Paris France!

I’m soo excited, Paul and I are headed to France today!  It’s my first time but I’ve been planning this trip forever.  We get in to Charles de Gaulle tomorrow morning where we pick up a rental car and head directly out to the Champagne region for two nights.  We have a couple tours set up in the afternoon in Reims then we’ll head to a little town just south of Epernay called Avize where we’ll be staying at Hotel Les Avises a grower Champagne Chateau (Domain Jacques Selosse).

In a land of traditional French opulence the interior of Hotel Les Avises is a beacon of understated chic; the decor, in white and muted greys, is a breath of fresh air where most hotels and chateaus look like a botanical garden threw up in them.  You have no idea how happy I was to find a hotel room in France (at an 1820 Chateau no less) with no flower patterns; too many floral prints and I get a migraine.  Each of the 10 suites at Les Avises are unique, decorated with contemporary furniture accented with mid-century modern classics and refined French touches; all suites look onto the Chateau’s large park and vineyard.

Tomorrow night we’re having dinner at the hotel restaurant.  On top of being the talk of the local wine crowd The Restaurant at Les Avises has been garnering world-wide reviews and become a popular destination for Parisians, a notoriously tough crowd.  The kitchen and restaurant are presided over by Stéphane Rossillon and his wife Nathalie who met in 1990 at the Hôtel du Mont Blanc in Chamonix where Nathalie was already in charge of the dining-room and Stéphane the kitchen.  Together, they worked in various prestigious French establishments before settling down in Valence in 1998 where Stephane joined Maison Pic as second chef alongside Anne-Sophie Pic (Three Michelin Stars), with whom he worked for 13 years.  The Restaurant Les Avises only has 24 seats, so unless you are staying at the hotel reservations are notoriously hard to come by.

Sunday we’ll do a tour of Domain Jacques Selosse.  In 1820, Charles Koch, heir to a family of German hotel-keepers from Heidelberg, moved to Avize, created a Champagne House and built the town house that now houses the Les Avisés hotel-restaurant.  In 1949 Jacques Selosse created and founded the domain which still bears his name, the first vintage being bottled in 1960.  The current proprietor of this estate is Anselme Selosse who took over from his father Jacques in 1975.  Anselme studied at the Lycee Viticole de Beaune and was one of the first wine makers to apply the winemaking techniques of white Burgundy to Champagne.

Selosse is a Grower Champagne, meaning the grapes used to produce the wines are grown in vineyards owned by the winery rather than being purchased from other growers, as is the case in most Champagne production.  The entire production is grown according to biodynamic farming principles and Anselme is considered a pioneer of biodynamics in the Champagne region.  Selosse wines are fermented using oak barrels, in contrast to the majority of Champagne producers who use stainless steel tanks.  Two of the wines in Selosse’s range, the Substance and the Contraste, are produced using a solera system, the same process used in Sherry production.  Selosse features some of the lowest yielding vines in the region, leading to the region’s ripest, most expressive fruit.

“It is hard to think of a single individual in Champagne today whose work… is more influential than Anselme Selosse. … a profound and original thinker whose vocation happens to be that of vigneron.” ~ Andrew Jefford

In 1994 Gault-Millau (the most influential restaurant guide in France) named Anselme Selosse France’s best winemaker in every category, an unprecedented honor.  Accolades like this have contributed to his reputation as perhaps the most original winemaker in France today, admired not only by his peers but by a legion of collectors worldwide who covet each and every bottle of Jacques Selosse Champagne they can find.  Producing only 55,000 bottles per year Selosse is very rare stock.