Zellenberg Hilltop Vineyards, Alsace, France

along the route du vin Alsace France

After eleven years of blogging, one photograph on Back Road Journal has been commented on more than all others combined. It was taken above Zellenberg, France, a tiny village perched on a hill whose slopes are covered with vineyards, some being the renowned Grand Cru d’Alsace Froehn vineyards.

Years back, on a misty day in September, I stood at the edge of a hilltop vineyard near the Alsace Wine Route admiring the landscape. What made the view irresistible was the beautiful patchwork of fall colors of the surrounding vineyards so I took a couple of photographs. For years, I never knew the exact location of the vineyard with a small village in the background. Further in the distance, seen only when you zoomed in, were three castle ruins. Those ruins ended up being an important clue on our last trip to France.

On that trip, my husband and I decided to try and find where I had taken the lovely photograph that I had used as my header photo on Back Road Journal for many years. Just last year, I changed it to a different photo taken next to the same vineyard. Both photographs will be familiar to those who have followed me over the years.

Route du Vin Alsace
Small Back Road Off The Route du Vin Near Zellenberg, France

The date on the photographs indicated they were taken in 2008 but neither my husband or I could recall all the small Alsatian towns we had driven through that year. Over our years of traveling through the region, we knew we had visited the famous medieval towns of Eguisheim, Hunawihr, Kaysersberg, Ribeauvillé and Riquewhir but the photo wasn’t taken from any of them . Our only clue was the three castle ruins you could barely make out in the photo. However, the Route du Vin is a series of roads that meander through at least 70, or more, picture postcard wine growing villages and many have castle ruins above them.

Would we be able to find that same vineyard with the wonderful views that had caught our eye so many years ago? Almost anywhere else in the world, 14 years of progress would have totally changed the landscape but our hopes were high because the Alsace region is known for its medieval towns and most are now protected from further development. It wouldn’t be an easy task but we were on a mission to see if we could find the hilltop vineyard and recreate the photo. We were definitely up for the challenge.

Our plan was to spend a couple of days at the hotel Le Chambard, central to the area we needed to search. The region, known as The Colmar Vineyards in the Haut-Rhin department of Alsace, is known for its picture postcard views. What made Le Chambard special is that it is located just inside the entrance of the small Alsatian village of Kaysersberg, designated as one of the most beautiful villages in France”.

The colorful hotel, adorned with beautiful flower boxes overflowing with geraniums, not only has a two star Michelin restaurant, a good bistro and a small spa, it also has the remnants of a medieval castle perched on the hillside in its backyard.

Kaysersberg made a wonderful starting point for exploring the wine route in search for that special hilltop. The first day we traveled south on the wine route and although we saw lots of castles near picturesque medieval villages, not one hill had three castles. On the second day, we only had to drive about twenty minutes north along the wine route before we spotted what we were looking for. The medieval town of Ribeauvillé, with vineyards that have been in existence since the Middle Ages, was dominated by the ruins of the three castles of the Lords of Ribeaupierre. There they were, silently guarding the area since the 14th century.

Now that we had found the castle ruins overlooking Ribeauvillé, we drove the back roads over and around the hills searching for that lovely view. Unfortunately, we found that the three castles can be seen from many of the nearby villages. It was frustrating at the time but the vineyard on the crest of a hill remained a mystery. We believed that the vineyard had to be on one of the small back roads that we love traveling somewhere near Ribeauvillé, Riquewihr or Hunawihr, all within a few miles of each other but we never found the exact spot.

One who doesn’t like to give up, just this week I discovered through using topography maps and google images that my photos were taken above the tiny village of Zellenberg. Someday, I hope to return to one of our favorite parts of France and try once more to discover that vineyard with the magnificent panorama of the region. We now know that it was taken above Zellenberg, the tiny village perched on a hill whose slopes are covered with vineyards

If you decide to visit Alsace, perhaps you will come across that special view we discovered so many years ago. Even if you don’t, you will never be disappointed with a visit to this lovely part of France. The small Alsatian towns and medieval villages look like something out of a fairy tale with their half-timbered houses, cobblestone streets and flowers in bloom everywhere you look. They are surrounded by rolling hills planted with vineyards which are often topped with castle ruins that are worth the hike to visit. Spend a night or two in one of the many historic hotels or charming B & B’s in the region and taste some of the best food France has to offer. The vineyards still produce some of the world’s best grapes so you might want to take a wine tour or if your visit is timed right, enjoy one of the many festivals in the region.


I would to thank all those who have taken a moment, over the years, to read my stories, enjoy some of the many photographs I’ve shared, or have recreated one of my original recipes that you read here on Back Road Journal. Your comments and words of encouragement have always meant so much to me. I hope you will return often as I begin yet another year of blogging.

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I travel the back roads of the world, sharing great food and interesting places and enjoyable pastimes.

35 thoughts on “Zellenberg Hilltop Vineyards, Alsace, France

  1. Congratulations on 11 years of blogging! I have so enjoyed all your travels through the years, looking at places I’ve never been to but feeling like I do though your stories and camera lens. I hope you get to visit more new places in the coming year and look forward to hearing about your new adventures!

