Thursday, July 1, 2010

Charles, Pierre and Charles

After finishing up his final seminar at the medical school in Sarajevo, my husband and I took off on an extended car trip that ranged from Dubrovnik, Croatia, through Slovenia, northern Italy, southern France and the Alsace region, and Switzerland. We had some wonderful experiences along the way and will be sharing those – in no particular order.

One of the highpoints was a visit to the Pierre Sparr Winery located in the town of Sigolsheim, France in the Alsace region. Pierre Sparr wines are well-known and respected around the world. We have found them in local wine shops and on the wine lists of nicer restaurants. Intrigued that we shared the same last name, we always harbored the hope that we could be related to these famous Sparr’s, so we planned a visit to the winery as part of our car trip. We booked a hotel in the nearby town of Riquewihr, and as we drove through town on our way to Sigolsheim we noticed a wine cellar named 'Charles Sparr'.  Hmmm.

We went on to Sigolsheim - about 5 km from Riquewihr - and easily found the Pierre Sparr wine cellar. The woman in the tasting room knew some English and she told us that the Pierre Sparr winery had been sold just over a year ago to some sort of conglomerate. The winery had been in the family since 1680! Nearly 330 years. She also told us that one of the Sparr brothers, the current Pierre (the 10th generation) had set up a new winery in the area of Riquewihr. We stopped at the Charles Sparr winery on the way back, walked in, and there was Pierre Sparr and his son, Charles.
Pierre and Charles were wonderful, greeting us like family members. Pierre said he was heartbroken over the breakup of the family business, but as part of the deal, he kept the original family vineyards, and is starting a new business, growing the grapes and making wines himself, but bottling thousands instead of millions of bottles of wine. Since the ‘Pierre Sparr’ name belongs to the business that was sold,  he named the new winery after his son, Charles. At 22 years of age, Charles is interested in learning about the marketing aspects of the wine business and has already visited wineries in Oregon and will spend time in California in coming months.

Pierre invited us to come to dinner. They had planned a wine makers’ dinner with Alsatian foods paired with Charles Sparr wines. We happily accepted his invitation. At the dinner, we were seated at a special table, and Pierre and his father, Charles joined us for dinner.

Charles, Senior, (86 years old) was a treasure house of information on his family’s history. He seemed to think that we must be related, however distantly. He told us the family was traced to Vikings who came from Sweden to Germany in 1220, then moved on to Switzerland in 1580 and finally arrived in Alsace in 1625 and established the family winery in 1680. He believes that Sparr descendants – even with different spellings of the name - are all part of the family in some way. 

My husband’s grandfather was named Charles Sparr and his great-grandfather was August Sparr. Interestingly, both the given names Charles and August also appear frequently in the Alsace branch of the Sparr family. So far, I’ve only been able to trace August Sparr and his family to the area around Mecklenburg, Germany.

Whether my husband can trace his roots back to a common ancestor of Pierre’s or not, we were treated like family and had a wonderful evening in the company of Charles, Pierre and Charles Sparr. 
(photo: Charles, Jr., Pierre, Landy, Charles, Sr. )