Key Notes: Loisium Hotel,
Langenlois, Austria


Just miles from the Danube, the Kamptal region feels like Austria's answer to Tuscany, with mile upon mile of fields planted with grapevines and sunflowers. An easy one-hour drive northwest from Vienna, the area around the small town of Langenlois is known for producing stellar white wines, notably Grüner Veltliners and Rieslings. Into this pastoral setting American architect Steven Holl (currently riding high on the acclaim for his addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri) has designed a very of-the-moment wine center and hotel, a colorful, pierced-aluminum clad structure that seems to hover above the rolling landscape. Inside, the Loisium's halls and rooms are made of snowy-white concrete cast in rough wood molds, while wide balconies and huge windows splash the rooms with sunlight. The effect is simple and bright, directing your attention, fittingly, outside to the grapes.

Loisium Hotel

It's all about the juxtaposition of a super-modern building set down gently among lush vineyards, all of it overlooking the old, Necco-wafer-hued town of Langenlois. (Charmingly, to get the time, we had to look out our balcony to the clock on the church's steeple in the middle of town.) Other than the Steven Holl name-drop, the hotel plays big on being a destination for the kind of wine connoisseurs who enjoy a hot-stone massage after a tour of the property's 900-year-old cellars. Tastings are conducted in a gorgeous, multifaceted Holl building whose interior is lined in cork and which also houses a small café and a wine shop devoted to local vintages. A posh Aveda spa is located within the hotel, and its curved, green-tiled walls and white-leather upholstered lounges are very chill. While a comely esthetician ran methodical figure eights around my eyes with a chilled grape half and ambient techno music pulsed quietly, I had flashbacks to my long-gone raving days—except my high back then wasn't coming from high-quality Rieslings.

The way that the Loisium surprised us by turning into a wonderful place to vacation with a 14-month-old toddler—from the full-sized wooden crib provided complete with bedding nearly as luxurious as our own, to the omnipresent basket of fresh, local apricots at the front desk (which my son ate his weight in every day). We also loved discovering the gnome-like wooden playhouse hidden among the grapevines, the outrageous breakfast spread, and the tractor that growled its way through the vineyards below our balcony in the mornings, providing huge entertainment for Elio and showering the place with a light dust of authenticity (the hotel sells its grapes to local winemakers, but does not yet produce any wines of its own).

In addition, when one look at the glass-filled dining room convinced me that we would not be dining there any time soon, the hotel manager pointed us in the direction of the lovely Weinschl össl, a local heuriger (an Austrian tavern of sorts that only serves the most recent vintage of local wine). There, we took a table under the shade of large fruit trees, sipped golden Grüner Veltliner made by a winemaker sitting two tables away, ate delicious schnitzel and fleischkn ö dl, all while Elio played with local kids in the restaurant's sandbox in a big grassy yard. It was such a blissful experience that we returned the very next night.

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