Beaulieu Vineyard

There are few wineries in California with more history than Beaulieu Vineyard, familiarly known as BV. Georges de Latour, a Frenchman, established his holdings in Rutherford at the turn of the previous century.  He had the foresight to obtain a license to make sacramental wine, so that when Prohibition came into effect in 1919 and almost all other wineries had to close, BV was still operating, sending bottles to churches across the country.  If a few found their way to a restaurant or a speakeasy, what could Mr. de Latour do about it, eh?

Critically for the California wine industry, in 1938 he induced a famed French winemaker, Andre Tchellichef (“The Maestro”) to be BV’s winemaker, which he was for 30 years.  In his time at the helm, Tchellichef bottled the wine that the de Latour family was keeping for its own use and sold it commercially.  It was one of the first signs of the possibilities of California winemaking.  To this day that wine, the Georges de Latour Private Reserve, is the top of the line at BV and one of the most sought after Napa Valley wines.  If you visit the winery, you can taste it (including well aged versions of this wine).

As with all Napa Valley wineries during the pandemic, tastings are served outdoors.  In the past and we’re sure again in the (near?) future, there are two wine tasting experiences at BV.  As you enter the property, there’s a modern building on your right and a vine-covered old stone building on your left.  There, you can taste BV’s copious selection of widely available commercial wines.  The stone building is where you can taste their finer wines.

The lights are kept low in their reserve tasting room, perhaps to give the impression of a church (remember those altar wines) or a fine restaurant.  The room is not very large, but they have other facilities in the building if they get crowds.  The servers are, for the most part, quite knowledgeable about BV’s wines and wine in general.

The first pour will usually be a Chardonnay but BV has built its reputation on Cabernet Sauvignon.  They have quite a few Cabs at different price points.  We have always been fond of their Bordeaux blend that they call Tapestry.  Like many Napa Valley wineries, BV is experimenting with different, non-traditional grapes.  Today they make a Cabernet/Syrah with a nod to Australia and a Touriga Nacional from Portugal.  We have found that if they’re not too busy and you show a proper appreciation of the wines, the servers will find some gems just below the bar.

Depending on what they’re serving that day, you may get a pour from one of BV’s original vineyards or some single clone wines that are quite unique.  If you want to taste the George de Latour, they’ll charge extra.  We advise you to pay the fee; it’s worth it if only to know what a foundational Napa Valley wine tastes like.

A little extra tip.  BV shares its parking lot with the Rutherford Grill.  We often eat lunch there before we go tasting; if you want to go, you’ll need a reservation. It is a popular restaurant and the food is quite good.

We are never quite sure what Rutherford Dust was all about, but you certainly can find it (if it exists) at BV.

Château Puech-Haut

Château Puech-Haut (www.puech-haut.com) is just about the eastern-most winemaker in Languedoc, France.  Their winery is located in the Pic St-Loup appellation, with vineyards in Saint-Drézéry and in the Cevennes mountains further north.  The tasting room is an easy drive from the city of Montpellier, which is well worth a visit itself.  Now, all these place names may be fairly foreign to American readers.  They’re in a less visited section of southwest France, and they’re worth knowing about.

The tasting room at Château Puech-Haut.

There are a number of reasons to visit Puech-Haut if you’re in the vicinity. Of course, there’s the wine.  For the most part, their wines are quite pleasant, especially their rosés.  They make them from the usual Rhône grapes: Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne.  Their usual tasting menu gives you a good idea of what they make in white, red and rosé.  We found that if you show a serious interest in what they make, they’re quite willing to open some of their better bottles for you.

Puech-Haut is located near the foot of the Pic St-Loup mountain, which gives its name to the AOC.  The winery is surrounded by grape vines and overlooked by a vine-covered château that is more of the nice French country house.  A big deal is made about the massive barrel near the château.  It is indeed large, holding so they say, 300,000 litres, which they claim to be the biggest in the world.

One of the painted barrels, with some containing wine in the background.

There is more to say about barrels at Puech-Haut.  It’s not often that we take any notice of bulk wine, a bag-in-a-box.  These serve a purpose; Puech-Haut has a different approach.  They sell wine in bulk is three-litre barrels.  Moreover, the barrels are painted in colorful, amusing, modernistic themes.  When you finish most boxed wines, you throw away the box.  Puech-Haut’s are collectibles.  They also show off some of their actual aging barrels, which are also gaily decorated.

