Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Sun-Kissed South: Germany’s Pinot Noir, the Other Whites, the Culinary Regions - Germany-South and Alsace 2018 Tour by ombiasy WineTours: Baden, Alsace, Pfalz and Rheinhessen

Picture: Dinner in Beautiful Riquewhir, Alsace

Germany South / Alsace
Baden • Alsace • Pfalz • Rheinhessen
May 12 - May 20, 2018

The Germany-South and Alsace Tour by ombiasy WineTours took place from May 12 - May 20, 2018. The size of the group varied during the tour between 6 and 4 members, including Annette and Christian Schiller. This posting provides an overview.

We visited a total of 18 wineries in Alsace in France and 3 different German wine regions where predominantly grapes other than Riesling are planted: Baden, the most southern German wine region and Germany’s answer to Burgundy; Pfalz with its almost Mediterranean climate and voluptuous whites and reds; Southern Rheinhessen where a variety of white grapes and also Pinot-Noir grow.

Annette Schiller in her announcement: Discover Germany’s southern wine regions and red wine country Germany. Explore Baden, the southernmost and internationally fairly unknown region that produces outstanding Pinot Noirs (in German: Spätburgunder), and whites from Burgundy grapes and other varietals. Visit wineries on the shore of Lake Constance, the largest body of water in Germany bordering Switzerland. Take a look at medieval monasteries and other cultural heritage sites. We will spend one night in an epicurean's dream destination in the Kaiserstuhl to indulge in true southern German hospitality and 1-Michelin star gourmet food. We will step across the Rhine River to compare the very different wines of the eastern (German) and western (French) Rhine valley and we will get a feel for beautiful, quaint Alsace with its incredible picturesque wine villages dotted with half-timbered century old buildings. Enjoy a 2-Michelin star dinner at a great Alsatian restaurant with truly French charme. Enjoy the Pfalz and Rheinhessen regions with its gently rolling hills, sumptuous red and white wines, and a generation of young, ambitious, up and coming winemakers. Discover Mainz, on of the ten wine capitals of the World, where wine is one of the most important part of everyday life.


DAY 1: Saturday, May 12

09:00 Departure by Coach from Frankfurt am Main.

09:45 Cellar Tour and Tasting at New Superstar Sekt Producer Griesel&Compagnie in Bensheim, Hessische Bergstrasse, with Assistant Winemaker Rachele Crosara

Assistant Winemaker Rachele Crosara was our host.

We toured the winemaking facilities and had a tasting of the Griesel Sekts.

With this visit we honored the Germans affinity with the bubbly stuff. Did you know that the Germans are world champions in sparkling wine consumption? And that “Rotkäppchen” in Freyburg, in the Saale-Unstrut region is the world’s second largest sparkling wine producer after Freixenet? And that there are many top rated Sekt producers in Germany?

Our visit took us to a Sekthaus which came into existence just a few years ago and already enjoys the highest accolades. In 2013 the Eberbach Abbey winery in Bensheim moved the production to headquartes in the Rheingau and the wonderful old, vaulted cellers under the Griesel mountain became available. Sekthaus Griesel came into existence. Vintner Niko Brandner started from scratch and could configure the Sekthaus exactly according to his knowledge and ideas. The April 2018 edition of the Decanter writes about the 2014 Griesel, Blanc de Noirs Brut: “This new discovery is seriously impressive, all the more so given that it’s only this talented producer’s second vintage. Made from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, it has spent 24 months on lees before being disgorged……”

12:45 Lunch at 1-Michelin Star Restaurant Landhaus Feckl in Ehningen.

We had a most delicious three-course lunch.

This family-run cozy, rustic-chic Landhaus boasts of an exquisite restaurant. Chef and owner Franz Feckl is well reputed for his creative ideas to perfectly combine regional Swabian cuisine with cuisines of other regions, i.e. the Mediterranean, Asia, France. His wife Michaela is a charming host.

16.15 Guided Visit of Burg Hohenzollern.

The Hohenzollern Castle is the ancestral seat of the Hohenzollern dynasty, from which the German Emperors and kings of Prussia came. The original castle was built in the 11th century, burned down several times, and was finally restored by both branches of the Hohenzollern family in the 19th century. For almost one thousand years it serves as temporary home for the family. It is still owned by the Hohenzollern family and home of Georg Friedrich Prince of Prussia and Sophie Princess of Prussia. The castle sits on a hill high above the town of Hechingen and is visible from afar. Frederick the Great was buried here. After reunification Frederick's casket was moved to Sanssouci in Potsdam and he was finally laid to rest in the terrace of the vineyard of Sanssouci – in the still existing crypt he had built there – in accordance with his will.

19:00 Arrival at Hotel Zur Rose, Bodensee (Lake Constance), Baden.

