The question was – “who dresses your husband?” Was it the Italian suede jacket? Ferragamo shoes? It wasn’t a cross examination, but I was a little taken back, what should I answer? Me? I quickly looked my husband over to see if anything was amiss. Perhaps too casual for this event? Since this was no ordinary château, no ordinary place: as the crème de la crème of exclusivity, guests are invite-only, meaning you have to be a ‘close friend of Moët to be included. Anyway, it couldn’t have upset her as she placed him next to her for lunch.
We were guests at Château de Saran in the vineyards of Chouilly overlooking the Marne Valley all the way to Epernay. This was the former hunting lodge of Jean-Remy Moët who had it built this wedding cake on a hill overlooking the edge of the Saran Woods. The hostess was Micheline, an elegant woman who is the Chatelaine used to entertaining special guests of Moët & Chandon. Guests like Roger Federer, the Queen Mother, Natalie Portman are just some of these distinguished names. We gathered in the rose garden on a cool spring day. Silver trays and white gloved waiters greeted all with glasses of Moët et Chandon of course, hors d’oeuvres of smoked salmon.
But as you entered the house, family antiques were carefully placed so that you would want to take it all in like the portraits of Count and Countess Pierre-Gabriel Chandon on each side of the fireplace. Each elegant salon held family treasures; one was a wooden cutlery box used by Napoleon. He had met Jean-Remy at school as a young man and they remained friends over the years, Napoleon had a “Champagne habit” always taking a supply on his military campaigns. We were escorted into lunch at a long table laden with heavy linens and candelabras. Each course was pared by a different Champagne. Simply put this was a memorable meal and the complexity of the mature wine's tiny bubbles – one that remains with me to this day was a feuillete of crab and lobster, divine.
The Moët family was originally from the Netherlands, moving to France in the 1400s, thus the name Moët the T was pronounced. The Champagne house was established in 1743 by Claude Moët, who was the first winemaker. Then his grandson, Jean-Remy took control. Today, it is the largest Champagne House in the world, producing 30 million bottles and storing them in 17 miles of underground cellars. ‘We drink champagne like water here’, says cellar Master Benoît Gouez matter-of-factly in the afternoon, sitting in a room adorned with a gargantuan chandelier. The 2015 Grand Vintage we are trying has a soft and light flavor; the taste should be ‘like a raindrop’ in its flavor journey, with the most intense notes of the wine hitting your tongue at first and the softest notes coming through right at the end.
We were not staying overnight at Saran – instead we were ensconced at Boyer’s Domaine Les Crayères up on the hill of Saint-Nicaise in Reims, named for the numerous ‘crayeres’, the Gallo-Roman subterranean galleries. Melchoir de Polignac, the grandson of Madame Pommery built the home in 1904, where for 70 years it remained the family residence. In 1979 the Gardinier family turned into a hotel and gourmet retreat presided over by Chef Boyer. The mansion is not just luxurious but had grown in statue under Elyane and Gerard Boyer’s attention to detail, it was at its pinnacle.
He was not just a legendary three-star Michelin chef, but Boyer was extremely handsome – when I could not get hot water to run in my bath – who came to the room to fix the issue but…Chef Boyer. That said something to me. After a wonderful dinner, of course pared with champagne we sat out on the terrace watching the stars and sipping our final glasses of Pommery Cuvee Louise. I guess I could have said that we were drinking stars, as had the monk Dom Perignon supposedly said in 1693.
I have been back since the Boyers have retired – I personally found it less warm and the staff’s noses where truly high in the air, sadly. But I did have a nice meal at Brasserie le Jardin with excellent service.