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Text and photos by Gisela Kirschstein
They moved from the Black Forest to Rheinhessen, and they found a paradise of wine and gourmets. In 2011 Beatrix and Markus Hebestreit took over a vacant homestead in the small village of Saulheim and turned it into a pilgrim's destination for wine gourmets for the whole region. "We are fully booked every night", Markus Hebestreit says: "People here spend a lot of money for food and wine – and they go out eating even in the middle of the week!"
No wonder: Fresh scallops with raspberry mustard and veal liver or tuna steak are tempting enough to make you stay. The small interior restaurant is beautifully equipped with modern wooden furniture, a winemaker's art adorns the walls. The room has 40 places, part of the tables are located in the old cellar from 1656. Another 40 places are located in the spacious yard with its Mediterranean atmosphere, perfect for a warm summer evening.
"In the 1950s, there was a furniture exhibition in the front part of the house", Beatrix Hebestreit explains, "in the 1980s this was the first French gourmet restaurant of the region." Marie was a French woman, her restaurant a hotspot of good cuisine. When the Hebestreits found the place in 2010, the homestead was empty, the barn full of junk and rubbish. It was Beatrix who wanted a place in Rheinhessen; the 50-year-old restaurant manager grew up in Gundersheim, a Rheinhessen village only a few kilometers from Saulheim.
"I was gone for 25 years", Beatrix remembers, her apprenticeship brought her to the northern Black Forest Region – and there, she fell in love. Markus was an apprentice in the same place, the 47-year-old worked as cook and chef in various places in the Black Forest region, among them the famous Hotel Barreis in Baiersbronn. Ten years ago, the Hebestreits decided to start their own place – and found their private paradise in Saulheim, Rheinhessen.
"This was a family project", Beatrix laughs – her aunt, her mother, her niece, the whole family helped to renovate and to set up the new place. But it was Beatrix' brother-in-law who set the agenda for the new restaurant: the wine expert composed a wine menu that contains products from the best winemakers in the area. "25 years ago, when I left, the winemakers were still doing rather cheap bulk wines", Beatrix says, "things have changed so dramatically."
When they started the restaurant, the Hebestreits drank for several days in a row, tasting wines over wines from Rheinhessen – and got deeply fascinated. About 100 wines are stored in their cellars today, 21 wines can be ordered by the glass. There is a special wine menu with red rarity wines, they have special Rheinhessen champagne, noble-sweet desert wines and even Große Gewächse to be ordered by the bottle.
Every two months, the wine menu changes, there are always new varieties for the guests. "Usually, restaurants are visited for their food, and the wine plays second part", Markus says, "in our restaurant it's just the other way round." Many guests come here just to taste the new wine varieties. It’s no wonder that the Mundart won the Great Wine Capital's Best of Wine Tourism Award in 2018 for wine gastronomy.
The Hebestreits developed close ties with their winemakers, now stars of the scene like Thörle or Wagner-Stempel present their wines personally at dinner events. There are wine tasting diners and Tastivals, and the guests are drawn here from Frankfurt and the Rhein-Main area as well as from all of Rheinhessen. And sometimes, Beatrix finds inspiration for the menu even in detective stories: "There was this salad lyonnaise with warm eggs and bacon", she remembers, "that sounded so good that we recreated our own version for the restaurant." And, she adds: "There's always a special bottle in the cellar with which we can surprise our guests."