A long weekend with good friends. A short flight, a Mercedes Benz and endless villages full of winetasting. Sounds like a recipe to a good time?
A short flight
Our direct morning flight from Helsinki to Frankfurt took just over 2 hours. By 9.30 we were out of the airport listening to the gentle purring of our rental Mercedes Benz. This is Germany, after all, and the boys were infected with a bit of car envy.. We got on to the motorway and headed south towards Strasbourg, France. Our plan was to drive straight down to the region of Bas-Rhin, France in time for lunch.
Well, that plan didn’t work out! A few traffic jams and an overturned chemical lorry later we arrived in Mittelbergheim by dinnertime. Hungry and thirsty. Advice number one: always pack something to eat and drink in the car. Preferably a complete lunch and a tiny port-a-loo. Just in case you get stuck in a motorway for three hours with trucks and very little privacy!
Our first glimpse of the chosen village was through a soft, setting sun into the vineyards. I wanted to jump out and do the “sideways” gallop through them. Only my crumbling stomach prevented me and I promised myself to come back later.
I had chosen this particular village after extensive research. My aim simple: avoid the crowds enjoying the winetasting during harvest period. I had visions of tourist busses unloading people by the hundreds.
Driving into the village we saw- nobody! And I mean- nobody. Finding our hotel-restaurant was easy as everything was located on the main road- Rue Principale. La Griffe a Foin au Restaurant raisin D’or welcomed us fast and with zero fuss. In no time we sat down to dinner and finally dipped our noses to the first but not the last bottle of local grape juice.
The food was good and surprisingly not as heavy as anticipated. Nourishment was well appreciated and guaranteed a good night sleep after a strenuous journey into the wine country.
The following morning after breakfast we headed out on foot. The nearest village of Andlau was located only a few kilometers from our village. The stroll took us right through vineyards and we observed that harvesting was still ongoing. Maybe that’s where all our villagers were hiding? The grapes hung heavy on vines and tasted very sweet in my mouth. On our walk we saw more horses than people.
On arriving to the village we literally stumbled across our first winetasting house. Guy Wach- Domaine Des Marronniers served us well if with little English at first. Little did we know but this Winehouse would remain on our top-list throughout the weekend.
Winetasting was followed by a wonderful lunch of Foie Gras and salad by the town square. Our walk home was made merrier by additional experiments in sniffing and sipping.
Alsace wine route of 170 kilometers is sheltered by the Vosges Mountains. This region has one of the lowest rainfalls in France and a semi-continental climate. This means heat and sun! The grapes love it – creating elegant, crisp and complex white wines and sparkling wines. Alsace is truly a place for white wine lovers. The only red is Pinot Noir and probably not worth the travel.
The six Alsace whites are; Sylvaner, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Muscat and Gewurztraminer. The interesting fact is, that a Riesling grown on limestone can be so different from another grown a few feet away in sandstone… This fact alone kept us busy!
The rest of the wine road
The following morning we decided to expand our sense of the region and its’ over 100 villages. Heading south again we cruised through picturesque village after another. These villages are straight from a fairy tale. Half-timber walls and houses, castles and town walls. Colours ranging from subtle pinks to orange, blue and yellow and all windowsills overflowing with flowers! All those flowers- my god- what kind of fertilizers do they have? Mine never look quite like that!
Our first proper stop was in Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle for a cup of coffee. This medieval castle is located up on the Vosges Mountains and overlooks the Upper Rhine Plain. The view from the top made the drive well worth it. Clouds were slowly dissipating and we anticipated some sun soon.
On the way down we stopped at Bergheim located beautifully within its’ fortified walls. Walking through the arched doorway in the High Tower we realized, that this village is just gorgeous! Cobbled streets and bright houses and flowers everywhere. We enjoyed a glass of, you guessed it, whine, while sitting in the sun outside. Retrospectively thinking, this might have been a good choice of village! Small enough, central enough and yet, slightly bigger than Mittelbergheim with more shops and restaurants! Next time…
We had decided to enjoy lunch in the biggest and most famous Alsace town of Colmar. Initially it looked like any city anywhere and I wasn’t impressed. But we soon found our way into the old town Centre with its’ numerous canals, bars, shops and restaurants. The idyllic feeling was once again restored. There were no bothersome crowds here, either, so October must be low-season already!
We all enjoyed some outdoor time with the sun warming our bones. Our thoughts of the cold north pushed to the back of our minds. Winter can wait another moment.
Driving back home took considerably less time as we took the motorway. We drove back to our village just in time for the setting sun and our dinner reservation. There was wonderful food and more wines to sniff and no complaints to be heard.
Sunday morning we headed north towards Strasbourg. We weren’t particularly impressed with the villages heading this way. Small and pretty-yes, but nothing compared to what we had seen the day before. Maybe we were just fully saturated with prettiness?
Strasbourg offered us a leisure stroll and lunch in Little Paris. More canals and flowers and sunshine. Silly jokes and laughter with friends. Just what I wanted to take home.
Relaxation, joy and pleasure- they made such light packing for our flight home to the cold north.