Hotel zur Rose in Überlingen, Bodensee (Lake Constance) is a 3 star, family run historic hotel with totally modernized tastefully renovated rooms within a 3 minutes walk from the shore of Lake Constance.

After checking in, we enjoyed a walk along the lake before having dinner at a lake restaurant. From the northern shore in Germany – weather permitting – you can have a gorgeous view across the lake to the Alpes in Austria and Switzerland.

DAY 2: Sunday, May 13:

10:00 Guided Tour of Schloss/ Kloster (Castle/ Abbey) Salem, Lake Constance, Baden

Salem castle is an impressive ensemble of majestic buildings. It was founded as a Cistercian Abbey in 1134, when Bernard de Clairvaux ventured from his home base Burgundy to establish Cistercian monasteries on the eastern banks of the Rhine river.

In a very short time Salem Abbey developed into one of the leading abbeys in southern Germany. Salem experienced a second period of affluence during the Baroque era. It is fascinating to see the Gothic buildings, in particular the cathedral decorated with its unique alabaster plasterwork and the ornately Baroque style decorated rooms in the Palace. After secularization during the Napoleonic era Schloss Salem came into the possession of the Markgraf von Baden, the ruler of the Kingdom of Baden, and the ownership has not changed since then. Schloss Salem is also home of the prestigious boarding school Schule Schloss Salem. Kurt Hahn, a respected educator, who later was instrumental in establishing the International School system and the IB (International Baccaleurate) founded the school in 1920 with support of Prince Max of Baden. The student dorms are in the former monk cells and the monk’s spirit and simplicity of life can still be felt today.

12:00 Lunch at the Schloss/ Kloster Salem, Baden.

13:00 Tasting at Weingut Markgraf von Baden in Salem, Baden.

As it was customary the Cistercian monks produced wine to support themselves and the abbey. Thus this winery has a long history. This winery comprises two estates, the bigger one at Schloss Salem on the northern shore of Lake Constance and the one in the Ortenau, at Schloss Staufenberg. The two estates together with 335 acres of vineyards make for one of the largest privately owned wine estates in Germany. Owner is HRH Prince Bernhard von Baden. The aristocratic dynasty, ones the rulers of the Kingdom of Baden, can look back to more than 600 years of viticulture tradition. It was the Markgraf von Baden who as early as in the 15th century introduced the first wine law and innovative viticultural practices.

15:45 Visit of the Basilica Birnau.

The Basilica Birnau is a Baroque jewel and sits majestically on a hill high above Lake Constance. It was built in 1749 and has been a pilgrimage church since then. The interior is richly decorated in the Rococo style and the church is one of the most beautiful Baroque churches in all of Germany, not least because of its unrivalled position overlooking Lake Constance and its surrounding vineyards. The church is still in the hands of the Cistercian monks.

16:30 Cellar Tour and Tasting at Staatsweingut Meersburg in Meersburg, Bodensee.

Hanna Neuser of EcoCert and Consultant at Staatsweingut Meersburg was our host.

We toured the ancient cellar and and had a tasting of the Staatsweingut Meersburg wines.

The Staastweingut Meersburg basically never changed ownership: it has always been in the hands of the rulers of Baden. Wine production in Meersburg has been first documented in 1210. This year also marks the establishment of the Staatsweingut Meersburg. However in those days it was the winery of the Prince-Bishop of Constance who reigned over Baden. For 600 years the winery stayed in he hands of the Prince-Bishops. In 1802 Napoleon secularized all church properties and ownership changed to the Markgraf von Baden who was the ruling King of Baden in those days. The Grand Duchy of Baden remained a sovereign country until it joined the German Empire in 1871. After the revolution of 1918, and the abolishment of the monarchy in Germany, Baden became part of the Weimar Republic as the Republic of Baden. The Republic of Baden as the successor of the Grand Duchy of Baden took over the winery (but it did not take over Schloss Salem, which became the private property of the Markgraf of Baden). After 1945 Baden and Württemberg were merged to the Republic of Baden-Württemberg, which is the current owner of the Staatsweingut Meersburg.

Today the vineyard area totals 150 acres, planted with Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Traminer and Regent. The Staastweingut has parcels in famous vineyard sites around Lake Constane such as Bengel, Chorherrnhalde, Lerchenberg, Jungfernstieg and Rieschen (Meersburg – monopole holding), Olgaberg – highest vineyard in Germany at 520 metres above sea level (Hohentwiel), as well as Ritterhalde (Gailingen).

20:00 Dinner at Rstaurant Bürgerbräu (Chef Simon Metzler) in Überlingen.

The day ended with dinner at Restaurant Bürgerbräu - recommended by the Guide Michelin - in Überlingen. Chef Simon Metzler and his wife Katja run the place in the third generation. Chef Simon Metzler started his career with Chef Stefan Marquard, was the tour chef of the Rock Band "Die Toten Hosen" and worked for a number of years in Berlin, before returning home to Überlingen and taking over the family business.

