For centuries, the medieval city of Cognac was better known for its historical location than its spirits. Religious travelers would stop to rest in Cognac on their way to the pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostella. Cognac is steeped in history with narrow cobbled streets and Renaissance facades decorated with gargoyles and salamanders as its mythical dragon. It is also where brandy is grown and distilled since the 17th century. 

So what does Cognac, France have to do with South Florida and the cities of Pinecrest and Coral Gables? Back in February 2012, officials from Cognac forged strong ties with both municipalities – getting the “Key to the City” from one and becoming a “sister city” to the other. 

That year, the Alliance Française selected Cognac as its national product, focusing all its promotional efforts on both the product and the region in which it is produced. In Coral Gables, Mayor Cason handed the Key to the City to Michel Gourinchas, Mayor of Cognac.

Left image: Coral Gables Mayor James Cason with Cognac Mayor Michel Gourincha      


Right image: Coral Gables home in the French Country Village – one of Coral Gables seven “themed-villages”

Coral Gables Mayor James Cason with Cognac Mayor Michel Gourincha Coral Gables home in the French Country Village

Pinecrest and Cognac’s friendship stems from a chance meeting between Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner and Cognac Mayor Michel Gourinchas and his delegation during the February 2012 visit.  A week after the meeting, Mayor Lerner welcomed Mayor Gourinchas with a proclamation designating February 15th as Cognac Day.  In 2013, the cities signed a formal agreement establishing their “sister city” bond.

Coral Gables Founder George Merrick dreamed of an international city, inspired by the great Mediterranean cities and serving as a gateway to the Americas. Today, the dream is alive and well as the city continues to strengthen its international bonds by forging relationships with cities around the world through Sister Cities International – an organization founded by President Dwight Eisenhower designed to create opportunities for cultural exchange at the municipal, county and state level. 

Coral Gables currently has Sister City agreements with Aix-en-Provence, France; Cartagena, Colombia; Granada, Spain; La Antigua, Guatemala; Province of Pisa, Italy (emeritus); Quito, Ecuador (emeritus).

The benefits of Pinecrest being a sister city with Cognac include student exchange programs, tourism and business promotions. Pinecrest also acts as an educational point-city for knowledge about Cognac. A Skype session kicked-off a student exchange program between the sister cities at last year’s official Cognac Day.

The city of Pinecrest and Cognac will be celebrating the fourth annual Cognac Day on February 15th at Pinecrest Gardens.  Cognac Mayor Michel Gourinchas will return to visit this year. Pinecrest Gardens is at 11000 Red Road.

Dr. Martinez Carbonell is an independent fundraising and communications consultant after many years employed in the not-for-profit sector. Dr. Martinez Carbonell has been a leader on numerous nonprofit boards of directors and is the current president of the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables. She holds a Doctorate in Public Administration with a concentration on non-profit management from NSU. Martinez Carbonell is one of a limited number of fundraisers worldwide who have earned the CFRE credential (certified fundraising executive).