Sunday, January 27, 2013

Spice-Crusted Duck Breast with Cumin-Scented Carrots

All ingredients are here:

For the cumin-scented carrots:
Place the carrots in a large skillet with the butter, honey, and about 1/3 cup of water. Heat over medium-high heat and season the carrots with cumin, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are lightly caramelized and tender, about 20 minutes. Finish the carrots with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

For the spiced duck breast:
Stir together the coriander, cumin, star anise, white pepper, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl to blend. Season the duck breasts on both sides with salt, then coat the skin side of the duck breasts with the spice mixture, forming a crust.

Divide the canola oil between 2 sauté pans and heat over medium heat. When the pans are hot, gently place 2 duck breasts, skin sides down, in each pan. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook until the skin is golden brown and crispy, 12-15 minutes. Turn the duck breasts over and continue cooking for 3-4 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer the duck breasts to a cutting board to rest. Return the pans to the stove.

Divide the shallots between the pans and cook over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the orange juice, lemon juice, and honey, dividing equally. Simmer to reduce by half, about 8 minutes. Finish the pan sauce by whisking in the butter and seasoning to taste with salt. Combine the sauce into one pan.

Thinly slice the duck breasts crosswise and place the duck slices on 4 plates. Spoon some of the sauce over the duck and serve with the roasted carrots.

Suggested wine pairings
Trimbach, Gewurztraminer, Cuvée Des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre. Alsace, France

Gewurztraminers are quite special and very food-friendly wines. The style associated with the house is one of dry structure, flavorsome with firm acidity where appropriate. Trimbach produces an excellent Gewurztraminer, with the highest expression of the variety chez Trimbach being the Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre. Although the variety in question tends towards fatter, low acid wines, the wine here is a very ripe, yet still dry, aromatic style.


One of the first milestones in wine education is arguably learning to pronounce (and spell) "gewürztraminer." (For the record, it’s guh-VERTS-tra-meener.) Celebrate this achievement by enjoying a glass with Thai food.

Gewürztraminer is a naturally aromatic grape that has tropical aromas and flavors such as lychee, mango, and sweet gardenia.
These flavors and smells match with a wide variety of Asian dishes from around the world.
The grape is also somewhat low in acidity aiding its ability to pair well with spicy dishes.

Gewürztraminer is aromatic and fruit-forward, which appeals to the aromas of the food. Generally they are light in style with balanced acidity. This can go nicely with saltier dishes.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Luxury Stay At Château Hattonchâtel

History Brief

This castle was originally built in the 9th century by Hatto, the bishop of Verdon, in 860. Durring WWI Hattonchâtel was destroyed. The castle was restored in the 16th century by American Belle Skinner, using parts of the original castle. The first phase of completion was in 1923 and lasted until 1928. Restoration was conducted by French architect Jacquelin Henry. The decor and furnishings are remaining from the 1920's era.

The back story of this lovely castle is fascinating. Many adults still remember visiting when they were children, because for a time the castle served as a summer camp for inner city children from Paris. Unfortunately it was this, and a bit of over zealous cleaning, that drastically faded the painting over the fireplace mantel. It was then closed from the public for 40 years, until being privately purchased and reopened to visitors  as a hotel and very romantic wedding location. It was listed as a monument historique in France in 1986.

Instruments from the extensive collection in the music room are now on display at Yale University.

Belle Skinner

Belle Skinner came from one of the wealthiest families in America in her day. She was born in Skinnerville, Massachusetts. Her family owned Skinner & Son's silk and satin manufacturing.

Belle restored Château Hattonchâtel starting in 1919. It was an amazing and expensive undertaking. Tunnels were found during the restoration going under the castle to the church and other locations. Some 400 gold coins from the Roman era were found in the tunnels, known as, "Miss Skinner's Pot of Gold". Some of these went missing, around the same time as Bell Skinner's untimely death in her Paris flat. Some speculate these missing gold coins had something to do with her death, also perhaps the architect; still for for the record, she died of natural causes. As for some reason he was blocking her visiting the castle during final restoration. Still her death is recorded as a result of pneumonia.

See original image

Belle Skinner

Visit Château Hattonchâtel

You can schedule a 1 day stay Hattonchâtel, or a whole week. Often those who only originally ask for one day, ask the next morning for two more additional days.

From the castle you have a 35 kilometer view of the surrounding area. Day trips to interesting places in the surrounding area can be planned, or you may wish to just stay on the grounds and relax.

A local chef can prepare dinner for you, and after dinner you may choose to retire to the library where the world glob opens up and inside special spirits are available for you, no charge.

Château Hattonchâtel has been featured in several wedding magazines, it has been the vacation spot of choice from Beacon St., Boston and the cast of American television show "Cheers". Of interest to some we have been assured by the owner that any ghosts in the castle are friendly.

Staying at Château Hattonchâtel is an experience, for those who want to feel as if they have truly traveled back in time to the 1920's era when Hattonchâtel was restored.

You may completely customize your experience, you only need to ask.

One of our favourite Alsace Sylvaners

One of our favourite Alsace Sylvaners comes from Agathe Bursin near Soulzmatt.

