#WineWednesday Spotlight #162: Rosenhof Chardonnay TBA

The 200th anniversary of “Silent Night” is the perfect occasion to taste Austria’s sweet wines writes author Anne Krebiehl MW for the Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Trockenbeerenauslese, also called TBA, (meaning literally “dried berries selection”) is Austria’s richest, sweetest wine and is made from individually selected botrytis-infected berries. Rosenhof’s Chardonnay TBA is one of Krebiehl’s recommendations: A smokiness lies thickly above the apple fruit notes of this heady TBA, glossing everything with a darker, brooding presence. That same smoky darkness hovers on the palate, but here the spiky, bright spur of lemon freshness breaks through triumphantly, lending drive and precision to the apricot and Mirabelle plum fruit that spreads its lusciousness across the tongue. This is rich, concentrated, intense and beautifully unusual. For a perfect Austrian Christmassy experience, Anne Krebiehl suggests having a glass of Trockenbeerenauslese with Vanillekipferl, crescent-shaped buttery Christmas cookies with a nutty, almond flavor. Silent Night playing in the background of course.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #152: Muhr-van der Niepoort Spitzerberg

“I feel pretty sure that blaufränkisch is pinot noir’s sexy older brother,” writes The Wine Bible author Karen MacNeil for her website WineSpeed. So can a wine exemplify the characteristics of the grape better than the racy and velvety Muhr-van der Niepoort Spitzerberg 2013? Maybe there’s no actual evidence, but I feel pretty sure that blaufränkisch (BLOUGH-frank-ish) is pinot noir’s sexy older brother—the one who rode Harleys and hung out with Hemingway (or did whatever the equivalent was two thousand years ago). This blaufränkisch from the single vineyard Spitzerberg is certainly like that—a peppery, fruity red that’s racy and dark at the same time. Blaufränkisch, Austria’s leading red, has the wonderful ability to be simultaneously velvety and structured. If I could stop what I’m doing and cook up some duck breasts with cherry sauce, I would. (13% abv) 92 points KM If you haven’t try Blaufränkisch yet, or if you’re like me and love the raciness of the grape, or if you’re ready to cook some duck breasts, here is our selection of Blaufränkisch wines from Muhr-van der Niepoort and several other top Austrian producers on our webshop. And don’t forget the cherry sauce!

Schist Happens

The first time we starting turning over rocks and looking for producers in Eisenberg was 2014. The area is certainly thematically ripe for Blue Danube given the confluence of Croatian, Austrian and Hungarian cultures and borders. A stone’s throw from the Hungarian border and a part of the Hungarian Empire for centuries earlier, but the Croatian connection is less obvious. After the Turks were pushed out in the mid 16th Century, Hungary repopulated the war torn area with Croatian communities. For centuries, villages like Schandorf spoke a unique Croatian dialect and the culture was distinctly Croatian. This was the case up until 1921 when the borders changed, empires fell, and then were broken up again with the Iron Curtain. Things have of course perked up since then, but Südburgenland is still one of Austria’s smallest wine regions, and specific areas like Eisenberg are even lesser known. Needless to say, the region’s wines are underrepresented in the US. As such we are proud to introduce Kopfensteiner. Largely committed to Blaufränkisch, Thomas and Astrid have 9 hectares in Eisenberg and 6 hectares in nearby Deutsch Schützen planted in iron rich clay, loam and layers of green schist. Combined with the highest elevation … Continue reading Schist Happens

