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. Visiting this region, easily accessible from Zurich airport via the Swiss federal railway, will enliven the traveler with its clean air, majestic mountains, clear blue lakes, and special thermal waters- invoking images that come to life like a childhood storybook and yes; it is the setting for Johanna Spyri’s 1880 novel of Heidi and of course named Heidiland by locals for almost a century. The allure of Spyri’s novel 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 are also mentioned with this same wine estate in the Maienfeld archives in 1068. A huge wooden wine press (Torkelbaum), located at the winery dates from 1656 and is closely linked 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 taken the reigns as the resident winemaker. “I am the wine-maker and I am very proud to be here,” said Weingut. “We have 13 hectors which are big for the region, but not for 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 traditional wine of the region. The Calcareous slate soil provides brilliant minerality to the wine and is showcased as the flagship wine of Salenegg Castle. In the glass, it shows light hues of ruby red. On the nose, ripe red cherry 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. On the palate, it’s refreshing acidity and fine spicy notes provide an exceptional experience sip by sip.
In this region, every castle makes a dessert wine. The Le Solei d’Ulysse Salenegg Castle, Pinot Noir, Dessert Wine is their offering. In this expression, pinot noir fermentation was interrupted with Pinot Noir brandy from its own distillery and then sweetly expanded in the barrique. On the nose, red fruit aromas are prominent giving way to a palate that is elegant without alcoholic heaviness. This dessert wine is just plain fun and its the choice of which to imbibe with dried fruits and Swiss cheeses.
The Castle is now owned by family von Gugelberg von Moos. 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 very sip.
Families immerse themselves in the world of Heidi and Peter at the original site of Heidi history; active guests are on their way between lake and mountain with a hiking backpack or mountain bike or regenerate in the spectacular health resort, The Grand Resort Bad Ragaz. Wine options abound with over a dozen gourmet restaurants such as restaurant Falknis located within the historic hotel Falknis where local culture brings interesting flavors to curious connoisseurs.
In the cold season, the winter sports areas of Flumserberg and Pizol with over 100 km of slopes captivate eager winter sports enthusiasts. Great gourmet restaurants like Schloss Brandis in the middle of the town of Maienfeld in the old medieval Brandis Castle is a deserving member of the esteemed Chaîne des Rôtisseurs. It showcases the elegance already established by the nearby Bad Ragaz resort of Grand Hotel Quellenhof and Spa. From winery Salenegg, considered the oldest existing winery in Europe, to the regions’ fabled thermal waters, Heidiland continues to embrace and engage tourists with long lasting tradition that makes story tales come to life.