Wine Stories


John wine Snob in Switzerland

My wife, Katia and I were in Switzerland one winter and we were driving to Gruyere. The evening we were in Gstaad where we had dinner in a wonderful hard to  find restaurant up a winding road with a great view of the snowy Alps. We were greeted by the very charming host and had raclette.  I had to avoid the wine that evening because of driving on unfamiliar snowy roads in the mountains. Katia made reservations from the US and everone in the restaurant seemed genuinely happy to see us.

On the road to Gruyere we stopped in a small café called les trois seurs for lunch and began our casual drive through the wintery mountains. Katia at one point shouted “Degustation!!” (tasting).

She saw a small hand painted sign along the road pointing down a muddy unpaved road that led into the forest. I excitedly made a u-turn on the slippery icy highway and went back. We chugged about 100 meters down the muddy and rutted road until we came to a small farm. We got out of the car and began looking for the degustation. We looked in the windows of the rustic barn and found nothing but cows. We then walked over to the house and looked in the window. There was the nice family sitting at the cozy looking dining room table having their postcard like Christmas Eve dinner so we decided not to disturb them. As we began walking back to the car another car pulled up. The man who got out explained that this was his brother’s house and that he was a partner in the small winery. We apologized and said we would be on our way, but he insisted we stay. He went in to get his brother and we followed them to the small tasting room and sampled several bottles of various wines and talked with the two very kind gentlemen. Unfortunately all of the wines sucked! We ended up buying three bottles of some damned thing that I do not even remember except that I think it was fermented cow piss.

We went on to Gruyere, a beautiful small medieval city atop a mountain. It was Christmas Eve and seemed like the ideal place to spend the holiday so we got a room in a small family inn. After walking around the charming storybook city we went back to the hotel and went down to the intimate and charming restaurant for dinner. The family who owned the hotel were having their Christmas Eve dinner as well and did not seem overly happy to see us, so we ate and went up to our room and thought it would be a very nice and old world thing to go to midnight mass at the local Catholic church. We started to change and looked out the window and watched the candle bearing people from Gruyere and neighboring villages in a processional along the main street on the way to the church. We left the room to join in the festivities and oddly found ourselves locked in. We could not get out of inn. The family had gone to mass and locked the doors which could not be opened form the inside, so we went upstairs and watched the magical scene under a light snowfall from our third floor window and drank that ghastly wine.

Several days later we were on our way to Moscow and took the remaining two bottles with us to share with friends. It was amusing to watch their faces scrunch up while trying to force down the vile swill. But wine always creates memories and this is certainly a cherished one.

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