#WineWednesday Spotlight #97: Gotsa Family Wines Tsitska

Gotsa Family Wines Tsitska
Gotsa Family Wines Tsitska

Traditional Georgian wines are like nothing else you’ll taste,writes Wine expert and The Vinguard founder Pamela Busch.

Beyond the strangeness of the varietals, they are often fermented and aged in large egg-shaped amphora known as qvevri (sometimes written as kvevri). These earthen clay vessels were first used 8,000 years ago and are making a bit of a resurgence with producers from Italy to California preferring them to tanks or barrels.

Among the wines Pamela tasted at a recent San Francisco event organized by The Georgian Wine Association and The National Wine Agency of Georgia, one of the highlights was the Gotsa Family Wines 2014 Tsitska:

Beka Gotsadze grandfather founded Gotsa it in the 19th Century and he has shepherded it into the modern age with terrific traditionally made wines. It has been organic since 2007 and will be Demeter certified in 2018. Tsitska is a thick-skinned ancient white grape. This wine did not have any skin contact but still has a little girth – not much – think Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot. Fermented and aged in amphora, it has a clean minerality with saline, Meyer lemon and a touch of honey in the nose.

Follow Pamela over at The Vinguard and check our webshop for more Gotsa wines.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #96: Heimann Kadarka

Heimann Kadarka
Chilled Heimann Kadarka – Photo: Orshi Kiss

Chilled #kadarka on a hot Friday afternoon?
Yes, please.

Today’s #WineWednesday Spotlight is a contribution from Orshi Kiss, Blue Danube Wine Co. Southern California Sales Manager. For sure, Kadarka is one of her favorite grapes!

Thought to be originally from the Balkans where its still commonly planted – and where it’s also known as Gamza – Kadarka by now thought of in Hungary as one of the traditional red grapes.

It is naturally low in tannins and usually a lighter bodied wine, which makes it a perfect, chillable summer red. Some of the best examples come from the region of Szekszárd — enjoy this spicy, elegant yet fun Kadarka from Heimann Winery.

Kadarka is a delicate grape variety producing delightful wines and it is great news that planting is slowly increasing in Hungary and neighboring countries. Check that article to learn more about it: Kadarka, Cadarca, Gamza.

BIBICh’s Feast

Alen Bibic
Alen Bibić presenting his white Debit

A little more than a year ago, we were in Skradin, North Dalmatia, for a sumptuous multi-course tasting menu with wine pairing. The place was not a restaurant but BIBICh Winery where Chef Vesna Bibić crafts elaborate gourmet dishes carefully paired with the BIBICh wines of her husband Alen. Vesna’s food and Alen’s wines are now famous in the US since Anthony Bourdain filmed a segment of his famous show No Reservations at the winery.

Bibich Feast
Smoked trout, cucumber and bean sprouts granité, tuna, black radish and spring onion, tuna marinated in squid ink with black lentils, and lovely snail on the grass.

We were so lucky to experience such a meal ourselves! We started the dinner with a festive glass of BIBICh Brut paired with a smoked trout, cucumber and bean sprouts granité. Alen’s deliciously fresh Debit came with a slice of tuna on black radish topped with spring onion. I particularly loved the black tuna marinated in squid ink with black lentils. The rich, slightly briny flavors of the dish went particularly well with the complex R5 that was served with it.

Skradin risotto
Skradin risotto covered with gold

Another highlight of the meal was the famed Skradin risotto. Made with veal and cooked slowly for more than 8 hours, Vesna served it covered with a thin layer of gold. It was super creamy, dense in flavors, and a good match for the silky Sangreal Shiraz.

Chocolate Egg
Chocolate Egg

The sweet finale was a glass of unctuous BIBICh Ambra — just what we needed after so many amazing dishes — paired with a surprise chocolate egg that cracked open when a white chocolate sauce was poured on top of it.

Here is another description of that memorable evening by our friend Marion Podolski over at Go Hvar: Wine-tasting on the north Dalmatian coast part 2: BIBICh.

While some of you may already be looking at flights to Croatia and how to make a reservation at BIBICh winery, we’re happy to announce that Alen’s new wines will be arriving soon in California and will ship in mid July.

No Escape from Balkan

After a long hiatus, new Balkan wines from Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina are finally here the second week of July. After looking over previous trip photos, putting together a fairly impressive Balkan playlist (currently listening to Dubioza Kolektiv), cooking some homemade Burek, and adding Ajvar to my morning eggs, I started to realize how much I missed these wines. The combination of salty, herby, oxidatively alive and zero to full tannins that both go with seafood sets these wines apart. We’ve even added some sparkling, sweet, Amfora, and some wines with 10+ years of age on them for good measure.

stoka family
Štoka Family

Starting near the Italian and Croatian border in Slovenia, the Štoka family has been farming for over 200 years. The reds are sanguine, high acid, seemingly Marasca cherry infused and pungent despite being low in alcohol. They make you want rare meat, charcuterie and basically anything cured or pickled. If you over do it, please consider making some “Istarska Supa.”

