Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Ich bin ein Grape Nut - Germany wrap-up

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On this glorious sunny Winnipeg Sunday, I look back at the last few days of my trip with nothing but Riesling-fueled fondness...Now, where I did I leave off? Oh yes, Thursday, we biked along the Mosel river to Bernkastel-Rues, a gorgeous, tourist-magnet town. There we traded our bikes for glasses, and sat down to sample the wines of Weingut Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler/Peter Nicolay. Fourteen Rieslings were tasted before we set out on our separate ways for a couple of hours of free time (which I spent searching for a gift for my wife, with no success). Next up was Selbach-Oster, where we hiked up into the vineyards (WAY up the hillside... at least for this flatlander) and managed to get a first-hand look at the vineyard's layered slate soil. We then headed back down the hill for a tasting, where we had my favourite wine of the trip, a 1976 Zeltlinger Schlossberg Auslese. I was rating the wines I tasted out of 100 (mostly for personal reference), and gave this one a 97.Later than night we went on a tour of the Moselland facilities, a massive winemaking and bottling facility that was in stark contrast to the smaller, older wineries that dominated the trip. It was a great reminder of the varieties of ways in which German wines (and wines everywhere, for that matter), are produced, and the head winemaker and Export manager joined us for a fabulous dinner and tasting at our hotel later that night.Friday: The last full day of the trip started at Schlossgut Diel, where we arrived to find the Canadian flag flying atop their castle's turret - a nice touch. Along with a nice sparkling wine (and, of course, the mandatory pile of Riesling), we tried a stellar Pinot Noir called Cuvee Caroline (sadly, not available here - we weren't even able to buy one at the winery). From there we drove to Oberwesel and hopped on the "Goethe", a paddle steamer named after the 17th/18th century German author.This segment of the Rhine river is the most dramatic to see: steep slopes covered in vines, towns stringing the riverside, and castles in various states dotting the hillside. It's truly breathtaking, and no words (or pictures, for that matter... I tried my best) can capture its stunning beauty. Our final tasting of the tour was at Kruger-Rumpf, where we also had dinner (schnitzel and, you guessed it, asparagus - this time in a salad format). Friday night was spent over many beers at a local tavern in Bingen.Saturday morning came too early, and we packed up and headed for the airport for our long trips home (two to Vancouver, four to Toronto, and me to Winnipeg via Toronto). I managed to get through customs without having to pay any duty on the wines I acquired, although my box ended up on the carousel in the Winnipeg airport slightly flatter than when I packed it... three of my eleven bottles fell victim to that Toronto-Winnipeg flight. I guess it was justice served for not having to pay duty. Oh well.I can't thank the following people enough for making this trip so fabulous: my traveling companions (Tim, Daenna, Eric, Anton, and Sara), the German Wine Institute folks (Ron and Andreas), and Stefan, our fabulous driver. All the winemakers/wineries we visited were also extremely friendly and accommodating.I don't think I forgot anything or anyone, but I'll pore over my unsightly notes and double check. But for now, I think I'll take a bit of a break from Riesling, asparagus, and even beer for a few days, and try to work off my Riesling gut...

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About Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

When he wasn't bashing on a drum kit in local punk rock bands, Ben spent the mid '90s hucking cases of wine around to pay for two English degrees. Now he's the Winnipeg Free Press wine columnist and blogger.

The extent of Ben's wine experience in the mid-90s was memories of accidentally leaving a bottle of White Zinfandel in the freezer overnight, and the ensuing mess he was left with. Between 1996 and 2005 Ben absorbed all he could about wine while working at wine shops to pay for school. Meanwhile, he was churning out papers for his BA and MA in English (from the Universities of Winnipeg and Manitoba, respectively).

Ben became the Winnipeg Free Press' weekly wine columnist in 2005, and two years later joined Wine Access magazine as a contributor, a member of their national tasting panel and a judge at the Canadian Wine Awards and International Value Wine Awards until the magazine closed up shop in 2013.

In 2013 Ben joined the Winnipeg Free Press as a copy/web editor.

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