Friday, February 25, 2011

Champagne Tasting- Reims and Epernay

We spent a long weekend in the Champagne Region of France.  I had planned this trip out pretty well before we left.  Having the trip during their off season posed some need for setting up appointments prior to arriving in the towns and just stopping in for tours/tastings.  We drove to Reims first.  The champagne houses are spread out in Reims, which means you need a car to get around.  I had made reservations for us at Martel, G.H. Mumm on our first day.  We loved Martel.  It's a smaller champagne house and perhaps it was because it was our first that we loved it so much.  A short tour and tasting later, I was at the register buying our first of many bottles that weekend!  The tour at Mumm was great, although we didn't particularly love the tasting.  You may think the tours get old, but they don't.  They are pretty different and although they explain the same process of champagne making, it's still interesting..especially if you weren't aware of the process before hand.  On the second day, we tasted at Pommery.  LOVED the caves and the tastings.  This was our favorite tour and because we were in the off was a private tour.  Just us and the guide which is great for getting your questions answered.  While in Reims, we visited the Reims Cathedral.  So worth a visit.  We also visited the Porte de Mars, which is right next to the train station.  It's the old entry gate to the city and was built in the 2nd Century AD.  On our last day in Reims, we stopped by the Musee de la Reddition, the historic room where the Germans signed the surrender document of WWII.  I'm really glad we made this stop.  It cost 3 euros to get in and actually has passes to five other museaums, including the planatarium.  You may want to check out the other options if you are into museaums, have kids, or maybe not so much into Champagne.
We spent another night in Epernay, which was much prettier and fancier than Reims..thus my favorite of the two.  The champagne houses in Epernay are all conviently located on Avenue de Champagne.  We had a scheduled tour at Mercier.  This tour was very cool because it was a little train that brought you for a ride through the caves along with an audio guide in your language.  The tasting was nice, not my favorite, but of course we ended up buying some.  We also stopped at some houses randomly for tastings, which was fun too.  The tastings can get expensive, but we would choose different champanges to taste and double our tastings that way!  On the way back to Germany, we stopped in a town called Dizy and drove up to the Hautvillers (High Village) atop the vineyards.  What a view!  What a town!  Of course we stopped at a place to taste called G.Tribaut, which I would recommend if you find yourself in Dizy.  It's all local and probably doesn't get shipped out of Epernay, but it was good.  If you're there, try the Ratafia (it's special to just this champagne house and has a whopping 18% alcohol level).  Yeah, I got this and could barely see straight walking back to the car..not the first time this weekend to be drunk by noon. :)  Although we didn't buy any Ratafia for home, we did come back with over 10 bottles of Champagne.
I've added our hotels and the restaurants in the Trip Planner section if interested.
Some tips:  First, you will hit many tolls (I think we counted 4 from Stuttgart each way).  However, stay on the autobahn.  Although it cost money in tolls, it's better than doing the back roads and they do take credit cards at the toll booths.  This was a tip given to me from someone who used to live in the area.  Second, fill up your gas tanks at stations part of super markets, ex. Cora.  They tend to be cheaper than gas stations by themselves.  Brian brought along a filled contatiner of gas that he got on base, so that saved up quite some money on gas as well.  I wasn't a huge fan of driving all that way with my pups and a filled gas contatiner in the back, but it ended up being fine and a good choice for using gas money on more champagne!
Also, the last Esso station in Germany is located at Haupstrasse 46, 76461 Muggensturm for those of you wanting to use your esso card. 

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