Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Newsletter Christmas 2014


Almost Christmas  
With still some visits to Strasbourg and Colmar and some tours to the Christmas markets in Kaysersberg, Equisheim and Riquewihr ahead, we are slowly moving to the end of the year.

Touring in 2014
We have done a lot of great tours in Alsace and Tuscany this year.
For some Alsace tours we have picked up people all the way in Basel in Switzerland and at Basel airport. Logically we stayed south on those tour days, as there are many interesting wineries to be found in the south “Haut Rhin” area, like Schlumberger and Agathe Bursin for example and we do not want to lose too much time just driving.


Bachelor parties
A couple of bachelor parties this year were great fun. On one of them we also did a boat ride on a canal near Colmar. This gave the people time to let us talk to the future groom while tasting wine and to be honest some beer too.


On another bachelor tour we visited the “Confrérie Saint Etienne” and tasted 5 Grand Cru wines of the year 2004. This was the year the groom met his bride to be.


Sadly we missed the celebration festivities of the 400th year in continuous production of our friends the family of Jean Baptiste Adam in May, as we were touring in Tuscany.




Tuscany
It was great doing two tours (in spring and early summer) in Tuscany. We cherish the private tastings at Laura Gray from Il Palazzone and with Paola from Siro Pacenti.


We were privileged to get to know the owner of Ristorante Guidoriccio in Siena (this man knows his Italian wines ….) and Gianfranco at “Il Leccio” in Saint Angelo in Colle. So many great Brunello’s came by that afternoon.


Nice guests, nice local people, great cooks, wonderful times.

It was very special to see Princess Coralia Pignatelli again in Castell in Villa, after 11 years.
In those days, 11 years ago, yours truly had just moved to France and visited the area with a Dutch Wine club. This time we did a private tasting invited in her house which was quite special as Madame understandably wants to keep her privacy.


We organized a group dinner on the premises later in the year.
We also think back on our visits at for example Gagliole and the great Chianti tasting plus lunch we enjoyed at their sister house and vineyards in Panzano.


The wine year 2014
The year 2014 saw an early spring with lots of sunshine in France and Italy. The winter had been wet with little snow. This led to landslides and problems in Tuscany.

Sadly, in July and especially August the temperatures were under normal and we had lots of rain, even in Tuscany. September and October were sunny and dry again. The weather stayed great until deep in November.

A couple of hail storms in Alsace and especially Burgundy brought lots of damage. The quality of the grapes and harvest from for example Riesling in Alsace was still good. But a big problem this year was the arrival of the Japanese Suzuki fly. It attacked the reddish skinned grapes like Pinot Noir but also Gewurztraminer, making the grapes go bad in only a few hours. Changes in harvest planning, stress, and low yields resulted.

For Sangiovese in Italy producing the great Brunello’s, it will not be a great year we heard. For Olive oil the production this year will be even worse. Because of the strange weather patterns yields are very low to practically zero. Let us hope 2015 will be more normal.



New in 2014: JoliSoleil city and genealogy tours
Although we started focusing on wine tours a couple of years ago, more and more times people asked us to do something different, helping them explore their family roots in Alsace. This was especially the case on day tours. This made us decide to add for example “City Tours” to the program with visits to Strasbourg and Colmar but also to smaller villages like Equisheim, Kaysersberg, Riquewihr and Turckheim.


Another question came two times from two different families living in the United States but with ancestors in Alsace. On one occasion we traced back a Jewish family history and visited some places that were mentioned in a family reunion some years ago. In another case we traced back two families that have lived near Reinhardsmunster and Epfig for hundreds of years. We found their names in old books and cemetery’s. But we can also find people with the name still living here today!


As Genealogy is a hobby of Terry Smits and she has access to several genealogy databases on the Internet, we will of course continue offering these special services for people that look for their roots and ancestors.

New in 2015: Burgundy tours
As wine lovers we visited Burgundy now and then over the years already of course. As driving to Beaune or Nuits St George is only a bit further then driving to Strasbourg from our farm near Gérardmer, we will take guests to Burgundy in 2015 also.


Like in Alsace and Tuscany we know our way. We took the time to visit and taste at smaller and relatively unknown wineries.


Very important is that we tried out lots of little restaurants. We think it is always a sport to find that spot that offers great quality for a good price. This means that like in Alsace we can add a great lunch and or dinner on a “one day tour” and offer the whole package still for a reasonable price.

We can also be of service now to wine & food lovers that would like to get to know Alsace and Burgundy in for example two or three days in one tour package with us.

And we will also go to Tuscany of course a couple of times in 2015. Those will only be more day tours for people that really want to wine and dine on an exquisite and connoisseur level.

