#WineWednesday Spotlight #114: Kabaj Rebula

Kabaj Rebula
Photo: Patrick Ogle

The Kabaj Rebula “is not the kind you get when cross the Florida-Georgia border; the kind you buy for your Aunt Millie who puts it away in a cabinet never to be looked at again.” For writer Patrick Ogle over at Surprising Wines, this orange wine is for adventurous palates.

Giving white wines extended skin contact is something you see more of these days. It is a tough wine. It gives you the bird the whole time you are drinking it. Out of the bottle Rebula is tight even on the nose. It has an almost candied citrus peel nose with a bit of honey, but a honey with flowery characteristics (orange blossom). It smells like it is going to be sweet but instead it is harsh, woody, tannic (on a level you might associate with big red wines). You may get some citrus, or citrus skin, here but most fruit is buried initially.

Patrick Ogle recommends opening the wine several hours in advance:

When this wine calms down, when the tannins and woodiness retreat, you find that citrus and stone fruit blossoms. This starts several hours after opening (3 or more) but accelerates after 24 hours. It is still tannic but more forgiving. The spice becomes more prevalent and your patience is rewarded.

This isn’t a wine to sit down and drink by itself but it really works with garlicky spicy foods as well as dolmas and olives and similar snacks. It is a strong willed wine. Even on day five this wine is still going strong. The spice comes out more as does something of candied sorts of citrus fruit.

With autumnal notes of dried flowers, honey, hazelnut, citrus peel, and chai tea, the Kabaj Rebula is actually pretty versatile, complementing many Thanksgiving dishes from root vegetables to turkey to hard cheese. Happy adventurous Thanksgiving!

#WineWednesday Spotlight #113: Muhr-van der Niepoort Samt & Seide

Wild fowl and Muhr-van der Niepoort Samt Und Seide
Photo of the Wild Fowls: Wine Enthusiast Magazine

Roasted stuffed wild fowls and Muhr-van der Niepoort Samt & Seide is one of the pairings that Wine Enthusiast Magazine recommends for your Thanksgiving dinner. This tasty and earthy dish is a recipe from Hedi Klinger, chef and owner of Gasthof Klinger in Upper Austria.

These little bird roasts, with their gamey flavors, billowy stuffing and salty bacon, need a medium-bodied red that can stand up to but not overpower, them. A traditional Austrian selection like Muhr-van der Niepoort’s 2014 Samt & Seide Blaufränkisch, and a New World counterpart like Brick House’s 2014 Gamay Noir from Oregon, both show lovely cherry fruit, a spicy touch of pepper and lip-smacking freshness that will illuminate all the flavors without weighing them down.

Purity, finesse, elegance, that’s how The Wine Advocate describes the 2014 Samt & Seide:

Wine Advocate Review of the Muhr-van der Niepoort Samt & Seide

The 2014 Blaufränkisch Samt & Seide is the “super-second wine” of the Spitzerberg “Grand Vin” and comes from up to 40-year-old vines. The wine opens with a pure and spicy, very delicate and fresh bouquet of crushed stones, dried flowers and sour cherries. like the Cuvée vom Berg, this is another Alpine character and is fascinating in its purity and spicy freshness. On the palate, this is a more fruity, round and charming Blaufränkisch compared to the Blaufränkisch/Syrah Cuvée and shows nice juiciness and fine, in fact silky tannin structure without losing its purity, finesse and tensioned elegance. This is another remarkable red wine from the so called “difficult” vintage. Rating: 92

Samt & Seide is one of the Blaufränkisch wines produced by Dorli Muhr from the small Austrian wine region of Carnuntum. Her wines are all pure elegance. Check them out on our webshop.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #112: Apátsági Juhfark

apatsagi vineyard under the snow
Apátsági vineyards under the snow

“I was intrigued to see Matt Kramer’s article this summer highlighting four wonderful wine regions to visit: Santa Barbara, the Douro Valley, Ribeira Sacra and Tokaj,” explains wine lover and blogger John Brooks in his recent blog post The Charm of Somlo.

