Lastly, in Heppingen, where the valley widens into gentler, rolling hills, we toured Weingut Burggarten, courtesy of vintner, Paul Schäfer. His family has owned the business since 1880.
Alles ber Wein named Burggarten its "discovery of the year" based on the property's 1996 wines. From 15 hectares of vines, Mr. Schfer produces 70 percent Spätburgunder plus some Portugieser, Dornfelder, Dominar, and Frühburgunder reds.
For the past two years in July, Burggarten has hosted a tasting event with two other wineries along six kilometers of the Rotwein Wanderweg (red wine path). The day includes music, food, and a tasting from each of the three wineries.
Mr. Schäfer is happy to arrange tastings and cellar tours from spring to early fall. In addition, a wine pub is open from 3pm every day except Monday during the months of September and October.
Owner: Paul Schäfer
- Heppinger Burggarten Spätburgunder Weissherbst Qualittswein-trocken, Neuenahrer Sonnenberg Frühburgunder Rotwein Qualittswein-Trocken.
Address: Landskrone Strasse 110, Heppingen, tel. +49/02641/7011, fax 7013
A few sights we missed at this lower end of the valley include the Landskrone, which provides a spectacular view of the valley, plus a 1,000-year-old chapel and the ruins of Burg Landskrone, built in 1205 by Philip von Schwabeen as a romantic home for his bride.
In the Heimersheim Market Square, the late Romanesque St. Auritius Church houses the oldest (13th century) stained glass windows in Germany.
An afternoon side trip that would be of interest to porcelain doll enthusiasts is to Bad Breisig (15 minutes by car from Heppingen). Here, in the old Rathaus, is a museum which displays 400 dolls from the second half of the 19th century to the end of the 1930s. Open daily except Monday: 10-12 and 3-5pm. Cost, about $3. Tel. +49/02633/9425.
The Ahr Valleys present-day vintners, we concluded, are a new and energetic generation of wine-makers who seem to have delicately balanced both the hobby and commercial aspects of their businesses.
Each is unique in personality and experience, and together they comprise a lively, industrious, and memorable community. Their main concern is simple; in the current market conditions, demand far outweighs supply. And the combination of European Union and German regulations make it impossible to plant more grapes.
"I cannot hold wine tastings here because I have no more wine left," laments Mr. Näkel, even though the prices of his prize-winning Spätburgunders continue to rise.