Croatian Holiday with Adventures Croatia

Korcula

Town of Korčula, Korčula Island

It looks like this summer everybody I know is going to Croatia. This includes my sister, who should be crossing the Croatian border as I write these words, my friend, who is taking her kids on a Game of Thrones Tour along the Dalmatian coast, and then in September, my husband and I will be spending a week in Istria, just the two of us!

I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Since the end of the Serbo-Croatian War, Croatia has become an attractive touristic destination with a reputation of being one of the most romantic getaways in Europe. This is not surprising: with more than a thousand islands and a 3,600 miles of coastline, Croatia is full of natural and historic wonders including Roman ruins, Byzantine mosaics, Venetian towns, and a picturesque hilly interior covered with olive groves, vineyards, and medieval villages.

Now if you need help organizing your Croatian Holiday, we recommend Adventures Croatia. They have a team of knowledgeable travel consultants that can assist you with your itinerary. They’re particularly specialized in designing tours for honeymooners as well as couples seeking a romantic getaway.

They will partner with you to design a great travel adventure based on your interests, budget, and travel style. And don’t hesitate to request a visit to our wonderful wine producers.

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Curious & Thirsty – Slovenian Wine Goggles

Drinking Teran

Team Blue Danube Wine Co. and team Štoka drinking sparkling Teran

Historically vineyards have covered much of Slovenia’s countryside. In them you find grapes brought over the thousands of years of human movement. Coupled with the diversity of climate, topography, wine production methods, and localized taste, Slovenian wines are extremely different region to region. In the US we are largely unaware of this. Blue Danube Wine Co. — the company I am a part of — has been working for close to ten years to change this.

For me wine is more than beverage, it is the ultimate lens to view Slovenia through. It is made in some of the country’s most beautiful locations, accompanies the best food, and attracts interesting people. Both those who make it and drink it. I return repeatedly to enjoy of course the wine but also the atmosphere, the cuisine and my friends there. It has taught me the value of returning to a destination. Slovenia is a place I would like to one day call a second home.

For those who like to Travel Curious Often and want to learn more about Slovenia and its wines, read the full article here.

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Visiting Croatia with Eric and Michael: Miloš Winery

Michael and Eric with Ivan Miloš

Michael and Eric with Ivan Miloš

Not too long ago we had the privilege to host a significant part of the Miloš family: all three of the next generation. It was a pleasure to get to know Ivan, Franica, and Josip and learn more about the wine their father Frano creates back home in Croatia. Enjoy this next stop on the tour!

-Gisele

In a world that seems trapped in time, the amphitheater of Miloš vineyards spreads out beyond the boundaries of peripheral vision. Bright white stone reflects more sunlight than most Californians ever experience and between this abundant sun and stone live thousands of head trained Plavac Mali vines. Truly a magical place, the land is covered with rock walls built from the creation of these family tilled vineyards.

Milos_amphitheater

The wonder of this place is only surpassed when compared to the visionary that created it, Frano Miloš. One of the memorable things Frano told us is that he’s aware that his wine-growing and winemaking are both at odds with the current pace of the world. And while he admits to sometimes driving with one hand and eating a sandwich in the other, making and drinking his wine is an opportunity to live a more fulfilling pace of life.

New maraština plantings overlooking the ocean

New Maraština plantings overlooking the ocean

With this in mind, Frano and his three children (Ivan, Franica and Josip) work the land tirelessly and with the fruit that they harvest, make a wine that is not only among the top Croatian wines but easily stands aside the great wines of the entire world. Plavac Mali is a grape with surprisingly high tannins and at Miloš they know how to tame them with extended barrel ageing. It is no surprise that when tasted blind, these wines bear a striking resemblance to single vineyard Barberesco and Grand Reserva Rioja.

Michael Newsome & Eric Danch

Dinner with Frano, Ivan, and Josef

Michael and Eric enjoying dinner with Frano, Ivan, and Josef

Learn more about Miloš and its wines here.

