"Why do I love Strasbourg?" André Ostertag asks. "The Nôtre-Dame cathedral," he replies, stopping smack in the middle of a cobbled street that ends at the cathedral plaza and affords the best view of the grayish-pink structure with its single soaring spire. "And not just because it's monumental," he adds. "The Romans had a sacrificial altar here. It's always been a sacred spot, and its building stone--the sandstone of the Vosges--is the soil of Muenchberg, my best vineyard."
We're on our way to lunch, but Ostertag pulls me into the cathedral to show me a drôlerie not mentioned in the Michelin Green Guide--a tiny sculpture of a man exposing his butt. Ostertag knew it was there because he had made a film on the cathedral and was given the keys to its doors for the duration.
André Ostertag, 40, an intense, sinewy man with warm brown eyes and a minimalist goatee, is one of the most extraordinary vignerons I've ever met. Not only does he make the most controversial, talked-about wines in the Alsace region of France, he's also a poet and sometime filmmaker. He, his wife Christine, who is an artist, and their son, Arthur, prefer to live in Strasbourg rather than beside the family vineyards in the village of Epfig, about 20 miles to the south. Ostertag, who knows Strasbourg as thoroughly as he knows every row of his vines, has got to be the city's best tour guide, finding the unexpected in even the most visited sights.