Regardless of where we travel to, we always taste local wines during our time in the country. Sometimes we go on an actual wine tasting tour where we visit several vineyards and taste several of the varieties that they offer. Other times we seek out wine bars that specialize in serving local wines and then try a couple of different wines. Even if we don’t go to anyplace that specializes in wine, we’ll still ask the local restaurants about any wines that they would recommend from the region. We often find that the people that live there are extremely proud of their country’s wine traditions.
There are certain obvious places like France, Italy, Spain, and California in the US that not only offer wine tastings and tours, but often target tourists specifically to visit for their wine. However, we have been to many other countries that are not necessarily known for their wine and found that they have a wonderful wine tradition. Places like Peru, Panama, Egypt, Romania, and the Czech Republic all had wonderful selections. Obviously, Germany has many wonderful wines as well.
As we prepare to leave for Hungary and Slovakia in just a couple of days, we have learned that they also have a very proud tradition of wine. We have scheduled a wine tasting with a charcuterie and cheese board for one of the evenings during our stay. They are supposed to have several red and white wines that are excellent and we are looking forward to giving them a try. Have you ever been surprised to find good local wine during your travels?
Located just couple of hours outside of Frankfurt, we visited Hochheim for a quick day trip from the city. It is a small town surrounded by vineyards and still retains its medieval charm. It was early November and the town was holding its annual festival and market, so it was a lot busier than it normally would have been, but that also made it fun for us. It was a quick train ride from Frankfurt and since we had monthly passes for the train, we simply had to pay a little extra to get to the nearby town.
After walking up the hill from the train station past the vineyard and the church, we entered the town through its main gate. After walking the quiet streets for a few minutes, we found a nice Italian pizzeria called La Botte to grab some lunch and have a glass of beer and wine. After lunch we continued towards the heart of the town and quickly realized that we had come to Hochheim on the right weekend as the market was in full swing. We certainly weren’t the only ones who had decided to come to Hochheim for the day.
The Hochheim Market has been held since 1484 and is actually considered one of the biggest fairs in Germany. A combination of fair, market, and festival, there was plenty of food, gluhwein, crafts, and rides for the children. It is a seven day festival and market, which happened to just be starting. A banner for the local winery welcomed everyone into the market and it got busier and busier as the day went along. This would be the first of the many markets that we enjoyed during our time in Germany, so it has a special place in our hearts.
As the sun started going down and the crowds became overwhelming, we decided to find ourselves a pub to grab some dinner and a drink before heading back to Frankfurt. It was a quaint little place with signs from the 40’s and 50’s adorning the walls and ceiling. As with most places that we visited, the people were warm and welcoming, even with the language barriers. It is hard to believe that it has been almost two years to the day since we visited Hochheim. You can read about our initial thoughts about the Hochheim Market here.
During our recent trip to Carlsbad, we took the opportunity to spend a day in Temecula touring four different vineyards and wineries. Making the trip from Carlsbad to Temecula provides evidence as to why this area has become an important region for growing successful wine varieties. As you leave the foggy coast, you pass through one of the only passes that allows the moisture to get from the ocean and takes it straight towards Temecula. There, the sun heats up and the temperatures rise about twenty degrees higher than on the coast allowing the air to remain low in humidity despite having received the moisture. The grapes are very happy there.
The first of the wineries that we visited was that Robert Renzoni Vineyards. There we went on a walking tour of vineyard and learned more about the process of wine making while sipping on wine straight from the barrel. With a family that immigrated from Italy in 1914, the vineyard maintains strong ties to their Italian heritage. After the walking tour, we continued to a wine tasting with the option of tasting up to six wines per person and of course we tried as many as we could. We enjoyed the wine so much that we decided to join their wine club, picking one white and one red to be delivered the following week. Since we travel light, taking wine home on the plane was not an option since we just had carry-on bags.
From there we continued on to the Cougar Vineyard and Winery where we enjoyed a light lunch that was of course accompanied with your choice of white or red wine. Lunch was served in the barrel room, which was comfortable, although slightly cool. Afterwards, we went to the tasting room where we again had the opportunity to enjoy several samples of wine that vineyard offered. It was a beautiful day and we stepped outside to enjoy the beautiful views of the area. In addition to selling wines, all of the vineyards also specialized in hosting weddings, so that should be taken into account if you decide to visit on a Saturday. It wasn’t an issue for us as we did our tour on a weekday.
Third on the list to visit was a Lorimar Vineyards and Winery, which was founded by a brother and brother-in-law and the vineyards name is a combination of their first names. It is another Tuscan style winery, which seems to be the theme in Temecula, and it has a gorgeous building that houses its tasting room. Once again we were able to taste up to six wines, all of which were delicious. At most of the wineries, in addition to the tasting room, there is most likely going to be a gift store offering everything wine related, much of it fun and whimsical.
Our final stop was at the Callaway Vineyard and Winery. If that name sounds familiar, it is because it was founded by the owner of the company of the same name that is famous for making golf equipment. From what our guide told us, we can probably thank Ely Callaway for bringing vineyards to the Temecula area in the late 1960’s. It was probably the largest and most industrial of the vineyards that we visited, but the views of the valley were amazing. As we continued to taste another half-dozen wines a piece, we decided to purchase a couple of bottles to take back to our resort to enjoy during the rest of our trip.
For anyone visiting the Carlsbad or San Diego area, we would highly recommend going on a wine tasting tour. We prefer to let someone else do the driving for us when going on such a tour as visiting several wineries will result in having a few glasses of wine. With so many wineries to choose from, you could probably go back several times and visit different vineyards and wineries on each visit. Also, if you want to stay in Temecula, the town has a growing tourism scene with plenty of places to stay, many restaurants, and even a casino if that suits your interests.