We are spending a week exploring the Alsace Wine Route. This lovely and stunning area run in a north-south direction in eastern France for some 100 miles. It is about a 5-hour drive along the A4 from Paris to our rental in Obernai, a maison built in the early 1600’s. More about the picturesque town of Obernai and our rental house in a future post on the WineTraveler’s blog.
The Alsace Wine Route is home to 800 wineries. There are six varietals that are grown in Alsace: Sylvaner, Muscat, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Noir. The climate is very cool in the mornings and evenings and thus a long growing season. This growing season has been much like ours in California with the unusually cool weather. The days that we have spent here so far have been overcast and drizzly and very cold, perhaps only getting to a high of 60 degrees. Everywhere we drive on the wine route we see small white vans that transport the pickers to the areas ready for harvest. The growers are worried about this year’s crop. “It has been a very difficult year and now with the rain; we are not sure about the outlook of our wines.”
As we travel on the wine route south from Obernai, we encounter village after village of small communities built centuries ago. The vines run up against Les Vosges Mountains and make for stunning views as these vineyards run down the hillside to the edges of the towns. There are no words to describe the breathtaking and expansive views that are presented to travelers along this route. If you think the Napa Valley is beautiful, wait to view the Alsatian wine region.
As we drive the wine route, there are areas where you can park your car and take a vineyard walk. We have read that there are 38 of these walks at various points along the wine route. These are delightful and easy walks that wind through the vineyards. We take a vineyard walk near the city of Barr where we run into a crew of pickers. Unlike our harvesters, these workers work at a casual pace and seem to have a happy time talking among themselves. They all say “Hello” to us and ask where we are from. There are no worries about taking pictures or walking through the vineyards.
So far the tasting rooms that we have visited welcome visitors and do not charge tasting fees. When we buy wine, it is packed into a cardboard box that resembles a small Alsatian house. The bigger and more famous producers require an appointment for tours or tasting, which we have scheduled for Hugel & Fils and the Marcel Deiss wineries during the week.
In any of the small villages, we encounter a plethora of good restaurants to choose from. The meals are priced moderately, and we have encountered nothing less than a gourmet meal at each of the restaurants we have tried. Be forewarned, these restaurants stop serving lunch at 2 PM and then reopen by 4 or 5 for dinner.