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Visiting Croatia with Eric and Michael: Suha Punta Winery

We continue our adventure with Eric and Michael in Croatia at Suha Punta winery. Thank you for following along thus far!
-Gisele

As guide books and Google searches are keen to remind you, George Bernard Shaw wrote about the staggering number of rocky islands off the Croatian coast as “On the last Day of Creation God wished to crown his work and he created Kornati out of tears, stars and breath.” This may be true for the Kornati Islands, but when you see the rocky vineyards just south on the mainland in Bucavac, it looks like God lost a bet.

Michael in Primosten

Michael as we approach the town of Primošten

Even as you drive towards to the nearest town of Primošten, there are just piles of rocks and old rock walls coating the hillsides. Topsoil doesn’t seem to apply, there is little to no tree cover, and the “Bora” and “Jugo” winds relentlessly pummel the area.

Bucavec vineyards

Bucavec Vineyards

Growing grapes here at first glance seems like losing a bet as well. Not surprisingly, this is Croatia’s smallest appellation and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since it has been under vine since the 8th Century B.C. Illyrians. When you see these vineyards for the first time, it’s less about: how is this possible? But rather: why would anyone ever subject him or herself to it in the first place? In order to battle the overbearing winds, the impossibly rocky soil is broken up and used to form “Vlačica,” or small 6-meter square rock wall boxes to protect the vines. When a whole row of these is formed, they are called a “Tirada.”

Eric along the Tirada

Eric walking along the Tirada

Seeing these Tirada climb up and down to the Adriatic is a testament to our drive to ferment grapes. Old vine arms are held up by carefully placed rocks, no green harvesting is necessary, and the cool night air keeps acidity remarkably high.

Leo Gracin

Leo Gracin in the vineyard

Leo Gracin and his Suha Punta Winery are championing and evangelizing this place and the Babić grape indigenous to the area. Nothing makes sense at first, but all of sudden you are drinking pungent red wine with shellfish; it’s refreshing, and it’s a wine built to age.

lunch

lunch and babic

This is a place designed to challenge the mainstream paradigms of wine and truly taste something that cannot be recreated elsewhere. It is also delicious.

Eric Danch

Learn more about Suha Punta and its wines here.

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Visiting Croatia with Eric and Michael: Coronica Winery

If you follow your GPS on the way to find Coronica, you will end up on a lovely tour of the city of Umag, but not at his winery. Head just a few miles east of the village onto a small road named Koreniki (the old spelling of his surname) and you will find him there. Even though the land is the same, Moreno’s grandfather was Austro-Hungarian, his father was Italian, he is Yugoslavian, and now his children are Croatian. He still has a stone tablet from 1764 with the family name carved into it.

Stone Tablet

Moreno Coronica showing an old stone tablet from 1764

Nevertheless, the vineyards have always been planted in Istria’s famous Terra Rossa. Moreno tends his vines with focus, care and minimal intervention. At the winery, grapes are chilled down before fermentation to ensure a pure expression of the vineyards. The intense red soil here perfectly reflects Moreno’s own temperament.

Terra Rossa

Istria’s famous Terra Rossa

Rich with iron, and with a strong capacity to hold moisture it will make impression on you and your shoes that will spread everywhere you walk the rest of the day. It is in this soil that Teran and Malvasia grow as they do nowhere else — even the walls in the winery have this soil built into them. Bright acidity and mineral focus is consistent throughout the wines, whether they are vinified in stainless, or barreled down for the grand reserves. Moreno and his wines are a perfect blend of Istria’s tradition and modernity.

Michael Newsome & Eric Danch

You can learn more about and purchase Coronica wines here.

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Visiting Croatia with Eric and Michael: Šipun Winery

For part of the month of April, two of our sales managers, Eric and Michael, were able to taste around Croatia searching out more deliciously unique wines to bring back for your drinking pleasure. Here is from Michael one of several parts of that trip:

View from the Sipun Winery

View from the Šipun Winery

Crossing the bridge to Otok Krk, one might be surprised by all the advertisements; some for a local casino, some for other types of seemingly out of place entertainment venues. Sadly this is the direction most of the inhabitants of the island are heading to generate income. The idea of producing a product, be it wine, olive oil, or other goods is being left behind for the easier income of renting out apartments. There is however, one man who is not only sustaining himself and his family with winemaking, but is making great strides to preserve it on the island of Krk.

