Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Two stories - A great sparkling wine for under $20, actually, under $4, and great place to eat on the Rhine River if you look trustworthy

First, I love not knowing the price of wine I drink because it allows me to taste the wine without any preconceived notion created by its price. Sometimes when I find out the price I am disappointed that so much was spent on something so dismal. At other, better, times, I am blown away with how wonderful a wine is at such a reasonable price.

Elke, a friend of ours brought three bottles of Schloss Biebrich Sekt (Sekt means sparkling in German) to us on New Year’s Eve. As she is from Germany, her bringing a German sparkler was apropos. Germans drink more sparking wine per capita than anyone else, and, along with their fame in white wines, it only makes sense that a German sparkling wine should be good.

The Schloss Biebrich Sekt Elke gave us compares to any under $20 sparkling wine in taste and at $3.99 at Trader Joe’s it is an extraordinary value.

As you can see from the label, it is a serious looking wine, as well.

It is made outside of Wiesbaden, Germany where there is a castle named Schloss Biebrich, which is pictured on the label. Wiesbaden is a great place to start visiting the vineyards of the Rhine River Valley. It is 30 minutes from Frankfurt airport and a world away from the commercially-oriented Frankfurt.

My favorite memory of the Rhine River wine region was when we were trying to find a suitable place for lunch with a view of the Rhine River one fall day several years ago. We kept driving up to likely looking restaurants and I would jump out of the car and open the door of the restaurant only to find it jam-packed with Germans – imagine that!

After going through all of the restaurants in three little towns, all packed with Germans eating lunch, we saw a sign for the town of Piesporter. I headed for it because Toni and I (mostly I) drank gallons of Piesporter Goldtropfchen, an easy to drink, pleasant, low-alcohol, low priced German white wine, when we were younger.

On the way, up the hill from the Rhine River Road to Piesporter, we saw a small hotel; that advertised a restaurant, the Burg Schwarzenstein. As you can see the hotel sits among the vineyards and, as you might imagine, the restaurant is something very special.

We sat by the window looking at the vineyards and the Rhine beyond and made friends with our waiter who was excited that we were Americans so that he could practice his English. He explained that all of their wines were grown on the estate and suggested a variety of wines over the course of a two-hour lunch that culminated in our drinking wonderful sparkling wine, the first German sparkler I had ever tasted.

After our wonderful meal, we were presented with an appropriately large check for all of the wine, food and fun for the four of us. My friend Dennis and I fought to be the first to hand the waiter our credit card, but he told us that they did not take credit cards, only cash. As the bill was several hundred dollars, in German Marks of course, we told him that we did not think we had enough cash to pay for the meal, as we always used credit cards.

The waiter told us that our lack of cash was not a problem as we could write a check for our lunch. We explained that we did not have a German bank account, as we lived in Chicago. He said that they would gladly take a US check from us, as we seemed like such nice, trustworthy people.

As luck would have it, we were able to find enough German Marks between us to pay for our lunch and we left with a wonderful memory of German sparkling wine and German hospitality.

Happy New Year, Jeff

P.S. Just so you know, we do take credit cards at
Ashley's Big Secret and we have a great selection of gifts you can give yourself. After the holidays, you deserve a gift, or two, or three. You have been nice to everyone else, now be nice to you.

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