Tour France: Our April 17th, 2014 Wine Tasting Tour de France

Wine Tasting: A Tour de France of Wines

Inside the private collection of the owners of Smith Haut Lafitte, and a tasting of their 100 point 2009 red!

Wine tastings are often the highlight of Bliss Travels trips.  No one does wine quite like the French, and we fully embrace their talents! Whether it’s a simple chilled rosé at lunch on a Provencal farm or a private barrel tasting with the winemaker in his 14th century cellar owner, or chatting with the technical director of a world famous chateau, Bliss always includes wines! And we treat these events as they should be treated: As relaxed fun!

Bliss owner Wendy Jaeger brought fun stories and years of expertise to the evening.

Bliss owner Wendy Jaeger brought fun stories to the evening on a recent trip to Atlanta.

Here are a few of our all-time favorites! And to learn more, watch our video of Burgundy or our our 3 minute video of our trips here!

Provence offers ancient perched villages, flawless sunny days, and miles of lavender fields. It's the most relaxing area in France!

Provence offers ancient perched villages, flawless sunny days, and miles of lavender fields. It’s the most relaxing area in France!

2012 Famille Abeille Rosé

Rosé: Côtes de Provence, France

Owner, Jean Abeille after a private tasting and tour of the winery, led by him.

$13.50 per bottle with the 10% discount.

Grapes: Grenache, Syrah-Shiraz, Cinsault, Vermentino

Area: This wine comes from a family-owned estate, which is part of Château Riotor, located in the heart of Provence in the commune of Cannet des Maures. The vineyards are only 30km from the Mediterranean, and enjoy a warm, maritime, Mistral-influenced climate.

Flavor profile: A delicate and refreshing rosé typical of Provence. Locals (and Bliss, of course) drink rosé at lunch for a perfect midday pick me up. Its gentle flavors reminiscent of fresh peach, clementine, pear and raspberry tend to be on the dry rather than sweet.

Pairs well with: soft pink fish, like poached trout.

Burgundy boasts of vineyards as far as the eye can see--many consider this the best wine region of France!

Burgundy boasts of vineyards as far as the eye can see–many consider this the best wine region of France!

White: 2012 David Moret Bourgogne Blanc

White: Burgundy, France

A trip to a wine maker's private cellar welcomed us to Burgundy. Not too shabby!

A trip to world class Domaine de l’Arlot (not open to the public) and a tasting held by their technical director. Not too shabby!

$21.60 per bottle with the 10% discount on a case at Princeton Corkscrew wineshop

Area: This comes from one of the finest Cru holdings in the region, Beaune. Moret is known as one of the premier white Burgundy producers, using detail-oriented procedures to ensure the finest quality wines. Bliss clients stay in a privately-owned chateau on a vineyard, where we get a private tasting of the wine!

Flavor profile: Notes of honeysuckle, toasted walnuts and Anjou pear greet your nose, with rich fruits, lemon zest, minerals and elegant acidity filling your mouth in waves. The finish is long–peeling away the layers before your next sip.

Pairs well with: Epoisse, a bloomy cow’s milk cheese. Delicieux!

 

Burgundy calls to anyone looking for quiet, history-laden Medieval villages and incredible wines.

Burgundy calls to anyone looking for quiet, history-laden Medieval villages and incredible wines.

2011 Agnès Paquet Bourgogne Pinot Noir

Red Burgundy (Pinot Noir): Burgundy (Auxey-Duresses), France

$16.65 per bottle with the 10% discount based upon purchase of a case at Princeton Corkscrew wineshop

Area: The charming Agnès Paquet is based in Meloisy, in the Hautes Côtes de Beaune. Half of the vines for this cuvée are planted in her home village, the remainder coming from an 85 year-old plot in Volnay, adding depth and structure to the blend. The villages of Burgundy, like Meloisy, are known for their beautiful architecture and history (check out our blog post of what a trip here is like with Bliss!)

Flavor profile: This vibrant, fruit-forward red has a delicate aroma of red currant, cherry, raspberry and vanilla. Its balanced, medium bodied palate offers notes of ripe red fruit, caramel, vanilla and tobacco complemented by balanced acidity and silky tannins.

 

The Rhone Valley is known for its gorgeous castles and stunning hill views.

