If you live in the Wiesbaden or Darmstadt communities, you’re minutes from a midsummer night’s dream of wine, Rhine and star shine. Along the Rhinegau region below Wiesbaden, there are dozens of vineyards using good food as a marketing tool for their fine wines.

Decidedly on the refined end of the humble/highbrow continuum is Schloss Johannisberg, a regal estate above Geisenheim offering all sorts of facilities including a wine cellar and a restaurant/wine garden. In the raw-ther swanky restaurant/cafe, you choose between distinctly different interior seating areas, some formal, some fun. There’s an outside terrace overlooking the surrounding towns, the perfect panorama of hillside vineyards meandering to the Rhine.

The fairly limited menu — maybe 10 entrees and a few salads, soups and desserts — at first looks like just another German fisch und fliesch fest. But the food is expertly prepared. My first trip, I had the gebratene wispertaler fonelle — apparently German for really tasty fish. I had no idea what I was ordering. I just chose it at random, trying to convince my friend that I’m a sophisticated man of the world.

My friend chose his stroganoff at random. Both turned out to be super, though mine was 2 euros less expensive at 15 euros, including salad and potatoes. For libation, we chose one of the winery’s 2003 Rieslings, and it was fantastic, though pricey. Still, my portion of the tab was less than 25 euros.

Just outside the restaurant is a summer wine garden where the food is cheaper still. A basket of fresh pretzels cost 1.50 euros, or you can go for real food such as flannenkuchen for 6 euros. There are, of course, wurst and other German mainstays.

You can get a glass of champagne-like sparkling wine for 3.50, or Rieslings starting at 2.80 per glass. If you like what you taste, the cellar offers the estate-bottled wines priced from 5 euros to more than 100 euros.

The Schloss grounds and vineyard paths are a great place to walk off the alcohol and food. There are concerts during the summer. The place is incredibly popular, especially for corporate soirees.

A fallback plan is Johannisberger Hof, a little restaurant just below the Schloss in the center of Geisenheim. In fact, while Johannisberger Hof doesn’t have the Rhine view, the wine is better and crazy cheap. Try the 2005 Hallgartner Mehrolzchen Riesling for 1.80 euros per glass, or 4.30 euros per 1-liter bottle. My wife, Cheryl, and I had dinner there recently, and the entire bill came to 45 euros with dinner AND four to-go bottles of that Riesling.

The staffs at both places are incredibly gracious. But there’s something about the elegance of Schloss Johannisberg that makes you feel like a man of the world, even if you’re taking the bus home.

As always, if you drink, do so responsibly. Don’t drink and drive.

Schloss Johannisberg

Geisenheim, Germany

Prices: from 1.5 euros for snacks to 17 euros for entrees. Wine starts at 2.80 per glass.

Appropriate dress: Can be anything from the “German hiker” look to suits.

Location: Geisenheim, just outside the tourist town of Rüdesheim. Take Autobahn 66 toward Rüdesheim, exiting at Eltville into B42 toward Rüdesheim. Look for the Geisenheim exit, and follow the signs up to Schloss Johannisberg.

Hours: Open for lunch and dinner till about midnight.


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