But on one of these trips, he found the lesser-known and tiny Somló appellation and the vineyards growing on this cone-shaped volcanic mountain:

Somló Hill in winter

The grapes in the vineyards on the hill at Somló include furmint and harslevelu–as do the vineyards in Tokaj–and olaszrizling, a soft and fruity grape known as welschriesling in Austria (unrelated to the better known riesling). But the signature grape of Somló is juhfark–Hungarian for “sheep’s tail” because the long and tightly clustered bunches which curve at the end bear resemblance to a sheep’s tail. Juhfark, which is only grown in any significant quantity in Somló, is considered something of a transparent grape–it takes on the characteristics of the place it is grown. In Somló, the juhfark grapes get good sun, producing a wine of richness–on a frame of strong minerality with the hints of saltiness that can be found in some volcanic soils.

Accompanied by Eva Cartwright, owner of the Somló Wine Shop, he visited several wineries:

zoltan and new truck at Apatsagi
Zoltán Balogh, manager of Apátsági

Among the best known of Somló’s producers is Apátsâgi (Hungarian for “abbey”). Zoltân Balogh bought the historic property from the former abbey and kept the name. Tibor Fazekas and his daughter Dora make the wines and were generous in pouring them for us. They’re rich, ripe and distinctive–combining that richness with the strong structure that underpins all the wines of Somló.

Apátsági’s 2015 Juhfark perfectly reflects Somló’s unique volcanic terroir. The wine is highly mineral, well structured, with a vibrant acidity and a rich, fruity taste. Plus it should pair wonderfully well with your Thanksgiving feast!

“We’ve been blessed to go to some special places in search of good wine,” concludes John Brooks. “Somló is a really, really special place.” You should read the whole story here.

If you can’t go there, check our webshop for more wines from Somló. Indeed, they’re special, stylish, and delicious.

Introducing our new Georgian producer: Bibineishvili Winery

bibineishvili luka
Luka Bibineishvili

The southwestern subtropical region of Guria/Adjara is known for tea, citrus and the cultish local Chkhaveri. This ancient pinkish-violet grape variety is originally a maghlari vine trained to grow up trees. Wine from Chkhaveri can be hypnotic, light but resonant, textured and tea-like. Exactly how Chkhaveri is suppose to be made or taste has been lost, but as far as Luka Bibineishvili is concerned, it’s “Aia Yi!”, which roughly translates as “This is it!.”

Chkhaveri Aia Yi!
Chkhaveri Aia Yi!

Chkhaveri is likely a pre-Christian Meskhetian variety. The ancient region of Meskheti had a highly developed wine culture and was possibly responsible for the invention of iron metallurgy. Before the Ottoman rule in the 16th century, wine from Meskheti was famous outside the region. Unfortunately, almost 100 known aboriginal species were lost to the Turks. Today, only 30 or so hectares of Chkhaveri exist made of small plots of less than 0.5 hectare. Production never stopped, the vineyards and traditions only moved into the protected highlands where old vineyards of forgotten sorts can be found in the forest.

Chkhaveri Vineyard
Chkhaveri vineyard

The Bibineishvili family farms 0.6 hectares, 0.4 planted to Chkhaveri, the remainder to Megrelian Ojaleshi, Tsolikuri, Tsitska and Krakhuna. The winery is located in the Adjaran village of Erge, 5 miles from the Black Sea and the Georgian/Turkish border. Cultivation is organic. The red soil is composed of light and medium loam interspersed with clay. The vines are trained high above the ground, some grown on pergola with overhead trellis, to moderate the humidity of the area.

Chkhaveri in December
Chkhaveri in December

Wine has been part of the Bibineishvili family longer than the family name. Made by Iveri Bibineishvili, the 2015 vintage marks their first commercial production, including 1500 bottles of the 2015 “Aia Yi!”. Chkhaveri is a late ripening grape that does not accumulate a lot of sugar and tends to have good acidity and modest alcohol level even when ripe. In 2015, “Aia Yi!” was harvested on December 12th.

Chkhaveri Wine
Decanting Chkhaveri

After a natural fermentation that included 3 weeks of maceration with skins and stems, the wine aged until March of 2017 when it was bottled. Chkhaveri’s color and particular character, coupled with the extremely late harvest and maceration, result in a light, phenolic, especially savory wine of dimension and length. “Aia Yi!” is burnished rosé, strangely perfumed, subtle and structured. This wine will continue to develop in the bottle for 5 or more years.