The Rhone Valley is known for its gorgeous castles and stunning hill views.

2011 Domaine des Amouriers Vacqueyras

Rhone: Rhone Valley, France

$21.60 per bottle with the 10% discount

Grapes: Primarily Grenache grapes, with notes of Carignan, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache blanc, Roussanne, and Viognier.

Area: Climate-wise, the area is strictly Mediterranean (the eponymous sea is only 50 miles/80km to the south) and is therefore blessed with a long, hot, growing season, ensuring maximum ripeness for its vineyards. This, combined with the site’s south-westerly aspect, make it one of the most sought-after viticultural sites in the Rhone valley, which explains the density of vineyards in the area.

Flavor profile: Spice and fullness. After a few swirls of this dark purple wien, notes of blackberry, garrigue and tapenade come forth. The first sip fills your mouth, full of fruitiness, balanced tannins and acidity with a lasting finish. This is the “Grand Cru” of Vacqueyras.

Pairs well with: heartier dishes and meats, such as a good steak. Or, if in Provence –Lamb!

 

Bordeaux is as passionate about its wine as Burgundy!

Bordeaux is as passionate about its wine as Burgundy!

2010 Château Lalande Cru Bourgeois

Bordeaux: Listrac-Médoc, France

$20.25 per bottle with the 10% discount

Grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a dash of Petit Verdot

Area: The area produces some of the most sought after wines in France. In fact, some of the vineyards in the area resort to picking grapes with tweezers to get the most “perfect flavor.” These growers take their flavor seriously, as do we! On our trips here, we spend a day making our own wine and have cases shipped home. Bragging rights are definitely earned!

Flavor: Aromas of ripe plum, blackberry, and cassis rise from the glass. A little aeration brings out a wonderful balance of berries, plum, and minerality that coats the mouth pleasantly. A short time in oak barrels lends a beautiful silkiness that leaves a full, smooth blend.

Pairs well with: lamb in any form, as well as beef. Parfait, non?

 

Bordeaux's wine collection is no laughing matter!

Now you’ve gotten a good start to a wine tasting of monumental proportions. The next step? Drink them where they were created! Come on one of our “exclusive access, insider” food and wine vacations and visit the vineyards themselves. Make delicious memories! Contact Wendy (wendy@blisstravels.com) to learn more. We have trips to Bordeaux, Burgundy, Provence, Paris and all along the Mediterranean. We have even expanded to Spain!

Why not pair one of our destinations with our insider Paris experiences -like dinner in the home of a Paris chef! This month, our exclusive seasonal menu included the following:

Amuse Bouche of Foie Gras with Champagne
Caramelized carrot soup with quinoa and ginger, with a white Crozes Hermitage from the Rhone
Asparagus with Slow Poached Egg, Hollandaise, with a white Burgundy from Meursault, Premier Cru, Les Charmes 2009
Turbot with Cauliflower Puree and a White Asparagus Emulsion
Rabbit Roulade au Jus, Greens with a Pinot Noir from Burgundy, a Grand Cru Chambertin

Chocolate Cake, Strawberry/Balsamic Sorbet, Olive Oil Powder, with a Sauternes from Bordeaux

A bientôt,

Wendy Jaeger

owner, Bliss Travels

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Tour France; A Couple of Days in Burgundy

A couple of days in Burgundy are eye opening, mouthwatering, and never enough for a wine lover! This region shows off its grapes like no other in the world. Winemaking has been an integral part of the region even before recorded history, eventually earning it the title of Côte d’Or, the “Golden Slope,” because of the sheer number of rolling golden vineyards in the fall, and the value of the wines they produce.

A trip to a wine maker's private cellar welcomed us to Burgundy. Not too shabby!

A trip to closed to the public Domaine de l’Arlot with the the technical director –Wow. Not too shabby!

We hop off the train in Burgundy (almost regretting leaving our comfortable first class seats) and find ourselves in the charming town of Beaune. Walking down the cobblestone streets, we see the iconic tiled roofs of Burgundy, first designed to replicate the homeland of a noble woman from Flanders that the designer wished to woo. An entire region’s architecture created out of love—just like the nectar we have come to taste!

Our little group drops our luggage off at a small private luxury inn, attached to the home of a Burgundy winemaker. We enjoy a personal introduction to Burgundy as we visit his 14th century cellars, located just under our lodging. This is where we learn the unique qualities and process for making Burgundy wines from the expert himself.

