine, while still following both the ‘letter’ and ‘spirit’ of Méthode Traditionelle techniques, to produce the highest quality sparkling wine possible.

Great sparkling wine must be recognizable, memorable, and of course, delicious; so, I strive to make ones that are not only fresh & elegant, but also complex & nuanced. I hope this makes them approachable, enjoyable, and also ‘special’ in the market and on the palate.


Q: What led you to the sparkling wine production industry?

The fruit demanded it. As I mentioned, when I came to America, I had in mind to create a wine embodying the ‘happiness’ inherent in the wines of my youth.

For many years before I created my first Méthode Traditionelle sparkling wine, I had the opportunity to closely observe the special ripening flavors of a 25-year-old Chardonnay Vine at Del Rio Vineyard in Southern Oregon, and it convinced me that this fruit had the unique predisposition to create great sparkling wine. That is when I realized a Sparkling, Blanc de Blancs approach would be the perfect path for my goal of producing wine that would maximize both ‘fruit appropriateness’ as well as that elusive ‘happiness’ I expect in my wine!


Q: What is special about the Del Rio Vineyards?

Everything! In my opinion, Del Rio Vineyards best represents the Southern Oregon appellation. It’s a 320-acre vineyard, quite majestically nestled between the mountains and the Rogue River, with elevations ranging from 700 feet to 1700 feet. The soils are mostly alluvial and well-drained which allows for excellent grape production, and the Southern Oregon climate is warm but facile, with little rain during the summer. A strong diurnal switch of temperature further enhances the flavors-profile and creates wines with great personality!

Del Rio Vineyards

Del Rio Vineyards


Q: You have a very hands-on approach to your winemaking, especially at a time, and in a region where automated systems are the choice of many wineries; why? 

At its best, and at its core, great wine is always more ‘art’ than ‘facility.’ The greatest wines are often quite unique in very subtle ways – beauty brought out by the insight and care of the winemaker, not simply by applying machinery, chemistry formulas, or automated programs.

The more I learned about the differences and nuances of crafting quality sparkling wine – from the regional flow of the ripeness aromatics, or a new specificity in the approach to pressing, the rhythmic ‘tac-tac-tac’ of hand-riddling, and even the dramatic satisfaction of disgorging & the art of dosage – I feel that every aspect of Méthode Traditionelle that I do by hand puts me in better contact with, and understanding of my wine, which I think is the point of it all.

Very early on, I learned that Time is so critical to wine – both to produce it, and to allow it to realize its full potential; so, I’m happy to invest my time into it, all: my approach to the process, the actual crafting, and most importantly, the wine itself. I guess it’s the way winemaking has always been for my family – a project of love, happiness, and long-term dedication.


Q: How can others enjoy your sparkling wines – Is distribution only local, or have you national / international buyers?

Well, that’s two questions, I think. MJ Sparkling can be enjoyed in many ways, by itself, or with many different pairings. Personally, I love sipping MJ enjoying our local/regional delicacies: Salmon and Steelhead from the local rivers, Dungeness crab or Oysters from the Pacific Northwest Coast, or world-famous Blue Cheese from the nearby Rogue Creamery.

I think the easiest way to get my wines is through my online website. Production is understandably very limited, due to the handcrafted nature of the product. Most of my sales are still made here in Oregon, through wine shops & restaurants, but I also distribute in California, and can ship throughout most of the United States. Currently, I am not distributing overseas, besides an occasional shipment to my family for the holidays.

Christopher Walkey

Co-founder of Glass of Bubbly. Journalist and author focused on Champagne & Sparkling Wines and pairing them with foods.