#WineWednesday Spotlight #133: Muhr-van der Niepoort Spitzerberg

Last month, the Muhr-van der Niepoort Spitzerberg, Dorli Muhr‘s flagship wine, was featured in the newsletter of Flatiron Wines in New York: Spitzerberg (German for “Pointy Mountain”), is one of those best plots. This “Mountain” is actually a leftover shoreline from an ancient sea, a 300-meter-high outcropping of limestone South of the Danube in Lower Austria, near the Slovenian border. And it’s perfect for Blaufränkisch, an early budding, late ripening, grape that needs a long growing season to ripen fully. Dorli Muhr enlisted Douro legend, Dirk Niepoort, to help re-establish her family’s old Spitzerberg Blaufränkisch. Today the vines are at least 50 years old and farmed organically. They vinify using some whole clusters and foot stomping, and without additives (even sulfur) or cultured yeasts, pump-overs or modern tools. The wines are finished with two years in used barrels. Muhr-Van Der Niepoort, Spitzerberger 2012: These grapes managed to hang on the vines until October! This crazy long hang time and wild temperature swings towards the end make for a fully ripe but still super-refreshing counterpoint to Samt & Seide, with rich yet tart fruit. Six years on, tertiary umami notes are starting to complement the primary fruit. “These are little gems … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #133: Muhr-van der Niepoort Spitzerberg

World Class Organic Wines from Austria

Austria is now home to some of the best organic winemakers. We’re proud to represent the very gifted Ilse Maier of Weingut Geyerhof and Dorli Muhr of Muhr-van der Niepoort. Thanks to the leadership of Ilse Maier, Weingut Geyerhof in Oberfucha, Kremstal, has been organic since 1988. Ilse Maier’s family has lived in the wine village of Oberfucha since the 16th century and for Ilse, it became vital to preserve the biodiversity surrounding the village, not only for the vineyards but also for the wildlife and farm animals. In the vineyards, Ilse and her son Josef are working hard to keep the vines healthy and the soil loose and nicely moist underneath. They farm without using any pesticides, insecticides or weed control material. Clover is planted in every other row to naturally increase nitrogen in the soil, compost is used to nourish the plants, and the local wildlife is welcome. To save the grasslands around the village from overgrowth, the family is even raising cattle, which provide meat and milk and also manure for the fields. Maria Maier, Ilse’s daughter in-law, comes from a beekeeping family. She has started beekeeping in the vineyards. The bees are healthy and thriving thanks … Continue reading World Class Organic Wines from Austria

The Red, White, and Botrytized from Hungary, Austria and Romania

Hurricane delays and late container planning be damned, new arrivals from Hungary, Austria and Romania have finally landed in California. From out west in Sopron and Carnuntum, down in Somló and Lake Balaton, further still to Szekszárd, heading back northeast to Tokaj, and finally all the way over to Romania’s Minis region, these wines are a validation that the farming, winemaking and understanding of terroir are getting better and better year after year. The Reds: Wetzer, Muhr-van der Niepoort, Heimann, Eszterbauer and Balla Géza Only 10 years in, but using maps from the 1840s to find the best vineyards, Peter Wetzer’s 2016 vintage is our Hungarian foil for Cru Beaujolais. It doesn’t taste like Beaujolais, but the balance of spice, earth and structure makes the same person happy. Just about an hour north in Austria’s Carnuntum, the 2015 Samt und Seide from Muhr-van Der Niepoort has more limestone than Sopron’s slate, and is proof of how reflective of terroir Blaufränkisch can be. Further south in Szeskszárd near the Croatian border, we finally have some Kadarka back in stock. Once the most planted red in Hungary and a muse to composers like Franz Liszt (Hungarian Rhapsodies…), it nearly disappeared during Communism. … Continue reading The Red, White, and Botrytized from Hungary, Austria and Romania

#WineWednesday Spotlight #113: Muhr-van der Niepoort Samt & Seide

Roasted stuffed wild fowls and Muhr-van der Niepoort Samt & Seide is one of the pairings that Wine Enthusiast Magazine recommends for your Thanksgiving dinner. This tasty and earthy dish is a recipe from Hedi Klinger, chef and owner of Gasthof Klinger in Upper Austria. These little bird roasts, with their gamey flavors, billowy stuffing and salty bacon, need a medium-bodied red that can stand up to but not overpower, them. A traditional Austrian selection like Muhr-van der Niepoort’s 2014 Samt & Seide Blaufränkisch, and a New World counterpart like Brick House’s 2014 Gamay Noir from Oregon, both show lovely cherry fruit, a spicy touch of pepper and lip-smacking freshness that will illuminate all the flavors without weighing them down. Purity, finesse, elegance, that’s how The Wine Advocate describes the 2014 Samt & Seide: The 2014 Blaufränkisch Samt & Seide is the “super-second wine” of the Spitzerberg “Grand Vin” and comes from up to 40-year-old vines. The wine opens with a pure and spicy, very delicate and fresh bouquet of crushed stones, dried flowers and sour cherries. like the Cuvée vom Berg, this is another Alpine character and is fascinating in its purity and spicy freshness. On the palate, this … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #113: Muhr-van der Niepoort Samt & Seide