DAY 3: Monday, May 14:

08:00 Check out of hotel and departure. We again crossed the Black Forest to arrive in the Rhine plains.

10:00 Cellar Tour and Tasting at Weingut Ziereisen in Efringen, Markgräfler Land, Baden, with Hanspeter and Edeltraut Ziereisen.

Hanspeter and Edeltraut Ziereisen were our hosts. We started the visit with a tour of the old cellar, sat down for a massive tasting and finished the visit with a quick tour of the impressive, brand-new winemaking facilities, built into the mountain, of Weingut Ziereisen outside of the village.

The Ziereisen winery is in the Markgräfler Land, the far southwestern corner of Germany where the country borders both Switzerland and France. Winery Ziereisen sits right at the Switzerland – Germany border. Hanspeter Ziereisen and his family are now the fourth generation at the helm of the winery. This family are fanatically dedicated winemakers and are rewarded with four grapes in the 2018 Gault-Millau wine guide. They make very interesting and age worthy red wines made in Germany. Most are Pinot Noirs but their fascination with Syrah led to the production of one Syrah wine. The house wine is a Gutedel. Gutedel is more known under the name „Chasselat“ or „Fendant“ as the signature white grape varietal of Switzerland. Gutedel has also become the signature grape of its close neighbor the Markgräfler Land. It is regarded as oldest known grape variety, grown in Egypt 5000 years ago. In the late 18 hundreds the Chasselat grape was brought from Vervey, Switzerland to the Markgräfler Land.

12:30 Lunch at Restaurant Der Löwen in Staufen, Markgräfler Land, Baden.

Staufen is an incredibly picturesque village with the romantic Schlossberg with it’s ruin on top and vineyards on the slopes. Time seems to have come to a standstill here.

15:00 Cellar Tour and Tasting at Weingut Martin Waßmer in Bad Krozingen, Markgräfler Land, Baden.

Jürgen Maier, Sales and Export, was our host.

The 2018 Gault-Millau wine guide awarded Winery Waßmer with four grapes.

The winery Martin Waßmer is also located in the Markgräfler Land. Winemaking in this region can be traced back to the late 13-hundreds. The Waßmer family have been involved in wine growing for many generations but it was only in 1997 that Martin Waßmer started to make his own wine and founded the Martin Waßmer winery. He specialises in the Burgundy grapes Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris. He also grows and produces Chardonnay, Muscat, Gewürztraminer – a nod to neighboring Alsace- and of course Gutedel. Winemaking is traditional, with only natural yeasts used for the slow, long fermentations, and the wines are all aged in barrel with the top cuvées in Burgundian barriques for up to 18 months, with a minimal filtration before bottling.

17:30 Check in at Hotel Schwarzer Adler, in Oberbergen.

Hotel Schwarzer Adler in Oberbergen, Kaiserstuhl, is a 4 ½ star traditional hotel and well-known address for a refined life style. With its 1 Michelin star restaurant and top notch winery it is an epicurean’s dream destination. It is listed in the association of “Small Luxury Hotels of the World”.

This hotel and its restaurant still run by the Keller family, is epicurean's dream destination for foodies in all of Germany, as well as of neighboring Alsace and Switzerland. With the Keller family, which can trace its roots as winemakers and hoteliers back to the Thirty Year War in the early 17-hundreds, everything started with producing and offering outstanding food. Franz and his wife Irma, parents of the current owner, were among the first generation of chefs to start the German revolution in the kitchen more than forty years ago. Well beyond the immediate post WWII era, the urge to simply have enough food on the table – quantity over quality- lingered on. In 1969 Franz and Irma Keller and their restaurant Schwarzer Adler were awarded one Michelin star (the chef was Irma, the first women to get a star!), which the restaurant defends until today. For Franz Keller, the central idea of winemaking was to produce top quality wines that perfectly accompanied the creations in the kitchen. The current generation, Fritz and Bettina Keller have brought the winery to a new level. They just finished construction of a brand new winery that is an architectural landmark, beautifully integrated in the landscape. Their efforts to produce top wines, among them stunning Pinot Noirs, were acknowledged by their selection as member of the VDP in 2013.

19:00 Dinner at Restaurant Schwarzer Adler ( 1 Michelin Star) in Oberbergen, Kaiserstuhl, Baden.

This 1-Michelin star beautiful, elegant, but at the same time cosy restaurant run by Bettina and Fritz Keller offers a harmonious mix of Baden country charm and elegance. The menu is a successful marriage of French and German cuisine reflecting the frontier on the nearby Rhine River, which is the border between Germany and France. The impressive wine list boasts 2 600 different wines, including an excellent selection of bottles from Baden and a mouthwatering list of French wines, in particular top notch Bordeaux. After dinner we just need to climb the stairs to our rooms and dream about the outstanding food and gorgeous wines we had.

