#WineWednesday Spotlight #153: Monastery Tvrdoš Vranac

Tvrdos Vranac
Photo: SommSelect

“How could we not offer this wine,” asks David Lynch, Sommelier & Editorial Director at SommSelect. “Tasting this 2015 Vranac, I’m reminded of some of the brisk and deeply hued reds of Italy/Slovenia’s Carso/Kras region, and of Austrian Blaufränkisch as well.

Aged for two years in those ancient wood barrels, the 2015 Tvrdoš Vranac is a nearly opaque ruby-black in the glass, with garnet reflections. The nose is powerful and perfumed, leading with notes of crushed blackberry, cranberry, wet rose petals, dark chocolate, cedar, and exotic spice notes galore. It is deep, rich, and tangy up front then buttons up into something tangy and refreshing, with lots of floral notes on the finish. It benefits from 30+ minutes in a decanter before service, as well as a cooler temperature (60 degrees) to accentuate its fruit character and moderate its acidity. Characteristic of the 2015 vintage all over Europe, this is plenty ripe and accessible now, and is most definitely a “food wine” as opposed to a “cocktail wine.” I’d say go whole hog and do an ultra-authentic “Bosnian Pot” (Bosanski Lonac) to go with it. The melding of flavors will not only be classic but spot-on.

“I’ve said it many times before, ” adds David Lynch, “but still: there’s no reason to drink generic labels when wines like this exist at this price.”

Follow David Lynch’s pairing recommendation and enjoy Monastery Tvrdoš Vranac with an earthy, hearty, rustic Bosnian Pot. Živjeli!

Georgian Wines are Exciting!

Qvevris
Brand new qvevris ready to be used

More than 500 varieties of native grapes. A multi-millennia-old winemaking tradition in clay vessel or qvevri. In fact, Georgia have been making wines almost forever. Then around 320 AD, Saint Nino of Cappadocia arrived in Georgia with a cross made of a vine and wine became a symbol of Christianity. Thereafter, wines has been playing a vital role in the celebration of religious events and rituals and is now an integral part of Georgia’s cultural identity and heritage.

Over the summer, we received a new shipment of Georgian wines and what’s exciting about these new wines is that they epitomize the diversity of the Georgian production: Rkatsiteli, Mtsvane, Kisi, Saperavi from Kakheti in the East, Tsitska and Krakhuna from Imereti in the West, Chinuri from Kartli in the Center, and a Alexandria/Mudzhuretuli blend from Racha in the North.

Rolandi Burdiashvili
Frank Dietrich with Rolandi Burdiashvili, winemaker for doqi wines

Rkatsiteli is to Georgia what Chardonnay is to California. It’s the “King of Kakheti” as Aleksi Tsikhilishvili explained to us when we visited his cellar last May. It’s Georgia’s most widely planted and most popular white grape variety. It has great structure and spiciness and becomes creamy, nutty and tannic when aged in qvevri. We just received an organic qvevri-aged Rkatsiteli from Wine Thieves and a new vintage of doqi Rkatsiteli Qvevri. Thanks to their tannic structure, they work very well with roasted meat, stew with walnut sauce, and any cheese.

If Rkatsiteli is the “King of Kakheti”, Mtsvane is its queen according to Aleksi. It’s an ancient Georgian grape variety, even older than Rkatsiteli according to some ampelographers. Full-bodied and yet more delicate and elegant than Rkatsiteli, it exhibits some spicy tea-like aromas when aged in qvevri. Check our new vintage of Mtsvane Qvevri from doqi.

Kisi is an exquisite rare variety from Kakheti. Floral and exotic, with notes of orange zest, it has a large aromatic spectrum. Try the newly arrived Kisi wines from doqi and Wine Thieves, they’re absolutely delicious with seafood and Asian cuisine.

Beka Gotsadze
Beka Gotsadze

Chinuri is from the Kartli region in Central Georgia where the country’s capital Tbilisi is situated. Maybe named for the color of olive tree leaves (“chin” in old Georgian), the grape has high acidity, herbal notes and fruity aromas. Gotsa Family Wines makes an organic qvevri aged Chinuri that is savory, nutty, and tannic with a beautiful amber color.

Amiran Vepkhvadze in his vineyard
Amiran Vepkhvadze in his vineyard

Tsitska and Krakhuna are two grape varieties from Imereti in Western Georgia. They’re both late ripening with ripe fruit aromas. Amiran Vepkhvadze farms small plots of these rare varietals without chemical treatments and ferments them in locally made qvevris. The result is amber in color, richly textured and aromatic. Also from Amiran, Otskhanuri Sapere is a rare, indigenous red varietal found only in Western Georgia. The wine is deeply colored with tannins and very high acidity. It can age very well and be kept in the cellar for several decades.

