Archive: Top Winery Tours
While many "wine tours" are just big, many family-run wineries offer a quintessential Back Door experience. You get into a local home, meet a family, and try one of Europe's great art forms...wine. Point us in the direction of the vintner with the best welcome mat.
If you are traveling to the Champagne region of France (Reims/Epernay), especially if you are limited on time, I would recommend touring both a small winery and a larger one to get a good contrast. We did not get to tour a small one, and wished we had.
We did tour Taittinger in Reims (very commercial, but informative) and Maxims (formerly Compte De Noiron).
We toured Moet et Chandon in Epernay, which was disappointing - it cost 45F, and consisted of a movie and then the guide talking in the caves, then tasting. No production-line stuff, and the tasting did NOT include Dom Perignon.
We had a great tour at Perrier-Jouet with Sandrine, a delightful woman who spoke English fluently and e-mailed us quickly when we had written for a reservation. We learned more on her tour (of four people) than any of the others and she was very hospitable.
We stayed at a charming Gites de France (B&B) in a VERY small village
(seven houses and a church) about 20km south of Epernay, which was a great
place to explore from. On the Gites de France website, it said that they
spoke English and German, but only their daughter spoke English. I know
some French, but not enough to ask about some things, so if you don't
know how to speak French well, I would definitely recommend a phrase book
or translator computer. Have fun exploring!
College Station, TX USA 05/30/01
My family visited the S. A. Purem Wine Estate on the Mosel River in Bernkastel-Wehlen, Germany. This is a "must do" family-run Back Door experience.
They have built a guest house with spacious rooms with baths in the midst of the winery. The rooms are modern & decorated in a lovely wine motif. Continental breakfast served on the wine terrace is included.
We visited during the festival of the Open Cask, when they had visiting chefs preparing the best meals we had in all of Germany, & all their wines were available for tasting!
There are many activities available besides tasting the wines at all
the local wineries. But nicest of all was the warm, friendly feeling that
the owner, Raimund Pruem, shared with all his guests. You may visit his
site online at http://www.vinonet.com/s.a.pruem.htm Our family guarantees
you will love your visit here.
parkersburg, wv USA 03/26/01
I work with a major grocery chain in California and the wine buyer generously set up tour and tastings at several Champagne houses for me. Even if you don't have the same connections, do yourself a favor and at least set up a tour or two of the facilities and caves that are carved out of chalk. The Romans started these beautiful caves hundreds of years ago when mining for chalk.
Pommery in Reims has some beautiful carvings in their caves, and the Taittinger caves have remnants of a cathedral that was destroyed during the revolution. In Epernay, we were lucky enough to stay at the Belle Epoque at Perrier Jouet and that is a beautiful place to see if available. Moet has beautiful facilities and they control entrance to the Abbey of Hautvilliers, which is a great town to explore as well. Very high on the cute factor! The Abbey is also where Dom Perignon did his work on improving the Champagne process.
And while exploring one or two of the big producers, notice that there
are dozens of tiny producers just waiting to be discovered!
Orange, CA USA 03/08/01
In the Champagne region of France, Tarlant has wonderful champagne, and they also run an inexpensive bed and breakfast. We had wonderful tours at both Perrier-Jouet and Krug--non-commercial, personal, very lovely (all by appointment only). At P-J they have a B&B that is to-the-trade only, but if it is not too occupied they will let you tour it. It's a wonderful museum of completely restored Belle Epoque furnishings, where you can sit and sip their champagne.
Phone 00 333 26 58 30 60
Fax 00 333 26 58 37 31
51480 Oeuilly/Epernay FRANCE
Champagne PERRIER JOUET
26 avenue de Champagne
TÚl 33/03 26 53 38 00
5 rue Coquebert
Fax : 03.26.84.44.49
chicago, USA 01/11/01
One of the greatest "vino" experiences for me was at Fubbiano Fattoria
in Lucca, Italy. Their wine & olive oil are some of the best that I have
ever tasted. The family is so generous and spends as much time as needed
with each and every guest. On their farm they have several rooms for guests
that are immaculately kept. The farm is very beatuiful and not that far
away from the wonderful town of Lucca and the marble mines of Carrara.
Worcester, MA USA 12/10/00
In July, we stayed in Beaune, France for three days. While there we visited a winery north of town called Daniel Rion & Fils. They were exceptionally nice and showed us around the entire place. They even gave us barrel tastings of their 1998 Pinot Noirs. At the conclusion, we asked if it was possible to buy some of their wines (it was) and we were led into the business office where we bought premier cru burgundies for one-third of the cost of those wines in the United States.
Right down the road, Alexe-Corton was open for tours and tastings. Their winery was magnificent and their wines, which are world renowned, were, again, priced way under what you would normally pay.
In fact, in the whole area, there were lots of small wineries with signs
saying "Open - come on in."
