Soooo after an amazing time in both Amsterdam and Paris thus far- I didn’t think it was possible to top all that we had seen and done. I mean we had been moving non-stop- but in true Carlos fashion, he had planned a full day tour to the Champagne region of France- specifically Epernay. All he told me was to get dressed in something very “Divareaux” as he calls me and I said “say no more”.
I opted for my Beyonce- Hold Up video from Lemonade-esque dress with an oversized floppy hat that dated all the way back from our very first trip together to Mexico in 2014 and paired that with some handmade turquoise and gold earrings bought from a night market in Bangkok, topped off with my brand new limited edition Yves Saint Laurent Printemps scarf and I was more than ready to be off to Epernay.
Now this place was the epitome of what it means when “they” say there is a difference between riches versus wealth. Epernay and the surrounding areas are nowhere near as bustling as the big city of France but possesses much more wealth for sure.
This region of France is scattered with quiet and quaint little towns of 500 to 600 people whose sole society depends on that of champagne. The making and mining of this liquid gold is the rush of their reality and it was quite possibly the most peaceful place on Earth we have ever visited.
We started the morning early with an 8:30am pick up from our hotel and our driver who was Spanish by nature had lived in France for 5 years and become fluent. He told us stories of his career as a filmmaker with a passion for photography and his love of giving tours as Epernay often served as the background for his work.
The drive took about 1 hr and 45 mins with a stop at the local rest store for my very first and fresh French madeliene and what made it even more perfect is that it was a semi-private tour.
Carlos and I have never been fans of big bus or van tours and this one provided us a Sedan with just one other older and friendly couple on their Summer vacation as well. Not only were they pleasant but they were just as impressed and enthused about a day in Epernay as we were.
Our first stop was in the city of Passy-Grigny at the Dom Caudron Family Home where we met whose family had been in the business since forever. I mean could it be any more special- with a name like “Dom”
They offered us a tour of the grounds including their collections of champagne presses with a bit of history along the way that led to the on-site factory and a short film on how Caudron came to be.
We also were able to learn about the difference between particular champagnes from roses to classic white, sweetness and style.
He then allowed us to sample of full glass of their selections of champagne from their brut to their rose and offered information on champagne pairings for food and cheese.
They even had cute little branded champagne bottle stoppers to purchase for next to nothing so I opted for two- one gold and a rose pink (my favorite color) for our bar back home.
Afterwards we walked the grounds a bit more and checked out their offerings of personalized gifts.
You can even schedule company tours and luncheons on their property as well complete with bottles of their finest brut.
Then we were off to lunch, but not before passing through some the most beautiful pastures of land I had EVER laid my eyes on. I mean it was like it went on and on and on and on for miles on end and had rows and rows of grapes ready for picking and pressing.
Incredibly romantic and serene couldn’t fully describe how we felt being one with nature and the works of God.
Rolling hills of land stretched out amongst the peace and quiet was just what we needed.
Once we reached the town of Epernay, we separated for lunch and Carlos and I decided we would walk around for a bit and take in this tiny town.
We stumbled upon a bustling little bistro on the corner with a red and gold awning directly in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral (yes please note-there are TWO Notre Dames- one in Paris and one in Epernay) and while we weren’t overly enthused with the service-as it took a while to place and pay for the order, boy oh boy we certainly were not disappointed with the dishes. Next to Invictus (which I’ll discuss on a later post)- this was quite possibly the best meal of the trip.
Carlos ordered the pasta foie gras while I ordered the pizza escargot- yes you read that right- the snail pizza, and I had never had snails before, let alone a snail pizza. But I thought when in Epernay- play how they play.
Carlos immediately said- “this is handmade pasta- you can tell” as each morsel melted in his mouth and my pizza was brick oven baked to perfection with the a balanced proportion of cheese, savory garlic and of course- snails. I would describe the flavor as one would to calamari meets mussels- both of which I enjoy.
After our lunch, we enjoyed a tiny bit of sight seeing in the local square and basked in the ambiance of just the simplistic being in Epernay.
Then we were headed off to the next champagne house which was located on Avenue de Champagne aka Champagne Avenue also known as the “most expensive street in the world“. Take in how quiet and empty it was.
