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: