Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Burgundy Day 1

I really should let Mark blog the next few days (but he is traveling so it would never get done), as this was the highlight of his trip!  He has always been in love with burgundy wines.

Our train ride to Dijon was about 3.5 hours.  Once we got there we had to get on another train down to the town of Beaune, which was only 20 minutes.  We got our rental car and then thanks to Never Lost (serious lifesaver in another country!) we drove to Saint Romain (about 15 minutes outside of Beaune) where we were staying.  Mark buys all Arista's barrels from a company called Francois Ferers.  All the barrels are made in St. Romain.  The company was so kind to let us stay in their guesthouse, which was amazing!  Anyways, Mark and I were able to tour the cooperage and it was such a neat thing to see how barrels are made.  I tried to get pictures from most of the steps but I missed a few.  

We had dinner back in Beaune because NOTHING is in St. R- seriously nothing!  Did I mention that it's a village of only 300 people?!?  Oh, and obviously NO wi-fi to be found!

Here are some pictures of the cooperage...I tried to start at the beginning of the process but I missed a few steps.  Hopefully you'll get the idea or you may be BORED out of your minds...

The wood comes from all over the country.

Barrels waiting to be toasted.  They had already finished the process that day.  Barrels are toasted over a small fire.  They sit right on top of it.

Making the tops

Lots of steps missed here... the bung hole is made, the barrel is sanded, top is placed, rings are put on...

Ready to be shipped all over the world

These pics should be at the top.  Most of the wood sits here for up to 4 years before barrels are even made.  This small stack where Mark is standing is enough wood for 10 barrels.

You are in luck!  These must be the only pictures I took today.  Enjoy that because starting tomorrow there will be a TON!  :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Reims Day 3

I do NOT know how to explain it.  I really don't other than the fact that Mark and I were more tired than we thought.  The night before we went to bed probably around 9 or 9:30.  In our hotel we have the extra thick darkening curtains so every time I opened my eyes that night I just assumed that it was still dark.  Mark, who can't sleep in past 7 (ever) nudged me and said, "it's 12:45!  PM!"  WHAT ON EARTH?!?  That made me so happy :)  Good thing we didn't have any plans today!  We ended up leaving our room around 2!  That's what vacation is all about right???

Mostly we just walked around the city some more.  We found the old abbey of Saint-Remi where King Louis IV is buried.  I had the yummiest hot chocolate from a little cafe where our waiter wanted to practice his English.  We so appreciated his friendliness.

I don't know what it is about the French being overall just not a happy bunch of people.  Seriously.  No one smiles.  Hardly anyone is helpful.  They look at us Americans almost with disgust.  You want to say, "ok, you win.  We are the foreigners.  I know we don't speak your language but obviously we don't know what we are doing.  Would it hurt just a little to try and be helpful?  Please don't roll your eyes again at me... please"  It makes me appreciate foreigners who come to America so much better.  Mark and I got into the habit of saying "bonjour" to every one that passed us on the street and we, 95% of the time just got stared at- no smiles, no "bonjour" back.  Kinda sad actually.  Anyways, enough of that rant!

We found the Porte de Mars.  Arches that were built in the 3rd century- crazy old!  Right across the street we found Charles de Casanove.  We know the son who runs this champagne house.  He has a home not too far from us.  We had called him saying that we were coming but he was going to be traveling so we hadn't planned on visiting but there is was right across the street so we popped in.  We tasted about 4 different champagnes and bought 2 bottles.  Can't wait to drink those back home.

