How about taking part in the day-to-day life of Alsatian winemakers? – Meanderings through Francece n° 191
By Annick Dournes & Frédéric de Poligny
All summer and autumn long Alsatian winemakers organize an amazing great number of events during which tourists are invited to discover their fulfilling way of life. From picnics to gourmet walking tours through vineyards, from entertaining food and wine pairing sessions to joyful grape harvests, you can learn almost everything you wish to know about the art of making wine and of… tasting!
At first one may think that Alsace, the most easterly region of France, could be cold and austere. But think twice and dare go on holidays in this truly attractive area and you will find superb landscapes, a great heritage, a rich gastronomy and welcoming people eager to make you love their region as much as they do. This is especially the case on the Alsace Wine Road that probably is the most popular one in France.
This popularity is not mere chance and over the years wine makers have been working hard to keep their traditions alive and share them with visitors in a lively and joyful way. Going way beyond simply opening a shop to sell their wines to tourists passing through their villages, they organize all kinds of entertaining events. Many villages organize wine festivals or wine fares, gourmet tours through vineyards, bike or old cars trips on the Alsace Wine Road…
Each year 100 independent wine makers welcome their clients, friends and everyone willing to participate for a huge picnic. People bring their own picnic basket and the wine maker offers a wine tasting. Before or after lunch you are welcome for a visit of the vineyards and cellars and sometimes there also are concerts, treasure hunts or art exhibitions… Every first Friday of the month from May till August some wine makers propose gourmet aperitifs where you can learn how to enjoy Riesling, Pinot Noir or Gris, Gewurztraminer, Muscat or Edelzwicker… and pair them with the right food. Great ambiance guaranteed! (20 Euros per person).
Wine maker will tell you that growing wine is a year round task but autumn certainly is the highlight of it all when harvest time has come. Depending on the grape variety and on the weather, harvesting takes time in late September or early October. Once again tourists are welcome to be part of it. For a half day a vine grower will welcome you in his estate to turn you into a real grape-picker. Your day will start early in the morning and you’ll learn how to properly cut the grape with your secateurs. Later you will take your harvest to the grape press and follow the first steps of wine making. Your busy morning will end sharing a typical hearty lunch with all the pickers’ team and a wine tasting. Booking on the dedicated website below starts in July and is highly recommended.
All information about the “Route des Vins d’Alsace” and the touristic events at www.alsace-wine-route.com/en
Gourmet stop on the Alsace Wine Road at “Chateau d’Isembourg
Set on top of a low hill and surrounded by its vineyard the “Chateau d’Isembourg”, a beautiful 19th century castle, now is a charming 5-star hotel. It’s only a one-hour drive from Strasbourg or a 45 min one from the Basle- Mulhouse Airport and is a perfect starting point to discover the Alsace Wine Road, the Vosges Nature Reserve, the impressive Haut Koenigsbourg Chateau, beautiful Colmar, the unique old cars Schlumpf Collection in Mulhouse… and many wine estates.
All of the 41 rooms are in the castle. They are beautifully decorated with period furniture blending old-world charm with modern amenities. The hotel has an inside pool open yearlong and an outside pool to enjoy the great view over the vineyards and the close by Rouffach village, in summertime. The hotel guests can also enjoy a spa, a steam room, Jacuzzi and sauna.
Even if you’re not staying at the hotel you should at least have lunch or dinner at “Les Tommeries Restaurant” where chef Matthias Lingelser, a true Alsatian born in Strasbourg, makes an elegant and creative cuisine inspired by Alsace and by his training days in gastronomic restaurants in Megève and Chamonix or in the Lot in southwest France. You will be able to enjoy your meal in one of the three different dining rooms of the hotel. As its name suggests the “Panoramic room” offers great views over the vineyard, Rouffach village and the Alsace Plain. Set in the Chateau’s former orangery it is elegantly decorated in Louis XV style and has a unique scenic wallpaper made by the famous Zuber factory founded in 1790 that is today the oldest wallpaper factory still active in the whole world.
The “Dagobert” dining room is set in a huge 14th century vault ideal to dine in an intimate atmosphere. Last but not least you can dine on the huge outside terrace and enjoy the view. The menus give a good place to fish. Salmon, arctic char, halibut, sea bream, scorpion fish or scallops are skilfully cooked with seasonal vegetables and finely seasoned. But Matthias Lingelser also makes wonders with Iberian pork, Irish lamb, French duckling from the Dombes, Salers beef… The desserts’ menu is also very tempting with its “pistachio and cherry soufflé”, “apricot and almond mousse with blackcurrant sorbet” or a typical Alsatian Kougelhopf with strawberries and vanilla ice cream. Delicious and fulfilling! Considering the quality of the food and the chef’s savoir faire the value for money is more than good. (Menus start from 25 Euros.)
The “Chateau d’Isembourg” undoubtedly is one of Alsace finest hotel on the Alsace Wine Road and its chef will surely make your stay a memorable one! More at www.grandesetapes.com/chateau-hotel-isenbourg-alsace/en/