When in Central/Eastern Europe…….. every town, city and country is extremely close and only a train ride away. Consequently, we struggled with where to go after Vienna. Should we hop on a one hour train east to Bratislava, Slovakia or perhaps travel west to Salzburg, Austria where “The Sound of Music” was set? In the wee hours of the morning, we decided on a quiet countryside setting in the Moravian wine country of the Czech Republic (CZ). While the Moravian Region is off the tourist radar, it’s known nationally as the best wine producing region in CZ. As it’s only a 1.5 hour train ride north of Vienna, it was a no brainer for our first stop in CZ….. before having to get to Prague by June 30th for Pearl Jam.
Mikulov & Moravian Wine Villages
There are a handful of small wine villages across the region, however we chose the town of Mikulov for its centrality, excellent cycling reputation and Jewish history. Upon walking down Mikoluv’s cobbled-stoned main road, we arrived at the most charming town square centered around lovely Baroque & Renaissance building facades. It was hard not to take a photo from every angle, as each view provided a unique perspective of the square. The backdrop is simply breathtaking with stone-edged mountains, chapel top hills, and village rooftops spanning the horizon. The town is mysteriously quiet and it’s quite easy to lounge in one of the squares and hear only the trickling of fountains or birds passing by.
A short walk up hill from the main square is the restored Mikulov Chateau Castle and grounds. An easy walk up the trail offers breathtaking views of the town and surrounding hills of the countryside. Around the corner from the Castle is the site of Mikulov’s old Synagogue (now used for exhibitions) and Jewish quarter. As in most cities we’ve visited across Eastern Europe… while there are no Jews currently living in Mikulov there was once a thriving Jewish community.
The fact that Mikulov is off the tourist radar is a blessing and a curse. As a traveler you are always looking for that special place away from the masses and Mikulov is most certainly one of those hidden gems. Consequently, there is practically no information in English nor does anyone in the village, including the Tourist Center, speak enough English to inform you about the region. We were particularly interested in cycling through the wine country and stopping off at local wineries that offered tasting opportunities. Despite speaking with several locals, we were unable to circumvent any information on how the CZ wineries operate or where to go.
Moravian Wine Country Adventure
In spite of our unawareness of the region, we ambitiously set out on our cycling wine adventure through the countryside. We decided on a 38 km loop passing through five wine villages. Breclav was the first village on the route. We had found a compelling brochure for “” that showcased the father and son cultivating their family grapes. After getting directions from a few friendly locals, we finally found the winery which turned out to be the winemakers home on a residential street in Breclav. We knocked on their door but there was no answer. Luckily, right next door was another house with a small sign outside “Kern Winery”. We knocked and a young guy answered the door. He looked a bit puzzled as we asked if he was open and if we could do a wine tasting.
Kern Family Vinarstvi
Although there was confusion between the language and the question of wine tasting, the winemaker (Dave Kern) was very eager to welcome us into his home. We entered the dark front room with a rear bar, a small showcase of Kern Wine and a few family members sitting at the table eating their lunch. Dave pointed out his different varietals of wine and explained due to the region’s climate, white wine production is more prominent than red. While we love our reds, we decided to taste three whites (Czech style Riesling, Central Europe style Riesling, and a Gewürztraminer (German). The red tasting was a Pinot Noir. Kern whites were quite enjoyable and we purchased the Czech style Riesling.
Dave knew only some English but was very hospitable and eager to teach us about his wine and family, as well as hear about our wine experiences in California. He explained that his family winery originated in the 1960′s with his grandfather, but was shortly thereafter halted with the onset of Communism in the region. The business was only started up again by his father around 1992 after the fall of Communism. After 10 years of building up the business, they bought their house/winery, the same place we were sitting for our tasting. Today, Kern Vineyards comprises of 20 hectors of land in the Moravian Region. We thoroughly enjoyed our tasting and the little time we spent with Dave.
The rest of the day didn’t go so well in terms our wine tasting experience. We followed marked signs and knocked on the doors of several homes/wineries in every village. However, there was either no answer or a puzzled look on their faces as we asked for a tasting. Was it so strange for us to ring the doorbells of these neighborhood homes? They were all listed on the tourist map. Signs throughout the neighborhoods directed us to their streets and there were winery signs outside their homes. We were just as puzzled as to how exactly the wine industry in Czech Republic operates.
While we were 1 for 6 with our tastings, cycling through the countryside was an unforgettable experience and well worth the journey. There are well-marked bike paths all over the region. We were able to stop for several spectacular photo opps…. and even walk right up to vineyards to touch the endless rows of grapes.
Mikulov Town Center Wine Tasting
Back in Mikulov, we unanimously voted to partake in our own wine tasting tour around the town square. There are a handful of vinoteques (wine shops/bars) offering tastings or glasses of wine. We were able to try several whites and reds from different wine producers in the Moravian Region. While whites are dominate, we found a few reds we liked, including Modry Portugal and Laramie Czech blend. We asked around about visiting the wineries and were told it wasn’t the season yet. But wine tasting…you can taste year round, right? Well apparently in CZ harvest time in September and October is their tasting time. Furthermore, it became apparent that wineries mostly open their doors for group tastings. Understandably so… it’s not so profitable for them to have two American nomads pop in their home for a tasting and buy only one bottle that can fit in their packs. Truth be told, we most likely won’t return and even though we’d love to add Czech wine to our collection at home, it’s not possible with the country’s wine exporting limitations.
Wine tasting in Moravia is quite different from the experiences we’ve had in our home country as well as other countries around the world. As we uncovered, wineries or tasting rooms located on vineyards are nonexistent. Winery addresses are mostly residential addresses where the winemakers’ live. Some places may or may not offer a small wine room or cellar for tasting or selling their wine. The Moravian Region in particular, is geared towards Czech people, as it’s nearly impossible to find winery information in English. Rightly so, since 95% of Czech wine never leaves the Czech Republic. With hundreds of wineries in CZ and one small winery producing from 20 hectors of vineyards, a lot of Czech people are into drinking their wine. Just when we thought Czech beers were all the rave, watch out as Czech wine moves in to steal the spotlight.
See our Photo Album:
Mikulov & Moravian Wine Country, Czech Republic