Shavnabada winemaker Giorgi Abramashvili and his assistant
Shavnabada winemaker Giorgi Abramashvili and his assistant

Last but not least, Saperavi is Georgia’s most famous red grape. Deeply colored, full-bodied, with high acid and full flavors of black berries, mint, tobacco, pepper. When aged in qvevri, it acquires a rich, velvety texture. Try the amazing 2007 Saperavi made by the Shavnabada Monastery. On a more fruity side, doqi has both a qvevri and non qvevri Saperavi and Wine Thieves just released an organic qvevri Saperavi.

There’s a fierce competition between Kindzmarauli and Khvanchkara as to which wine is the best sweet wine in Georgia and both top the list of Stalin’s — born Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili in Gori, Georgia — most favorite wines.

Kindzmarauli is a microzone in the Kakheti wine district along the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains. It is famous for its dark semi-sweet wines made from Saperavi.

Khvanchkara is a appellation located in Racha, Western Georgia on the southern slopes of the Lechkhumi mountain range with vineyards planted between 450 and 750 meters (between 1500 and 2500ft) above sea level. The wine is made from the Alexandria and Mudzhuretuli red varieties and is vinified naturally sweet by keeping fermenting grapes in cool temperatures.

Set up a nice cheese platter with aged Cheddar, Blue Cheese, and nuts and compare the newly released Kindzmarauli and Khvanchkara 2017 both from doqi and tell us which one you prefer. Gaumarjos! To your victory!

#WineWednesday Spotlight #152: Muhr-van der Niepoort Spitzerberg

MUHR-VAN-DER-NIEPOORT-Blaufrankisch-2013
Photo: Karen MacNeil for WineSpeed

“I feel pretty sure that blaufränkisch is pinot noir’s sexy older brother,” writes The Wine Bible author Karen MacNeil for her website WineSpeed. So can a wine exemplify the characteristics of the grape better than the racy and velvety Muhr-van der Niepoort Spitzerberg 2013?

Maybe there’s no actual evidence, but I feel pretty sure that blaufränkisch (BLOUGH-frank-ish) is pinot noir’s sexy older brother—the one who rode Harleys and hung out with Hemingway (or did whatever the equivalent was two thousand years ago). This blaufränkisch from the single vineyard Spitzerberg is certainly like that—a peppery, fruity red that’s racy and dark at the same time. Blaufränkisch, Austria’s leading red, has the wonderful ability to be simultaneously velvety and structured. If I could stop what I’m doing and cook up some duck breasts with cherry sauce, I would. (13% abv)
92 points KM

If you haven’t try Blaufränkisch yet, or if you’re like me and love the raciness of the grape, or if you’re ready to cook some duck breasts, here is our selection of Blaufränkisch wines from Muhr-van der Niepoort and several other top Austrian producers on our webshop. And don’t forget the cherry sauce!

#WineWednesday Spotlight #151: Maurer Kövidinka

Maurer Kovidinka
Maurer Kovidinka

Oszkar Maurer’s winery is located in the Subotica (or Szabadka in Hungarian) wine region in Serbia, just south of the Hungarian-Serbian border. This is where he traditionally and organically farms 6 acres planted to native grape varieties such as Szerémi zöld, Bakator, Mézes fehér, Kövidinka, and Kadarka. Many of these grapes are more than a hundred years old. The Szerémi zöld and Bakator were planted in 1909, the Kövidinka in 1925, and the oldest Kadarka was planted in 1880, which makes it the oldest Kadarka in the world.

The Kövidinka grapes are sourced from a low-yielding 93-year-old vineyard, manually tended and still plowed with horses. The wine was spontaneously fermented with native yeast and made with low sulphur. Also low in alcohol (10.2%), it is light, dry, and crisp, with distinctive stony flavors, a creamy mouthfeel, and a fresh finish.

