I'm trying to plan a trip to Champagne Valley for my birthday in April next year. I know that we'll need to rent a car to get around through the valley but I'm having a tough time figuring out which city is the best to use as our base. I know that Reims and Epernay are the largest cities in the valley but is there a good small city that is walkable on the days we're not driving around the valley? Also any recommendations for small wineries. Thanks
Reims is a good choice and preferred over Epernay. Reims has a wonderful Cathedral and large pedestrian friendly zones to walk when you aren't driving into the valley. Another option could be to sleep in Verdun. One cave worth checking out is Marvel. Not as touristy and flashy as some. But for wine try the town of Bouzy and visit Champagne Herbert Beaufort for their Bouzy Rouge. Or Champagne G Tribaut in Hautvilers.
I would stay in Reims especially if celebrating my birthday. Of the two times we have visited and stayed in the area, we enjoyed Reims for the variety of activities - champagne tasting and touring; cathedrals, and museums. Just the history of the town through the crowning of French kings, WWI and WWII makes for a very interesting visit. We drove through many smaller towns - Ay, Hautvillers and a few others on the Route de Champagne and we just were not impressed. No town squares, parks or even many restaurants in the small towns. Nice to visit smaller producers that offer tours but no towns we would consider staying the night.