DAY 4: Tuesday, May 15:

09:45 Cellar Tour and Tasting at Weingut Hunn in Gottenheim, Tuniberg, Baden, with Kilian and Martina Hunn.

Kilian and Martina Hunn were our hosts.

We started the visit with a portfolio tasting at Weingut Hunn and then drove over to the new winemaking facilities outside of Gottenberg for a tour and good-bye drink.

Owners Kilian and Martina Hunn – once the wine queen of Baden - are both passionate winemakers. The Tuniberg and Kaiserstuhl regions are the warmest wine regions with the most sun shine hours in Germany. The Mediterranean climate offers ideal growing conditions for the Burgundy grape. Three quarters of the 60 acres of vineyards belonging to the Hunn winery are panted with Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay. Kilian and Martina Hunn produce powerful wines with finesse and grace that perfectly reflect the limestone soils and climate of the Tuniberg.

11:45 We left the Baden area and Germany on the right bank of the Rhine River, at the foot of the Black Forest Mountains, and crossed over the Rhine into France, into the Alsace region. The Alsace lies just across from Baden on the left bank of the Rhine at the foot of the Vosges Mountains.

12:45 Lunch at Le Jardin des Saveurs in Guebwiller-Murbach, Alsace.

14:30 Cellar Tour and Tasting at Domaine Schlumberger in Guebwiller, Alsace, with Owner Thomas Schlumberger.

Owner Thomas Schlumberg welcomed us. We toured Domaine Schlumberger and sat down for a tasting in the cellar; the new tasting room is still under construction.

The Schlumberger family can trace its roots back to Swabia, a wine region in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. In the 16th century a branch of the family moved to Alsace to become tanners. They eventually settled in Mulhouse and became a prosperous family. In 1810 Nicolas Schlumberger moved to Guebwiller and founded a factory of fabric machines. He also bought 50 acres of vineyards and hence, the Domaine Schlumberger came into existence. Today there are two generations working at the Domaine side by side: Alain Beydon-Schlumberger (6th generation) and Severine and Thomas Schlumberger (7th generation). And today – some 200 years after the start- the vineyard area has increased to 350 acres. The vineyard is unique in Alsace: 175 acres -half of the vineyards - are classified as Grand Crus. Because of the steep hillsides (some with slopes of 50 degrees), animals are used to work the land rather than agricultural machinery. The philosophy of the Schlumbergers is to work sustainably to leave healthy soils for the future generations. 75 acres are farmed biodynamically and the conversion to biodynamic farming will continue.

16:45 Cellar Tour and Tasting at Domaine Rieflé-Landmann in Pfaffenheim, Alsace, with Paul Rieflé.

We started the visit with a tour of the cellar, where Paul Rieflé was cleaning the barrels. We continued with a tasting of the Rieflé wines and were joined by Paul. Before leaving, we spent a few minutes in the vineyard with Paul Rieflé.

The wine estate Domaine Rieflé was founded in Pfaffenheim in 1850. Today the sixth generation, brothers Thomas, who is the vineyard manager, and Paul, who is responsible for building the business, joined the family business. The philosophy of winemaking at Domaine Rieflé is perfectly described by this quote of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry “we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we only borrow it from our children”. Hence, the organic certification of the Domaine is the logic consequence. Respecting the soil, flora, fauna and health in general, organic agriculture is also a useful means of bringing out the different characteristics of Domaine Rieflé's numerous terroirs.

18:45 Arrival and Check-in at Hotel Le Schoenenbourg in Riquewhir, Alsace.

Hotel Le Schoenenbourg in Riquewhir, Alsace, is a 3 ½ star hotel with a great outdoor pool, nestled at the foot of vine-covered rolling hills just outside of the city gate of Riquewhir, a typical very charming, romantic Alsatian wine town.

20:00 Alsatian Dinner at Restaurant La Grappe d'Or in Riquewhir.

La Grappe d'Or was our second choice. Our first choice, D'Brendelstub, was closed on that day; this is a traditional restaurant serving excellent local specialities prepared under the direction of 1 Michelin star chef Jean-Luc Brendel. His Michelin starred restaurant “La Table du Gourmet” around the corner is one of my absolute favorites in all of Alsace (closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays).

DAY 5: Wednesday, May 16

10:30 Cellar Tour and Massive Tasting at Domaine Rolly-Gassmann in Rorschwihr, Alsace, with Pierre Gassmann.

Pierre Gassmann was our host.

We toured the estate, followed by an exceptional portfolio tasting comprising 36 wines.