Ivica Dobrinčić

Ivica Dobrinčić in his vineyard

Ivica Dobrinčić is a man full of passion for the grapes he grows to make wine from as well as many others. At Šipun, two main wines are produced from the local varieties of Žlathina and Sansigot. But Ivica doesn’t stop there. He has a vineyard planted for the express purpose of preserving indigenous varieties of the island.

Indigenous plantings

Collection of indigenous grape varieties

Row after row are labeled with names of grapes that I and probably most of the inhabitants of Krk don’t recognize. He is a man on a mission, both to revive the winegrowing traditions of the island and further develop his own already focused style.

Michael Newsome

You can learn more about and purchase Šipun wines here.

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Juhfark-ing Around

All jokes aside, Juhfark is a grape name that is not heard too often. Meaning “sheep’s tail”, the grape is pretty much only grown in the tiny Hungarian appellation of Somló.

Juhfark Grape

Juhfark Grape By The original uploader was Budai Zoltan at Hungarian Wikipedia (Transferred from hu.wikipedia to Commons.) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Juhfark grape bunches grow in a distinctive cylindrical shape which recalls to mind a sheep’s tail, hence the name. The grape is early to break bud and tends to be quite high yielding. Juhfark used to be extensively grown throughout northern Hungary for this reason but soon fell out of fashion. When allowed to produce such high yields, the berries produce a neutral, high acid, uninteresting wine. However, the volcanic soils of Somló have proven to be Juhfark’s best terroir, allowing the grape to express a sense of place and varietal. As of 2008, only 358 acres of Juhfark were planted in all of Hungary, primarily in Somló, but the small amount of wine that is produced today from this grape is truly something to experience.

Juhfark acts as a direct link to experience the terroir of Somló. The nose hints at green apple/pear with a floral yet herbal character. But on the palate, the fruit disappears and the star of the show becomes the unique smokey, ash, and crushed chalk that the region is known for. Now you may think a wine like this would be difficult to pair with food but you would be mistaken! The smokiness of the wine works well with similarly smoked products like smoked almonds, speck, and salty, hard cheeses like an aged parmesan. During my most recent tasting of our 2011 Fekete Bela Juhfark, I decided to prepare a pasta enveloped with a rich sauce composed of roasted chicken, leeks, fresh peas, and creme fraiche. The savoriness of the wine, coupled with its highly acidic kick stood up to my sauce, enhancing the subtle flavors and cutting through the cream. Other perfect accompaniments would be game birds like quail, braised rabbit, and veal. There is an earthiness to the wine which would also complement sauteed mushrooms for you non-meat eaters.

So how do you Juhfark?

Browse our collection of Juhfark Wines

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What if the Westeros Houses were drinking Blue Danube Wines?

Cersei Lannister

Copyright © 2003 by MLuisa Giliberti
winterfell.altervista.org

Are you a wine lover who is like me obsessed with George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire?

Wine is a major theme in the series and is often associated with the most important plots: a wineseller attempts to poison Daenerys with a cask of of fine Arbor red; King Robert who only loved three things: war, women and wine, is mortally wounded by a boar while hunting drunk; at his wedding, Joffrey’s wine is poisoned and he dies after drinking from his wine goblet.

Now, did you know that pairing wines with each of the 9 main houses of Westeros has become increasingly popular on the internet? Check this version based on regions and climates or this one based on wine labels and the houses’ sigils. And don’t miss the Game of Thrones Wine Map.

So I couldn’t resist. Here is my Blue Danube version:

House Stark

The Starks are lean of build and long of face. They live in Winterfell in the North, a castle warmed by natural hot springs, evidence of some volcanic activity. Their wine is the 2011 Bott Csontos Furmint from the Tokaj region. The wine grows on volcanic slopes where the soil is a mixture of clay and tufa and it shows a high mineral intensity mixed with honey and spices.

