We all slept very soundly, as our rooms at the Gróf Degenfeld Castle Hotel were very comfortable. We met for breakfast in the dining room down stairs. I think the four of us very much complemented each other, especially during the meals on this trip. The combination of Darrell's amazing and never ending tutelage, Esther's off beat sense of humor, and Jimmy's very well rounded jibs, jabs, and general sharp wittedness always made for great laughs and a true comradery between us. After having our fill of breakfast we met with Pál Visztenvelt, the Hotel Manager, in the hotel lobby. He lead us outside and to the winery which is directly behind the hotel.
The short walk was very pleasant alomst spring like for the amazingly good weather. Now it was time to go inside the winery. We saw a few poster boards with pictures as we entered and were given a brief history of the renovation of the Castle Hotel. We met Jolan Keszte, Sales and Marketing Director, who came along on the tour. We also met the wine maker Ákos Keresztes.
After a look at the winery above ground, we were taken to the cave cellar enterance to have a look below ground.
Gróf Degenfeld was now the third cave cellar we saw. They all had distinct similarities, but each had its own unique
feel. With the cave cellar tour behind us, we left the winery building and walked over to the adjacent vineyard where Darrell took a look at the vines of Hárslevelű.
We finished outside and were invited to a tasting of Gróf Degenfeld wines. It was another short stroll from the winery back to the hotel, and down into the hotel cellar tasting room.
The treats kept coming as Jolan brought in some freshly baked Pogácsa, which is a traditional Hungarian biscuit
typically made from flour, eggs, milk, and yeast. They can range from soft fluffy biscuit like to dense more scone like and have variations from use of sour milk, or sour cream to even the addition of pork skin cracklings. Ours were delicious!
Next up for us was some free time until 2 pm when we would meet our next producer, so we decided to hop in the car and drive to the see the town of Tokaj. Darrell want to visit the Museum of Tokaji located there.
The museum was very nicely laid out full of every concievable aspect of Tokaj history from the wine making, the fishing of the two rivers, the people, to all of the culture. We didn't have time to see much more than the museum because we needed to be back to the hotel to have lunch and meet our next producer. We ate a wonderful meal of schnitzel in the main dining room. The schnitzel was the beat one could expect to find anywhere!
We were finishing up lunch when we were joined by Judit Bodó of Bott Winery. Judit and her husband József are very small high quality producers in the Tokaj. We followed her on a drive around to the south side of Tokaj Hill to see her cellar. As we drove through the city of Tokaj, we saw what appeared to be a row of odd mausoleum looking houses next to the train station, Darrell told us that they were actually the facade fronts of privately own wine cellars scattered around the Tokaj. Judit took us on a tour of their cellar.
If you're wondering how they get the stones down into the cellar...here's your answer.
After our look at the Bott cellar, we followed Judit and drove up the south side of Tokaj Hill. She wanted to conduct a tasting of her wines at a picnic spot close to the Bott vineyard. It was a beautifully picturesque spot overlooking vineyards and part of the town of Tokaj below.
The drive was short and beautiful with amazing views of the south slope of Tokaj Hill. When we arrived Judit layed out a numer of her wines, poured for us, and told us all about the her personal history and how it caused her to enter into wine making.
The vineyards surrounding the tasting spot were all beautifully kept. Life in the Tokaj Hill area showed itself to us constantly during the tasting with many signs from wine tractors driving by, the sounds of pheasant hunter's guns firing off and trains at the bottom of the hill rolling by, to vineyard workers harvesting and and even paragliders soaring over head.
We were very impressed with all of Judit's wines. Her 2007 Bott Tokaji Azsu was stunningly good. So much so that Darrell, Esther, Jimmy, and I all asked if we could purchase a bottle each to take home with us. She gladly did so for us.
As we were finishing up with the tasting, I walked up the road a few hundred yards to take a look at a very abundant chestnut tree, which was full of nearly perfect chestnust. Quite a sight it was! After the tasting, Judit wanted to show us there vineyard which was just another short drive up the hill. We parked along side of a vineyard road and walked the rest of the way to her vineyard.
We found Judit to be a very passionate, sincere, and hard working wine maker. We were delighted with the time she shared with us and with all of the history and facts about the Tokaj she told us. Judit and her family Bott winery will definitely be one to watch in the future.
It was now late afternoon and the fast pace of this amazing trip was starting to catch up with us. Darrell wanted to drive back to the Gróf Degenfeld Castle Hotel for an early dinner and a good night's sleep, but before that he wanted to make a quick stop to see the famous Mézes Mály vineyard, which is one of the two Great First Growth vineyards in Tokaji’s historical 1700 classification. The vineyard is located very near the hotel, so we drove to see it.
The vineyard and surrounding views were beautiful. Standing in the vineyard with the knowledge of its very historically significant
stature left us in awe. Now it was time to relax, so we headed back to the hotel where we immediately sat out on the patio and had a beer.. Dinner was up next followed by a nice wind down in our rooms and a very needed good night's sleep. .