Karl Seiser, the Austrian sommelier who oversaw two of the country's remarkable wine lists--most recently that of Palais Coburg in Vienna--was found hanged in the luxury hotel and restaurant complex's cellar on Oct. 10. His death was ruled a suicide. He was 42.
Since the 19th-century former palace opened in late 2003 after a $100 million restoration and conversion, Seiser had been sommelier and managing director of its three restaurants. In 2004, Palais Coburg's wine list earned Wine Spectator's Best of Award of Excellence, which it received again this year.
Utilizing his vast wine knowledge and expertise, Seiser developed a 25,000-bottle wine collection, whose highlights include a range of rare Bordeaux first-growths dating to the 19th century. Seiser had acquired 8,000 bottles from a collection meticulously amassed by the late American lawyer, Robert Paul, for $1.2 million at a 2003 auction at Sotheby's in New York.
Seiser established his reputation as a sommelier when he worked at the renowned Viennese restaurant Altwienerhof from 1986 to 1993. During that time, the restaurant received Wine Spectator's Grand Award for its wine list. Just prior to joining Palais Coburg, Seiser had been the sommelier at Vienna's exclusive Meinl am Graben restaurant.
"Wine was one of Karl's greatest passions," said Palais Coburg's chef, Christian Petz, who worked closely with Seiser at the restaurant, and at Meinl am Graben as well. "He was constantly discovering new specialties. And he always looked after his guests; he truly indulged every one of them."
Seiser is survived by his wife, Brigitte, and two children, Bernhard and Linda. His successor at Palais Coburg has not yet been named.