A visit to the Rheingau wine region of Germany presents a perfect opportunity to intermix visits to some of Germany’s top wineries with some unforgettable tourist experiences. I tried to combine most of the following into a single day but found we didn’t have enough time. But my loss is your gain, as I’ve reworked it into a two day itinerary that should bring you much pleasure.
Day 1: Kiedrich and Johannisberg
Start your day off in Kiedrich at the charming Weingut Robert Weil, which does a great job of blending a traditional German-styled exterior with a sleek new tasting room
bathed in modernity. The wines are widely regarded as among the top of the Rheingau. For tasting notes from my visit, see the bottom of this post.
Continue on to the town of Johannisberg, about a ten minute drive away, where the sprawling estate of Schloss Johannisberg offers a wine tasting studio, an outdoor restaurant and plaza, and an indoor restaurant with a picturesque view overlooking vineyards.
Nearby you will find other excellent producers including Johannishof, known for riesling but also spätburgunder pinot noir, as well as a guest house and a wine temple(!) if you need accommodations; and Schloss Vollrads, which claims to be the world’s oldest wine estate, situated in a castle above the village of Oestrich- Winkel.
After a day of sampling wines and sights from some of the above, head back to Kiedrich to Kloster Eberbach, a monastery dating back to 1136 that houses a winery since with vinicultural tradition going back 900 years. A variety of tours and wine tastings are offered, and you can have dinner in the cloistered atmosphere of their restaurant to round out a full day.
Day 2: Rudesheim and Assmanshausen
The towns of Rudesheim and Assmanshausen offer more wine tasting opportunities but Day 2 is about seeing the sights. After arriving in Rudesheim, we wandered into the Drosselgasse, an area filled with kitschy (some might say tacky) tourist souvenir shops, and made our way to Breuer Rudesheimer Schloss to have some fresh seasonal asparagus dishes for lunch, alongside traditional German favorites like schnitzel and local wild boar sausage. The wine list offered some wines from the restaurant’s affiliated winery, including some back vintage riesling and spätburgunder by the glass.
After lunch we took the Rudesheim Seilbahn, a picturesque cable car ride over rolling vineyards, up to see the Niedervalddenkmal, a statue monument to the establishment of the German republic. (For those of you who prefer to have lunch up in the hills, there are sone cafe-type concessions at the top)
After seeing the Niedervald, you can take the cable car back down to Rudesheim, but we opted instead to hike over to the nearby town of Assmanshausen. The 30-40 minute hike turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. Visiting in late May, we were a bit unlucky to get some rain on every day of our visit, but assiduously watching the forecast allowed us to time our comings and goings well enough to have glorious sunlight suffusing our walk. The fresh air of the hills invigorated us and really got us into the spirit of the Rhine valley.
When you reach the hills above Assmanshausen, there is a ski-style chairlift down to the town, but we chose to keep on hiking down and were rewarded at the bottom with a glimpse of these friendly faces:
The reward for wine lovers when they actually make it into town: Assmanshausen is espcially known for producing excellent spätburgunder pinot noir. Seek out August Kesseler, one of the top spatburgunder producers in Germany, before heading over to river’s edge, where one can take photos of Burg Pfalzgrafenstein, a castle situated in the middle of the river, and then catch a ferry back to Rudesheim.
Our visit to Weingut Robert Weil / Tasting Notes of 2012 Rieslings
A stop into Weingut Robert Weil was an eye-opening introduction to tasting German rieslings young, as many of the 2012 rieslings were newly-released in Germany and not yet available in the US, with most grand cru-type bottlings (Grosses Gewachs or Grosse Lage) available for tasting but not yet released, even in Germany. Amidst the sleek and modern tasting room at Weil, what I found was that the wines did not yet show much, if any, of the petrol aroma that many German rieslings exhibit, and while I personally dig some petrol from my riesling, without this element, the underlying terroir of these wines seems to shine right through. The style of Rheingau rieslings showed as well, exhibiting a subtler, and perhaps finer sort of minerality on the nose as compared to rieslings from the more widely-known Mosel region.
On to my tasting notes:
- 2012 Weingut Robert Weil Riesling Trocken – Germany, Rheingau (5/21/2013)
Some floral on the nose, this is a solid gutswein. However, for the difference in price I recommend stepping up to the Kiedricher ortswein. 87 (87 points)
- 2012 Weingut Robert Weil Kiedricher Riesling trocken – Germany, Rheingau (5/21/2013) Like the Rheingau bottling, this has floral qualities with a touch of herb on the nose, together with stoniness that I don’t often get from bottlings of this level. However this bottling is just richer and more complex on the nose. Fresh and light, transparent style. 88-89 (88 points)
- 2012 Weingut Robert Weil Kiedricher Klosterberg Riesling Trocken – Germany, Rheingau (5/21/2013) An Erst Lage (1er cru-type) bottling, some of the grapes from this source go into the Kiedricher and Rheingau ortswein andgutswein bottling; selected lots go into this. [Tasting notes truncated]
- 2012 Weingut Robert Weil Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Rheingau (5/21/2013)Wonderful for a basic spatlese – very complex on the nose, ith floral and mineral qualities. Light and subtle in style, but just wonderful and delicate. 91-92 (91 points)
- 2012 Weingut Robert Weil Kiedricher Klosterberg Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Rheingau (5/21/2013) Known for its fruitiness among the three Weil single vineyard bottlings, and it shows in the 2012.
- 2012 Weingut Robert Weil Kiedricher Turmberg Riesling Spätlese -Germany, Rheingau (5/21/2013)
Known for its minerality, this has more of an earthy mineral quality on the nose compared to the Klosterberg. The 2012 showed a nice bit of perfume on the nose as well.
- 2012 Weingut Robert Weil Kiedricher Gräfenberg Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Rheingau (5/21/2013) Has a lovely nose – great complexity with hints of melon, and a fine and delicate stoniness, with a touch more perfume to the nose. A palpable step up from the 2 Erst Lage spatleses. 93-94 (93 points)
Be aware, they accept only cash (no credit cards), so I had to cut my order down to a few choice bottles. Would have loved to walk out with an assortment like these!
One special part of tasting 2012s was that M was born in that year. The long-aging Grafenberg spätlese was our first purchase for M’s birth year case of wines. Tune in to the next post to see what else we picked up at our next stop, Weingut H. Donnhoff in the Nahe region. Cheers,