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After starting to oversee the winemaking in 2006, Markus Altenburger took over the family winery fully in 2012, and has expanded to 30 parcels totaling around 14-odd hectares (currently in the third year of organic conversion). His parents had mostly made white wines with some attention given to international red varieties. Markus shifted the main focus to Blaufränkisch, a grape far more suited to the climate and soils found around the town of Jois and the Leithaberg DAC. Work in the cellar is with native yeasts, élevage is mostly in old wood or cement, with no additions save a judicious amount of sulfur at bottling. Gritschenberg is a southeast-facing parcel on the Leithaberg, planted to Blaufränkisch by Markus' grandfather in the late '60s. The vineyard is rife with the famous 'Leithakalk' or shell limestone, on which the old-vine Blaufränkisch manifests smaller berries, looser bunches, and lends a mineral elegance to the wines. Grapes are hand-harvested, ferment in cask, and the wine ages for two years in 500L used oak barrels. The concentration of plum and raspberry fruit that could have gone too lush and soft in a ripe vintage like 2015 is deftly cut with savory black licorice and salty herbs and earthy structure. Bravo, Markus! Cari Bernard
Delightfully fruity but balanced with refreshing acidity, this year's Hirschvergnügen comes from all estate fruit, hand-harvested, ambient fermentation and aging occurs in stainless steel. Bursting with tropical citrus fruits, green apples, and the slightest touch of herbal spice. This is a great Grüner to pair with lighter fare. Cari Bernard
Weingut Jurtschitsch is the oldest winery (est. 16th century) in the Kamptal region of Austria and has been in the family since 1868. Vineyards were converted to organic farming in 2006 and all 60 hectares have been certified organic since 2009. The Brut Sekt Rosé is mostly Zweigelt with the balance made up of Pinot Noir and Sankt Laurent, from cooler vineyard sites with calcareous soils. The wine spends 2 1/2 years on the lees and receives 7 g/L dosage. Light, electric pink in the glass, the nose is fragrant with roses, tart cherries, and raspberries. On the palate juicy red berries mingle with stony and salty minerality: refreshing and bone dry. Cari Bernard
Nikolaihof is the oldest winery in Austria, with the cellar dating back about 2,000 years. The Saahs family took the reins in 1894 and went biodynamic in the early 1970s. 'Zwickl' is a reference to the unfiltered beers of Germany (Zwickelbier), and this is the unfiltered version of the Nikolaihof Hefeabzug. Although it won't be quite as cloudy as its beer counterpart, the texture is present just enough to give depth and delight to the fresh floral, peachy, and pollen notes. Serve with spring vegetable salads, asparagus tart, roasted chicken and herbed new potatoes. Cari Bernard
Leave it to Biodynamic farming pioneers Nikolaihof to make a Neuburger that's actually complex and compelling; to turn our attention back to this often overlooked variety, commonly lost to blends or diluted by over-producing vines. Floral tea and tropical white fruit glides softly along the palate lifted by some Fuji apple acidity on the lengthy finish. So good! Cari Bernard
Sankt Laurent, Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, and Merlot sourced from higher parcels in the Rosenberg, Altenberg, and Ungerberg vineyards, hand-harvested, the grapes ferment spontaneously and age separately for 18 months in neutral 500L barrels, blended and bottled unfiltered with low sulfur added. Black plums, soy sauce, black pepper, deep savory spice wafts up from the glass, belying the fresh and juicy palate of tart raspberries, plums, violets with well-integrated structure. Cari Bernard
Claus Preisinger's winery is right outside the tiny town of Gols, on the northeast corner of the Neusiedlersee. He currently farms 19 hectares split between about 64 different plots. Biodynamic since 2008, Claus has embraced the methodology to consistently produce delicious, layered, composed wines, showcasing the unadulterated terroir of Burgenland and often showcasing autochthonous varieties. The name 'Kalkstein' is in reference to the shell limestone soils found in the vineyards where the Blaufränkisch grows. Average vine age is 30-years-old, grapes are hand-harvested, and spontaneously ferment in stainless tank followed by aging sur lie in used large wooden barrel for six months before being bottled with low amounts of sulfur. True to form, his Blaufränkisch shows bright minerality and great texture through the layers of juicy plum, black raspberry, and savory herbs. Cari Bernard
Grapes from vines on Gneiss soils, between 20-40 years in age, gently basket-pressed, spontaneously fermented with no temperature control, and left to age in 2500L oak casks (with periodic racking) for around 18 months before bottling. Cari Bernard
Pale pink in the glass, the nose hints at a stony minerality confirmed on the palate. This blend of Zweigelt, St. Laurent, and Pinot Noir is crisp with scintillating acidity and flavors of fresh green and red strawberries, Seville orange, white raspberries, white stone, and lemon juice. A touch more giving than the 2017 vintage, and still incredibly brisk! Cari Bernard