Agathe allows the grapes to grow on a great terroir and treats them as kings.


Fresh, light and easy to drink, Sylvaner offers a discreetly fruity or floral bouquet with citrus or white flowers notes. Left aside from the qualitative perspective after the war, still too often branded with a bad image, it is however a wine with an excellent quality price ratio.

Sylvaner may accompany platters of seafood, fish, dishes containing eggs, sausages, hors d'œuvres, quiches and also onion pie’s.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

One of our favourite Pinot Noirs ...

One of our favourite Alsace Pinot Noirs comes from Jean-Paul Schmitt near Scherwiller. The estate is officially certified for organic production by Ecocert.

Pinot Noir in Alsace

Alsace Pinot Noir comes in different intensities of “red”.
It used to be vinified like white wines in Alsace but more and more also now like a “real” red wine as in for example Burgundy.

Fresh fruity for the Rosé, aromas of cherries for the traditional Pinot Noir.

Character, spicy, full and intense red fruit for the Pinot Noir Rouge d'Alsace.

Pinot Noir rosé and Pinot Noir Tradition selection are served fresh, they will accompany perfectly your summer buffets, pizzas, salads and plate of assorted cooked meats.
Pinot Noir Rouge d'Alsace aged in oak has a character much more intense.
It will be drink at the room temperature, serve by dishes of red meat (beef, lamb ...),
game, plate of assorted cooked meats and cheeses as comté.

Friday, January 18, 2013


As we are writing this article we are already going to the second half of January. How time flies.
We are preparing some great tours for customers visiting us from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Japan.

More diversity
In 2012 we added visits to cheese farms, castles and some of the old villages to our programm. Next to that we can take our guests to for example the “Volerie des Aigles”.

Another addition is "cooking with a chef". This is the possibility to do a cooking class in a hotel or restaurant under the supervision of a real french chef (sometimes Michelin starred). In a small group people can prepare their evening dinner and select the wines to go with that.
If you are visiting with a group of friends or as colleagues of a company, then is definitively something unique and unforgetable.

6 Day - 5 Night Luxury Tour Paris/Alsace
As people visiting us form far away countries like America and Japan often want to see more of France then just Alsace, as of 2013 we offer a 6 Day/5 Night Luxury Tour Paris - Alsace
We collect our guests at the Paris airport of arrival and from then on look after them untill they return to Paris 6 days later.

In Paris we stay in great 4 star hotels in areas of Paris that are interesting and worthwhile even at night.
A private driver will take our guests to "must see" sites like the Eifel tower and the Louvre museum, but we go one step further. In a dialogue with our clients we prepare their specific visits before traveling. Maybe they want to see the "thinker statue" by Rodin or a copy of the statue of Liberty in the "Jardin de Luxembourg".

After a couple of days in Paris the tour includes 1st class tickets by TGV (fast train) to Strasbourg. After a 2 1/2 hour ride they will be picked up by one of our drivers at the trainstation.
People can stay either in a hotel in the city of Strasbourg itself or we will book them a nice hotel in a small Alsatian village in the middle of the wine area.
In Alsace people have a choice. We can focus on the wine and food for a couple of days. This means visiting many different wineries, tasting their wines and really getting to know the different styles of producing wines. We can also add other visits in the programm like visiting old villages and castles for example.

The wines
We have not tasted all Alsace wines yet. Nor have we visited each winery. Apart from trips with our guests we go out on our own. For example if we have read about a wine or winery. We also go to exhibitions and tastings where we can meet a lot of wine makers.
When in contact with potential clients for a tour we of course try to find out what they would want. Dry or sweet wines or both? Some people give us a name of a winery they want to visit. We try to go there as much as possible. If it is a new place for us, so much for the better.

In 2012 we for example visited the wineries of Valentin Zusslin and Emile Beyer for the first time.
Working like this for us no two tasting days are the same.

Differences in taste
People are often surprised by the differences in taste of a wine made from the same grape. They are even more surprised if the diiferent tasting wines come from one wine maker. We explain them the differences between an east and west slope. And for example vulcanic, chalk or granite soils.
Differences in taste are not something magical but often the result of know how and hard work.

In 2012 we visisted Agathe Bursin for example. We tasted two Sylvaners, one growing on a South West slope and one on a South East slope. The soil in both cases is more or less the same. Now the grapes on the South-East slope get more hours of sunshine then the grapes on the South West slope. This results in grapes with more sugar and of course you can taste that.

Diversity of groups
In Mai 2012 we got a visit of a group of management students from the University of Florence in Italy. In 2 1/2 days we did some 10 different tastings. We also visited the Confrerie Saint Etienne. A visit to the castle and their cellars where more then 60.000 bottles are kept going back to 1750, is always worthwhile.

In August we got a visit from a big family visiting Alsace from the U.S.. In this family reunion some people did not see each other in years. They wanted more then just tasting wines. So we organized a visit to the castle of Haut Koenigsbourg and the cities of Riquewihr and Colmar for them.

In the first contacts by email or phone we often try to get an idea of the age of pour contact person(s). In this case my contact was a woman of 88. She was in a marvelous condition; better then some other family members 20 years younger.

