Blue Danube, Selling Croatia’s Original Zinfandel in California

Stetson and Tess at Croatian wine tasting
Blue Danube sales manager Stetson Robbins at Croatian wine tasting in New York

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.

Cliff Rames of WofC meets Alen Bibic of BIBICh winery to present Croatian wines in New York City.
Cliff Rames of WofC meets Alen Bibic of BIBICh winery to present Croatian wines in New York City.

The new, young generation of wine makers active today in Central, East, and Southeast Europe has connected with the wine world at large, and at the same time is rediscovering the foundations of their region’s viticulture. The region as a whole is regaining its pride and self-confidence. All of this has helped us tremendously to bring these wines to the attention of American wine lovers and wine professionals alike.

Croatia is of course the home of the original Zinfandel (the grape Crljenak Kastelanski) and Californian Zinfandel is world famous. How are you raising awareness of the Croatian roots, and what levels of interest are you experiencing?

Our customers are very interested in the Croatian origins of Zinfandel, a grape variety from which the most popular American wine are made but whose background was unknown. We make it a point to mention the link between the grapes as a frame of reference, while also noting the differences. There are some who are quite surprised when they taste CK and discover a much leaner, more savory wine in comparison to many opulent California expressions.

Read the full interview here.