A Quick Visit to Paris and Champagne

Well hello there. It’s been a while. But, I’m back. Back from having a little writers block. But the Spring temperatures and sunshine have melted that away. This article has been sitting patiently waiting for me to finish it, so enjoy!

Champagne. It’s not just that bubbly which you may think is very expensive and only for those “who can afford it”. It’s also a beautiful wine region just 40 quick minutes by train from Paris. With rolling hills lined with vineyards; churches on hill tops; and small little villages to big cities with history around every corner. I went for a 4-day visit there last October and I wanted to share with you a quick “what I learned” and what to expect.

When you think of Champagne the drink, you might just think of the top names like Moet and Veuve and Dom Perignon. But honestly, these aren’t the only historic Champagne houses, there are many you need to visit. Champagne is made up of lots of smaller producers, and they are everywhere. And because many are smaller, it’s smart to call ahead and plan out your route based on your appointments.

While visiting my friend and fellow wine writer in October, here’s what we got up to:

On Day 1, it was about getting familiar with the area. I took the train from Paris to the station just outside Reims and then we drove around and visited a wonderful restaurant and wine shop called Au 36 located in HautVillers. We did a champagne tasting while we ate local cuisine from the area. It was filled with ambiance and the service and food was fantastic. A must for your next visit.

My friends are staying in a little village called Chavot-Courcourt, so in the evening we enjoyed sipping on their neighbours Champagne Leabeau-Batiste champagnes.

On Day 2, we drove around blindly (instead of having appointments) through Verzy, Villers-Marmery and luckily stumbled upon two Champagne houses that were open in the village of Ambonnay (a Grand Cru Village). We stopped in at  Patrick Soutiran (Growers Champagne). A delightful tasting with prices per bottle around 20+ Euros.

We then passed through a few villages with nothing open at all – note: many villages close from 12/2-4pm for lunch! Our next stop was in the village of Louvois (a Grand Cru Village), Champagne Serge Gaudriller. Another wonderful small producer with some delightful Champagnes and decent prices.

On Day 3, we enjoyed a morning visit to Epernay for lunch at Bar Parisien; and did a Champagne tasting at a local wine store called Caves Champenoise.

They had an excellent selection of Champagnes and wine from the region. Afterwards we visited Avenue de Champagne, with a stop at Michel Gonet for a glass of bubbles in the garden; and Paul-Etienne Saint Germain for a lovely tasting, that was pre-booked!


On Day 4, we had an appointment at Paul Goerg in Vertus (a Grand Cru Village)

for a tasting and tour, before heading to the train station!

The most surprising thing to me, all the villages are much closer than they seem on a map!

Now onto my next stop: Paris!

I found a delightful little 3-star located near Gare du Nord –  Hotel Albert 1er Paris with breakfast included

and 24 hr. concierge. I enjoyed a picnic under the Eiffel Tower (with cheese and wine purchased at a local shop); a stroll through Montmarte to see artists and lots of little shops.

In the evening myself and my cousins enjoyed an amazing dinner at Pierre Sang , where your set course dinner (is a secret) is served without detail and only explained after you’ve eaten each course. A truly great experience and dinner. We also enjoyed a glass of wine at the O Chateau Wine Bar  – with wines from all over Europe. Not a bad weekend visit!

It was very easy to enjoy France when the trains are fast and the food and wine never disappoints.

Au revoir!

A Spanish Cava Comes to Canada

Every year I attend the Vancouver International Wine Festival. To learn, to be inspired to write, and to share my experience in hopes of inspiring others to attend and learn more about wine.

I had one particular experience this year, that blew my expectations right out of the water.

“A Sparkling Experience” showcasing premium Cava from Juvé & Camps paired with a multi-course dinner at ARC Restaurant at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel.

It was a privilege to sit beside the winemaker, across from the export director, with my wine writer friend and with two well-known and respected local media personalities. And, we got to taste a line-up of beautifully made Cava that just arrived into Vancouver just 2 weeks earlier! These Cavas were a level above what we have tasted in the market. Their finesse and personality are very distinctive and such a delight to have, it made me appreciate Cava even more than I did.

A little about Juvé & Camps: started by the Juvé family in 1796, they now have 271 hectares in the Penedes region of Cava in Spain. Organic, hand harvested. Made in the méthode Champenoise in caves at the family estate winery that were built in 1921. They released their first Gran Reserva in 1972 followed by the Reserva de la Familia, making history as the most widely sold Gran Reserva Brut Nature cava in the world.

Cava, if you did not know, is the name for Sparkling wine in Spain. To be labelled “Cava”, it needs to be made of 3 grapes: Macabeu, Xarel-lo and Parellada.

If the history of this winery isn’t enough to peak your interest, then have a look at the menu we enjoyed showcasing each wine with its perfect west coast pairing.

Zarzuela de Mariscos – mussels, pancetta, charred tomato and almond. Served with the 2015 Cinta Púrpura Reserva Cava. Aged 24 months in the bottle, on the palate it offered fresh fruit and a hint of flowers and toasted notes with a balance of all 3 grapes. Soft and just crisp enough to pair with the shellfish.

Grilled Local Octopus – smoked paprika vinaigrette with a potato terrine. Served with the NV Limited 40th Anniversary Brut Nature Cava. Aged 36 months in the bottle with the main grapes of Xarel-lo and Macabeu and 10% Parellada. Extra aging showed well with notes of toast, fresh fruit and hint of citrus in the background.

Quebec Foie Gras – torch sandwich with tea crisp, date jam, candied nuts. Served with the 2014 Essential 100% Xarel-lo. Crisp and lean with mineral and citrus notes were perfect to cut through the richness of the Foie Gras. Aged 24 months in the bottle this was such a delightful surprise – with notes of fennel, pear and mediterranean herbs and hint of yeast in the background. Outstanding, and my favourite of the evening!

Cordero Al Ajo Cabañil – garlic and cumin roasted lamb with preserved lemon. Served with the NV Brut Rosé made of 100% Pinot Noir. Aged for 9-15 months in the bottle, this fresh sparkling had notes of cherries, strawberries, hints of honey, toast and flowers. Although we were all a little apprehensive on the pairing, it danced with the spiced lamb perfectly!

Nova Scotia Lobster “Paella” – saffron sauce, shellfish risotto, sidestripe shrimp, blistered tomato and artichokes. Served with the 2013 Gran Reserva. Aged 42 months in the bottle with the dominant grape of Xarel-lo, then Macabeu, Chardonnay and 10% of Parellada. This showed absolute beauty in the glass, with many of the same notes, just much more creaminess from the mousse and a complex personality yet still very fresh.

Torrija Bread Pudding – cream catalans ice cream, almond streusel, dulce de leche. Served with the 2015 Milesimé Cava made of 100% Chardonnay. Aged for 24 months in the bottle, this was another delight. Complex and elegant with fresh peach and melon notes with a hint of honey, grapefruit and toast.  Delicious!

I highly recommend you seek out Juvé & Camps Cavas! Or better yet, start planning your next trip to Spain, call up the winery and make a reservation to do a tour (and take me with you)!

Enjoy getting to know Cava, cheers! 🙂