Austria Day 3: THE Sacher Torte, Weingut Heinrich, and the tall tower

We woke up this morning, and the weather looked to be pretty nice. It was sunny in the beginning of the day, but then the clouds came rolling in. It was also extremely windy, which made it feel significantly colder than it actually was. We started our day by heading for Café Sacher. It was a completely different experience than yesterday at Café Demel. For starters, we were promptly seated for our reservations, and our waitress came to explain the menu offerings and take our orders. I started with a Turkish coffee and the crepes with apricots. Deb went for the Original Sacher Torte and a beautiful Assam tea. Everything was wonderful, but I was looking for something a little less “breakfasty” and a little more “indulgent”. So, instead of finishing my crepes, I ordered this spiced ring cake that was dipped in white chocolate. Of course, you can’t have something sweet without coffee, right? So, I ordered two more double espressos (yes, yes, I know that seems like an excessive amount of caffeine and it probably is), and Deb got an additional tea. Overall, it was a great start to the morning.

Vienna - Café Sacher - Original Sacher Torte
Vienna – Café Sacher – Original Sacher Torte

Vienna - Café Sacher - Turkish coffee
Vienna – Café Sacher – Turkish coffee

Vienna - Café Sacher - Crêpes with apricots
Vienna – Café Sacher – Crêpes with apricots

After the café, we took the train back to the flat to pick up the car. We drove about an hour southeast of Vienna to Burgenland for a visit to Weingut Heinrich. When we arrived, we were greeted by a lovely young lady named Katti—an intern at the winery who gave us our tour. We were able to see the sorting / pressing room, the fermentation tanks, and many of the ageing cellars. Katti really made the experience engaging for us by letting us peak inside some of the barrels in which the wines were fermenting.

Burgenland - Weingut Heinrich - Barrel with grape must cap
Burgenland – Weingut Heinrich – Barrel with grape must cap

Burgenland - Weingut Heinrich - Barrel tasting with Heinrich himself!
Burgenland – Weingut Heinrich – Barrel tasting with Heinrich himself!

At the end of the tour, we were able to sample many of Heinrich’s lovely wines. The standouts for us were the Pinot Noir, which was beautifully lean and had a great sense of place that set it apart from, say, a German Spätburgunder, and the Freyheit Welschriesling, which was bottled without fining or filtration (leaving it cloudy in the glass). We purchased a bottle of each of them to take with us. Before leaving, we found out that Katti’s family name is Moser, and that her parents are the proprietors of Weingut Sepp Moser in the Wachau (where we’ll be heading tomorrow). Definitely a neat connection, and maybe we can even spend some time at her family’s winery if time allows!

Burgenland - Weingut Heinrich - Tasting table
Burgenland – Weingut Heinrich – Tasting table

Since the weather was less than ideal, we decided to forego the nature reserves around Lake Neusiedl and just head back toward Vienna early. I thought that instead of having a really late night, we could go to the Danube Tower before dinner instead of waiting until afterwards. So, we took the trains to the Kaisermühlen VIC Station, and walked about 1.2 km to the Danube Tower. It was extremely windy, so being outside on the observation deck proved to be unpleasant and rather difficult. We did spend some time just inside the tower just taking in the beauty of Vienna from above, though.

Vienna - View from the Danube Tower
Vienna – View from the Danube Tower

After the Danube Tower, we left for our dinner reservations at KitchA. Yes, we indeed had Asian whilst in Vienna, and it was darn good! We opted for entirely vegetarian options including the Agedashi Tofu, wok vegetables and rice, and even some veggie sushi (no fish, obviously). Everything that we had was really tasty, but I think that my favourite dish was the wok-fried veggies.

After dinner, we made our way back to the flat for some wine before bed. I went with 2013 Prieler Blaufränkisch (Ried Marienthal [meaning from the single vineyard called “Marienthal”]), and Deb had her Wein Gemischter Satz. These were our more expensive bottles that we purchased at Vinothek St. Stephan, and they were disappointing. So disappointing in fact, that I went down to the corner bar and bought a couple bottles for us to enjoy instead. They were Welschrieslings from Weingut Überacker. Great? No, but far better than our other options.

