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Whether it's for gifting, sharing with friends, or setting the table and pairing with everything from cheese plates to schnitzel to squash casserole and turkey with cranberry sauce (or Thai food), these bottles are some of the finest examples of the grape that we've been lucky to amass here at the shop. And even though people still equate Austria mainly with Grüner Veltliner, Riesling is the other white grape that holds the most prestige in wine country west of Vienna. We've chosen to focus on wines along the stretch of the Danube river from the Wachau to the Kamptal. Here one can find a large variety of styles, staying within the realm of dry wines. We have a few older bottles on offer from Knoll & Hirtzberger in the Wachau, representing a more opulent style alongside other Wachau producers Alzinger and Muthenthaler, who take to the other end of the stylistic spectrum and produce wines with mineral lightness and verve. Then we move further to the east to the Kremstal to check in with the Stagård Steiner Gaisberg from 2016. And then it's on over to the Kamptal, where we have two different Rieslings from Heiligenstein. One from longtime friend of the shop, Johannes Hirsch and the second from newcomer (to us) Barbara Öhlzelt. Last but definitely not least we also have another single vineyard, old vine Riesling from Barbara, from the Zöbinger Kögelberg. We hope you find some new and old favorites to enjoy this holiday season and beyond!
Please excuse any missing tasting notes, some of the bottles are too allocated to get tastes of, but we trust these winemakers to do the right thing and we've attempted to give basic vineyard/vintage information when pertinent. Cari Bernard
Martin Muthenthaler is part of the small cadre of winemakers in the Wachau that are eschewing the Vinea Wachau system to focus on organic farming and wines that shy away from the lush (and at sometimes Baroque) style that made the valley internationally famous. Winemakers like Peter Veyder-Malberg, Andreas & Maria Harm, and Martin Muthenthaler have been painstakingly tending to these legendary (often terraced) vineyards with a new vision: to preserve historical terroir and care for the land through bio farming, producing vibrant wines of place, unencumbered by having to adhere to a style profile dictated by the Vinea. Martin once worked as a mechanic and truck driver for what is now called Domäne Wachau. In 2006 he took control of his family's ~3 hectares of vines in the Spitzer Graben, the coolest part of the Wachau valley. Here he's been able to rehab the terraces and through meticulous handwork, has converted to organic farming. The Bruck vineyard is S/SW in orientation, with steep, stone terraces rising to up to 480 m in elevation with orthogneiss/schist/granite soils, vines in Martin's parcels are about 50 years old. Fermentation is spontaneous with wild yeasts, and all aging is in stainless tank with long lees contact (8 months). Electric green strawberries and peach blossoms flood the nose, the palate has a balance between crystalline acidity and a concentrated density with tangy lemon and just ripe stone fruits; a beautiful representation of Bruck! Cari Bernard
Höhereck (found between Kellerberg and Loibenberg), is southwest to southeast in exposition, with Gföhler gneiss laced with feldspar and quartz. One thing that is quite conspicuous upon visiting is that this is a vineyard in which a large portion is dedicated to just lying fallow as a nature preserve. Wild grasses and flowers stand untouched; the rest is terraced to vines. Cari Bernard
Hollerin has fairly large terraces, with loam and Gföhler gneiss soil. Sometimes thought to be the softer counterpart to nearby Höhereck this is definitely the case in 2018. Delicate florals mingle with yellow apple, nectarine and apricots showing a more gentle acidity than previous vintages. Cari Bernard
The Riesling from Alzinger's Steinertal parcel often sells out the moment it arrives from Austria; the steep, higher reaches of the vineyard have a sparse layer of soil over the primary rock of Gföhler gneiss which lends itself well to growing Riesling with intense minerality and power. The vineyard is located at the end of two valleys, where cool air intensifies in the autumn, providing ideal diurnal range to preserve acidity, ripeness, and aromas in the grapes. Luckily for us, this year there's enough available to make it to the website! Vibrant energy, elegant structure, age-worthy concentration, these are the attributes that make this wine so sought after! 2018 reflects the warmth of the vintage with a touch more fruitiness on the palate. Apricot skin and stone on the nose, the palate is dense and very youthful with flavors of ripe peach, orange zest, tangerine juice and wildflowers. Cari Bernard
