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The Rhone Valley

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I am just back from exploring the vineyards of the Rhone Valley…. I adventured with my classmates to some of the top vineyards in Hermitage, Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Avignon. It was a beautiful 73 degrees and sunny in the alpes ….nothing better than wine tasting in the heart of Provence.

We started by taking a train from Paris into Vienne… a major town in the Rhone Alpes located on the Rhone river about 20 miles outside of the city of Lyon. We drove along the river to our first stop… Stephane Ogier

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We tried several whites (Grapes- Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier) as well as his fabulous red wines all made with the Syrah grape.

The three white grapes above are the most popular white grapes allowed to be produced in the rhone valley. Viognier is unique in that it produces white wine very low in acidity however, this grape gives a beautiful aroma of floral and honey. It is also quite generous and rich on the palate.

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The next morning we headed to the famous Chapoutier located in Tain L’Hermitage, France.

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Michael Chapoutier’s wines win accolades constantly. They are superb. Standing in the vineyards of one of the top wine producers in this region amidst the vines…. Wow! The Chapoutier family can trace back their history to 1879… when the first vineyard was purchased.

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A little history lesson…. followed by at least 10 wines tasted.
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Absolutely memorable was Le Meal vintage 2006…. Of course I purchased a bottle of this. Cannot wait to open it for a special occasion… maybe the day I pass my exams!

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Price ~ 211 Euros per bottle.

Okay… so after staying in the town of Tain L’Hermitage…. we set out the next day to Chateauneuf-du-Pape region…. and spent the next night in Avignon. This took me back to last summer….remember when I took the train to Avignon and stayed in the little village Vaison-La-Romaine?!

We pulled up to this beautiful property making Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines….

Chateau de Beaucastle 

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This property and wine production facility was nothing short of a Provencal dream. Pure beauty. We toured the mansion, the property, the vineyards, and tasted the wines…. in the underground private cellar.

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Let’s see….next up. One of the most memorable meals of the year! This says a lot. We pulled up to a Castle….and proceeded to have a four hour meal in the sunshine overlooking the Chateauneuf-du-pape region.

Nestled in the heart of Provence situated up on a hill is ~

Château Des Fines Roches

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There really is something to be said about slowing down for several hours. Setting up a table with beautiful china and glassware….sitting amongst friends and having some of the best regional cuisine matched with regional wines….over hours of conversation. This moment I will never forget. Laughing, sipping wine and getting sun kissed in the first week of April…. my oh my. Provence, France…. J’adore. 

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I have just recapped the absolute high-lights of my travel through the Rhone Valley….we also visited several other artisan wineries including… Domaine Vincent, Domaine Des Hauts Chassis, Faugier-Gonnet, Domaine Georges Vernay.

I came home from this trip with eight bottles of wine purchased…. 🙂 This is getting dangerous. Have a fabulous weekend everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cognac, France

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Last week, I spent an amazing three days in the beautiful region of Cognac, France. My class and I set out on a short 3 hour train ride to explore and taste some of the greatest Cognacs of the world. Also, to discover how this rare and celebrated spirit is made and the subtle differences that can awaken a whole new flavor profile based on the producer, terroir, and skill.

 5 bottles of Cognac are sold in the world every second. 97% of Cognac is exported out of France with the major receiving country being the USA

Our days were packed with a mix of small producers and large massive corporations including Hennessy and Remy Martin. It was really neat to see how small producers compete. There are three distinctive facts that set levels of Cognac apart. VS (Very Special) has to be aged in barrels for two years minimum before bottling. VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) has to be barrel aged a minimum of four years. XO has to be barrel aged 6 years but soon a new law will be passed making it 10 years.

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We had multiple tastings a day at each location. In total I tasted nearly 60 Cognacs in the 3 days!

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This bottle (above) retails at $5,000 for the bottle.

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I will not ever forget being invited to the Martell “Manor” and being served a Cognac Cocktail in the Billiard Room. Then, spending three hours over a 6-course meal…and drinking Cognac while exploring the deer grazing property until 2 am…. Incredible. Private Chefs made appearances… and business talk as well as pleasurable conversation filled with laughter over the course of the evening. Enjoying this property was a once in lifetime experience. Can we all sip Cognac in a MANOR?? 15 bedrooms.

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Truly the best memories spent.

In simple terms : Cognac starts by making white wine which is high in acidity and low in alcohol. This is then heated to create vapors… then this liquid solidifies and is heated again. Known as double distillation which is absolutely required in making Cognac. After the process we will have roughly 72 percent alcohol that will be put into barrels to age and color and well….make Cognac.