The Domain Rolly-Gassmann came into existence in 1967 with the marriage of Marie-Thérèse Rolly and Louis Gassmann. But Domaine Rolly-Gassmann is by no means a newcomer in Alsatian viticulture. The Gassmann’s can trace back their viticultural roots to 1611 and the Rolly family to 1676. Today the Domaine is managed by son Pierre Gassmann who already started to convert to biodynamic viticulture in 1997. Domaine Rolly-Gassmann has 150 acres of vineyards which is quite big for an Alsatian family domaine. There are no Grand Cru sites in and around Rorschwihr but several excellent ”lieu-dit”. The style of the Rolly-Gassmann wines is opulent, lush, ripe, and very often with a fair bit of residual sugar. The Domain’s philosophy is to wait for physiological and phenolic maturity in the fruit even with some botrytis. 10% of their production is Pinot Noir, and their Pinot Noir belongs to the best what Alsace has to offer.

12:45 Lunch at Restaurant L’Auberge Alsacienne in Châtenois.

15:00 Cellar Tour and Tasting at Domaine Pfister in Dahlenheim, Alsace, with Melanie Pfister.

Melanie Pfister, arising star female winemaker in Alsace, was our host.

We toured the winemaking facilities and sat down for a tasting in the tasting room with
Melanie Pfister.

Melanie Pfister is the 8th generation and the first women to head the Domaine Pfister. She trained in Bordeaux and studied oenology in Dijon before she retuned home to Dahlenberg. She intends to apply her knowledge and diverse experiences to continue to produce outstanding wines and to pursue the ongoing quest for perfection. Because of the proximity to Strasbourg – only 20 km west – the village of Dahlenheim has an exceptional wine-producing heritage. It served, first and foremost, as a veritable wine-cellar for Strasbourg's ecclesiastic institutions: the Prince-Bishop of Strasbourg as well as the Abbayes in the area, some of them also produced wine. The monks also travelled and brought back new vine varieties to Dahlenheim. In the 13-hundreds it was recorded that “noble wine” was produced. As early as 1780, the name Nicolas Pfister was recorded. He lived as a “bourgeois wine-grower” in Dahlenheim using the farm buildings that are still in place today.

17:15 Arrival and Check-in at Auberge du Cheval Blanc (2 Stars Michelin) in Lembach, Alsace.

L’Auberge du Cheval Blanc in Lembach, Alsace, is a 4 star, beautiful place with pool and spa facilities close to the German border in Wissembourg run by Monsieur et Madame Bastian. Pascal Bastian is a 2 Michelin star chef and the restaurant is known for its refined cuisine known well beyond the Alsace region.

19:00 Dinner at 2 Michelin Starred Restaurant Auberge du Cheval Blanc in Lembach, Alsace.

Chef Pascal Bastian has trained at top restaurants in Switzerland and France– among them the 2 Michelin star restaurant La Plaissance in Saint-Emilion, before he acquired the Auberge Cheval Blanc and its restaurant in 2008. It did not take him long to be awarded with 1 Michelin star and shortly after with the 2nd Mchelin star.

DAY 6: Thursday, May 17

08:30 Check out of hotel and departure.

After an amazing breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and crossed into Germany.

10:00 Tasting at Weingut Friedrich Becker in Schweigen, Pfalz.

Weingut Friedrich Becker belongs to the handful of the best of the best Pinot Noir producers in Germany. His Heydenreich GG (Grand Cru) sells for 125 € a bottle which is an incredible price for a German wine. This is a price still very much below a wine of equal quality in Burgundy. This winery is unique. The vineyards are in two countries - Germany and France- due to the winery’s situation right on the German/French border. In this area the Rhine rift created many different soil types that presented favorable conditions for planting a wide variety of grapes. 60% of the vineyards are planted with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and some Pinot Blanc; 22 % with Riesling and the rest with Silvaner, Muskateller, Traminer, Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau, and Portugieser. Friedrich Becker sees the wealth of nature as being the basis for his work, but more importantly, for him nature is an inspiration. He was the first of his family to distance himself from delivering the grapes to the local co-operative and decided to make his own wine. Right from the start he has been one of the best producers in the Pfalz and one of the best Pinot Noir producers in Germany. Recently his son Friedrich jr has taken over and continues to produce wines of top quality.

12:15 Lunch at Restaurant Ritterhof zur Rose in Burrweiler, Pfalz.

We had a 2013 Weingut Messmer, Riesling, Schäwer GG (imported by Terry Theise/ Skurnik Selection) for lunch. Restaurant Ritterhof zur Rose is at Weingut Messmer. I had a tradional Saumagen, the favorite dish of the late Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

15:15 Vineyard tour and Massive Tasting at Weingut Siener in Birkweiler, Pfalz, with Peter Siener.

Peter Siener was our host.

The visit started with a glass of Weingut Peter Siener Sekt. Peter then took us on a tour of the famous Kastanienbusch and Mandelberg vineyards. We then sat down with Peter Siener in the courtyard of Weingut Siener for a Riesling Kastanienbusch and Pinot Noir Kastanienbusch vertical tasting comprising 5 vintages. Denise Siener served delicious local food from the Pfalz.

