The Tart, Salty and the Nutty from the other side of the Adriatic: Summer Wines from the Balkans

15 wines is a lot to get through without losing you after this sentence. However, there is a salty, tart, and often nutty line that connects them all from the Bay of Trieste down to Southern Dalmatia. These are our table wines for the summer. For the past few years, we’ve brought the Martinčič Cviček liter in from Dolenjsko (in between Zagreb and Ljubljana in Slovenia). This tongue-twisting blend of red and white grapes must be between 8.5-10% alcohol and dry by law. Now we are finally adding two more liters to round things out – the 2016 Modra Frankinja (Blaufränkisch) and 2016 Modri Pinot Rosé (Pinot Noir). They are both around 11-11.5% alcohol, incredibly low in SO2, and are impossibly fresh and full of character. Chill all three down and let them come up at the table. Roughly 2 hours West and a bit south by car and you hit Istria (Istra in Slovenia). Dominated by Malvasia Istarska, Teran and Refošk, the diversity by soil and proximity to the Adriatic is immense. Keeping with the liter theme, the 2016 Santomas LNG Refošk is our Dolcetto by the sea in that it satisfies the pizza/pasta needs but still lends itself … Continue reading The Tart, Salty and the Nutty from the other side of the Adriatic: Summer Wines from the Balkans

#WineWednesday Spotlight #95: Šipun Žlahtina

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.

The Captain of Krk and an Island Hvar Hvar Away…

Partly because it’s already hitting 80 degrees in my adopted hometown of Sacramento, and partly because I miss Croatia, I’d like to highlight two island wines this month. Island wine regions, whether they be Italian, Spanish, Greek, French, or Kiwi, are all fiercely independent with their respective language, food and wine. Croatia is no different and the Island of Krk and the Island of Hvar both possess something unique from the mainland. At the risk of both a Star Trek and Star Wars pun, these are both serious wines with great stories, made by wonderful people, and from impossibly beautiful places. 2013 Šipun Žlahtina, Island of Krk, Croatia… Crossing the bridge to the Island of 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 physical 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, … Continue reading The Captain of Krk and an Island Hvar Hvar Away…

Island Whites

Somewhere in Croatia (photo: Michael Newsome) The coast of Croatia is a rugged mountainous seascape of 1000 islands. From the barren Kornati to the forested shores of Korčula, these are the jewels of the Adriatic. 3,500 miles of craggy untamed limestone coast, awesome in the truest sense. Only 66 of the islands are inhabited. Krk (Ki-rrk), Hvar (huh-var), and Korčula (Core-chew-la) are three of the largest, and most important wine wise are still very much wild. Each is home to their own autochthonous (formed in its present position) grape varieties—found little or nowhere else on earth, under conditions unique to each island, capable of expressing their position and the culture of those who farm them. The soils vary but are all limestone based. Conditions tend to be wet in winter and hot and dry in summer. Each of these producers is working small plots by hand, the dry windy growing season rarely requires vineyard treatment. Krk, Croatia’s northerly, largest island has long been famous for wine. Less of the Dalmatian islands are under vine today than historically. The 250 hectares today are a shadow of the 2,500 under vine during Roman occupation. Within Krk’s Kvarner Valley winemaker Ivica Dobrinčić maintains … Continue reading Island Whites

Insight and imagery: a photographer and her husband visit Slovenia and Croatia for the first time

San Fransisco based freelance photographer Robin Jolin has expertly documented a number of Blue Danube Wine Co events. Usually asking for payment in wine, we have watched her interest grow beyond the glass. Robin and her husband Jarred made their first trip to Middle Europe this past April. They spent two weeks wandering between the Slovenian/Italian border and the Island of Krk visiting wine producers and absorbing the hospitality, culture, olive oil, truffles, and most of all wine. The photographs are Robin’s, the words are Jarred’s. Read and view with caution, or risk an impulse purchase of a plane ticket to Ljubljana. Stetson: Beforehand what were your expectations of this trip?Jerred: We expected to experience a beautiful foreign land with the freedom a rented, compact automobile offers, all the while remaining well-fed on delicious, local fare and wine varietals, and to meet a small cross section of those responsible for creating these delectable treats. One aspect of traveling through this part of the world that we didn’t expect was the hospitality offered us by the winemakers we visited. Although strangers they treated us like important guests, providing us with anything necessary to keep us satiated. Another aspect we didn’t expect … Continue reading Insight and imagery: a photographer and her husband visit Slovenia and Croatia for the first time

A Day at Katunar, on Krk Island

Panoramic view of the city of Krk on the island of Krk. The next morning, we set off for the island of Krk, driven by Antonella. Driving east toward Rijeka, we pass Tuscan-looking hill towns and a public forest at the side of the small, local highway, which Antonella tells us is a truffle forest where locals go to try their luck. There is a controversy about continuing public access to the forest, which the truffle hunters consider their right. At Rijeka, we need to take a sharp right turn and head south, but first, we need to get past Mt. Ucka. There’s a tunnel through the mountain, but we decide to go over it, and head upward at a steep angle along switchback curves, past tiny, five-house towns, through the forest. We stop as the road starts to slope downward again, to look out over the Adriatic toward Krk to the south and Rijeka below us (shown), situated in the dog’s-leg turn where Istria becomes the Kvarner region of northern coastline, mercilessly blown in winter by the bura, Croatia’s version of the mistral winds. First we drive through the resort villas of Opatija, playing a game of “if I … Continue reading A Day at Katunar, on Krk Island