Sunday, July 20, 2008

Austria Part VI: The Final 24 Hours & Conclusion

The last day of the Austria trip was spent in Carnuntum and Burgenland, and later in the evening on the Neusiedlersee. This was a day to see Red Wine Country, and also the Noble Sweet Wine Country.

Our first visit of the morning was to Glatzer in Carnuntum, where we tasted Glatzer wines along with Sattler, another red wine specialist. I didn't take any pictures of the Glatzer facilities, only the wonderful lunch we had there, which is partially pictured above. The food they serve at Glatzer is well known to be delicious - they don't make it themselves, but get it catered by a local first-class restaurant - and they are gracious hosts. I mean the food was fantastic and plentiful, like a full-on dinner instead of a simple winery lunch. The facility, on the other hand, did not inspire me to take photos - not because it was unpleasant, but because it was quite sterile looking, with row and rows of stainless steel fermenters in one room, and rows and rows of barriques in another. I personally am not a huge fan of photos of stainless steel tanks and rows of barrels just because it is not that exciting. They are like factory pictures; not very romantic. What I can say about Glatzer is the place looks meticulous and clean, and so are their wines. The basic Blaufrankisch from Glatzer is balanced and delicious and totally underpriced, which is fantastic. Retailing at less than $20, it is a perfect food-friendly and expressive red wine to get people into Blaufrankisch.

After leaving Glatzer, we took a long bus ride through Burgenland to the historic town of Rust, which sits on the edge of the large famous shallow lake, Neusiedlersee. The town also sits on the edge of Austria, bordering Hungary. Here, we meet with Heidi Schrock, female winemaker extraordinaire, whom I have already met at the Vie Vinum tasting in Vienna about 5 days prior. She is as bright and bubbly as I first met her, full of life and knowledge and elegance in a way that seemed so strikingly unique to me.

I was totally rude and snapped this picture of her when I just stepped off the bus, because she just looked so darned cute I couldn't resist. I was very proud of this picture I took of her because it seemed to capture her essence so. She is so photogenic! In retrospect, I could have waited till anytime to take the picture because she was like this the whole time - no need to rush to capture a moment when she exuded such happiness - she exuded happiness all the time I saw her!
Heidi Schrock is the owner of a winery of the same name and produces some cult dry wines as well as some noble sweet wines, the most famous of which is called Ruster Ausbruck, which is named after the historic town from which she hails, Rust. She gave us a tour of this little old town, where her winery is located.

Throughout the town of Rust, there are stork nests which have been placed there by humans (not storks) for the storks to return home to. Apparently, this is a tradition of which they are very proud. The storks migrate to South Africa in the winter and return to Rust in Austria in the summer. As we were there in June, the storks were just returning from their long flight. Apparently, each stork returns to the same nest each year. At the end of the summer, when the cold weather starts to come, the storks one day just all up and leave, simultaneously in flight, Heidi explained. She said that is usually a sad day for the Rust people. They love the storks.

After the tour through Rust, we board a boat which taxis us across the big shallow lake that is Neusiedlersee (pronounced NOI-ZEED-ler-ZAY). We are destined for Hungary. When I saw that on the itinerary before the trip, I imagined that we were going to a town in Hungary, and I would see a whole different country and culture on this Austrian trip. But that was not really what happened. We actually were going to an old border station, which is now just a resort-y hut which is owned by a 2-star Michelin restaurant, which uses the hut for catered parties. We were going to this isolated post to do our final tasting for the trip, and then have a relaxing dinner by the lake.
So no Hungarian culture trip this time. But we did hear some stuff about Hungary from our hosts. Apparently, this part of Austria used to be very closely associated with this part of Hungary in the not-so-distant past. They were in the same country, and the townspeople and the countryside folk from the now-Austrian side used to go into the town in Hungary to do lots of their shopping and other city stuff. Now it is a different country, so things have changed. But more recently, since Hungary and Austria are part of the European Union, things have become more open again, so there is again movement among the people who have historically considered themselves one and the same.

On this boat ride, we were also joined by Silvia Prieler of the winery Prieler in Burgenland owned by her family. Prieler makes some delicious red wines including a very famous Blaufrankisch from the Leitaberg sub-region, as well as a few white varieties such as Weissburgunder and Chardonnay. Note they don't really do Gruner Veltliner or Riesling down here in the Burgenland, since the climate is much warmer than the Kamptal, Kremstal, and Wachau, and here it is more suitable for red wines and some white varieties that are better in slightly warmer climes.

