Dynamic Duo Of Somló

Sometime ago, we drew your attention to this region of Volcano Gods and now we return to delve deeper and celebrate success. We are pleased to report that Istvan Spiegelberg has won the prestigious Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries of 2014 award. “His latest releases, particularly this late-harvest juhfark, are catapulting him into the realm of Hungary’s greatest vintners.” noted Wine & Spirits Magazine referring to the 95-point rated 2010 Juhfark Szent Ilona. Somló is celebrated for its volcanic past and distinctive mineral-laced wines. The region is almost exclusively white wine territory with a long tradition of extended barrel aging. This lends an oxidative quality to the wines which aids in their ability to improve with bottle aging and stay fresh longer than the average white wine once opened. These are voluptuous, full-bodied whites enjoyed with dishes we may normally reserve for red wine, like red meats. Another tell-tell sign of wines from this region is riper fruits coupled with high acidity and smoky minerality. The five authorized grapes of Somló are Juhfark, Furmint, Olaszrizling, Hárslevelű, and Tramini. Istvan Spiegelberg and Fekete Bela are our “dynamic duo” of producers in Somló, keeping traditions alive and garnering attention outside of … Continue reading Dynamic Duo Of Somló

Georgia Unearthed

Imagine a white wine as rich and complex as any red wine, with an intriguing amber hue. Breathe in and you are at once overwhelmed and delighted by aromas of toasted nuts, herbal tea, warm spices. Now, picture a red wine with intense hues of purple. The smell brings to mind deep earthiness, meatiness, and spicy red fruit. Taste the wine and appreciate the exotic flavors coupled with gripping tannins that beg to be enjoyed at the dinner table. These are the wines of Georgia. More specifically, these experiences are the result of the uniquely Georgian practice of fermenting and aging wines in clay qvevri. At least 8,000 years ago, Georgians discovered that they could produce a stable wine by fermenting within clay vessels, or qvevri. Georgia is a food and wine lovers paradise with traditions like supra, or feast, where course upon course of stunningly fresh, judiciously prepared food are arranged on a large dining table. The only suitable beverage is copious amounts of qvevri wine! Qvevri winemaking. Qvevri are used to both ferment and age wines which makes them different than amphorae. The conical shape encourages the seeds, pomace, and other sediment to migrate to the base of … Continue reading Georgia Unearthed

Visiting Croatia with Eric and Michael: Carić Winery

On their recent trip to Croatia, Eric and Michael enjoyed their visit to the island of Hvar where they met Ivana and Ivo Carić. It’s a rare occasion to be eager to swim in the area where ferries dock but even more rare that the water there is crystal clear and littered with sea urchins and schools of fish. The moment we drove our mighty Fiat off of the boat, even before walking on solid land, it was obvious to us that this island is pristine and busy with life. We began our journey by meeting up with recent friends Marion and Zdravko Podolski. This couple who usually reside in California also have a house on Hvar and a near encyclopedic knowledge of it — check out their website. We joined up to meet, and beyond just visiting vineyards and tasting wine we circumnavigated and learned the history of the entire island and what makes it undeniably unique. Our first stop was to tour the UNESCO protected Stari Grad Plain. These are agricultural parcels (900x180m) called “Chora” replete with a rainwater collection system, cisterns, and rock walls dividing everything within a maze of stone roads. This may sound typical but … Continue reading Visiting Croatia with Eric and Michael: Carić Winery

Visiting Croatia with Eric and Michael: Miloš Winery

Not too long ago we had the privilege to host a significant part of the Miloš family: all three of the next generation. It was a pleasure to get to know Ivan, Franica, and Josip and learn more about the wine their father Frano creates back home in Croatia. Enjoy this next stop on the tour! -Gisele In a world that seems trapped in time, the amphitheater of Miloš vineyards spreads out beyond the boundaries of peripheral vision. Bright white stone reflects more sunlight than most Californians ever experience and between this abundant sun and stone live thousands of head trained Plavac Mali vines. Truly a magical place, the land is covered with rock walls built from the creation of these family tilled vineyards. The wonder of this place is only surpassed when compared to the visionary that created it, Frano Miloš. One of the memorable things Frano told us is that he’s aware that his wine-growing and winemaking are both at odds with the current pace of the world. And while he admits to sometimes driving with one hand and eating a sandwich in the other, making and drinking his wine is an opportunity to live a more fulfilling … Continue reading Visiting Croatia with Eric and Michael: Miloš Winery

