I’ve finally made it to the last two days and final stop on our 2014 trip to Germany – Rudesheim am Rhein. This was the only stop on our trip that I hadn’t planned ahead, I left the last two days of our itinerary open and flexible. We really wanted to see a bit of Germany’s wine country and Rüdesheim am Rhein seemed like the perfect place – close enough to our departure city of Frankfurt and we could get beautiful views of the Rhine and the area’s vineyards from the hills above.
As we drove up from Heidelberg, our first stop before getting into town was at Weingut Kaspar Herke. Germany’s wine country was much more difficult to figure out compared to places like Napa or Sonoma. There didn’t seem to be any structured day tours (at least that I could find), most of the winery websites were written exclusively in German, and many of the wineries required larger groups for tours. This is one of the reasons we chose to visit Rüdesheim am Rhein – they have wine shops throughout town where you’re able to try a variety of wines so we wouldn’t have to worry about navigating the vineyards.
Weingut Kaspar Herke is a small, family-run winery right outside of Rüdesheim am Rhein in Oestrich-Winkel. I read about this winery on Casey’s blog and it seemed like the kind of personal, unique experience that we look for when we travel. When we arrived at the winery the gate was closed but the hours on the sign out front told us that they should be open for tastings. We rang the bell to the side of the gate and were then immediately greeted by Josef, their beautiful (and very large) Swiss Mountain dog, and Franz Herke – the owner of the winery. Franz quickly let us in, Mike and “Joe” became instant bffs, and we were led into their kitchen to try some wine. Personal and unique does not even begin to describe this experience.
Franz sat with us at the kitchen table and casually chatted with us as we tried each of his wines. We met his son, Luke, who has now joined Franz in the family winemaking business, while Josef sat nearby waiting for a quick scratch behind his ears. We had no idea how we were going to transport any wine we bought back home, but we knew we couldn’t leave here without several bottles. It was a packing challenge fitting the final haul of 10 bottles into our suitcases, but when I’m sipping a glass of their dry Riesling here in Chicago, I instantly return to this memorable day in Germany and I wouldn’t change a thing.
On we went to Rüdesheim am Rhein. We stayed at Hotel Rüdesheimer Hof, a nice hotel in a great location. We spent the rest of the day wandering around town and stopping into many of the shops. For dinner we ate at Rüdesheimer Schloss, a very popular restaurant with great food and live music in the evenings. Luckily we arrived early because when the clock struck 7pm an entire Viking Cruise ship showed up (pre-arranged) and there wasn’t an empty table in sight. We spent the right of the night pub hopping and trying to forget about the fact that we only had one day left in Germany.
The following day we took the cable car up to the Niederwald Monument. The views going up were amazing and we spent the rest of the afternoon hunting for more views at the top. We followed the trails through the forest for awhile and then found our way out to the vineyards. It was the perfect place to let ourselves get a little lost and see what we find.
That evening we had dinner right around the corner from our hotel at the Winebar at Weingut Carl Ehrhard. We finished off the night with a cup of the boozy coffee drink that we saw all over Rüdesheim am Rhein, Rüdesheimer Kaffee. Rüdesheimer Kaffee is made with a German brandy called Asbach that is flambéed in a special cup with sugar cubes until the sugar dissolves. Coffee is added and then the whole drink is topped with a healthy dollop of whipped cream and chocolate shavings. We sipped this special drink at a café overlooking the Rhine and it was the perfect end to an unforgettable trip.