Their store/café/winery doesn’t even have a sign! An immaculate white façade of a classic 19th-century bourgeois home sitting on Videnska street doesn’t really yell to the tourists walking by. Maybe some peer through the windows and think, “That’s a big bar; these winemakers really like to drink.”
A few enter, and enter a very clever architectural piece, a building within a building. A modern, open, white room with massive plain wooden tables and bar [Can one write baroque minimalism? …I just did], bottles elegantly labelled stacked against a glass wall, a glass ceiling revealing the older structure above it. Sliding glass doors admit views to a large courtyard of brick and stone, a barn housing wine facilities towards the back.
A surprise to those who enter, modern in the heart of classical, ambition housed in tradition…
But this isn’t an analogy for Kateřína Šilová (SHEE-lo-vaa). She might be the Czech Republic’s only professional solitary female winemaker. She might be as innovative as the bar she runs with her husband František Šila. Yes! There is a glass ceiling. They decided to put it in to highlight the modern/ historical play of their property – cool, rustic but sleek, all without breaking the historical architectural code of the town. Don’t call her revolutionary. Just call her the winemaker.
During the Communist era, Šilová’s father became director of Vino Mikulov, the government wine cooperative. “Wine in the blood” goes back much further, though; like Petr Očenašek, Šilová’s family existed in Mikulov before World War II. Wine has been coursing through her veins since Day One.
While her husband František has owned and managed a vinoteka for many years in Mikulov, it wasn’t until 3 years ago that she started making wine, under the tutelage of a fellow vinař, but Šilová did everything herself in 2015. She’s made no formal training, just the trial and error that makes one a quick learner.
She’s gone through more trials than she has made errors. The Vinarstvi Mikulov wines, in my limited experience of them, are clean, correct, and hyper fresh. Without sacrificing character for friendliness, the wines “drink” easily while remaining satisfying.
A lot of burdensome labor goes into making “easy” but elegant wine, a heavy experience that has surprised Šilová the most. The winemakers in town, “Always think Frank does it.” But it’s her. She’s the one responsible for 30,000 bottles a year.
Most of those bottles are sold “at the door,” of the winery. That’s the plan. The people experience the wine and the architectural space; they sit out in the courtyard and associate an urbane moment with a bottle they can take home. A few weeks later, that bottle is gone, and the people start to think they should head to Mikulov again for another bottle in that really cool atmosphere.
What will they drink, while relaxing in the calm, serene space? A Veltlinské zelené (Grüner Veltliner), a Ryzlink vlašský, (Welschriesling)? Or Šilová’s pride, Neuberské (Neuburger) an often-derided variety that makes bland wines – unless you put it in the hands of a skilled wine grower / winemaker like herself. Then you get a smooth, nutty wine that maintains a cool Moravian acidity against its Austrian peers.
If husband Šila is the smooth and nutty part, talking with clients and promoting Vinarstvi Mikulov, Kateřína Šilová has maintained her cool Moravian acidity, preferring to be in the cellar rolling barrels and perfecting the expressions of her vineyards. Together they make one balanced glass of vino.