French Wine Tour 2014 - June 8

June 8
After 4-days of acclimatisation and preparation (enjoying the sights and delights of Paris truthfully) our FWD Co, French Tour Group of 14-people came together at the Hotel Baltimore located in Rue Kleber, Paris, several hundred metres from the Arc de Triomphe at the top of the Champs-Élysées. I thoroughly staying there; location perfect, room's lovely, bed amazing and service to match.

We met in the lobby at 7.00pm then bundled into three taxis for the interesting drive across town to our restaurant “Les Georges Pompidou” located on the roof of the Art Centre bearing the same name (named after the French Prime Minister of 1962-1968 and then President from 1969 until he died in office unexpectedly in 1974). It is a spectacular setting with floor to ceiling windows offering 180 degree views of Paris back across the Seine with the centre piece being the Eiffel Tower.

It was an incredibly warm evening so I prioritised the serving of nicely chilled Veuve Clicquot Champagne for everyone as soon as we were seated at our table. Although sorely tempted, I bypassed the Billecart-Salmon Rosé Champagne given we would in 2-days' time be drinking it at the Maison with the owners.

We ordered from the a la carte menu; the selection was quite broad and very well thought through. I personally chose a Tempura Prawn entrée followed by a veal chop mains with accompaniments. Everyone enjoyed the opportunity to make personal choices. The wine list was extensive and should you wish you could order selected vintages of Château Petrus for a modest €4,000 per bottle; I was keen for our tour opening dinner to be a special evening but the budget did not allow for such extravagance.

I finally selected a 2011 Joseph Drouhin Chassagne Montrachet as our white wine and on the recommendation of the sommelier a 2009 Château La Nerthe Chateauneuf du Pape as our red. The white was gorgeous… lovely white floral, honeyed and nutty aromas, it was very finely creamed in the palate where it paraded a plethora of rather seductive fine fruit and nutty/mealy tastes – it certainly hit the spot with our group. The red was even more impressive as evidenced in its eager embrace by the ladies who consumed it as enthusiastically as the gents… something I have rarely witnessed in a group social environment where normally the white is generally although not exclusively the wine of choice with the ladies. Now 5-years old and from a ripe vintage it was quite lavish with layers of grainy textured dark fruits ingrained with spices and tastes of black olive/tapenade emerging in the very elegant and searching finish; the sommelier had made an excellent recommendation.

Around 9.00pm the Eiffel Tower put on a show and almost on cue but clearly not planned, a rather spectacular electronic storm unfolded lighting up the night sky with an endless display of forked lightening, as if announcing the beginning of the FWD Co. French Wine Tour. Of course I could not help myself in proffering it was all part of our doing on their behalf and that from now they could refer to me as

One further highlight occurred when Virginia spotted Irish actor James Nisbett dining a few tables away (everyone recognised him but we were all unable to remember his name) and waved at him; he duly popped over for a chat with our group. His notable works include the British comedy drama ‘Cold Feet', undercover detective Tommy Murphy in ‘Murphy's Law' plus he played Ivan Cooper in the television film ‘Bloody Sunday' about the 1972 shootings in Derry. He recently spent 2-years in NZ in the filming of the ‘Hobbit' so was very familiar with our country and an avowed fan and student of our wines - we struck up an accord very quickly. He was gracious when we were unable to recall his name. Virginia had a photo taken with him which will follow when we find out whose camera or mobile it is located on.

A short taxi ride back to our hotel we were headed for bed; however eight of the group, which included Virginia and me, got waylaid at the hotel bar for a Champagne night cap. Fortunately the bar closed 30-minutes later or we might have stayed a little longer than we should have. It was a fabulous opening dinner and it is clear that this group are going to gel beautifully and have a lot of fun on tour. Tomorrow we head off to Champagne for the first day of our tour and I shall update the blog each day so you can share in our excitement and follow our 18-day bucket-list wine tour of Frances finest Maisons-Domaines-Châteaux. Cheers for now, Jeff