  2. You were one of the first bloggers I started to follow. CONGRATS ON 11 YEAR

    Congratulations on 11 years of blogging. Yours was one of the first blogs I started following. I love your posts and look forward to more.

  3. What a fun quest! Both looking for the location of the photo, and the eleven years of blogging. I thoroughly enjoy reading you and look forward to years more of your recipes and travels. Thanks.

  4. Oh Karen, how enchanting. What a wonderful journey — so picturesque and delicious, too! This is a part of France I’ve never been to and would love to discover in person. Thanks for adding to the motivation!

  5. Knowing you, you will definitely revisit the place remembered but not identified until now. I always look forward to your travel logs.

  6. I love reading your travel and food posts – you take me places I want to go, even if I may not get there in person. And you introduce me to so many places I never knew existed. So much fun. Congratulations on your blog anniversary (not a fan of the more common blogiversary 🙂 Take good care, David

  7. You should have been a private investigator! Sounds like you’re very persistent and thorough in your research. And what a beautiful part of the world, truly picture postcard material. Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos and journeys and may you enjoy many more in the years ahead. 💚

  8. Congratulations Karen on 11 years of blogging. You are always so inspirational in everything you share. It’s been a joy to have followed you all these years 😊

  9. Congratulations on eleven years of blogging! I have never been to this region of France, but now I want to go. I enjoy all of your wonderful travels and recipes. Take care of yourself, Karen!

  10. We loved “old” Colmar, and Alsace is gorgeous. Ribeauville is so quaint, well it was 20 plus years ago. I think Jean Georges is from there. Beautiful photos.

  11. What a beautiful area of France. I didn’t make it to that area when I visited.

  12. That must have been a wonderful moment when you found the spot, even if it wasn’t exactly where your photo had been taken! It’s a lovely story too, and shows how much you love that part of the world.. I do hope you find the exact place one day Karen, but sometimes the best places are the ones that are so elusive! I went on a similar quest a few of years when my family spent a long weekend in Norfolk for my parents’ diamond wedding anniversary… most of my childhood holidays were spent there and I wanted to rediscover a pebbled archway that looked out to sea over the marshes. Unfortunately it was fenced off, but the view was the same. 😃

  13. Happy Blogaversary Karen! As I have often told you, I love to arm chair travel with you, you have taken me to so many fairy tale fantasy places and I can certainly see why the photos of this region of France are so popular. It’s wonderful you got to revisit, and isn’t it such a fact of life that things are always changing, yet some things stay the same…You have showed me parts of the world I didn’t know existed, and I always learn and enjoy your shares 🙂

  14. It’s been a joy to follow you the entire 11 years, Karen. Your adventures have always offered such a gracious view of traveling with attention to detail and style. I think beyond the beauty of the cities and towns you’ve visited around the world, I think I may most enjoy the photos and descriptions of the lovely dining opportunities. I certainly wish you the very best with more trips to your beloved France, and more years of blogging connection. 🙂

  15. Happy 11 year blogiversary! Wow! I can’t believe we have known each other that long – but we have. Every travel post and all of your delicious recipes for a decade and hope many more decades to come.

  16. Happy blogging anniversary! Digital photography is a wonderful thing but it does periodically provide some challenges for us. Bottom line – those photos are wonderful and many of us have enjoyed them right alongside you so thank you for sharing.

  17. What a lovely post to give us for your 11th blogging anniversary. What fun trying to find the location you shot those images from. We spent a couple of days this year trying to find the spot here in Skåne where I took my favorite rapeseed blossom image. We couldn’t find it either. Great idea to use google map to try and find it, I’ll be giving that a try.

  18. What a beautiful post and great story. I always enjoy seeing your photographs and virtually traveling through them. It’s easy to see why the one above Zellenberg is so loved.
    (I also just had my 11 yr blogging anniversary, on May 15th). Cheers! Can’t wait to see where you go next. 🙂 ~Valentina

  19. Karen, you have a fantastic blog! Your life adventures and travels are an inspiration. Your photographs are beautiful too.

    Hope you are doing well.


  20. Hi Karen! Congratulations on 11 years of blogging! For us, it’s 10 years this year, and need to do an anniversary post about our journey as well, and hopefully soon. But, we are so grateful and blessed to have met you and have this wonderful friendship over these past years….
    Looking forward to reading more of your travel and recipe posts!
    xo anna and liz

  21. My first trip to Europe, almost 50 years ago, was a small circuit in France and my biggest takeaway was that I had to get back to see the Vosges Mountains again. Well I made it back to Paris but that is all, and this is great encouragement to do more! I had always thought it would be fun to go in December when there are the Christmas markets (though that time is so busy…). Hopefully Covid behaves–my friends are all venturing to Europe again, though one got stuck outside Nice (poor baby) with a positive Covid test.

  22. Your posts are always so much fun to read, Karen! They whisk me away from my desk to spots I’d love to visit on vacation! We do love the Alsace region, and I can see why this photo has attracted so many comments. A photo truly is worth 1,000 words…or in this case 2,000. 🙂

  23. Alsace has always been on my bucket list. Hopefully, when Covid finally subsides, I’ll make it there. Until then, I will relish your photos and descriptions of it.

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