Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Day of Champagne

(I'm still re-living my Paris trip, and have more stories from it.)  As this was a birthday celebration, was there anything better to do than drink Champagne?  Of course not!  And where is a good place to drink it?  Why, at the places that make it!  And so we set off on the train for a day trip to Epernay, an hour and a bit outside of Paris. According to my friend who has done quite a lot of research, this is where the savvy people go, instead of going to Reims.  It was her birthday, and I was not going to argue.  Epernay is a very charming town, with almost everything within walking distance of the train station.  There are Champagne houses where you can walk in off the street without reservations and pay a few Euros for a tasting, such as the giant Moet et Chandon, along the aptly-named Avenue de Champagne, and Collard-Picard, where we stopped for a pre-lunch tasting. They had a beautiful courtyard with little cafe tables and we thought it looked like a perfect spot to sip champage.  As it was a Monday and early in the day, we had the place to ourselves so we all opted for the 3 "premium" tastes for 15 Euros.  All three were delicious and I will be looking for that label when I shop here at home. 

After that aperitif, it was time for lunch and we headed to La cave a Champagne on Rue Gambetta for what would be one of the best meals of the trip.  We all ordered off the 3-course prix-fixe menu and were delighted with every dish.


With full stomachs we wandered up the hill to our first tasting appointment at the Champagne House of  Charles Mignon, a family run winery.  We were taken on a tour by the daughter of the winemaker, a fifth-generation Mignon.  They even had a short video in English for us that explained their history and their process.  The champagne was tasty and I bought a bottle to bring home.  Our second appointment was at Charles Ellner, chosen because they were located close to the first tasting, and because I apparently like the name Charles. This place was beautiful, our guide/hostess very charming, and the champagne was quite distinctive.  We could have stayed there all afternoon!

 Alas,we had a train to catch back to Paris, so we reluctantly left and made our way back to the station.
 I was very pleased with the Champagne Houses for our tastings; I chose them fairly randomly off a map of Epernay.  They were close to each other, but just enough up the hill that I thought they may not be visited by a lot of the day tourists to the town so might be a little different.  Plus, they answered my emails right away, and both spoke English.  When you don't know a lot about the Champagne region, sometimes that is all it takes!