We all loaded into the cars (two 9 passenger Mercedes vans and a Ford Fiesta) and headed north to the Champagne region. Russ (father of the Bride) was driving the lead van with Adrienne navigating (with the help of the iPhone)...and the 2 other vehicles followed. John (father of the groom) drove the other van, and the Ford Fiesta was driven by Josh (friend of the Bride and Groom).
Dani had arranged for tours at three very different Champagne houses. At first this sounded like a bit of overkill...but each tour was so different and each of the 3 Champagne houses was so unique that it really was perfect and we all learned so much. I really can't thank Dani enough for putting together such a fun outing for all of us. And it was so nice that our group of 22 got private tours (and tastings!) at each house. First up was the house of G.H.Mumm. We had all heard of this house of course. They were founded in 1827 and have been producing extraordinary champagne for 166 years! They had a very slick and informative film to introduce us to their history ("audacious" and "panache" are words they like to use to describe themselves!) and then our lovely red blazer clad tour guide lead us down to the cellars. I was really not prepared for the size of their underground cellars - 14 miles of chalk walled cellars!
After all that touring and tasting, we were hungry and Dani had made reservations at a restaurant just a few minutes walk away. The food was very tasty (all 3 courses) and of course we needed the champagne, red and white wine they served! The best part of the lunch was that we were joined there by the eldest Belmont daughter, Ashelee and her husband Clint. They had flown on the red-eye the night before, hopped a train at Charles de Gaul airport straight for Reims, then walked from the train station to the restaurant! Finally, the group was complete! (Ashelee, I'm not sure how anybody can look so beautiful after all that traveling...it's just not fair!) I know Adrienne hates having her picture taken...but I couldn't resist this one of Russ and Adrienne kissing...we are in France (for a wedding!) drinking champagne - there have to be some kissing pictures!
The 3 lovely Belmont girls!
More tasting of his fabulous Grand Cru champagnes. His are all Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs (chardonnay only). He makes 8 different "curves" (3 are named after his children...who will take over the business some day - they will be the 9th generation in this wonderful and proud family business! We tasted 4 of Pascal's cuvees.
This is St. Vincent (patron saint of vintners...Pascal says "this is my boss!") This is the wall that was sealed off from the Nazis during the occupation.
We purchased more champagne here (of course!!). And Pascal must be doing alright with champagne sales...when we asked him about a Ferrari photo we saw, he shared with us that he has a Ferarri Tessa Rosa! (Must be fun to drive that through the French countryside!)
OK...I think it's time for a little more driving through the French countryside...we have one more Champagne house to hit! (Chateau Beaugency)
This house was very modern...no chalk walls, all stainless steel tanks, mechanical process totally. However the champagne was very tasty and the high point was the "sabrage". This a technique for opening a Champagne bottle with a saber. Both Dani and Nash were taught how to do this. The force of the blade hitting the lip of the bottle actually breaks the glass to separate the collar very neatly from the neck of the bottle...the cork and collar remain together after separating from the neck...a nice souvenir for Dani!
Dani got a certificate and the cork/neck in a little pouch!
It was truly an amazing day...one I will never forget! Our drivers were amazing...and skipped many of the tastings since they were the ones behind the wheel...and I thank them for getting us home safe and sound at 12:30! Our drive home was kind of comical...trying to find a gas station (they are not nearly so prevalent as they are in the US), using up data on phones that were being used for the navigation, running out of battery power in other phones, finding ourselves in areas with no service...
(Since we left the chateau at 8am...this was indeed a LONG day...16+ hours!)
Our happy band of travelers! After having all those glasses of champagne, it was indeed a "happy" group!