Friday, September 6, 2013

German Wine and Culture Tour by ombiasy, 2013

Picture: With Georg Rumpf, Weingut Kruger-Rumpf (Nahe Valley) in the Vineyard

For 9 days (from August 22 – August 30, 2013) we explored seven of the thirteen wine regions and several cultural highlights in Germany: the Saale-Unstrut wine region in the former GDR, Weimar, cradle of German intellectual thinking, the Wartburg where Martin Luther spent his years hiding from the Roman Catholic Church, the Rheingau with its pristine vineyards and quaint medieval villages, the romantic middle Rhine valley with its castle-ribboned banks, world-renowned wineries in the Mosel valley with its dizzying steep vineyards, the beautiful, peaceful Nahe valley, the biggest wine barrel in the world, the upcoming young ambitious winemakers in Rheinhessen and the one thousand year old cathedral of the city of Mainz, one of the nine wine capitals of the world.

We visited 16 wineries, tasted fabulous wines, shared wine pairing meals with the proprietors of top wine producing estates and had fantastic meals at great restaurants and historical places.

Germany with its roughly 250,000 acres under vine belongs today to one of the smaller wine producing countries in the world. However viticulture in Germany has a long tradition going back to Roman times 2,000 years ago. In the 15th century the area under vine was four times larger than it is today. Wars, subsequently loss of territory, diseases, overproduction, and competition from beer brewing resulted in land turned over to other agricultural use. In the 19th century, concentration on terroir and technological progress fostered a tremendous improvement of quality and the prestige of German wines, in particular from the Mosel, Rheingau, and Pfalz region resulted in prices above those for first growth Bordeaux wines. Today, all thirteen wine regions in Germany produce outstanding wines, with Rieslings and Pinot Noirs in the top league.

DAY 1: Thursday, August 22

09:00 am Departure by coach from Frankfurt am Main.

12:00 pm Lunch at Veste-Wachsenburg, Thuringia. The Veste-Wachsenburg is one of the very few intact medieval fortresses in Germany. It sits on the highest elevation of the Thuringia countryside “three fortresses” with a breathtaking view of the surrounding landscape. The restaurant at Veste-Wachsenburg, lead by an ambitious chef, serves specialties of Thuringia.

02:30 pm Arnstadt. We included a short stop in Arnstadt, home to the Bach family clan, to visit the church where Johann Sebastian Bach held his first post as cantor when he was 22 years old.

05:30 pm Pawis Winery (VDP) in Freyburg, Saale-Unstrut. Cellar tour, wine tasting, and vesper (a typical German evening meal with bread, cheese, cold cuts, and various condiments) with Kerstin Pawis. Her husband Bernhard Pawis joint us for part of the tour and tasting.

The Saale Unstrut wine region is Germany’s most northern wine region, located in the valleys of the Saale and Unstrut rivers, an area of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). The oldest record of viticulture dates back to the year 998 during the reign of Emperor Otto III. Weingut Pawis is located in the historic Zscheiplitz Estate, established in the 12th century as a convent, close to Freyburg. It is a gorgeous set-up, but as Bernhard Pawis told us, under the communist regime that did not allow private entrepreneurship, the then nationalized estate was completely run down and renovation was a major undertaking. Bernhard Pawis is a trained winemaker, who got his education in the former German Democratic Republic in a VEB (volkseigener Betrieb / company owned by the people) winery. Shortly after the Iron Curtain came down in 1989, Bernhard’s parents bought 0.5 hectares of vineyard land and founded a small winery. Following the death of his father in 1998, Bernhard took over the reins, undertook major investments, bought more land and the Zscheiplitz Estate, and paid detailed attention to quality. In 2001 he received the reward for his efforts when he was invited to join the VDP, Germany’s association of elite winemakers with only about 200 members. To listen to him, and also to his fellow winemakers in this former GDR area, recount their stories of reviving an economic and agriculture waste land after German unification, is living history and worthy of a spy thriller.