They also make a deal out of some of their bottles.  They’re elongated and nearly triangular in profile with a squarish base.  The bottles for the whites and rosés are frosted and they have glass stoppers (pink ones for the rosés).  In a wine store, your eye is immediately attracted to these bottles and we bet that many people buy one with the thought of reusing the bottles as vases or carafes.  Puech-Haut realizes that they make good advertising and give them away at the tasting room.

A few notes in case you do visit Puech-Haut.  The tasting room is spacious and well furnished, but the layout is such that it can get quite crowded rather quickly.  Those of us who go wine tasting often are used to heading for one winery and then visiting others in the area.  This doesn’t work well at Puech-Haut; there’s virtually nothing else around.

Oh, and by the way, it’s pronounced (sort of) poosh oh.

The Hess Collection

The Hess Collection winery (https://www.hesscollection.com/) is a little out of the way, up on Mt. Veeder.  It’s worth the trip, for two reasons.  The obvious one is to taste their wines.  The other is to see their art.

The winery was founded by one of the Napa Valley pioneers, by Donald Hess of Switzerland back in the 1980s.  He had already made a fortune in Swiss sparkling water and had started collecting art.  So when he opened a winery in California he also used the location to house his paintings and sculptures.  And he continued to collect more widely.  For a visitor to Napa Valley, a trip the The Hess Collection is both an aesthetic and gustatory experience.

The Hess Collection winery.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

The art gallery adjoins the tasting room.  There are other wineries, especially in Napa Valley, that also exhibit fine art.  But The Hess Collection has a museum of modern art with artists and pieces of the highest quality.  Many artists are quite well-known: Francis Bacon, Robert Motherwell, Robert Rauschenberg and Frank Stella to name a few.  All the works are from Donald Hess’ personal collection.  (The Hess Collection, get it?)

Photograph courtesy of Incollect.

As you enter the gallery, the first painting you see is an enormous portrait entitled Johanna II by Franz Gertsch, a Swiss artist.  It is photorealistic and is the most widely featured artwork in publicity for the museum.  Perhaps that’s to entice visitors who are not as familiar with abstract art, which makes up the majority of the paintings and drawings on display.

There is much sculpture shown as well.  Some are easy to relate to, such as the full length male nudes by Deryck Healy, a South African artist previously unknown to us.  And others, such as the enormous oak log by Polish artist Magdalena Abakonowicz…well, you just have to see it.

Oh, yes, you can taste wines, too.  At one point, there were two quality levels available for tasting, Hess Select and The Hess Collection.  The former was (and is) intended for the mass market.  These wines are still available at retail but not at the winery.

The strength – and in some ways, the weakness – of the wines you can taste there is the enormous variety of wines they make.  Their top wines, in the Icon series (a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay), are quite refined and really only for connoisseurs.  It is rare that these will be available for tasting.  Those bottled under The Hess Collection label are the ones you might see in a quality wine shop and they lean towards Cabs.  There’s also a Lions Head series with the same mix of grapes.  Then there are the wines they source from nearby and distant vineyards, which they call Small Block wines; these are only available at the winery.

Overall, you might not like everything in the Hess Collection museum or the winery, but that’s all right.  We don’t like everything in the Louvre, either.  But there is much to admire, and an hour or so spent at this museum is as much a part of the Napa Valley experience as their wines.

 

 

V. Sattui Winery

  1. Sattui Winery (www.vsattui.com) is an American success story. Vittorio Sattui was born in a small town near Genoa and emigrated to San Francisco. He opened a winery there in 1885 and prospered, along with family members who followed him, until Prohibition closed the winery down.  Then in 1976, Vittorio’s great-grandson Dario revived the family business in St. Helena.  (As it happens, our first trip to Napa Valley was in 1977, so we thought that V. Sattui had always been there.)

The original winery in San Francisco.  That’s Vittorio’s son Mario and brother Romeo out front.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

Today, V. Sattui has become an institution.  If you visit Napa Valley for only a few times, you are sure to wind up at their doorstep.  Everybody does.  There are several reasons why this is so.