It’s a lovely wine, perfect for the last warm weather nights of the season. Sip it with appetizers, a fresh salad or a cheese platter. You can get it here.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #150: doqi Rkatsiteli Qvevri

doqi Rkatsiteli
Photo: Erica Duecy

The doqi Rkatsiteli Qvevri is Editor in Chief of SevenFifty Daily Erica Duecy‘s new Georgian friend:

Doqi, my new Georgian friend of the mysteriously scripted label. True, I may not be able to read the Georgian alphabet, but here’s what I know about the wine: It’s qvevri fermented and aged Rkatsiteli with bright notes of apricots and orange zest, honey and baking spices, and an appealing tea-like astringency. To make these wine, grapes are pressed and then fermented in qvevri (clay vats) with the juice, grape skins, stalks, and pips. After macerating for several months on the skins, the white wine develops its amber color. Thanks @themaritimerepublic for the intro.

We just received a new shipment of doqi wines from Georgia. You should try them out, there’re delicious. And stay on top of the wine news with Erica Duecy at SevenFifty Daily.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #149: Tinon Dry Szamorodni

Tinon Dry Szamorodni
Photo: Christina Turley

Christina Turley, Director of Sales and Marketing at Turley Wine Cellars is a fan of Hungarian wines, especially the amazing Tinon Dry Szamorodni:

Hungarian wine does something to my soul, the way no other wine has ever even come close; and THIS. This. This is one of the wildest, tastiest, most profound, most bonkers wines I’ve ever had. White flowers, saddle leather, beeswax…I imagine this wine tastes like Lady Godiva’s infamous ride. The longest finish of any wine I’ve ever had, period. I’m floored.

Dry Szamorodni is a traditional wine from Tokaj. The name is a Polish word that means as comes off the vine because the wine is made from whole clusters of grapes containing both healthy and botrytized berries that are harvested and fermented together. It is then slowly aged under a veil of yeast. At the end, the wine is dry, with powerful flavors of nuts and dried fruits and savory notes like mushroom and maybe also Lady Godiva’s infamous ride 🙂

We just received a shipment from Hungary with some wonderful new wines from Tokaj and other regions. Check them out. And follow what Christina Turley is tasting these days on Instagram.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #148: Štoka Teran

In the Stoka cellar
The Blue Danube Team in the Štoka cellar

“This Killer Adriatic Red is a Must-Try,” says David Lynch, Sommelier & Editorial Director at SommSelect. And although a cynic might think the reason a sommelier had selected an obscure wine was just to show-off, nine times out of ten, the customer should really be trustful:

Listen, I know: trusting is hard. But if this were a tableside interaction instead of an email offer, I have no doubt that Štoka Teran would win me your trust. Why? Because it’s a wine which, despite what some experts say, exhibits true soil character. Because it’s a wine from one of those deeply historic yet somehow still-unknown regions the most devoted wine geeks cherish (in this case, Slovenia). And finally, because it is undeniably delicious, easy to drink, and not merely distinctive but undeniably well-made.

According to David Lynch, the wine can age for a few more years and right now, is best decanted for 30 minutes. Serve it in Bordeaux glasses and pair it with juicy medium-rare burgers.

Read the complete tasting notes and food pairing at SommSelect.

Schist Happens

Eisenberg schist
The schist-y terroir of Eisenberg

The first time we starting turning over rocks and looking for producers in Eisenberg was 2014. The area is certainly thematically ripe for Blue Danube given the confluence of Croatian, Austrian and Hungarian cultures and borders. A stone’s throw from the Hungarian border and a part of the Hungarian Empire for centuries earlier, but the Croatian connection is less obvious.

After the Turks were pushed out in the mid 16th Century, Hungary repopulated the war torn area with Croatian communities. For centuries, villages like Schandorf spoke a unique Croatian dialect and the culture was distinctly Croatian. This was the case up until 1921 when the borders changed, empires fell, and then were broken up again with the Iron Curtain. Things have of course perked up since then, but Südburgenland is still one of Austria’s smallest wine regions, and specific areas like Eisenberg are even lesser known.

The Kopfensteiner family
Thomas, Astrid, Edith and Manfred Kopfensteiner

Needless to say, the region’s wines are underrepresented in the US. As such we are proud to introduce Kopfensteiner. Largely committed to Blaufränkisch, Thomas and Astrid have 9 hectares in Eisenberg and 6 hectares in nearby Deutsch Schützen planted in iron rich clay, loam and layers of green schist.

The Eisenberg
The Eisenberg

Combined with the highest elevation in the region and cool winds from the Hungarian plain, these are most schist-y, spicy and mineral laden Blaufränkisch we’ve tasted. Eisenberg is literally Iron (Eisen) Mountain (Berg) after all.

