Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tulips and Wine from Amsterdam to Alsace ...

I must begin this blog post with a very special thank you, once again, to my good friend Katherine Andes. As regular readers of my blog will have noticed my blog has a new look. ( and thank you to those who have already sent me emails with positive comments.) Anytime I make changes to my newsletter or this blog I run it past Katherine and her extremely useful suggestions have always been very helpful.
Katherine develops custom content for commercial websites. She also has a free, very informative newsletter which you can sign up for by visiting her website. THANK YOU, Katherine !!

So while I am still in Amsterdam, lets stay on the Keizersgracht and go visit with Jessica Lombardo at Art Vine located at 471 Keizersgracht.
They were recently written up in the travel section of the New York Times. I had a great chat with Jessica while visiting her art gallery and plan on doing an art and wine event with her when I next visit Amsterdam. Hopefully next year.

Now before heading for Alsace with my cousin Gerda, who kindly offered to drive me down there, I must show you at least a couple of images that we can all recognize as being truly Dutch.

Windmills and tulips anyone?

It takes about 5 hours to drive from Vancouver to the Okanagan Valley, our main British Columbia wine region. Nice easy drive on a very scenic highway. Then you are only about half way across our province. Holland on the other hand is one hectic highway. When you look at a map, the whole thing is one road after another. Too many cars ! So it was nice to get to Belgium, then Luxembourg and end up in France with our final destination of Alsace. Imagine 4 countries in one day.

My visit to Alsace this time was confined to the Haut-Rhin region. So many wineries and so many wines and not enough time. I will cover some of the wines and wineries in the next few posts.
Colmar, the capital of Alsace, has a population of 67,000 people. Great place to shop and visit. But approximately 6 KM south of Colmar is the little village of Husseren les Chateaux nestled in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains.
That is where we stayed at the marvellous Hotel Husseren les Chateaux.

Fabulous facilities, great swimming pool, excellent restaurant and a bonus for me, the walls are solid cement. So you will never hear your neighbour in the next room snoring. Meeting facilities for up to 45 people. What a great hideaway place to have a group meeting and seminars. Another bonus for me was Lucas de Jong. Very knowledgeable about the local wineries. He took a day out of his busy schedule to take me to some of the best Grand Cru properties. More on that in my next posts. So tulips in Alsace you might ask? Lucas was originally from Holland. Then 20 some years ago before he and his lovely lady, whom he had met in Denmark, moved to Alsace and built the hotel. Lucas,formerly a sommelier, has extensive wine knowledge and yes they also own a vineyard in the Beaujolais. Naturally he would have a few tulips around. Look at them in the entrance to the hotel inviting you to the restaurant Au Sapin Dore.
Next up winery visits and some great photos and of course a discussion on food and wine in Alsace.
A Bientot!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Drinking Wine in Amsterdam !

Having recently returned from a trip to Amsterdam, visiting relatives and a wine tour of Alsace, it has been difficult getting back into the swing of my normal routine. Met with my panel to taste 7 just released delightful wines from the Starling Lane winery and getting ready to taste 12 Rose wines for my next newsletter. And of course wading through all the e-mails and answering as many as possible. I fully intend to share pictures and experiences of my trip in the next few posts. I read with interest, Alder Yarrow's post over at Vinography on wine consumption statistics and thought that would be a good starting point. So I looked at the pdf posted on his site from TDA ( Trade Data and Analysis ) on his site and scrolled down to the Netherlands. The average liters per capita for the Dutch in 2008 was 21.68. Surprisingly that great nation of wine consumers, the United Kingdom, consumed somewhat less than the Dutch with 19.14 liters per capita. There are no silly regulations and restrictions on selling wine in Holland and it is available in grocery stores and great little wine shops everywhere. The picture of De Ware Jacob is an example of one of them, located a 3 minute walk away from my cousin's home on the Keizersgracht.
(Click on the pic)
Its difficult to translate accurately but
' De Ware Jacob' means 'the real Jacob' and is an expression used when a woman has found 'the' real man of her life. The shop was originally owned by a Jacob and after his death his widow continued to run the shop until the new owner took over.

Let me tell you, we did our best to raise the national average during my visit. But while we are at this location, kitty corner from the wine shop is an incredible chocolate shop owned by Mireille, the exuberant and gracious daughter of my cousin. Her shop, 't Goede Soet, at 95 Keizersgracht is a must visit while you are in Amsterdam. 't Goede Soet translates into the Good Sweet and is a chocolate lovers paradise. Google it and see some of the great reviews.

Meanwhile back to statistics. The average consumption for Canada is listed as 12.24 liters per capita but according to Statistics Canada, the official Government of Canada branch that carries out surveys, the national average is 13.1. The Yukon territory leads the way with 18.3 but what else would you do on those long winter days in Canada's great northern white? Second place goes to the province of Quebec with an average consumption of 17.4. Could that be because of its historic ties with France? Once again I am happy to report that I am doing my share of wine consumption in the province of British Columbia which ties down third place with an annual consumption of 14.5. Our burgeoning wine industry would account for that. Newfoundland and Labrador come in 11th place with 6.5 and dead last is Saskatchewan with only 5 liters per capita. Of course they do enjoy their beer. Finally our neighbours to the south of us are working on their annual consumption with a 9.68 liters per capita. But with wine becoming much more a part of our North American culture I would expect these figures to increase in the coming years. As they say in Dutch 'tot ziens' or farewell or until we meet again. Lets all do our share to help the economy and raise the national average.