The first is location. It’s right on Route 29, so anyone going to taste in the northern end of the valley has to pass by.  Heitz and Louis M. Martini are just up the road, so we guess Dario figured back then this was a good spot for a winery, and maybe he knew that Flora Springs would open across the street in a few years.  But he couldn’t have known that Pahlmeyer, Belle Glos and Hall would

someday be neighbors as well.  You could do a day’s wine tasting in walking distance of V. Sattui.

Then of course there’s the wine.  V. Sattui has always had an enormous selection of them, many of which were quite affordable.  This is still the case, but they also have pricier wines sourced from some of the most reputed vineyards in California, including Morisoli, Ramazotti and Quaglia.  Their wines include four white varietals, ten red varietals (plus blends), eight dessert wines, five rosés and four sparkling wines.

So how come you’ve never seen any of these in your local wine store?  It’s because they don’t distribute their wines outside the winery.  These days, of course, everything is for sale on the internet as well.  But for decades, V. Sattui has relied on visitors to buy up their stock.

The picnic grounds at V. Sattui.  Photo courtesy of the winery.

And the visitors have come, year after year, many attracted by the expansive picnic grounds on the property.  Napa County has limited the number of wineries that can have picnic tables, with those that have long had them allowed to continue doing so.  It is a common sight in good weather to see families gathered at the tables eating feasts, like you see in Italian movies.  Somewhere, old Vittorio must be smiling.

The people are eating and drinking food and wine purchased on the premises.  In addition to selling wines, V. Sattui has a very fine deli, or salumeria as Vittorio would have said.  There are cold cuts, cheeses, sandwiches, salads, hot dishes and desserts.  And of course, it all goes with V. Sattui wines.  They have a rule that food and wine must be bought there, and that’s only fair.

Many visitors are new to wine tasting in Napa Valley, so they’ve never heard of, much less tasted, V. Sattui’s wines.  So if you sit the shady picnic area and listen carefully, you’ll hear people saying, “Hey, this is pretty good”.  And it is.

Frog’s Leap Winery

There are some wineries in Napa Valley that are intended to awe their visitors.  They may have long histories, or architecture designed to replicate castles and temples, or they’re highly modern glass palaces.  Frog’s Leap Winery (https://www.frogsleap.com/) has the history, having been established in 1980.  It has the grapes, much of which they sell to other winemakers.  What it lacks is awesomeness.  It was designed and built to make visitors feel like they’re going to visit their country grandma, albeit a grandma with money and good taste.

Photo courtesy of Wine Travel Eats.

The winery building itself still looks like a barn, a very big one.  It’s painted the shade of red that seems to be reserved for barns.  You can take a tour and still see all the equipment and the barrels, but we think you’ll be drawn back to the visiting area.  Of course, that’s where they serve the wine.

While Frog’s Leap makes a broad selection of red wines, it seems to us that they’re best known for their white wines. Maybe that’s because their Chardonnay is so widely available in wine shops around the country.  Taking nothing away from the Chard, we’re impressed that they still make a Chenin Blanc, which used to be much more prominent in Napa Valley.

These days of pandemic-induced changes, all of Frog Leap’s tastings are seated affairs, by appointment only, out on the lawn.  In better times, both in the past and just ahead, tastings are also seated, in a parlor where you perch yourself on a settee.  Now, settee is a word your grandma may have used and it’s that sense of old-style hominess that is for us the premier attraction of this winery.  You feel like much more than a customer; you’re a guest.

This feeling is reinforced at Christmas-time.  There’s always a beautifully decorated tree erected in the parlor.  It puts you in a holiday mood as soon as you walk in the door.  They’re not going to offer you egg nog; you’re limited to wine.  But there is a sense that you ought to leave some milk and cookies behind when you leave.

Now don’t get us wrong.  The wines are modern: crisp whites and robust reds.  Unlike many Napa Valley wineries, including many that are quite nearby, Frog’s Leap still making wines at a price point that the average person can afford on a regular basis.  Nothing among their recent releases costs an amount that requires three digits and that’s quite okay with us.

Oh, and about the name.  We always thought it was a play on Stag’s Leap and that may indeed be the case.  But according to the people at the winery, back in the ‘70s, the location was a frog farm.  A frog farm?  Now, John Williams, founder of the winery, was working at Stag’s Leap when he bought the property.  So believe whichever story you prefer.

