Vienna is Europe’s only metropolis with a wine region within the city limits. Wien or Vienna, as us English speakers call it, is an ancient pre-Roman city of Imperial grandeur, and authentic rural charm. It is also Europe’s only metropolis with a wine region within the city limits. The region is known simply as Wien. Today the vineyards drape the hills of Nussberg and Bisamberg that overlook the city center. Between the city and the hills are streets of Heurigers—wineries that are part wine tavern, part picnic and part concert—uniting the cosmopolitan and the country. Heurigers are quintessentially Viennese. Heurig means “this year’s”. Their beginnings date back to the late 18th Century when Holy Roman Emperor Joseph the II, one of the three Enlightened Monarchs, gave permission to the local farmers to sell their wine privately. Variations do exist, but the traditional Heuriger observes a few simple but important rules. No recorded music! Homemade food! Homemade wine! The unyielding affection the Viennese have for the Heuriger has in a most beautiful way, preserved these familial businesses and in doing so protected a delicious and traditional wine type, Gemischter Satz. Gemischter-what??? Gemischter Satz (Geh-meest-er Saw-tz), which means “mixed set”, is Vienna’s … Continue reading Curious & Thirsty – WEIN (WINE) City
Founded by Ilse Maier of Geyerhof and her friend of many years, Burgenland red wine specialist Birgit Braunstein, the WildWux project takes a holistic approach to wildlife and environmental protection. The goal of the project is to go beyond organic viticulture and give back part of the vineyard to nature under the supervision of wildlife specialists. 30% of the vineyard is been restored into a wildlife corridor that preserves biological diversity and protects local species such as the red-backed shrike, the inches ios, the European tree frog, the bumble bee, and the spermophilus, in their natural habitat. “Preserving nature and utilizing the vitality of the soil” is Ilse Maier’s motto at Geyerhof. The family has been managing vineyards organically for many years, focusing on a sound eco-system and healthy soils. Organic viticulture is much more than avoiding chemicals. For the Maier family, it is a trapeze act without a safety net. The vineyards need to be continuously monitored in order to catch diseases in their earliest stages. Small failures can have disastrous consequences and sometimes, it’s too late to implement remedying measures. “We have worked on specialized know-how during the last fifteen years and this has taken a great deal … Continue reading The WildWux Project
Our Austrian bio-estate Geyerhof continues to gather many kudos from wine critics. In their July edition the Wine Enthusiast awarded 90+ points to two Gruner Veltliner: Steinleithn and Gaisberg, both from premier cru vineyards: 93 Points Geyerhof 2010 Steinleithn Erste Lage Reserve Grüner Veltliner (Kremstal): Steely and mineral in character, this is a taut, nervy wine. It has great acidity and balance, with green fruit and sliced apple flavors. Keep for 3–4 years. Screwcap. 92 Points Geyerhof 2010 Gaisberg Erste Lage Reserve Grüner Veltliner (Kremstal): While the wine is technically dry, its richness gives it a sweeter sensation. The ripe apricot and pineapple fruit is cut with knife-like acidity, allowing this concentrated wine to remain poised, with a crisp finish. The Kirchensteig Vineyard was a cellar selection, online exclusive: 93 Points Geyerhof 2010 Kirchensteig Erste Lage Reserve Riesling (Kremstal): One of a series of great single-vineyard wines from Geyerhof, this is as impressive as the rest. It has weight, complexity and richness. Its perfumed fruits provide a delicate counterpoint to the acidity, taut minerality and herbal edge. For aging over at least five years. And Jon Bonné of the San Francisco Chronicle marvels about the Geyerhof 2010 Gaisberg Reserve Grüner … Continue reading Kudos for Geyerhof!
We have been pretty busy at Blue Danube Wine this spring. Several weeks ago, we were featured at Google’s Wine Wednesday, a biweekly tasting event organized by the Google wine club. To help the chefs of the hosting cafe prepare tidbits that could be paired with each wine, we had brought some wine samples to them ahead of time. We anticipated that few Googlers would be familiar with Central-Eastern European wines so we chose the following selection of wines from Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, and Croatia, showcasing some of the best wines currently produced along the Danube river and the Dalmatian coast: 2010 Sommer Bergweingarten M Grüner Veltliner: founded in 1698, the Sommer Winery is now run by winemaker and Grüner Veltliner specialist Leo Sommer and his wife Silvane. The estate is located in the Neusiedlersee-Hügelland region near Lake Neusiedl in eastern Austria. The wine was dry, crisp, mineral with a good structure on the palate. The chefs chose to pair it with a creamy Morel and Aspargus Risotto. 2009 Kabaj Ravan: Kabaj Winery is owned and run by French-born winemaker Jean-Michel Morel and his wine Katja Kabaj. It is located in Goriška Brda in Western Slovenia, an appellation known as … Continue reading Blue Danube Tasting at Google
Last week, we enjoyed the visit of Axel and Herta Stiegelmar, the charming owners of Juris Winery, who participated in a series of promotional events in San Francisco and Los Angeles. In San Francisco, they were featured at Portfolio, our annual tradeshow located this year at the San Francisco Old Mint, pouring their Pinot Noir and St. Laurent wines non-stop from 11:00am to 3:00pm. Juris is a family estate in Gols, Burgenland, run by the Stiegelmar family since the late 1500’s. After acquiring practical experience in Germany, Bordeaux and California, Axel Stiegelmar is now considered a Pinot Noir and St. Laurent specialist, producing wines of character and style with aging potential. Pinot Noir and St. Laurent are two difficult and fussy grape varieties that have actually many common characteristics. Pinot noir was most likely brought to Austria in the late 14th Century by Cistercian monks from the Order’s motherhouse in Burgundy. It grows well in the mild climate regions of Burgenland and Thermenregion (Lower Austria) and is recently gaining more importance in the country (1.4% of the plantings in 2009, up from about 0.8% in 1999). The origins of St. Laurent are mysterious but thanks to genetic testing, it is … Continue reading JURIS wine tasting with the Stiegelmars
Eric, Frank, and Stetson with Judit & József Bodó, and István Dorogi. It is difficult to convey the personal impact visiting the cellars and homes of the wine producers we met with on this past visit to Hungary, Austria and Croatia, but it goes far beyond wine. It nourished the mind and spirit, introduced us to future friends and developed existing friendships further. We now care deeply for these places that are not naturally “home” to us. Our gratitude to those who tend these vineyards is immeasurable. From the terraced vineyards of the Wachau to the snowy volcanic hills of Tokaji, to the Golden Valley of Kutjevo and every where in between – “THANK YOU” to all who were a part of it!! That all said…Damn!! Did we drink some great wine!!! Of course – This thank you extends to all those homes and cellars that we have visited on past trips and will visit on future trips, too! Dinner with the family: János & Monika Eszterbauer, and daughters Kata and Ildikó.
