Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Day 3: Austrian Wine Summit 2009

Day 3: Friday, June 12, 2009

Our day began at 8:30 am with a trip to Schloss Hof, an Austrian Baroque castle built in the early 18th century for Prince Eugene of Savoy. It was later owned by Empress Maria Theresa. The castle grounds were gorgeous, leaving many of us unable to stop taking photographs. But there would be time later for photographs. Now we had a lecture and tasting to attend, "The Many Faces of Niederösterreich (Lower Austria)," presented by Susanne Staggl of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board.

Arriving at the Schloss Hof:

The wines tasted were from the Wienviertal region in lower Austria, which is Austria's largest wine-growing area. The region's leading grape variety is Grüner Veltliner, which is most recognized for its peppery taste, or "Pfefferl." These peppery notes, along with a fruity bouquet and fresh acidity, characterized the 2003 definition of "Weinviertel DAC." DAC stands for "Districtus Austriae Controllatus," Austria's first controlled appellation of origin, which set the example for all of the country's wine-growing areas.

The beautiful room in which we tasted Weinviertal DAC wines:

Of the wines tasted I enjoyed best the 2005 Eiswein Grüner Veltliner by Weingut Kolkmann, which had a light honey-sweet, golden flavor and the 2006 Spitzerberg Blaufrankisch by Weingut Trapl, which reminded me of freshly baked bread and dark cherries.

Listening carefully to Susanne Staggl discuss the wines of lower Austria:

Following the lecture and tasting we toured the Schloss Hof and marveled at its royal splendor. This after all was once home to an Empress.

Inside the Schloss Hof:

When the tour ended we engaged in an open wine tasting entitled, "Weinviertal DAC and the Diversity of Wines from the Weinviertel." At the tasting, I thought the 2006 Pinot Noir by Weingut Zull was particularly lovely with its classic aroma of currants.

Waiting my turn for a sip of an Austrian white wine:

This building was a beautiful space for a wine tasting:

After the tasting, we attended a casual, fun cooking course on making Wiener Schnitzel. Did you know that Wiener Schnitzel, the authentic kind, is deep-fried in LARD? I guess that's why it's so delicious. The cooking class was taught by Ulli Hager and Susanne Staggl, both of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board. They kept the class laughing, entertained, and taught each of us how to make a good plate of Wiener Schnitzel. We all sat for lunch and enjoyed our results with a few glasses of good, Austrian wine.

Learning to cook Wiener Schnitzel:

Planning out my veal-pounding technique:

After lunch there was some time to relax so myself and other tour members visited a nearby garden and an area filled with roosters, hens, llamas, and goats. I got to eat fresh rasberries and strawberries off the vine and laughed my head off when one of my tour mates picked up and carried a baby goat. All this adventure on the grounds of a beyond-gorgeous palatial estate. Just beautiful.

A beautiful garden:

Look out, baby goat!

Once our time was up we hopped on the bus, where most of us napped, and drove to Krems, where we checked in at the Hotel Arte, with some tour members staying at the Hotel Steigenberger. Before leaving for our next destination, I took a short walk and stopped for coffee with a small group from the tour through the amazing, charming, and picturesque village in Krems. We passed buildings of lavender and pink. Doors of ancient beauty. Danube river views. Families at ease, drinking refreshing white wines. Now that's a great walk!

Scenes from the village:

After our stroll we boarded the buses again to visit Stift Gottweig, which is an ancient Abbey given to the Benedictine Order in 1094. The facades of the buildings are impressive, but the views are breathtaking and leave you wondering if you're actually dreaming.

On the grounds of the Abbey:

That incredible view:

With a great group of people from the wine summit:

Inside the Abbey:

At the Abbey, we enjoyed another wine tasting entitled, "The Diversity of Danube Terroirs," featuring Grüner Veltliner and Riesling from the appellations Kremstal DAC, Kamptal DAC, and Traisental DAC. Willi Klinger also attended this tasting and many of us approached him with compliments about the wine summit thus far. At the tasting I had the pleasure of meeting Nikolaus Moser of Sepp Moser. Nikolaus is the grandson of the renowned viticulture pioneer Dr. Lenz Moser, who in the 1950s developed the high training system of the vine - or the “Lenz Moser system.” Dr. Moser's system made work in the vineyards easier in Austria and around the world. My favorite wine of the tasting, however, belonged to Weingut Hirsch. Their 2oo7 Heiligenstein Riesling was a favorite among many of the attendees.