 

 

Pine Ridge Vineyards

People who visit the Stags Leap district of Napa Valley often drive past Pine Ridge (www.pineridgevineyards.com).  Maybe they’re looking for the eponymous vineyards or maybe they’re just hurrying back to Napa town, but they really ought to pull over and stop at Pine Ridge.  We have been there many times and have had diverse experiences, all wonderful.

Another reason people may pass by Pine Ridge is that the building itself cannot compare with the Napa palaces up and down the Silverado Trail.  To us, that’s a positive.  The winery itself is a pleasing structure, in a sort of Spanish mission style.  The tasting room is also attractive but low-key.  It has a bar and some wine on the walls and that’s about it.

What makes a visit to Pine Ridge come alive is the wine.  They are best known by far for their Cabernet Sauvignon.  As you can see on their web site, they have Cab, better Cab (which they call Fortis) and Other Red Wine.  Interestingly, Pine Ridge produces Cabernet Sauvignon from three AVAs other than Stags Leap (Howell Mountain, Rutherford, Oakville) as well as several blends from their properties.  It is unusual for all of them to be offered for tasting but of those we have tried, each has distinctly different characteristics.

Don’t miss some of those “other” reds.  There’s a very fine Merlot and although we’re just getting used to California Malbec, theirs is pretty good.  We’re not as fond of white wine as red, but some of their white varietals are quite interesting.  They have a Rhône blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier that isn’t quite like anything else we’ve tried in Napa Valley.

These sad days, all the tastings at Pine Ridge are outdoors, but when the pandemic passes and you can taste inside once again, ask for a tour of their caves and their tasting lounge for wine club members.  By itself, that lounge is enough to make us consider joining their club.

We must tell a few stories about the service we have received at Pine Ridge.  On our most recent, and most impressive, visit on a cold December afternoon, we had a true educator who showed Pine Ridge’s wines to their best advantage and then led us on the aforementioned tour.  In all our tastings there, this was the best.

But it was not the most memorable.  We came there once near the end of a hot summer’s day.  It was pleasant to sit out on their terrace and have the server bring us wine from inside.  The fellow knew absolutely nothing about wine (when questioned, he brought us the book he was supposed to have already read) but he sure wanted us to have a good time.  He was a host extraordinaire.  There was a few other couples on the terrace at that time and we were treated to a real party.

By the way, when you pull into the parking lot, look to your left.  There’s a hill with some rows of vines.  At the ridge of the hill, there is a row of pine trees.  Aha!

Preston Farm and Winery

Preston (www.prestonfarmandwinery.com) isn’t like other wineries and that’s because Lou Preston and his wife, Susan, aren’t like other winemakers.  The Preston winery is…different, verging on odd and definitely unique.  They’ve been making wine there since 1975 and once were into some serious production.  And then in 2001, Lou decided he’d rather be a farmer as well as a winemaker and cut down to 8,000 cases a year.  The land that wasn’t left under vine was used for olive trees, grains, vegetables and lambs.  Lots of vineyards used to be farms; only Preston that we know of has a farm where there were once grape vines.

The Preston Farm and Winery tasting room. 

There are many reasons why a visit to Preston is worthwhile.  For one, the winery is very intentionally in touch with the history of Sonoma County.  The building itself looks like an old farmhouse, with clapboard sides and pitched eaves on the roof.  The tasting room is functional and decorated with farm implements, books and the occasional cow horn.  That latter is because everything at Preston is organic.  (The cow horn is used for…well, it’s a long story.)

The grounds are a well-kept garden, much as you’d expect for a visit to your rural grandparents, if you ever had them.  There are also picnic grounds in a wooded area, so stop at the Dry Creek General Store on your way to bring lunch.  But be sure to bring extra, because you will have to feed some of the many importunate cats who prowl the grounds.  After lunch or your tasting, you can play a little bocce on their court.

Thankfully, Lou didn’t eliminate wine altogether and we always come home from a visit with a supply of bottles.  In the pre-farming days, Preston made an inexpensive red Rhône blend called, cleverly enough, Faux.  It was widely shipped so we never bought it at the winery because we could get it at a local wine shop back home.  In its place today is a powerful blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Grenache and Carignan, called without pretension simply L. Preston, which is stenciled on the side of the bottle…and nothing else.  Did we mention that Preston Farm and Winery is a bit eccentric?

