water channels, the so-called ”Waale”
recently became the scene of a humorous story told to the Concierge by a fellow colleague in the hospitality business. One hot summer month, a group of sommeliers from the Commonwealth of Independent States were guests of one of the, back then still known as, four wineries in Kaltern. The director of Sales and Marketing of the winery in question, was in charge of the small group of about ten as their guide.
She welcomed the group at the airport and supplied them with brochures and information regarding their stay and the surrounding area. After escorting the group to the hotel for check-in, she led her guests on a tour of the winery, followed by a wine tasting and an aperitif in a local bar. All this followed by a gourmet dinner of regional specialties, prepared by one of South Tyrol’s most famous chefs, and, of course, accompanied by various wines presented by the winery's cellarmaster himself.
After dinner, the group strolled to a bar to enjoy an after dinner drink. One would expect the activities of this evening to be entirely professional and not overindulging, seeing that all participants of the group are experienced tasters of wine and spirits…
At the end of the evening, the lights in the bar were getting lower and lower and the bar staff were eagerly waiting for the group to leave. The group however was not convinced that the night was coming to an end. In time the winery director serving as group leader did convince the, let’s say “tipsy”, group to leave. The director, still sober and 100% professional, led the group back to the hotel on a path through the vineyards, but upon arrival the group changed their mind. It was not time to go to sleep they said, instead, they wanted to go for an after midnight swim in the lake.
The group leader, as professional as she was, didn’t object, organized towels and discretely left the scene, as some of the group's participants at this point in time were rather scantily clad, and since they were supposed to leave for the airport in the morning, she went to get some sleep herself.
At 9:00 AM the bus was waiting to leave. Only the group was nowhere to be found.
A few calls later the bus was almost full with hungover sommeliers. Only one lady was still missing.
She was eventually found sitting at the lake. No, she wasn’t feeding the ducks, but instead she was searching the waters edge completely distraught. The group leader asked her to get on the bus as they had to leave if they were to catch their flight. Crying, the sommelière refused. The previous evening , while swimming in the lake, she had lost her cellphone containing all her contacts. This lady was one of the most respected sommelière in Russia and her smartphone was not backed-up. The numbers on her phone belonged to the who’s who of the Russian upper society. She had lost the numbers of Russian officials, ministers and allegedly, even heads of state. On top of that, she was supposed to organize the wines for a state dinner the next evening.
Naturally quite upset about this loss, the sommelière insisted on calling the fire department and a diving team to look for the cellphone. Only after half an hour she was finally convinced to get on the bus, as the phone was hopelessly lost in the lake.
Just as the bus was about to leave the yard, a hotel employee sprinted across the yard and tried to get the passengers' attention. In his hands was the missing cell phone. To find it he didn’t need the fire department or a team of divers, he didn’t even have to get his toes wet, the phone was found lodged in a space in the bathroom, in between the bathtub and the toilet.
Upon arrival at the airport, when the guest finally boarded the airplane just in time and she was no longer required to look after the group, relief broke out on the group leader’s face.
The Concierge heard this story from the very director for marketing and sales who was responsible for the group, and did not miss the opportunity to visit the lakeside hotel himself. At lunch in the hotel, the Concierge can’t help but remember the story with a smile. In the course of his years as concierge, he had also often been a group leader leaving his guests at the airport, and he, like his colleague in the story, could only breathe a sigh of relief once the plane was finally in the air.
We might „only“ run a small three-star hotel with a few rooms, a restaurant and a bar; but we know that what we lack in size we make up for in hospitality, and the personal relationship with our guests. So naturally, the Concierge places great significance on his personal appearance – even holes in his socks are a no-go (even when his feet are hidden behind the front desk all day).
Grandma might knit great socks, the thick wool kind that keep your feet warm even in the coldest of winters at home or on the ski slope, but for the work behind a reception desk, they are unfortunately unsuitable.
So today the Concierge is off to buy socks. The Merano Lauben should have everything he needs. On a cold, gloomy day such as today, the city is packed – which makes navigating the narrow streets of Merano hard as the Concierge fights through the crowds. Eventually the right store is found and 10 pairs of socks are easily acquired. Nothing stands in the way of just returning home. A quick one today eh?
But at the end of the arcades, the cathedral church bells of St. Nicholas can be heard ringing through the streets. It’s twelve o’clock, maybe we should stay for lunch?