We went back to the hotel (just a mere 4 hours after we left it- ha!).  Mark and I decided that we needed a bit more bubbles so we went downstairs to their champagne bar and had a bottle of Pol Roger- DELICIOUS!  I loved it.  We ate dinner in the restaurant and then headed to bed early (I know, strange after all that sleeping).  We had to be at the train station at 5:30 am the next morning.

 where king Louis is buried

La Porte de Mars

It was a fun and lazy kind of day!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Reims Day 2

Mark and I woke up so excited to do some champagne tastings today.  Afgter breakfast in our hotel we walked to our first appointment- about a 10 minute walk.  (After walking around yesterday and seeing hardly anyone the city was definitely more "alive" today!)  One of our favorite sparkling wines in CA is Roederer so naturally we wanted to go to where it was originated.  We met with a great girl who took us to the main cellars (they have 4 all across the country) She walked us through the whole champagne making process, showed us some pretty fascinating vintages and at the end we got to pick a bottle to taste.  I was a little disappointed because I had assumed that we would get to taste several different ones but the one bottle that we decided on was fantastic!  We grabbed a quick (ha! as nothing is quick in France) lunch and then headed back to our hotel to meet our driver.  Our next appointment was about 45 minutes away.  We arrived at the tiny tiny little village.  For the next 2 hours we got to tour and taste one of the most nicest champagnes ever made, Salon.  They make a more affordable champagne as well, Delamotte.  At the end we got to taste 4 different champagnes... finally!  The cab driver on the way home was very nice and took us on a little "tour" through Epernay where we saw some other famous champagne houses.  It was so fun to see where some of our favorite beverages of choice are produced!

One interesting note that I want to remember is Mark and I were very surprised at the small amount of vineyards we saw today.  We had expected to see just vineyard after vineyard after vineyard (like we do in CA).  There are huge pieces of land that just sit unplanted.  I’m sure that there is something that’s important that grows there it’s just not grapes.
Mark and I found a restaurant to eat at back in Reims where I ordered a hamburger… man, I miss a good USA hamburger right about now... along with a Dr Pepper!  This coke is for the birds- yuck! :)

 In front of Roederer.

 They have 150 of these huge barrel/tanks.  It equals to 1 million bottles of champagne!

 Cristal anyone?  Yes please!  :)

Rose Cristal!

 My champagne drinking partner!

 Here we are at Salon.  I haven't mentioned that it is FREEZING in the cellars.  I wouldn't ever think of taking off my jacket!  Also, these cellars are hundreds and hundreds years old- spiderwebs and dust everywhere!
 Some champagne from 1943!

The 1999 vintage is just about ready to be released.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Reims- Day 1

We woke up Sunday morning and after breakfast and a slight “emergency” (locking our passports and my jewelry in the hotel safe and not being able to unlock it) we took a cab to the train station.  We had been warned that the train station is where a lot of theft takes place so I had the death grip on our bags.  Definitely some sketchy people were there along with police with machine guns.  Not my favorite place to be so far!  The train ride to Reims (Champagne region) was about an hour and a half.  I loved looking out the windows at the countryside at all the little towns with red roofs.  You could see a chapel with a huge steeple in all of them.  Wish that we could have gone to explore each and every one of them.

We made it to Reims and it was a short walk to our hotel.  We stayed in another great hotel and it was right in the middle of the old downtown.  Mark and I immediately set out to explore the city.  It was like a ghost town as every store and most every restaurant are closed on Sundays.  We walked about 10 minutes and as we rounded the corner I saw the most unbelievable structure I have ever laid my eyes on-  The Cathedral of Reims.  Notre Dame doesn’t hold a candle to this place.  It was built over 800 years ago (which that in itself was hard to imagine- building something that large and that grand) and it was literally spectacular!  Your eyes can’t see everything.  The ornateness of every detail is utterly indescribable.  We walked in and seeing the vastness and beauty of it all took my breath away and my eyes filled with tears.  I have never seen anything like it!  The pictures do not do it justice.

 Anyways, we spent about an hour there and then it was getting dark so we made a stop in a little champagne shop and bought a couple of bottles and headed back to our hotel.  We found a random restaurant that was open and ordered some pizza- it was fair.  Mark and I had some champagne in our room and then called it a night.  Definitely looking forward to tomorrow!  :)

these first 2 pictures are for Jake- he loves "bullet trains" right now :)

train station in Reims

The Reims Cathedral