Austria Day 2: Palaces, Gardens, and the Zoo

Deb's rose in a wine bottleEven though the room was quite comfy, I woke up a bit early and went out to the market to get some more water for the rest of our time in Vienna. I also wanted to see what else was in the area right around our flat. However, since it was Sunday, most places were not yet open… including the Billa market where we went yesterday. I did stop in at a bakery to at least get a couple bottles of water, though. On my way back, there was a florist open, and I found this beautiful and unique rose that had splotches of burgundy and white all over it. I thought that it was perfect for Deb, so I purchased it for our room. She rinsed out one of the bottles of wine from last night, put the rose in it, and stuck it on the table in the living room of our flat. Just like the rug in The Big Lebowski, it really tied the room together.

We left the flat and headed for Café Demel. It was quite easy to get there via the underground lines, but when we arrived, the service was dismal. Not only were all the employees essentially ignoring us, but when I asked one about our reservations, she simply said “upstairs” and turned back around. We walked up the stairs and waited in queue. Thankfully I thought to ask the people ahead of us if they had reservations. They said no, so I went around them and tried to speak with an employee on the first floor. Again, they all essentially ignored me. When we were finally seated, I ordered a coffee and Deb ordered a tea. I had pastries in mind for each of us (the chocolate soufflé for Deb and the Kaiserschmarrn for me), but our waiter insisted that we go look at the pastry case. I let my frustration win and just chose from there instead. I didn’t like my coffee (the Fiaker, which is a strong black coffee with a shot of rum) or my pastry, so after Deb was finished with her tea, we just left. It was a completely disappointing and frustrating experience, but I tried to let it go and move on to the rest of the day’s activities.

We headed for Schönbrunn Palace for our “Classic Tour” starting at 12:30. The Palace was completely grandiose, and the tour was both fun and educational. I think that we both learned a lot about the Austrian royal family (the Habsburgs), and enjoyed seeing all of the different rooms that they had in their over-the-top dwelling. Instead of the audio tour that essentially everyone else chose, Deb and I went with the paper brochure so that we could have a reference regarding the 40-room tour after the fact. I thought that it was a good choice because we could go back and look at the information after the trip.

Vienna - Schönbrunn Palace - Courtyard
Vienna – Schönbrunn Palace – Courtyard

After the tour, we leisurely walked around the grounds, and especially enjoyed the Privy Gardens (which were included in the Classic Pass). They were stunningly beautiful and filled with various citrus trees. The rest of the gardens were open to the public, and we walked through them on our way to the Vienna Zoo, which is technically on the property of the Palace.

Vienna - Schönbrunn Palace - Privy Gardens
Vienna – Schönbrunn Palace – Privy Gardens

Vienna - Schönbrunn Palace - Privy Gardens clock
Vienna – Schönbrunn Palace – Privy Gardens clock

We spent a couple hours at the zoo, and tried to focus on some of the animals that we don’t have at our Saint Louis Zoo back home. Namely, they had pandas and koalas in two houses near one of the entrances. Both of those guys were doing what they do best—sleeping. It was still nice to see them, and fortunately, we even got to see the Polar Bear (which, by the way, has a way cooler name in German: Eisbär) toward the end of our time there. He was, of course, sleeping as well. 🙂

Vienna - Schönbrunn Zoo - Sleeping polar bear
Vienna – Schönbrunn Zoo – Sleeping polar bear

I stopped for a double espresso at the café right near the exit of the zoo. It warmed me up and gave me a little pep for the rest of our evening. We then headed for our dinner reservations at ef16. This restaurant was a little more difficult to find as it was down an alleyway, but boy was it ever worth the search! The service was absolutely top-notch, and the meals were incredible. We started with two dishes to split as starters—potato gnocchi and pumpkin ravioli. Both were fantastic, but I preferred the pumpkin ravioli because they were different than dishes that we typically get at home. For her main, Deb went with venison ragoût (which also came with gnocchi on the side), and I chose the sea bass with spinach and potatoes. Her dish was exquisite and also had morel mushrooms (yum!). We both agreed that they could have even left out the venison in favour of just more morels (that’s how good they were)! My dish was delicious as well, and the skin of the fish was seared beautifully! The highlight, though, was using the bread (which was some of the best I think I’ve had anywhere) to soak up the remaining sauce in Deb’s ragoût… D I V I N E.

I wanted us to each have some wine with dinner, and chose slightly more unique pairings for our starters and mains. I went with a Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc) for our starters, and then a Merlot from Burgenland for Deb’s dish (which I thought paired far better than the Cabernet Sauvignon that the waiter recommended), and a unique blend of Zweigelt and Pinot Noir for my dish. It worked well with the fish, and was a nice deviation from the standard “whites with fish” pairing rule.