More and more we also get visits from people of China (Hong Kong). Apart from tasting the wines, they also want to see the many old cities and for example visit a cheese farm.
Because of all these demands we now offer these kind of tours and visits as a standard choice.

Our communication
On this English Blog we write about Alsace and Alsace wines for our English readers. OnFacebook we mostly write in English also.
It is our choice not to do too many indepth tasting descriptions, because many readers can not get a hold of all those specific wines in their country anyway. We try to let people get a feel of the area and the food and the wines in general.

On each tour we take photos. Some of them are published on Facebook and Flickr but many stay private.

Our standard offers for 2013 are:
-One day tour Alsace
-Three day tour Alsace
-Five day luxury tour Alsace
-Six day luxury tour Paris/Alsace
-Tastings Gerardmer
-Arrangement castle of Hattonchatel

Please click here for more information in pdf, or click here to fill in an inquiry form.
We are always open for your special demands.

See you in Alsace or where ever you would want to try some Alsace wines with us, in 2013.
Cheers !!!

Wine tastings near Gerardmer

What to expect

We will taste 6-8 wines. 1 ½  hours is the time needed for a complete tasting

We start with teaching you about wine tastings in general: how do I hold the glass? how do I look at the wine? What am I looking for in color and consistency? What smells am I experiencing and how do I describe them? What is the taste of the wine, how do I describe the taste?

You will receive sample forms to write down your experiences with the wine and what you notice about the wine. It helps you organize your thoughts and experience a something to keep to remember the details of this experience.

The first wine we will taste is a Crémant. A "champagne like" wine from the  Alsace selection of wines.

White wines are the main wines produced in Alsace. We will taste a Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner and one or two Rieslings. This is typically dry wines.

Then we will move to a Muscat, Gewurztraminer, and  a Pinot Gris which are a  little sweeter, but can also be found to be very dry.

Then we taste a red Pinot Noir.

Working our way up through the white wines to the red, from the lighter tones to the more pronounced, we will take you through the wines of Alsace.

If you like we can also compare the Alsace wines to a Burgundy wines. You'll taste what differs in the regions starting with the same grape varieties but with different kinds of soils and style of wine making in France. This produce the different end flavors in the wines. Soil and climate are very important factors in the expression of flavors.

J.S. Wine Tours 1750 Vosges Farm, La Forge, France. 

 If you want we can add some prestige wines or exclusive wines to the tasting, for an additional price, and will be taught to taste the difference in terms of quality and flavor of these wines. We will teach you why some wines are more expensive with this addition to the wine list and teach you to how taste the difference!

Food and wine tasting combinations

If you are holding a tasting at the La Forge farm you will receive a piece of French bread from our local artisan pastry shop to go with the tasting. You can also request cheese for a nominal additional investment.

Food and wine belong together, so pairing the right wine with food is an important factor in wine tasting, that can also be added to this experience. In combination with a certain dish, you will learn to appreciate the wines different nuances and why a certain wine combined with a certain dish enhances the experience of both.

If you choose to taste the wines along with a dinner it will be the ultimate combination. A typical Alsatian dish like: Coq au Riesling, Garnie Choucroute, Tarte Flambe, Kugelkopf or Baeckofe, are some examples to choose from.

If you have a special dish request just let us know what it is and we will do our best to make it happen for you! We can prepare the dish here, have the food brought in for you from a local chef, or we can reserve a restaurant where you can choose from the menu and select a dish that appeals to you, and then we will assist you in the selection of a wine to go with the dish of your choice. We are very flexible in our offering.

  1. During your holiday or conference time in Gerardmer it can be a fun afternoon or evening experience to spend some time tasting wines and stay in the city. In this case we will visit you at your location to do your tasting. We can arrange this with or without a dinner. 
  2. The 'Grange' tasting room at La Forge. Grange is the French word which describes a barn which is attached to your house. This is where we have wine tastings in La Forge. 
  3. If you would like to have a wine tasting in the La Forge area, but want a restaurant we have selected  "Le Chant Du Bois'  for a local wine tasting with food combination.
  4. Alsace is a 1 ½ hour drive from the town of Gerardmer.  We can take you for a day on an Alsace wine tasting tour and we can add a fine dinning experience in addition to the tasting if you wish. 

Cheers! Look forward to your visit to Gerardmer!  

Introducing Terry Moren

We welcome Terry Moren to our team. 

Terry has a business degree in administration, marketing and communications. She comes to us from California with previous wine experience from Napa and the Central Valley. She will be assisting with blog posts, social marketing, as a tour guide and working with American travel agents for increased bookings.

"Alsace is a wonderful location for an unforgettable vacation. The wine villages are brimming with excitement and cheer as local artisans sell their finest wares and the smell of hot spiced wine now fills the air. At any time of year, you'll be seduced by the charm of the Alsace: its people, its food and its wines!" Terry Moren

We Welcome Working with Travel Agents from Around the World

We are happy to work with travel agents from all over the world. Apart from our standard trips and offers, we are happy to design something special for your clients.

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