By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Monday, September 15, 2014 at 6:54 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

Last week as I waxed nostalgic about Alsace and the harvest season, my thoughts turned to one of my favorite places for a lunch, le Caveau in Eguisheim. Those thoughts were reinforced by a bottle of “One,” a wine blend of Alsace grapes from Pierre Sparr just up the Route du Vin in Sigolsheim. The Sparr wine is called “One” because it is a blend of Riesling, Muscat, and Pinot Gris, and in Alsace if it isn’t 100% of the variety on the label, it cannot be labeled as a specific wine, hence a non-specific name.

But back to Eguisheim (known as Le Gwish to the locals and us former locals.) It is an ancient village built in concentric circles around the castle, fallen today but still intact enough to show that it was quite the place in the tenth century. Le Caveau is directly across the cobbled street from the castle and offers an inspiring vista — the castle along with the vineyards surrounding the village. In my days in Alsace, I often found Leon Beyer, the town mayor and one of the most respected vintners in France, lunching there and readily accessible to wine curious travelers like me. I even met his son Marc who, some of you may remember, was the organizing Chair of the French-American Committee conducting the 100th anniversary celebration of the Statue of Liberty. (Bartholdi, you may also remember, was from Alsace, Colmar to be exact, just five or six kilometers from le Gwish.)

One of the village sites was a weather-worn sign describing the castle as birthplace of Pope Leo IX, born in Eguisheim in 1002. He was Pope from 1049 to 1054, but I didn’t know until much later that he is considered one of the most effective Popes, a great reformer and a protector of the power of the Papacy in the face of restless royals. According to the Beyers and the Sparrs, Leo also loved fine wine, though I haven’t seen that in any historically documented information about him.

The restaurant has enjoyed its ups and downs over the years, gaining and losing a Michelin star from time-to-time, but its setting in a very old wine cellar provides a romantic ambiance to go along with the exterior views.  Its cuisine is classic and traditional, but the wines are of the surrounding fields and offer the best of the Beyers.

The Sparr bottle transported me there immediately, as do most fine wines from that part of the world. And its good to know that Rieslings and Gewurztraminers and Pinot Gris have Pontifical blessings.

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By Sue Shelden   |   Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 9:37 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

Just when we thought the worst part of the 6.0 Napa Valley quake was over, the news of one casualty came on Friday, September 12. A 65 year old woman who had been knocked unconscious by a falling television, died from her injuries, which hadn’t seemed life-threatening until her headaches became unbearable a few days later. The cause of death was a massive subdural hematoma. I report this news to keep some perspective on the other devastation of the quake.

The most recent estimate is $80 million in losses to the Napa wineries. The losses are huge, but like the phoenix rising from the ashes, Napa will rebuild and probably be better than ever. After the clean ups and repairs, the losses are not just from the shattered barrels and bottles, but from damaged buildings and equipment and the loss of tourist dollars from shutdowns. Many employees have suffered from lost wages.

The Napa Valley Vintners–a non profit trade association–kick-started the recovery with a $10 million donation to the Community Disaster Fund for Earthquake Relief for those needing help in rebuilding. This fund is for individuals and businesses needing immediate assistance. Donations from individuals are encouraged and can be made at the following website: napavintners.com

And then there is Napa Valley Rocks! This four day event is September 25th-28th, and promises to let visitors “Sip, savor, shop and shake to support earthquake relief all weekend long!” There will be concerts and also a Napa Half Marathon, which will wind through some of the vineyards. For more on this event, go to: napavalleyrocksweekend.com

Napa wines prices are predicted to escalate because of reductions in stock, so shop now!

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By Sue Shelden   |   Saturday, September 13, 2014 at 5:58 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

Season 5 of Downton Abbey is ready to be aired in England on September 21st, but we Americans unfortunately have to wait until January to get our Downton fix. HOWEVER, we can at least console ourselves with Downton Abbey Wine, which, the website informs us is made “honouring those same wine-making traditions” that the Downton Abbey folks would have enjoyed.

“When Mr. Carson pulled a bottle of wine from the cellar for Lord and Lady Grantham, one could be assured it was a fine French Bordeaux, the wine of choice amongst the British nobility in Edwardian England.”

Two wines are offered: a Claret, or classic Bordeaux red blend, made with grapes from the Entre-Deux-Mers (“between two seas”) region in Bordeaux; and a Bordeaux Blanc, again, using Entre-Deux-Mers grapes (my new favorite phrase!) plus some Muscadelle and Semillion fruit.

With the predictions of another wretchedly cold winter, I’m looking forward to the new season of Downton Abbey and some Downton Wines to help me through until springtime brings relief. Stock up now! “Carson! Some more Claret, and leave the bottle!”

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