Pinecrest’s new sister city is world’s only source of Cognac

A French socialist mayor and connoisseur of fine cognac raised his glass during a party at Pinecrest Gardens Friday evening.

Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner and Cognac Mayor Michel Gourinchas signed a “Sister Cities” agreement meant to help promote tourism and business between the two municipalities. Lerner traveled to Cognac, in the southwest of France, in September. Both Lerner and Gourinchas have paid for their own travel expenses. Pinecrest and Cognac have similar populations, each with about 19,000 residents.

“The agreement, which is meant to create educational, cultural and business ties, is a first for the village” Lerner said in January, in anticipation of the event.

Gourinchas, who will be up for re-election in 2014 in a territory where men dominate politics, also gave Lerner the gold medal of Cognac.

“Cognac is not only a product known in the world, but also a place to visit,” Gourinchas said in French. He also said he was looking forward to the cultural and tourist exchanges.

The party that followed honored one of the world’s best-known types of brandy, also known in French as “ eau de vie” — the water of life. The taste can change when nuts, fruit, caramel, honey, vanilla, and spices are added.

Gourinchas explained that to be called Cognac, the spirit must be made according to strictly-defined regulations as it matures in old oak barrels. The longer it matures, the smoother the taste. Under European Union rules, only a specific type of brandy made in the Cognac area can be labeled as Cognac.

On Friday, the Palmetto Elementary Jazz Combo performed in the Garden’s Pergola House before the ceremony began. Pinecrest Youth Advisory Council member Leia Schwartz and girls from the Palmetto Elementary chorus performed "Cognac" to celebrate.

Gourinchas’ delegation included officials Patrick Sedlacek, Marie-Line Reynaud, who gave Lerner a scarf, and Marianne Reynaud.

Also in attendance were the French Consul General in Miami, Gaël de Maisonneuve; Dorothée Rubin, vice president of the Les Dames d’Escoffier, a group of business women who also made the trip to Cognac in September; and Jimmy Malcolm, a pianist and cousin to the late Bob Marley.

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