By Rick Riozza

We’re in the midst of Palm Springs Restaurant Week 2013 where we’re dining at all the famous desert restaurants in the valley at discount prices. Great places to eat at, and, great places we’ve been desiring to eat at. And, of course, enjoying the wines they’re offering.

We vino lovers know it’s always a great pleasure to broaden our palates and let the whole world of wine open up as we find success with a new or unfamiliar wine from a region or country outside our “comfort” zone.

In the last couple of decades, Austria has emerged as a vigorous, innovative producer of quality dry whites and dessert wines. And red wines (20% of the country’s vineyard area) are starting to make an international reputation as well. These are not only to be experienced by anyone claiming to be a well-rounded wine drinker, but the new wave of young wine drinkers will want to be the first ones on the block as well.


Most people sweep Austrian wines under a sub-heading of German ones. First off, I’m a great German white wine fan—but Austria is not Germany. Although they share a border, a language, and a brotherly love of Riesling, German and Austrian wines are worlds apart. Austria’s drier (i.e., non-sweet) whites are fuller, richer, headier, and bolder in flavor than Germany’s lighter and leaner wines. Austria’s most famous white is the Gruner Veltliner [GROO-ner VELT-lee-ner] with a general profile of vanilla spice, apricot, pear and grapefruit/ lime notes with nuances of red apples, peach and green herbs. Fresh, fruity, with plenty of acidity to enjoy and match well with all meals.

When it comes to reds—versus Germany, the Austrians are brawnier and juicier with tasty fruit. Austrian reds are some of the world’s great wine values which have been underappreciated and are unbelievably delicious. Austria offers a duo of truly distinctive red wines: Blaufrankisch [blahw-FRANK-eesh] with its dry red profile of berries, cherries, and licorice with supporting aromas of smoke, spice and black pepper; and, Zweigelt [TSVY-gelt] as the lighter red—fruity, juicy, smooth round-the-mouth texture of spiced cherries. Guesswhere we can find these wines offered?

JohannesBacheris the Executive Chef and Owner ofJohannes Restaurant in Palm Springs. Known as “the Eclectic Chef” he was born and raised in Austria; classically trained, he has taken his passion for food world-wide, securing top chef positions.

And here’s the skinny on his restaurant: it’s where a slew of other chefs and restaurant owners from all over the valley come to dine. That speaks volumes! Speaking of which, Johannes’ wine menu is an actual volume in itself, containing over 300 wines by the glass, half-bottles, and bottles! It’s one of the most impressive wine lists in the desert carrying everyone’s favorite label. I love all of his Pinot Noirs,Cabernets, and Chardonnays and more—but please, have fun and be adventurous: Try his Austrians!

Chef Johannes is the artist-type that we like to see in the kitchen. When speaking to a loyal diner, she smiled, “He does a kind-of Southwest Asian fusion”. Another customer said, “Oh–he’s global in his creations.” The New York Times wrote of Johannes’ “modern twist on European classics”.

Receiving accolades from all over the gourmet media map, Johannes assures that everything is prepared fresh daily ( indeed—if it’s not fresh, it’s off the menu for that night), his focus is to provide local and sustainable organic products whenever possible and the quality of the food he serves will not be compromised with less expensive ingredients or pre-processed foods. All of thisinterestinginfo, photos, menu selections and so much more are on his new and improved website. Check it out:

If you read through his Restaurant Week $38 menu selections you’ll see that Johannes’ cutting edge cuisine defines his eclecticism:

Appetizers include: Prosciutto Wrapped Wild Arugula, Grilled Peaches, Aged Balsamic Syrup; Asian Style Ceviche Cocktail In Coconut Milk, Ginger, Lemongrass, Citrus Juices; Escargots, Mushroom & Frog Leg Meat, Garlic Lemon Herb Sauce; Grilled Marinated Quail, Beluga Lentil Salad, Tiny Greens, Raspberry Vinaigrette; or the Chilled Minted English Pea Soup, Dungeness Crab Meat.

A glass of the 2004Macherendl Smaragd Steinwand Gruner Veltliner, ($12 6 oz pour) would be a tasty pairing with all of the above, and, along with the Entrées plates such as the Seared Maine Scallops, Cucumber, Roasted Corn, Sweet Peppers, Mushroom Parsley Reduction, Chive Oil; the Mahi Mahi – Seawolf Mille-Feuille, Red Spinach, Root Vegetable Julienne; or the Shrimp prepared in White Wine & Herbs.

Other smart and classy entrées include: Apple & Roasted Chestnut Stuffed Duck Breast, Celery Root Puree, Calvados Reduction, and, the Pretzel & Horseradish Crusted Natural Pork Chop, Potato Red Radish Watercress Salad,Sundried Tomato Basil Butter for which a bottle of 2004 IllmistzKracher Zweigelt, $42, will pair quite nicely.

The other selection of Sliced Grilled Grass Fed Beef Tenderloin, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Green Asparagus, Baby Carrots, Field Lettuce Pesto, Chanterelles would find the delicious 2003 Prieler Johanneshohe Blaufrankisch, $52,wonderful company with its aromas of berries, cherries, licorice, smoke, spice, and black pepper.

As you would expect, all dessert creations and sauces are prepared in-house. Dessert might be a trio tasting sampler of Apple Strudel, Tahitian Vanilla Crème Brulée, and Chestnut Flan. In which case, the consummate pairing would a glass of the 2005 Chateau Prieuré d’Arche Sauternes. This wine and other vins doux are listed under the cute category of “Sticky Wines“: a tasty and thoughtful collection of dessert wines from all over the world. How Sweet!

Simply stated, the food, wine, service, staff and ambiance provide a truly wonderful dining experience that transcends most others in the desert. Johannes Restaurant,196 S. Indian Canyon Dr. Palm Springs, Ca.Reservations: 760.778.0017


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