Half-way up the impossibly steep hill to Schloss Johannisberg, I’m suddently grateful I opted for an e-bike. Originally, the plan was for a leisurely peddle on a commuter bike through vineyards in Germany’s Rheingau wine region.
But when I meet my guide, Claudia Lewerenz, at Radkranz Bike Rental she’s already picked out an electric-assist model for herself. She, and the guy manning the rental shop, implore me to do the same. I’ve been wanting to show off my cycling prowess and initially refuse, then wavier and ultimately capitulate when Claudia convinces me I can take the e-bike and not use the motor unless absolutely necessary. I agree, but remain ready to prove a point and cycle the 50-kilometre round trip without activating the electric-assist. Yet here I am, at the first site of an incline hitting the eco-boost, then the standard assist and finally kicking it into high for the ultimate in cycling rescue. As a result, I’ve arrived at the pinnacle unwinded and ready to taste at Schloss Johannisberg, the oldest all-Riesling-and-the-time winery in the world dating back to 1720.
Johannisberg’s sprawling yellow castle is impressive. So are the three wines we sip and the view of vineyards, the Rheingau valley and the River Rhine snaking through the middle of it. Rheingau is renowned Riesling wine country an hour train ride west of Frankfurt that hugs the north shore of the Rhine. I planned this excursion because I love cycling, Riesling and vineyard-hillside-castle-and-river eye candy, especially in the sunshine. Riesling often gets a bad rap as as too sweet. There’s certainly that style, but there’s also an abundance of Rieslings done dry, or as the Germans call it, trocken. We take the trocken test again at our next stop, Schloss Vollrads, and order glasses of the 2015 Riesling Troken Sekt (the German term for sparkling wine). It’s dreamy enjoying the bubbles on the schloss’ (winery’s) winegarden (patio) while gazing at the moat-surrounded Water Castle.
Thankfully, the next section of ride is downhill, through vineyards, to the Rhine, so we can lunch waterside in Hattenheim at Rhein Schanke on chicken schnitzel and salad, with, of course, a glass of troken Riesling from nearby Karl Jon. Molitor Winery. It’s back up hill after lunch, with unabashed electric assist, past more vineyards and Eberbach Monastery. Sated with wine and sunshine, we came back down the hill and peddle the lengthy ride back on the flat and scenic path along the Rhine. My base in Rheingau is Zum Grunen Kranz, a 60-room hotel that spans four historic buildings in the historic centre of Rudesheim.
The hotel also owns the bike rental agency Radkranz, so you can pick up wheels to do a self-guided or guided tour on what the Germans have efficiently named the R3A, but is also known as the more wine-centric Spatlesereiter Bike Route.
Also in Rudesheim, I enjoy a dinner of ham and white asparagus (a very German dish) at Hotel Lindenwirt with Rheingau wine princess Sophie Egert to discuss Riesling and her plans to become a winemaker.
The next night I meet up with wine tour operator Walter Schonleber for dinner at Zum Krug in Hattenheim, where owner-chef-sommelier Josef Laufer takes us through a tasting menu with four Rieslings and two Rheingau Pinot Noirs.
Cheers to cycling (with a little help) in Germany.
Check out www.Germany.Travel for more great ideas for QuickTrips in Germany!
We flew on @aircanada and as always, the experience was superb.