Visiting Croatia with Eric and Michael: Suha Punta Winery

We continue our adventure with Eric and Michael in Croatia at Suha Punta winery. Thank you for following along thus far! -Gisele As guide books and Google searches are keen to remind you, George Bernard Shaw wrote about the staggering number of rocky islands off the Croatian coast as “On the last Day of Creation God wished to crown his work and he created Kornati out of tears, stars and breath.” This may be true for the Kornati Islands, but when you see the rocky vineyards just south on the mainland in Bucavac, it looks like God lost a bet. Even as you drive towards to the nearest town of Primošten, there are just piles of rocks and old rock walls coating the hillsides. Topsoil doesn’t seem to apply, there is little to no tree cover, and the “Bora” and “Jugo” winds relentlessly pummel the area. Growing grapes here at first glance seems like losing a bet as well. Not surprisingly, this is Croatia’s smallest appellation and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since it has been under vine since the 8th Century B.C. Illyrians. When you see these vineyards for the first time, it’s less about: how is this possible? … Continue reading Visiting Croatia with Eric and Michael: Suha Punta Winery

Visiting Croatia with Eric and Michael: Coronica Winery

If you follow your GPS on the way to find Coronica, you will end up on a lovely tour of the city of Umag, but not at his winery. Head just a few miles east of the village onto a small road named Koreniki (the old spelling of his surname) and you will find him there. Even though the land is the same, Moreno’s grandfather was Austro-Hungarian, his father was Italian, he is Yugoslavian, and now his children are Croatian. He still has a stone tablet from 1764 with the family name carved into it. Nevertheless, the vineyards have always been planted in Istria’s famous Terra Rossa. Moreno tends his vines with focus, care and minimal intervention. At the winery, grapes are chilled down before fermentation to ensure a pure expression of the vineyards. The intense red soil here perfectly reflects Moreno’s own temperament. Rich with iron, and with a strong capacity to hold moisture it will make impression on you and your shoes that will spread everywhere you walk the rest of the day. It is in this soil that Teran and Malvasia grow as they do nowhere else — even the walls in the winery have this soil … Continue reading Visiting Croatia with Eric and Michael: Coronica Winery

Visiting Croatia with Eric and Michael: Šipun Winery

For part of the month of April, two of our sales managers, Eric and Michael, were able to taste around Croatia searching out more deliciously unique wines to bring back for your drinking pleasure. Here is from Michael one of several parts of that trip: Crossing the bridge to Otok 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 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, but is making great strides to preserve it on the island of Krk. Ivica Dobrinčić is a man full of passion for the grapes he grows to make wine from as well as many others. At Šipun, two main wines are produced from the local varieties of Žlathina and Sansigot. But Ivica doesn’t stop there. He has a vineyard planted for the express purpose of preserving … Continue reading Visiting Croatia with Eric and Michael: Šipun Winery

Juhfark-ing Around

All jokes aside, Juhfark is a grape name that is not heard too often. Meaning “sheep’s tail”, the grape is pretty much only grown in the tiny Hungarian appellation of Somló. Juhfark grape bunches grow in a distinctive cylindrical shape which recalls to mind a sheep’s tail, hence the name. The grape is early to break bud and tends to be quite high yielding. Juhfark used to be extensively grown throughout northern Hungary for this reason but soon fell out of fashion. When allowed to produce such high yields, the berries produce a neutral, high acid, uninteresting wine. However, the volcanic soils of Somló have proven to be Juhfark’s best terroir, allowing the grape to express a sense of place and varietal. As of 2008, only 358 acres of Juhfark were planted in all of Hungary, primarily in Somló, but the small amount of wine that is produced today from this grape is truly something to experience. Juhfark acts as a direct link to experience the terroir of Somló. The nose hints at green apple/pear with a floral yet herbal character. But on the palate, the fruit disappears and the star of the show becomes the unique smokey, ash, and … Continue reading Juhfark-ing Around

The Wines of Georgia – The “Alice Perspective”

Wine has been an integral part of Georgian culture for thousands of years, yet the wines are just beginning to become known and respected outside of the country. As part of our effort this month to provide more in depth knowledge on Georgia, I conducted a brief interview with Alice Feiring. Alice is a respected, passionate wine writer with a keen interest in natural wines. She recently wrote a book on Georgian wine, so I knew her insights would be first hand and authoritative. I hope you’ll enjoy reading the interview below and get inspired to experience first hand this ancient wine culture. 1. What made you interested in writing a book about the wines of Georgia? Actually, the Georgian government approached me. The country had already translated Naked Wine into Georgian and they wanted an “Alice” book on my perceptions of Georgian wine, but on my part, it was a love project. I am hoping to triple the pages on the book and get an American publisher on board. My agent was funny, he was like, who would be interested in Georgian wine? But when he started to read the book, he quickly changed his mind. 2. What is … Continue reading The Wines of Georgia – The “Alice Perspective”