I never heard back from the French company directly. Instead, I got a communication from the head of their P.R. firm in Manhattan, putting themselves at my service. A few days later she wrote back with details of my tour arrangement. After I got back from Champagne, the agency kept in touch with me, eventually inviting me on an extremely luxurious press trip--airfare included--to Beaujolais and Umbria.
I had asked to tour the plant on a weekend, when it was not in operation. They basically opened the place up just for me. An attachée spent about two hours showing me the entire operation, after which we retired to the tasting room. She uncorked increasingly expensive bottles--four in all--for me to try. The attachée, the photographer, and I made a pretty big dent in those bottles, and were best friends by the time we got to the Cuvée Palmes d'Or Rosé.
Before I left, she presented me with "a little gift"--an attractively packaged bottle of Nicholas Feuillatte champagne. Back at the château (this trip was first class all the way!), I opened the package and discovered I had been given the 1996 Cuvée Palmes d'Or--not too shabby. I carried it home carefully, set it on my sideboard, and contemplated it frequently, asking myself what festive occasion I should mark with the opening of this bottle.
What better time, I finally decided, than the week of Thanksgiving, with so many people I love around me? So today was the day.
The vintage champagne was as good as I remembered: a beautiful, fresh floral and citrus-y aroma, elegant tiny bubbles, a pale straw color, complex flavor, with lemon predominating, long finish. Almost too easy to drink...all too soon, it was gone.
But at least I've got the beginnings of a serious wine education. Also happy memories of my experiences. And, of course, the empty bottle for my collection.