#WineWednesday Spotlight #109: Geyerhof Zweigelt StockWerk

After spending 3 years working for a wine magazine in New York City, wine and food writer Nicole Ruiz Hudson has recently returned to California. Located in the Bay Area, she now enjoys going on camping trips, from the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains to Humboldt County up in the northern part of the state. On camping trips, she likes to eat well and pair her meals with something good in her glass. Not all wines are good camping wines though so in her blogpost 2 oz Pours: Campsite Dining, she shares with us some of her personal guidelines for perfect camping wines: they have to be easy-drinking, under $20, versatile, easy to open with a screwcap, and tasty while chilled. Sounds good to me! With Andouille sausages grilled on the fire and cannellini beans sautéed with onions, garlic and Parmesan, she enjoyed drinking a Geyerhof Zweigelt StockWerk Kremstal 2015: This is such a tasty wine. We have this at home quite a bit and we took this on both of our summer camping trips. (One of my co-workers mentioned this also one of her camping go-to’s.) StockWerk literally means “work on the vines.” The grapes for this wine grow on … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #109: Geyerhof Zweigelt StockWerk

Harvest report in Carnuntum, Austria: Interview with Dorli Muhr

This year, we decided to interview a few of our winemakers to get their impressions of the 2017 harvest and the overall 2017 vintage. Here is Dorli Muhr, owner of the Muhr-van der Niepoort winery located in the Austrian appellation of Carnuntum east of Vienna, and known of her elegant Blaufränkisch wines: How would you describe the 2017 vintage? 2017 is a very diverse vintage. We see fantastic quality in some vineyards, and less interesting grapes in others. You will find outstanding wines from the 2017 vintage, and you will find quite poor wines. For the consumer and for the trade, tasting and comparing will be very important. How is this vintage different from last year’s? This year, we had a very hot and extremely dry summer, while in 2016 we had enough rain. The grapes were very balanced in 2016, very tasty, very relaxed in a way. In 2017, many grapes could not mature perfectly, because they did not get enough water. But for some vineyards, the hot summer and the rainfall we got finally in September, was just ideal. Those vineyards will make incredibly good wines. What’s the biggest challenge this year? We need to pick very carefully, … Continue reading Harvest report in Carnuntum, Austria: Interview with Dorli Muhr

The Rise of Blaufränkisch

It seems that in the last few years, Blaufränkisch (German for blue Frankish) has become Austria’s most successful red wine variety. It’s not a new grape: based on its name, we think that it had been growing in Central Europe since the Middle Ages. The name Fränkisch comes from Franconia, a German region praised for its quality wines in the Middle Ages, and so at the time, grapes that were producing superior wines were called Fränkisch. Better rootstock, denser plantings, better cover crops management and nuanced winemaking explain the recent rise in quality with more and more Blaufränkisch wines showing great complexity and finesse. Some producers describe Blaufränkisch using the “triangle” comparison: the grape has the elegance of Burgundy Pinot Noir, the pepperiness of Northern Rhône Syrah, and the structure of Piedmont Nebbiolo. Its home is Burgenland where many of the finest examples are grown. Carnuntum, a region just southeast of Vienna, is also a source of quality Blaufränkisch where they are especially fresh and elegant. Burgenland was part of Hungary until 1921, when most of it was annexed as Austria’s ninth and easternmost state after the dissolution of he Habsburg Empire. The exception was Burgenland’s capital Sopron, which was … Continue reading The Rise of Blaufränkisch