September 20th, 2019

Electric-assist wining and dining

By Steve MacNaull on June 29, 2019.

Photo by Claudia Lewerenz
Reporter Steve MacNaull cycled through Rheingau's vineyards on an e-bike.

Half-way up the impossibly steep hill to Schloss Johannisberg, I’m silently rejoicing I opted for an e-bike.

Originally, the plan was for a leisurely pedal on a commuter bike through vineyards in Germany’s Rheingau wine region.

But when I meet my guide, Claudia Lewerenz, at Radkranz Bike Rental in Rudesheim, she’s already picked out an electric-assist model for herself.

She, and the guy manning the rental shop, implore me to do the same.

I’ve been wanting to show off my cycling prowess and initially refuse, then waver and ultimately capitulate when Claudia convinces me I can take the e-bike and not use the motor unless absoluely necessary.

I agree, but I’m stubbornly ready to prove a point and cycle the 50-kilometre round trip without activating the electric-assist.

Yet here I am, at the first sight of an incline, hitting the eco boost, then the standard assist and finally kicking it into high for the ultimate in cycling rescue.

Claudia doesn’t let on I succumbed to the motorized help, and neither do I.

After all, we’ve arrived at the top of the hill unwinded and ready to taste at Schloss Johannisberg, the oldest all-Riesling-and-the-time winery in the world dating back to 1720.

Johannisberg’s sprawling yellow castle is impressive.

So are the three wines we sip and the view of vineyards, the Rheingau valley and the River Rhine snaking through the middle of it.

Rheingau is renowned Riesling wine country an hour train ride west of Frankfurt that hugs the north shore of the Rhine.

Through the Rheingau, the Rhine flows west-east, instead of the usual north-south, creating a unique micro-climate that Riesling grapes adore.

I planned this excursion not just because I love to bike, but Riesling is my favourite and Rheingau is all vineyard, hillside, castle and river eye candy, especially in the sunshine.

Riesling often gets a bad rap as too sweet.

There’s certainly that style, but there’s also an abundance of Rieslings done dry, or as the Germans call it, trocken.

We take the trocken test again at our next stop, Schloss Vollrads, and order glasses of the 2015 Riesling Trocken Sekt (the German term for sparkling wine).

It’s dreamy enjoying the bubbles on the schloss’ (winery’s) winegarden (patio) while gazing at the moat-surrounded Water Castle.

Thankfully, the next section of ride is downhill, through vineyards, to the Rhine, so we can lunch waterside in Hattenheim at Rhein Schanke on chicken schnitzel and salad, with, of course, a glass of trocken Riesling from nearby Karl Jon Molitor Winery.

It’s back up hill after lunch, with unabashed electric assist, past more vineyards and Eberbach Monastery before another long downhill to the winegarden of the eptoymous winery owned by Baron Frederik Knyphausen.

Here we switch it up and enjoy glasses of 2018 Spatburgunder Rose.

Sated with wine and sunshine, we pedal the long ride back on the flat and scenic path along the Rhine.

My base in Rheingau is Zum Grunen Kranz, a 60-room hotel that spans four historic buildings in centre of Rudesheim.

The hotel also owns the bike rental agency Radkranz, so you can pick up wheels to do a self-guided or guided tour on what the Germans have efficiently named the R3A, but is also known as the more wine-centric Spatlesereiter Bike Route.

Also in Rudesheim, I enjoy a dinner of ham and white asparagus (a very German dish) at Hotel Lindenwirt with Rheingau wine princess Sophie Egert to discuss Riesling and her plans to become a winemaker.

The next night I meet up with wine tour operator Walter Schonleber for dinner at Zum Krug in Hattenheim, where owner-chef-sommelier Josef Laufer takes us through a tasting menu with four Rieslings and two Rheingau Pinot Noirs.

Air Canada flies non-stop between Frankfurt and Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary.

For further information go online to Rheingau.com and Germany.Travel

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