Moreno Coronica
Moreno Coronica

Directly south on western coast of Istria near the town of Umag is the Coronica winery. Moreno’s grandfather was Austro-Hungarian, his father was Italian, he was Yugoslavian, and now his children are Croatian. It’s a complicated area but the iron rich “Terra Rosa” soil hasn’t changed and the Malvasia Istriana is salty fresh and his Teran is one of the most elegant and layered in Croatia.

Dobrincic Family
Dobrinčić Family

Off the Eastern Coast of Istria is the Island of Krk. Once considered a floating vineyard during its Venetian hayday, Šipun’s white Źlahtina and red Sansigot continue that tradition in the pink Karst limestone a stone’s throw from the Adriatic. Aromatic and textured without being tannic, the Sansigot is a great foil for seafood while the Žilavka drinks like Croatian Muscadet in terms of weight and acidity.

Alen Bibic
Alen Bibić

Drive south roughly 3 hours along the Dalmatian Coast and you arrive at Bibich Winery. The range of wines we’re offering reflects the diversity of local grapes and traditions while satisfying Alan’s entrepreneurial spirit. Stainless steel, skin contact, oxidatively aged, sparkling, cofermented, and even an unfortified passito like wine to name a few.

Stari Grad Plain
Stari Grad Plain on the Island of Hvar

Off the Southern Dalmatian coast, the Stari Grad Plain on the Island of Hvar has been farmed the same way for over 24 centuries (a UNESCO Heritage Site). Husband and wife Ivo and Ivana Carić farm a native white grape called Bogdanjuša, literally “a godsend” (Bogom dana), on this same land. Locals drink it with a seafood stew called “Forska­Gregoda” chock full of Mediterranean herbs, olive oil and onions.

Milos Vineyard
Miloš Vineyard on the Pelješac Peninsula

Miloš is one of those places that really must to be scene in person. A hand built terraced amphitheater overlooking the Adriatic with old vines clawing out of dolomite limestone on along Tomales Bay like Peninsula. The family has been making wine here for over 500 years and it’s still a family affair with all three children working under their father Frano. Structured and age worthy Plavac Mali with an undeniable “Friškina” or scent of the sea quality along with capturing the sun drenched herbs and olive trees of the Pelješac.

Josip Brkić
Josip Brkić showing his biodynamic agriculture book written by Austrian born philosopher Rudolf Steiner

Further south, the Brkić vineyards are between 800 to 1300 feet above sea level in Southern Herzegovina. The area was already making wine 2000 years ago by the Illyrians and continued during Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Yugoslavian rule all the way through independence in 1992. The white Žilavka and red Blatina grapes have a serious history and identity in this place and Josip’s farming and cellar work enable them to be transparent, pure and deliciously otherly.

Check our new Croatian arrivals on our webshop.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #95: Šipun Žlahtina

sipun_zlahtina
Žlahtina Vineyard on the Croatian island of Krk

The Šipun Žlahtina got a good review from the August issue of The Wine Enthusiast Magazine:

This wine from the island of Krk is straw-colored, with aromas of apple blossom, green apple and lemon zest. It is well weighted in the mouth, with flavors of apple and citrus blossom and a creamy finish. 88 Points

Žlathina is a white grape variety native to the island of Krk and it is, with the rare Sansigot, the main focus of Šipun‘s winemaker Ivica Dobrinčić. What Ivica particularly likes about Žlathina is its difficulty in accumulating sugar. Even in very hot years, Žlahtina wines are fresh and quite low in alcohol (only 11.5% for the Šipun Žlahtina 2015 vintage).

I opened a bottle of Šipun Žlahtina for our 4th of July party and it was a real crowd-pleaser. Aromatic, with honeyed and peachy aromas and low in alcohol, this is a great wine to enjoy when it’s hot outside.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #94: Štoka Teranova Peneče

stoka_vineyard
Teran Vineyard in Kras

What is light, airy and deliciously summery? Pét-Nat!

Pét-Nat (short for Pétillant Naturel) is a sparkling wine made in the méthode ancestral, an ancient technique where the wine is bottled before having completed its fermentation. The fermentation process continues in the bottle, finishing converting sugar into alcohol and thus producing light bubbles of carbon dioxide. Unlike Champagne, Pét-Nat is not disgorged and can be cloudy. It is also often low in alcohol with a touch of sweetness, which makes it light and refreshing.

For sommelier and author of The MODERN GENTLEMAN: A Guide to Essential Manners, Savvy & Vice Jason Tesauro, the deep red Štoka Teranova Peneče is among The 10 Best Pét-Nat Wines Under $40:

Wind, erosion, drought, and iron-laden soil make the Kras region one of the most severe and unique terroirs in the world, producing this sparkling red from the inky Teran grape.

We’re getting Štoka’s new Pét-Nat production in our coming container from Slovenia. Check it out!

#WineWednesday Spotlight #93: Miloš Plavac

Milos Vineyards
The steep coastal Miloš Vineyards on the Pelješac Peninsula, Southern Dalmatia

Our new Dalmatian container is coming soon with brand new vintages from the Miloš winery!

