Monday, November 29, 2010

Wine tasting in Moravia near Lednice!

One afternoon, during out collection trip to Moravia to collect reed canarygrass along the Dyje River (that separates Austria and the Czech Republic), we went wine tasting! It is, after all, not only a tradition, but an essential part of Moravian life. The Lichensteins owned much of the land in the area around Lednice, Valtice, and westward towards Mikulov. Now it is back in the hands of the family owners. Each family traditionally has their own vineyards and wine cellars...each crafting/making their own special wines. Some sell their wines, others are just for use in the family and for sharing with friends.

Here are some views of the vineyards are we traversed the hills surrounding the reservoirs, west of Lednice/Valtice area.

 The late (ice) harvests were underway, since it had recently frozen. Lots of green grapes loaded onto the truck ready for processing.
 We rode a bus from Lednice and our Penzion (bed/breakfast) to a small Serbian village west of Lednice. Here we went up this steep hill, overlooking the town, to a small family wine cellar owned by a friend of our hosts (Jan and Stepan) who have known the owner for many decades.
 The hand-built entrance to Cyril's wine cellar.  Come on inside and let's see what awaits!
 Neil and Mark...wondering what delights will be found inside the wine cellar.
Cyril greets us at the door

Inside, a delightful little wine tasting area, along with a small kitchen and fireplace (so essential for cold winter days).

 Some of the wine bottles and awards that denote the tremendous capabilities of Cyril!

 Cyril is presented with a book in honor of our visit
 The first wine is brought out, Verten Green.  An outstanding white wine with bouquets of flowers and spicy fruits
 Conversations follow.....we learn about Cyril's life under Communist rule, his son's abilities as a winemaker, talk about a new book issued that mentioned that the dissolving of the Soviet Union was something planned -- jointly-- by the Soviets and the Americans.  All interesting ideas and thoughts conveyed while we whiled away the last few hours of daylight enjoying the many types of wine from the cellars.

 Mark likes this one.
 Some of the Czech breads, cheeses, and sausages we interspersed with the wines. The wide sausage is 'Liga'...made here in the town. A tasty, local fare.
 we venture down to the wine cellar, after tasting the Verten Green.  Here is an old grape press
 along with numerous aging wines already bottled.
 The walls are lined with barrels and barrels of wines aging for just the right time.
 In addition to barrels, many wines are aged in glass containers like these.
 Descend the stairs with us and see what else we can find in this winecellar!
 More barrels and glass flasks of aging wines.
 Whites, reds....

 Mark finds his favorite one!
 while Neil wants this one over here (his cheeks seem a bit red, eh?!)
 In addition to growing/harvesting the grapes, using the proper techniques to make the wine and let it age, the types of molds growing inside of the cellar are reputed to be the secret ingredients that make distinguishing wine.

 Newly pressed grapes (early wine) are milky white. One usually never sees this if they're stored in casks or barrels.
 Cyril pipettes out another white wine for tasting.
 Hold your glass steady now, so he can dispense another round.
 The night falls quickly in the wine cellar.....but the conversations continue late into the night. As we sing Czech songs, celebrate the bountiful grape harvests, friendships new and old, and the beauty of Moravia.  Cheers!

Disclaimer: This blog is not an official University of Minnesota or Fulbright Program blog. The views expressed are my own and not those of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations, or the University of Minnesota.

Valtice - The Lichenstein's Chateaux

As we mentioned in the last posting, Lednice is where the Lichenstein's Guest Chateaux (Castle), chapel, greenhouse/Orangerie and landscaped gardens are....these are just down the hill from the town of Valtice where the Lichensteins lived.  Here are pictures of Valtice and the grande Chateaux.

The elegant church greets us first on the square in Valtice, along with the fountain (foreground).

Various statues outstand weathering times to greet us as we pass..

Here the fall splendor of a sycamore tree (Platanus occidentalis) shines out with the church in the background. It was a grand old tree, undoubtedly alive when the Lichensteins lived here.
Here is the map of the square in Valtice, the church is at the bottom center (two towers) with the fountain in the foreground. We'll enter towards the right and walk up a hill, then turn right to go through the elaborate gardens into the castle.
The gateway entrance...
The Lichenstein Coat of Arms hangs above the gate.
As we go up the steep hill and turn to the right, here the splendor of the Lichenstein castle greets up...shining even on this cloudy November day!
The guards have weathered the times a bit but still stand as pillars of strength
Another view of the castle with the carefully trimmed yew (Taxus) standing at attention.
The spire at the top of the castle...
and underneath, the coat of arms, along with the Golden Fleece at the base of the glorious golden chain. We all pass in under the Golden Fleece.
Inside the castle in the courtyard, there are several sun dials or clocks. Too bad the sun wasn't shining.

Numerous statues adorn the rooftops of the castle.
A sun dial on the opposite side wall (for afternoon time)
As we move through the covered walkways, rather than cobblestones, we have wooden steps. You can still read the rings of the trees, despite years of feet and horse hooves over the surfaces.

In one of the walkways, was this stone relief.....all that remains from the hunting 'cabin' located south of the castle (see the second photo below for a picture of what it once looked like). The Soviets destroyed this as they were afraid that many Czechs would hide out there on their way to escape into Austria (just a couple kilometers away).

Views of the magnificent gardens and grounds surrounding the castle.
Here is a bit of notes about the development of the Manor from early times through the Lichensteins.

Notes on the reconstruction:
More views of the castle grounds. The fall colors of the trees/shrubs glistened like Golden Fleece even on a cloudy day.
A gorgeous weeping birch outside of the castle walls. This specimen must have been more than 150 years old, judging from the size of the trunk and the spread of the weeping branches.
A closeup up shot:
Another vista garden with a circular path to walk around and see the various statuary positioned within the hedges.
Some of the inviting paths to wander down...
In one of the courtyards, if your horses need a drink, this water tub will gladly supply.
Examples of the ornate lighting (now electrified)
Another picture of one of the castle gates.

Since we were there after mid-October, the castle was closed for it's winter rest. We'll come back in the springtime to see more and enjoy the beautiful gardens.  Do join us next spring!

The Valtice and Lednice castles/chateauxs are now the property of the Czech Republic; they were not returned to the Lichensteins possession after the Velvet Revolution. As we mentioned in the Lednice posting, these are now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Center.

Disclaimer: This blog is not an official University of Minnesota or Fulbright Program blog. The views expressed are my own and not those of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations, or the University of Minnesota.