We say “unique” because only two grapes represent almost the entirety of production: Chardonnay for white and Pinot Noir for red. The focus here is on the soil and the artful process of winemaking: nowhere else in the world is there such an emphasis on “terroir” and location. What is truly amazing is the variation in flavor that results from these two things. Winemakers here can’t blend grapes (since only 1 of each color is grown), and they can’t blend things grown on different plots of land (or they lose their ranking). “Terroir” is all.

Even the ranking of the wines is determined by which plot of land grew the grape, rather than the winemaker or Domaine. Each bottle bears the name of the plot, each so famous that everyone knows them and what they produce. Everyone in our group eagerly takes in each name to decide on a favorite!

Burgundy creates about 180 million bottles per year, but only 2% of these will get the regal ranking of Grand Cru. We taste about 15 Grand Cru –from Corton Charlemagne (white) to Echezaux (red), to Chambertin (red) and the mythical Clos Vougeot (red).  The flavor and depth have tremendous variety.

Another 12% of production is Premier Cru. These very fine wines are known by their village—Meursault, Puligny Montrachet, Gevrey Chambertin—and the plot of land in that village where the grapes were grown. One of our favorite experiences is tasting a Premier Cru Meursault “Les Charmes” from the barrel. By the end of our 4 day stay, we will have tasted 4 or 5 wines from this very same small parcel of land, all from different years and different wine makers. And, interestingly, we will be able to identify that the wines came specifically from “Les Charmes”—a source of pride for the group. The parcel really does have a distinct flavor, just as different winemakers put their own special mark on each bottle.

This is the intersection of nature and art. Burgundy is where we get to taste how they work together—not something we could do if we were in Bordeaux for example. In France’s other major winegrowing region, the winemaker can take grapes from wherever they want, and often mix different grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot…) in any way they choose. In Bordeaux you taste the skill of the winemaker, instead of a special plot of land or a single grape.

Wine tasting in the cellar is always a favorite memory with our clients!

Wine tasting in the cellar is always a favorite memory with our clients!

Both regions offer incredible wines and memories for wine lovers. There is nothing like tasting a wine at the vineyard it grew in, and we encourage any enthusiast to put the experience on their bucket list!

A bientot,

Bliss Travels

Tour France; Atlanta Has a Wine Tasting to Remember!

Sacre Bleu! Bliss Travels owner Wendy Jaeger recently traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to give some past clients a fabulous wine tasting evening. Featured wines came from Wendy’s personal cache and the vineyards that Bliss Travels visits on trips, so clients could “taste” their memories!

Bliss owner Wendy Jaeger brought fun stories and years of expertise to the evening.

Bliss owner Wendy Jaeger brought fun stories and years of expertise to the evening.

Peaches Please blogger Morgan Perkins was invited to the evening of reminiscing, and was an enthusiastic guest–and writer! Here are some snippets from her blog post:

“As we sipped on the wines, Wendy explained where each bottle was from, including personal anecdotes about the vineyards and wine makers. This inevitably led to reminiscing by the folks who had been on tours with Bliss Travels. From the sound of it, everyone who had been on one of the tours had a wonderful time. One gentleman even brought a beautiful book of photographs from his vacation and much time was spent pouring over the pictures and memories.

From everything I heard over the course of the evening, going on on a tour with Bliss Travels is an amazing, one of a kind experience. I hope that one day I am in a position to indulge in vacation like that!”

Past clients brought books of pictures from their Bliss trips to reminisce.

Past clients brought books of pictures from their Bliss trips to reminisce.

To read the rest of the article, and see some more of the fabulous photos Morgan took throughout the evening, check out her blog!

Oh Blissful Indulgence- An Evening with Bliss Travels

Thanks for coming, Morgan! We hope to see you on a trip with us soon.

A Bientot,

Bliss Travels

French Wine Tasting: Tour de France of Wines in NYC

French Wine Tasting in NYC 

This past Saturday we co-hosted a blind wine tasting of fine wines from several fabulous regions of France. This fun event was held at the NYC home of “frequent travelers” Kat & Mark. They graciously opened their lovely home on a perfect day, and stocked the tables with fabulous French and Spanish cheeses and delicious gourmet treats!