West Linn, OR USA 11/28/00
I had many great experiences while traveling back in 1998. Here are two:
1) In search of the home of the famed black rooster of Chianti, we found it, in the most unassuming of buildings. So unlike winetasting in the US, or even in France! The owner opened several bottles for us, and of course we took some home.
2) Tiring of the big tours in Champagne, we headed to a small nearby
town, where we accidentally hit upon the winery of Jacques Selosse. We
didn't know he is called the "crazy man of winemaking," mainly for his
organic methods. Jacques' son, who now runs it, personally gave us a tour
of his caves, poured us an extensive tasting of his incredible champagnes,
and gave us an emphatic description of his methods in very broken "Englench"
and pantomime. Very entertaining! We left with no fewer than 5 bottles!
San Diego/Los Angeles, CA USA 11/16/00
Check out www.accidentaltourist.com. They offer walking/biking/cooking
courses on a count's private estate. The morning starts with a tour of
the wine cellar where they make DOCG Chianti and extra-virgin olive oil.
Meet the caretaker Giovanni, a spritely 75-year old who's been living
at the villa since he was 12. Completely charming and non-touristy day
trips and an excellent way to see the wine country without the logistical
Seattle, WA USA 10/24/00
I was an exchange student for a year in France outside of Bordeaux. We visited many villages and chateaux while I was there. The two that I will never forget would have to be St. Emillion and Beynac. St. Emillion is one of the leading wine villages in Southern France. I would highly recomend a visit and a tour. It was worth my five dollars to take a tour of the church and the catacombs.
In Beynac we saw Chateau Beynac and Castelnaud. Everything in the Dordogne
region is either prehistoric or from the Middle Ages. The food is excellent
and the the trek up to the castle is so beautiful and great exercise.
Fort Wayne, IN USA 10/16/00
Ok, I have found an even better wine tasting event in the Piemonte region
than the one I listed in Asti. This one is in Alba every year in late
April/early May. It is called Vinum. There were 500 different wines. There
was a small admission fee, and you had to pay a small charge for each
sample ($1 for most, $2 for the barolo and barbaresco). The wines featured
were all from Piemonte. And some of them were for sale, too. I was surprised
to find that many of the staff spoke English, since it is not so common
in the region.
In the La Rioja region of Spain, you'll find many bodegas that offer tours.
You can taste the wine afterwards--most bodegas provide cheese and bread,
too. The countryside is beautiful and their are a few ancient monastaries
in the area. If you really like wine, I advise it, but there is little
else to do in the tiny villages as far as recreation.
Technically it's not a winery tour, but I have been to a few wine-tasting
fairs in Asti. They're great because you get the chance to try many different
wines from different producers, compare them, and buy only the best. Fiere
d'Asti is held 1 week in May/June and is similar to an American county
fair--besides the wines and cheeses, there are things like tractors on
display. And in early September every year in Asti there is Douja d'or,
another wine-tasting. You have to pay by the glass for tastings at this
place, but the wines are very good. There were over 200 wines there in
1999. And since Asti is not a touristy town by any means, the locals are
usually extra friendly to you and will encourage you to try some new things.
Torino, Italy 11/27/99
After our slick, Hollywood-style champagne tour with Piper-Heidsieck
in Reims, we still hankered to see a more authentic cave. Since Pommery
and Veuve Clicquot were closed for Armistice Day, we stumbled upon Comte
de Noiron in the tourist office's Reims map. It was wonderful! According
to our English-speaking guide, they have been open to visitors for only
a few months. Although most of their champagne production is now done
out in the countryside, their caves in downtown Reims were used for centuries--by
weavers whose fires caused the smoky haze on the chalkstone walls, by
winemakers, and later by soldiers in the first and second World Wars (some
of whose graffiti still remains). Some of the cave rooms are still set
up as they were when champagne was being produced here, and others are
filled with charming ancient champagne-making tools. Our tasting at the
end was also lovely--a bit more relaxed than the tasting room at Piper-Heidsieck--and
the champagne is not quite as expensive. Comte de Noiron's phone number
is 33/03 26 82 70 67. They also have a kitchen and it looked as if you
could arrange in advance to have lunch there. Since Comte de Noiron is
the champagne supplier to Maxim's restaurants, I imagine that the lunch
would be an excellent end to an extremely satisfying tour.
Austin, TX USA 11/16/99
veuve cliquot and laurent perrier gave outstanding tours of their caves. both were free and by appointment only. veuve cliquot served their nonvintage brut, which was excellent from a magnum. laurent perrier served their yet-to-be-released '93 vintage, which was very fine
in comparison, we paid forty francs each for a very commercial tour
by moet and chandon. it was very disappointing and i would not recommend
it. they served their nonvintage brut in a mini-flute; i felt the same
about the wine as i did about the tour.
