Every wine guy needs at least one wine region that's just for play. Alsace is mine. During my buying trips to Germany, I always slip across the Rhine to taste the drier, fuller-bodied Rieslings, Gewürztraminers, Pinot Blancs, Pinot Gris, Sylvaners and Muscats from the lower slopes of the Vosges mountains. The inconceivably pretty villages on the wine route between Strasbourg and Mulhouse are chockablock with simple places where locals come to eat hearty fare--potatoes, cabbage and pork every which way, pungent Munster cheese, damson plum tarts. But there are also some truly celestial restaurants where wine guys on vacation can sip a glass of aromatic Muscat before a dinner as delicate and brilliant as anything in Paris.
André-Rémy Gresser 2 Rue de l'Ecole, Andlau, 03-88-08-95-88. Racy, mineral wines from a distinguished proponent of terroir. Don't miss the Rieslings.
Rolly Gassman 1-2 Rue de l'Eglise,Rorschwihr, 03-89-73-63-28. Wines of explosive fruit and purity. Stellar Muscat.
Hugel et Fils 3 Rue 1ère Armée Française, Riquewihr, 03-89-47-92-15. Benchmark Alsatian wines available stateside. Reliable, weighty and classical.
Domaine Paul Blanck & Fils 32 Grand-Rue, Kientzheim, 03-89-78-23-56. A warm welcome and a large assortment of wines, particularly fine at the special cuvée level. The local soil favors Riesling.
Albert Boxler 78 Rue des Trois-Epis, Niedermorschwihr, 03-89-27-11-32. A modest grower whose best cuvées take Alsace wine as far as it can go: intense, profound, drenched with terroir.
JosMeyer 76 Rue Clemenceau, Wintzenheim, 03-89-27-91-90. Reserved, classy wines--especially Riesling and Pinot Blanc--from an imaginative winemaker.
Bruno Sorg 8 Rue Monseigneur Stumpf, Eguisheim, 03-89-41-80-85. Stern, dry and powerful wines; the grand cru Riesling and Muscat are among Alsace's best.
Lucien Albrecht 9 Grand-Rue, Orschwihr, 03-89-76-95-18. Juicy, rich wines. Great source of Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer.
WHERE TO STAY
Zinck Hotel 13 Rue de la Marne, Andlau, 03-88-08-27-30. Converted old flour mill that's original, even quirky, with each room decorated differently.
Hostellerie l'Abbaye d'Alspach 2 Rue Maréchal-Foch, Kientzheim, 03-89-47- 16-00. Half-timbered converted abbey with small but lovely rooms.
Grand Hôtel Bristol 7 Place de la Gare, Colmar, 03-89-23-59-59. A truly quintessential provincial French hotel.
WHERE TO EAT
Restaurant à l'Ami Fritz 8 Rue des Châteaux, Ottrott, 03-88-95-80-81. Winstub (Alsatian wine bar) serving refined and hearty regional cooking; reasonably priced rooms also available.
Winstub du Sommelier 51 Grand-Rue, Bergheim, 03-89-73-69-99. Superb country food. Great wine list. Worth the journey for the mushroom quiche alone.
Caveau Morakopf 7 Rue des Trois-Epis,Niedermorschwihr, 03-89-27-05-10. Oneof the most charming winstubs; beloved by local winemakers. Regional cooking.
Auberge Schoenenbourg 2 Rue de la Piscine, Riquewihr; restaurant 03-89-47-92-28; hotel 03-89-49-01-11. A Michelin-starred restaurant with creative cuisine and a hotel with functional rooms; both create a welcoming atmosphere.
Husseren-les-Châteaux Rue du Schlossberg, Husseren-les-Châteaux, 03-89-49-22-93. Fine cuisine, great views and comfy rooms.