House Lannister

The Lannisters rule the Seven Kingdoms from King’s Landing the capital city, which, it is known, is on the Dalmatian coast. Rich and powerful, they are often seen drinking strong red wines that help them deal with stress. Their wine is the 2008 Bibich Bas de Bas Rouge, a spicy and concentrated Syrah from a dry and windy old vineyard on the Northern Dalmatian coast.

House Baratheon

House Baratheon rules the Stormlands but Robert, the head of of the house, is King of the Seven Kingdoms and lives in King’s Landing with his Lannister family. His wine is another powerful Dalmatian red, the 2006 Miloš Stagnum. Sourced from 30 year old terraced vineyards on the slopes of the Pelješac peninsula, this rich Plavac Mali is full of dark fruit and dried herbs flavors.

House Targaryen

The ancestral seat of the dragon-rider Targaryens is Dragonstone, a volcanic island in the Narrow Sea. Their wine is the 2011 Spiegelberg Juhfark from the Somló region in Hungary, once an underwater volcano. This is a fiery white wine, highly mineral, with a razor-sharp intensity.

House Arryn

House Arryn rules the Vale of Arryn from the Eyrie castle. The Vale has a temperate climate, protected on all sides by a large mountain range. Their wine is the 2012 Geyerhof Grüner Veltliner Rosensteig from Kremstal in Austria. Grown on terraced vineyards sloping down to the Danube, it is steely and refreshing, vibrant and spicy.

House Tully

The old noble house of Tully ruled over the Riverlands, a fertile and temperate region around the forks of the Trident. Their wine is the 2010 Batič Cabernet Franc from the picturesque Vipava Valley in Slovenia. This organic wine combines fruity and savory flavors with a deliciously well-balanced texture.

House Tyrell

The sigil of House Tyrell from Highgarden is a rose, beautiful but thorny, beware! They control the Reach, a major wine-producing region that includes the Arbor known for its terrific reds and gold whites. Their wine is the 2007 Kabaj Cuvée Morel, a dark, richly textured Merlot-based wine from the Goriška Brda region in Slovenia.

House Martell

The Prince of Dorne rules over a land of mountains and deserts, a region producing citrus, olives, pomegranates, and sweet red wines that are highly prized throughout Westeros. Their wine is the 2012 Teliani Kindzmarauli from Georgia, a naturally semi-sweet wine made from the native Saperavi grape. Showing aromas of crushed rose petals and sweet plums, it is best with spicy food and gamey meat.

House Greyjoy

The Greyjoys, ironborn of the Iron Islands, worship the Drowned God and only drink sea water. As for wines, they know nothing.

And now, it’s your turn!

Posted in Austria, Hungary, Slovenia | Tagged | 2 Comments

The Wines of Georgia – The “Alice Perspective”

Alice Feiring in Georgia

Wine has been an integral part of Georgian culture for thousands of years, yet the wines are just beginning to become known and respected outside of the country. As part of our effort this month to provide more in depth knowledge on Georgia, I conducted a brief interview with Alice Feiring. Alice is a respected, passionate wine writer with a keen interest in natural wines. She recently wrote a book on Georgian wine, so I knew her insights would be first hand and authoritative. I hope you’ll enjoy reading the interview below and get inspired to experience first hand this ancient wine culture.

1. What made you interested in writing a book about the wines of Georgia?

Actually, the Georgian government approached me. The country had already translated Naked Wine into Georgian and they wanted an “Alice” book on my perceptions of Georgian wine, but on my part, it was a love project. I am hoping to triple the pages on the book and get an American publisher on board. My agent was funny, he was like, who would be interested in Georgian wine? But when he started to read the book, he quickly changed his mind.

2. What is the state of the wine industry there? Is there an effort to maintain traditional production methods (qvevri) or is there a move towards modernization?

