I found myself intrigued by a lovely opportunity to go on a wine tour! I was promised that such a trip would reveal a wealth of hidden history in the region.
A local retired wine maker greeted us in the morning. Our first stop was in front of the Johanneskirche and we were introduced to the interesting history of Princess Marianne (Wilhelmina Frederika Louise Charlotte Marianne). She was a woman of means and enjoyed the freedom her wealth brought her. Although this also meant a great deal of isolation, she did end up being responsible for Erbach becoming the center of culture. When the princess lost her 12 year old son to pneumonia she founded a Protestant church. Today her home is a 5 star Hotel (Schloss Reinhartshausen) and her collections are on display in the ballroom.
Now I want to say it was also said that a Prussian general had followed her here. He was also wealthy and ended up leaving his estate to the state on the provision that it was to be used for the public welfare. It was pointed out to us a retirement/disabled home where the residents worked at the winery in return for their care. Since I have seen similar arrangements (such as the Domane Mechtildshausen) this did not seem far fetched. However I feel like I maybe mixing up this story and I cannot recall the name of the establishment. Which means I will have to come back and take another look.
We then were brought to Kloster Eberbach and explored the wine cellars and the life of a monastery…
We stretched our legs at the top of the next hill… Where the Greiffenclau (GriffinClaw) family had inherited the beautiful Schloss Vollrads estate from the Knights or Lords of Winkel (Radus or Angle). Sadly in 1997 the estate was unable to recover from the debts amassed and when the owner faced bankruptcy, he committed suicide. Since then the bank took over and has continued the legacy.
The Schloss Johannisberg was another charming location to visit for different reasons. Here we found a statue that honored a courier who was delayed in delivering the official orders to harvest the grapes. When he finally arrived the grapes had succumbed to rot. They did not want it to go to waste even if it was considered bad wine… instead by pushing forward it was discovered that a late harvest can bring about a high quality wine (Spätlese Riesling)!
There is apparently a treasure trove of wines in the cellar. We did not stay long to confirm this but a quick peek in the wine shop and the prices for even the smallest bottle leads me to believe they hold their selection in high regard.
A hop skip and away we went to the Rheingauer Dom in Geisenheim which was built by the same architect who built the the church in the Luisenplatz area (St. Bonifatius) and the Russian Orthodox church (St. Elizabeth) in Wiesbaden.
Finally we retreated to the town of Oestrich-Winkel (East-Angle) where the Graues Haus was the first home of the Greiffenclau family (Schloss Vollrads) and later a resident for their staff. We visited the pride of the town -a local chapel and then we were treated to a lovely home cooked meal. The most desirable part for me was the champagne soup! When I asked about it I was told that it began as a humble meal for monks.
At last we said our goodbyes to our host and made our way home. The day was certainly made memorable by his personal knowledge of the area! Without realizing it I began to understand the impact wine had on the culture and the country… it was more than a form of payment. It was a way of life. If you weren’t drinking your daily bottle of wine, you were failing your countrymen!