As may be seen, the specialty at Preston is Rhône grapes.  The partner to L. Preston is a white blend called Madame Preston, with a similarly simplistic label.  It consists of Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier and Grenache Blanc.  All the varietals are bottled individually. The Mourvèdre is our favorite, but we haven’t been able to buy it for years because it’s always sold out when we visit.

As you’re tasting, you can usually sample some olive oil and freshly baked bread.  For sure, Lou bakes bread too, though we’re not sure that every loaf available for sale at the tasting room has passed through his hands.  As you leave the tasting room, turn right and there’s a little country store featuring whatever was recently harvested on the farm.  We’ve never bought any vegetables because we don’t have a kitchen in California, but they do look good.

We miss some of the old wines, especially the aforementioned Faux and a dessert wine that they called Moscato Curioso, with the emphasis on the cat.  Still, we keep coming back to Preston and always will, whenever we come wine tasting in Dry Creek.

 

 

Château de la Liquière

If you happen to be travelling through Cabrerolles in Languedoc in southern France…Wait, nobody just happens to be travelling through Cabrerolles.  For one thing, it’s little more than a blip on the map; a hamlet, not even a full-fledged village.  For another, it’s in the wine producing area of Faugères, which isn’t close to anything.  And the roads to get there are small, winding and hilly.  If you go there, you mean to be there.

But the visit is worthwhile, because there you will find the tasting room of Château de la Liquière (http://www.chateaulaliquiere.com/new/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=112&catid=34&lang=uk) .  It cannot be said that la Liquière is well-known in the United States, but it is occasionally available.  We first encountered their wine, specifically their Les Amandiers label, on a restaurant wine list.  We enjoyed it so much that we decided to make the trek to Cabrerolles to taste their other wines.

You drive across a valley where la Liquière has its vineyards.  As you pull into the hamlet on the main (basically the only) road, you’ll see a sign pointing up a hill to the winery.  Park at that sign and walk 100 meters.  There you’ll find a filigreed iron gate that welcomes you into a quaint tasting room.  If no one is there to greet you, just shout “Allo” and someone will descend from the office above to offer you a tasting.

The tasting room is rather dark, with only one small window, and the floor is made of paving stones.  There is a small bar but you’ll probably want to taste your wines at the barrel with a board on top of it.  La Liquière makes eleven wines – red, white and rosé – and you may find yourself confounded, as we were, when your server asks you, “What would you like to taste?”  You don’t want to be piggy and say “all of them” nor is that safe.  So just shrug and indicate you’d like to know their best wines.  (They speak a little English, poorly.  If you can struggle through a little French as well, you’ll be fine.)

We found that the wine we had drunk back home was near the bottom of their list.  The server was delighted that we had had the opportunity to try the Les Amandiers (available in all three colors) in America and told us that they had much better wines than that.  And indeed, two of la Liquière’s reds are bold, tannic red wines made of Rhône grapes.  Their Cistus label is made of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Carignan.  The top of the line, Tucade, is primarily Mourvèdre, with some Grenache and Carignan.  These are age-worthy wines and indeed the Tucade ought to be put down for some time before opening.

Like all Faugères wines, those at la Liquière are quite minerally.  This derives from the schist soil makes up the ground in the hills.  It’s a taste that is distinctive and not to everyone’s liking.  We do like it and we have found la Liquière to be among our favorites in Languedoc.  Also typical of the better wines in the region today, la Liquière’s wines are “nature”, the equivalent of organic.  If you want to learn about the wines of Faugères, la Liquière is worth the trip.

 

 

Robert Mondavi Winery

Power Tasting began publication at the beginning of 2015 and have been reviewing wineries ever since.  So how come we are just getting around to writing about Robert Mondavi (www.robertmondaviwinery.com) now?  It’s because Mondavi feels like it has always been there and always will be.  It’s as much as part of Napa Valley as Howell Mountain or the Napa River.

Robert Mondavi, the man, was synonymous with Napa Valley during his lifetime and has achieved legendary status since his death in 2008.  Robert Mondavi, the winery, has turned out wines of the highest quality for so long that it’s easy to forget that the rating organizations accord them high 90’s every year.  Robert Mondavi is wonderful, but being wonderful for so long robs it of trendiness.

For those of us who enjoy going wine tasting, the same can be said about visiting the Robert Mondavi winery in Oakville.  We’ve been visiting there for so long we tend to understate how special it is.  Mr. Mondavi himself dedicated himself to what he called the good life, which included art and food, as well as wine.  All these are in evidence from the moment you pull up to the winery.  The emblematic arch at the entrance combines respect for California’s Spanish past with an understated elegance that is still contemporary after more than 50 years.