Vienna - ef16 Restaurant and Wine Bar
Vienna – ef16 Restaurant and Wine Bar

After dinner, we made our way back to the hotel to further embark on our Austrian wine journey. I had a 2012 Granit Zweigelt from Weingut Kurt Angerer, and Deb went with the 2016 Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) Reserve from Weingut Schwarzböck. Mine, like the St. Laurent from the night before, was sharply acidic, but a bit simplistic. Deb’s was quite nice, but also lacked the floral intensity of the Zierfandler-Rotgipfler that just jumped out of the glass. They were good wines, but so far the Zierfandler-Rotgipfler has been the stand-out (which is awesome at under €10 per bottle, retail)!

Austria Day 1: Travel and trying to stay awake in Vienna

It seems like we were just planning for this trip, and somehow it’s already time for us to embark on this next journey… this time to Austria! I woke up and went for my 15km (~9.2 mi) run because I have to at least get in one last one before taking a couple weeks off, right? It was drizzling, but wasn’t too bad. Getting through the airport in Saint Louis was no problem at all, and our flight to Philadelphia was (thankfully) uneventful. On our flight from Philly to Budapest, we had a little turbulence around Nova Scotia, but overall, it wasn’t bad either. However, the only person on the flight with his light on sat directly in front me of, and the only two people talking the whole time were behind us. Hahaha. That made sleeping a bit difficult, but that probably wouldn’t have happened anyway.

I was able to get Deb’s seat changed so that she wasn’t sitting behind me, but it turns out that the row numbers didn’t align on this old 767-300 plane. Alas, she still wasn’t directly across the aisle from me. Bummer, but I think that we might have both been too tired to chat anyway.

At Budapest airport, the car rental process was completely painless, and we ended up with this Kia Ceed. For some reason, I opted for the handheld GPS just in case there were some areas along the way where I didn’t have mobile data. With our bags all packed up in the car, we started out toward Vienna, but after about an hour of driving I realised that something was wrong. We should have been much closer to Vienna than we were. I had accidentally configured the GPS to “avoid toll roads and motorways” so it was still going to be ~4 hours. I wasted all that time, but thankfully figured it out within an hour and we were still ahead of schedule. Once I got that taken care of, we made it in ~2 hours thereafter, and still ended up arriving at the residence early.

Vienna - Mar Suite Apartments Simmering - Courtyard
Vienna – Mar Suite Apartments Simmering – Courtyard

We got set up in our flat (the Mar Suite Apartments in Simmering), and headed out for the evening. We took the train to Vinothek St. Stephen to get a few bottles of Austrian wines for our nights here in Vienna, and then to the Billa market right across from our flat to buy some bottled water and light snacks.

After getting the wines and snacks all situated in the flat, we left for our one activity of the day, but we were both quite tired. Having not yet become acclimated with the transit system, I chose poorly on the trains to take, and we ended up not making it. Fortunately, it wasn’t a huge deal to miss the one activity. Instead, we just went to dinner at Sixta earlier than our reservation. The owner said that it was no problem, and seated us ahead of schedule. We started with an order of spinach dumplings in brown butter, and they were absolutely delicious! For our mains, I got chicken with spinach in a cream sauce. It was wrapped in prosciutto, which wasn’t really necessary and added a little too much salt for my liking, but the dish was still pleasant. Deb got pork loin cutlets with potato pancakes (called “napkin dumplings” here). I enjoyed the spinach dumpling starter so much that I got another order as a “dessert” before we left. 🙂

On our way out, the owner stopped us and offered us a digestif of a hazelnut liqueur and the three of us (owner included) toasted. He said “this is only for really good people”. It was a wonderful surprise, and such an incredibly nice gesture!

We headed back to the flat, each took a quick shower, and settled in for the night with the first of our Austrian wines. Deb had the 2017 Zierfandler-Rotgipfler from Stift Klosterneuburg (the oldest winery in Austria [founded in 1114]), which had a beautiful nose of white acacia flowers and tropical fruits. I had the 2015 St. Laurent Reserve from the same producer, and though it had nice acidity, it paled in comparison to the beauty of Deb’s Zierfandler-Rotgipfler. We went to bed quite early (for us) at around 22:00. It was a long day, but overall, not too bad given the huge amount of travel! Of course, it helped that the beds were extremely comfy, and the room was pitch black from the darkening shades built into the windows.

Vienna - Mar Suite Apartments Simmering - Bedroom
Vienna – Mar Suite Apartments Simmering – Bedroom