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South Styria

I returned this week from a wonderful wine adventure in Austria.  There are so many memories to share, but I’ll start with a simple overview of the first area I visited.

We spent the majority of our time in the southern part of Styria, a land of beautiful rolling hills graced with a plethora of vineyards, about 2,300 hectares worth!  This area is often referred to as the “Tuscany of Austria”, and I can understand why.   The people here are friendly, the views are magnificent and the wines are lovely.

The main varieties in this region are:

Welshriesling – not a true Riesling, the name translates as “foreign Riesling”.  This varietal makes fragrant, high acid, straightforward wines.

Sauvignon Blanc – also known here as Muskat-Sylvaner and also often called simply Sauvignon.  This varietal makes some very lovely wines in South Styria, often with nice smoky and grassy nuances. 

Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc) – makes some good quality wines that are often big-bodied.

Chardonnay (known here as Morillon) – This varietal does very well in this region, often making elegant wines.  They are often aged in oak.

Traminer (also know as Gewürztraminer) – South Styria has some exceptional examples of this wine, often full-bodied and very expressive.

Muskateller – the same as the French Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains, and is locally know as Gelber Muskateller.   This fun and fragrant varietal is a specialty of the region, and can be found on virtually every wine list.  Its wines are especially pleasant as an aperitif!

Some of my favorite wineries visited in this region include Zweytick and Gross.  We also had a fun tasting at Schilhan.  I’ll elaborate more on these wineries in a future blog, as they deserve much more attention than they’re receiving here. 

South Styria definitely deserves to be considered as a serious wine destination.  The drive from Graz (Austria’s 2nd largest city) is only about 30 minutes, with Vienna only 2 hours from there.  Styria has wonderful restaurants and lodging, and isn’t overcrowded with tourists.  For this wine lover, it is a little piece of paradise!

My August Wine of the Month

Blanc de Blanc

The House of Wine Doppler is located in the Štajerska region of Slovenia.  Originally owned by the Benedictines from Admont in Austria, Ivan Doppler bought this estate in 1938.  He fulfilled his life’s dream and enjoyed 89 harvests before passing his knowledge and love of the vine, along with the winery, down to his daughter.  His granddaughter Mihaela is now enthusiastically running the winery, calling it not only her work, but also her life!  She is developing the estate into a state-of-the-art winemaking facility, which combines modern technology with centuries-old winery traditions.

The Wine – Doppler’s 2009 “Diona” is a lovely sparkling wine consisting of 100% Chardonnay.  It was made in the méthode traditionnelle, with the second fermentation in the bottle, and aged on the lees for 18 months.   It has wonderful granny smith apple and pear on the palate, along with the perfect amount of yeastiness.  The lively mineral notes are nicely balanced with some vanilla cream.

Visiting the Winery – This may be the most beautiful tasting room I’ve ever visited.  We began the tasting outside above the tasting room!  We had a glass of the “Diona” while enjoying their 360-degree views of gorgeous rolling hills with vineyards.  We next headed downstairs to the ultra modern tasting room and winery, which was just opened in May of 2010.  The experience was so special that I will be sure to blog about the winery in the near future and add lots of pictures.

The Journey – The House of Wine Doppler is located very close to South Styria in Austria, where we were staying.  We took country roads through breathtakingly beautiful areas and were pleasantly surprised to arrive at the most beautiful of all.  To top it all off, the wines were wonderful as well!  Check Doppler out at:

2003 Talbott Diamond T Estate Chardonnay

I’ve been saving a wine to crack open, and tonight was the night!

I knew that the Talbott 2003 Diamond T Estate Chardonnay could be cellared for a while, and I was excited to see how it’s drinking.

The grapes in this wine come from the heralded Diamond T Estate Vineyard in the Carmel Valley of California’s Central Coast AVA.  Planted with the Corton-Charlemagne clone in 1982 by Robb Talbott, this vineyard grows on a 1,200 foot mountaintop, eight miles from Carmel Bay.

The Diamond T Estate Chardonnay is 100 percent barrel fermented and has full lees contact for over a year.  The wine spends a total of 14 to 18 months in French oak and is then bottle-aged for almost two years before it is released!

Now I know what you’re probably thinking!  OAKBOMB!  Because of the acidity, though, along with the time in the bottle, it’s really not.

The color is deep golden.  The nose is wonderful, with gorgeous aromas of honey, pineapple and lots of ripe pear coming through.

On the palate the once obvious oak has calmed down.  Acidity dominates now, but the ripe pear, peach, pineapple and vanilla still come through nicely.  If this wine didn’t have the crisp acidity to balance it out, this ’03 would almost be sweet.

The finish is creamy and lasts a good long time.

I’m glad that I opened this bottle when I did.  It doesn’t have a lot of time left.  Tonight, however, it didn’t disappoint!

Whitehall Lane 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

The other night I opened a bottle of 2005 Whitehall Lane Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  I enjoyed it so much that I decided to share my thoughts on it.

This dark garnet wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It has a little barnyard and wet dirt on the nose, along with some ripe cherry, blackberry and vanilla.  The medium-full bodied palate has black cherry, blackberry and plum and a delightful kick of spice on the long finish.  The tannins are very smooth.

Although this wine can sit for a few more years, it’s drinking beautifully now.  The fruit is still very fresh, but not overpowering the nice earthiness that comes through.

A very interesting thing about this wine is the bottle closure used.  Instead of using a traditional cork, this bottle is closed with the glass stopper, Vino-Seal.  It was first introduced to the European market in 2003 and has been used by 300 wineries worldwide. 

More and more alternative closures to cork are out on the market, mainly due to the potential risk of “cork taint”, or a bottle of wine being “corked”.  This is caused by the presence of the chemical 2,4,6-trichloroanisole or TCA for short.  Various studies have shown that between 4 and 8 percent of all bottles of wine are tainted with TCA.  Using alternative methods for closure will obviously help put an end to this problem.  I’ll explore the many alternatives to cork in a future blog.

Some sources say that the first wine to use the revolutionary Vino-Seam was the 2003 Whitehall Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  You’ll no longer be able to find the ’05 on shelves of your favorite wine store, but if you discover one on a restaurant’s wine list don’t be afraid to order it!



My July Wine of the Month

Novelty Hill Winery
Stillwater Creek Vineyard

Novelty Hill Winery is located in the adorable town of Woodinville, just outside of Seattle, Washington.  This is a great town for wine tasting and Novelty Hill and its partner winery Januik is a definite must-stop for the quality wines they produce.
The Wine – The 2008 Novelty Hill Sangiovese from the Stillwater Creek Vineyard is a very nice wine.  The nose is full of rose petals, plum and chocolate covered strawberries.  The palate has plum, cherry and some peppery spices.  This wine is very well balanced and has a nice medium to long finish.

Visiting the Winery – Novelty Hill’s winemaker Mike Januik is also the winemaker for its partner winery Januik.  They share a tasting room, which on the outside looks a lot like a warehouse. Once you approach closer and get inside, though, you discover an ultra modern and sleek setting in which to taste their lovely wines.  One can also order brick oven pizza in the tasting room on the weekends.  What a fun setting in which to eat some pizza and have a glass of wine!

I’ve been here twice, once in July of 2008 and again in March of 2011, when I purchased this ’08 Sangiovese.  Although the tasting room personnel has been far from welcoming the two times I’ve been there, I’ll definitely go back for the lovely wines.

The Journey – Novelty Hill is located in an industrial area of Woodinville, but don’t let that scare you off.  Once inside the tasting room you’ll feel very much a part of the  “Wine Country” atmosphere, where you can look through glass walls into barrels of fermenting wine.  Check them out at:

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