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

Tour de France of Wines & Cheese: Virtual Travel with Bliss Travels

French Wine & Cheese Parings on our Tour de France

tour france paris for the holidays

Burgundy, Chateauneuf du Pape, Bordeaux… people “oooh and ahh” over these fabulous wines –forgetting that they are place names –names of villages and towns, not actually names of specific “brands” or even “makers” of wines.

Certainly the places have a terroir that creates a similarity between the wines and the foods. So too, certain grapes (which have different flavors) are grown in certain regions (like pinot noir in Burgundy or Grenache in Chateauneuf du Pape) and that also gives wines from a particular area similar flavor profiles. It’s a good idea to find what grapes you like, first.

The ruins of the Chateau at Chateauneuf du Pape which we visited on our May and October wine/photography trips

The ruins of the Chateau at Chateauneuf du Pape

In some ways saying “I like Chateauneuf  du Pape” is like saying “I like Princeton food” or “I like bread from New York City” –okay….but which food in Princeton? What restaurant? Which bread? They are, within a common American theme, all very different…just like the wines made by different people of the same region or village in France. One exception to this idea is where the place uses only one grape. The best example of this is Burgundy. By using one grape –the wines are much more identifiable by area. A French pinot tastes completely different than an American one.

Then there are cheeses. Also similar to wines in that their place names have almost become their brand names to us. Why do I say that? Well, Camembert is from ….you guessed it! And Roquefort? That’s right. Towns name their prized products (much like people do) after themselves! Now, it might make sense to you why “Champagne” would be so upset that people from other places started calling their sparkling wines by their regions proper name. They thought it was deceptive. Many of us would agree if we were to see a company called, for example, Beverly Hills Real Estate Brokers located in Brooklyn. Same concept.

So, what did we pair at our Tour de France of wine and cheese.

Here’s the list. Below are the tasting notes.

1. Champagne Marie Weiss,  paired with a Brie. (And a Cremant d’Alsace as the bargain substitute for this pairing).

It’s blend of 25% Pinot Noir, 25% Pinot Meunier and 50% Chardonnay from the Montagne de Reims and the Cote des Blancs. About half of the juice comes from 1er Cru and Grand Cru vineyards. The Marie Weiss label is produced by the superb, small Champagne house of Ployez-Jacquemart, near Reims. The nose is of apple, white peach, brioche, and fresh nutmeg. It is full-bodied, crisp and balanced.

(Note: Sparkling wine is a wine with significant levels of carbon dioxide in it making it fizzy. The carbon dioxide may result from natural fermentation, either in a bottle, as with the méthode champenoise, in a large tank designed to withstand the pressures involved.)

2. Laurent Combier Crozes Hermitage Blanc with Chevre and fig jam. Both from Provence, where figs also grow –this is combination that really enhances the flavors of each. The wine is made up of 80% Marsanne and 20% Roussanne, is aged in temperature controlled stainless steel, and 30% is fermented and aged in new oak.  Aromatic nose combines flowers, dried fruits. Medium body, perfect acidity. Ready to drink right away.

Tour France Provence

Artisan made goat cheeses in Provence

3. David Moret, Bourgogne, 2010 paired with Epoisses. Epoisse, a cow’s milk, bloomy rind cheese from Burgundy, that is washed in a Marc de Bourgogne is a wonderful treat. This was a great chardonnay made in the town of Beaune.

Tour France:: Regions of France: Burgundy

The town of Beaune Burgundy

4. Bourgogne Pinot Noir with a crystalized, well aged Comte. Unless you’ve tasted a real, well aged Comte –you won’t understand the allure of this pairing. We compared this with a California pinot noir to highlight the fruit forward flavor of the California pinots and to explain the common characteristics of the French Burgundy wines.

Tastings of Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines

Tastings of Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines

Burgundy cellar

There is a video linked to this photo so that you can see a wine trip to Burgundy. You can also access the video on the Bliss Travels website.

5. Vacqueyras (Les Amouriers) primarily grenache –with  small percentages of CarignanMerlotSyrahGrenache blancRoussanneViognier. This was served with a St Marcellin.  The wine was put in a carafe 1h 30m before drinking to allow it to aerate so that the tannins would soften. There was spice and fullness to this wine. This was best liked by the group as a whole.