Christmas 2014
At home we are working on some great Christmas dinners for family and friends. Each time we will pair two wines per course, making a selection from our favorite areas and private wine cellar.


We hope that all our guests and everybody that follows us will have a wonderful Christmas too.

We would love to meet you in 2015. And of course it would be great to see some of our relations back in another tour area in the coming year. Don't wait too long with your bookings.
We are only two people and with everything we do now, we are quite busy.
     
We wish everybody a prosperous and happy 2015 !

Cheers from Terry & Pieter Smits 


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bachelor party in Alsace around "2004" the meeting year of bride and groom.

Bachelor party in Alsace with 5 friends from Suisse around the theme "2004" , the year the future groom met his bride Cheers, guy: Have a great married life!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

On the search of two family histories in Bas Rhin - Alsace

Early in 2014 we were contacted by an American family from Dallas investigating the history of their catholic forefathers originating from Alsace. Interestingly enough, a couple being in their eighties who had met in America had both ancestors from and family in Alsace.

After meeting at the trainstation of Strasbourg we drove to our first stop; the mayors building in Reinhardsmunster.
We were very warmly greeted by mister Daniel Brandstetter. Mister Brandstetter knows a lot about the history of the area and had prepared our visit there. Via him we met the current mayor of Reinhardsmunster and Mrs Carline Buchel who let us in their office to look and copy some old documents and maps.
When I tell you that this all took place on a cold Sunday morning, we can not be else than very thankful of this kind cooperation in their spare time.

Among many handwritten documents in French and Latin we found some birth- and baptize certificates.

There had been a church next to the cemetry of Reinhardsmunster. It has been destroyed. Today there is just a small chapel. A little further in town a new church was built.
Parts, artefacts and building blocks from the old church were used in this church. An example is this baptismal font.

Knowing this came from the old church, we understood that this was the font used to baptize some of their family members.
People we just found some old baptize documents from. Amazing!

On the cemetry we found a lot of ancestors resting there. The family must have been numerous and important in the old days.

After lunch we drove to a village called Epfig. Now we focussed on the forefathers of Madame. Epfig has a very interesting and beautiful little church called the Chapelle Sainte Marguerite, a roman churh dating back to the 11-th century.
To me it was a mystical place. Outside in the cemetry on one side you will find a herbal garden.

In one wall of the Chapel sits a stack of bones and skulls of "unknown people" killed in a war near the village of Epfig. They are finding a last resting place in the church wall of the chapelle Sainte Marguerite.

On the cemetry we found lots of ancestors of the family. In the streets today there were still wineries that carried the name.
Interesting detail on the cemetry was a statue referring to people that got decapitated by a guillotine.

Here is a little video on the Chapelle
All and all we found lots of traces of the forefathers of both families.
For me as a guide it was an impressive experience and lovely day.

Genealogy tour - Jewish history in Alsace around Scherwiller and Selestat

Over the centuries jewish people have lived and worked in Alsace. We find synagogues in cities like Strasbourg and for example Selestat and Scherwiller. Today not all the synagogues are still in function anymore. The one in Scherwiller for example is used as a place for the local fire brigade.

Over time the jews were chased, also in Alsace, like in many places in Europe. In times that there was the black plague for example, the jewish population was blamed and they were expelled from the towns. Recently the second World War left deep scars.

In the early 1900's and after the great wars, many jewish families moved to the United States. Their ofspring is often interested in where there forefathers came from.

A couple of years ago a big jewish family originating from Alsace, organised a huge family reunion near Selestat. I was contacted in 2014 by a member of this family that sadly could not make it to this reunion event back then. She wanted to see Alsace for herself though and decided to visit this year with her husband and daughter.

We prepared the tour over here. We looked up adresses and found out about locations. We contacted the rabbi working in Selestat. We managed to organize a meeting with a local person via him who had the keys of the synagogue and could show us around at the premises.

On D-Day we drove through the Scherwiller area and in the afternoon went to the Selestat synagogue. Our contact who opened the gate told us he belonged to a family that had had a big reunion a couple of years ago..... He had been present with his little boy. Wow ... this meant that the lady just had met a distant family member of hers! He had been part of the reunion were she couldn't be present.

We were shown around and saw everything. Afterwards the family was presented a book about the history of the jews and the synagogue of Selestat. Needless to say that everybody was very happy and impressed.
Later in the afternoon we went to the jewish cemetry outside Selestat. At the reunion a couple of years ago, the family had placed a memory plate there. Finally "my" family could see it too and touch the plate themselves.


The circle was round. What a great adventure!
 
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