When Stephan Schindler met Emily Weissman in Los Angeles, he wanted to teach her about wine from Austria (he grew up there, working on his family's vineyard). But there wasn't much around. So the couple started Winemonger.com, a Web site that sells Austrian wine in the States, and now the two make regular trips to the country to visit established makers and seek out new talent. Here, a few of their finds.
AN EVERYDAY WHITE
Federspiel refers to wine made from the second harvest, when the grapes are less ripe than in the third and last harvest. The summer of 2003 was exceptionally hot, resulting in unusually complex Federspiels, like the bone-dry Högl Terrassen Spitzergraben Riesling Federspiel 2003 ($12).
The Sabathi Pössnitzberg 2003 ($35) is one of several fine Sauvignon Blancs from Styria. At just 31, Erwin Sabathi is already creating world-class wines. Pössnitzberg is his best vineyard, producing highly concentrated wine with notes of gooseberry, red currant, paprika, mustard seed, and dill.
A big, beautiful Chardonnay isn't what most people would expect from Austria, but the Velich Tiglat 2001 ($55) is just that. Heinz Velich uses old vines to develop good fruit with mineral notes, then ages the wine for 18 months in oak barrels to give it hints of vanilla and ripe peaches.
A SWEET SIPPER
The Wenzel family has been making wine in the Burgenland region since 1647. Today Michael Wen zel produces dessert wines from traditional Furmint and Gelber Muskateller grapes. Wine Enthusiast ranked his Wenzel SAZ Ruster Ausbruch 2001 ($87 a half bottle) among the best 100 wines of 2004.