In growth, growing pains will come. At the beginning of wine expansion, there was a move away from the traditional methods to stainless and oak and lots of chemical and process in the winemaking. The success of the natural winemakers in the country has helped not only to stem that trend, but has also helped to convince more people to return to tradition. It’s important to remember that they’re just now segueing from home winemaker to commercial and most of the small folk can’t yet afford to make their living solely from wine. But that will come. As evidence of the resurgence, just five years ago, the top qvevri maker was worried his sons wouldn’t follow in his footsteps because the tradition was dying; now there’s a two year waiting list for his vessels.

3. Why, would you say, Americans should pay attention to this region?

The most important reason is that the best wines are startling and delicious. And of course, if you already love orange wine, here’s the original. The fact that wine had been made with skin contact in qvevri in an unbroken tradition over thousands of years also adds to the cultural, historical allure.

4. What are some of your favorite native varietals?

There are over 535 indigenous varietals in Georgia and I can think of quite a number that are my favorites. Saperavi and Rkatsiteli are the most well known but the ones I love much more?

Reds: Ojaleshi, Tavkveri, Shavkapito, Chkhaveri

Whites: Tsolikouri, Krakhuna, Khikhvi, Kisi, Chinuri, Mtsvani

5. What is the wine culture like in Georgia?

I’ve never been anywhere else in the world where wine is so embedded in the daily life. The vine came to Georgia from the same woman who brought their Georgian Orthodox form of Christianity. In the first half of the fourth century, Saint Nino was said to have been visited by the Virgin Mary, who gave her a grapevine and said, “By the strength of this cross, you will erect in that land the saving banner of faith in My beloved Son and Lord.” The belief is that Nino cut the vine in two, cut off her long braid and plaited the vines into a cross, then brought it along with the gospel to Georgia (Kartli or Iberia as it was called).

The vine stayed and never left. That’s the beginning of it. There’s no meal, no celebration without it, there’s a whole ancient tradition around drinking, vessels—wine is a religion and a birthright. They’ve fought for the vine, died and lived for it.

6. Where do you see the future of the industry heading?

We’ll have to wait and see where it’s headed, but they have a fabulous terroir still unexploited. It’s beginning, the potential is huge for quality. It’s too small for a lot of quantity.

7. What makes the wines so special?

Like any country there’s great, good, bad and indifferent wine. Let’s talk about the first categories. The best are not just good, they’re exciting, food worthy. The reds and whites are both with skin contact—though the whites often have much more—and the best of those have a juiciness that sets them apart. The reds come in all weights and styles but even though Georgia is known for the power of Saperavi, it is in the more delicate reds that I find the most pleasure.

8. Are you able to divulge the name of your book at this time?

The Georgian book is called Skin Contact. The American one will have a different name.

Thank you to Alice Feiring for taking the time to enlighten us all a little more on Georgia. You can find additional information about her work at alicefeiring.com and her subscription newsletter which focuses on natural, organic and biodynamic wines at alicefeiring.com/newsletter. If you care about these kinds of wines, you’ll want to sign up. You may also want to check our growing selection of Georgian wines.

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I’ll Drink to That! Exclusive interview with Samuel Tinon

Samuel Tinon

Photo credit: Holley Robbins

If you like Tokaj, or if you want to learn more about Tokaj, you should check I’ll Drink to That!‘s latest episode.

I’ll Drink to That! is a podcast that releases new interviews of sommeliers, vintners, importers, retailers, and wine journalists every Tuesday and Friday. Episode 164 features an interview with Tokaj guru Samuel Tinon during his recent visit to New York City.

Born in Bordeaux in 1966, Samuel Tinon comes from a wine producing family in Sainte Croix du Mont, a sweet wine appellation on the Garonne River across from Sauternes. After his wine studies in Bordeaux and Montpellier, Samuel traveled to Spain and Chile. In 1999, he had the opportunity to work in Hungary in the Tokaj region. He didn’t know much about Hungary but there is a strong connection between sweet wine making in Bordeaux and Tokaj. He was the first French winemaker to arrive in the region, just a month after the departure of the Soviet Army.

