Unique wine barrel furniture from Bijan!

Last weekend, a guy in my wine Facebook group, name of Bijan, advertised an open house at his wine barrel furniture-wine sales shop. Although I think he sometimes goes to Stuttgart to sell wine and furniture at AAFES, his actual shop is in Igstadt, which is very close to where Bill and I live near Wiesbaden. Bijan has somewhat limited hours, or one can call him and make an appointment.

Many times, I’ve seen Bijan advertising his beautiful wine barrel creations in my group. His pieces are all made from French wine barrels from Bordeaux or riddling racks from the Champagne region of France. Until today, Bill and I have never managed to make it to his place to see his products in person. He usually only opens on certain Saturdays from 10am until 2pm. We tend to sleep in on Saturdays or get to doing other stuff… and by the time we remember he’s open, it’s too late. This week, we made a point of going to see him. He was also kind enough to post a reminder in my wine group.

One of the things I’ve been wanting for our home is more storage for our wine. I’ve also been wanting to put some more furniture in our living room, since until today, it was half bare. I didn’t want to buy another generic wine rack from Amazon. I was hoping for something more unique and interesting. Bijan’s shop fit the bill perfectly.

We were greeted at the door by Marco Polo, the adorable canine ambassador, and I immediately saw what I wanted. There was a wine barrel cabinet that had racks for up to 8 bottles of wine, racks for wine glasses, and a shelf. On top of the barrel was a wooden table top with a glass insert in the middle, which turned the barrel into a pub table. There were several barrels to choose from, each one unique. Most had once held red wine, but there was at least one white wine barrel. Some barrels were light colored, while others were darker. And they each had unique bands around the barrel. We ended up choosing a barrel with black bands, only because it had the wine glass rack in it. The others didn’t have that.

I also wanted a riddling rack to hold some of my wines. The racks were originally used to produce champagnes, but are great as temporary storage for wines at home, too. We selected a dark stained rack with three rows on each side– it opens like an easel, and can hold up to 60 bottles. We never have that much wine in our house, because we drink it constantly. But right now in my basement, we have a bunch of wine in boxes, because we didn’t have enough wine racks. Now we can put the wines away and get rid of some of the boxes.

I’m thinking we’ll get a couple of stools for the new table/cabinet, and then on chilly winter nights, we can sit by the fireplace. Bijan makes stools, or maybe we’ll find a couple locally. It may be worth it to have him make us a couple of them. I’ll probably fill the glass insert with corks. The lady who sold us the cabinet said the wine that was stored in our cabinet was very nice… it’s stamped 2017.

Bijan takes cash and credit cards, and he also accepts the VAT form from Americans, so we don’t have to pay 19% tax. We got a ten percent discount, and ultimately paid just under 1000 euros for everything. Bijan knew exactly how to fit everything in our Volvo so it got home safely. I thought it was going to be hell getting the barrel into our house, but it worked out fine, after a few grunts and heaves from Bill and yours truly. Below are some photos of our new treasures. I forgot to get a picture of the building itself. They really have some unique stuff in there. We may have to go back!

Bijan also sells French wines and ports, and he was kind enough to throw in a couple of bottles for us.


Who are the people in our neighborhood? Last night’s wine stand helped us find out more…

Although there were heavy clouds in the sky last night, and the air was decidedly muggy, Bill and I decided to attend last night’s wine stand in Breckenheim. It was the first one we’d been to in awhile, since the last one was scheduled due to dangerous weather, and the time before that, I didn’t feel like getting dressed. But we usually do like to attend the wine stands, because they are held for good causes– fundraisers for various local clubs, who host them. Also, it’s often a fun chance to meet new people who live in our little suburban burg.

Our local town square (the Dorfplatz) is usually where the wine stands are held. However, the stand was held at the town hall, because the square is currently undergoing renovation. They’re putting in a public toilet. I understand the toilet idea isn’t particularly popular, especially since the Dorfplatz has only existed for a short while– by German standards, anyway– and there’s a fountain that was only put in about ten years ago that might need to be removed. Prior to its becoming a Dorfplatz, the area was a parking lot.

I guess the toilet will be a good thing, though, since it will allow people at the wine stands to stay longer, rather than either going home, or using the toilets at the Rathaus. Also, there’s been talk about starting a weekly farmer’s market, which I’m pretty psyched about. I hope that happens before we have to move again.

Anyway, because a large portion of the square has been cordoned off for the construction of the toilets, the wine stand has been moved, and that’s a good thing for us, because we live even closer to the town hall than we do the Dorfplatz. So, even though Noyzi and Arran protested loudly, Bill and I walked down the street to have a couple of glasses of wine. It started to sprinkle, but we decided to let the locals have the tables under the shelter.

