Seventh Heaven-Retreat with medieval history and an old synagogue

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By Gisela Kirschstein

The guests sleep in seventh heaven here, or in the escapade, just as you like. You might as well choose the barrique storeroom – in each case, beautiful roomy lodging awaits, furnished with modern comfort in warm brown and purple colors. The Domhof Hotel in Guntersblum is a small, twelve room house in the middle of the ancient village and right across the street from the winery that gave it its name.

This is historical territory: 1754 says the figure above the entry, yet the estate goes back to the 12th century. The cathedral chapter of Worms owned the place for centuries, the huge barn on the side of the yard used to be the Tithe Barn where the farmers had to bring their taxes to the church lords. "My great-great-grandfather bought this estate", Alexander Baumann says, that was in 1874.

It was French emperor Napoleon who ended the rule of the church also in Rheinhessen. The estate's stewards had to travel all the way to Paris in order to purchase the place – it was subjected to an auction in the French capital. It was Alexander Baumann who gave the place its old name back: Domhof, the cathedral's estate. "Saint Peter always had been our emblem", Baumann says, "he's right there over the courtyard's door, and also on the labels of our bottles."

Yes, they breathe history here, but there's nothing ancient in the crispy, fresh Riesling in the glass on the modern counter of the small hotel., Alexander and his wife Chris Baumann, cultivate ten hectares of vineyards -  35 percent are Riesling, 18 percent red wines. There is Sauvignon Blanc and the more traditional Scheurebe, the Pinot Noir ripens in French barriques.

"I always said, I'll never ever marry a winemaker", Chris Baumann laughs, "I was absolutely firm on that." But then, there was this wine fair in Nierstein, Chris' hometown, and there she met this young winemaker from Guntersblum… fate decided otherwise. Alexander studied winemaking in Veitshöchheim in Franken, in 2004 the couple took over the Baumann's wine estate.

"It was my father who started to sell his own wines", Alexander tells me, while opening yet another bottle of Riesling. Limestone, loess and even the red clay from the famous “Roter Hang” in Nierstein, that is where their wines grow on, the perfect setup for a wine tasting all the way through the terroirs of Rheinhessen. We taste the crispy, minerally lime as well as the more fruity, broader red clay and keep talking about the history of this wonderful wine region which discovered class and style only about thirty years ago. Today, they serve lobster diners here with four courses and the matching wines along with it.

Alexander and Chris Baumann in one of the bedrooms at the Domhof (Photo:  Kirschstein)

"My dad was one of the pioneers", Alexander tells me, the son decided to take the variety even further. They complemented the new vinotheque with a wine garden where the main grape varieties grow – alongside with the aromas that go with them. Thus, there's lemon balm, thyme, orange and red vineyard peach next to the Riesling, while the Pinot Noir is accompanied by raspberry, blackberry and vervain for the vanilla flavour.

"We do wine tastings in the garden", Chris explains, "with smelling points next to each grape variety." In 2010 they won their first Best of Wine Tourism Award for that, now they topped it with the Best of Wine Tourism Award 2018 for accommodation. "There were just not enough beds for our guests", Chris says, thus, in 2016 they built on the site of the old bottle barn a small hotel which mimics the architecture of the neighbouring houses.

The aroma garden at Domhof in the springtime (Photo:  Domhof)

"It's the perfect short-time retreat for people from the Rhein-Main-Area", Chris says, for guests who like to hike, enjoy the vineyards – or get married. There's an official Registry Office in the old horse stable on the side of the old barn, a building which holds a special secret: "This used to be the Synagogue of Guntersblum", Alexander explains, "and it was supposed to burn in the Reichskristallnacht under the Nazis." They had the wood piled up already, when Alexander's great-great-grandfather Heinrich stopped them – and bought the synagogue to save it.

Today, the former temple is a wine cellar, only the gallery inside reminds of its former destiny. "There are still visitors who come for the old place", Chris says, yet the Jewish congregation in Worms never wanted the synagogue back. Yet there's a certain mystic feeling, a breeze of history that runs through the old place, and maybe that's why the next project of the Baumann's has something to do with mystery and riddles: "We are building an escape room with riddles around wine", Alexander reveals, "it's going to be in the old cellar down there." It's the one with the 1754 above the entrance.