Hannes Schuster took over for his mother, Rosi in 2005, promptly shifting to organic farming, now fully certified. Known for his Blaufränkisch and Sankt Laurent (and we really love those too), we've decided to offer his Rotburger (Zweigelt), which stood out at a recent tasting, and at VieVinum back in June of 2018. Slightly reductive at first whiff, notes of burned caramel and cumin curl towards the nose. Red plum, red currants, and ripe strawberries, the palate is fruity and round but tastefully framed by a fine tannic structure that sustains on the finish. Cari Bernard
The Stadlmann family has been making wine since the 1780s in the Thermenregion; sheltered from the northern winds by the Vienna Woods, it is one of Austria's warmest wine growing areas. The 'Classic' line of wines are aged in large, used barrels to showcase the true character of the grape and terroir. 2016 is beautifully balanced and fresh, the palate is smooth and juicy with bright flavors of ripe strawberries, tangy raspberries, tart yet candied red cherries wrapped in a cloak of savory spice. A wonderful wine to have with a wide range of food! Cari Bernard
All of the insects and amphibians found on the labels of Andreas Tscheppe's wines are also found in the vineyards, where he biodynamically farms a variety of grapes, like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gelber and Gold Muskateller, and Sauvignon Blanc on tall terraces with no stone walls, only green cover, soil structure and the roots of the vines for support. Soil types in this region range from brown clay to chalky-silty marl (known locally as 'Opok'). Blue Dragonfly is 100% Sauvignon Blanc—the vineyard is a mix of seven different clones planted in 2007. After de-stemming and a direct press, the must goes through spontaneous fermentation and ages in old wood barrels of various sizes up to 2000L for 18 months during which the wine is usually racked twice with low levels of sulfur used. The nose displays a slight reduction with notes of gooseberries and green plum skin, and dark stony minerality. On the palate there's a spellbinding balance struck between integrated acidity and juicy flavors of tangerine, nectarine, and apricot with a mineral, lengthy finish. Cari Bernard
Although I may be in the minority here, Sauvignon Blanc from Styria is my favorite iteration of the grape. Gone are the overly green grasses and tell-tale stench of cat urine in litter boxes; the Sauvignon Blancs from Styria show vibrant stone fruits and a deep mineral cut, layered with a smoky elegance and an age-worthy balance of acidity and structure. Green Dragonfly is sourced from a vineyard planted in 2006, with rootstocks selected to thrive on rocky mountain terroir and a Styrian clone that has looser bunches of smaller berries with thicker skins. Salty and savory on the nose, the Green Dragonfly is actually a touch fuller than the Blue Dragonfly in 17, bursting with juicy stonefruit, Fuji apple, and wild strawberries on the powerful finish. Cari Bernard
Rotburger is the original name for Zweigelt; this bottling is sourced from one of Karl and Eva Schnabel’s three vineyards, the Kreuzegg vineyard on the Sausal mountain, home to slate soils with silex. As is true with all of the Schnabel red wines, natural fermentation occurs in open tank, with hand-pigéage; the wine is then scooped via bucket into used Burgundy barrels where it ages on the lees until being bottled unfined, unfiltered, and with no sulfur. Deep, dark magenta in color, darker than expected. Scents of ripe purple plums, stewed strawberries, carrot peelings, and just a hint of savory soy sauce, the wine is medium-bodied, juicy and mouthcoating with flavors of blueberries, blackberries, black raspberries, plums, and only the faintest whisper of tannins on the finish. May need another month or so to really knit together, but we look forward to where this wine is heading. (2/2019) Cari Bernard
The 'Reflexion' series of wines are single-vineyard bottlings. These vineyards are historically significant to both the region and the Zillinger family. Their parcel of Sankt Laurent is from the Steinthal vineyard, first seen on record in 1520 as a vineyard established in a sandstone quarry. It is now considered a sub-site of the Kellerberg, and is home to vines planted around 100 years ago. Fermentation is in open vat, and maturation is for 18 months in large, used oak and acacia barrels from nearby Hohenruppersdorf forests. Elegant tannic structure comes through as strawberry seeds, plums and a deep spicy minerality make this a delightful choice to pair with a range of fare: think roasted pork, rich vegetarian gratins. Cari Bernard
Zweigelt grown on a mix of loam, loess, and sandstone, hand-harvested (as is true with all the vineyards), spontaneous fermentation in stainless followed by maturation in a mix of used oak and acacia barrels of varying sizes. Dark and brooding and not overtly fruity, subtle black plum, a stemmy texture and black pepper make for an enrapturing Zweigelt to pair with game, goulash, roasted wild mushrooms over polenta. Cari Bernard
If the 'Velue' wines are straightforward and true to variety, the 'Revolution' wines are more on the experimental side. I loved this when it was tasted, but was never able to write all the cellar info down. To paraphrase the importer: 'this release is 50% Chardonnay partially fermented (carbonic) in amphora followed by co-fermentation with Scheurebe, and blended with Riesling from a solera of vintages 2013-2015 aged in used wood, unfined, unfiltered with no sulfur added'. A touch of structure and texture from the skin contact is finely integrated with bright notes of nectarine, Fuji apple, quince, and zesty kumquat. Cari Bernard