Austria's Palais Coburg is impressive enough in itself; the former 19th-century palace in Vienna has been transformed, after a nearly $100 million renovation, into a sophisticated luxury hotel with three restaurants. But even more impressive to wine lovers, the property has put together a nearly 25,000-bottle wine collection, with more than 2,800 selections.
Opened in November, the neoclassical Palais Coburg was originally built for the princes of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and incorporates a preserved section of Vienna's 16th-century fortifications. Now, its Hotel Residenz offers 35 luxury suites that have been individually designed, in styles from imperial elegance to ultramodern. All suites are equipped with a complete kitchen, while the larger suites feature a terrace, sauna and whirlpool.
The showpiece of Palais Coburg's wine cellar consists of nearly 8,000 bottles of wine from the remarkable private wine collection of Robert Paul, an American lawyer who lived in Miami, Fla. He amassed all of the Bordeaux first-growths and numerous top California Cabernets, such as Caymus, Diamond Creek, Heitz Martha's Vineyard, Opus One, Silver Oak and Stags Leap. Following Paul's death last year, his entire collection was auctioned off by Sotheby's in New York; Palais Coburg acquired more than half of the wines, including some real rarities, for a total of $1.2 million.
"We stayed on the telephone line from Vienna to New York during the entire auction, eight hours, to bid on the wines," said Karl Seiser, the sommelier and managing director of Restaurant Coburg. Seiser had been sommelier at Vienna's Altwienerhof restaurant from 1986 to 1993, during which it received Wine Spectator's Grand Award for its wine list.
The Robert Paul Bordeaux selections include Haut-Brion vintages ranging from 1891 to 1998, Mouton-Rothschild vintages ranging from 1928 to 1999, and Yquem vintages as old as 1875, 1921 and 1945. In addition, the list is extremely strong in Austrian whites and reds, with an impressive selection of Alois Kracher TBAs, along with other dessert wines. Other strengths include Tuscany (with, for example, Sassicaia vintages ranging from 1968 to 1999, many of them in magnum), the wines of Angelo Gaja (who gets his own subhead) and Burgundy, including 31 wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.
Some of the bottle prices are stratospheric, such as 4,700 euros (about $5,760) for the Lafite Rothschild 1893 and 1,450 euros (about $1,775) for the Screaming Eagle 1999. The majority of the selections sell for less than 300 euros ($368); you can find a handful of reds in the 40-euro range, and prices for the vast Austrian section start at 33 euros ($40).
The wines are available to guests of Hotel Residenz and in Coburg's three dining venues: the 70-seat, dinner-only Restaurant Coburg; the Gartenpavilion (Garden Pavilion), which is open for lunch; and the Basteibar (Bastei Bar). All are overseen by Christian Petz, one of Austria's star chefs, who most recently worked at Meinl am Graben restaurant in Vienna. Petz's cooking focuses on the flavors of a few carefully chosen ingredients; the fine-dining Restaurant Coburg serves, for example, roasted breast of duck with a Jerusalem artichoke puree or salmon trout tartare on savoy cabbage with almonds.
Web site: www.palais-coburg.com
Tel: (011) 43-1-518-180
Fax: (011) 43-1-518-181
Rates: 460 to 1,900 euros per night (about $565 to $2,325)
Tel: (011) 43-1-518-18-800
Fax: (011) 43-1-518-18-818
Hours: dinner, Tuesday to Saturday
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.