Irene Grünenfelder, the charm and strength of the oak (Eichholz Weingut)

By Laurent Probst - December 12, 2014 

Irene Grünenfelder grew up in the Albula region (Graubünden), she has been a teacher in Arosa and a journalist in Geneva before becoming a self-taught and passionate winemaker.

It was during a trip to Burgundy and a visit to Lignier Hubert, owner of Clos de la Roche Morey St. Denis in Côte de Nuits, that she became passionate about the Pinot Noir.

It is with the support of her husband and his family who owned vineyards in Jenins, that she became a winemaker in 1993. She planted her first vines on a healthy ​​3000 square meters area with a limestone and heavy soil, in the lower part of Jenins. Therefore the first harvest came from young vines in 1996.

After an early career marked by the skepticism of some observers, Irene Grünenfelder has grown into a respected and recognized winemaker. Her estate has grown too, she now manages the production of the equivalent of 6.5 hectares, partly owned and partly rented it .

The vineyards are located for one part in Fläsch, where shale dominates; and the other part in Jenins where soils are heavier. The cultivation method is integrated but the winemaker is carrying out biodynamic tests since last year.

Pinot Noir largely dominates the production with 70% of the total area, which is not a surprise. The vineyard produces three different Pinot Noir wines, the Cuvée "Eichholz being the flagship wine. She also produces a sparkling wine (a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), three white wines, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Finally, she also makes a fortified wine, similar to Port, out of the Diolinoir grape variety. When asked about the Completer she replies smiling «it remains a dream".

« The climate is the most complicated challenge for a winemaker » says Irene who humbly ads  « nature always has the final word ». She reminds us that grapes ripen slowly in the Graubünden and a brief period of foehn (a warm mountain wind) can upset the balance by excessively raising the levels of sugar from that which was sought or desired.

With the arrival of her son, the winery has a  future and Irene Grünenfelder can continue to smile.