Straddling the foothills of the Vosges Mountains west of the Rhine Valley, the Alsace Wine Route connects a succession of charming old villages. Starting south of Sélestat (28 miles south of Strasbourg), the upper Route des Vins d’Alsace wends through vineyards and pretty wine towns such as Obernai, Bergheim, Turckheim, Eguisheim and Rouffach. Two of the most popular stops are Ribeauvillé, the medieval market center for Trimbach wines, and Riquewihr, a 16th-century walled hamlet that also contains the well-respected wine houses of Dopff au Moulin, Dopff & Irion and the venerable Hugel & Fils. Also worth touring: Kaysersberg, filled with a wealth of 16th-century dwellings, and Colmar, with its picturesque old quarter and colorful floral displays.
Favorite small wineries include Vincent Stoeffler, Domaine Wach, Domaine Weinbach and Jean-Baptiste Adam (make appointments for tastings in advance). En route, purchase the helpful Recta Foldex tourist map of Alsace, which outlines the Route des Vins and briefly describes the communes, festivals and sites to visit along the way. Be forewarned: The circuitous wine road is not especially well-signposted.
The Musée Alsacien in Strasbourg is a fascinating introduction to the complex history of Alsace. Many people mistakenly conclude that Alsace is just a hybrid of French and German cultures, when the region actually has a rich and distinctive identity of its own. Occupying three restored Renaissance houses, the museum displays furniture, pottery, artisan’s tools, clothing, toys and religious objects in reconstructed interiors that are typical of Alsace’s regions.
Winstubs are cozy, publike places that serve traditional comfort dishes — notably onion tart and choucroute garnie — and local wines poured by the glass, carafe or bottle. My personal favorite in Strasbourg is Au Pont du Corbeau for its friendly, apron-wearing waitresses and dishes such as grilled pork knuckle, which is well-accompanied by a pitcher of Domaine Dreyer Pinot Noir. Other good choices there are L’Ami Schutz , Le Clou, Chez Yvonne, Le Tire-Bouchon and Muensterstuewel.
Colmar Wine Bar
Our favorite wine bar in Colmar, Le Cercle des Arômes, is quite compact, with a handful of tables inside and a small patio fronting a quiet pedestrianized street. But the friendly bar has some 180 wines by the glass, including 86 options from Alsace alone, if we counted correctly.
Château in the Vosges Mountains
A 50-minute drive from Strasbourg in the Vosges Mountains is the towering Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg. This fairy-tale castle perched on a hill with scenic views of the Alsatian Rhine plains was classified as a national historic site in the early ’90s. Visit midweek in the morning to avoid crowds.