2013-04-27 09.15.54
Getting ready for people

2013-04-27 09.16.00Each glass had a name2013-04-27 11.30.25Just before arrival, our hosts and “penny” enjoying the sunshine.

2013-04-27 11.30.41

We tasted 5 wines, all from France.

Wine 1: Laurent Combier Crozes Hermitage white. A beautiful wine with floral notes and a rich bouquet. This wine is from just north of Chateauneuf du Pape. People don’t think of Chateauneuf du Pape as a town or even area that produces whites, but they produce excellent white wines. This is a very small part of production but the top ones are truly special –and hard to find in the US. We regularly highlight these when in Provence.

The area around Chateauneuf du Pape, where our first wines came from

Wine 2: Meursault, Les Narvaux, 2010 David Moret. A great buttery chardonnay. Loved this wine (as I do all Burgundy wines). This wine has a bit more minerality than the Les Charmes, 1er cru, we like to profile on our Burgundy trips.

Typical of Burgundy, wines and quaint towns and villages

Typical of Burgundy, wines and quaint towns and villages

bourgogne 025

Our hosts this past September in Burgundy on a private visit to the 14th Century cellars of the winemaker who owns our luxury inn!

Wine 3: Auxey Duresses, 2010, Billard.  A very nice pinot noir from Burgundy. However, Burgundy did not receive its due by comparing and tasting a village wine with the 1er Grand Cru classe from Bordeaux. Next tasting I will showcase wines from Burgundy that are equal in quality and ranking to the ones from Bordeaux. Because this region’s wines have such a “wow” factor  -and the area itself is so stunning –it’s a shame to leave people thinking one region is superior to the other!

The stunning town of Beaun

The stunning town of Beaune

Wine 4: Les Amouriers, Vacqueyras, 2010. This grenache and syrah wine is also from just north of Chateauneuf du Pape, and a very accessible alternative to the big names (and prices) of Chateauneuf du Pape reds. Needs to breath for about 90 minutes to 2 hours as it is young. But is a good wine, full flavored and a great example of what the region can produce.

St Emilion, from Pavie's vineyards

St Emilion, from Pavie’s vineyards

Wine 5: Chateau Pavie Macquin, 2007, her Grand Cru Classe. Predominantly merlot (84%) with 16% cabernet franc, this wine is truly a top wine. It surely overshadowed the other reds. It was smooth, rich and extremely well balanced. Still young, it was opened 2 hours before drinking. Next tasting, we will bring out the big guns in Burgundy to compare with Bordeaux. I think it will be a very tough decision for folks at that point!

Bordeaux France Wines

Thank you to all of your who came. And for those of you who couldn’t make it, we hope to be able to hold “reunions” for other groups and more return travelers!

One final shot of those of us who went out for dinner at a cute French style bistro after the tasting.

Dinner for those who could stay late

2013-04-27 15.35.19Hope to see you in all again very soon!

A Bientot,

Wendy

Wine & Cheese Pairing: 2 Spots Left!

Bliss Travels

French Wine & Cheese Pairing: ROOM FOR 2 MORE PEOPLE. MAX OF 10 PEOPLE AT TASTING. SEE BELOW FOR DETAILS

With products from our recent trip to Paris!

A tasting class and event pairing the best in French cheeses with their compliment in French wines. We are marketing for this trip in Paris! That’s right –our favorite French vendors will be providing a taste of their artisan products! We’ll bring back some cheeses and breads, and a few condiments for pairing with cheeses, so that you can taste something really special. There will be a selection of 6 cheeses (4 direct from Paris), walnut and fig breads from a top Parisian baker, traditional condiments and 5 regional wines.  Plus, we will also make and taste a camembert fondue, a great starter for winter meals and summer barbecues alike.

Whether you are interested to learn more about Bliss Travels, or just want a virtual voyage to France with Bliss, you’re welcome to attend. Space is limited, and reservations must be made by February 9th, so that we can make the purchases in Paris while we are there!

Cost is $80.00 per person. If you want to attend, click on one of the above links and contact wendy@blisstravels.com for details. Event to be held in Princeton. Sunday, February 26th, from 3-5pm. Details provided upon reservation.