Above pictured is Kevin Pike of Skurnik Wines, the fearless leader for this trip and this group of over 26 of their clients, which included distributors, sommeliers, and retail buyers like myself. Kevin was super organized, a guy full of knowledge and total sense of the places he was taking us and the growers. He did such a superb job of organizing this effort, I am awed by what he put together. Truly, it was a great view of Austria, not just the wines, but the entire culture of the place, from the oppulent city of Vienna to the vast, gorgeous countryside, to the quaint villages.
Here he is sipping a delicious glass of one of our host's Rose wines, which almost has a hue not unlike that of his jacket. He's taking a brief chill on the boat ride.

And here we are, unloading off the boat, onto the old Hungarian border station. I guess this was a functional border station before Hungary and Austria both joined the European Union, when they would check passports. Now, it is a wooden structure for us to do tastings and such in. What a tranquil setting, looking out onto that mysterious lake.

Here are some of us chilling after tasting some pretty serious wines.

After tasting some wines, I was surpised to start tasting some Eau de Vie from a producer called Hans Reisetbauer. This guy is full-on passionate about making Eau de Vie. And other liquors. I even tasted a gin that was pretty fantastic. Just so fresh. His Eau de Vies are all distilled pure fruit products and he uses only the best fruit, from his orchard or fruit he sources that is of top quality, and he ferments it all down and then distills to make these pure concoctions. And he made some bizarre ones: ginger and carrot were two that come to mind. I think he is the only one to ferment ginger, which is not that easy to do, and then distill the resultant "ginger wine" into an Eau de Vie. It wasn't really my cup of tea, but it was full of the aroma of fresh young ginger and it was true to its origins. The young ginger he sources from China. He made some other berry and apple and pear Eau de Vies which I found to be lovely. He also made vintage stuff, ie. he feels there is as much vintage variation in Eau de Vie as in wine - one vintage can be really hot and ripe and produce intensely ripe and fruity Eau de Vies, and another vintage of the same fruit, same orchard can produce a leaner, steelier one.

I was so impressed by those Eau de Vies that I woke up early the next morning and hit the fine grocer Julius Meinl in Vienna to buy one of his products, the Pear William one for Johan as a souvenir.

Here's an interior shot of this upscale grocery store. Very nice. Has a glass elevator running through it as well.

And here's the last place I went to before the Vienna airport to fly home that Friday morning, the Hotel Sacher, which has that famous torte, Sachertorte. I shared a cab with a Sharon, a restaurant owner in Dallas, TX and journalist David Rosengarten, who were going there that morning on the way to the airport to pick up a torte to take home. I didn't get one since I really wasn't that into it (had heard it wasn't that great), but I did get to pop into the hotel and take in its very old school ambiance. Almost everything is done in red velvet.
So that sums up my Austria trip. The last 24 hours were so relaxing and enjoyable, not rushed or stressed. It gave me such a good feeling about Austria. I shared with another on the trip that I still liked Germany better, and German wines better, but Austria and its wines were definitely growing on me. The trip gave me the impetus to try more of the wines at the dinner table. The trip was also definitely informative, giving so much information for me to chew on - about its wines, its estates, its vineyards and region, and about its culture in general. I love this stuff, tons of mental goodies for me to mix and knead in my mind. Mind food. Yes. This was a trip full of that, and it made me feel so fortunate to be in this business, meeting people of like minds, delving into a culture that is not my own, but takes me in with such generosity and kindness.
Austria will forever be etched in my mind as a gorgeous place with solid, worthy, delicious wines and even more delicious food. I hope to return there soon. But in the meantime, I have the wines at my fingertips.

1 comment:

Samantha Dugan said...

Sounds like a very cool trip. I love how inspiring these trips can be. Meeting the people, eating their food, drinking their wines and laughing together...very human and very beautiful.
Diversity might seem less intimidating at the end of a fork and with a glass of wine....I wish everyone would/could travel and see how amazingly different and at the same time, very much the same we are.....
Great trip report girlie, thanks for sharing.