09:30 pm Berghotel zum Edelacker in Freyburg, on a hillside overlooking vineyards and the town of Freyburg.

DAY 2: Friday, August 23

09:45 am Tour and Sekt (German sparkling wine) tasting at Rotkäppchen-Mumm Sektkellerei in Freyburg, Saale-Unstrut. Rotkäppchen-Mumm is now the second largest (Freixenet being the largest) producer of sparkling wines in the world. The story of Rotkäppchen Sekt began in 1856 when two brothers and a friend began producing “Champagne” in Freyburg.

Rotkäppchen-Mumm is one of the few success stories of an East-German VEB enterprise that survived the end of the communist regime. After the collapse of the GDR, Rotkäppchen was privatized in a management buy-out in 1993. Rotkäppchen became so successful that they were able to buy prestige Sekt houses like Deutz-Geldermann and the Mumm brands to eventually become Rotkäppchen-Mumm with a production of 170 million bottles of Sekt annually.

Rotkäppchen-Mumm is a beautiful chateau-type estate with old underground cellars for the second fermentation and storage.

1:00 Lunch at restaurant Zum Schwanenteich in Bad Sulza

3:00 pm Thuringia Winery Bad Sulza in Bad Sulza. Cellar tour and wine tasting with owner/winemaker Andreas Clauss. The Thueringer Weingut in Bad Sulza was the first wine producing estate established in the state of Thueringen after German reunification. With almost 100 acres under vine, the Thueringer Weingut in Bad Sulza is the largest private winery in the Saale Unstrut region, with vineyards on the slopes of the Ilm valley.

04:30 pm Guided walking tour through the gorgeous city of Weimar. The UNESCO World Heritage city of Weimar is the cradle of German intellectual thinking, where the most famous German poets, composers, and musicians lived, met, and discussed the world. This vibrant spirit is still alive today.

7:00 pm Grand Hotel Russischer Hof, Weimar.

DAY 3: Saturday, August 24

11:00 pm Wartburg and lunch at Hotel Auf der Wartburg. The Wartburg is a spectacular medieval castle on the mountaintop overlooking the city of Eisenach. The Wartburg is where Martin Luther translated the Bible into German during the years he spent hiding from the Roman Catholic Church (1521-1522).

01:30 pm Short stop at the former Iron Curtain that split Germany.

04:30 pm Wine tasting at Weingut Balthasar Ress (VDP) in Hattenheim, Rheingau. Founded in 1870, Weingut Balthasar Ress has developed into one of the leading wine estates of the Rheingau region and became a global player in the wine trade. With 114 acres under vine it is also one of the larger estates in the Rheingau. Riesling accounts for 90 % of the grapes in the Balthasar Ress vineyards. This is the grape varietal the Rheingau stands for and for many centuries Riesling has been an integral part of the region's viticultural history.

Senior boss Stefan Ress hosted us.

08:30 pm Dinner (Winzerplatte) and wine tasting at the winery and wine tavern Zum Jungen Oetinger (VDP) in Erbach, Rheingau. The family of the “Knights and Nobles” von Oetinger can look back to the year 1828 for winemaking tradition in Erbach. Current owner and winemaker Achim Ritter and Edler von Oetinger is the third generation of winemakers.

08:45 pm Parkhotel Sonnenberg in Eltville, the picturesque town on the banks of the Rhine river.

DAY 4: Sunday, August 25

11:30 am Visit and tasting at winery Robert Weil (VDP) in Kiedrich. With 180 acres under vine, winery Robert Weil is one of the largest estates in the Rheingau. The historical manor house, the ultra-modern cellars and the vinothek stand side by side in a beautiful park – the same synthesis of old and new that is reflected in the estate’s philosophy of excellent, terroir-focused winemaking.The Winery is run by Wilhelm Weil. His wife Martina Weil joined us for a short period.

