The Franz Keller estate in Vogtsburg in Baden’s Kaiserstuhl has always blazed an innovative trail in both wine and food. Today Fritz Keller, Franz’s son, heads the family enterprise. Their Schwarzer Adler restaurant on the main street serves French-inflected, Michelin-starred cuisine, while at the Rebstock across the road, they do typical Baden fare like Maultaschen (a kind of ravioli) and springtime plates of fat white asparagus with the region’s smoky ham.
Now they’ve added a resolutely modern eatery named the Kellerwirtschaft. It’s stacked on top of the gleaming new winery, which in turn is tucked discreetly into a hillside in the vineyards on the edge of the village. “When I told my wife I just had to put a restaurant in here,” admits Keller with a rueful smile, “all she said was: Please, not ANOTHER one – we already have two!!” But, he explains, it would have been a crime not to give winery clients and hotel guests the chance to enjoy a glass or two and a plate of food in this great big, beautiful space.
It would indeed have been a shame. From the huge terrace overlooking the winery roof (beautifully disguised and planted with wild flowers) you get wraparound views of the vineyards beyond.
Inside there are massive refectory tables hewn from local walnut trees, Vitra designer chairs and brut concrete walls decorated with paintings evoking the turbulent, volcanic nature of the Kaiserstuhl vineyards.
The food, by Munich-born Chef Sebastian Heil, is in a different register from either the Michelin-starred restaurant or the gastropub. His menu evolves constantly with the seasons, so by the time you get there you may find that my softly poached egg with its yolk tumbling out onto sweet new peas topped with slivers of crisped lardo and shaved Parmesan (€12) has moved on, and you may miss out on the pink-roasted, spoon-tender veal sliced and splayed out over a sweet potato puree (€29).
On the fish front we had a humorous discussion with our waitress Katharina (whose school-acquired English would put many a British student to shame) about Adelfisch, on which Google had failed her. It turned out to be meagre (the fish, not the dish), served crusty skin uppermost over orzo risotto with a deliciously piquant pepper foam (€28). The seared salmon with lightly cooked asparagus and spring vegetables was another hit.
For dessert we divvied up a Valrhona chocolate mousse served with poached apricots and an absurdly successful peanut ice cream, the whole drizzled with salty caramel sauce (€10).
The wine list is – logically enough – a showcase for Keller’s own wines, but is generous towards distinguished Baden colleagues (Salwey, Bercher, Huber et al) and there are four pages of Bordeaux and three of Burgundy. The €32 wine pairing option gave us a range of Pinots (all three – Grau-, Weiss- and Spätburgunder – are the Kaiserstuhl’s calling cards). First came a Grauburgunder Oberbergener Bassgeige, followed by two Weissburgunders, Pulverbuck and Im Leh. All were spirited, mineral-laden and light-years away from their (generally rounder) Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc cousins grown just across the Rhine.
Last came the classic, understated, lightly oaked Jechtinger Enselberg Spätburgunder. “Pinot Noir needs to be like the full orchestra playing pianissimo”, remarked Keller as we lingered over the last drops and watched as the shadows lengthened and the sun sank behind the vineyards.
Restaurant Kellerwirtschaft, Vogtsburg-Oberbergen, Germany
Tel. +49 7662 933080, firstname.lastname@example.org
Consult the website for details of dates and opening hours
[A version of this review appears in the August issue of Decanter]