Introducing Muhr-van der Niepoort – Pinpoint Precision on the Spitzerberg

Spitzerberg is the last and least of the Lesser Carpathians. It is neither spitz – pointed, nor Berg – a mountain; a slump-shouldered acclivity at best, covered mostly with trees and only partially with the vine, situated in a protected nature preserve. In the easternmost Austrian winegrowing region Carnuntum, it lies closer to Bratislava than to Vienna. Grapes have been grown here for centuries, taking advantage of the hillside’s position as the first elevation encountered by the warm and dry air masses that stream northward from the Pannonian plain, but its vineyards had fallen into a state of neglect and desuetude for most of the recent decades. Muhr-van der Niepoort’s top wine, Blaufränkisch Spitzerberg – as well as their Blaufränkisch Samt & Seide – are distinctive, in that the estate has chosen not to model their wines on examples from the Leithagebirge, the Eisenberg and or Gols, but rather expresses the contrast of their meager and parched hillside soils to the moisture-retentive heavier ground down around Lake Neusiedl. Spitzerberg offers an elegant, subtle and mineral-driven perspective on the confluence of old vines and fossil limestone; long-lived and long on the palate, fine and densely packed. The vines are old – … Continue reading Introducing Muhr-van der Niepoort – Pinpoint Precision on the Spitzerberg

#WineWednesday Spotlight #14: Shavnabada Rkatsiteli

2003 Shavnabada Rkatsiteli from Kakheti, Georgia is one of those wines that really transports you to another place and time. Wine expert and The Vinguard founder Pamela Busch recently listed it as one of her Top Wines of 2015: An extinct volcano 2300 feet above sea level, Shavnabada is a mountain that has housed a Medieval monastery of the same name. It was restored in 1992 and the monks have been making wine on the property since 1998. Certified organic, they are old school and ferment and age the wines underground in amphora for years, 12 in the case of the Rkatsiteli. Every time I think of this winery, images of Sean Connery from In the Name of the Rose pop into my head. Amber colored, with toasted nuts, spice and dried stone fruits, one door of flavor leads to another – it’s pretty astonishing. This “astonishing” wine is made from hand harvested grapes under the strict supervision of the monks. The grapes are foot trodden in a traditional wooden press, and are not fined or filtered before being bottled by hand. The bottleneck is covered with beeswax from Shavnabada’s own bees. Interestingly enough they produce literally tons of wild … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #14: Shavnabada Rkatsiteli

Orange wine isn’t what you think it is

Orange wines, or perhaps more accurately described as amber wines, have been gaining more and more popularity with wine consumers. Writer Robin Shreeves gives these wines a try with the help of Keith Beavers, wine educator and owner of New York City’s In Vino Restaurant & Wine Bar, for Mother Nature Network. What is orange wine? The simple way to explain orange wine is that it’s white wine made like red wine. For white wine, the skins of white or red grapes are separated from the juice immediately. When red wines are made, the juice and the skins are left together for a time, imparting the color and the tannins from the skins, seeds and stems into the wine. Orange wine is made from the juice of white grapes that have contact with their skins for a time before fermenting, imparting an orange or amber tint to the wine. See Robin’s notes on a few of the “orange” or “amber” wines we import: Oil was what jumped out at me the first time I breathed in the scents of an orange wine — although I got motor oil, not linseed. Our host chose Piquentum Blanc’12 from Croatia made from the … Continue reading Orange wine isn’t what you think it is

#WineWednesday Spotlight #13: Štoka Teran Rosé Peneče

Born and raised in California, the hardest part of adjusting to life on the East Coast has been learning to love (ok – more like survive) the long, cold winters. Sipping on a glass of wine while soaking in a bubble bath I find does wonders. This past weekend as temperatures dipped down into the teens, I enjoyed a glass of Štoka Teran Rosé Peneče (Pet-Nat) 2014 with my bath. Because there are less bubbles in a Pet-Nat than Charmant or traditionally made sparkling wines, it makes for a more refreshing and easier to drink beverage. This gently sparkling Rosé is a little hazy in the glass, with a slightly salmon hue. The nose offers notes of wild strawberry, juniper berries and freshly baked brioche. I enjoyed my glass of Teran Rosé Peneče alone, but in Slovenia the Štoka family serves it alongside the air cured ham that hangs over their barrels in the cellar. Here’s to making it out of winter alive and in good spirits!