Also in evidence at the entrance and around the grounds are statuary and other artworks from the Mondavi family’s collection.  Of course, it is possible to taste wine without works of art, but it is so much more enjoyable to combine them.

The winery is laid out in the form of a V, opening to vistas of vineyards and the Mayacamas mountains.  On the left is the wing for those who are interested in tours and tastings of Mondavi’s widely available wines.  On the right are a tasting room for their wine club members, the gift shop and the To Kalon Room, where Mondavi’s most exclusive wines are available for tasting.  [To Kalon is the name of Mondavi’s top vineyard, where the grapes for their finest Cabernet Sauvignon and Fumé Blanc are grown.]  Tastings in this latter room are not inexpensive, but there is a lot to be said for being offered a vertical of the Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, as we were recently.

In the years at the beginning of Northern California’s rise to wine-making eminence, Mondavi’s Fumé Blanc was the benchmark for California white wines.  While the quality has not diminished, it is probably Cabernet Sauvignon for which they are best known today.  Less well renowned are their Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Not every wine is available at all times in each tasting room, but we have found that a polite request often results in finding a bottle beneath the bar.

Finally, a few words about the gift shop.  Normally, we avoid shopping at wineries; there are only so many coasters and refrigerator magnets anyone needs.  But the items at this winery reinforce Mr. Mondavi’s maxims about the good life.  Simply put, they sell lovely things, from pottery to tableware to books.  And wine, of course.  The shop is especially pretty at Christmastime, when the decorations and holiday goods only add to the pleasure of a visit to this winery, a gem in Wine Country’s diadem.

 

 

Champagne de Venoge

The Champagne region of France has two principal cities: Reims and Épernay.  The former is of greater interest to tourists, with its grand cathedral and quite a few top-quality Champagne houses.  But Épernay is a wonderland for wine tasters.  There are so many producers, great names and small, all over the town.  And the center of it all is the Avenue de Champagne, a mile of mansions and industrial buildings dedicated to the production, sale and consumption of the world’s best bubbly, made from grapes grown in the chalky soil of Champagne.

You can walk along the Avenue de Champagne, stopping here and there for a dégustation (tasting).  These aren’t the sips we Americans are used to when we go wine tasting.  Oh no, you get a whole flute of Champagne, usually for around ten euros or so.  When you do take that walk, we recommend that you stop at the Venoge Mansion (www.champagnedevenoge.com/en).  This elegant building is representative of both the grandeur and the pretentiousness of Champagne.

The grandeur is easy to see…it’s all around you in Épernay.  You’re supposed to be impressed by the ancient lineages of these winemaking establishments, but most only go back to the entrepreneurs of the 19th century.  De Venoge was founded by a Swiss immigrant who started his company in 1837.  That’s pretty ancient for Americans but its Johnny-come-lately for the French.  And although the “de” in the name sounds like nobility, it isn’t in this case.  The mansion was built in 1900, but de Venoge only acquired it in 2015.

None of this history matters to you as a wine-tasting visitor.  You want elegance, both in your surroundings and in your glass.  And this is where de Venoge lives up to your hopes and expectations.  The setting is a mansion inside high wrought iron fences.  The building is in a park, most of which is behind it.  But there’s a courtyard in front with a bit of lawn and on the grass there are comfortable lawn chairs and umbrellas.  In one of the outbuildings, there’s a bar where you order the Champagne you want to drink and a server brings it to you as you stretch out on your lounger.  Turn your back on the street and you’re out in the country, sipping Champagne at a château on a sunny afternoon.  This is why you became a wine taster and this is why you went to Épernay to taste wine.

The wines themselves are quite enjoyable.  We found we preferred the blanc de noirs in de Venoge’s better tier of wines, which they call Princes.  (They also have a top of the line they call Louis XV, but we didn’t taste those wines.)

For the overall experience of wine tasting, de Venoge offers one of the best opportunities we have encountered in Champagne.  The wines are good but no better than many others available nearby.  Of course, that’s the genius of wine tasting in Champagne. They’re all good; some are just better.  But you feel like you’re luxuriating at de Venoge and that’s worth a lot when you’re in this famous corner of Wine Country.