Into the Clouds with Elena Walch


When she first developed big ideas about wine, Elena Walch knew nothing about winemaking. She was reared in Milan, studied in Venice, and then set up her own architectural practice in Bolzano, the capital of Northern Italy's Alto Adige.

Then in 1985, at 35, she was hired to oversee restoration of a 17th-century Austrian Hapsburg hunting castle surrounded by 50 acres of gorgeous, steeply sloping vineyards. The castle and vineyard owner was Werner Walch, who ran his family's historic Wilhelm Walch winery in Termeno.

Before the project was completed, she and Werner fell for each other, and they were soon married. Then things got really interesting when she turned her attention to the vineyards.

At first, she urged Wilhelm to do more with his family's stunning vineyards and cellars full of hand-carved oak casks dating to the winery's 1869 founding. Instinctively, she questioned why Wilhelm continued his family tradition of blending estate grapes with those he bought from scores of other growers.

"I said, 'Beauty must go with quality. If you have wonderful vineyards, you must have wonderful wines,'" 

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