By Gisela Kirschstein
The new wine is priceless, the winemaker created a new recipe – the bottle must be somewhere down here … We are standing in an ages-old cellar, surrounded by oak barrels. Candles flicker, there’s a mysterious suitcase right on the table, there are locks and small cases all over, and the clock is ticking while on the far end of the cellar, there the bars in front of the treasury are beckoning… Grape Escape is the new invention of the Winery Domhof in Guntersblum in Rheinhessen, an escape room that is devoted to the art of winemaking – no wonder they won the Best of Wine Tourism Award 2019 for innovative winetourism.
Since the 12th century, they cultivate the soils here, growing wine and creating wonderful Rieslings and Burgundys. In 1874, Heinrich Schmitt, the great-great grandfather of Alexander Baumann bought the Domhof in the middle of the small winemaking village in the vicinity of Worms. Today, it’s a winery with a small hotel in the side, there’s a vinotheque and an aroma garden. One of the old buildings, however, is a former synagogue which ancestor Schmitt saved from destruction by the Nazis. Beneath that, old stairs lead into an ages-old vaulted cellar, 1754, the numbers above the door say.
It is down here that the Baumann family created “Grape Escape”, the first and only escape room that takes place in a wine cellar. 60 minutes is the time frame in which the visitors are requested to solve riddles that are spread out through the cellar. There are numerical codes that supply the solution to locks around wooden cases, there are corks which have to be brought in the right line according to the harvest year – their numbers open another lock which leads to more riddles, more mysteries…
“My husband and I love escape rooms”, Halina Aaron confesses. Halina is part of the event management team in the winery, 30 or 40 escape rooms are already on her personal list. “We wanted to create an escape room that centers around wine”, Halina relates, “something special for our wine customers and for the visitors that stay in our hotel.” The old cellar presented the perfect setting for the project: mystic, secluded and equipped with a true wine treasury room at the far end.
“Many of the riddles are used in other escape rooms as well”, Halina confesses, yet they applied the methods to the theme of winemaking. Thus, the visitors have to arrange winemakers equipment, there are barrel elements to be merged, wine figures to be interpreted, and on one wall, there is a grapevine-puzzle to be solved. It took Halina and her friends more than a year to develop the story and align all the puzzles. “We tried out a lot, we had many test runs, and we had to simplify a lot”, Halina reports – many a riddle that seemed so easy turned out to be a complete mystery to a stranger.
Eight people is the maximum of visitors that can fit the room, “four to six people is ideal”, Halina says. From the office above, she can supervise the group in the cellar via cameras and give a hint if someone is completely lost. Only 50 percent of the visitors manage all the riddles in the given hour, cooperation is important, logic thinking as well but also intuition. “It’s the challenge to solve the riddles, the time pressure, that fascinates people”, Halina says: “You really immerse yourself in a different world, you become completely lost in the story and the riddles.”
For the Domhof, it is one more element to make their visitors happy and to let them experience the world of winemaking. “Wine is an emotional product”, Halina says, “we want to show that wine is fun, and transport knowledge and history at the same time.” The guests are wine visitors on a weekend, companies that are searching for team building events or curious winelovers from the area. And they all fall for the spy role in which they are thrown, and the thrill when in the end the precious bottle is found and freed from the treasure box. “In other escape rooms, the visitors have to break out”, Halina says with a smile, “our guest are breaking into the wine treasury.” What can be better?
Lear more about Weingut Domhof at weingut-domhof.de