My mom, sister, and I spent 10 days in France. We were based in Paris and literally arrived with very little on the agenda except to have an amazing time. We all had a handful of things we would like to see and experience. One of mine was a tour of champagne country. I started researching this adventure sitting at the kitchen table of our airbnb apartment in Paris and was lucky enough to stumble upon C La Vigne – Authentic Champagne Tour.
I was drawn to this company for several reasons – I love supporting small businesses, was in the market for a private tour, and the reviews were all glowing! Even though there were a smaller # of reviews compared to the larger corporate tours – it was clear the people who reviewed this company were thrilled with their experience. Also, the prompt communication from the owner sealed the deal for me.
This company is owned and operated by a young Parisian couple who have unique knowledge, local understanding, and formal educations/advanced degrees specific to wine making and the industry. It is my impression they do all of the tours personally. Our guide was Peggy.
The 3 of us were celebrating a special event so we decided on a private tour vs. a small group tour. It was perfect for us but I am sure her small group tours of 6 are a lot of fun as well.
Once we settled on a day that worked for us and for Peggy – we set about planning. Peggy asked some questions (all via email but I am sure she would be open to a phone conversation) to get a handle on they type of experience we wanted. Since we were complete novices with varying degrees of interest in champagne – we relied heavily on her guidance. We were thrilled with what she put together for us!
As I mentioned we did not provide advance notice to our visit – this undoubtedly created more planning time for Peggy. I know we could not have a pulled anything close to the day we had without her services. Plus, having her along as our expert was not only invaluable – it was FUN! She is not just filled with expertise, Peggy is fun, sweet, easy to be with and attentive. You will love her.
Your tour fees will cover round trip transportation with pick up at your hotel/apartment, itinerary planned for approval, all communications with wineries and restaurants visited, and expert guidance, information, etc. throughout the day. Peggy makes all of the arrangements and is your personal guide for the day! All tour fees and meals are not included in this service. Transportation is in a very comfortable and well-appointed Renault executive touring van.
We followed Peggy’s leads (she is so diplomatic when making recommendations but also makes it clear what she thinks are the best choices) for our itinerary. We toured one major house (Veuve Clicquot) and two smaller family owned wineries (Champagne Fernand Lemaire and Champagne Le Gallais).
The Veuve Clicquot, Footsteps of Madame Clicquot was our first stop. This is a beautiful facility and the chalk cave is amazing to see here! The tour is incredibly informative is a good base for the day. The VC employee who led the small group (about 12 people) through the caves was professional but also incredibly witty and interesting to listen to. Peggy was with us and asked questions when she thought it was important to have something added. The cave tour is about an hour followed by a tasting in their beautiful tasting room. Our tasting included the brute carte jaune and the vintage Grand Dame. It was all very corporate but still a beautiful setting, excellent champagne, and a really fun time. Great photo opportunities as well! Peggy makes sure she is there to help you get the best shots!
Next up was lunch at Brassiere Le Jardin which is led (along with Le Parc) by Chef Phillipe Mille located on the grounds of Domaine Les Crayeres in Reimes. The setting of Le Jardin is elegant and peaceful – for us it was an oasis in the middle of a rainstorm. The food was outstanding – as expected from the brasserie of the two star Le Parc. The service was outstanding and attentive. It was a wonderful, special addition to our day.
Our next winery was the family owned Champagne Fernand Lemaire in the village of Hautvillers - the birthplace of Champagne. This was a very small facility and very busy as it was the first day of harvest. It was interesting to see an old fashioned press. A bit crowded due to its size and busy – but still a good stop. While in Hautvillers we also stopped by to view the resting place of Dom Perignon at the small church where he rests. We capped this with an amazing view of a vineyard. Breathtaking!
Our last stop was at the family owned Champagne le Gallais which is located at the former castle of Veuve Clicquot. Breathtaking in every aspect – the castle looks like a fairytale come to life, the modern operation of a family owned operation was interesting to learn about, and the welcoming spirit of the family and small staff was remarkable. They had just finished the first press of the first day of harvest – clearly a very busy time – I felt so fortunate to be there! Our visit here was the last of the day. We capped it with a sabering experience in their vineyard after our tour and before the tasting. I simply cannot explain this in a way that will do it justice. It was fantastic. If you have the chance to do it – please do it! The champagne at le Gallais was also my favorite. I would have bought more than I did if I was confident about getting it back to the states unbroken.
From my first contact to the moment we returned to Paris, Peggy ensured we had an amazing day. If you have the time and interest while in Paris – I could not recommend C La Vigne – Authentic Champagne Tour more highly! Peggy is a joy, the insight you will gain is second to none, and you will not have to worry about a single detail! You will not regret the experience!
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