The next morning… we set out to the barrel making plant. Cognac can only be barreled in new barrels made specifically for Cognac. Unlike wine, which can be barrel-aged in old barrels, barrels that previously held liquor and also re-used. Cognac cannot.

Such skill, effort and labor went into crafting these. I was truly impressed with the entire process. We watched each barrel being made from start to finish including tacking on the laser label!

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Next… sitting in at Hennessy. Acting as professionals weighing in on several vintages. Noting the subtle nuances… Who am I?

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As always, beautiful scenery and fantastic…. beyond refined meals.

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Two of my favorite dishes of the trip. Although hard to pick…we have multiple courses at both lunch and dinner daily….with wine and/or Cognac pairings.

(Smoked Salmon, Beet mousse, wasabi breadsticks, miso pickled cabbage) 

(Coffee Macaron, Dark Chocolate Gelato, Poached Pear, Cognac Caramel)

In total we visited the following Cognac Houses…

Tesseron, Martell, Doreau, Remy Martin, Delamain a Jarnac, De Luze, Hennessy, Paul Giraud. 

Hotel : Chateau De L’Yeuse

I am saturated with knowledge and another town in France that I fell in love with. This never gets old. I love this country. Oh, the beauty…

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We had this cocktail every day at “cocktail hour”… it was fabulous. This is a lighter more refreshing way to drink Cognac. Although it is frequently consumed after a meal as a digestif, this is a nice alternative.

Cognac Cocktail Recipe

“Cognac Summit”

Ingredients:

1 lime , zested (thin strips)

4 strips, fresh ginger

1.5- 2 oz Cognac (depending how strong you want)

2 oz limonade

1 lime wedge

5 ice cubes

 

 

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Bonjour Amsterdam

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Bonjour! I just spent a few days in Amsterdam. Truly a lovely experience.

Amsterdam is a stunning city…. that is for sure. Everywhere you look you smile… the grin will line your face. The charm there is contagious. There is a quaintness and old world flare. It is a one of a kind city and my weekend was outstanding. I am going to list everything I took in over the 48 hours I was there! Pictures included bien sur. 

One of my best friends, Mandy, and I hopped on a train in Paris and were in Amsterdam 4 hours later.

We arrived at our fabulous hotel! Hotel De L’Europe. 

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(Lobby)

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Our hotel was located in the absolute heart of Amsterdam… and right on the Amstel River! It was pretty magical. I give 5 stars. Honestly. Luxurious.

We were greeted with Champagne Cocktails, and a tour of the hotel, then shown to our suite.

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After feeling giddy with excitement over our stunning suite with views of the city…we set out to stroll the sidewalks and canals.

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This town I would quickly realize has a theme of tulips, bicycles, canals, bridges and charming boutiques.

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Amsterdam is very easy to navigate. With our map in hand… we strolled all canals. We also tried to hit as many shops as we could. There is a very central shopping area…then side streets lined with coffee shops, restaurants, home design, clothing boutiques, art galleries, and book stores. I was a happy girl! Each cafe or store front has its own charm…. and the waterways everywhere make this city incredibly romantic.

There are also a handful of museums. We went to the Anne Frank House (museum) which was very eye-opening and I would highly recommend. Despite the hour to hour and 1/2 wait.

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We had to try the specialty…Stroopwafles. A dutch traditional sweet. A thin waffle wafer stuffed with sticky sweet spread. Either honey or caramel and chocolate. Stroopwafles are said to have originated in the late 18th century in Gouda… where it was known as the poor man’s cookie. We tried a fresh one from the cafe above…as well as packaged. Delicious… and packaged was our preference with espresso. You can purchase the packaged ones at any cheese store…yes there are cheese stores everywhere… I loved this aspect! Cheese tasting anyone?!  Yum!

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After a full day of strolling and shopping….Saturday night ended in the Red Light District… where we observed the night scene of this very popular neighborhood. This is historical and a must witness in Amsterdam. This is the district where prostitution is blatantly legal and weed brownies are sold at every coffee shop corner. Very very interesting evening. I was an observer 😉

Sunday…

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Amsterdam is also known for their sweet and savory pancake houses. We went to Sara’s Pancakes for brunch. We shared a chorizo and mushroom omelet and then finished with this delightful sweet pancake…roasted apples, cinnamon, raisins, whipped cream, peanut butter and maple syrup. Wow. Scrumptiously memorable.

We then went to a few more museums (The Red Light Secrets of the Red Light District)…. And more shopping. We finished the daylight with a bottle of Pinot Grigio watching the passersby on the edge of the canal.