Peter Siener is the third generation owner and winemaker at Weingut Siener. He took over from his father in 2000 and has since stepped hard on the accelerator to pursue quality with a vengeance. He also doubled the vineyard site and has holdings in two of the best vineyard sites of the southern Pfalz: the Kastanienbusch and the Mandelberg both in Birkweiler. He belongs to the generation of the young, energetic winemakers in Germany who follow new paths to only produce the best of the best quality. Besides his passion for his wines Peter Siener also loves cooking and is passionate about food. That explains the grip and power of his wines that are perfect to match with food.

18:00 Arrival and Check-in at Hotel Ritter von Böhl in Deidesheim, Pfalz.

Hotel Ritter von Böhl in Deidesheim, is a 3 star very unique guest house with a 7oo year old history. From its foundation over 700 years ago, it continuously served as a ‘Hotel”. Yet it was only recently that the house was converted to a hotel in our definition of modern times: to provide lodging to the traveler. Since its foundation in the 13th century it served as a “Hotel Dieu”, a hospital and home for the sick, the poor, and the elderly. Still today it caters to the handicapped, and while we are in modern times, internet connection however can sometimes be very poor because the more than 1 meter thick old 700 year old walls obstruct the signal flow.

Evening on our own. Annette had advised: Take the time and explore Deidesheim, a small, picturesque village with half-timbered houses and rustic wine taverns. Time takes on a different meaning in this part of Germany; sipping a glass of wine, savoring delicious local specialties, that’s what is important. The former German chancellor Helmut Kohl, who lived close by, made Deidesheim famous, as he took his powerful guests, such as Margaret Thatcher, the King and Queen of Spain, and Michail Gorbatschow, to Deidesheim to try the Saumagen, his favorite dish.

19:00 Dinner/ Tasting at Vinothek/ Wine Tavern Bürklin-Wolf

This was unplanned. Our plan was to do a little tour of Deidesheim with its many wine taverns. We did not get far as on the first stop - Vinothek/ Wine Tavern Bürklin-Wolf just next to our hotel - we run into the Managing Director of Weingut Bürklin-Wolf, Steffen Brahner. He invited us for cheese and cold cuts and showed us the new Bürklin-Wolf collection, with Marco Gulino (Host Weinbar) and Riccardo Korner (Host Vinothek).

DAY 7: Friday, May 18

09:30 Vineyard tour and Tsting at Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl in Deidesheim, Pfalz, with Richard Grosche.

General Manager Richard Grosche was our host.

For the most part of the visit, we toured the world-renowed vineyards of Deidesheim and Forst. Following the vineyard tour, we sat down for a tasting of Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl wines.

Since it’s founding in 1849, Reichsrat von Buhl has stood for some of the noblest Riesling from the best vineyards of Mittelhaardt and has always been considered to be one of Germany’s leading wine estates. Reichsrat von Buhl always produced wines in a terroir-dominated, timeless style true to the grape’s origins in the best soils of Deidesheim and Forst. The winery Reichsrat von Buhl can look back to a rich history. It was founded in 1849 by Franz Peter Buhl. He added the vineyards inherited by his wife, a member of the Jordan dynasty. These latter vineyards came from the break-up of the original Jordan estate into three parts, with the other two parts giving rise to what is today known as Geheimer Rat Dr. von Weingut Bassermann-Jordan and Weingut von Winning - Dr. Deinhard, all also in Deidesheim. Son Franz Armand Buhl inherited the estate. He was a member of the Reichstag and a friend of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. Chancellor Bismarck’s famous quote "Dieses Ungeheuer schmeckt mir ungeheuer" this Ungeheuer tastes monstrously good, (Ungeheuer, means “monster” in english) helped make the Forster Ungeheuer vineyard site world-famous. In 1885, Franz Armand Buhl was awarded the title “Reichsrat” der bayerischen Krone, (The Pfalz belonged to the Kingdom of Bavaria in those days) hence the name of the winery. The Buhl wines were very famous and reached the upper price brackets in those days. At the official inauguration of the Suez Canal in 1869 a Buhl Riesling was served. Recently the tradition of making Sekt at the winery has seen a renaissance. Matthieu Kauffmann, enologist at the Champagne House Bollinger was hired to make Germany’s best Riesling Sekt. The first vintage, the 2013 Reichrat von Buhl Sekt, Brut was hyped as the best Sekt ever made in Germany and as close to a grand Champagne as it could get.

12:00 Lunch at Weinhaus Henninger in Kallstadt, Pfalz.

Weinhaus Henninger is a lovely restaurant in Kallstadt, just opposite to Weingut Koehler-Ruprecht, with an amazing wine list and excellent food.