One reason I love the holidays is that they mark the beginning of the Dungeness crab season. This tasty treat is harvested from mid November to the end of June, along the Pacific coast from Santa Barbara to as far as the Aleutian Islands in the Bering Sea. Being simply cooked in boiling water, its meat is sweet, tender, and slightly nutty. It is, I think, my favorite crustacean and the way I like it best is with just a squeeze of lemon, some bread and butter, and a glass of dry, mineral-driven, white wine. So the other day, we ate our first crab of the year with some delicious 2010 Geyerhof Grüner Veltliner Rosensteig. Grüner Veltliner is Austria’s national grape, accounting for more than 30 percent of the country’s vineyards and it is at its best along the Danube river were it grows in terraced vineyards on slopes so steep they can barely retain the soil, producing mineral-driven wines that can age well. The Geyerhof winery is situated on the southern slopes of the Danube Valley east of Krems. The owners, Josef and Ilse Maier, have 15 hectares of dry-farmed vineyards on loess, sand and tertiary gravel soils and … Continue reading Its Dungeness crab season, its Grüner Veltliner season
This afternoon I got a call from our friend and wine brother, Luis Moya of Vinos Unico. Luis had another one of his many – often very good – marketing ideas. He was just about to post their Top 5 Wines for 2011 on the Vinos Unico web site. Luis wanted to convince me to do the same and later we would together with our colleagues from Return to Terroir selected and market the Top 5 wines of the famous in-famous #Port4lio group. I told Luis that this is a great idea but that we are already overworked and overcommitted. If you know Luis you know that he does not give up and never sleeps, so two hours later I see a tweet in which Luis asks us to put some effort into this project and to publish our Top 5 on our web site. So here they are: No 1: Donkey Peljesac, Plavac Mali, Vinarija Dingac, Peljesac Peninsula 2010No 2: Geyerhof: Gruner Veltliner Rosensteig, Kremstal 2009No 3: Bibich, B6 Riserva, Northern Dalmatia 2008No 4: Eszterbauer Kadarka, Szekszard 2009No 5: Kabaj Rebula, Goriska Brda 2008 Cheers, and Thank You for your support.
Finding the perfect wine that can go with all the rich flavors found on the Thanksgiving menu, the turkey, the stuffing, the gravy, the cranberries, and the various side dishes, can be challenging. Nonetheless, I think that a wine that is bright and fruity, and not too tannic nor alcoholic, is always a great choice. So when I recently tasted the 2009 Juris St. Laurent Selection, I thought that this year, it was time to invite Austria to our Thanksgiving table. Owned by the Stiegelmar family, Juris farms 17 hectares of vineyards in the Neusiedlersee wine region, half way between Vienna and Budapest. This is the warmest part of Austria with climatic conditions well suited to red varieties, which explains the winery’s special focus on St Laurent and Pinot Noir wines. The Stiegelmar family has been cultivating grapes in this area since the 16th century. One of the winery’s underground cellars was built in 1756, Mozart’s birth year. It was dug 52 meters long, 12 meters below the surface, and maintains a stable temperature of 10°C (50°F). The underground cellars. But over the past 10 years, Axel Stiegelmar and his father Georg have developed a modern winery. The transport of … Continue reading Invite Austria to your Thanksgiving table
our travel group: Jeff (A Cote, Oakland), Frank & Stetson (BDW), Santos (Bacaro LA), Pamela (CAV, San Francisco). For three days every other year, a wing of the Hofburg imperial palace in Vienna turns into the national wine cellar, as hundreds of Austrian wine producers (and some from other lands) come to pour their wines for an international gathering of trade, press, and colleagues. A small group of five supporters of Blue Danube Wine and specifically of Austrian wine was there to investigate. It is difficult to imagine the Habsburgs roaming these rooms, now that they are lined with tables and packed with people talking of Grüner Veltliner and Blaufränkisch, the merits of screwcap closures, and the conditions of the 2009 vintage. There are so many attractions that one needs to plan carefully to absorb as much as possible, even in three days. The rooms are mapped to a regional theme, making it easy to taste as many Wachau whites as possible, then slip into Wagram and try to identify general differences. One can plan a journey from table to table in Burgenland, tasting only wines from the St. Laurent grape, or try to define the characters of the two … Continue reading Blue Danube Visits VieVinum 2010