Johannes Trapl
Johannes Trapl

Founded in 2003 with just 1 hectare, and now with 5 hectares on Carnuntum’s limestone and schist rich Spitzerberg, Johannes Trapl is considered one of the “largest” producers on the hill. Leading up to this, he interned in Napa, but turned down a job there to move back to Austria. He was then fortunate to apprentice with Dorli Muhr of Muhr-van der Niepoort. Her fervent belief in old vines and being able to buck the region’s trend of big overblown reds with bright and serious wines instead clearly influenced him.

Farming organically and working towards biodynamic agriculture, his Carnuntum Red (Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, St. Laurent) and Carnuntum White (Weissburgunder, Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling) are both foot trodden, spontaneously fermented and spend less than a year on the lees. Both a perfect introduction to his style and well priced. The Sankt Laurent is fermented in 500L and 600L and aged for a year on the lees. The Karpatenschiefer, literally “Carpathian schist,” is Grüner Veltliner macerated on the skins for 70-90 days and then aged for 6 months in both amphora and barrel. Perhaps not super traditional, but much like Dorli Muhr’s Prellenkirchen, shows a wonderful rarely seen side of Grüner Veltliner.

Ilse, Frank, Peter, Josef and Maria
Ilse Maier, Frank Dietrich, Peter Bernreiter, Josef and Maria Maier

We are also very happy to provide some “Ehrlicher Trinkspaß” (honest drinking fun) in California as well. These are our Austrian house wines. From the only metropolitan wine appellation in the world (Vienna), the 2017 Gemischter Satz from Peter Bernreiter is spicy, aromatic and really should be a in 1.5 liter, but these 750ml will have to do.

From Kremstal, the new Geyerhof StockWerk Grüner and Zweigelt from Josef Maier are both versatile wines for everyday of the week. Certified organic, juicy, bright and spicy.

Birgit and Katrin Pfneisl
Birgit and Katrin Pfneisl

Last but not least, the certified organic 2017 Zweigler and Blaufränker liters from the Pfneisl sisters are finally here. Put a nice chill on both and get going on some Central European recipes and picnics.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #147: Demeter Zoltán Late Harvest Eszter

Demeter Zoltan
Demeter Zoltán in the cellar

Over at Wine Berserkers, wine lover Robert Pavlovich writes about his trip to Tokaj and his winery visits to Demeter, Majoros, and Bott. His first visit was with Demeter Zoltán:

It was an honor to get a visit here as the property is immaculate, with great respect for the past and an eye toward the future. It’s rather small but maximizes its space expertly, and gives the impression that the pursuit of quality here is second to none.

The 2013 Late Harvest Eszter—named after Zoltán’s daughter—was so good, it was the bottle he took home:

Apricot, dates, honey aromatics are very pleasing and accessible. Effortless on the palate as well, it delivers brilliant sweetness with good complexity of fruit and acidity.
Perhaps not quite as thought provoking or complex as good Aszu, which is partly due to being raised in stainless steel, and selection. However, this is just a brilliant effort and the one we took home with us.

Read the rest of the visit and Robert’s tasting notes at wineberserkers.com

Our next shipment from Hungary containing the 2013 vintage of Zoltán’s Late Harvest Eszter arrives in California in a few days. Stay tuned!

#WineWednesday Spotlight #146: Brkić Greda

Brkic Greda
Brkić Greda Žilavka

Wine blogger Nancy Brazil over at Pull That Cork loves to try new things and recently discovered the 2015 Brkić Greda Žilavka, a wine from a grape variety and a wine region she was not familiar with:

This wine caught our attention immediately with its deep golden color and unfamiliar, complex aromas and flavors. It made me think, in a way, of aged Chardonnay. But different. We discussed this wine for quite some time after first tasting it.

By luck, she found the perfect pairing for the wine, a new mushroom pasta recipe from Wine Enthusiast Magazine:

The mushroom, umami flavors and brown butter were a perfect match for similar flavors in the wine. We had no idea what this wine would taste like, so it was just dumb luck that this pairing worked so well. I had to laugh when, as I sat down to write this cellar note, I read the importer’s food suggestion: brown butter mushrooms or soy sauce.

Read the whole blog post here.

Using biodynamic practices, Josip Brkić makes magical wines using the native, enduring Žilavka (“zilav” means “tough” in slavic languages). That’s a grape that has adapted to the scorched rocky soils of the region, producing wines with a remarkable balance of freshness and fullness of flavor.

Also we were so lucky to recently taste more Žilavka with Josip Brkić’s son Pasko and a group of winemakers from Bosnia Herzegovina.