14:00 Departure from the Pfalz wine region and drive to Rheinhessen.

14:30 Cellar Tour and Private Tasting at Weingut Battenfeld-Spanier in Hohen-Sülzen, Rheinhessen.

Carolin Spanier was our host.

We had a lovely tasting at the home of Hans-Oliver and Caolin Spanier in Hohen-Sülzen. Before leaving we toured the winery, where the wines of both Weingut Battenfeld-Spanier and Weingut Kühling-Gillot are produced.

Weingut Battenfeld-Spanier is a young winery by German standards. It was only in 1993 that Hans-Oliver Spanier founded the winery in Hohen-Sülzen at the southernmost tip of the Rheinhessen Wonnegau region. The 70 acres of vineyards are planted with 60% Riesling, 20% Pinot Noir, and the rest with Pinot Blanc and Silvaner. H.O. is an uncompromising winemaker and from early on he worked with respecting nature and the environment. In 1993 his winery became organic. Over the years he converted to biodynamic practices in the vineyards and cellar and since 2005 the winery works 100% biodynamically. The Wonnegau vineyards are transversed by thick, underground beds of limestone. For H.O. the Riesling acts best as translator that interprets the influence of the extremely lime-rich soils. I quote him: ”That’s what interests me: the spectrum of aromas of the stones and soils that lies beyond the fleeting sensation of fruit”.

17:30 Arrival in Mainz and Check-in at Hotel Hilton.

Hotel Hilton in Mainz is a modern 5 star hotel situated on the edge of old town Mainz on the picturesque banks of the mighty Rhine River.

19:00 Supper and Wine Tasting at Ladendorf’s Weinhaus in Mainz, with Roland Ladendorf.

In Mainz - one of the ten Wine Capitals of the world - wine is ubiquitous. Ladendorf's Weinhaus is the perfect place to discover a typical local wine tavern and have traditional Määnzer food such as Fleischwurst, Handkäs mit Musik, Nackesche.

Roland Ladendorf, the owner of this unassuming wine bar, is a dictionary when it comes to German wines. His knowledge is profound and the wines on his list are the best what Germany has to offer. Roland showed us 4 different wines in a blind-tasting.

DAY 8: Saturday, May 19

10:00 Cellar Tour and Tasting at Weingut Wagner-Stempel in Siefersheim, Rheinhessen, with Winemaker Oliver Müller and Owner Cathrin Wagner.

Oliver Müller, right-hand of Daniel Wagner (who was in the vineyard) and Cathrin Wagner were our hosts.

Cathrin Wagner showed us the wine cellar and Oliver Müller conducted a tasting for us. Our visit coincided with the "Open House Weekend" of Weingut Wagner-Stempel.

Owner and winemaker Daniel Wagner is the 9th generation of this estate in Siefersheim, in the far northwestern corner of the Rheinhessen wine region.

When Daniel took over he decided to build on the tradition of classic wine production and to pay special attention to the once famous vineyard sites Höllberg and Heerkretz that were somewhat under the radar for the past fifty years. The Siefersheim sites are carved out of volcanic hills and the weathered volcanic soil brings out phenomenal, well structured wines. Daniel’s thrive for precision and quality regularly gets awarded with 4 grapes in the Gault-Millau wine guide for Germany.

12:45 Cellar Tour and Wine Lunch at Weingut Schloss Westerhaus in Ingelheim, Rheinhessen, with the Owners Countess and Count von Schönburg-Glauchau and Technical Director Toni Frank.

The Owners Countess and Count von Schönburg-Glauchau with Technical Director Toni Frank were our hosts.

Toni Frank showed us the estate. Like at Weingut Wagner-Stempel, there was a large wine festival at the estate during the weekend of our visit. We took advantage of it and enjoyed the lovely food - Flammkuchen - that was being offered, with the wines of Weingut Schloss Westerhaus.

The Westerhaus castle from the 16th and 17th century high above the “imperial city of Ingelheim” -once a very important seat of Charlemagne- is visible from afar. In 1900, a son of famous car manufacturer Adam Opel bought the castle and winery. Today it is managed by the 4th generation of the Opel family, Countess and Count von Schönburg-Glauchau. It is a beautiful, truly stunning estate, surrounded by 40 acres of vineyards including the Monopol Grand Cru site Schloss Westerhaus. The VDP Grosse Lage (GG) wines of Riesling and Pinot Noir are the crown jewels at the top of the quality pyramid and the village wines show the marked influence of the vineyard’s calcerous clay soils.

15:30 Tasting at Weingut Knewitz in Appenheim, Rheinhessen.

Laura Henrici was our host. We had a wonderful tasting of a wide selection of Weingut Knewitz wines with her, including 4 Chardonnays. Laura had just returned from an internship at a winery in Michigan.