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A rest in the hotel lobby with fresh spearmint tea… followed by getting pretty to attend dinner at the Hoofdstad Brasserie…..located in our Hotel with fantastic water views.

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I opted for the dutch shrimps followed by the special of the day (Confit De Canard). Both dishes were tasty! Canard was falling off the bone… as it should be. Service excellent and atmosphere unforgettable.

I simply love to travel. This was a very memorable trip and I cannot wait for my next adventure. Amsterdam is definitely a perfect, long weekend getaway location. There is not an overwhelming amount to do in this city but just enough to fill your days and take in the beauty at the same time. It was a very peaceful place. Stunning. Charming. Fairytale-esque.

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Next, Cognac France. Leaving Early Wednesday morning…. Until the next post!

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8 comments

Citrus Etoile

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I am back….Hi everyone.

For the last four weeks I have been working at the lovely Citrus Etoile Restaurant (Champs Elysees) under the head sommelier … wow. What an absolute experience.

I went from being so incredibly intimidated my very first night … to now being the only other trusted person in the restaurant to provide proper wine service to all of the clients…other than the actual sommelier. I cannot believe the transformation that has occurred in just a short month.

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Citrus Etoile is a very high-quality, fine dining…. french restaurant located in Paris….right off of the famous Boulevard Champs Elysees. It can seat approximately 70 guests… this is a restaurant where everything is impeccable and perfection is expected. I have never been so nervous as I was my first night. Not only is the restaurant striving for excellence, but this is Paris…. image is everything. Mistakes are not to be made. AND the entire staff speaks in french. I was a fish out of water. Despite my immense restaurant background…this was a step up and huge challenge for me.

There are about 60 wines by the bottle and there is a cellar (where I spend the majority of my time) with open viewing for clients. Bottle price ranges from 25 Euros to 500 Euros. Yes! I have sold and presented 500 Euro bottles of wine 🙂

I have seriously had some of the best training thanks to the head sommelier here. I am very well versed on the wines as well as proper bottle service.

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True story. Below is me with Elizabeth~ who is married to the Chef and owner Gille Epie. Elizabeth was on a date (20 years ago) with Richard Gere …. and they were eating at a french restaurant in Los Angeles. The french chef came out to the table… because well obviously it was Richard Gere…. it was that night that the french chef and Elizabeth made eye contact and she tells me “it was love at first sight” … they are together now running this restaurant in Paris….20 years later 🙂 She got away from Richard Gere to marry a french chef and run a restaurant in Paris!

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So…two California girls. In Paris. LOVE.

Okay, and can we talk about the refined perfect creations coming out of the kitchen. No words.

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Truly, truly honored to work here. The training as far as food and wine, wine sourcing and presentation, and dealing with very high end clientele that expect a night of pleasure has made me so much more of a professional than ever before.

I have definitely had some rusty embarrassing moments. That is for sure!

Such as the second night of work when I could not find my corkscrew…. so my sommelier lent me his in a quick moment of panic….. and I actually wasn’t used to it… I could not open the bottle properly at the table in front of the guests. Humiliating~ I had to retreat back to the cellar and open it.

Or the night when a Champagne bottle I was opening sprayed all over the cellar. The french waiters saw this. Their mouths dropped in disbelief.

Or when I dropped two wine glasses right as I was entering the kitchen and they shattered right in front of the chefs.

But despite my mishaps and embarrassments I am extremely proud of the professional I have become. I am now extremely confident handling ALL of the wine service and inquiries. It is like tracing the back of my hand now.

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The other crazy part is what is expected of me beyond my wine knowledge. The sommelier, chef and owner have told me that I am expected to dress like a glamour girl every night. Their words… “selling wine is about image and beauty as well as knowledge in Paris. Please dress very sexy and walk seductively.”

Folks this is Paris. Image is everything….sophistication, glamour and beauty are highly valued.

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Up next… I have two weeks left of working at this restaurant. Then classes will resume in Sommelier School. I am heading to Amsterdam the last weekend of Febraury. I will definitely blog about this city.

Then I head to Cognac, France the first week in March… followed by exploring the Rhone Valley Chateaus in April as well as Alsace, France. My friends and I just booked a 5 day stay in the beautiful island of Corsica in May… I will be documenting all of my travels… and much more in Paris. Resuming to normal life soon.

