Driving the Deutsche Weinstrasse

By the time we (translation: kids) got hungry, we were south of Neustadt.  We cruised through a couple of small towns and finally parked in Edenkoben to investigate some promising restaurants.  We checked the Hotel Pfälzer Hof’s menu, which featured local dishes such as flammkuchen (thin, crispy, pizza-like creation topped with crème fraîche, mild cheese, sautéed onions and tiny bacon chunks) and saumagen.  Hotel Pfälzer Hof proudly displays several awards commending its saumagen.  I recalled reading about “saumagen,” a regional specialty, in our guidebook, but, fortunately, or unfortunately, I didn’t recall what, exactly, saumagen was until I’d ordered a regional sample plate and downed a big chunk.  It was tasty, for the record.  And it’s haggis, Pfälzer-style.  “Sau” means, well, “sow” or “pig,” while “maugen” means “stomach.” 

Accordingly, saumagen is meat, vegetables, and potatoes, cooked together inside a pig’s stomach.  It really did taste good, rather like a very flavorful meatloaf, and our waitress seemed very happy that we enjoyed the local culinary specialty. 

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After our delicious meal, the next order of business was to find out where to buy the grauer burgunder wine (pinot gris) we’d ordered to accompany our lunch. It came from Weingut Gries, in the nearby town of Rhodt.  Off we went, driving slowly along the Weinstrasse until we found their sign.  I’ve done the jump-out-of-car-and-buy-wine thing many times, and I was pleasantly surprised by the friendly greeting I received here.  I explained, using my preschool German, that we’d just visited a local restaurant and wanted to buy more of the wine we’d enjoyed there.  A few minutes later, I had several bottles of wine in tow, at a very reasonable price.

October is new wine (“Neue Wein”) month in Germany.  All along the Deutsche Weinstrasse, you can stop at roadside stands and buy a liter or two of freshly-pressed new wine.  We followed signs for Neue Wein and discovered a large trailer with a display of fruit, vegetables, honey and tiny plastic wine cups.  I ended up purchasing a plastic container (“Flasche”) and a liter of new wine.  The wine was nearly clear, somewhat fizzy, and very, very sweet.  New wine only lasts a couple of days, at most, so it’s important to enjoy it right away.  We brought our flasche to our German friends and were happy to discover that they considered our impromptu gift a treat.  Many wineries celebrate the harvest with a festival of new wine; you can sample local treats, try last year’s wine and raise a glass to this year’s harvest.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.