|Beautiful view of the Valley of Marne, Champagne|
I am definitely of the thinking that your honeymoon should be one of those once in your lifetime, top absolutely unforgettable trips. A trip that sticks out in your mind- something that you've NEVER done before but only dreamed of doing. Take this idea and put it into reality! I think a voyage to France with a trip to Champagne taste at french small producers is a one of these types of memorable trips that a couple would never forget. I had the lucky chance to help a couple from Pennsylvania make this dream come true!
|Red fruit from the morning open air farmers market|
So, with my company http://www.tastysidetolifetours.com I arranged a great day and night for them. This included a hotel pickup at the beautiful Hotel La Briqueterie, a Reims morning open air farmers market, tastings at 3 small Champagne producers, a great gourmet lunch and a dinner after the tour where the Chef Michael Nizzero was kind enough to take the clients back into the kitchen and show them how to make one of the dishes they had just eaten. I mean a personal cooking lesson from a chef trained from a 3 star Michelin restaurant?!
The market visit started in Reims at one of the daily morning markets. Here we had the chauffeur drop off us and we strolled around leisurely taking in the sights and smells of the regional french scene. We tasted amazing french "frais de bois" or delicious great little strawberries from the forest which are a French speciality and definitely a must if you're here during the season. Then we moved on to a regional vendor who sold "Pate en croute" which is rabbit, pork and red wine ground up and covered in puffed pastry. It is really delicious and a very unique product of the region and I'm glad my clients got to sample it!
|Aging champagne in wood barrels|
Next we were off to the breathtaking Mt of Reims for a tour of our first small Champagne producer Pehu-Simonet. Finally, the champagne tasting was about to start! David Pehu is a 4th generation of a family that from Verzenay France. He produces about 20,000 bottles a year in an area classified as Grand Cru (a word meaning "Great Growth" which is an area of land classified as a favorable region to produce wine). They're are only 14 villages that are classified as "Grand Cru" and David Pehu grows his grapes on only this superior "terroir" or land. For a cuvee of his that I love his uses 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay which creates a superb harmonious, fresh, aromatic and fruity product. Pehu-Simonet is unique in the fact that they don't do malolactic fermentation thus attempting to leave certain fruity unique character in the Champagne. (In general malolactic formation is a process of using bacteria instead of yeast to convert harsh malice acid to softer lactic acid, creating Co2 or bubbles.
|The happy couple and David the owner of the Small Producer|
After a great hour long tour and tasting we were off on route to our 2nd tasting at a great small producer who I discovered based on the regional awards they had just won. 2 stars by a great wine rating agency and a Champagne that I love.
The 2nd producer was Champagne Huot + Fils and is a house run by a fabulous family who has 7 hectares in the hills south of Epernay. These producers are very passionate about what they do and make a product which they pour their heart and souls into. They are lucky that they are located in between the Mt of Reims and the Valley of the Cote de Blanc and thus are able to grow all 3 kinds of grapes. They produce 40,000 bottles a year and most of their champagne is dominated by black grapes (80%). With their champagne you can taste fine and persistent bubbles and lots of exotic fruits like kiwi's, plums and brioche.
|Barrels of champagne and an explanation from a passionate small producer|
|Various different cuvees to taste!|
|Rows and rows of beautiful ripening chardonnay grapes|
Next was off to a great lunch at Le Briqueterie with Chef Michael Nizzero. This hotel is surrounded by a beautiful setting, set on acres of grounds with views of a beautiful rose garden, tranquil fountains and a large vegetable garden which the chef sources products from. The chef is superb and with a menu that includes terrine of foie gras with pigeon, cherries and sarawak pepper, lamb medallions with tapenande, aubergine cavair, girlies, olive jus and chocolate macaroon flavored with indian pepper, soft ganache and infused yuzu sorbet it's hard to go wrong. My guests had 3 courses for 49 euro with an amuse bouche and an after dessert platter of little tid bits. I think this was a perfect mid day stop after a lot of champagne drinking and definitely a restaurant and chef not to miss.
|Lamb medallions with tapenade, warm eggplant caviar,girolles , olives jus|
|Light gnocchi leaves, seasonal vegetable, and summer|
|Dessert-Chocolate macaron flavored with indian pepper, soft ganache infused with yuzu and sorbet|
After lunch it was time for our 3rd champagne producer along with a tour of a Chateau. This producer is Herve Le gallais and his ancestors purchased this beautiful Chateau in the 1850's from la grand dame who was using it as a hunting lodge. While we were not able to enter inside the Chateau, the outside grounds were absolutely stunning, it is adorned with sculptures of Diana the Huntress, deers, pigs, etc and it is shockingly well restored and taken care of.
|The Chateau on Herve's grounds|
With 3 hectors of land and a small production of 18,000 bottles a year Herve is truly a small producer. Also with a price point of 15-23 euro his Champagne is very much affordable. We tasted the Cuvee de Manor-Brut and an old bottle from 2002 which we picked up while exploring his cave. Notes of fresh bright green apple flooded our mouths and were a perfect ending to the day of tasting
Truthfully, I think this was a day they won't forget and a great addition to their European honeymoon travels! I'm so glad I was able to help them experience small champagne producers who put their hearts and souls into producing superb champagne.