01:30 pm Lunch in the tavern at Kloster-Eberbach (VDP), Rheingau. Still a world-class winery today, the Eberbach Abbey is a former Cistercian monastery, founded in 1136 by Bernard of Clairvaux as the first Cistercian monastery on the eastern bank of the Rhine river. Its Romanesque and Gothic buildings are impressive. The vinyards of Eberbach Abbey were, at 750 acres, the largest in medieval Europe.

3:30 am After lunch, some ofus took a short walk to the famous „Steinberg“, a brick fenced-in vineyard with an outdoor tavern, a popular Sunday afternoon destination for people from Frankfurt, to drink a glass of wine from the Steinberg in the Steinberg.

06:00 pm Back in Eltville. We walked through the beautiful wine village of Eltville with its half-timbered houses, strolled along the Rhine river and had dinner at restaurant 511, right on the banks of the Rhine river.

08:00 pm Wine tasting with Alexander Johannes Jung, Weingut Jakob Jung (VDP), at the “Weinprobierstand” (Wine Booth) in Erbach.

The winery has been in family ownership since 1799. After the early death of his father in 1969, Ludwig Jung had to take charge at the early age of 18, while had the same time doing his studies. Five years later, in 1974, he became fully responsible for the winery. In 2007, he passed ownership and main responsibility on to his son Alexander Johannes, after he had successfully graduated from Geisenheim College (and internships in Baden and South Africa). Today, Ludwig still takes the lead in the vineyard, while Alexander takes the lead in the wine cellar and has overall responsibility. The vineyard area now totals 14 hectares which is quite a bit up from when Ludwig took over. The new acquisitions also include a 250 year old stone cellar, with a total length of 110 meters, which is eight meters below the earth and which offers ideal conditions for aging and storing the wines. The Grosse Lage (Grand Cru) vineyards are Hohenrain, Siegelsberg, Michelmark and Steinmorgen. Overall, Riesling accounts for 4/5 with the remainder being Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer.

DAY 5: Monday, August 26

09:30 am Tasting at Weingut Peter Jakob Kuehn (VDP) in Oestrich-Winkel, Rheingau. Weingut Peter Jakob Kuehn belongs to the top wine producing estates in Germany. Founded in 1786, currently the 11th generation of the Kuehn family takes care of the vineyards and the wine making. Since 2004 Peter Jakob Kuehn has converted to organic and biodynamic viticultural practices in the vineyard as well as in the cellar. In 2009 the winery became certified by Demeter, the association of biodynamic farming based on anthroposophical principles.

The tasting was led by Angela Kuehn, with Peter Jakob Kuehn joining us for parts of the tasting.

11:45 pm Lunch with wine pairing at restaurant Breuer’s Ruedesheimer Schloss in Ruedesheim, Rheingau. Weingut Georg Breuer was founded in 1880 and developed into an 80 acres estate with top vineyards in Rauenthal and Ruedesheim. A hotel and restaurant were added later and cater to the many tourists that visit Ruedesheim. In the middle of the hustle and bustle of Ruedesheim the Breuer’s Ruedesheimer Schloss is an oasis of elegant Rieslings from the Breuer winery and good traditional German food.

02:00 pm Cruise on the Rhine river from Ruedesheim to Boppard, passing the famous Loreley Rock and the slopes of the Mittelrhein wine region.

05:00 pm Arrival in Boppard - Boppard and the Middle-Rhine valley are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

DAY 6: Tuesday, August 27

10:30 am Wine tasting at Weingut Clemens Busch (VDP) in Pünderich, Mosel. The Busch family lives near the banks of the Mosel in a beautiful, restored half- timbered house built in 1663. Because flooding is a constant danger, the vaulted cellar, built in the 1970s, lies nearby, on higher grounds at Clemens‘ parents home. In a region most known for the noticeable residual sugar and low alcohol of its finished wines, Clemens Busch’s focus is on dry premium Rieslings that can compete with the best dry whites in the world. He also produces off-dry wines as well as powerful, complex noble sweet wines. In 1984 he began using organic viticultural practices and more recently moved towards biodynamic.

