Our bus driver, Christian, speaks no English and this is his fourth trip with Klaus touring Austrian wineries. In time we get to know Christian and even with the language barrier, he is a nice guy and clearly a talented driver as he guides our behemoth through small passes and around mountain vineyards. Christian lands the great white whale at our first stop, Netzl winery in Burgenland.
We work through a dozen or so bottles and then we get our first goulash! The Hungarian influence is felt throughout the trip with many variations on this dish for lunch at the wineries. I can’t help but think there is a business opportunity back home. Goulash in a cup? A mobile goulash truck similar to the taco trucks of Durham? Why isn’t anyone doing that back home?
Lunch is enhanced by “getting to know you” conversation as the group sits and we tell our wine life stories and where we are from. Once again wine brings people together. The group is made up of wine veterans and neo-oenophiles, with some having been on this exact wine trip multiple times. We have a Virginia journalist for a small paper and wine shop employee writing a travel/leisure style piece about Austrian wine. We have two young wine buyers from a large retail grocery chain on the east coast and a specialty department buyer for wine and cheese in a separate chain. The table is complemented on the restaurant side by Chef Bret Jennings of Elaine’s in Chapel Hill and a woman sommelier from a fine dining restaurant in Virginia. The overall group is a great one and fortunately we don’t have any knuckle-heads on this trip. All of us can tell at least one story of an inappropriate traveler on one of these trips who came because they thought it was drink-fest. No, this trip we all have our pens, notebooks, cameras and lots of questions firing away all day long. After lunch we head to Michlits/Meinklang winery to see “the eggs.” -Salamanzar