Day 12: Alsace: Modern Life, Medeivel Life

10:45 AM AirplaneFoodCritic 0 Comments

<p>Breakfast was French again. Less meats and cheeses but the croissants are hugem flakey and heavy with butter. We ate and got ready for my friend, Charles to pick us up at 9:30. He showed up in front of our hotel in a little white van so we could all tour the area in comfort. Charles worked two harvests at my winery. He worked in the cellar and on the presses. He was doing an internship and school project in California while attending college for enology and business management in Burgundy. The second time he came back I was happy to see him so i ran up to him to give him a hug. He was expecting a double cheek kiss and we kind of bonked into each other in an awkward body bump instead. This time I was practicing how to do the double kiss. When he walked up I grabbed him with gusto and gave him a muah muah. I guess I still did it wrong because he was expecting a left cheek to left cheek first. I will get it right one of these days.</p>
<p>We hopped in the van and he took us to all his vineyards. We took back roads over the hills towards Kayserville. Our first stop was a vineyard on a granite hillside. All of his vines were panted in 2006 so they were young looking. He has five or six vineyards but they are all really small compared to the Napa Valley. We were up on a hill and could look down on the rolling hills of vines and see all the little boundaries between the different owners. Most people try to plant north south but the topography sometimes makes them have to put rows where ever they fit. Charles said that just yesterday one of his employees had rolled the tractor down the hill. It is so steep in areas this isn't too u common. He said he, himself, had rolled a tractor just a couple weeks ago. He said you just have to dive out of the tractor before it takes you with it. The wins are so good here that I guess it is worth the extra dangers.</p>
<p>We bumped along the tiny dirt roads between vineyards. We passed a young man working in one of them. Charles said that is his cousin. Having been born and raised I the region and being the tenth generation in the business, he knew everyone in town I am sure. We drove up a hill to two war memorials. One was for the local French fighters who lost their lives. There was a whole graveyard and a directory of who was buried where and in the center is a giant French flag. The view was incredible. Charles'&nbsp; grandfather helped build the memorial. We drove down the hill a short ways to the American memorial. Here was a stone structure with some markings of what groups fought there, a flag and a stone map of the Rhine which could be seen in the distance. Charles said that on a clear day you can see the Alps on the horizon. We could see Germany and the Black Forest but the sky was a little overcast </p>
<p>The next vineyard we visited was his Pinot Noir. Here, the soil is a crumbly, red, ferrous soil. He is really proud of this vineyard because this is the one he considers his personal vineyard...his baby. The last vineyard we visited is right next to the town of Riquewhir. At the top of the hill we looked down the rows of Riesling as they led right up to the ramparts that wall the city in. Charles' vineyard plot is right next to Hugel which is a brand I have had before at home. The soil here is more gypsum and limestone. A little train passed us as we stood there. The train is a tour you can take for six euros. It takes you through town and up into the vineyards. We didn't take it but it looks kinda fun to do so sometime. We had no need since we had a local person to show us around.
Charles took us back to town where we toured his winery. He has one press and has another on order. The cellar has giant pine barrels that are a hundred years old with beautiful carved taps. He showed us his stone settling tanks and the big stainless steel tanks. There is a cute little library too. He is in the process of fixing up the cellar area for tours and tasting. We went back up to the main tasting room and store. He poured us several wines which were all so so delicious. We started with a Brut Cremant. It was creamy crisp with a moussey mouth feel. Next, we tasted the Muscat which was dry with a beautiful, floral bouquet. The flavors were roses and lychees. Then we tasted a Riesling from Mambourg then a Pinot Gris from the same region. The Pinot Gris was slightly sweet and was my favorite. We tasted a Gewurztraminer from Spore then another Riesling, this time from Shoenenbourg. We finished with a Pinot Noir from his special vineyard. It was fantastic. A beautiful, bright red color and red fruits on the nose. The balance of tannins, acid and fruit was perfect. The Pinot was not labeled yet and he opened it special for us so he recorked it to take to his grandfather. Charles was so kind to give me a bottle of Pinot Gris and my dad the Mambourg Riesling. Charles had to have lunch with his grandmother so we parted then. I kissed him backwards again and we just walked back to town. We had tried to buy anything with the Sparr name on it but Charles would not let us so mom got a little bottle opener that says SPARR TraditioN Riquewihr on it.
We freshened up at the hotel and grabbed a seat at our outdoor cafe for a little lunch. We were against a stone wall on some nice wooden chairs. The only other people there was a group of four locals having some Flammekuche and wine. We saw the man cooking the pizza on an outdoor oven and it smelled wonderful. We ordered two to share. One traditional one with little chunks of bacon, onions and mild cheese. The other we got had Munster, cumin, bacon and onions. We had some bubble water to wash it down...and to sober up from the tasting!
We hopped into the car and drove up up up to the castle on the hill, Chateau Haute Koenigsburg. It began to rain as we arrived. We paid the $12 entrance fee and entered the courtyard. The castle is from medieval times. They had the original painted walls, stones and layout. We followed a set route through old bedrooms, rooms with armor and weapons, a chapel, a huge dining room and a kitchen. I looked at the old weapons and imagined that they were actually used to kill people at one time. It is weird to think about. We went up to the tower where there are canons. There were a million little kids running around. It must have been field trip day. There were tour guides in old time clothes talking with great animation in French to the little kids. By the time we finished the tour it had stopped raining. I bought a Alsace dish towel with a stork on it and a little stork pin at the gift shop. Mom bought a little cannon that is also a pencil sharpener for dad.
We drove to Ribeauville which is another cute town and dad dropped us off so we could shop around. We bought a little can of boar pate to snack on. It was yum. All shopped out we returned to Riquewihr. I bought a little porcelin stork. We had drinks at the hotel. Somehow when I order a Campari and soda
they assume I really mean I want a Campari and orange juice because this is the second time they brought me the wrong thing. It was fine though cause it all tastes good. We had dinner at our hotel which seems like the place to be on a Friday night on Riquewihr. The joint was jumping. I started with the escargot. Ohhh man it was good. I want some right now just thinking about it. Hot, buttery and the perfect amount of garlic. Not greasy but very tender. Yum. Yum. Yum. Dad and I ordered the steak frites but both if ours were sort of tough. Mom got the tongue with a horseradish sauce. Hers was really good so I ate a lot of hers. I even ate the spaetzel that came with it. It was a long day so i grabbed a little pitcher of wine to take to my room for the night. The party continued downstairs until after midght but I didn't mind the noise, I was tired and fell right asleep.



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