The adventure begins at an altitude of exactly 1083 metres above sea level. As you cautiously drive up the steep, narrow road from Rehetobel in Appenzell Ausserrhoden, northeastern Switzerland, the sense of anticipation at the prospect of a visit to the ‘Gupf’ just keeps growing. The legendary hotel and restaurant with ten guest bedrooms and space for fifty diners in three cosy rooms is managed by Walter and Manuela Klose who have been guaranteeing outstanding food and charming hospitality for many years.
It’s a combination that has proved irresistibly popular, and if you plan to visit at the weekend, you might need to be patient: from Friday to Sunday, beds in the hotel rooms and seats in the restaurant are booked up far in advance. The reason, or rather the reasons, soon become obvious: the location, the hosts, the food.
Walter Klose first ventured into the Appenzell hills in 1998 to work on a short contract for the restaurant’s owner. The arrangement came to an end when the owner engaged a young chef called Daniel Humm. Klose had to leave but returned in 2003 when Humm decided to continue his career in the United States. It signalled the start of a blossoming period of success for the ‘Gupf’, which has lasted to this day. The restaurant has gained an excellent reputation for its flavoursome classic cooking and its exceptional wine cellar – more about this later.
Stories and attractions
Klose knew from the outset that he didn’t simply want to be a chef in this relatively remote location. “I’m a chef, an entrepreneur, a host,” says the boss of 21 employees. For him, the question was from the outset: “What can you do to make people come to the middle of nowhere for you?”
The ‘Gupf’ has a rich history and offers numerous attractions. There’s the glass cube in front of the main building where guests can relax with an aperitif and a cigar in front of a crackling fire. There’s the newly laid-out garden with enough seclusion to give each guest a sense of privacy. And then there’s the farm just across the road. As well as being the home of the Klose family, it also has room to land a helicopter in the yard, while in the barn stand the beef cattle destined to be served in the restaurant’s cosy rooms. Finally, there is the wine cellar – one of the most impressive ones of its kind in Switzerland.
The main cellar with various side rooms was built in 1998 and is equipped with the same kind of system as a high-bay warehouse. On the computer in the middle of the room you type in the four-digit number for the bottle you are interested in. All the required information, including the wine’s exact storage location, then pops up on the screen. A total of 3000 storage locations containing 30 000 bottles lie deep inside the hill at the ‘Gupf’. The wine cellar isn’t just impressive to look at: it’s also one of the main reasons why guests keep coming back to this exceptional hilltop restaurant.
In 2005, a large bottle cellar was added to the complex, which houses the world’s biggest bottle of wine according to the Guinness Book of Records. Finally, 2014 saw the addition of the ‘treasury’. As if by magic, a sliding door slowly opens to reveal two huge walnut tabletops, a hand-carved mural of Appenzell motifs and illuminated recesses set into the floor where bottles of wine are stunningly presented under glass.