“Champagne, the most famous drink in the World”

After a wonderful time in Paris, we grabbed an uber and headed to the airport where we rented a car to head to Reims, or otherwise known as Champagne country.  Reims is only about 80 miles outside of Paris.  If you love Champagne and you find yourself in Paris this is a must see and do.

We stayed at Les Crayeres Chateau.  This place certainly gives you a royalty kind of feeling.  It’s a mansion from 1904 with 7 acres of lush grounds that used to be owned by Madame Pommery, of Pommery champagne.  The outside is magnificent and unlike any hotel I have seen or stayed in.  It looks like a castle!

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As we checked in the service couldn’t have been more professional and attentive.  We had a mix up with one of our champagne tours with having the incorrect date.  Peter had booked us in June not July so we had missed our tour.  They straightened it all out and were able to rebook us for Moet & Chandon.

Shortly after arriving to our room there was a knock and to our surprise there was a staff member with two glasses of champagne.  Such a nice touch and a wonderful way to feel welcome.

The rooms were impressive.  Spacious, beautifully decorated, cozy bed, and with great views of the garden.









That evening the Tour de France was finishing the 6th leg in Reims.  After we got ourselves situated we walked to the town center to find ourselves a spot to watch it.  We were lucky enough to get a front row view of the cyclists.  Also there was a massive parade going on before the cyclists and it was an absolute scene.  There was an announcer the entire time who shouted in French providing updates on the athletes as they made their journey 40-50 miles out from where we were.  Additionally there was float after float of people playing music, dancing, and sponsors throwing goodies at the crowd along the track about 30 minutes ahead of the cyclists.  It was a mad house, but impressively the patrons were calm and not pushy.  We were able to be right in front and not be bothered.  Once the Tour de France came through, it was really incredible.  The racers absolutely blew past us with such incredible speed.  I had chills all over my body.  What a sight, or rather a blur.  Really a cool experience.

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Afterwards we walked back to our Chateau for a dinner reservation Peter had made for us at Le Parc, which has a 2 star Michelin rating.  I could go on and on about the food and service.  Rather than do that I will pick out a few of the highlights.  We ordered a bottle of wine and the presentation was something I had never seen before.  The Sommelier slowly rolled the bottle over on a cart with a decanter and a candle.  Opened the bottle and let it breath.  He later returned and very slowly poured the entire bottle of wine in a circular motion into the decanter.  After he was done he poured a small amount in a glass, smelled it, swirled it, smelled it again, then took a drink, swished it around, and finally swallowed.  He gave an approving French nod and proceeded to serve us.  It was an entire production.

Peter ordered a prawn appetizer.  It was the largest prawn I have ever seen.  The waiter brought over a cart with a cutting board, took the shell off the shrimp then proceeded to cut it into little pieces for him.  I had lobster with cavier which was melt-in-your mouth good.  For entrees Peter ordered Wagyu beef.  Once again there was a production with the waiter cutting his steak into perfect bite size pieces.  I became concerned that after this experience Peter was going to want this treatment at home.  With every bite Peter had a ridiculous grin on his face.  He claims it was the best meal he has ever had, without exaggeration.  The presentation, professionalism, and service was the best we both have ever experienced.  The fact that the restaurant was on the Chateau’s first floor made it extra surreal to eat that type of cuisine and then walk up a flight of stairs to our room. Alright enough about food.  It probably sounds like all we do is eat.

We drink too!

The next morning we were off to Champagne to taste.  Our first tasting was at Taittinger, coincidently the sponsored Champagne of the World Cup.  It was a nice easy walk from the Chateau to the cave tour.  We were asked if we would like one tasting or three.  Of course I said three because that’s what you do in the states when you go tasting.  Actually you usually try more than three per winery.  Fast forward to the end of the tour we were the only people on the tour of about 25 that tried all three.  Everyone else only had one tasting.  So we either looked like we are really fun or that we like to drink, a lot.