We were received by Rita Busch, with Clemens Busch joining us for part of the tasting. Unfortunately, Rita could not take us by boat across the Mosel river to show us his vineyards which are among the steepest in the Mosel region (as planned), as the ferry boat does not operate on Tuesday.

01:30 pm Lunch at restaurant Weinhaus Lenz in Pünderich.

03:30 pm Cellar tour and tasting at winery Moenchhof – Joh.Jos.Christoffel Erben (VDP) in Uerzig, Mosel. The Moenchhof is one of the oldest estates in the Mosel region. The name already suggests that once it was part of property belonging to the clergy. Documents from Pope Alexander III show that the Cistercian Abbey at Himmerod owned the estate and vineyards with excellent terroir around the village of Uerzig as early as 1177. In medieval times the monks built the wine cellar and in 1509 the estate you see today. In 1804, secularization during the Napoleonic era allowed the Eymael family to buy the Moenchhof estate including outstanding vineyard sites. An ancestor, Jean Eymael, was one of the founding fathers of the Association of German Elite Wine Estates – VDP- in 1910. In 2001 Robert Eymael took over the 400 year old Joh.Jos.Christoffel Erben estate, planted with ungrafted over 100 years old Riesling vines.

06:30 pm Hotel Roemischer Kaiser in Bernkastel-Kues. We had time for exploring the narrow cobblestone streets of Bernkastel Kues and had a glass of wine with owner/winemaker Peter Schmitz in the Spitzhaeuschen, one of the smallest wine taverns in Germany.

DAY 7: Wednesday, August 28

8:45 am Tasting at Weingut Dr. Loosen with owner Ernst Loosen. The Dr.Loosen winery has been in the hands of the Loosen family for over 200 years. Located just outside of Bernkastel, it is one of the larger producers in the Mosel region with 130,000 bottles produced annually. The winery is particularly known for its sweeter style Rieslings of top quality.

Ernst Loosen is the current owner and while most often associated with the sweet-style, low alcohol wines he makes in the Mosel valley, he also produces white and red wines in the Pfalz in Germany (J.L.Wolf winery) and in the US in Washington state (Chateau St. Michelle) and in Oregon (J. Christopher wines).

Ernst Loosen was our host.

12:00 pm Lunch with wine pairing and vineyard and cellar tour at winery and restaurant Kruger-Rumpf (VDP) in Münster-Sarmsheim, Nahe with owner/winemaker Georg Rumpf. “In our family, viniculture has been a tradition since 1708 - a tradition that we have been cultivating in our vineyards as well as in our manor house which was built back in 1830” said Georg Rumpf. Today, the vineyard totals about 50 acres and the annual production is 14,000 cases. Georg Rumpf has taken over the winemaking at Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, while his father Stefan now focuses more on sales, and his mother Cornelia manages the restaurant. The wine, gourmet regional food, the ambiance in this lovely estate where modernism is perfectly combined with tradition, and the warm welcome by the Rumpf family are outstanding.

03:30 pm Tasting at Weingut Dönnhoff (VDP), Oberhausen, Nahe. The Dönnhoff family has been making wines for more than 250 years. But when Helmut Dönnhoff began making wine in 1971 a new era began. He started out with a vineyard of 10 acres and through careful acquisition he now cultivates 60 acres of the best vineyards in the Nahe valley. Helmut Dönnhoff has become a living legend of German wine and is celebrated as one of Germany’s very best producers. He is committed to making the most out of the terroir to attain the ultimate in quality. The majority of the grapes planted are Riesling, but Dönnhoff also produces outstanding Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris.

We were hosted by Helmut Doennhoff.

05:30 pm Romantikhotel BollAnt’s im Park, a beautiful spa hotel in Bad Sobernheim, Nahe.