We decide on the inn “Wirtshaus zur Blauen Traube” (“Blue-Grape Inn''). A historical inn in Merano, a cultural and gastronomical heritage site.
We chose the inn in part because our butcher, Metzger Mair, used to supply the Blaue Traube with local beef.
Our lunch consists of two gnocchi variations, one with Hokkaido squash and cheese, and the other one with cheese fondue, cream spinach and Speck; followed by pike perch in broccoli foam, leek, capers, raisins and grapes; and a roasted venison shoulder with red cabbage and apple, potatoes and a juniper berry sauce.
For dessert we have a reinterpretation of Tarte Tatin, also known in Paris as Tarte du chef or Tarte des demoiselles Tatin, made from South Tyrolean apples. While in reality a typical french cake, it could also be a South Tyrolean invention, as its ingredients come in abundance in South Tyrol.
The young but experienced and well traveled chef Christoph Huber responsible for this delicious lunch attended various culinary schools of haute cuisine and learned from many internationally renowned master chefs. In the dining room, young Franziska Mittelsteiner, called Franzi, is in charge: she is responsible for the wine in the Blaue Traube.
The meal was accompanied by a Pinot Blanc Muschelkalk from Abraham, Pinot Noir Gottardi and a Gewürztraminer Terminum.
Let us hope our socks don’t last too long, so we’ll get another chance to buy some more soon…
While South Tyrol is renowned for its wine, South Tyrolean beer should not be underestimated.
Yesterday, the Concierge was having a look at the dining room and observed that on this particular evening, the most common beverage to accompany Tyrolean specialties was not wine, but beer. Thus, at the end of the evening the Concierge noticed that the remaining beer levels in storage were dangerously low. Too low, in fact, to continue serving beer throughout the next evening, should his guests again favor beer over wine.
So, early next morning, the Concierge contacted one of his most trusted suppliers, but: „Unfortunately, we can't deliver until Wednesday morning!"
A backup plan was needed. Of course, the Concierge would be quite a lousy concierge if he gave up after a single phone call, and especially if he didn‘t know where to get beer on an ordinary weekday. After all, if his guest wanted beer, beer they shall have!
On his quest the Concierge drives his van to Meran, and lo and behold, two kegs were acquired with ease.
And now, with his hunt completed and the sun setting high in the sky, hunger sets in. So, where to, for a fast and simple lunch? Asking his phone he reads the words „trucker lunch“, sure, that should do nicely. The route takes the Concierge towards Dorf Tirol and to an old and rusty cable car. He isn‘t supposed to get on this thing is he?
Thankfully he wasn‘t. The drive continues and at the end of the road he finds himself outside a restaurant with a breathtaking view of the whole valley below him.
„Trucker lunch“, he thinks. Let‘s see...
Lunch consists of
beef tartare, quail egg and mustard ice cream followed by char filled ravioli from the Passeier valley with slivers of almonds, and as main course a new interpretation of „Zwiebelrostbraten“ (fried beef and onions in gravy). For dessert, lime yogurt with marinated pineapple and a sorbet of South Tyrolean Pink Lady apples.
So much for „trucker lunch“...
Compliments to the colleagues from the Michelin starred Farmerkreuz restaurant, even if they don‘t quite play in the same league as the Concierge (but perhaps at least two leagues higher...)
For over 200 years the Gump Hof, which can be traced back in historical documents to the year 1546, has been owned by the Prackwieser family. In the mid-nineties Markus Prackwieser discovered his passion for wine and took over the old-established family business from his father Johann. An ongoing dialogue with fellow winemakers and excursions to leading wine growing regions are typical of the spirit of experimentation at the Gump Hof. A combination of knowledge acquired over generations, personal experience, time, patience and continuous attention to a distinctive prole results in wines that reflect the character of both the landscape and the wine-grower.
The vineyards of the Gump Hof, with their southwest exposition and 60 - 70 % inclination, are located on solid Bolzano quartz porphyry and o‑er ideal conditions for the varieties grown by Markus. Situated at 400 - 800 meters above sea level, the vineyards have two special features, namely calcareous morainic soils and diurnal variation in the winds. During the day, a Mediterranean climate is delivered by the Ora wind from Lake Garda, while downslope winds from the Dolomites cool the vines at night, resulting in particularly complex wines with a crisp freshness. No wonder that wine-growing is experiencing a remarkable renaissance here on the steep slopes of the southern Valle Isarco at the foot of the Sciliar massif.