Qvevri artifact

Introducing our new Georgian producer: Lapati Wines

lapatis parkling wine
Lapati sparkling wines

Lapati Wines is the joint project of French-born Guillaume Gouerou and Vincent Jullien. The two men met originally at the Art Villa Garikula, a Center for Contemporary Arts in Georgia. Vincent was there to realize his first experiments of natural sparkling wine with grapes from the villa and Guillaume was invited as an artist. They completed their Marani (traditional Georgian cellar) in Sagarejo, Kakheti in 2015 and currently produce about 3,500 bottles. Natural sparkling wines comprise more than half their production.

Vincent Jullien
Vincent Jullien in the cellar

About half of the grapes comes from their own vines in Kakheti and Shida Kartli. The remainder comes from growers who are also farming organically. They only buy what is necessary to allow them to fully fill the four one-ton qvevris they have buried in the marani. They intend to eventually increase the production but not beyond 10,000 bottles as they want to personally handle all aspects of production.

lapati saperavi
Saperavi Grape

The Saperavi Super Ravi (in French, the word “ravi” means “happy”) cuvée is made by placing whole clusters of Saperavi from the village of Mukuzani into two qvevris. After sealing the qvevris with clay, the wine ferments for 2 weeks with carbonic-acid gas. There is not much compression in a qvevri so this carbonic maceration is particularly gentle. After 2 weeks, the qvevris are opened, everything is destemmed, crushed, then the final juice goes to age into one qvevri. The 2016 vintage was bottled directly from qvevri in March of 2017.

lapati qvevri
Grapes in qvevri

Their naturally sparkling wines are bottled under the Kidev Erti label. It means “one more” in Georgian and sounds like the French phrase “qui divertit” literally, “what entertains”. The wines are indeed entertaining and irresistible. Both the pale Chinuri and rosy cross of red Tavkveri and white Gorula are from Shida Kartli vineyards and underwent the same vinification. Fruit harvested in mid October was foot trodden in a traditional satsnakheli (canoe shaped press hewn from a single tree trunk) and poured into qvevri. After 2 weeks the wines were bottled at sugar levels that would give 6 bars of pressure.

lapati riddling cellar
Lapati riddling cellar

Vincent suspects Georgian yeast produces more gas because they use Champagne glass and still have bottles that exploded through March when the pressure was greatest. These cellar bombs are what inspired the 2016 labels, which change annually to reflect something specific about the vintage. Ultimately, the wines were clarified and the pressure reduced during hand disgorging. A messy affair that includes a fair bit of loss justified only by the elegance and transparency of the resultant wines.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #111: Kabaj Merlot

kabaj merlot
Jean Michel Morel, Kabaj’s Winemaker

This month, the Kabaj Merlot 2012 is Wine & Spirits Magazine‘s critic’s pick:

kabaj critics pick

Jean-Michel Morel’s 2012 merlot is rich with ripe plum and black cherry flavors, but the wine never feels fat or jammy, thanks to the meaty tannins and savory notes of fresh-turned earth and roasted mushrooms. A distinct note of iodine lends a sanguine savor and enhances the wine’s Old World character.

The 2012 vintage is not available yet in the US. In the meantime, try the 2011. It’s a complex wine, more savory than fruity, very well balanced, and ready to drink now.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #110: BIBICh R6

bibich r6
Photo: Jenny Loudis

This Instagram post is a contribution from BIBICh wine lover Jenny Loudis:

The best #wine from #croatia
#bibichwinery #bourdainrecommended #jandjimbibe #bluedanubewine #croatianwine

BIBICh R6 is deliciously fruity and spicy, the perfect wine this fall with a hearty pasta dish like Rigatoni with Spicy Sausage-Tomato Sauce, Arugula and Parmesan.

And don’t forget to follow Jenny Loudis on on Instagram.

Great places to drink Blue Danube Wines in San Francisco

August 1 Five - Birba - Liholiho
Photos: Wine & Spirits Magazine

There’re so many fine places where you can find Blue Danube wines in San Francisco! In particular, note these three restaurants: they have great reviews in the October issue of Wine & Spirits Magazine and carefully curated wine lists that perfectly match the food in the menu.

