Chief executive of Riedel Crystal of America and designer of the stemless "O" glasses, Maximilian Riedel entertains with enviable elegance. Here he shares advice on how to give a great party—in the United States, Italy or his native Austria.
Riedel is known for creating glasses for specific wines—a Barolo glass, a Chablis glass and the like. What is the "O" line for?
It's for kitchen entertaining. If you have friends over and don't want to set up the dining room, you entertain in your kitchen. There's not a lot of space, and people will talk with their hands and feet and tip over a glass. A classic stem might break, but the "O" is like a Weeble: It wobbles and gets right back up. When I come home from work, I take out an "O" glass for water—you should never drink wine thirsty. Then I pour wine into the same glass. In September, we introduced a pink "O" glass to raise money for breast cancer research ($25 a pair; 888-4-RIEDEL or riedel.com).
What kind of plates do you use at home?
Raynaud custom-made my china (from $68 a plate; 732-751-0500 or devinecorp.net). I like to have everything tailored, from my plates to my shirts. I take special trips to Venice to have my shirts made at Camiceria San Marco (Calle Vallaresso 1340; 011-39-041-522-1432).
What's your favorite travel destination?
My family spends a week every June at the Westin Excelsior resort on Lido, an island off the coast of Venice (Lungomare Marconi 41; 011-39-041-526-0201 or starwood.com). I also like to drive on the Amalfi coast. There is the most romantic hotel, Le Sirenuse, which is built into the rocks above the ocean, with a beautiful view (Via C. Colombo 30, Positano; 011-39-089-875-066 or sirenuse.it).
Do you collect any glass pieces?
I live off glass, and I'm interested in both modern and antique styles. Daum, the French crystal manufacturer, recently sold part of its collection at auction, and I was able to purchase a few pieces. I also buy Lalique. It's an addiction I think I got from my mother, who loves to collect.
What have she and your father taught you about entertaining?
Guests need to feel at home. The food has to be right, and don't make the meal too long. My parents have adopted the American way of entertaining, meaning, they try to minimize time spent at the table. They serve courses in two hours without being pushy about rushing things, which is an art.
Where do they throw parties?
At their home in Kufstein, Austria. My family recently built a beautiful new house with a tower made of aluminum and glass next to our old home. The soul of the tower is a two-story wine cellar built underground beneath it.
What's your favorite type of party?
I love to invite friends to three-day events in Europe. This fall we are going to a region called Alto Adige, in the north of Italy. I organize picnics in the vineyards with the winemakers, just before they actually pick the grapes. Then we go to a family-owned restaurant. It's all about enjoying life, drinking local wines and eating local dishes. Everyone brings an antique car to drive along the mountain roads. I'm totally into cars. In the States I drive two Porsches, a Cayenne Turbo and a 911 Turbo S—they only made 180 of them. In Austria I drive an antique 1969 Maserati, which I recently acquired at a Christie's auction in Paris.
What wines do you like to serve at parties?
I like to start with an Austrian wine, like Grüner Veltliner—it's very dry. Kistler, from the Russian River Valley, is my favorite Chardonnay. I am very much in love with Pinot Noir from Oregon. There is a beautiful Merlot from Wölffer Estates on Long Island. And I end with Dom Pérignon Oenothèque Champagne. I surprise my American friends by decanting Champagne. Americans think it needs to have lots of bubbles, but for me, Krug and Dom Pérignon are even better without bubbles, because you can really taste the wine. Also, you can use beautiful old silver pitchers to decant. It airs the wine as much as a glass decanter would. I say that even though I'm a glassmaker!