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Article and photos by Gisela Kirschstein
Where the small parlor with its beautiful tapestries now awaits the guests, coaches once wheeled to a halt: "This used to be the entrance gate where the guests would alight", says Ulla Bernhard-Räder, the hostess of the seemingly inconspicuous winery in the middle of ancient Flomborn. From the narrow street, the house looks forbidding, just like any other property of any village in Rheinhessen. What a delusion.
The door opens to a beautiful Art Nouveau vestibule with a magnificent wooden staircase. The table is set in an Art Nouveau living room from 1890, furnished with dark wooden tables and sideboards. Through the colored glass panels of the door to the garden, the last sunrays of a golden fall gone since today fall onto the beautifully laid table. "Yesterday we harvested the last Riesling", son Philipp Räder says, "it just ran from the press. Let's go, and see the cellar!" His mother only smiles: "Here, with us, the guests are always taken along", she says.
The Bernhard Räder family in the Art Nouveau Guests' Dining Room
It's the deep experience of wine living for which the Winery Bernhard-Räder was awarded a Great Wine Capitals ‘Best Of Wine Tourism’ award in 2016, and it's truly unique. A winetasting here is far from sitting in one room and listening to someone explaining something about wine. We take the Sauvignon Blanc in the old stable built for cows and pigs. The room has a cross-vault stone ceiling, "Kuhkapelle", "cow chapel" is what they call the style of architecture.
Today, the stable hosts a beautifully decorated vinothèque with wine, grape juice and wine jelly which will be served tomorrow morning at breakfast. "We want to show how Rheinhessen tastes", explains Ulla. For the Pinot Noir, we climb into the old vaulted cellar beneath, built in 1835. A row of tanks made from glass-fibre reinforced plastic sit here. "They're good for the reds, more permeable to air", says Philipp. "I love to come down here with the guests, it's much more interesting for them."
The GFK tanks are soon to be moved, this will be the cellar for the Barriques. They like to preserve traditions here and yet open up to new developments. Since 2011 Philipp Räder is in charge of the wines from the 25 acres of vineyards, in 2010 the family decided to change to biological cultivation. "Herbicides and pesticides damage the soil", Philipp says, now, the grape-vines grow more slowly. "Everything is more in balance", Philipp explains, the wines longer lasting, longer good for drinking. "More authentic", adds his mother, "maybe also more round and more natural in taste."
In 1987 Ulla Bernhard and her husband Rüdiger Räder started selling wines to customers instead of the cooperative, after the Fall of the Berlin Wall they suddenly had customers in Chemnitz in the East – and all of a sudden people wanted to see where the wine came from. In 1991 they started the guest rooms, "it was simply necessary", says Ulla. Today, five rooms reflect the colors of Rheinhessen and the aura of winemaking, the holiday flat is dedicated to Aunt Johanna whose furniture fills the small and peaceful rooms.
It was always the women through whom the estate was passed on since the first house was built in 1818. The foundations are much older, though: thick walls from medieval times line our way through a small gateway to the garden. "They say, this used to be a tower", Ulla narrates, "our ancestors built on the wall of an ancient castle." Behind, a beautiful garden opens wide, the Rosé is taken next to the strawberries. There are squares with tea herbes here, with herbes for meat and vegetables – and squares with Bach flowers.
The next wine is served at the pillar of sound, a high stone wherein a small round opening reflects the sounds you make. "If you hit the proto-sound, the stone starts to talk to you", Ulla says, and miraculously, she's right. "Tasting, smelling, looking and listening, we want to appeal to all senses", the hostess smiles. Alongside the garden, a construction site shows where the new cellar is coming into being, in 2017 the wine will be made here. A long, window will then allow the view from garden into the cellar and vice versa. "It's part of our project", says Ulla, "the transparent winery."
Ulla Bernhard Räder at the Stone of Sound