Epernay France 130 km north east of Paris and is in the heart of the Champagne region. The most famous street in Epernay is Avenue de Champagne which hosts several large champagne houses and was the street which our accommodations were located on — La Villa Eugene Hotel.
After checking in to our room, we walked down the street to Moet et Chandon for a tour and tasting. Reservations are recommended during the peak season from June to October. The tour began with a brief history and a short film and then a walking tour of the caves, followed by a purchased tasting. Moet Imperial is their basic brut champagne followed by a reserve selection in both brut and rose.
After an hours’ stay at Moet et Chandon, we headed to Mercier champagne house, which was right next to our hotel. Mercier is France’s most popular and economic champagne, like Mum for the United States. The tour was done by train five stories below ground and ended with a tasting in the main lobby. For the price, the champagne is nicely made with brut & rose reserve selections as well.
For dinner that evening we dined at La Grillade Gourmande in Epernay, which focused on grilled meats and fish. After a kind greeting at the door by the chef, we were seated in front of the wood burning grill where all the meats are seared.
Our amuse bouche of Cauliflower Soup with Crouton was delightful. The creaminess of the soup was nice with a glass of champagne – great beginning.
We ordered a bottle of Burgundy from Volnay to go with our dinner. The wine was good, but not as balanced as some of the smaller producers we had while in Burgundy.
For starters, we had a nice Green Leaf Lettuce, Roasted Potatoes and Crouton Salad as well as a Salmon Tartar with Wasabi Seeds. The potatoes in the salad were a nice change from lardons and I especially enjoyed the heat from the seeds on the salmon.
For main course – Sea Bass in a Leek and Butter Sauce and a zucchini roll with roasted pepper wrapped in bacon. I loved the seared fish with its slightly smokey flavor and who can complain about butter sauce?
The Tornado of Beef with Seared Foie Gras and Baked Potatoes — the best cut of beef on the trip. The Foie Gras added a richness to the entire dish that made it decadent.
The next morning we headed out with our guide Cris from his company Cris-Event Champagne Tours. Cris was born in Epernay and lived in Reims his entire life. He has been doing tours for 30+ years and his knowledge of the Champagne Region is phenomenal and quite impressive. We began our tour in a vineyard above the valley to take in the view of the Valley of Marne and the Mountains of Reims. Cris explained the grape growing process as well as the terroir of each region.
Our first tasting and tour was at Jean Milan in the town of Oger. The small village hosts several champagne houses including several Grand Cru Vintners. The tour explained the pressing processes of champagne and how they separate each press into different vats and sell the second and third presses off to other champagne houses.
After a little driving through the valley to view the vineyards, we headed to lunch at Le Vieux Puits Restaurant in the village of Fontjoncouse. Chef Gilles Goujon has been awarded three Michelin Stars and his food was delicious. The patio was the perfect place for lunch and we began with an amuse bouche of Smoked Fish over Cucumbers and Yogurt.
The fish was light and paired nicely with our half bottle of champagne and freshly baked baguettes.
Our main courses were a fresh Lobster Salad and a Chicken Roulade stuffed with whipped Cheese. Both were nicely prepared and we enjoyed every bite.
After stopping to view the vineyards and pressing house of Dom Perignon, we headed to Hautvillers. Our next tour and tastings was at Champagne Fernand Lemaire. This smaller house was located at the top of the village and is currently on their fourth generation champagne maker. The 4 varieties of champagne were all nicely made and most of their champagnes stay in France because their production is small.
Our final tasting of the day was at JM Gobillard & Fils, which we had toured their facilities earlier in the day, but their tasting room is in Hautvillers. They produce at a larger scale and it was nice to taste the difference between a small house and a larger one like JM Gobillard.
My husband had the opportunity to Saber a bottle of Champagne as well.
The Abbey of St. Peter was where they buried Dom Perignon and many other monks in the region.
Our final stop was at the top of the hill overlooking the Marne River with our bottle of Champagne given to us from Cris.
That evening before our early morning departure back to CDG airport, we decided to stay in and enjoy our lovely balcony with local charcuterie, cheese and of course Champagne.