Check out the restaurant website if curious. http://www.citrusetoile.com

 

 

 

 

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New Years Eve ~ Paris 2015

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I am so excited to be spending New Years in Paris. I have kicked it off with an absolutely fabulous day this new years eve… Getting dressed to the nines and having lunch with a dear friend at Les Climats, michelin star restaurant in the 7th arrondissement of Paris. Followed by purchasing my first piece of luxury… a Hermes Wallet.

Entering the Hermes store after a fabulous multi-course lunch is such a beautiful end of the year for me. This restaurant welcomed Stanley and me onto the beautiful terrace, where we ended up enjoying an extravagant four-course meal.

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(By the way the weather has never been more beautiful in Paris!)

We were welcomed by a doorman and a Maitre’D whom took our coats. Then, led to a beautiful table overlooking the garden. Although, indoors was very poshe as well, with red velvet chairs and mirrors everywhere.

The sommelier helped us to select a delicious white burgundy from the Saint-Aubin appellation. (Premier Cru of course!)

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Next, the amuse bouche was served.

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The pre-fix menu was what we selected. This was 42 Euros and included a starter, main course, cheese plate or dessert, and petit fours/coffee to end the meal. Very, very reasonable ~ especially for the quality and beauty of the dishes… and the fact that the chef and sommelier were present at the table.

To start.. I had the oysters… Served in a fresh cucumber and green apple gelee, & toast with pig’s trotter. 

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Almost too beautiful to eat…. ALMOST.

Stanley ordered:

Foie Gras with jerusalem artichokes, parsnip veloute and topped with semi-candied spiced kumquats.

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For the main course we both opted for the white fish plate. This would accompany our wine perfectly. Did not disappoint 🙂

Wild white fish cooked in butter with seaweed, ginger and chive, spinach velvet and clam.

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This was so fresh and clean. The perfect balance of salt and acid. Never has a spinach puree tasted so exquisite.

Next, the cheese course. And finally the scrumptious petit fours.

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After this outstanding meal… we headed out to shop the chic streets of the Saint Germain Des Pres.

I have never gone into Hermes and purchased anything. I really wanted to make a statement today, and so I made a purchase that will hopefully last me a lifetime. What this represents is the woman I am becoming…. living here in Paris. I am so thrilled for the 2016 year.

It was a memorable day. A memorable purchase that I will cherish forever.

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This new years eve, I sat at lunch with Stanley and reflected about a list of accomplishments and aspects of my life that I want to celebrate. Do y’all do this? It is amazing the life I have lived this year and to reflect on it is so much fun. Most of the things I am celebrating I have journaled about. Thoughts really do turn into reality … it is really crazy to think about.

Here is my list for 2015….I am raising a Champagne glass to the following:

MOVING to my dream city… Paris! Wow. 

Amazing experiences and best meals in the following regions of France…in just this year! Provence, Bordeaux, Champagne, Paris.

Becoming Savvy in the world of wine.

Selling my first home… and making a sweet profit 🙂

Flying first class.

Venturing to the countryside of France….by myself.

Immense travel

International network of friends and business contacts. (Including ~ Hong Kong, India, France, England)

New Friendships….that will last forever. No one can ever relate to this experience unless they have lived it…so the bond will tie us for years to come. 

I cannot wait to make my list for what I will be celebrating next year. My heart is full of gratitude today. Thanks for following the blog this year… my fabulous readers. Much much more lined up for 2016 🙂

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Thank you Paris… for fulfilling my dreams.

 

 

12 comments

Bordeaux, France

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As with my last trip to Champagne, these last few days in Bordeaux were nothing short of absolutely incredible. We started off with a visit to Chateau Guiraud…located in the heart of the commune of Sauternes known for their delicious and impeccably balanced sweet wines. We were welcomed with a vineyard visit followed by an extravagant multi-course Christmas lunch… we were treated like royalty.

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We tasted a total of five Sauternes over our coursed meal. After aperitif hour…The first dish of oysters poached in a lemongrass and thai/french infusion dish was an unforgettable plate. I will never forget this meal.

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Followed by veal shank melting in your mouth with roasted winter root vegetables, hot fried goat cheese course… and to finish a delicious honey and saffron creme brûlée. Best I have ever had. I would love to work under this french chef of the Chateau …these dishes were so creative. The dessert was paired with a lightly sweetened more acidic sauternes and it went really nicely as the honey made the creme brûlée rather sweet. I will be recreating the honey and saffron with creme. What a brilliant flavor profile.

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Next, after this glorious memorable meal… we hopped in our comfy limo bus and were off to the famous Chateau D’Yquem.

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We were able to tour all of the barrel rooms, private cellar and walk this exquisite property. Breathtaking.