Where & WhenROOM FOR 2 MORE PEOPLE. MAX. OF 10 PEOPLE AT TASTINGPrinceton, New Jersey 08540
February 26, 2012
3:00pm to 5:00pm
Save $300 on one of our 2012 trips if you book before February 10th, 2012. See our early booking coupon!

7 Chocolate and French Wine Pairings for Valentines!

Chocolate and Wine….

Much like wine, chocolate is harvested, fermented, liquified and “made” into the final product. The “terroir” and the “maker” bring much to the final product.

Cocoa grows near the equator, and the heat and type of plant (like wine) create distinct flavor profiles. Cocoa beans are harvested and then fermented. They are dried and processed and eventually ground, roasted and broken down. Finally, they go through a process called “conching”, which is akin to constant kneading–and determines the texture of the chocolate. At this point the chocolate is then used as a raw product for artisans and large manufacturers to make their bars, ganaches, clusters and other candies.

Each manufacturer adds his/her own special mixture of ingredients –vanilla, sugar, cream, spice, nuts. Different cultures tend to produce similarly styled chocolates. American chocolates tend to be sweeter, less pure (i.e. milk v. dark) and larger. Belgian and French tend to use much less sugar, rely on thinner more delicate shells for their filled chocolates, use pure creams in the centers (not ‘creamy’ sugar fillings),  and produce higher percentages of purer (i.e. more dark and less milk) chocolate.

This blog is going to focus on Pairing French Wine and Belgian or French Chocolate, of course!

Here are 7 tips and pairing suggestions to sweeten your Valentine’s Day at home or abroad.

 

1. Pair Champagne with chocolates. Especially with lighter less rich chocolates, or fresh filled Neuhaus creams. Also, this pairs well with chocolate fruit combinations.

 

2. Pair a French Burgundy (Pinot Noir) with mild, but rich dark chocolates, and dark chocolates with mild spice, roasted nuts or ripe berry fruits. So, consider chocolates with cardamom, hazelnut or dark cherries for these wines.

3. Pair Rhone wines, such as a  Chateauneuf du Pape (and other Grenache heavy wines) or wines with rich spicy flavor and high tannins with highly spiced complex chocolates that can match the power of the wine. So, consider chocolate and chili pepper or chocolate with pink peppercorns or strong tea flavors and spice mixtures as good combinations.

4. For purists, wanting to experience the depth of one flavor,  use a single origin chocolate with a single grape wine. You can focus on the subtly of each more easily.

5. Pair a dessert wine, we prefer a Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, with a salted chocolate or salted caramel chocolate. Make sure you use a rich full flavored deep chocolate. Not a milk chocolate.

6. Have a Cognac with a chocolate –either complement it with a cognac flavored truffle or find a very low sugar, almost pure, dark chocolate.

7. Come with Bliss Travels where we do custom pairings and tastings of these things all over France, and in Brussels! At all the best spots! That’s why we call it Bliss!

Paris Postings…What’s Up This Season in the City of Light!

Paris is always beautiful. Paris has an excitement that permeates the air. Whether we’re strolling through the Luxembourg Gardens or visiting the Christmas Markets, there’s just nothing that’s better than a spin through this city.

Where else can you find a 1000 year old church (in which an emperor was crowned) built on the site of a 2000 year old church, which was in turn, built on the site of a temple to Jupiter? Oh, and just to make things a bit better, just around the corner is a place that serves the best “n’importe quoi” (anything) for dinner served with a glass of absolutely marvelous wine….Enough said. A picture is worth at least a few words. So, let’s post some from Anthony Bianciella, our favorite traveling photographer (and the one who will  be chronicling our holiday trip, making DVD’s of the highlights for everyone, and also offering one-on-one photography lessons, tips and help for people taking their own shots.)

Maybe just a little stroll before dark? Or if you’re too tired, a bike ride!

From whatever angle, the Left Bank is pretty close to perfect.But, what truly sparkles with beauty is Paris over the holidays. Not a lot of tourists. Lots and lots of lights. Christmas tree displays, mile long holiday marekts in every corner of town, decorations and different sorts of tress by every monument…

Even in the Chocolate shops! Look! It’s true. This Left Bank shop is a real gem, and quite beautiful over the holidays in particular (when chocolates won’t melt).

Next up…Gourmet treats ONLY served during the holidays!