Interview Highlights

How he started his winery
In 2000, when his contract with Oremus ended, Samuel decided to buy some land, grapes, and a tractor in the village of Olaszliska, but had no money. To finance his venture, he had to sell his wines to friends before they were made. Today, he exports his wines to 10-15 countries, mainly in Europe.

About the village of Olaszliska
Olaszliska is on the right bank of the river Bodrog at the center of the appellation. Tokaj has two main rivers: the Tisza, coming from Ukraine and the Bodrog, coming from Slovakia. Between the 2 rivers, there is an area of wet lands that provides the humidity for the botrytis. Half the village is on the wet land and the other half is on farming land near the hills and the vineyards. The oak trees that grow on top of the hills are used for barrel making.

One of the characteristics of Tokaj is that it produces wine and barrels from the same volcanic soil. It is very convenient to have your barrel maker in the next village. The wood is of very good quality and even French barrel makers are buying wood from this forest.

About the diversity of the terroir
The soil comes from the bottom of the Pannonian Sea and as a result, is a very complex and diverse terroir. Nowadays, producers have to find out how to work with this kind of terroir. During Communism, nobody tried to understand the differences between one plot and another, they were blending everything all together.

Today, it is important to realize the potential of one specific vineyard or soil. This is very complex, but progress has been made in the last 10 years. Tokaj can now have an offer that includes different styles and different producers from the same styles. The winemaker’s hand is still a little bit strong compared to the terroir but you find winemakers coming from different countries: France, Spain, Germany, Slovakia, with very different experiences and a different understanding of what is a good job. It is almost like there’s too much diversity but this is a very exciting situation. It takes a lot of time to understand a terroir and how to properly make each style of wine.

How his wines got imported to the United States
Blue Danube Wine Company has been importing wines from other Tokaji producers and they were looking for a specific wine called Dry Szamorodni. Samuel’s Dry Szamorodni is 90% Furmint attacked with botrytis with a little bit of Hárslevelű. To produce botrytized wines, the berries have to be picked when they are ready. Sometimes, you have a good selection of botrytized berries and sometimes, they are not so good. In terms of alcohol, the Aszú starts at 20º-22º, the Sweet Szamorodni at 18º-20º, but the wine that is between 15º and 18º cannot be labeled as dry because it’s too high in alcohol and has remaining sugar and it is not a pleasant wine to drink. But you can ferment this wine to reach 16º-17º and then age it in a damp cellar. With time, the alcohol decreases —half a degree every year. Then, after 4 to 6 years in the cellar, the resulting wine has something between 13º and 14º in alcohol and a veil of yeast on the top, like in Jerez for the Fino or in Jura for the Vin Jaune.

How he made his first Szamorodni
It happened in 2001. This was a very difficult vintage and 2 barrels were not so good. In the spring of 2003, Samuel thought of getting rid of these 2 barrels but for some reasons, didn’t empty them. Then, just before the harvest and needing some space for the new vintage, he realized that he had a “Vin Jaune”, right there. He didn’t know that he could have his own “flor” that could happen naturally in the cellar. Coming from Bordeaux, this was not a style of wine that he knew very well. Therefore, he decided to travel to Jura to learn more about the wine. The result was bottled in 2009. His other wines, the Aszú, Eszencia, are very classical but this wine is unusual. In fact, if he is here in New York today, it’s because of this wine. It’s because Blue Danube contacted him for this wine.

Confrérie de TokajIf you’re currently in Hungary, don’t miss the Great Tokaj Wine Auction 2014. This flagship event of the Confrérie de Tokaj will be held on the 25th, 26th and 27th April 2014 in the Castle of Sárospatak. Beyond the offering of exclusive new releases of Tokaji wines, the aim of the Auction is to help rebuild the viticultural landscape of the region, which has been a World Heritage Cultural Landscape since 2002. This is the most important rendez-vous of the year giving all wine lovers the opportunity to discover the richness of Tokaji wines and the regions’s latest creations.

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