Tag Archives: vineyards

“Wine hiking” is a thing in my home region…

We’re currently in Piemonte, enjoying the region for our first time ever. More on that in another post. Before we came here, we spent five days with my family in Nackenheim, a village just south of Mainz along the river Rhine. Nackenheim is fortunate to have some of the best soil along the Rhine between itself and Nierstein to its south: the Rothenberg. As the name indicates, its soil is of intense red color, an iron-rich sandstone and clay mix including red slate.The vines face east, down towards the Rhine to get maximum exposure on this steep hill. I grew up in these hills, hiking and biking, and the sight of the soil makes my heart skip a beat.

Shortly before we got Nackenheim, my mother informed me there’d be a “wine hike” the Sunday we’re there. We were intrigued. Armed with glasses we bought for 10 euros each (which included servings of four different wines), we set out on the 2.5 km trail, which led us into the vineyards and by four stands manned by winemakers. It was a nice day (I even caught a sunburn), and over 400 people were out and about on the trail, I was told by a winemaker. This particular hike was to celebrate a wine made in honor of my hometown’s most famous son: Carl Zuckmayer (yeah, I know…not that famous), a German playwright whose books were banned by the Nazis and has a literary voice I enjoy.

In any case, I realized I haven’t really posted much from my hometown, which should deserve a bigger place on this blog, and so I decided to share some photos.

Hope you’re all doing well, and sure hope a wine region near you starts wine hikes soon!

Even snails like our vines...

Even snails like our vines…

Baby vines, a little older vines.

Baby vines, a little older vines.

Hiking along, high above the Rhine.

Hiking along, high above the Rhine.

Overlooking the vineyards along the Rhine towards Nierstein. The yellow plants are rapeseed.

Overlooking the vineyards along the Rhine towards Nierstein. The yellow plants are rapeseed.

We were relieved there was not a single "shark" in the vineyards ("kein" means "no").

We were relieved there was not a single “shark” in the vineyards (“kein” means “no”).

I love gnarly vines, and the buds keep them young.

I love gnarly vines, and the buds keep them young.

Drinking wines while hiking does have its perks. And even German reds can discolor your teeth.

Drinking wines while hiking does have its perks. And even German reds can discolor your teeth.

At the final pit stop, it was hard to leave.

At the final pit stop, it was hard to leave.

Heading back town into the village, the iconic church towering above it.

Heading back town into the village, the iconic church towering above it.

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Stellenbosch: First Impressions Part I (lots of photos)

As I mentioned before, Nina and I have been spending last week in Stellenbosch as guests of Stellenbosch Wine Routes. Needless to say, we had a fantastic time and there will be plenty of posts coming up over the next weeks dealing with every aspect of it in more depth, but for now I just wanted to share first impressions by photos.

Stellenbosch is what appears to be the pinnacle of South Africa’s Cape Province’s wine growing (I only say appears because we haven’t had a chance to try any other wines…and what we tried was outstanding!). Situated gorgeously along a range of mountains, most notably the Simonsberg, Stellenbosch is a bustling university town that developed from a Dutch settlement in the 1700s. Even if you have seen photos of the landscape, nothing prepares you for how stunning the mountains are in real life.

We came to explore the wines of Stellenbosch, most notably its Pinotage, but we soon realized, as is all too often the case when it comes to wine regions, the true stars of Stellenbosch are its people: From the cellar aide to the venerated winery owner, from the hostess at restaurants to the bus boys, everyone was so friendly. I wrote why I love Southern Africa in my previous post, and Stellenbosch seemed to be on a mission to prove me right – and more.

We did our fair share of wine tastings, ate fantastic food, and stayed in beautiful hotels, we met interesting and warm people, and we were treated like family everywhere. How blessed (there, Tracy, I said it!) are we really?

But let’s not get too sentimental, so, without further ado, this is the first part of just some photo impressions of our time in Stellenbosch. Installment two will follow soon…also, I realized during this trip how insanely inadequate my photo taking skills truly are, so forgive my amateurism.

Our suite at Majeka House, a beautiful boutique hotel just south of town in the aptly named quarter Paradyskloof.

