Ever a proponent of purchasing homemade and locally-crafted goods, allow me to introduce you to a family-owned and operated gem tucked away in my neck of the woods: Kobelt and Co. Mosterei and Brennerei (Cidery and Distillery). Prominently located on the main road cutting through the village of Marbach, in the Rhine Valley, Kobelt and Co. proudly produces a line of elegant brandies, liqueurs, Süssmost, Apple juice, Apfelschorle, and more.
I had tried their signature Süssmost before as a guest in a friend's home, but until recently I hadn't realized that I could pick up my very own case of it so close to home. What exactly is Süssmost? According to one of the proprietors, Ruedi, "It's the Swiss name for sweet (unfermented) cider, or Apfelsaft." And Apfelschorle? Karen, co-proprietor and Ruedi's wife, explains that theirs is 60% Süssmost and 40% top-quality sparkling mineral water from Appenzell. Although I still have a bit of trouble understanding the differences between all the apple beverages Kobelt and Co. has to offer, one thing is for certain: they are wonderfully tasty and worth the trek out to the Rhine Valley! (If you are unable to come have a taste for yourself, you can visit their website, place an order, and arrange to have it shipped to you.)
Over the weekend, at the company's yearly "Open House," I had the pleasure of trying some of their new Edelbrände: Vieille Abrioct and Vieille Poire, or apricot and pear brandy. Sipping my glass in a tasting room surrounded by family heirlooms (an impressive collection of weaponry), I couldn't help but feel like I was discovering some secret place known by very few people. It's true that Kobelt and Co. is not a mainstream label, but it certainly is no secret. Just ask any true Marbacher, or Rheintaler for that matter, and you'll find they keep at least one Kobelt product or another stocked in their cellar. (Even the local castle serves Kobelt beverages!)
Part of the "Open House" festivities included dining on sausages cooked in one of the stills, atop grape seeds and skin like those used for making grappa, and homemade potato salad. (Yum!) Gathered with friends, eating Treberwürtse, drinking Apple Champagne, and enjoying the atmosphere made for one of those nights here in Switzerland that I'll never forget.
Another part of the "Open House" is browsing the display of gift-ready bottles in the Torkel (pressing room), perfect for the holiday season. Although I didn't take home a bottle of pear brandy with a whole pear trapped inside, I did walk away with a six-pack of their refreshing (hard) cider known as "Bartli's." Each bottle features either a classic photo of previous generations of proprietors (Ruedi is the fourth generation of Kobelts to continue with the company) or the face of a farmer whose fruits have contributed to the success of Kobelt and Co. This year, Ruedi and Karen bought fruit from 180 farmers throughout the Rhine Valley, Appenzell, Wallis, and other areas of Switzerland.
Curious to know more about the distillation process at Kobelt and Co.? Feel free to contact Ruedi or Karen to request a tour of the facilities. (Saturdays are best for visits.) Ruedi would be glad to share with you the care that goes into choosing each fruit before producing a top-notch bottle of brandy as well as other steps to yielding high-quality products. According to Ruedi, most of the process from pressing to bottling is completed in-house, including bottle fermentation in their cellar, so customers can rest assured they are purchasing an excellent product made with passion and attention to detail in a little Swiss village called Marbach.