Saturday September 30th – Day 8, Wehlen, Bernkastel-Kues, Lieser, Minheim, Piesport, Trittenheim, Urzig
After the brilliant weather all week we woke up to rain and grey skies on Saturday morning, but that was OK, as we were off on the wine trail again. That morning we were – or at least we thought we were – booked in to visit S A Prum in Wehlen. This was on the back of having drunk their wines at Roux in Parliament Square back in May.
We got there to find we weren’t expected, which was my fault as I’d got the date wrong but it was no matter. Raimund handed us over to his daughter Saskia, who runs the vineyard these days, having taken over the business in July this year, the first woman in the history of the business to be in charge. She was assisted and hindered in equal parts by the delightfully friendly dog, and she took us on a quick tour of the premises where we could see just how far advanced the 2017 harvest was. I can now say there’s nothing like sticking your head into a vat of rapidly fermenting grapes to make your eyes water!
We tasted several wines, asked loads of questions, and bought several boxes of wine before heading off towards the next destination. We planned to head for Minheim in pursuit of an orange wine that we’d drunk in Helsinki in August. The waiting staff at Juuri had kindly transcribed the address of the winery from the label on the bottle and I was keen to try and track some down.
We got side-tracked in Bernkastel-Kues however, where the advertised 67th Gruener Mosel Pokal regatta was taking place. There were dozens of boats, in various configurations, so we pottered over the bridge to take a look and see if we could establish what was long distance about it.
It was clearly a well attended event with crews from all over Europe, and even several from Australia, the University of Melbourne Boat Club featuring prominently in the commentary. We had a certain amount of fun listening to the coxes yelling at the crews, until we decided to get on with the day’s plan.
The rain had eased off but then it started up again, so we retreated into a cafe for a quick coffee, before setting off in the direction of Minheim. Again, we could have gone the short, fast way, but even in the rain it was more interesting to follow the river from one side to the other as we tracked the meanders. And if we hadn’t done that, we’d not have stumbled across Schloss Lieser, in the village of Lieser. It seemed to be undergoing some sort of renovation work, and at the time no amount of digging was bringing anything useful to light (though it has since – it’s apparently going to be an hotel). It’s incredibly over the top and I think I want to move in!
Further along the river we finally found Minheim, which was not living up to its label of the sunshine island in the slightest! It was tipping down and we couldn’t find anyone anywhere who wanted to sell us any wine at all – the were all flat-out with the harvesting. This was interesting because at Prum’s, Saskia had told us they weren’t picking in the rain and would wait for the better weather forecast for Sunday. By contrast at Minheim the impression was that everyone was too busy to sell anyone anything possibly ever again! We gave up at that point and left the workers cursing the rain, and decided to see if we could find an open Weingut anywhere. We did, but not in Minheim.
It was as we headed through Piesport that we hit the jackpot for the afternoon, at Weingut Manfred BreitWeingut Manfred Breit, the owner proving to be another of the new generation of young wine makers now making their mark up and down the valley. He also spoke excellent English and was able to tell us a lot about both his wines and the current harvest, saying that they had been worried in August that the grapes weren’t ripening. A spell of good weather had then arrived and suddenly it was all systems go out there, a good three weeks early. We rewarded him by buying some rather splendid red wine before trundling on to Trittenheim, by which time it was even colder and damper outside.
We decided at that point that a glass of wine and some food would be preferable to stomping about outside in the rain. We discovered the Gutshotel Galerie Riesling and drank a rather nice Trittenheimer Apotheke, to accompany a Tafelspitz, which was delicious (if somewhat larger than we could cope with).
The new owner’s of the place has apparently only recently moved in, and so buying a handful of bottles of the wine we’d just drunk proved slightly more complicated than you might expect (well, it did if you believe in German efficiency; I know it’s just a myth, my Dad was the least efficient man on the planet). I do also wonder if their next job might be to redo the customer loos, which were very much a case of “1970s called! Want their decor back!”
After a while the rain seemed to be easing somewhat, so we set off back towards Zeltingen, although it seemed unlikely to stop. We were on our way through Piesport going the other way when we realised the Tourist Information office was open, so we called in to get some leaflets, and to buy tickets for an event that was part of the wine festival to be held in Piesport the following day, and then drove back to Bernkastel, having decided we would drive up to the ruins of the castle, Burg Landshut, above the town.
It’s a bit of a scramble from the car park up to the castle, but even in the rain it looked like it would be worth it. The views, even on a grey, dank day, were spectacular, all the way down the river for some considerable distance.
There’s definitely been a castle here since the 9th century, with the now ruined building dating from 1277, built probably by Archbishop Heinrich von Vinstingen and his successor, Boemund. The castle, which must have been quite splendid in its day, was destroyed by fire in 1692, and has been a picturesque ruin since then. The tower is relatively intact, and the courtyard now contains a restaurant and a café, the former with massive picture windows looking out over the river towards the hills and forests in the distance. It was just a shame the weather wasn’t cooperating with us.
On the way down we stopped off at the tiny Tinkelkapelle, a very small chapel to Mary on the steep path back down to the valley, above a waterfall. There are suggestions that the site is pre-Christian, as there are similar sites throughout the Trier area and they are often called something like “Hinkelsteine” (or “Hinkelstein” or “Hinkelhaus” in the Ruwer valley). The local dialect translates that to “det Hinkel”, and over time that has shortened by way of “‘t Hinkel” or “Thinkel” and finally “Tinkel”.
It was time after that to retreat back to the house to clean up, change and head out for dinner.
That evening we were booked in to Oliver’s at the Hotel Moselschild in Urzig for dinner. We’ve been before and he’s never let us down, so we were pretty confident that all would be well. On the other hand, the Zeltinger Hof had failed us earlier in the week. We arrived in good time, and were shown to a very nice table with a good view of the room.
After a short study of the menu – while nibbling on bread and a home-made meat salad – we decided that we would put ourselves in Oliver’s capable hands and go for the Autumn menu, which was full of things we love a lot.
The first course was a terrine of goose liver with an apple with brioche, and an apple and fennel salad, and pear chutney. It was very smooth, very rich, and the salad was refreshingly sharp, especially when contrasted with the sticky sweetness of the chutney.
This was followed by a lovely, smooth Hokaido pumpkin cream soup, with a crayfish won ton and pumpkin seed oil.
A sorbet arrived to cleanse our palates, something it did with notable success. It was followed by more autumnal flavours, a splendid pink-cooked saddle of venison, on hispi cabbage, with cauliflower, pumpkin, potato croquettes and cranberry sauce.
We were starting to fill up in that way we were coming to recognise but there was still dessert to come. Meanwhile the Bulgarian waitress was proving very friendly, very entertaining, and lovely. She seemed to have taken to us too, saying that sometimes the guests were a bit stand-offish, but that we weren’t.
Didn’t stop her trying to kill us with food though! The piece de resistance was a honey and passionfruit mousse tart with a carrot tuile, and a Tonka bean ice cream. It was lovely, the carrot providing an interesting level of sweetness to an already interesting dish.
It was pleasing to note that Oliver hasn’t lost his touch at all, despite the four-year gap since we’d last visited. We were very happy, and quite content to take the short drive home to the house for our last night in Zeltingen.