The tour was educational on the history of champagne and on how to make this marvelous drink.  Champagne is made of three grape varieties: two red (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) and one white (Chardonnay). Peter and I were both confused how champagne uses red grapes but is a clear drink. We learned that the color is in the skin, but the juice itself is clear. The producers have to press the red grapes very carefully as to leach as little color as possible from the skin to create the still, clear wine.  The clear wine is then blended and assembled to make champagne by adding yeast and sugar into the fermentation to carbonate the party. This is unlike red wine where they can press through all parts of the grape to expose its color.

Champagne is also under strict rules from the appellation which guides the alcohol content, time for fermentation, amongst other factors.   If the grapes aren’t grown in Champagne then you aren’t drinking Champagne.  ”Champagne is French, just as the Eiffel Tower is Parisian.”

The history is rich and fascinating.  During WWI, the Champagne caves became a subterranean way of life.  The caves provided safety from bombings.  It became a labyrinth where the caves were open from Reims to Epernay, cellar to cellar.  There was a hospital, concerts, and work all being done below the surface.  We actually saw a cross engraved on the wall marking a spot for patient care.

There are many war stories of German and French Allies stealing champagne from the cellars and picking up clusters of drunk soldiers.  Empty bottles could be found in ditches all over Champagne.  The very important role that Champagne did play at that time was keeping the nation’s moral.  Victories were celebrated with Champagne, trophies replaced by corks, and there was a famous quote by a French military leader, “Save the Champagne first”

We learned about vintage years.  Vintage means that the harvest that year was excellent and the grapes from just that harvest will be used to make a vintage botle – its determine subjectively by the champagne house. Producers typically allow 3 years for vintages to mature while it takes the regular champagne, governed by French law, 1.5 years to mature.  For really good vintages, some will allow the bottles to ferment for decades. Champagne is different from wine, however, as you don’t want to hang on to it thinking it will taste better as it ages.  You want to drink it when you buy it as the fermentation has more or less ended, but do think about the about of time it took to make.  By the time it touches your lips there was at least a couple years of work, more if you are lucky enough to be drinking a vintage bottle.

After the tour we tried our 3 tastings.  All very good.  Fun to compare vintage to non vintage.  Peter and I actually both liked the non vintage better in our impromptu blind tastings with one another.  We think it’s because it is what we are use to.

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Later that day we did a tour of Veuve Clicquot.  If you know us well enough you know that this is the drink Peter and I celebrate with.  It started on our first trip together.  We would buy a bottle at duty free in airports and then open it when we got to a new city.  It just kind of stuck and reminded us of that trip.  After that we would buy a bottle for a celebration, or if we wanted to make a Friday night special, or if we found a great price on it.  We bought a bottle to drink while we did our engagement shoot in Alaska.  Our friends joined in on this tradition by buying us Veuve Clicquot for an engagement gift or bringing it over for a celebration.  We even ended up serving it at our wedding.  By the way, I keep writing Veuve Clicquot because in France they call it that.  They don’t shorten it to Veuve like Americans do.  When in France.

So needless to say we were excited! The walk was only 2 blocks from where we were staying.








On this tour we learned about Madam Clicquot.  She is known as “the grand dame of Champagne.”  She was widowed at age 27 (veuve in French means widow) and took on her husbands champagne business.  She never remarried and she lived till 89! It seems she put all her time and focus on champagne.  She was well before her time as a business woman and entrepreneur.

Her accomplishments were many.  She created the first vintage champagne in the region.  She decided to keep the yellow label which was an unusual color at the time, but makes the bottle more distinguishable from other bottles and still is just as distinct today.  One of her most inventive ideas though was the riddling table which allows the bottles to sit at a 45 degree angle to move the natural sediment from the yeast and sugar from the bottom of the bottle to the neck.  Everyday the bottles are turned to the left and to the right and put more at an angle.  After about 10 weeks of this gradual process the bottle is upside down.  The neck is then frozen and the sediment is taken out.  The table or way of making champagne is still used today.  Machines can do the labor now, unless it is a vintage, then those are done manually.  The table is shown in the picture below, or this video shows the process – a good riddler can turn 50k bottles a day!







At the end of the tour there are steps leading out of the cave that are labeled by vintage years.  As you climb the stairs you can see if your birth year was a vintage year.  Both Peter and I had vintage years, 83 and 76, respectively.






