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By Gisela Kirschstein
When Veronika Roos stands at her dough-mixing machine, sometimes her grandfather shows up, leaving behind tips from his bakery. Roundabout twenty cakes, tarts and gateaux Veronika serves each weekend in her Weinbistro, a wine-leaning café in the middle of ancient Flonheim. Hidden at the back of a row of tiny alleys lies the Landhotel Strubel-Roos with its ages old vinery at the side – a truly unique experience of hospitality in the heart of Rheinhessen.
When Heide Roos moved to the village of Flonheim twenty years ago in order to marry her husband, winemaker Karl Rainer, the doors of the many courtyards in the village remained firmly shut against strangers. "There was no gastronomy, hardly anybody sold their wines to customers directly – that was considered beneath", Heide Roos reminisces. What a laugh: Today, winemaking is state-of-the-art in Rheinhessen, young people strive to become winemakers, the wines of the area are among the best nationwide – and tourists love spending time in wine-growing regions.
The Roos' family were pioneers in that: When in 1969 the grandparents started the first wine tavern in Flonheim, they were sneered at. But the old cloister's yard was unusual for the village anyhow, "it was an open yard, without gates", Hilde says, and that somehow mirrored the owner's mentality. 880 years ago, Augustine monks founded the cloister on this corner of Flonheim, in 1181 Probst Werenbold became patron of the parish church of Flonheim – and the first to make wine.
Out in the yard, the ancient wall tells of the middle ages, it's a part of the old town wall. In a niche, the family's coat of arms flashes a knight, the plough and the grapes, of course. "It used to be fashionable to have one", father Karl Rainer Roos says, shrugging his shoulders. Right now, the Roos' are changing the wine bottles' labels away from the monks and the coat of arms towards more modern designs.
Son Frederik studies oenology at the famous university of Geisenheim, importing modern ideas like ecological wine making as well as his experiences from a New Zealand-stay into the ages-old winery. Father Karl Rainer started the production of sparkling wine, méthode champenoise, in 1985, one of the first to produce German-type champagne. "The best idea you ever had", say Heide Roos, and laughs: "Okay… the second best!"
Frederik tells me in the mean time, how German sparkling wines have much more of a variety in comparison to the original champagnes, "much more fruit, minerals, flavours." Variety – that's what the family was decorated for with the Great Wine Capital Award 2017 since they transformed the ancient cloisters into an assembly of modern and very unique lodgings. It started ten years ago with twelve rooms, "and what a fun that was", says Heide Roos. Then they converted the old day laborer's house into a cute little lodge, beautifully equipped.
Then, daughter Veronika finished her schooling of hotel management, and having learned with the famous gourmet chef Johann Lafer, the 14 rooms weren't enough of a challenge any more. The family bought another part of the cloister's yard – now, a beautiful new hotel accommodates another nine rooms with names like sea cow and mussels, reminders of the ocean that once spilled its waves here in primordeal times.
The workshop became the new breakfast lounge and room for Veronika's WineCafé, now business people from Frankfurt, weekenders and locals alike enjoy cakes, wines and the stylish rooms. Groups of young people come to enjoy a weekend between the grapes, Heide says, winetastings are high in demand – Rheinhessen is exploding in gourmet pleasures. And it doesn't sound like the Roos' family are done yet: "We could do with more restaurants or wine taverns in the village", Veronika sighs, "our guests have to grab something to eat in the evenings…"