The golden leaves around my house are reminding me of another golden hillside – Essoyes’ own golden vineyards of the special champagne grape.  Last October I, along with the other students at the Essoyes School, spent afternoons walking through the vineyards that covered the hill behind Hotel des Canotiers

Vineyard in Essoyes, France

The leaves of the vines were turning golden, making the grapes clusters that still clung to them pop.

“She who risks, gets to drink champagne.”  Old Russian Proverb

Herve, one of the vignerons for Christian Senez Champagnerie, saw us walking there one day and stopped to give us all a lesson in the proper care and pruning of the grapes.  This is all done by hand, a large order for someone as tall as he.  Herve charmed us all.  He spoke excellent English and was quite humorous at times.  As a friend of Janet Hulstrand’s and because this is his passion, he gave us a tour of Christian Senez Champagnerie.  Unfortunately, this champagne isn’t available in the United States, but it’s worth the trip to Essoyes just to go to the different champagne houses, especially this one.

The building was beautiful and the modern equipment was all steel and cold, squeaky clean on washed down floors.  So I am sharing pictures of the romantic old equipment and signs.

This is the champagne press of the past, replaced about twenty years ago.  But doesn’t it look like you imagined it would?

Herve patiently explained each part of the process; harvesting, pressing, processing, bottling, corking,

turning,

labeling,

and getting into ther cases.

And then came my very favorite part!  We were taken inside to the tasting room with a long French table across from a wood burning fireplace – cozy, warm, ambiance by the yards. 

“Champagne is the only wine that leaves a woman more beautiful after drinking it.”  Madame de Pompadour – lover of Louis XV of France

Award winning bottles of their champagnes lined the walls.

We sat on the long bench beneath the table, facing the fireplace and our host.  He brought out glasses and placed them in a line down the center of the table and began to pour.

“Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!”  Dom Perignon

These were no dixie cups of swill, my friends.  It was full glasses of four different champagnes and the action in the glass matched no other I’ve ever had.  It was like watching a fountain from a tiny volcano in the botton of the glass, sending a spire of bubbles up and then fanning out over the surface.  Amazing!

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much champagne is just right!”  Mark Twain

Luckily, we had drivers to take us safely back to our hotel, purchases made.  I brought a couple of bottles back home to share with my husband.  And back in Paris after the time at our school had ended, I opened one and shared it with one of the students who ended up there with me. 

If Galileo was correct in surmising that, “Wine is sunlight held together by water,”  then surely champagne is starlight held together by wine. 

It is a wonderful experience to take the walk from grape to glass and taste its golden nectar in a sparkling glass.  I wish it for all of you.

The author in beret with two other students - Karin in center and Lena on right
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