The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

June 18, 2009

Down the rue toward Eguisheim

We awoke our first morning in Riquewihr to a room full of smoke.  Upon rising it became obvious that the crisp cross ventilation we’d enjoyed as we drifted off to sleep the night before put us downwind from myriad chimneys spewing forth morning breakfast smoke.  A sense of anachronism flooded me as I looked out over the antiquated tile rooftops at the gushing chimneys interspersed with antennae and satellite dishes. I envied the residents who seemed so capable of blending the most root-bound of the old with the most convenient of the new. 

From Riquewihr, the Rue Du Vin led us through villages competing with one another for awards of quaintest, cutest and most delicious in their offerings of local juices.  One of our favorite stops was Ribeauville (pronounced “ree-bo-vee-yay),a beautiful gathering of medieval buildings sneaking in and out of the shadows of the Vosges mountains.   It was in Ribeauville that we visited the house of Trimbach, Alsatian wine producers since 1621.  Trimbach is an Alsatian label many people may recognize from our wine shelves in the US and, in fact, Trimbach does export in the neighborhood of half of their product.  Trimbach is also one of the exporting wineries that does not list their wines as Grand Crus, despite their meeting Grand Cru standards.  (There are 51 Grand Crus in the Alsace region, but some controversy over the whether the lines for grand crus were drawn too large.) 

Our Alsatian travels these days also allowed us to taste select wines from Hugel (another label that may be familiar to you) as well as Dopff and Irion, JungSchneider et Fils, Jean Ziegler, Preiss Zimmer, and one of our favorites, Luis Sipp.  The Jean Ziegler 2005 Grand Cru Sporen Gewurtz was among our favorites — round and spicy with a long and complex finish — delicious.  We also enjoyed the Trimbach 2002 Pinot  Gris Reserve which we found to also have a heavy, honeyed nose with a long finish that proved both smokey and spicy.  Particularly fun in the Trimbach line up was the 2002 Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives (means late harvest and therefore somewhat sweet and robust).  It was unusually balanced for a sweet wine and should keep for another twenty years.  Other highlights included the Louis Sipp  2003 Riesling Kirschberg Grand Cru and their 2004 Gewurtz Osterberg Grand Cru (spicy enough to find its way home in our suitcase), and the Siegel 2004 Guwurtz Mauberg (out of Kazersberg) and Pierre Sparr’s 2004 Gewurtz Grand Cru Sporen (who took the journey as well.) 

I’ll just take a moment here to sing the praises of a little treasure I found on the Interwebs called the Wine Mummy.  These are resealable super-padded sacks for transporting ones vino surreptitiously in ones suitcase.  (We also purchased hard-sided luggage to further protect our souvenirs on their journey to our humble cellar.)  The Wine Mummies worked wonderfully, allowing us to safely bring home five bottles, the only mishap being a small leakage in the Mauberg, requiring us to consume it within days of arrival — but that was probably due to a less than snug cork.  Here’s the link:

Transporting wine from Europe is one of those things we though we’d get around once we got there but so far have been unable to.  We did purchase a pricey case of a mixture of lovelies from Aux Marches Vins in Beaune — but have been in negotiations with someone with an Hispanic accent (no idea on this)  for a few days now about how to get it to our doorstep.  Fingers crossed.

After three days in Riquewihr it was time to move on down the Alsatian wine road to it’s lower end.  As it was Saturday and we had some experience with the vast Colmar market from a previous visit, we set our sights on making it there.  Village markets are one of those glorious aspects of travel that everyone should experience some time.  Depending on the size of the town, markets happen only once or twice a week.  The streets are cleared of parking and traffic, and vendors of everything from comestibles including fruits, vegetables, cheeses, sausages, meats, candies and baked goods, to clothing — both basic and fashionable, to toys, antiques and art fill the open spaces.  If you’re in Germany you may smell the sizzle of freshly cooked sausages; in the Netherlands, stroopwaffles crisping on the griddle.  At a later market in Beaune we saw whole pigs roasting on spits and tables full of freshly cooked lamb and chicken.  These weekly markets have been going on in their respective villages for literally hundreds of years.  Yes, most villages also have clothing stores and groceries, and some even have the equivalent of our supermarkets and department stores.  But weekly markets are so much a part of culture and tradition that many of the chain type merchants actually close their doors on market days.  For the visitor, it’s a feast of sight and smell and sound. 

After Colmar we found our new temporary home in a tiny, off-the-beaten-track village called Eguisheim (pronounced “Egg-ish-heim”) — the Auberge du Remparts.  Remparts may best be described as a circle of medieval buildings that encompass the original town center, or centre ville.  Think “ramparts” in English.  The Auberge du Rempart is built within these walls.  The hotel itself is built around a large and antiquated fountain that also serves as the center piece for dining alfresco, lunch, dinner and breakfast.  We ate dinner there every night — honestly, we couldn’t think of a reason to not.

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