Monday, November 16, 2009

Wine Tasting in Alsace

A typical French Fall escape – a long weekend in the Alsatian region of France including wine tasting, a tour of the Castle of Haut-Koenigsbourg and a Michelin-starred meal.
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Day 1
It all starts in Strasbourg, the French town that sits almost on the border with Germany and historically has been taken over and won back several times. Now, it seems to have the best of both worlds.  On a 4-day visit, we spent the first day exploring Strasbourg and of course eating a meal of charcroute, the ham-sauerkraut-bacon-sausage dish that the region is famous for at the place that is famous for it, Maison Kammerzell (16, place de la Cathédrale, 67000 Strasbourg, +33 (0)3 88 32 42 14, info@maison-kammerzell.com, http://www.maison-kammerzell.com/). The building itself was built in 1427 and the setting and service are as traditional as it comes, but the best part is its location directly across from the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg making it a perfect stop for a beer with a great view.
Cathedrale - Yves Noto-Campanella - Strasbourg Office of Tourism
Day 2
Renting a car is the best way to explore the region with the most flexibility.  And with your car, on the way to the route du vin d’Alsace or wine route of Alsace, you must stop at the impressive Haut-Koeningsbourg Castle, one of the most visited monuments in France.  Its purpose was to protect the wine, salt, silver and wheat trading routes that ran through the area.  But now, the reason to go is the view that it affords from as high up as you care to climb.
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Day 3

There are so many small villages to stop along the way that it is hard to pick just a couple.  Here are a few we didn’t want to miss…
  • Ribeauvillé – So charming, we stayed the night at Le Clos Saint Vincent, on a hillside overlooking the valley.  Ribeauvillé is known for its hiking trail that leads to three chateaux.
  • Colmar – This town, mid-way on the wine route is known as Little Venice because of its many waterways. A great base for the area.
  • Riquewihr – Reputedly one of the most beautiful villages in France, Riquewihr is surrounded by vineyards and a lovely place to taste some of the local wines.
Along the way, be sure to stop for lunch somewhere that serves Flammekuche, Alsatian-style pizza made on a paper-thin, crispy crust with smoky bacon bits, onions and cream. 

Alsatian Wine Tasting

The main purpose of our trip was to find out what all the fuss is about when it comes to Alsatian wines.  Some people claim they are the best whites in France, so we decided to find out for ourselves.  There are hundreds of wineries in the area, but we started and the top and were not disappointed.

Marcel Deiss
(15 route du vin, 68750 Bergheim, http://www.marceldeiss.com/, +33 (0)3 89 73 63 37) – The tasting room of Marcel Deiss is surprisingly relaxing since this is one of the best wines in the area. Visitors sit a tables and choose what to taste from a leather-bound menu that gives details of the wines.  We left with many bottles of the various vineyard-designated Rieslings.

Trimbach
(68150 Ribeauvillé, http://www.maison-trimbach.com/, +33 (0)3 89 73 60 30) – Opposite of what you might think of Alsatian wines, Trimbach produces off-dry wines without using wood casks.  We bought a flight of late harvest (vendange tardive) Gewurztraminer half bottles to store for years.

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Day 4
With an afternoon train back to Paris, we planned a lunch at the Michelin-starred restaurant Au Crocodile (+33 03 88 32 13 02, http://www.au-crocodile.com/) in Strasbourg.  A traditional and classic French restaurant, we opted for the tasting menu that took more than 3 hours (we had to take the pastries that were served with coffee to go as we almost missed our train).  The food and service are excellent and the meal a memorable experience paired with local wines. Two-hours later, we were back at our Paris apartment, unloading our wines from a memorable long weekend.

Hotels:

Mercure Strasbourg Gare Centrale
(14 – 15 place de la gare, 67000 Strasbourg)We always stay here, not because it is the perfect hotel, although it is a nice, moderately-priced, modern hotel with a lovely little wine bar in the lobby, but because of the location. The TGV from Paris to Strasbourg arrives literally across the street from the hotel, far enough that you won’t be bother by noise, but close enough that a 5-minute walk gets you from the platform of the train to the check-in desk.  And rental car facilities are available at the station.

Le Clos Saint Vincent
(Ostervergzeg, 68150 Ribeauvillé, http://www.leclossaintvincent.com/, +33 03 89 73 67 65) – On a hill overlooking the town of Ribeauvillé, Le Clos Saint Vincent, a family-run hotel, has a quiet atmosphere and is surrounded by the famous Alsatian vineyards.
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Resources


Strasbourg Office of Tourism:  http://www.otstrasbourg.fr/

Alsace Wine Tourist Information: www.vinalsace.com/tourisme

General Tourist Information for the Alsace Region: http://www.tourisme-alsace.com/

Christmas Markets in Strasbourg: http://www.noel.strasbourg.eu/