Genu-wine Hospitality

After the thrill and electricity of watching the Tour depart from Colmar, I had a bit of a headache.  I know that it was sensory and excitement overload.  But, I couldn’t resist the quest to experience some of the wine country in this region.  This was our last real day in the area.

So we ventured through the closed roads and various barricades and wound our way out of town, headed for Kienstzhein.  Along the way we looked out across the countryside, off to the rolling mountains to where the vines were rowed.  It was a classic movie picture.  So was Kientzhein!

When we arrived, there was a walled city with an arching gate.  It was open, but it did not seem to invite auto traffic, so we parked outside the gate, and proceeded on foot.

It was a magnificent little village.  Walled all the way around, saving four points, where the wall dropped off and a modern road took its place.  We walked out one side and saw the view up the mountain side of vines row after row, perfectly organized.  We wandered around the outside of the wall to the rear of town, in and past the church in the center.  There was a huge crucifix carved out of stone, probably 20 feet high.  It was there, that we discovered heaven!

Just across the parking lot, there were two doors.  Both were open.  One house was yellow, the other green.  We chose yellow.  Paul Blanck.  We walked in, down some stairs, passing about 10 huge wine barrels that seemed, in my imagination, to be the home of the most fabulous vintage yet to be bottled-but in reality, were probably mostly decoration.  Beyond that atmosphere, we were led to a desk that was lit by down lighting, the only lights in the room.  Atmoshpere- check!

Then, out he comes.  Paul.  He took an interest right away.  He was curious.  Hearing we were from Indiana, he responded with his own story of travel to Indianapolis, and of all the details of how Indiana and the Alsace region are sister states!  Apparently Lilly had begun this work as well!

Well, he led us through each and every wine he had to taste I believe.  It was easily an hour and a half before we were finished with the 10+ bottles we sipped from lined up across the counter.  He included his local moon shine and a phenomenal cherry wine at the end.

During the course of the event, an older Belgian couple arrived as well and joined us.  Through all our languages (we had maybe 5 in the room at the time) we were able to learn a lot about wine, and about each other.  “Next time you are in Belgium….” was the invitation for sure!  They live just a few blocks from Eddie Merckx bike shop.  

But after drinking all that wine, including some of his very expensive dessert wine, it was a shock to hear our sommelier and host say very earnestly and clearly to us, “Since you are foreign visitor, we don’t expect you to buy anything.  I just hope you enjoyed our wines, and you learned something about what we do here.”   WHHHAAAAAATTT?????  In my head, I’m thinking “Okay, so, what’s the catch?”  “Where’s the guys who’s going to charge us 50 Euro on the way out?”  “This can’t be real!”  This was a spectacular experience.  We learned more about wine than we’d imagined possible, and wondered if we’d retained any of it!  But that was not important- nor was my expectation that there must somehow be a catch.  We did buy a few things, and we walked out of there with new friends, new flavors in our palate and a small box of goodies for the road.

I had not expected to be treated so well, for nothing in return.  His hospitality and generosity with his time was beyond compare.  If you ever come here- be ready to be surprised.  We think we know what hospitality is?  We have a lot to learn!  This was the kind of welcoming and reception we ought to give each other every day in our lives.  

I’ve seen this kind of hospitality and generous spirit before, but, usually it’s only a few special people who seem to generate this kind of welcome.  It’s a gentle, personal and free embrace of who we are, where we are, and how we are- that’s the Spirit Paul seemed to share with us as we sipped and talked with our new Belgian friends.  I’m sure that it was magical- but, really- standing in the center of an old walled city, sipping wine, learning about the area, the people and the wine- what could be more magical than that?  I guess, now, I would have to answer- genuine hospitality!

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