The Miloš family has been making full bodied Plavac from the rugged coastal vineyards of Pelješac Peninsula in for over 500 years. Today, the wines are certified organic, made with minimal intervention and totally aged worthy.

Wine lover and blogger Nenad Trifunović just reviewed the Miloš Plavac 2013 on his blog Dnevnik Vinopije (Diary of the Wine-Drinker):

I still feel the playful fruit, the smell of ripe grapes harvested in the vineyard. I can see the bees and wasps sticking in the air filled with smells.

While in the glass, the wine gradually releases figs and roasted almonds aromas. On the palate, the wine is well balanced. Clearly, the tannins are present, rubbing the palate but also associated with beautiful fresh balsamic notes. Ready to enjoy and ready for storage.

Try the new Miloš wines on our webshop

#WineWednesday Spotlight #92: J&J Eger Winery Eged Hegy Kékfrankos

Dr. Janos Stumpf
Dr. Janos Stumpf, winemaker at J&J Eger Winery

Sixty miles west of Tokaj, the Hungarian wine region of Eger is one of Europe’s most northerly red wine appellations. It is famous for its Egri Bikavér, a red blend usually made from Kadarka, Kékfrankos and other international varieties.

Kékfrankos thrives on the multifaceted volanic hills that protected the Eger vineyards from the cold north winds. Dr. Janos Stumpf, winemaker at the J&J Eger Winery and one of the “J” in the label, sourced his Eged Hegy Kékfrankos from dry-farmed vines on the Eged Hegy (Eged Hill).

The wine is deeply colored and exhibits complex aromas of mint, sweet fruit and moka. On the palate, the wine has an amazing silky mouth-feel, and lots of freshness and balance. Perfect with grilled lamb chops and ratatouille.

The other J of the label is Master Sommelier, wine critic and author John Szabo, who recently published Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power, an informative read on volcanic wines from around the world, including Hungary.

Visiting Gotsa in Georgia

Beka and his dogs
Beka Gotsadze

In September, I had the opportunity to go to Georgia on a tour for wine buyers. I was lucky enough to meet Beka Gotsadze of Gotsa and have one of the most quintessentially Georgian experiences of my entire trip.

On the first night, we went to Gotsa Winery in the mountains above Tbilisi, greeted by a boisterous group comprised of winemaker, wife, dogs, and kids milling around a few old qvevri. We made our way to the cellar – first the upper room full of fermentation qvevri and then the lower room with the qvevri for aging – while Beka’s wife, Nina, gently teased him about his English (hers is perfect, of course).

Tasting with Beka Gotsadze
Tasting with Beka Gotsadze

After tasting a mix of 2014 and 2015 vintages with cheese and bread provided to soak up the wine, we moved on to tasting what Beka likes to call his “experiments.” First, a Tsitska petillant naturel that was yeasty and rich with a lightness and acidity that was surprising, given it had just been bottled to finish off its fermentation. Then, some more Tsitska under flor in qvevri. And a few sips of 2015 Chinuri – bright, herbaceous and firmly tannic – to finish with before our supra.

Supra at Gotsa
Supra at Gotsa

Having only heard of Georgian style dinner parties before, I thought I was prepared for the supra. Not so. Wine glasses never went empty, food kept coming. First, vegetables and eggplants with walnut paste and pickles, then stews and olives, and then mtsvade (pork grilled over dried grape vines). And of course to finish the meal, chacha – Georgia’s answer to grappa. It was like finishing off a meal with cognac, only we were in Georgia and nothing is nearly that pretentious there.

After songs and chacha and Beka hurriedly taking us down to taste an experimental fortified wine that he’s playing with, we finally had to leave and descend the mountain. But what an auspicious first meal to begin what would be the best trip of my life!

#WineWednesday Spotlight #91: Maurer Kadarka 1880

Maurer Kadarka
Photo: Jason Tesauro

Speaker, sommelier, award-winning writer – author of The MODERN GENTLEMAN: A Guide to Essential Manners, Savvy & Vice, Jason Tesauro recently reviewed our first wine from Serbia, Maurer Kadarka 1880 2015 on Instagram:

Phenomenal #naturalwine from #OszkarMaurer @bluedanubewine and @isabellelegeron’s wild Hungarian co-op. #Kadarka (aka #Gamza) is an ancient black-skinned variety named for a lake between Montenegro 🇲🇪 and Albania 🇦🇱. This one tastes of rhubarb and fresh strawberry jam but without added sugar. It’s mouth-drying but not tannic. Beyond the fruit, a fuzzy texture and bright finish
bookend playful, dancing acidity with layered aromas of pomegranate and bitter citrus pith. 12.5% alcohol.
Love it with a little chill and let it carry you away to 137-yr-old vines just over the border in Serbia. #unfined #unfiltered #untamed #unbelievable #handharvested #lowsulphites #vegan

The Kadarka 1880 is sourced from a vineyard planted in 1880. It’s the oldest known Kadarka vineyard in the world, located in Serbia, on the Hungarian border. The wine is completely natural with no added yeast, no added sulphur, fermented in open vat and aged in big old oak casks for 12 months. It’s an amazing wine, you can find it here.

Follow what Jason is tasting on Instagram.