There is hardly another winemaker as Tobias Knewitz who embodies the new generation of excellently trained, and ambitious winemakers of Rheinhessen. To describe his estate and his vision, I simply quote his website – I could not come up with something better:

“An Estate by the Sea. In Rheinhessen? Of Course! 40 million years ago, anyways. During that epoch, the northern section of Rheinhessen known today as the Mainz Basin was actually part of the Tertiary sea. It was an age in which continents shifted, mountains rose from the ground and a large coral reef took shape in the place where we now live and our grapes grow. The reef has long since disappeared, of course, but its legacy remains — especially in the high limestone content of the soil it left behind.

For us it is a true gift, with those limestone remnants serving as the distinctive foundation for our wines. Tasting their almost unbelievable life and energy, one is reminded that the greatest of Burgundian wines thrive on limestone as well. Each and every grape variety we grow at our estate flourishes in these ancient coral reefs. Riesling, as it turns out, is an unparalleled translator of this kind of soil. Appenheim serves as a confluence for those elements we love so much: our beloved limestone vineyards — Hundertgulden, Laurenziberg, and Steinacker — and our Riesling. We tend to our vines deliberately but conservatively, spending hundreds of hours in the vineyards each year. This philosophy of care and consistency ultimately helps the wines better tell their own story. A story of their origin and our obsession.”

18:15 Back in Mainz (at Wine Tavern Wilhelmi).

After a busy day with 3 tastings, some of us stayed at the hotel to watch the wedding of  Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. I also stayed at the Hilton and watched the German soccer cup finals between Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayern München. Others went to the near-by wine tavern Wilhelmi, where I joined them after the game for a glass of wine and an home-made Spundekäs.

DAY 9: Sunday, May 20

10:00 Sightseeing Tour through Mainz.

Everywhere you walk in Mainz, you step on ruins from Roman times. Every time when renovating, building, etc, construction workers stumble on Roman artifacts buried under layers of past century buildings.

Mainz is also the birth-place of Johannes Gutenberg, the man who gave the world the power to print and hence to develop our digital future. We traced Johannes Gutenberg’s steps in Mainz.

One could also have followed the recommendation of Annette - Stiftsamt in the Mainz Cathedral. If you desire to attend a very special, spiritual service every Sunday a “Stiftsamt” conducted by the Bishop with choir and organ concert takes place in the mighty, impressive 1000 year old cathedral.

12:00 Lunch at Restaurant Bootshaus in Mainz.

The Bootshaus sits right at the junction where the Main river enters the Rhine river.

It is very relaxing to watch the cargo boats travelling up- and downstream and to enjoy a wine in the lawn chairs dotting the bank of the river.

We had our last meal of the tour and were greeted by the Owner and Michelin-starred Chef Frank Buchholz.

03:00 pm Arrival at Frankfurt International Airport.

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Lunch at 1 Michelin Star Restaurant Landhaus Feckl in Ehningen

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Cellar Tour and Tasting at Staatsweingut Meersburg in Meersburg, Bodensee

Cellar Tour and Massive Tasting at Weingut Ziereisen in Efringen, Markgräfler Land, Baden, with Hanspeter and Edeltraud Ziereisen

Cellar Tour and Tasting at Weingut Martin Waßmer in Bad Krozingen, Markgräfler Land, Baden

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Cellar Tour and Tasting at Domaine Rieflé in Pfaffenheim, Alsace, with Paul Rieflé

Cellar Tour and Massive Tasting at Domaine Rolly-Gassmann in Rorschwihr, Alsace, with Pierre Gassmann

Cellar Tour and Tasting at Domaine Pfister in Dahlenheim, Alsace, with Melanie Pfister

Dinner at 2 Michelin Star Restaurant Auberge du Cheval Blanc, Alsace

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Vineyard Tour and Massive Tasting at Weingut Siener in Birkweiler, Pfalz, with Owner/ Winemaker Peter Siener

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Dinner Tasting at the Vinothek/ Wine Tavern of Weingut Bürklin-Wolf, with the Managing Director of Weingut Bürklin-Wolf, Steffen Brahner

Extensive Vineyard Tour and Tasting at Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl in Deidesheim, Pfalz, with General Manager Richard Grosche

Tasting and Cellar Tour at Weingut Battenfeld-Spanier/ Kühling-Gillot in Hohen-Sülzen, Rheinhessen, with Carolin Spanier

Cellar Tour and Tasting at Weingut Wagner-Stempel in Siefersheim, Rheinhessen, with Oliver Müller and Cathrin Wagner

Cellar Tour, Tasting and Lunch at Weingut Schloss Westerhaus in Ingelheim, Rheinhessen, with the Owners Countess and Count von Schönburg-Glauchau and Technical Director Toni Frank

Tasting at Weingut Knewitz in Appenheim, Rheinhessen

Schiller’s Favorite Wine Taverns in Mainz, Germany

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