As we turned off the road and into the orchard, my gaze broke from the rugged alpine peaks in the distance. Adolf had started speaking and I looked to the front of the carriage to listen as he leaned over his shoulder: “And these apples get sold all over the world…” he explained, tipping his wide-brimmed felt hat towards the stout trees on our right.
A view of the valley from a room in Hotel Weinberg.
The crisp fall air and blue morning’s sky colluded with the rhythm of the horses, lulling me into a trance. We turned another corner, taking us into a vineyard. Neat rows of terraced vines framed the path, pulling my eyes down to the valley below. The gently rolling hills were covered with a layer of green leaves that danced in the light breeze and shimmered in the sun. This land had provided wine for generations. I took a deep breath; this was exactly where I wanted to be.
The carriage pulled into a block of buildings surrounded by the vineyard. We had arrived at a German-style Schnapps distillery for an early morning sampling of a local tradition. I chose an unfamiliar herb-based spirit for my first taste and the woman behind the counter poured me a generous glass. A surge of energy moved through my veins, warming my cool cheeks. The connection with the land was so potent here, and with the fruits of last year’s harvest coursing through me, it became clear how disconnected I had become from my food through the sterile confines of my local grocery store.
We continued down rows of wine grapes, finally stopping in the parking lot of a winery for a tasting. As we disembarked the carriage tractors puttered past us as they returned from the vineyards, pulling long trains of wagons stacked over the brim with plump grapes.
This was Adolf’s world, the collection of municipalities along the Weinstraße (Wine Street), the crown jewels of the “Provincia autonoma di Bolzano” (one of two provinces that make up the celebrated Northern Italian region of Südtirol). The wineries of the Weinstraße are the heart of Südtirol’s wine production, and although we were in Italy, it was German that Adolf spoke to us, illustrating the intriguing distinction of this region. It is a culture that blends the best of both Italian and Germanic roots into their tradition of alpine winemaking.
The towns of the Weinstraße host an abundance of Pensions (guest houses) and Hotels and I chose the Hotel Weinberg in St. Pauls, home of the “Cathedral in the Country”. Hotel Weinberg sits overlooking the expansive valley containing the Weinstraße. I gazed out of the arched window in my room, and through the vineyards, three hundred meters to my front an outcropping of forested rock held up the ruins of an ancient castle like a statue on a pedestal. Such an amazing view can scarcely be described as anything but breathtaking and is characteristic of the beauty this place exudes without effort.
An ancient castle as viewed from the Hotel Weinberg.