6. Muscat de Beaume de Venise with Forme d’Ambert  -sweet and strong. A great finish to a meal. A muscat is a fortified sweet wine from a stunning postage stamp sized Provencal village like the one below. It is offered typically as an apero and served with olives or other salty contrast. Serve more chilled than typical whites. Is ready to drink right away.

Tour France luxury vacations in provence

So, other than following the list (mine or anyone else’s) how do you find a way to pair wine and cheese yourself? Well, you’ve probably figured out that cheese that is made from animals who graze on the same land  as the land where the grapes that make your wine have grown, fit the wine very well together. An herbed rack of lamb is lovely with a Rhone wine because the land infuses both with the same subtle flavors and spice.

So, if you’re looking for an “easy fix” find the cheese that is from the same area as the wine. This dish paired beautifully with a Chateauneuf du Pape, La Nerthe (white)….So well, we did it twice!

Tour France Paris French Food

A big thank you to Swati and Vinnay who generously purchased the wine and cheese “tour” to benefit the Pennington School! Thank you for being wonderful hosts and inviting a great group of people!

Any questions? Contact Wendy et a tres bientot a tous!

What is Insider Access & Insider Photos from Provence & Burgundy

What is “insider access”?

and why you should care!
Insider experiences are things that you can’t do on your own. They are little known, out of the way experiences, or they are things not open to the general public (and arranged especial for you).
As you can see from our photos, that’s what Bliss Travels is all about.
Perhaps you’d like to eat at a restaurant that isn’t filled with tourists –maybe one that is only opened for you?
Or experience a custom wine tasting in a private venue?Private Tasting of Chateauneuf du Pape
Have a Michelin starred restaurant prepare a special tasting menu or private room? 
Visit the bell tower of a Knight’s Templar church (not open to the public) with the curate?
Have a Provencal cooking class on a farm instead of a “sterile” kitchen?
Have a private chef prepare a superb picnic for a train ride to the South of France or to eat under a Roman bridge?
 train picnic
Enjoy a custom barrel tasting in a cellar with the winemaker? 
Visit a tiny little known gem of a village?
We think this makes travel special and that’s why we do it. And we do it for very small groups –usually 6-8 people. Never more than 12.
Not every exclusive access experience is about “money” or big names. Though sometimes they include those sorts of destinations. These are really the sorts of things you can’t “buy” with a deluxe credit card because they are not mass market  (even platinum and black cards) and they are not about commerce.   They are about time and effort and relationships.
You get them because you’ve got a “friend” with an “in”! So, if you want to have an authentic, hard to find cultural experience and interact with people in a way that goes beyond having them make change for you when you purchase a souvenir, then you want to experience Bliss!
September: all rooms full. 1 suite left (closing out May 10th)
October: 4 rooms only
June 10 -full
June 29: 1 room
July and August: 3 rooms.

A Perfect Day in Provence with “Insider Access”

One of our favorite days…A lunch in a small village, following a private wine tasting, in a cave from the 1400’s. The meal is custom to the group and the company is amazing. It’s Bliss. The amazing photos were taken by Anthony Bianciella (he co leads our photography trips and chronicles our adventures).
Our group of 8 was welcomed to a candle lit room with music playing. We had 4 wines from the Cote du Rhone. This tasting focuses on Chateauneuf du Pape. Some focus on Provencal Roses. We design each one for the people who are attending.
From the Kitchen area of our chef
Her private work space!
A special meal was prepared for everyone. Some had a duck confit. Some had orange and fennel salad with a fish wrapped in parchment.Our fabulous host came to see us off!

7 “Musts” for the Ultimate Wine Tasting in Burgundy

Want to have the “ultimate” experience in Burgundy, tasting wines and visiting vineyards? Who doesn’t! Here are some tried and true tips for ensuring your trip is over the top fabulous!

1. Location, Location, Location! Experience the “terroir”. Find someone to take you around and “introduce you” to the various parcels of land. You know that fabulous Chardonnay you love? The one from “Les Charmes” (perhaps). Well, visit that plot. See where it’s grown. It’s all about real estate. 

2. Think Small! Some of the best vineyards, and best wine production in Burgundy is from small parcels of land. Just cause it’s tiny and just cause you haven’t heard of it means nothing. Good things often come from small packages!

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