Plum Dumplings: An Austro-Hungarian Treat

Anne Krebiehl MW offers this traditional recipe in her latest article for Wine Enthusiast. Read the full piece here. Known as Lekvártascherl in Austria and Barátfüle in Hungary, these plum dumplings are a delicious example of Central European sweets. The best wine pairing would be either an Austrian eiswein or late harvest wine from Hungary. Here are a few we recommend: From the Rosenhof Winery in Austria, producer of some of the finest, incredibly balanced sweet wines- Rosenhof Blaufränkisch Eiswein 2012 Rosenhof Welschriesling TBA 2010 Two late harvest wines from Tokaj, Hungary; one is made by the Füleky winery and the other by Patricius. Both wines retain a beautiful amount of freshness and lively acidity that work in harmony with the residual sugar- Füleky Pallas Tokaji Late Harvest 2012 Patricius Katinka Late Harvest 2012 Plum Dumplings Recipe Recipe courtesy Michal Rabina, Eisenstädter Mehlspeiskuchl, Schloss Esterházy, Eisenstadt, Austria Ingredients 2 cups boiled, peeled potatoes 3/4 cup quark or fromage frais 3/4 cup unsalted butter 2 egg yolks (save the whites for another use, or discard as desired) 1 whole egg 1 1/2 cups flour, plus extra for dusting 1 teaspoon lemon juice 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest 1 teaspoon finely … Continue reading Plum Dumplings: An Austro-Hungarian Treat

#WineWednesday Spotlight #12: Tinon Dry Szamorodni

Bordeaux vigneron Samuel Tinon, settled in Tokaj with his family after making wine all over the world. His wife, Mathilde, a wine journalist, tells their extraordinary story in a matter-of-fact way, but even her words are soaked with the beauty of Tokaj. “Wherever we were in the world, we always just thought about Tokaj, coming back here. The botrytis is perfect here, and we were fascinated by the aszú. We were on a quest, to discover the aszú berry”. In fact, “aszú”, the Hungarian word for the noble rot, botrytis, does enjoy the climate of Tokaj. Nights of thick fog are followed by warm sunshine in the fall, allowing the healthy development of botrytis. Today’s wine is dry Szamorodni. Partially botrytized bunches are picked as a whole (versus berry-selecting for an aszú wine) and fermented, resulting in Tokaji Szamorodni. Being really popular in Poland, the name “szamorodni” comes from the Polish word “as it is”, or “as it grows”. What makes this particular Szamorodni so unique and wonderful, is that Tinon went back to the original, traditional way of making this wine: aging it in partial barrels and allowing flor, the surface yeast to develop. The result is extreme complexity: … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #12: Tinon Dry Szamorodni

Blue Danube, Selling Croatia’s Original Zinfandel in California

With its 130 indigenous grape varieties — including the original Zinfandel — Croatian wine is attracting interest around the globe, but how easy is it to sell Croatian wine in the Zinfandel heartland of California? Paul Bradbury from Total Croatia News interviewed Frank Dietrich and his team from Blue Danube on January 31, 2016, who are doing exactly that. And with great success. Here are some of the interview’s highlights: Wines from Eastern Europe selling in a wine heartland such as California sounds like a tough sell. How did you come up with the idea and tell us how you started? We hail from Europe and returned to Europe to build marketing and sales for a fast growing American computer company. After our return to California we decided to leave hi-tech and start Blue Danube Wine, an import company dedicated to the wines of the ancient wine regions along the Danube River and the Eastern Mediterranean. We knew a lot of wine was historically produced here. Our hopes that the wines would become better over time have been confirmed vintage-by-vintage. It has been an exciting journey so far. The new, young generation of wine makers active today in Central, East, … Continue reading Blue Danube, Selling Croatia’s Original Zinfandel in California

#WineWednesday Spotlight #11: Kabaj Cuvee Morel

Jean Michel Morel makes Bordeaux style reds in Slovenia with class and a quiet energy. Bordeaux varieties have existed in Goriška Brda, the region where Kabaj is located, just over the Italian border, for over 200 years. At only 15 miles from the Adriatic, Brda sees mild winters, an early spring, and an extended growing season. The extreme temperature differences between the Alps and the Sea, and their close proximity to each other, make wind in the area a constant phenomena, to the north an ideally situated ridge of limestone protects Brda from ‘Bora’, the worst of these. Brda’s prized hills of marl and flysch, are the hardened remains of an ancient limestone seabed, sculpted by the slow action of rain and river. Their steep slopes offer an infinite range of vineyard exposures and micro climates. The unique conditions of the region produce elegant wines that will age gracefully but drink beautifully today. Kabaj’s passion for his wines is evident in every bottle. Cuvée Morel 2009 is a Merlot-based Bordeaux style blend that is structured and serious, an hommage to Jean Michel’s native France. Could easily pass for right bank Bordeaux with plums, dusty leather, espresso, mild oregano in its aromatics. Palate is … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #11: Kabaj Cuvee Morel