CA USA 10/25/99
Had a marvelous time in Chablis. The entire town is a "wine factory" and
I had the fortune to be there during harvest season (late September).
Walking through the town was a tour of winemaking. And going to the small
producers all over town was great. I highly recommend it!
Livingston, NJ USA 10/01/99
We were impressed with the Banfi vineyards cantina just about 14K outside of Montalcino, Italy. They offer a tour of their restored castle (reservations needed in high season) and very generous tastings of their reds and whites. This is a large American-owned concern, and doesn't fit the small, family-owned experience, but hey, the wine is great!
On the other hand, Poggio Antico, about 10K from Montalcino on the same
road, does not offer tastings in its small salesroom. They are a much
smaller vineyard and cannot afford to open bottles that may go unfinished,
so we were told. Their wines have a fine reputation and their restaurant
one of the best reputations locally (reservations required).
Los Altos, Ca USA 09/28/99
CHAMPAGNE! Piper Heidsieck not only has superior Champagne but they know
how to treat parents with children. My wife wanted to visit a Champagne
house for our 15th anniversary. Our three girls from 4-12 were tired from
a long ride and visiting another Champagne cave was not high on their
list of priorities. But the girls thoroughly enjoyed the ride on a self-steering
car that showed every aspect of the cave and included a replica of the
set of "Casablanca." As much fun as that experience was, they began to
act up during the tasting and in the showroom. I was going to do what
parents do best and began to chastise them for rude behavior. The lady
in charge quietly came over and told me, "They are little girls and sometimes
they act up. Relax...because someday they will move away." She suggested
a small play area under a tree and then helped us with our purchases.
She gave us a complimentary bottle of their Piper Brut (a great bottle)
for after the girls went to bed. She then called the girls in to give
them a bag of Champagne caps. Not only was the Champagne great but it
was made better by the treatment. We have returned three times since then.
In the South of France, Languedoc is one of the oldest wine producing regions in the world. The ancient Pheonicians Greeks and Romans came here to make wine. Many of the American varieties originally came from this region.
Today the region still produces about 25% of the total world production of wine. For many years the production was for quantity not quality, but now the wines are among the best in the world.
Near us there are hundreds of small producers, some making wonderful wines on just five acres of vines, you have to come here to drink them, the quanitiy is just too small to sell further than a few miles away.
Send me a message and I can give you more information on the region and wines.
Nizas, he France 03/12/99
I hate to give this one away, but here it goes. The greatest wine tasting
experiences are in Tuscany. On one of my many trips there I ventured down
from Florence by bus, got off (randomly) at San Casciano in Val de Pesa.
There is a tourist office in town which will lead you to the wineries.
If you are adventurous, follow the road from the bus station northwest
out of town. There is a small family-run winery called Bruscola about
2.5 Km from the bus stop. For some people this might be too far to walk,
but the scenery is incredible--olive trees and vineyards! The tastings,
when I was there, were a full glass, the only language is Italian, and
the wine is incredible. Enjoy, but please be respectable and buy some
Spring Grove, PA USA 02/06/99
Mid-fall seems to be a good time to go wine-tasting. We were in Burgundy
about the time that year's vintage was released (saw signs for each town's
large co-op parties) and I was surprised that we seemed to be the only
ones making the rounds from winery to winery. In addition, the cooler
weather adds to the flavor. I've gone wine tasting in summer and it's
harder to appreciate full-bodied red wines in a heat wave.
San Francisco, CA USA 01/06/99
I don't want everyone stampeding to some of my favorite wineries, but...In
the small French towns in the heart of great wine regions, the local Chamber
of Commerce can provide information and directions. In one town in Burgundy
the postmaster had this double duty and directed my friends and I to the
"top 6 winemakers" in town. Afterwards we realized that he had diplomatically
sent us to EVERY winery in town. However, in almost every case, we knocked
on the gate to be allowed in and quickly realized that the person in rubber
boots, doing all the work, was generally the person whose name was on
the label--the owner, and not an employee of the winery. I live near California's
great wine regions and I have to say that this low key, local, European
approach is far more charming. Don't be afraid to do this, but you may
want to take a phrase book and brush up on your wine-related vocabulary.
San Francisco, CA USA 01/06/99
Schloss Johannisberg on the Rhine (near Rudesheim) has a really good tour
and wine tasting. This is the winery where the Johannisberg Riesling grape
is claimed to have originated and dates to the 10th century. The site
has an interesting history, which is covered in the tour. The tour is
very informative, and you don't have to be a wine expert to learn a lot
about tasting wine. Their motto is "No wine before 5pm, no water after
5pm"... They can also boast that Thomas Jefferson took the same tour in
the late 18th century, and have bottles there older than that. The location
is also beautiful, on a hill overlooking the Rhine. I went as part of
a group, not sure if it can be scheduled individually or not.
Derby, UK 11/29/98