Many are surprised to learn that Europe’s oldest winery is in Switzerland, located in the stunning village of Maienfeld, in the Canton of Graubünden.
Easily accessible from Zurich airport via the Swiss federal railway, Maienfeld revitalizes the traveler with its clean air, majestic mountains, clear blue lakes, and exceptional thermal waters. Images like a childhood storybook come to life, and, yes, it is the setting for Johanna Spyri’s 1880 novel Heidi and, of course, named Heidiland by locals for almost a century. The allure of Spyri’s story lives on with over 150,000 yearly visitors to the region.
It all began around 950 A.D. when the abbot of Pfäfers Monastery laid the foundation for the present Castle and vineyard. The first record of viticulture in the region is in 950; the Pfafers monks were also mentioned with this same wine estate in the Maienfeld archives in 1068. A substantial wooden wine press (Torkelbaum) located at the winery dates from 1656, linking it with the history of the von Gugelberg family of Castle Salenegg. Weingut Schloss Salenegg has been involved in the winemaking process as an intern and now has reign as the resident winemaker. “I am the winemaker, proud to be here,” said Weingut. “We have 13 hectares big for the region, but not Switzerland. The special thing is in a small town such as Maienfeld; there are 14 or 15 working cellars.”
In modern times, the family blends tradition with advanced winemaking techniques. A good example is their Pinot Noir, in which punch downs and fermentation continue for ten days in steel tanks and then moved to the old traditional wooden barrels where the full expression of the region begins. The Pinot Blanc “Schloss Salenegg” is the region’s traditional wine. The Calcareous slate soil provides brilliant minerality to the flagship wine of Salenegg Castle. On the nose, ripe red fruit and hints of earth jump out of the glass, moving on to light spice notes on the palate with moderate tannins on the finish.
The Le Miroir, Salenegg Castle, Assemblage, AOC Graubünden is a light pinot noir produced in a steel tank without any wood influence. This wine has plenty of bright cherry notes and light spice that make this wine an excellent decision for a glass of everyday drinking wine. For a bigger experience, the Cuvée rouge AOC Graubünden is the answer. A blend of Zweigelt and Merlot combines dark fruit aromas and balanced tannins that marry to impress the nose and the palate of any oenophile.
Grab a bottle, take a seat and enjoy grilled meat like a nice Boeuf Stroganoff and a cigar by the fireplace. Rose wine is a nice refreshing treat on warmer days. The Rose Castle Salenegg Castle, Pinot Noir, AOC Graubünden delights the palate with its magnificent color, crisp acidity, and bright cherry flavors. When its time for some bubbles, Les Etincelles de Salenegg Blanc de Blanc, AOC Graubünden is a brilliant choice. The mineral soils of the Grisons are perfect for Chardonnay grapes. On the nose of this sparkling wine, you find a lovely bouquet of exotic fruits typical of Chardonnay. Its refreshing acidity and subtle spicy notes provide an exceptional experience on the palate.
Family von Gugelberg von Moos now own the Castle. Believe it or not, there have been no changes made to the architecture since 1652. In addition to wine, they also produce more than 20 different delicate bottles of vinegar which are unusual for the region. This land and Castle have stood the test of time, and you can taste the tradition in every sip.
For more information contact Elaine & Scott Harris of Vino Las Vegas Wine Club!