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.

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 

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