Our tour at Veuve Clicquot was made even more special as I cashed in on a bet I made with my Aunt Ginny.  About 13 years ago we made a bet.  She felt that I would be married by the time I was 30 and I bet that I would not be.  The bet was a bottle of Champagne.  Not just any bottle but a “good” bottle.  I told her if she lost she had to bring it to me at my wedding which obviously be sometime after the age of 30.  Well Ginny lost the bet, by a lot.  We had a conversation last summer about her being able to come to Maui for the wedding and she said, “Well I need to be there.  I owe you a bottle of Champagne.” What Ginny ended up doing was way better.  The day before our wedding she gave me a beautiful and touching card with $50 Euro in it.  She told me to use it on our honeymoon to buy a special and good bottle of champagne.  So generous and really made it so much more fun.  Where would we buy it? Where would we drink it? Well the where to buy was decided at Veuve Clicquot.  We spoiled ourselves and got the Grand Dame Vintage 2004.  The where to drink hasn’t happened yet.  Stay tuned.  Aunt Ginny, thank you so much.









The following pictures are from a photo session we felt compelled to do since we were at Veuve Clicquot.  I’m sure we amused no one.

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The next day we took a drive from Reims to Epernay.  A beautiful drive full of vineyards as far as the eye can see.  In between these two towns are many small family owned champagne houses.  As we drove through “La Route du Champagne” they all looked closed and we didn’t get a chance to visit one of these.  Something fun to look forward to on another visit.



























































In Epernay we had our Moet and Chandon Tour.  Another thing I learned. It’s pronounced Mo-wet not Mo-way.  Also you always say Moet and Chandon, at least when you are in France, just like Veuve Cliquout.  We had another wonderful tour learning of the history and truly why Champagne is the “most famous drink in the world.” Countries were stealing this drink and celebrating with this drink.



We also had a lesson about Dom Perignon, a monk who perfected his vineyard with prestigious grapes that Moet loved to buy for their Champagne.  In 1792 Moet acquired Dom Perignon’s vineyard.  In honor of him, Moet decided that Dom Perignon bottles would only be vintage wine, meaning that it is not produced every year.  It has to be a good harvest and years could go by without this champagne being made.  Also it is only made of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.  This made me realize why this champagne is so expensive.  Below are  pictures of us hanging out with Dom.







The other really fun thing about Epernay is that there are all kinds of champagne tasting rooms.  It’s just like going wine tasting in parts of California where there is tasting room after tasting room, only instead of wine it’s champagne.  If you love champagne this is your heaven.  Here we are champagne tasting.

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Are you all champagned out? Well if you are, good thing because we are off to wine country, Burgundy.  Another French country side road trip.





















































One last thing I learned.  Never freeze champagne because it will destroy the flavors.  Whoops, I actually put a bottle of Veuve Clicquot in the freezer on my wedding day for my bridesmaids.  The best way to chill champagne is to let it sit in a bucket of ice and water for 20 minutes.

Much love and thanks for following.



  • Rosemary Hodges

    I may be the first to see this. Just really good timing, THIS is on my bucket list. How much super fantastic fun!!!!Can hardly wait to be in on all of this. Love you both

  • Evan Hall

    I am now ready for my Burgundy lesson please!

  • Lee Goodin

    So educational and fun at the same time! You are living such a dream and I am so happy for you and Peter! Thanks for sharing your lessons and information on Champagne. You know I love a good course on grapes!! xoxo,Courtney

  • Evan, you are the absolute best. xoxoxo

  • Ahhh Mom, we so cannot wait for you to be here.

  • xoxoxo

  • Love you. See you very soon.

  • Becky Lessley

    Just catching up on all your posts. I am so ready to be there. Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jaime Fotheringham

    It’s going to be a blast!

  • Aprille

    Chris and I got the three tastings at Taittinger as well – and were the only ones. Another couple did the two tastings, everyone else just did one. Why? I say, you are in Champagne, drink! :)

  • Is it an American thing? I still need to hear about your trip.