Being married to a Chef provides me with some really cool perks within the industry. Travelling with a chef who happens to be great friends with a wine purveyor really opens the schwag (as in celebrity not the sticky icky) doors... While in France, I had the honor along with the Chef to spend the day at Henriot Champagne House. A house that is normally not open to the public.
The five of us, including my favorite wine purveyor Mr. William Barefoot of 55 Degrees, hopped on the TGV and headed north to Reims aka Champagne country. We got in a cab, told the driver the address, and then drove around the city for an hour in search of Henriot. Eventually our driver found the gated house marked only by a small gold sign. We somehow arrived early even though we got lost in the cab and waited outside the gate for our host, Beatrice. None of us knew what to expect. All we knew is that we were surrounded by beauty and champagne.
Beatrice pulled in and led us behind the ten foot gate. We walked into the courtyard to see two houses. She led us in to one of the houses and we were immediatley taken back by this:
Entrance to the Henriot Crayères (a system of tunnels and caves that all of the champagne houses share)
Walking in and seeing a staircase that led down 500' below Earth was pretty breathtaking. When we heard that we would eventually be taking a tour of the Crayères (something NO tourists/tours/non employees are allowed to do) we almost dropped dead. We were shocked. Of course we managed to calm ourselves down after a few glasses of the Henriot. The tasting itself turned out to be a very informative session. Being the history nerd that I have turned out to be (thanks Dad) I was hella intrigued to hear the stories of how the champagne houses and Crayères were created ( a mix of the Roman empire, Viking Slaves, and Chalk).
Moussier Wine & I enjoy some Henriot Champagne
After we tasted some really awesome champagne we headed down to the Crayères. The system of tunnels and caves are shared by all the Champagne houses so it was hard to know whose bottles were whose. Nonetheless it was badass. Imagine being at least 500' under ground, the walls made of chalk, and crates and crates of champagne bottles stacked to the top of the caves. I was overwhelmed with the beauty of it all.
Surrounded by Champagne in the chalk Crayères
Once we had finished our tour of the Crayères, Beatrice informed us that she would be taking us to one of Henriot's vineyards to taste a bottle of '88. Woe is me....
We squeezed into her Puegot (a car after my own heart) and drove through the mountains of Reims, the plains, and finally into the vineyards. The sight was something my eyes have never seen before. Looking out of all the car windows I felt as though I was watching a movie or flipping through a postcard book. The magnificence of the countryside was shocking. My eyes went crazy tyring to soak it all in.
The vineyard was just as beautiful as the countryside and we actually got to walk through, taste the Pinor Noir grapes and sip on some good juice. The day was intense. The more time that passed the more intriguing and awesome our tour became. We eventually found ourselves in a cozy restaurant eating lobster cassoulet and sipping on some Henriot. Not bad for a days work.
Sante! Billy, the Chef, myself, Ev, & Keri in the Henriot vineyard