After about ten or fifteen minutes of sipping Riesling and telling jokes, we met two Americans who live very close to us… Actually, they live even closer to the town hall than we do, since their house is just behind the parsonage for the church. They heard our American accents and came over to introduce themselves. It turns out that the two women have two kids, and they’re living here as ordinary residents. I was really fascinated, as one did have ties to the military, but is in the Reserves and drills back in the States. The other is a lawyer and a pastor! She told us the combination isn’t as unusual as one might think! Right now, she works as a pastor, but will soon start a new job as an American lawyer for a bank. I’m assuming it’s an American bank with a branch nearby, but I didn’t ask about the details.

They told us about the process of getting new German driver’s licenses, and what is required for that. Unfortunately, they didn’t come from a state where they could simply exchange licenses. Some US states do have a reciprocity agreement with Germany. Texas is one of those states. And their kids go to the local schools, one of which is within sight of our house. Both speak German, too, even to their kids.

We really enjoyed talking to them… I do hope I didn’t come off as too forward, though. Not everyone knows what to make of me, especially when I’ve been socially distanced for two years. But I thought they were a nice couple, and I’m sure we’ll see them around.

We won’t be at the next wine stand, which will also be held at the Rathaus, because it will take place just before my 50th birthday. Bill has plans to whisk me off to Antwerp, Belgium for the weekend. I look forward to it, since I love Belgium. There’s great beer, delicious frites, exquisite chocolates, and dirty humor… Any place where one of the country’s symbols is a little boy peeing is alright with me. 😉

Here are a few random photos from last night’s activities!

I think we’ll go out for awhile today… See if we can find anything fun to do.

booze tourism, Germany, shopping, Wiesbaden, wine

“Wining” away our Saturday in Wiesbaden…

A couple of weeks ago, one of Bill’s co-workers invited us to go to a wine tasting/market in Wiesbaden. She bought tickets for us, two of her other friends, and of course, herself. The event was held in the Colonnades near the Kurhaus in downtown Wiesbaden. To gain entry, we had prove we were fully vaccinated, but all other COVID related measures were dropped. We were supposed to be limited to two and a half hours, but fewer people showed up than were expected, so we could have stayed longer if we’d wanted to.

I really had a good time. I had forgotten how much fun these events are, even though I usually end up drinking too much. 😉 We met people representing wineries from around Germany, but there were also a couple of wineries from Italy and France in attendance. We also talked to a lady who runs a nut business out of Freudenstadt, which is very close to where we used to live when we were in the Stuttgart area. She had some really tasty cashews and other nuts that had complementary sweet and savory flavors. She also had salts, cheese breads, and granola.

We didn’t manage to hit every table. If we had, I would be in even worse shape this morning than I am… My liver really got a workout. But I did manage to get some photos. Lots of people were out and about, including a number of wedding parties. Springtime in Wiesbaden is a great time to see brides!

It’s so nice to have some normalcy again. I hope to enjoy it for as long as possible.

I enjoyed talking to some of the winery reps. One French lady bonded with us over a love for Georgian wines and the ancient way wines are made in the Caucasus. She said she did an internship in the Republic of Georgia, and since I lived in Armenia, we both knew about the region. ETA: It turns out the woman was actually from Germany, but she imports French wines. We found this out when Bill got the Rechnung!

Another winery was represented by the founder’s son, who said their winery was extremely tiny, with just one hectare of vines. Besides wines, they also made plum brandy and wineschorles (wine spritzers) that were refreshing. I think we came home with about 30 bottles!

I think we’ll take it easy today… enjoy the nice weather, and take care of some chores.

Here are a few shots of some of our neighborhood’s cutest residents. We ran into them on our walk the other day. Our neighborhood also has a bee feeding vending machine made from a repurposed gumball machine.

booze tourism, tours

Food and wine in Switzerland, Italy, and Liechtenstein… part twelve

Cute Cortona!

We arrived in beautiful Cortona in the late afternoon on April 30th. I had never been to Cortona before last weekend, but I do have a couple of first cousins once removed (they are sisters) who both graduated from the University of Georgia and attended study abroad sessions in Cortona while they were in college. I remembered seeing their pictures on Facebook and reading how much they liked the town. Now that I’ve seen it for myself, I can understand why they liked it so much. Besides the obvious fun of being a twentysomething college student in Italy, Cortona is legitimately an adorable town, located at the top of a steep mountain. Bill said it reminded him of Ribeauville, France, which is one of our favorite escapes from Germany. Too bad Cortona is so far away from Germany!

Tom, our guide, booked our small group at Hotel San Luca, which is right in the thick of the town. The advantage of this hotel is that some of the rooms offer stunning views from the side of the mountain. Those who don’t have a view from their rooms can go out the front door and see the view from outside the hotel, or they can enjoy the incredible views from the breakfast room. Below are some photos from near the hotel. In the distance, you can see Lake Trasimene, which is very close to Cortona.

