“Wine is sunlight, held together by water.” —– Galileo
What’s better than a day out in the country, especially when it’s champagne country. The O Chateau minivan picked us up early this morning, and we were on the road with Richard, our oenologist guide, and six others to visit to three champagne makers.
Our first stop, in Reims, was a big producer, Pommery, and after we walked down 119 steps, toured the caves, and walked back up, it was 11:00, time for our first tasting. A nice start, but the day got even better.
In Verzy, after a mini-lesson in the the vineyard, we walked up the road to La Maison Penet, a small family-owned producer. Martine, the beautiful wife of the vintner, served us lunch. Three flights of champagne and a medley of Martine’s dishes: potato salad, deviled eggs, a luscious carrot and tuna salad, pate en croute, green salad, pate, sausage, ham, several cheeses, bread, macarons and other tiny cookies — our group became more convivial with every sip, every taste.
Time to move on! Passing rolling fields of vines, we watched teams of workers hand-picking the grapes. At Champagne Salmon in Chaumuzy, a young man in muck boots and a grape-stained shirt, the third generation in the family business, welcomed us. This was harvest week, and containers of fresh-picked grapes were piled up to be crushed. Our young host couldn’t linger and chat with us for too long— he had work to do. He and three other men poured the grapes into the crusher, and the juice oozed down into a tank below, the first step towards the 2014 vintage.
Then we met the owner/ grandpere. With our guide as translator, Monsieur Salmon told us of the humble beginnings of his champagne business that he and his wife began in the 1950’s. Charming, gracious, and cute, cute, cute, he led us to his tasting room, popped the corks and poured three of his champagnes for us to taste.
Mike has his souvenirs: two bottles from La Maison Penet, two bottles from Salmon. He’ll have to wrap them carefully in our suitcases for the flight home, but chances are that we may be down to just a bottle or two by departure day.