With Steve Raye, of Brand Action Team, and Willi Klinger, of the AWMB:

With Nikolaus Moser of Sepp Moser:

Our day ended with a truly fabulous gourmet dinner with matured wines from Niederösterreich, presented by Willi Klinger, at the elegant and two-Michelin star rated Landhaus Bacher in Mautern, Wachau. All I can say about this dinner, the restaurant, and the ambiance is BRAVO. We were genuinely all blown-away by the service, the style, the food, the wine and the company. It was an especially enjoyable night.

At the sophisticated Landhaus Bacher:

Our bellies full, our sides sore from laughing, our feet satisfyingly sore, we headed "home" to our respective hotels for a well-deserved good night's sleep. Even though I got to bed late that night I wouldn't have traded the richness of that day for an extra hour or two of sleep. Once again, well done Austrian Wine Marketing Board! Stay tuned for Day 4 of the Austran Wine Summit 2009 during which we visited the Loisium, took a boat ride along the Danube, partied at the
Schönbrunn Palace and much, much (yes, it's true) more.

My unique room at Hotel Arte:


Day 2: Austrian Wine Summit 2009

Day 2: Thursday, June 11, 2009

On day two of the Austrian Wine Summit 2009 we awoke in Vienna, ate a quick, but hearty breakfast at the hotel, and boarded our buses @ 8:15 am for an event-filled trip to Burgenland. We arrived about an hour later at Wine Academy Austria in beautiful Rust for an introduction to "Wine Wonderland Austria" presented by Willi Klinger, director of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board.

Our group arriving at Wine Academy Austria:

Willi Klinger presents, "Wine Wonderland Austria:"

Learning all about Burgenland and its wines:

At my table about to begin tasting wines:

Following this introduction were lectures and tastings entitled, "The Diversity of the Wines from Steiermark (Styria)" and "An Overview of the Wines from Burgenland," which were both conducted by Christian Zechmeister, Managing Director of Wein Burgenland.

I enjoyed the 2008 Steibauch Grauburgunder Steibauch by the Lackner-Tinnachler winery in Gamlitz. It was creamy with a touch of vanilla and caramel, but still maintained a crisp acidity on the palate. What I took away from these lectures and tastings is that many Austrians like their wines young and with high acidity.

After visiting the Wine Academy, we traveled by bus to Eisenstadt for lunch at the Esterházy Palace featuring regional specialities from Burgenland. Lunch was delicious and I especially enjoyed the 2006 Beerenauslese by Esterházy Weingut that was served with dessert. Only wines from Esterházy Weingut were served during lunch. I actually bought a bottle of the 2007 Estoras in the airport on the way home. Following lunch was a tour of the amazing Esterházy Palace where Joseph Haydn worked as the conductor for the Esterházy court. After the tour there was an open wine tasting with a variety of Sauvignon Blanc wines from Steiermark (Styria) and Blaufrankish wines from Mittelburgenland.

Our group at lunch:

The gorgeous building where we had lunch:

The Palace!

Next up was a trip to Donnerskirchen for a tasting of wines from the special terroirs of the Leithaberg area at the Hans & Anita Nittnaus winery. Unfortunately, due to heavy rain we were unable to tour the vineyard, but the building itself was quite striking with massive picture windows overlooking lush green forest.

Tasting the many different wines:

Still tasting:

After this tasting we took a lovely boat ride across Lake Neusiedel featuring Austrian sparkling wines by Szigeti, coffee, and cakes. Peter Szigeti was on hand to open one of his wine bottles with a sabre! Lake Neusiedel is beautiful and even shallow enough that most people could walk across it. Lining the lake are small, charming fishing houses. We also caught someone taking a leisurely swim in the rain.

I'm having fun on the boat:

Peter Szigeti brings out the sabre!

I'm always near the food!

Charming fishing houses along the lake:

We arrived the the Nationalparkzentrum Neusiedlersee in Illmitz for a comparative tasting of noble sweet wines grown at either side of the lake. It was here that I finally tasted a Kracher dessert wine and it was well worth the wait. I tasted the 2006 Grand Cuvee Trockenbeerenauslese, which was sweet, raisin perfection.