If I’m honest, the views are the best part of this particular lodging, although it was fine for just a night. The hotel appeared to be pretty old, and it had very tiny elevators (a theme during our Italy trip) that had what appeared to be ashtrays in them! But, over the top of the ashtrays, there was a “no smoking” sign. When you enter the hotel, you’re on the ground floor, but you take the elevator down to get to the “higher numbered floors”, which are actually under the lobby.

We were in small room that had a tiny shower. I was glad I brought an extra pillow with me, even if it does make me look like Linus. I hate trying to sleep with flat, wimpy pillows. Below are a few photos of the room. I didn’t get any pictures of the bathroom, but it was very tiny and basic. On the other hand, this room wasn’t as small as the one we had in Torrechiara, and we did have a great view! There was also a balcony.

After we checked in at the hotel, we gathered for an aperitif, and discussed whether we wanted to sit inside or outside for dinner. Everyone seemed to want to sit outside, except for me, of course. Remember, I said I don’t do the “group thing” very well. I was legitimately a little bit chilly, though. Bill went and got one of my sweaters for me. We ended up not eating outside anyway. I think I overheard the waiter say that it was too cold outside, but I also noticed that there weren’t any tables set up on the terrace. I think it would be fun to eat outside where we had dinner. The location is right by the main square. However, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t glad we ate indoors, simply because it was a little cool. I guess I’m just a party pooper. Every party needs one, you know. 😉 Below are some photos I took before we reached the restaurant.

We had dinner at a restaurant called Ristorante La Loggetta, where we enjoyed more lovely wines with good food. We had free choice of the menu at Ristorante La Loggetta, so I went with duck with orange sauce and candied apricots. Bill had a steak. After dinner, which included several bottles of local wines, we walked back to the hotel. Bill and I stopped for a gelato break, and got a few nighttime photos from the adorable city, which happens to be where portions of the 2003 film, Under The Tuscan Sun, was filmed. I haven’t seen the movie myself, but Tom said his sister works at the villa in Cortona where scenes were made. It’s a popular wedding and event venue.

I would have loved to have spent another night in Cortona, simply because I would have enjoyed exploring the town more and going shopping. The main drag has so many beautiful little shops with tons of art, housewares, clothing, and the like. But, now that we’ve been there to see it, maybe Bill and I can visit on our own at some point. We’ll see.

Sunday morning, we rose to some clouds in the sky, which offered a different view of Cortona and its surroundings. We had a simple breakfast in the breakfast room. It included typical Italian pastries, breads, cold cuts, eggs, sausages, juices, and coffee. I had to take more pictures from the huge windows in the room. Then I took more from the cliffside. A small flea market was going on, offering a brief chance to pick up souvenirs. Sadly, I gave Bill all my euros!

Stay tuned for part thirteen.


Food and wine in Switzerland, Italy, and Liechtenstein… part eleven

Continuing on to Cortona and wineries…

On Saturday morning, after breakfast, we checked out of Hotel Firenze Capitale, and met outside the hotel to load up for our night in Cortona. Before we would arrive in Cortona, we would be touring two beautiful wineries and tasting some very nice wines. Tom’s van is large enough to transport eight people. I believe he told us that another couple was supposed to come with us, but they canceled. I’m actually glad they canceled, since the number of people in the van was just about optimal. Bill and I sat in the middle row; the other couple was in the back row; and the solo traveler was in the front seat.

We didn’t know how big the van would be, so Bill and I decided to pack a small overnight bag for our night in Cortona, and for our Sunday night stay at Hotel David, in Florence. We were going to take the other bags to our car in the parking garage, but Tom told us he had plenty of room. He wasn’t joking. Once we were all loaded up, we headed out of Florence, with Tom pointing out some sights on the outskirts we might not have seen during our visit.

The first winery, located outside of Greve, was called Montecalvi. Jackie, the woman who showed us around, is the daughter of the winery’s original owner. Jackie owned the winery for some years after her father died, but she later sold the winery to an Australian businessman, who asked her to stay on and run the winery in his absence. I really enjoyed meeting Jackie. She is a very engaging speaker. But what really made visiting Montecalvi special was meeting Jackie’s adorable cocker spaniel, Millie. Millie is very friendly and is obviously well loved. More than once during our tour, she jumped on her hind legs and put her paws on Jackie, just begging to be picked up and held like a baby. It was just darling!

We enjoyed tasting three beautiful Chianti Classico red wines made at Montecalvi Winery, as Jackie explained how it was all made and the history of her father’s vision. We also learned a bit about Italian laws regarding wine productions. We tasted a vermentino followed by the three reds, one of which was a rare wine made from grapes from a single vineyard dating from 1932.

After the tasting, we had the opportunity to order wine, which Bill did while I hung out with Millie. Below are some photos from our tour of Montecalvi.