In neighboring Dernau, we stopped first to visit Werner Näkel, owner of the Meyer-Näkel vineyard, and producer of the region's most highly-regarded red wines.
A former math teacher, Mr. Näkel left his profession to run the business that has been in his family for five generations.
Though production capacity is small 6.5 hectares yield just seven thousand cases per season on average he quickly developed a reputation for producing elegant and complex Spätburgunders with superior finish, according to the German wine magazine, Wein Sonderheft.
Quiet and well-informed, Mr. Näkel is happy to discuss his wine-making at length. However, due to high demand and low supply, he can only offer tastings for about one week in April, when the new years wines are ready to be sold.
Interestingly, he has presented his wines at tastings as far away as the Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. He also owns another 1300 hectares of vineyards in South Africa, which started producing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc wines about two years ago.
Owner: Werner Näkel
- 1997 Meyer-Näkel Frühburgunder QbA trocken
- 1997 Illusion Nr. 1 Spätburgunder Rosee Tafelwein trocken
Address: Hardtbergstrasse 20, 53507 Dernau, telephone +49/02643/1628, fax 3363
Our next tour, also in Dernau, was at Kreuzberg, founded in 1953 and run by Ludwig Kreuzberg, the youngest of three brothers, each of whom is deeply involved in the operations of the business.
Another brother, the gregarious Thomas, was our host for the afternoon, and from him we learned a great deal about the bureaucracy of wine growing in the Ahr Valley. Some years ago, the brothers' father wanted to experiment with Cabernet Sauvignon vines, but was denied government permission for no apparent reason other than that this type of grape had not been planted to date and therefore should not be introduced to the Ahr.
In spite of the state's denial, the senior Kreuzberg planted the new varietal and left his sons to deal later with the bureaucracy. Today, Ludwig has at last secured approval for the new wine and next year Kreuzberg will market the first Ahr Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
The winery's current speciality is the Frühburgunder (early pinot). And to prove to us that the wines age well, we were treated to a taste of the 1988 vintage. "They say these wines are best in six to eight years, but you can see it is still good ten years in the bottle," Thomas noted.
Owners: Ludwig Kreuzberg (with brothers Hermann Josef and Thomas)
- 1996 Kreuzberg Dornfelder QbA trocken
- 1997 Devon Spatburgunder QbA trocken Barrique
Address: Benedikt-Schmittmannstrasse 20, D-53507 Dernau, tel. +49/02643/16914, fax 3206
Open May-Oct. except Wednesday; Sun. from 10am, Sat from noon, Mon.-Fri. from 3pm. Has some guest rooms