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: Dinner in the Home of a Paris Chef

Tour France: Bliss Travels has dinner in the home of a Paris chef

Have you ever dreamt of dining in the home of a chef in Paris? Maybe learning his/her secrets? Being treated to a special menu and feeling like a local as you sip wine in his living room, or peak into his kitchen?

Of course you have! We all wish we could do this!  Otherwise, how else can you explain the stunning popularity of the Food Network and our cult like obsession with “Celebrity Chefs” (all of whom we all know by name, and whose lives and travels we can intimately discuss, as if they were our own family)?

Our obsession with all things “food” is based upon our desire to get and insider’s exclusive access to this sort of experience! Bliss Travels has had the some extraordinary opportunities to do these sorts of “insider” foodie experiences. Our most recent, and, at the moment, favorite “insider” foodie experience, is our exclusive invitation to the home of a rising Paris chef for a gourmet dinner.  We truly enjoyed collaborating with this chef, formerly of Alain Passard‘s gastronomic Arpege, and loved having our clients visit the charming Paris apartment he shares with his wife and little (bien sur) Yorkie. We spent months creating a custom tasting menu and wine pairings to share with our clients. For sure, this will be something we do again and again! 

Our menu was truly special, as you can see below. An added bonus was the chance to  watch the chef plate his dishes and to enjoy them while learning how he made these signature preparations.  Here is our menu and some of the food photos of this truly “exclusive” dining experience.

Terrine of foie gras,  onion chutney and sauternes gelee with toasts

We paired this with a wonderful Champagne. And we watched as our chef showed us how he prepared this traditional holiday treat. (One of our foodie travelers, normally vegetarian, asked for, and received “seconds” of this dish, which she took for her breakfast the next morning (paired with a great fruit preserve the hotel was serving! Now, how often can you do that on a trip other than with Bliss Travels?)

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Endive salad with red onion, shaved parmesan, lemon, and truffle oil

 A refreshing segue into the meal. The bitter endive and the truffle oil paired beautifully with our Champagne as well as our first white, a white from Burgundy, and one of our most favorite villages, the picture perfect village of Meursault

Meursault, Narvaux, 2009.

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The famous Arpege  “perfect egg“ was our next dish.

I confess that I was so enraptured by the chef’s description of this dish, and dual temperatures of the one egg, along with the taste of this perfectly simple and elegant dish, that I forgot to take a picture!! We paired the egg with our second white, a rich, buttery Meursault Les Charmes 1er Cru, 2009. This was not just a  perfect ‘egg’ it was a perfect ‘pairing’!

Veloute of carrot, with tarragon

was an intense, non dairy carrot preparation made from caramelized carrots, cooked under pressure and reduced to a velvety richness. The two fold preparation of carrot (one caramelized, the other steamed led to this deep dark color. This dish had no meat and no dairy, and yet tasted richer than any beef based stock I’ve tried.

This rich dish led to the last drop of Meursault and a nice transition to our red wines.

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Salt crusted roasted beet root

Next our chef demonstrated how he made this absolutely perfect vegetable, salt crusted, intensely juicy and truly an unexpected star dish! We opened our 2007 , 1er Cru, Pinot Noir from Gevrey Chambertin, made by a winemaker and friend in whose 14th century cellars we get to enjoy exclusive barrel tastings  (We do love Burgundy!)

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Pan seared beef with a parsnip puree, creamed spinach, sweet and sour peppers and a red wine jus

A 2007 Premier Cru Burgundy from Gevrey Chambertin

One client enjoyed this dish so much, not only did she have 2 servings (a nice little perk of being in the home of a chef, instead of a restaurant, but also she said this was the best dish she had ever tasted.)

 

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Last, but not least, a real surprise for all was the dessert

A moist and delicious Olive oil cake, served with stunningly good Greek yogurt ice cream, Nutella powder and chervil

The Nutella powder was the “dark horse”. Nobody really expected to love that –but he made this using a great trick of molecular gastronomy and turned what is (in my opinion) a cloyingly sweet “kid’s” dessert, into a sophisticated delicious (please, sir, may I have more) end of meal. This was served with a fortified sweet wine from the south west of France.

Of course, that wasn’t really the end (it never is). We finished with a big bowl of creme fraiche caramels to take home. Yum! An absolutely Bliss-ful evening we intend to repeat with the next group of special foodies looking for something truly unique.

2013-12-23 11.20.57Let us know what you think. And let us know what dishes you’d like to see in your  “dinner at home with a Paris chef”

A bientôt,

Wendy

Tour France: Burgundy, France and Wine: An Inseparable History

The Burgundy region is ancient, stunning, and rich with history.

The Burgundy region is ancient, stunning, and rich with history.

Burgundy, the “Bourgogne” region of France, has been known for centuries for its incredible wines. But when the Burgundians, the nomadic Scandinavian tribe that gave the region its name, first settled the area, they remained unaware of the territory’s great potential.