Based in the town of Zöbing, Barbara Öhlzelt farms six hectares of vines. Her parcels on Heiligenstein are home to 25-year-old vines on sandstone over primary rock. Even though Heiligenstein is generally a warmer site, in the cooler, rainier '16 vintage Öhlzelt was able to preserve a racy acidity and brightness along with a touch more structure and citrusy notes than the Kögelberg. While we are still fairly new to Barbara's wines, we applaud her dedication to producing a fresher, more mineral and focused style of Kamptal wines. We're here for it! Cari Bernard
Barbara Öhlzelt's parcel in is in the Zöbinger Kogelberg, home to almost 70-year-old vines growing in granite and shale over primary rock. No machines are used here, harvest is by hand and the grapes ferment spontaneously before aging in used acacia barrel on the lees. Zöbing-side is often my favored side of these Kamptal vineyards. I've found that wines from the vineyards around this town are often racier, and maintain a brightness that balances the potential fruity character of the wines. We were lucky to grab some of Barbara's 2016 Kogelberg and it's showing really well! Great balance between vivid green herbs and sweet-tart Fuji apple and ripe apricot; this would be a lovely dry Riesling to join your holiday spread. Cari Bernard
Heiligenstein is legendary: born of the Bohemian Massif it is home to a myriad of soil types, and Johannes Hirsch is a venerable scholar of Kamptal terroir. His dedication and love for the region is felt in his commitment to uncompromisingly farming biodynamically, utilizing soft-pruning techniques in the vineyards, and the care taken in the cellar to let the wines ferment spontaneously and at their own speed in a mix of stainless steel, acacia, and oak barrels (all used). The Hirsch Heiligenstein vineyard is on the Zöbing side, curving from south- to southwest-facing in aspect, with a mix of silt, conglomerate, and colored sandstone along with gravel, volcanic soils, and in some portions, loess. SO concentrated with fruity notes of mango and Fuji apple. nectarine and florals, balanced with zippy acidity and mineral lift on the finish. This is a bottle you can definitely hold onto, but we are impatient, so we're tasting it in store, tonight, (Wednesday, 11/20) from 5-7PM! Cari Bernard
'Steinterrassen' is in reference to the stone terraces that are a historically significant feature of the landscape of the Wachau. The upkeep of these is highly specialized, as no mortar is used, and weather over time can cause major damage through erosion. According to the Weygandt website, 'Steinterrassen' is usually a blend of early passes through three Riesling single vineyards Setzberg, Hochrain and Singerriedel.
Paraphrased from information on the Vinea Wachau website: Schütt is a mostly southfacing vineyard near the town of Dürnstein of about 5.5 hectares, some of which is terraced. Deep gneiss, with sand and rocks helping with drainage. In general, in the Wachau, 2000 made for ripe wines with ageing potential.
Paraphrased from info available on the Vinea Wachau website: Schütt is a mostly southfacing vineyard near the town of Dürnstein of about 5.5 hectares, some of which is terraced. Deep gneiss, with sand and rocks helping with drainage.Beautiful fall weather in 2001 made for "very fine, elegant Rieslings with good acid structures..."
Paraphrased from info available on the Vinea Wachau website: Schütt is a mostly southfacing vineyard near the town of Dürnstein of about 5.5 hectares, some of which is terraced. Deep gneiss, with sand and rocks helping with drainage. 2002 was very problematic for stone terrace upkeep due to the flooding in March, and then August. "Subsequent dry and warm weather caused the grapes to ripen well. These are classic wines with distinctive varietal typicity."
The Stagård family's parcel on the Steiner Gaisberg (western Kremstal) is comprised of 12 southeast-facing terraces, surrounded by forest and shrubs. Grapes here are anywhere from 4-60 years old and grow on a mix of Gföhler gneiss and mica schist that is warmed by the sun and holds the heat well into the evening hours. The seventh generation of winemakers in the family, Urban and Dominique have been focusing on organic farming for their 17 hectares (certified since 2009). They mostly grow Riesling on some epic Wachau/Kremstal sites and cellar work is with wild yeasts, often in stainless tank, although some recent projects have been in steinzeug, or stone tank/crock. Long lees aging and minimal skin contact depending on the vintage/site helps stabilize and "harmonize" the wines. First tasted as a tank sample in summer of 2017, we've since tried it (in 2019) and think it would be a fantastic wine to pair with whatever graces your holiday table. Showing that warmth of the summer months on the Gaisberg, soft apricots, yellow apple, chamomile and brown sugar waft dreamily out of the glass and are echoed on the richly balanced palate along with ripe pineapple and pear on the very long finish. Cari Bernard