Nobility that has stood the test of time. Proudly sitting atop a rise overlooking the surrounding countryside, the 16th century Chateau exudes an intrinsic majesty that defies time.

We tasted the 2005 Vintage Chateau D’Yquem. Fabulous. I cannot believe I am able to do such things. After a beautiful history of winemaking by farmer Yquem which started in 1604…Chateau D’Yquem is now owned by LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) acquired in 1999.

Next stop… Smith Haut Lafitte

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This property was beautiful and very modern. Every vineyard does everything slightly different and uses certain techniques that they believe make their wines unique. It is fascinating to learn about.

At the end of this lovely day… we sat down to a dinner focused on trying different vintages from Margaux, France. Every vintage offered the palate something different and it was really educational to compare… however truly memorable was the Margaux 1979. This was priced around $800 a bottle. Unbelievable.

 

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Amazing beauty, some of the best meals of my life with my new found group of food and wine lovers from all over the world. Life is pretty spectacular.

The next day may have even topped the first day in Bordeaux.

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We visited the following Vineyards over the next two days. Chateau Cos D’Estournel (Saint Estephe), Chateau La Dame Montrose (Saint Estephe) , Chateau Mouton Rothschild ( in the heart of Medoc in Pauillac). Chateau Beau-Sejour Becot (Saint Emilion) Chateau Theyssier (Saint Emilion)

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The ending of the vineyard trip to Chateau Rosthchild we had a candle-lit tasting. Standing in this piece of history… limestone cellar, dark and beautiful, which is housing thousands of aging barrels… it sort of took my breath away. I am allowed these experiences that are not shared with tourists whatsoever. We are considered a different level and are treated to some of the best vintages paired with extra touches and access to private cellars. Not to mention meals prepared by the private chefs of the Chateaus.

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Price today for acreage of vines in Saint Emilion, France :2.5 acres = 3,000,000 Euros. Most vineyards I visited were composed of 70 acres.

We then spent the day in Saint Emilion… this was very nostalgic for me and brought back beautiful memories of my time spent there in September.

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What a fabulous end of the Bordeaux trip meal… at the highly acclaimed restaurant… Logis de la Cadene (Saint Emilion, France)

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WOW. I simply had the most fabulous trip… is it a crime that I feel like I am on vacation daily and this is actually considered school? Education… I guess when you adore what you are learning about it just feels exciting!

A truly wonderful unforgettable experience that I will cherish forever and never forget. I  am also so saturated with knowledge about Bordeaux and all of the fabulous wine growing regions of both the right and left bank of the river. Many notes taken and tons of technical information about vine growth, aging, techniques and nuances of the wine… this information needs a post in itself for each vineyard.

Some simple facts… the right bank of Bordeaux (Saint Emilion specifically) is more known for heavy percentages of Merlot in the wine blends… while the left bank (Medoc, Saint Estephe, etc.) is known for being heavy in Cabernet Sauvignon in blend mixes. This is mainly due to these varietals growing best in those regions. Also, unlike Burgundy… Bordeaux is known for their blending processes of different grapes. The grapes allowed to be grown in Bordeaux are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.

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Back in Paris for a few days…. then off to California. Excited to spend time with my family and welcome Christmas! Many more wine adventures to come in the new year. We will travel to Cognac, France next… plus many more events (in Paris) and an experience I will have to work under a sommelier in a restaurant in Paris.

Au Revoir Everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 comments

Paris ~ Christmas Party

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Merry Christmas everyone… Starting my Christmas celebration with a little gift giving Champagne party in my NEW flat that I leased right smack in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral… Magical. It is a long story for reasons of moving to a new location… but I am so happy with my adorable classic parisian flat on the Seine river. It is on the 6th floor of an 18th century building… floor to ceiling windows with spectacular views of this majestic city. Living a fantasy with an artisan patisserie right below me. I will head to Bordeaux tomorrow and then to California for a week to celebrate Christmas with my family. Good times in life.

 

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I headed out this morning to purchase red roses, candles, golden champagne flutes, a bottle of Nicholas Feuillatte Champagne and cheeses from one of the best fromageries in the city… Laurent Dubois.

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All of my friends have flats in the same district in Paris as me so we have been trading off having dinner parties and get togethers every week. So excited that this weekend was my turn 🙂

Falling asleep with the Notre Dame Cathedral lit up at night… and waking up to the church bells in the morning is somewhat surreal. I have been pinching myself. Off to Bordeaux. I will post about that adventure next. Hope everyone is off to celebrations somewhere this week. Merry Christmas and happy holidays wherever you are in this world. XO

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(View from my bedroom window)