High Life: From Hautviliers to Versailles

A couple weeks ago power publicist Nadine Johnson worked with Dom Perignon to put together a historic trip that recreated the path of Dom Perignon from its humble beginnings to its haute place at the court of Louis XIV.

Guests jetted in to Paris and spent a night at the Crillon, then the next morning drove to the monastery in Epernay where Dom Perignon lived out most of his life (and where he invented the bubbly brilliance of the world's finest champagne). At the monastery, after a light lunch, Dom Perignon's resident historian, Pascal Pecriaux, spoke at length about the history of the brand, and its birthing pains, describing how a happy accident led to the creation of champagne. As he spoke, the vineyards which stretched down the rolling hills, were bathed in a beautiful mist, typical of Champagne country, which has the perfect mix of sunlight and moisture.

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Vineyards at Epernay – all photos by Todd Eberle, courtesy of Dom Perignon

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Another shot of the Dom building at Epernay

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Vaulted detail at the Abbey

After a brief visit to the Abbey, where Dom Perignon had the honor of being buried, an elaborate tasting followed, with guests sampling storied vintages from 1995, 1996 and 2000, among others, including the ultra-rare Oenotek versions of some of these vintages. The tasting took place on the second floor, in the cloister of the Abbey.

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Dom!

Then guests made their way back to their hotel to rest before dinner, which was served in the dizzying atmosphere of the Chateau Saran, Dom Perignon's private retreat. There, Chef Bernard Dance created an elaborate 4-course meal that began with caviar and avocado emulsion, followed by cod in a black truffle jus, then a Moroccan pigeon 'laccouchee, and ended with an eggless Turkish Delight ice cream. Each course was paired with a particular vintage, including the dessert which came with an exquisite vintage '98 Rose.

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Chateau Saran

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The dinner table

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Morning mist at the Chateau

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The salon at the Chateau

The next day guests drove down to Paris and checked into the Crillon once again, then enjoyed a free afternoon in Paris before changing into their black-tie attire and driving to the Palace of Versailles. The doors were flung open for a small group of about 30 guests who enjoyed a private tour of the new exhibit, Louis XIV: l'Homme et le Roi and a ramble through the palace, before ending up in Louis XIV public salon, where cocktails (more Dom, naturally) and hors d'oeuvres were served. 

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An actor impersonating Louis XIV invites us to dine

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In the King's waiting room, before dinner

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The breathtaking dining room

This was the first time that a dinner was going to be served in Louis XIV private dining room since the Palace had been opened to the public, and Corinne Perez, Global Communications head for Dom Perignon, pointed out that it would also be the last, and that guests should feel very privileged indeed. That was an understatement. What came next was a 20-course feast, the menu for which was inspired by the dishes enjoyed at the king's table. Guests were served by liveried footmen who whisked away plates and refilled glasses. Magnums of Dom Perignon Vintage from 1976 were liberally poured – the one rule was that, as at Louis' table, guests were not allowed to place their crystal glasses on the table. Instead, they were poured small sips of champagne or wine, which they quaffed with one gulp, before replacing their glasses on the footmen's silver platter.

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The table

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After dinner, guests were offered 'edible candles' by the footmen

The evening ended with some guests trickling out for an after-dinner stroll through the Hall of Mirrors, while others wandered through the suite of rooms adjoining Louis' bedroom. This had to have been one of the most lavish trips ever, but more importantly, it was a chance to explore living history, bringing together fine food, champagne and the magnificent setting of Versailles for an unforgettable experience.

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Corinne Perez and Nicole Ruvo – two of the evening's beautiful hosts

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The Hall of Mirrors

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