170 Kilometres of great wine, delicious food, and a lot of fun!
When I asked around, I was told to check in the tasting room to find the man in charge of the Gites. Upon entering this gloomy inner sanctum, the damp, over-powering fragrance of the wine industry surrounded me, challenging my sense of smell and even taste, the aroma was so thick. On one side of the room was a small bar, with shelves of bottles and empty glasses lined up along the wall.
Opposite this were massive barrels lined up in rows, larger that a standing man, fading into the dark regions of the wine storage area.
Before I had a chance to ask for the manager, a pleasant young man stepped forward and asked if he could help me. His name was Jean-Marc Mullenbach, son of Marcel Mullenbach, the two owners of Mullenbach Winery.
Yes, he did have some rooms . . . just follow me . . . we left that building struck out across the street, entering another building through an old wooden door, and up the stairs. Not expecting much, we were pleasantly surprised at the gorgeous suite he offered us. All newly renovated, it was a large apartment with bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, all fully equipped with new appliances, all for € 50/ night. Colleen had a smaller room for € 30. Colleen’s room was the “Pinot Blanc” Room, and ours was the “Tokay Pinot Noir” Room. I mention these prices, which were good at that time, but were even better when it came time to pay. Because later we decided to stay a few extra days, Jean-Marc insisted we have a better price, so he knocked several Euros off the rate, and then threw in several bottles of wine to take with us. We so enjoyed our stay here, and often wish we could return.
Of course, once we were settled in . . . we had to go back down and try out the tasting room . . . some delicious wines. Mullenbach was home to some Alsace “Grand Cru – AOC”wines, a specific designation for wines that have met certain Alsace AOC rules and strict requirements.
In addition to the wine-tasting, we did not neglect our other ‘tourist things’ to do. If you look at the map in Photo 5 (Part 1), you can see our village just west of Colmar, one of the main attractions in the Alsace Region. Colmar is a delightful town, full of canals, known locally as ‘Petit Venise’. Many of the houses are painted different colours, which at first we thought was just a tourist attraction, but we learned that this habit dated back to times when the colours meant something. As we cruised along one of the canals, our tour guide told us that the blue ones were Catholic, the red were Protestant, the yellow were fishermen, the green were gardeners, and the brown were the tanners. What this distiction was supposed to accomplish, I have no idea . . . but it’s an interesting point . . . something to ask Mr. Google.
I mentioned the food in this area, but did not get into details as I got side-tracked with a look at the McDonalds menu! No . . . there’s much better here, and one of the most popular and delicious is called the “Tarte Flambée”, basically a thin crust pizza, covered with cream (crème fraiche), onions and bacon, or chunks of smoked pork. This kind of food is referred to as ‘plat du pauvre’, or dish of the poor . . . basic, good food that any farmer or worker could afford. This is served almost everywhere in this regions, and across the border in Germany as well, where it is called Flammeküche. Something that is easy and delicious to make at home.
Back to the little map illustrated on Photo 5 . . . this covers what I normally think of as the “Alsace Wine Road”, about one hundred wine villages in about one hundred kilometres. Just think . . . a person could walk this entire route (or cycle if you want), and you would never be more than about a kilometre away from a place to stay, or a restaurant to eat. What a great project!
As we left Colmar, we drove around, eventually entering the village of Eguisheim, which Colleen’s book listed as the biggest CAVE or wine cooperative in the Alsace. All lined up on the roads around the area were dozens of tractors with trailers and huge containers loaded with grapes. This should be interesting, we thought, so we waited and watched the procession as they advanced on the main building. First, they weighed the entire load, then a man stuck a probe into the load of grapes and mushed around a little, pulling out a sample of juice. He then looked at a sample through a device called a ‘refractometer’, which measures the sugar content of the grapes. The load is dumped, then the rig is weighed again. They now have a total weight of the grapes, plus the sugar content for that grower. One more lesson in our viniculture course!
The village of Eguisheim is one of the prettiest villages around . . . every street a picture post-card! As we carried on, we stopped at a large super market . . . actually a ‘Hyper-Market’, called ‘Rond Point’, just on the edge of Colmar. We have large supermarkets at home, but this one had about 31 or 32 checkouts! They sold slippers there . . . I suppose all year as it was a huge section of the store. At home you can only find slippers at Christmas time. I remember this because I bought some, and I love the French word for slipper – ‘La Pantouffle’.. . .it just rolls off the tongue!
There are so many things to see in this area . . . castles on the surrounding hills . . . wild boars running free in the woods . . . we almost hit a group of five of them that ran in front of the car one day . . . huge things . . . would have caused a lot of damage!
I had learned about this fascinating place before we left home . . . and the unforgettable shape of the walled city. It was just few miles east of Colmar, which made it an easy visit one day while out for a drive. This photo is from a piece of their tourist literature . . . we didn’t get to fly over it for a shot like this.
Too soon, it was time to leave Niedermorschwihr. After an emotional ‘Au Revoir’ to Jean-Marc, and a brief argument about the bill, we finally accepted his generosity and carried on down south along the Alsace Wine Road. We planned to carry on to Zurich for Colleen to catch her plane home, so we only made one more stop at the last city in France. . . Mulhouse. Mulhouse has a fantastic Automobile Museum, with hundreds of cars in immaculate shape, new, restored, cars that defy your imagination and knowledge of the history of automobiles . . . many dating back into the mid to late 1800’s. The only one I will show in a photo is the 1938 Arzens, ‘La Baleine’. Just look at the design, the streamline appearance – something that would turn heads even today. Paul Arzens designed and built cars and even locomotive engines for years. Another interesting one he built was the 1942 L’Œuf électrique, The electric egg, a sphere of plexiglass, smaller than today’s Smart Car, capable of 80 km/hr.
Just one of the hundreds of the incredible vehicles in the Mulhouse Car Museum
I realize this is a fast, abbreviated look at an incredibly interesting and beautiful area . . . an area I hope some of you will check out, maybe spend a few weeks walking around, enjoying Tarte Flambée and Grand Cru wines.
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