Are the Loire wine chateaux open for tours and tastings in December?
There's no rule whatsoever -- you'll have to contact each house separately to see what their individual schedule is.
Are there particular vineyards and/or chateaux you recommend visiting?
I've got nothing specific to recommend but here are a few links to get you started:
This past summer I spent a few days at a château that is a combo B&B and wine estate. We did tastings there but I don't know if they do tastings in the winter, though they are open year round. Here is their website:
It may be too ambitious but we'd really like to visit the Loire Valley, even if just to tour a few places. We are considering hiring a private guide and mini van for a round trip tour from Paris.
Do you have any suggestions about tour guides, drivers,?
Is this a good idea?
Many thanks for any advice you can offer.
If you only have 1 day then time is of the essence. To drive to the central section of the Loire will take about 2-1/2 hours, if you don't get caught up in bad traffic, bad weather, an accident or road construction. That's 5 hours round trip. I think you're wasting precious time driving all the way to the Loire from Paris.
You can get to Tours in about 1 hour by TGV. Go to www.tgv-europe.com to see schedules and prices. You can't book more than 3 months out (I think, but others may correct me). You want to look for the PREM tickets, which are discounted but can't be exchanged or refunded. These are the cheapest tickets. The closer to your travel dates, the more expensive the ticket.
Once you get to Tours take one of the tours that operate through the tourist office (book in advance, of course). You can book a tour through the tourist office at this link:
Click on the excursions tab on the left side of the page to see what your options are. If you want a private tour and something more personalized you might try this company:
It is a good idea but I would approach it differently.
Take the TGV from Montparnasse to Tours Centre (not St Pierre des Corps). There is usually an early morning TGV which arrives in plenty of time to allow you to walk across the street and join one of the mini bus tours from the Office de Tourisme. This can all be arranged in advance saving time and the TGV takes about one hour instead of the 3+ hour drive by van from Paris.
Stay one night in Tours, visit Place Plumereau, eat at one of the many excellent restaurants all within easy walking distance of the train station.
www.tgv-europe.com (do not indicate that you will pickup tickets in the USA to preclude being bumped to raileurope)
Visiting the Loire valley and chateaux for one day is far to short.We visited in june 2007 the Loire chateaux in 14 days,and we visited 10 chateaux.You can do a tour in a van in one day,but you only will see the chateaux from the outside.For example to visit chateau de Chennonceau,one of the most beautiful chateaux,you need at least 120 minutes to make a tour insite of 12 rooms fully equiped,the ballroom galery on the first floor and on the second floor an hospital and in the cellar 2 fully equipped kitchens like used in the time of François I,and 60 minutes to visit the gardens.We visited 10 chateaux during 12 days and there are still 5 others who were closed for works or other reasons.In fact the 14 days where not enough to see all the Loire castels.Some of them are so interesting or beautiful that you should visit them twice.
Good luck with your visit.