How and why might you ask is it the most expenise? Well this is the avenue of the auspicious likes of Mumm, Perriet Jouet and of course Moet and Chandon/Dom Perignon, 3 of the most world reknown and luxury champagne houses in the entire world and they all have headquarters in Epernay where they bottle their bounties of bruts.
After reaching the avenue, we made a stop at Collard-Picard where we had another tasting and even had time to park our slighty bubbly headed bodies in their pebbled courtyard.
Then we took a little time to check out their local gift shop La Suite aka Le Clos Gallice filled with novelty jewelry like these intricately embellished brooches that I am considering ordering since I have started a small collection. The brand by Lauren Mansuy-a textile designer by trade was beautiful and the shop owner was an incredibly artistic and funny man with a great sense of style.
But for practical purposes- I opted for a small gift for myself like this cute little shirt.
They had such unique items including a chair made of corks, champagne tops and bottle wires.
Afterwards we made our way to the House of Moet and Chandon. that’s right- The House of all houses.
We were greeted by our tour guide-an elegant and charming woman dressed in all black and poised with a perfect French accent and armed with a classic yet petite Louis Vuittion pochette which only made sense being that they all one company. She knew everything there was to know about not only champagne but the Moet and Chandon family.
We were about to check out the bottling over the years showcasing their history when we took a detour to their very cool courtyard made from 750 bottles of Moet.
Speaking of history reminds me of the story of the family business which was originally owned and operated by a WOMAN- the daughter of Claude Moet, whose family later ALLOWED her husband- Pierre Gabriel Chandon, to marry into the business of champagne and alongside her it became what is known as Moet and Chandon.
This brand now serves beneath the collective umbrella of the biggest luxury branding house known as LVMH or Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey. I mean talk about GIRL POWER! Yep that’s right, not only do they own and operate Hennessey butalso Dom Perignon. Do you know see how its the most expensive street in the world?
We were able to tour the maze of caverns in which every single bottle of Moet is created, shipped and kept at a incredibly cold temperature to preserve the taste of the champagne.
After the tour-it was time for the tasting and we were able to sample their Brut and their Rose flavors.
Of course ladies always opt for the Rose as we mixed and mingled with other couples on the tour.
We then toured their extravagant shop filled with gifts by Moet and Dom Perignon and took in their very elegant grounds.
From expensive specialty bottles to wedding gifts priced at 4700 Euros like this champagne flute tower and boating accessories- they really thought out their branding and merchandising with the luxury champagne lover in mind.
And they definitely didn’t want you to forget that they are dominating the market with merchandising from Dom Perignon as well.
After our tour of Moet and Chandon, we prepared for our travels back to Paris but not without one last stop on a short cut outside of town, where we we able to take in one last glance of the greenlands of the Champagne Region.
This place was the perfect backdrop for the most beautiful and bountiful land I had ever seen and I can guarantee that we will return.
One fun fact is that the city sees its most tourism during the time of Harvest which is typically in September.
People come from all over the world to help pick and press the grapes that make the champagne for all the houses and then attend huge barnyard parties to celebrate once harvest is complete. Carlos and I both agreed that a bucket list trip for harvest has gotta happen.
Why do I love champagne so much? I guess the answer is moreso why not. It’s sophisticated and pairs well with fruits and cheeses. I love the way its tiny little bubbles tickle my nose and palate and when perfectly chilled its the base for some of my most favorite cocktails from a French 75 to a Grand Royal. You can’t help but feel fancy when you taste the flavor of all different kinds- while Carlos is much more of a connosieur of the ways of whiskey.
Are you a lover of champagne as much as me? Then, check out this article from Esquire.com on 16 of the BEST Champagne cocktails and let me know what you have or would like to try?
Thanks for taking a look and I hope you enjoyed my day in Epernay as much as I did. Stay tuned for the final part of our trip to France as we venture off to the French Riviera for some serious “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” esque fun.
And until then- here’s to “Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams” just make sure the caviar is petrossian beluga- you know the kind only Diahann “Dominique DeVeReaux” Carroll can stand!