About to taste some amazing dessert wines!

Following this tasting we headed to the Restaurant Nyikospark in Neusiedl am See for an amazing "Pannonian Dinner" with wines from Burgenland. Sitting with my new friends, eating sumptuous Austrian fare, and sipping wine was a lovely way to end a day full of fun, education, and beauty.

This restaurant was great! I had a nice group to sit with as well:

Leaving the restaurant. Full!

We arrived at Hotel Pasler-Back, part winery-part seminar hotel, in Jois late at night and the majority of us headed straight to our rooms for a good night's sleep.

The wine shop inside Hotel Pasler-Back:

When my head hit the pillow it immediately began to fill with images of the Schloss Hof, where Empress Maria Theresa once lived, which was to be our first stop on Day 3 of Austrian Wine Summit 2009. Until then, thanks for reading and stay tuned for more.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day 1: Austrian Wine Summit 2009

Day 1: Wednesday, June 10, 2009

We arrived in Vienna around 7:30 am, well before the 8:30 am E.A.T., as the jet stream was on our side, giving our plane that extra push. Our flight home takes longer because of the opposite effect of having winds in your face instead of against your back. My first impression of Vienna is through the airport, which is clean, orderly, and efficient.

We arrived at Falkensteiner Hotel Palace in Vienna shortly after thanks to a quick taxi ride provided by the Austrian Wine Marketing Board. We checked into our respective rooms, showered, and rested for a quick moment. Steve had two meetings to attend, but I had the day to myself and grandiose plans to tour Vienna in five hours or less. So around 11 am I left the hotel and began walking towards downtown Vienna, taking about a billion pictures en route. Something I noticed and loved immediately is that wine can be sold on the street!

I started walking towards St. Charles Church, or Karlskirche, which is consecrated to the patron saint, Saint Charles Borromeoso. The church is located in Karlsplaz, a beautiful plaza complete with a reflecting pool, and amusingly, palm trees.

The church was gorgeous inside, gilded gold with painted ceiling, typical Baroque style. I took a special elevator to view the painted ceiling up close. Visiting St. Charles Church first is a lovely introduction to Vienna.

Next, I went to the Historical Museum of the City of Vienna, or Wien Museum, which is THE place to visit to learn about Vienna's complex history. The only thing missing from the museum was a friend to talk to about everything I saw, such as Roman artifacts, Turkish spears, complete wooden models of the entire city, and much more. I especially enjoyed the exhibit on fashions from Austrian eras past.

After the museum, I stopped at the Café and Wine Bar "Sacher Eck" at the Hotel Sacher Wien for a slice of their famous chocolate with apricot filling Sacher-Torte and cup of coffee with a dallop of unsweetned whipped cream on top. This café is a favorite tourist stopping point.

After my break, I visited the Gothic St. Stephan's Cathedral, or Stephansdom, which was built in 1147 AD. Here's an interesting fact: Mozart was both married and had his funeral here. The cathedral is breathtaking in it's design and aged beauty. Again, the Stephansdom, not far from the Hotel Sacher, is in high-traffic tourist zone.

I spent the rest of the day photographing interesting sights, visiting a few more churchs, of which there are many in Vienna, and gleefully strolling through this spectacularly beautiful Austrian city. In total I spent five hours walking here, there and everywhere. My calf muscles made me pay for this later, but visiting Vienna on foot was well worth the physical exhaustion.

I had to be back at the hotel for a 6 pm departure to the Heuriger Zahel in Vienna for a get together featuring Viennese wines. This was our first time meeting as the Wine Summit 2009 group, a group which was comprised of journalists, critics, sommeliers, and more from 35 different countries. We spent the evening introducing ourselves, being welcomed by the AWMB director, Willi Klinger, drinking refreshing local wines, and dining on traditional, filling and delicious Austrian fare.

The bus was scheduled to depart at 10 pm and 11 pm, but a small contingency took a special early bus (ahem...myself included considering I was dead tired from my Viennese marathon that day) at 9 pm back to the hotel. A wonderful night's sleep was a store before Day 2 of the Austrian Wine Summit 2009: Burgenland!

Please check back soon for more on my amazing time at Austria Wine Summit 2009: Discover Wine Wonderland Austria!