Wine is in at the inn
No hot tubs or casinos but a selection of drinkable
by Tim Protzman
When I was 10, I
thought Marlo Thomas was the most beautiful woman in the world. If I got
into my jammies, I could watch her in That Girl on Friday nights. I
especially remember the episode when Marlo and her boyfriend Don got
engaged, where Don says, “I’ve never heard the word baguette before in
my life, but I’ve heard it like 30 times today!”
He was referring to the
little diamonds that surround the main diamond in an engagement ring.
Since then, I’ve had a
lot of “Don” moments. I was doing editing work for a friend and he used
the word “labile,” pronounced lay-bill. I looked it up and it means
adaptable to change. Two days later I’m reading V. S. Naipaul and
there’s the word again. Then I get a call from an old friend who moved
to New Hampshire from Alaska. She says both states are about the same
except in New Hampshire the bears are smaller, the people less strange
and the nights are quieter. Apparently, the drowsy Alaskan twilight is
sometimes punctuated by the sound of exploding crystal meth labs.
Anyway, she said she’d e-mail me her new address.
The next day I’m
checking my email and there’s a message from a reader who runs The Inn
at Danbury. I get lots of reader e-mails. They’re usually stuff like:
“Where can I find that wine…,” “Have you ever tried…” and “You’re an
idiot because ...” (Hey, it beats spam.) The Don moment is my Alaskan
friend moved just a few towns away from my new Innkeeper friend.
Running a country inn
is tough. Some guests are very demanding and most of the profit goes
back into the business. But in spite of that the Grafs, owners of The
Inn at Danbury, won’t trade it for anything in the world.
Bob Graf is a
third-generation Austrian American whose father ran an ice cream shop.
He was a ski instructor in Park City, Utah, when he met Alexandra, a
pretty flight attendant from the Netherlands. Three years ago they sold
their exterior siding business and bought the Inn. The town embraced
them and their four children immediately. Their biggest challenge, aside
from keeping the 14 rooms occupied, are finicky guests who don’t
understand that the inn is a family business and home. One guest was
miffed there was no hot tub in her room.
“We think staying at
the Inn is like visiting a very hospitable relative,” said Alexandra
Graf. “While you’re here, you’re one of the family.”
“We have an indoor pool
and we offer massages. But there’s no mini bar, casino or valet
One complaint they
heard early on was that there was no on-premises restaurant. Soon they
added the Alphorn Bistro, a full-service restaurant serving Austrian
cuisine. Bob’s the chef, preparing dishes he learned in his
Alexandra is the
sommelier and her superb wine list is what first intrigued me. Small,
but full of rarely seen Austrian treasures, it’s priced to move. Only
two wines are more than $50, a Hopler Austrian Trockenbeerenauslese for
$95 or $10 a glass and a Hopler Austrian Eiswein for $112 or $12 a
glass. The ice wine is made from grapes picked after the first good
frost. The juice is concentrated and sweet. The Trockenbeerenauslese
refers to ultra-ripe grapes that’ve been left to botrytize or shrivel
and develop a slight mold called Noble Rot. The Grafs recently added a
St. Laurent Trockenbeerenauslese Noble Reserve, that they tasted in
Austria, for $125.
These big, sweet wines
taste of honey and apricots and go very well with foie gras. But I’d try
them with the inn’s signature Wiener Schnitzel, the apple strudel or the
traditional Austrian Christmas cake called Baumkuchen. Bob’s promised to
make this elaborate jelly roll-shaped cake with thin layers of apricot
and marzipan this Christmas. They almost tried it last New Year’s Eve,
but were too busy leading a town-wide relief effort for the Asian
tsunami disaster. A portion of each dinner check was contributed, the
Graf children organized their fellow students and the wait staff donated
several days’ worth of tips. The Grafs also contribute heavily to the
March of Dimes each year and Bob’s chef services have been auctioned off
many times. He happily prepares a fine meal in the winning bidder’s
But it’s not all work
for the Grafs. Last year they toured the vineyards of Burgenland in
eastern Austria. At the Sepp Moser and Hoepler wineries they tasted 75
wines in five days. They dined and tasted in the 700-year-old
Kellerstrasse cellar in the Donau region that seemed “like something out
of the Pirates of the Caribbean.” Dark, musty and absolutely off the
beaten wine path. They arrived back home in time to host actress Amy
Irving (Tuck Everlasting, Carrie), who spent a week at the inn.
“She was absolutely
charming, humble and, most importantly, she kept the shower curtain
inside the tub, where it belongs.” Alexandra said.
The day before Irving
left they shared a great bottle of Australian wine on the inn’s spacious
porch. Alex couldn’t remember the name but there was a boot on the
The Inn at Danbury, 67
Route 104, is having their Oktober Fest on Sept. 24 & 25.
Their Beer List is just
as impressive as the Wine List and there are activities for everyone.
Stop by and enjoy the
hospitality of relatives you’ve never met. Find out more at