Westwind Wines - Freedom, Change, Power and Vivacity

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By Gisela Kirschstein

This is where the westerly winds blow through the valley, bringing the fresh breeze that speaks of freedom, strength, renewal. Westwind Wines is the name of a traditional winery in the middle of Wachenheim, right on the border between the two wine regions of Rheinhessen and the Palatinate. It's aptly named indeed: In the middle of the ancient village, Thilo and Jochen Hein set a daring new building – a modern tower with a bright-green gate and a spectacular inside which now inspires wine-tasters and the winemakers alike.

But it is the inside and the downstairs for which the Hein family won the Best of Wine Tourism Award 2018 for sustainability: Solar panels on the barn and a heating system that runs with vine stock wood from the vineyards. And downstairs, old stones are formed onto a Lapidarium in the ages-old cellars. A small staircase leads into a concrete cellar. Here, oak barrels contain the estate's red wines, and from here, passages connect the modern with the ancient cellars underneath the winery.

This is where the westerly winds blow through the valley, bringing the fresh breeze that speaks of freedom, strength, renewal. Westwind Wines is the name of a traditional winery in the middle of Wachenheim, right on the border between the two wine regions of Rheinhessen and the Palatinate. It's aptly named indeed: In the middle of the ancient village, Thilo and Jochen Hein set a daring new building – a modern tower with a bright-green gate and a spectacular inside which now inspires wine-tasters and the winemakers alike.

"There used to be an old castle on this site", Thilo Hein says, "that is what the new building symbolizes." Right on the other side of the street, the upper part of the castle still stands in the middle of the village, featuring the biggest medieval living tower in the region. The modern counterpart stands in the middle of the traditional winery of the Hein family. Thilo and Jochen are the sixth generation, since 1837 their family has been farmers and winemakers here. An old epitaph in the yard speaks of ancestors from 1899.

In 2015 Thilo and Jochen opened the new vinotheque: A white tower-like building in the middle of the estate, adorned with a bright-green entrance side. Inside, a spectacular tasting room features a dark blue ceiling, sparkling with lights like the stars on the sky at night. In the middle of the ceiling, a huge golden circle draws the eye and bathes glasses, visitors and wines in a golden atmosphere.

Old barrel staves were used to furnish the wall, its by no means the only fusion between tradition and modern renewal here. Upstairs, the walls are made of chalkstones from the vineyards, "that is the terroir of our wines", Thilo explains – terroir made palpable for the visitor. The roof terrace offers a spectacular view over the village of Wachenheim – including the old castle next door – and right into the vineyards.

A wall made from old barrel staves at Westwind Wines

But it is the inside and the downstairs for which the Hein family won the Best of Wine Tourism Award 2018 for sustainability: Solar panels on the barn and a heating system that runs with vine stock wood from the vineyards. And downstairs, old stones are formed onto a Lapidarium in the ages-old cellars. A small staircase leads into a concrete cellar. Here, oak barrels contain the estate's red wines, and from here, passages connect the modern with the ancient cellars underneath the winery.

"There are ages-old walls down here", says mother Ortrud Hein with no little pride. Medieval knights, Romans, they all settled in Wachenheim. While building the new tower, the family excavated walls from the old ice cellar of the former castle. "My Great-Great-Great Grandfather bought the old castle-parts in 1887", Ortrud explains. A baron of Kinkel once owned the estate and left an iron anchor, sign of his naval profession. Landowners and farmers from old, the family still farms 45 hectares of grains and sugar beets. But it is the new generation that sets the pace for the future onto the 20 hectares of vineyards.

The vinotheque at Westwind Wines

Thilo and Jochen learned winemaking, now they create modern, mineral wines of delicate fruitiness. A Mansoni Bianco is among them, a hybrid of Riesling and white burgundy, which the Heins grow in "experimental cultivation" as the term goes. "I think we are the only ones in Germany who have that grape", Thilo says. Freedom, Change, Power and Vivacity, those are the names of their wines. "For us, that is what the West Wind brings", Thilo says.

Freedom stands for the entry wines, light cuvees in white, red and rosé. "It is the freedom to taste whatever you like", Thilo explains, "when you are a wine beginner and not really set onto a certain pace yet." Change is the style of the grape wines like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or yellow Muscatel, Power the highest quality line with Riesling and Pinot Noir. Vivacity, finally, contains champagnes and seccos and all the other products that come with wine making.

"Our guests are fascinated", Thilo says, "we wanted to offer them something special." Winemaking and especially wine selling has changed a lot in Germany, customers are no longer true to one estate for ever as it used to be. "People want experiences", Thilo knows, "if there's nothing to see, nobody visits." It must be the westerly wind which brings the new ideas and the daring to go new ways. "We need the wind", Thilo says, "in our vineyards."