Colin is a charming, engaging Englishman, who was a pleasure to talk to as he drove my wife and me around the French countryside and as we dined at a fabulous restaurant in Vouvray for lunch. It is obvious that Colin knows and loves the wines of the Loire.
Colin picked us up at our B&B, a chateau near Bléré. We visited four wineries during our one day tour. Three of the four wineries are regular stops for Colin in Vouvray and the Touraine – the owners and their staffs were friendly and informative and the wines were excellent and reasonably priced.
Weeks before we left for France, I had sent a list of a handful of exceptional wineries to Colin and asked that he try to get us into one or two if possible and let him know what kind of experience we were looking for. Several didn’t work for one reason or another or Colin was concerned that the experience might not be what we were looking for, but as Colin told us, he begged, pleaded, perhaps even groveled to get us into Clos Naudin, which I had considered to be the most desirable on my list and least likely to be able to spare the time for two tourists and their guide. While I was surprised that he was able to get us in, I was thrilled when Colin told me that we were going to meet Philippe Foreau, the proprietor and grandson of the founder Clos Naudin, which has been handed down from father to son since the late 1920s. (We even rushed a bit at lunch to ensure we would be on time.) M. Foreau, gracious and accommodating, personally conducted the tour of his cellars and poured his exceptional wines for us (recommending the perfect food pairing for each along the way). M. Foreau is passionate about, and justifiably proud of, his wines and Colin was the perfect guide for the Clos Naudin tour, enthusiastic and engaged – he was thoroughly enjoying himself, as were we. One of the great testaments to Colin was that, although M. Foreau speaks no English and we are limited to phrase book French, Colin’s translations made our conversations flow effortlessly, whether we were discussing fermentation processes or M. Foreau’s grandfather carving the caves out of the hill below the vineyards beginning almost 90 years ago. Our tour was one of the highlights of our entire trip to France and we really couldn’t have done it without Colin.
As others have mentioned, Colin has gone to some lengths to set up an arrangement with a shipper who can get your wines back home. My recommendation is to reserve that service for higher end wines that may be hard to come by when you are home and to squeeze less expensive bottles into your bags. While we bought a substantial amount at Clos Naudin, I now wish we had bought more – particularly now that I’ve realized that it is impossible to find the lovely 2007 Clos Naudin Reserve Brut back home and I’m now in a conundrum about when I should open the ones I have.
One side note: While we did not take advantage of Colin’s tours of Loire chateaux, given that Colin is a horticulturist by training and a professional garden designer and teacher of garden design, I suspect he would be fantastic at chateaux with extensive gardens – I would think, especially, Chateau Villandry.
In short, we couldn’t be happier that we engaged Colin and we enthusiastically recommend him to you.