It’s September and from your holiday chalet you look out over an imposing vineyard. 8,000 vines are laden with ripe bunches of grapes. Standing with a glass of wine in your hand, you can still enjoy the late summer sun and feel as though you’re living the good life. However, the truth is that you’re in the town of Wognum in the municipality of Medemblik.
“People from all over the world come here, from ladies clubs in the region to Middle Eastern sheiks and each one of them is satisfied. The tranquility that this spot radiates is very special,” says Siem Loos.
Siem and his wife Ada have been the proud owners of family business Saalhof since 2006. The Loos family, consisting of four children, is very close-knit. It is not for nothing that son Ben and daughter Céline also play a prominent role in this 'agriturismo'. A term that originated from Italy and refers to a working farm that includes food, education and accommodation. Within this setting, Saalhof is unique in the Netherlands.
Everyone in the Loos family works independently and is responsible for their own department within the company. Together they strengthen each other. Siem and Ada take care of the bed and breakfast, the land and the wine. In the only remaining historic greenhouse on the Saalhof estate, Céline organises meetings and parties. Siem restored the greenhouse to its authentic style. “As soon as you walk in, you feel the special atmosphere. The way the light shines in uniquely illuminates the greenhouse,” says Siem enthusiastically. Because it is situated between the vines, restaurant Saalig has a phenomenal location. The restaurant, which is run by Ben, serves its own wines. In addition to the menu, Ben regularly provides a Burgundian dish. When this happens, the pans and bottles of wine are put on the table and it’s a 'potluck meal'. In the past, this was how the winegrowers showed their appreciation to the agricultural workers for their hard work.
Until 2005, Siem had a painting business and his wife Ada ran the painting shop. The first grape vines were already growing in their garden. They still had to work for a few years until retirement and had come to a crossroads in their lives. The couple took the plunge and walked to Santiago de Compostella. The walk was three thousand kilometres, which they covered in a hundred and fifty days. Walking past the French vineyards, they decided to make a major life change. Siem and Ada, West Frisians in their heart and soul, decided to bring a piece of France back to the Netherlands and to work with wine professionally. The house and plot that belonged to the Saal family in Wognum had been for sale for some time. They had been growing grapes here for consumption since 1920. Unfortunately, the site was depalidated and overgrown with weeds. "If we can walk thousands of kilometres with just a backpack, we can make something beautiful out of this," they concluded.
Saalhof is the only place in this part of West Friesland where homemade wine is grown according to organic guidelines. Dutch wine has a slightly lower percentage of alcohol than foreign wine, but apart from that there is no difference. Saalhof produces white, red, rosé and sparkling wine. The latter is aptly named 'The Miracle of West Friesland'. Ada: “We don't feel like stopping at all, as we never get bored. We receive visitors from all over the world.
As long as we’re healthy, we’ll continue to make plans. Like most West Frisians, we’re hardworking people and love the outdoor life. We couldn’t imagine living in an apartment! In fact, we’d still like to walk to Rome: who knows what new ideas we’ll get! ”
Visitors to Saalhof come not only for the vineyard, but also for the surrounding area. The West Frisian region is famous for its authentic Dutch landscape, typical ribbon settlements and its beautiful heritage farmhouses. The abundance of cycling routes makes this the ideal base for exploring the area.