Spending a summer in Paris is a dream come true, but as the Parisians rushed away to enjoy the famous French summer holidays, we got a bit envious and started dreaming of our own escape into the countryside. Thankfully, we were in for a treat: a day trip to one of the most famous regions of France…Champagne! We were invited along by Sydney Kruger, owner of A Tasty Side to Life, a private tour service that specializes in unlocking doors to some of the best small producers of the region.
Picked up in the morning by a private driver, Sydney, a girl who knows her way to my heart, had croissants waiting for us in the car. As we made our way out of Paris to the fresh air of the countryside, she filled us in on the history of the region (still one of the least visited in France), and gave us some great information on how champagne is actually made. By the time we arrived at the first vineyard, we had enough knowledge to taste like the pros.
Rosé champagne. Lesser known and still delicious.
Many of the small producers of the region are closed to the public, but Sydney’s tours specialize in getting access to those vineyards that the public might otherwise not be able to see. Our first stop, le Gallais, was typical of the Champagne houses she seeks out for her clients. This tiny Champagne house owned by an Armenian family is located on just 4 hectares of land from which they produce 11,000 bottles a year. Madame Clicquot (of Veuve Clicquot) had her hunting lodge on the vineyard grounds (calling it a lodge is a bit of an understatement, it was an amazing chateau), which the family is now carefully restoring. What is most amazing is that the vines are hand pruned and picked by just two men, Herver Gallais, and Dominique, his right hand man. Dominique himself personally showed us around. It was truly a gem to discover and enjoy, and one we would have never found on our own!
The next stop was a gourmet lunch with Elisabeth Vollereaux at her Chateau Les Aulnois a Pierry, a luxury bed and breakfast tucked away in the heart of the region. The gorgeous, jewel box rooms that we toured were absolutely to die for. Sydney often arranges accommodations here for guests looking for a longer séjour in Champagne. We took some time to relax in the topiary garden (because we’d had a tough day so far), before tucking into a delicious salad made of vegetables grown on the chateau grounds. After, we sampled a few cheeses from the region and topped the meal off with Vollereaux champagne from Elizabeth’s family.
It was with slightly wobbly steps that we made our way across the village to our last producer of the day, Michel Lenique. This award winning champagne house was founded in 1768 and produces several different cuvées. After sampling most of them with Michel’s sister (yes, after almost 250 years, it’s still a family business), we toured the ancient caves.
Champagne and Sydney
Finally, like all good things, our day came to an end and we had to bid au revoir to our new favorite region of France. We floated back to Paris on a sea of champagne bubbles and a trunk filled with cuvées!
Sydney, Ariel and Andrea after a fun day of tasting!
For more information on A Tasty Side to Life, check out their website. Also, don’t miss Sydney’s delightful blog.