With the Rhine River on one side, Vosges Mountain range on the other and about 10,000 miles of marked trails in between, Alsace beckons you to go out and explore. Many winemakers here feel a keen sense of connection with nature, evidenced through organic or biodynamic farming, as well as their love of outdoor adventure. Here, a few share their favorite spots to hike, bike, and ski.
Lunch and a Hike
Marie Zusslin is part of the 13th generation to run Domaine Valentin Zusslin, so you could say she knows the area.
“One of my best spots is around the lakes: Green Lake and White Lake, very close to Munster city,” she says. “Park at Auberge du Schantzwasen, take your hiking bag and walk five hours for a wonderful view—you can see the Mont Blanc summit sometimes.”
Don’t worry if five hours sounds like a long hike.
“After three hours, take a break in a traditional inn and have a lunch: soup, tourte (meat pie), roïgabrageldi et collet fumé (roasted potatoes and ham) with a nice Alsace Pinot Noir bottle,” says Zusslin. “Then to digest, you have to walk on the summit and smell this nice odor of the specific flora and hear the nice sound of the cow bells.”
Close to Home
At Trimbach, Pierre Trimbach and his brother handle the day-to-day business, which means that far flung exploration can be a challenge. Fortunately, he finds plenty to enjoy right where he is.
“I love walking in the vineyards in the fall, when colors are changing from bright green to yellow and orange,” he says. “When the weather is great, we can see the Black Forest in Germany and the Swiss Alps from the Clos Ste. Hune, our famed vineyards.
“In winter, I love skiing. I have toured the world for skiing, but recently have focused on teaching my favorite sport to my granddaughters Jeanne, six, and Emma, three, as I taught my daughters. Lac Blanc, Bagenelles, there are many beautiful places with magical views.”
Jean-Claude Rieflé, owner and winemaker of Domaine Rieflé, and his son Paul, in charge of sales, are both members of the French Alpine Club. They hike often in the Swiss Alps, but the local Vosges mountain ridge also offers beautiful spots to practice their preferred mountaineer sport: cross-country ski-touring.
A 30-minute drive from the winery drops them at the foot of the Grand Ballon, the highest summit of the Vosges. They call it “their local Kilimanjaro.” Climbing upward through magical winter forest scenery is a unique experience rewarded by nice downhill runs. And what about winter camping with friends, enjoying a cheese fondue with Alsace wine around the fire?
The Vosges mountains are really a four-season playground for everyone, the pair says. During summer, hiking and mountain biking are the most popular activities. The long haul hiking trail, Grande Randonnée No. 5 or Big Trail, from Amsterdam to Menton, crosses the ridge.
A Walk for Any Occasion
Nestled in the picturesque village of Kientzheim, Domaine Paul Blanck offers easy access to hiking trails, of which Philippe Blanck takes full advantage.
“Most of the time, I explore the Vosges on foot,” he says. “The valley of Kaysersberg offers varied landscapes which alternate vineyards and mountain landscapes. I often leave on foot from my house in Labaroche or from the winery in Kientzheim. The landscapes are beautiful and there are few walkers. The paths are very well marked and easy to access.”
Sometimes, he picks up some company on the way. “In Labaroche, I often meet deer, wild boar, roe deer,” says Blanck. “In Kaysersberg, from the top of the Schlossberg Grand Cru, the view of Kaysersberg is spectacular.”
But the real fun happens on the weekend.
“On Sundays, I have more time and can easily walk for five hours, touring the Wormsa Valley with the climb to the Hohneck,” he says. “The walk from the Wettstein pass to the Lac des Truites (Trout Lake) is rewarded by a meal at the farm inn of the Forlet, at the edge of the lake. The tour of the Petit Ballon in Wasserbourg is easy to do with children.
This article originally appeared in the February/March 2022 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!