After spending a relatively luxurious week in the Rheingau soaking up the wine country, it was time for us to cross the Rhine and give our respects to two other notable vineyard regions, the Nahe and Moselle Valleys. We had to cross by ferry. The Rüdesheim-Bingen bridge, built before WWI to carry troops to the French front and destroyed by the Nazis toward the end of WWII, was never rebuilt. It’s rationale had always been military. We enjoyed the view. We could get a fine view of the south-facing vineyards of the Rheingau and a few castle ruins as well.

We cross the Rhine River by ferry.

We cross the Rhine River by ferry.

On the south, Bingen, side of the river.

From the Bingen side of the river we can see some castle ruins. The Nahe River is on the left.

The Nahe River meets the Rhine beyond the bridge.

The Nahe River meets the Rhine beyond the bridge.

We were tempted to stop at the Martinskeller in Bingen for lunch and a glass of wine, but didn't.

We were tempted to stop at the Martinskeller in Bingen for lunch and a glass of wine, but didn’t.

Way back in 2001, the very day after the 9/11 attack on the New York Trade Center, we were scheduled to fly to San Francisco, after a six week vacation in Germany. But no planes were flying. The huge Frankfurt airport was essentially empty. We were stuck. So we rented a car and drove the hour or so from Frankfurt to the Nahe Valley, not knowing exactly what was happening in the world or what we would do next, or for how long. In the mid-60s we had cut our teeth on relatively inexpensive Nahe wines, introduced to us by Draper & Esquin, our wine merchant in San Francisco. We decided to check the region out and wing it from there. American military jets were zooming about overhead looking for possible trouble.

Now that we have returned for the first time since the 60s, our impression has vastly changed. I think we must have taken a wrong turn back then and never saw the whole valley with its miles of verdant vineyards. We remember a narrow, wild and rocky place with vineyardists seemingly leading a hard-scrabble existence. Not any more. The valley is doing well, if not quite up to the other places we have visited on this trip. The wines seem to be about as good as any we sampled, generally dry and lightly acidic, the style of the day throughout Germany. Rieslings are not sweet, unless you hunt them down specifically.

We had a good two days in the Nahe Valley. It was harvest time for fodder. We watched the operation where hay was bailed in large rolls and wrapped in plastic sheeting.

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Wheat fields were ripe for harvest, too.

Amber fields of grain.

Amber fields of grain.

On our way west to the Moselle, we passed through numerous villages dark as the color of slate. It’s because they were actually covered in slate. Especially the roofs. Slate is mined nearby and used extensively in northern Germany for roofing material and siding. It can look mighty nice when treated well.

Slate roofing

Slate roofing

Slate siding

Slate siding

Castle on a hill

Castle on a hill

Between the Naha Valley and the Moselle Valley lies the Hunsrück, a chain of mountains with twisty narrow roads to be negotiated carefully. Eventually one of these roads drops down into the town of Zell, our destination for a night. We stayed here on our honeymoon and were eager to pay it a visit. We even booked a room in the same place – Schloss Zell, an old palace of sorts with leaded glass windows.

Schloss Zell

Schloss Zell

Those turrets seem right out of the Middle Ages and must have had some utility. In fact, they contain the staircases to the upper floors, and we were way up there.

Not so much with heavy suitcases

Not so much fun when carrying heavy suitcases.

Down is even more formidable.

Down is even more formidable.

The payoff was a fine breakfast in a right elegant breakfast room.

Refined setting for breakfast

Refined setting for breakfast.

A fraction of the breakfast offerings.

A fraction of the breakfast offerings.

As usual when we arrive at a new destination, we strike out on foot to explore the surroundings. Unlike sleepy Zell in the mid-60s, the town was now bustling with tourists. Zell is on the map because of a well-known vineyard by the name of Zeller Schwartze Katz, a cheap white wine of no pedigree. The town now also has a similar tinge. We were a bit disappointed but made the most of it.

The main street, lined with small restaurants and souvenir shops.

The main street, lined with small restaurants and souvenir shops.

The information office was clearly marked, but closed when we passed by.

The information office was clearly marked, but closed when we passed by.

Naturally, we enjoyed dinner and a glass of local wine, on the terrace overlooking the Moselle.

Naturally, we enjoyed dinner and a glass of local wine, on the terrace overlooking the Moselle.

A footbridge crosses the river from which good views could be had.

Bridge worth crossing

Bridge worth crossing

The other side

Zell stretches downriver.

Zell with the famous vineyard as background

Zell with the famous vineyard as background.

Proof that we were there.

Proof that we were there.

Now we are off to the big city life of Bonn on the Rhine, but not before hiking around some volcanic crater lakes. See you there.

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