At August 1 Five, try gol guppa, which are crispy pastries filled with spiced potatoes, with Štoka Teran Rosé:

Here, gol guppa crispy pastries filled with spiced potatoes—arrive with a flight of brightly fruit-flavored waters, poured in at table to maintain the crispness and burst of flavor with each bite: biryani is made elegant with long, long grains of rice and perfectly balanced seasonings. Austin Ferrari’s tightly curated wine list is in perfect sync with the food, focused on spicy, earthy wines like Stoka teran rosé and Inconnu Sonoma County cab franc. (Full review here)

At Birba, try marinated anchovies with Fekete Furmint:

You won’t find the usual suspects here, but rather things like sparkling pineau d’Aunis from the Loire, Béla Fekete’s volcanic whites from Somló in Hungary and six vermouths by the glass to go along with the charcuterie and olives and a soundtrack that veers from Beyoncé to salsa. (Full review here)

At Liholiho Yacht Club, try pickles in a poppy seed–encrusted bun with Eszterbauer Kadarka:

Chef Ravi Kapur, from Hawaii via Boulevard and Prospect, works magic in the open kitchen at Liholiho, turning out umami-rich dishes like tongue, kimchi and pickles in a poppy seed–encrusted bun, or beef carpaccio and crispy fried oysters. They sing with the eclectic wine list, rich in classic aromatic whites from Italy, Germany and Alsace, as well as esoterica like Ravines Riesling from the Finger Lakes, Sandlands Trousseau from Sonoma and Eszterbauer Kadarka from Hungary. (Full review here)

#WineWednesday Spotlight #109: Geyerhof Zweigelt StockWerk

Photo: Nicole Ruiz Hudson

After spending 3 years working for a wine magazine in New York City, wine and food writer Nicole Ruiz Hudson has recently returned to California. Located in the Bay Area, she now enjoys going on camping trips, from the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains to Humboldt County up in the northern part of the state.

On camping trips, she likes to eat well and pair her meals with something good in her glass. Not all wines are good camping wines though so in her blogpost 2 oz Pours: Campsite Dining, she shares with us some of her personal guidelines for perfect camping wines: they have to be easy-drinking, under $20, versatile, easy to open with a screwcap, and tasty while chilled. Sounds good to me!

With Andouille sausages grilled on the fire and cannellini beans sautéed with onions, garlic and Parmesan, she enjoyed drinking a Geyerhof Zweigelt StockWerk Kremstal 2015:

This is such a tasty wine. We have this at home quite a bit and we took this on both of our summer camping trips. (One of my co-workers mentioned this also one of her camping go-to’s.)

StockWerk literally means “work on the vines.” The grapes for this wine grow on cool sites south of the Danube river through all organic farming practices without the use of any pesticides, insecticides, or weed control substances.

This is a super easy drinker with lots of blackberry and black cherry notes along with light pepper and spice. Despite the dark fruit flavors it’s medium bodied. It also hits a couple of other camping wine touchstones–it’s under screw cap and takes a chill well.

Because of the wine’s fruitiness it can handle some spicier foods, so we paired it with Andouille sausages grilled right on the fire. (Pre-cooked sausages also keep really well in the cooler.) As s side, I sautéed some onions with garlic in our little camping pot and added a can of cannellini beans, Parmesan, and salt and pepper, and I left the beans on the saucy side. Super easy and very tasty.

Read the whole story and find out all the fresh and juicy camping wines she tasted as well as the delicious campsite meals she paired them with.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #108: Dubrovački Podrumi Malvasija Dubrovačka

Dubrovacki Podrumi Malvasija
Photos: Marcy Gordon

“It’s still summer here” for our friend Marcy Gordon. The temperatures are mild, the trees are still green, and sweet cherry tomatoes, and vibrant bell peppers are in season. So let’s enjoy this late Californian summer with a glass of crisp Dubrovački Podrumi Malvasija:

I may be saying “It’s still summer here” well into February the way things are going–but tonight we have a bit of sunny Croatia in our glass with this crisp, bright, and fresh 2015 Malvasija Dubrovačka from Dubrovački Prodrumi. It’s lemony, and slightly chalky. Immensely quaffable! Pairing great with the last of the tomatoes and some peppers. I visited Dubrovački Prodrumi just south of Dubrovnik last year on the Epic Blue Danube Road Trip. Fun Times! #croatia
#malvasija #dalmatia #dubrovačkiprodrumi #dalmatianwine #winesofcroatia #bluedanubewine #wine #itsstillsummerhere

Marcy in Croatia
Marcy enjoying wine in Croatia

Yes we agree, Croatia will always bring fond (and epic) memories to all of us!

Follow Marcy on Instagram.