Majeka House

As we got back to our room from a swim, the sun was just setting.

Sunset at Majeka House

A 2001 Straw Wine made from Chenin blanc (yes, what looks like stale Coke was made from a white grape) served during dinner at the excellent Makaron Restaurant. My first of many seriously impressive Chenin blancs.

2001 Straw Wine

We were alone in the restaurant that night (it’s low season here), so we had lots of time to bond with the sommelier, Esme.

Nina and Esme at Majeka House

We woke up to this vista on Tuesday morning.

Sunrise at Majeka House

Breakfast at Majeka House with Annareth Bolton, the CEO of Stellenbosch Wine Routes, that set us off on our journey. Annareth immediately made us feel part of this awesome community.

With Annareth Bolton

We headed off to L’Avenir winery in the morning, where winemaker Dirk took us on a vineyard tour first.

In the vineyards at L'Avenir

More vineyards at L’Avenir.

Vineyards at L'Avenir

After that, Dirk took us on a barrel tasting in his cellars, where we tasted the different barrels and their influence on the batches that go into their Pinotage. This barrel, however, contains a Chenin blanc in Acacia wood. A freaky crazy pine needle and honey flavored batch.

Barrel tasting at L'Avenir

From L’Avenir we headed to Warwick, where winemaker Nic treated us to tapas, great wines, and we got to hang out with a beads Madiba.

Paying our respects to Madiba at Warwick

After Warwick, we did the few minutes drive to Kanonkop, where winemaker Aabrie was awaiting us with a vertical Pinotage tasting from 1999-2012 in their treasure chamber. Nina clearly was in awe. We hit it off and stayed way after the estate’s closing time.

Vertical at Kanonkop

From there, we checked in at Evergreen Manor and Spa, a wonderfully preserved Stellenbosch villa in the university area of town.

Evergreen Manor

Dinner was served at Tokara Restaurant which during daylight offers stunning views over Stellenbosch all the way to Cape Town. Try to be there for sunset. The chef serves outstanding, creative food. This is a “Baked Alaska” (a typical dessert, I am told) as a starter, with Alaskan salmon, ice cream and a citrus relish.

Dinner at Tokara

The next morning, we had a tasting at Stellekaya with the winemaker Ntsiki, who had been down with a flu the day before but she hurled herself out of bed to present her intriguing line of accessible wines, some of which contain Sangiovese which adds a cool twist to the standard Cape blends.

With winemaker at Stellekaya

More to follow soon…

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Vineyards in Photos: Würzgarten, Prälat and Treppchen

Three grand cru vineyards (from left to right): Ürziger Würzgarten, Erdener Prälat and Erdener Treppchen

Three grand cru vineyards (from left to right): Ürziger Würzgarten, Erdener Prälat and Erdener Treppchen

It has been a while since I last posted a vineyard photo and I remember that I had been meaning to post more. Yet, I don’t have all that many great photos of vineyards so this series is a slow project. But today I came across a stunning photo, taken with a fish eye lense of three vineyards that are very dear to me: the Ürziger Würzgarten, the Erdener Prälat and the Erdener Treppchen. The stretch of the Mosel is actually quite straight in that area, it is the fish eye lense that makes it look like it curves.

The Würzgarten stretches further out to the left of the photo. The tiny white thing you see on the left is the Ürziger Sonnenuhr, one of the many sun dials along the Mosel. It is the old heart of the Würzgarten. In the center of the photo, under the red rocks, is Erdener Prälat, one of the top sites on the Mosel. The micro climate is insane: It is the first plot to lose snow in spring, and the vines usually are up to 14 days ahead in their growth. To the right starts the stretch that is the Erdener Treppchen. If you read my piece about the Karl Erbes Kranklay Spätlese: The area slightly to the left and up from Prälat is the amphitheater that forms the Kranklay.

There are now hiking trails through these very steep and exciting vineyards. If you get a chance, I can only encourage you to take a day, hike, and then try wines at one (or more) of the wineries. It sure has made for some of my best days on the Mosel.

The photo was taken by Christian Hermann of Dr. Hermann winery.

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