This changed when the Romans took over the region in the 3rd century BC. Suddenly, vineyards started popping up everywhere. The Romans specialized in a fermented grape concentrate that was then diluted and flavored with water, honey, and herbs. The popular drink became synonymous with the region- Thank you, Romans! Even when they left and the region was taken over by Christians, the new owners merely converted the vineyards into another moneymaking process for abbeys and monasteries. After all, wine was necessary for taking the Sacrament!

Thankfully, these monasteries and abbeys also specialized in the written word–copying Bibles, manuscripts, and many numbers of important documents for posterity. Thus, the details of the vinification process were saved and passed on to the next wine growers in the area. Vital tips, methods, and experiments were dispersed through the region to maintain the distinctive tastes and excellent quality wines that are still enjoyed today. Many of these abbeys still operate vineyards today, and those touring France are often oblivious to these national treasures. Bliss Travels visits (and tastes) with gusto–because shouldn’t such a time-honored tradition be properly revered?

One of the most famous wine-growing regions in the world- for good reason!

One of the most famous wine-growing regions in the world- for good reason!

At the time, the Cistercians, the major religious group in Burgundy and thus the largest wine producer, knew that production costs would skyrocket if they finished the vinification process for all their separate vineyards in the same place. Therefore, they created cellars near each separate growing area, where the wines were processed and aged appropriately. Eventually, each vineyard region began to have recognizable characteristics. The Cistercian cheapness of the Middle Ages is the reason that we appreciate the different wine tastes today!

Because of this, we can now fully appreciate unique wines such Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and all the more specific wines that have stemmed from these grape godfathers. Curious about the wines of the region? Thankfully, Bliss Travels does gourmet wine tours to the Burgundy region where we indulge in the fruits of the Romans’ labor. In the meantime, check out some of our favorites Burgundy wines from the Cote de Beaune and Cote de Nuits. We treat you to Grand Cru and 1er Cru treasures!

If reading about them simply isn’t enough, come with us in September  for a insider’s look at the world of wine in Paris and Burgundy. Check out the video of one of our last trips to Burgundy right here! Sip the best wines in the world in 800 year old cellars, abbeys and monasteries, and private farms with stunning views of the French countryside. Pure Bliss!

In Burgundy, there are no wrong choices!

In Burgundy, there are no wrong choices!

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!

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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.

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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

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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

Tour France: Wine Tasting in Burgundy with Bliss Travels…A Video!

Tour France: Wine Tasting in Burgundy with Bliss Travels.

 See our video.

Our Trip was remarkable. From the barrel tastings in the private cellars to the 12th century chapel where we tasted 7 Grand Crus Burgundy wines, it was an amazing experience. Michel made us this video where you can share in the experience of the Grand Cru tastings, the special private lunch in the caves, and the barrel tastings with our favorite wine maker!

 

Our lunch with rabbit terrine, salmon and whitefish terrine, pate, asparagus mousse, beet salad, carrot rapee, cornichons, Burgundy cheeses, gougeres, tarts….and more. This lunch was served with Charmes Chambertin 2009, Clos Vougeot 2009 (Grand Cru), Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru, Meursault Les Charmes…and the list goes on! 

See what we have in store for the Holidays. A rare food and wine experience in Paris. Contact us now!

Burgundy in September: A Wine Tour of France!

Burgundy in September: Tour France through Wines!

September in Burgundy is the grape harvest. Our group was here for that. We’re in Burgundy. There was one day of sunny harvest and one day of rainy harvest. Production of grapes for 2012 is much lower due, in part, to the weather this year.

This first post is a few group shots of what we’ve done. We’ve sampled small production wines in caves, homes and restaurants. The restaurants have been quite special with dishes such as roast breast of duck with cassis and poached lobster in a red wine butter with baby vegetables.

First a Champagne reception in Paris on the Left Bank.

Luxembourg Gardens on day 1. We walked the Left Bank –visited 12th century streets, toured the gardens as well as St Sulpice and one of the covered passages. After our gourmet lunch in a Michelin starred restaurant, we visited the Place de la Concorde, the Louvre, the Tuileries gardens, and the Pont des Arts.

Champagne first followed by a dinner at Bernard l’Oiseau. Off a side street in one of Burgundy’s best wine towns.
One of our favorite main courses was a line caught roasted fish filet served on a bed of black risotto, topped with squid, tomato and grilled chorizo. I am always partial to the flavors of Southern France –even when dining in Paris! Wine tasting in Nuits St George, of wines from the Haute Cote de Nuits led by Charly. Next up: October in Chateauneuf du Pape and Provence. Ask us about that trip (we have one room left) or talk to us about Provence or Burgundy 2013. Last year sold out 6 months in advance.

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!