DAY 8: Thursday, August 29

11:00 am Tasting at Weingut Weegmueller. The Weegmueller family can look back to more than 300 years of winemaking in the Pfalz. The origins of the Weegmueller family, an old dynasty of council members of the free town of Zuerich, lies in Switzerland. In 1657, the Weegmuellers came to the village of Haardt, today a part of the city of Neustadt an der Weinstrasse, and started to make wine in 1685. One of the first women in the field, Stefanie Weegmueller-Scherr is at the helm of the estate, with her sister Gabriele, who looks after sales, marketing and hospitality services. They cultivate 35 acres of vineyards, which are farmed organically. Dominated by Riesling, Weingut Weegmueller also makes Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Scheurebe and Gewuerztraminer. The wine portfolio is complemented by Pinot Noir, Merlot and Dormfelder.

We were received by Stephanie and Gabriele Weegmueller.

01:00 pm Lunch at restaurant Riesenfass in Bad Duerkheim, across the street from Weingut Fitz-Ritter. This restaurant is located in a unique landmark: the biggest wine barrel in the world! In 1934 winemaker and cooper Fritz Keller got the idea of constructing a giant wine barrel that should outsize the by then biggest barrel world-wide in the castle of Heidelberg. He used 200 pine trees, all of them more than 120 feet tall, to build this barrel of 1.7 million liters (= 444.000 gallons) capacity.

03:30 pm Tasting at Winzerhof Thörle in Saulheim, Rheinhessen. Rheinhessen is the most underrated wine region in Germany, but is catching up with a vengeance. There is an increasing group of mostly young and ambitious winemakers who produce outstanding wines. Two of them are the Thoerle brothers Johannes and Christoph at the family-owned Winzerhof Thoerle in the town of Saulheim, assisted by their parents Rudolf and Ute. About 50 acres are under vine and planted with mainly Riesling, Silvaner and the Burgundy grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as well as some Sauvignon Blanc. A blind Pinot Noir “Germany Versus Rest of the World” tasting in London in October 2011 ranked the 2008 Winzerhof Thörle Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) Hölle as #3 overall and #1 of the German Pinot Noirs.

The tasting was led by Christoph Thoerle. Johannes Thoerle joined us towards the end.

06:00 pm Mainz Wine Market. We witnessed the opening ceremony of the Mainz Wine Market with the Mainz City Guards in historic uniforms in the beautiful, very romantic city park with its mature trees and view over the Rhine river. We tasted wines from Rheinhessen and Rheingau and met and talked to a number of winemakers, including Mirjam Schneider, Weingut Lothar Schneider und Tochter, Mark Barth, Weingut Norbert Barth, and Tina Huff, Weingut Fritz Ekkehard Huff. Rheinhessen's Wine Queen Ramona Diegel joined us for a glass of wine and the Lord Mayor of the City of Mainz came over to say hello to the group.

8:00 pm Hotel Hilton in Mainz – Main, one of the eleven “wine capitals” of the world, and a charming city with a long, fascinating history.

09:00 pm We explored some of the many wine taverns in Mainz’s medieval old town. Unfortunately, Weinhaus Bluhm, my favorite, was closed as owner Roland was on summer vacation.

DAY 9: Friday, August 30

09:00 am Guided walking tour through Mainz - time to admire the colorful fruit and vegetable market, one of the biggest year around outdoor markets at the foot of the 1000 year old cathedral.

11:45 am Tour, tasting, and lunch at Weingut Schätzel in Nierstein, Rheinhessen. The Schaetzel family has been making wine for 650 years, for 5 generations at the current location, the General von Zastrow Estate. Today, the winery is owned and managed by Kai Schaetzel, who is also one of the upcoming young winemakers in Rheinhessen. When he became fully responsible, he decided to change course at Weingut Schaetzel and to aim at becoming a nationally and internationally recognized premium wine producer. Before he took over, Weingut Schaetzel was for many years in the hands of Kai’s mother, Nanne Schaetzel, who received us and showed us the impressive 800 year old vaulted underground cellar where fermentation still takes place today. Lunch was served in the beautiful garden.

03:00 pm Arrival at Frankfurt International Airport.

Ombiasy Wine Tours Germany Trip 2013 – Related Postings

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