Bethany Vineyards Clark County, Washington - Owner and winemaker, Walt Houser, is selflessly helping Michele out with getting the vineyard going.
Bodegas Familia Antonietti San Martin, Mendoza, Argentina - Andrés Antonieti and his daughter Betiana toured Liz and Jay around a few of the smaller vineyards in Mendoza before lunching with their whole family at their newly opened winery. We were their first guests.
Hanna Winery Healdsburg, CA - This is the beautiful Alexander Valley winery where Liz and Jay were married in 1999.
hip CHICKS do WINE Portland, Oregon - An urban winery in an industrial section of Portland. Very fun group and a ton of special events.
Shinn Estate Mattituck, Long Island, New York - Barbara Shinn and David Page run a small Long Island winery as a model for biodiverse farming practices. I helped harvest the rose' in the fall of 06'with their new winemaker Juan Eduardo Micieli-Martinez.
Out of our two days of winery visits in the Wachau, our favorite was at Nikolaihof. 31-year-old Nikolaus Saahs, now the winemaker, showed us around his family’s winery and cellar, the oldest winery in Austria, with origins dating back to the year 985. It’s been under his family’s ownership since 1894.
Nikolaihof was also the first winery in Austria – if not the world – to use biodynamic practices, though not at first by choice. When Nikolaus’s father, Nikolaus Sr., started making wine in 1960, he had no money to purchase chemicals to help fertilize the grapes. They formalized their philosophy in 1971 when his mother, Christine, helped to define and implement true biodynamic practices. They also hand-harvest, use only wild yeasts, and don’t control the temperature during fermentation. Plus they own the largest wooden grape press in the world – it’s more than 320 years old! – which they’re still using for selected wines.
Austria's Wachau winegrowing region, overlooking the Danube River.
Austrian wine still seems to be somewhat of an insiders’ secret. But this country of just over 8 million people is the 17th largest wine-producing nation in the world (more than New Zealand, but less than Russia, Greece, and Brazil), producing native white grapes like the green appley Gruner Veltliner (the sommeliers’ darling over the past few years); red grapes like big, bold Blaufrankisch, earthy St. Laurent, and spicy, cherry Zweigelt, a cross of St. Laurent and Blaufrankisch; and luscious sweet wines called Ruster Ausbruch. The problem is that Austrian wine is still rather tough to find outside of Austria – less than 28 percent of all wine produced is exported (mainly to Germany, with the US their fourth largest export partner), which is a shame since they’re making some pretty exceptional wines.
Winederlust Rating (details below): 8.1 out of 10 / Winederlust Worthy: Yes
Before our trip to Croatia, Jay and I had read in several places that Valsabbion - in the country's Italian-influenced northwestern region of Istria - was one of the best restaurants in the country. So of course we called for a reservation. Unlike some other European restaurants where you need to make reservations a month or two in advance, we were able to get in for lunch with less than a week's notice, no problem.
In fact, when we got to the restaurant (about a 15-minute drive from Pula, Istria's largest city), we were dining nearly alone - only one other table was occupied for lunch. Though the quietness was a bit odd (it wasn't quite high season yet, but still), we were impressed by the restaurant's very modern décor with lots of black and purple and a good view of the water below.
Jay and I weren't sure what to expect from Amsterdam food. Some people had told us that it was yummy; many others told us it was tough to find a good meal, especially for New York City foodies.
Though perhaps we weren't in Amsterdam long enough to judge fairly, we did figure out that you could get a solid meal by focusing on some of the city's strengths: Indonesian food, pancakes, and fish from one of the fish stands. (Surinamese food also sounded intriguing, but we didn't get to sample it on this trip - would love to hear from anyone who has!) Here's a quick snapshot of each type of food that we enjoyed:
Winederlust Rating (details below): 7.5 out of 10/ Winederlust Worthy: Yes
Prior to our quick trip to Amsterdam, online restaurant research pointed us to De Witte Uyl (“The White Owl”) as one of the best restaurants in the city – neighborhoody, but focusing on high-quality, organic ingredients in a creative (as we would learn, for Amsterdam) menu.
Jay and I took a pleasant 20-minute or so walk from our hotel near Vondel Park to De Pijp, which we heard was an up-and-coming neighborhood and home to the city’s largest open-air market, the Albert Cuypmarkt.
This was to be the first of several restaurants in Amsterdam that were ¾ empty when we ate there – not sure if it was because we were eating at a late (for Amsterdam?) hour of 9pm, or what the case was. But there were only a couple other tables occupied at that time.
De Witte Uyl itself is small and casual with off-white walls, an open kitchen in the back, and jazz tunes playing in the background. They charge EU 39.50 for two courses of your choice plus dessert – which seemed like a good deal until we saw the price converted by our bank to American dollars after returning home! (With a couple glasses of wine each, it came to nearly $170 U.S. for the meal.)