Into bed with a good feeling
Why did you decide to become a winemaker?
At first I was a cook, but even then I had a keen interest in wine. This preference grew more and more. Although the cooking was very enjoyable, I wanted to learn something else. So I trained as a winemaker in a short time. After a stay in Australia, I called Andreas Davaz and asked him if he had an internship. I was there for a week and then I got the phone call that the farm manager had quit. This circumstance encouraged me, so that I took over the lead of the cellar.
Silas Hörler becam a cook as a profession, but the passion for wine has always been greater. He completed an abbreviated apprenticeship as a winemaker, one year with Peter Hermann in Fläsch another year at Salenegg Castle in Maienfeld, where he completed as the best apprentice of the year. A stay in an Australian estate. After his return he started an internship at the Davaz Winery in Fläsch. Shortly afterwards, the cellarmaster at that time resigned and Hörler took over. After six years, he moved to the winery of Salenegg castle in Maienfeld and as an operations manager. Today he runs 75 ares himself and additionally buys grapes from 40 ares.
A real quick start then?
Yes, managing such a large wine cellar, from zero to one hundred, that was quite a big task. However, after six successful years, I stopped in order to concentrate on my own vines and the farm with its 100 animals that I took over in 2016. Shortly afterwards the owner of Salenegg Castle called me. A farm manager was needed, she said.
What was your answer?
At first I told her that I already had lots of work to do and I couldn't manage another company besides my own. Finally we have found each other, so now I also run this winery. Salenegg Castle is the largest estate in the Bündner Herrschaft in terms of its own land. It's also my main source of income. As a sideline, I produce my own wine and run the farm.
Do they still have time for hobbies besides viticulture?
My wife and I I love to travel all over the world. On the one hand we are attracted to places where it is warm, on the other hand to areas where the horizon can be expanded. We went to Central America, visited Cuba and also South Africa. Of course we d'like to get to know other wineries, the good food should not be missing either. Throughout the year you have nearly no holidays, but you have the possibility to travel for a longer period of time in winter. That's one of the advantages of the winemaking profession.
When people are satisfied, that is the greatest merit.
What do you particularly appreciate about the profession of a winemaker?
For me, it's that moment when I receive positive feedback on my products without knowing how people came up about me. It happens, that strangers call and congratulate me on a wine. Or that someone sends a message on WhatsApp. The picture shows two glasses and my wine. In the lines you read, that they have never drunk such great wine before. You definitely go to bed with a good feeling. If people are satisfied, that's the greatest merit.
What are the downsides?
Not much flexibility. There are certain periods of the year when you have to be on the spot. When the grapes are ripe and ready for harvested, then you can't go on holiday. Actually, during the whole vegetative period of budding, from the beginning of May to and including October, it is difficult being away for more than a week or two.
What's the size of your team?
We are two people, my wife and I. We always support each other. Usually Martina does most of the work outdoors, i.e. all the leaf work, loops and select. I am responsible for the cellar. My mother-in-law always helped us with much joy over the last few years. Now she's 80 years old and glad to rest. This year the situation is still a little different – we have become parents.
Which wine are you particularly proud of and why?
Either none, or all oft hem. I find always something in every wine that could have been better. That's the producer's way of thinking. You always have the feeling that it could have been even better. You try to raise the level you already have to even higher. Should I lose that feeling, I have to stop.
What plans or visions do you have for your winery?
I'd like to make a Bordeaux Cuvée. That means a Merlot - Cabernet Franc - Cabernet Sauvignon. When I own my own vineyard sometime, I will plant it. I see that as a challenge. People used to say that the region was too cold, but I don't believe that. I want to prove the opposite, because as a winemaker you are constantly developing yourself.