Somló is Hungary’s smallest appellation and once an underwater volcano. Now dormant, its slopes of ancient sea sediment, hardened lava, and basalt are home to some of Hungary’s steepest, most densely planted vineyards. Somló is also home to winemaker Fekete Béla, who only recently retired after 30 + years tending the same vineyard. Our spotlight this week is his Juhfark as reviewed by Portland-based wine writer, Christine Havens: From an obscure, nearly extinct grape variety, Juhfark translated literally means “sheep’s tail” so named because tightly clustered bunches have a distinctive curve at the tip. Found only in the Somló region of Hungary, this non-aromatic variety is typically aged in large oak barriques. Meyer lemon zest, cling peaches, chamomile, and white flowers round out the nose. It’s a broad-shouldered white with a coursing vein of acidity, along with a mineral upwelling that showcases an ashy, volcanic soil type. Although Béla recommends drinking it with roasted wild fowl, rich cheeses, smoked fish, and subtly spicy dishes are all welcome pairings. Happy Hungarian #WineWednesday!
A group of Blue Danubians are preparing a trip to Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast around the middle of April. As we started to put together our agenda we realized we should make visiting the original Zinfandel, or as the grape is known in Croatia, Crljenak Kaštelanski vineyards a top priority. This brought to mind the book written by Jasenka Piljac Žegarac, one of the scientists on Dr. Carole Meredith’s team who participated in the discovery of Zinfandel’s Croatian heritage. We got in touch with her to find out more and prepare for our own journey of discovery. 1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What is your professional background? I was born in Croatia, but largely educated in the US where I completed both my high school and college education (UC Davis, biochemistry). I come from a family of well-established research scientists, physicians, and authors. Therefore, although my background is in plant biology (PhD) and natural products chemistry (postdoctoral work), I’ve always had an interest in medicine, medical research, and science writing. 2. What brought you to UC Davis to trace the origins of Zinfandel? My family moved to Davis from Croatia in early 1990s, due to ongoing … Continue reading An Interview with Jasenka Piljac Zegarac, author of “Zinfandel: A Croatian-American Wine Story”
Our friend James the Wine Guy just posted another great video review, this time of the delicious Austrian red Muhr-van der Niepoort Samt & Seide. The name means Velvet & Silk in German and is an accurate description of the wine’s character. Composed of 100% Blaufränkisch from the extreme eastern Austrian winegrowing region Carnuntum, it speaks with authority and elegance in equal measure. I love, love, love Austrian red wines…I just delight in this wine. I think it’s so expressive and beautiful. James gives this wine 94 points out of 100 finding fruit, earth, and floral aromatics. He suggests pairing it with foods like pork, beef, salmon, red sauce dishes, and anything spiced with paprika. Watch the whole review below. Try a bottle or even better, buy our Austrian 6-pack! It includes the Bernreiter Heuriger 2014 (1 Liter), the Bernreiter Gemischter Satz 2013, the Geyerhof Grüner Veltliner Rosensteig 2014, the Geyerhof Zweigelt Ried Richtern 2011, the Muhr-van der Niepoort Samt & Seide 2012 and the Muhr-van der Niepoort Spitzerberg 2012. All 6 bottles for just $150! Sign up for Club Vino Danubia and get free shipping!
If you are interested in learning more about Georgian wine and culture, you must check out Alice Feiring’s newly released book “For the Love of Wine – My Odyssey through the World’s Most Ancient Wine Culture”. We have copies available here for $25, including shipping. More about the book from University of Nebraska Press: In 2011 when Alice Feiring first arrived in Georgia, she felt as if she’d emerged from the magic wardrobe into a world filled with mythical characters making exotic and delicious wine with the low-tech methods of centuries past. She was smitten, and she wasn’t alone. This country on the Black Sea has an unusual effect on people; the most passionate rip off their clothes and drink wines out of horns while the cold-hearted well up with tears and make emotional toasts. Visiting winemakers fall under Georgia’s spell and bring home qvevris (clay fermentation vessels) while rethinking their own techniques. But, as in any good fairy tale, Feiring sensed that danger rode shotgun with the magic. With acclaim and growing international interest come threats in the guise of new wine consultants aimed at making wines more commercial. So Feiring fought back in the only way she knew … Continue reading “For the Love of Wine – My Odyssey through the World’s Most Ancient Wine Culture” by Alice Feiring
This week James the Wine Guy reviews Shumi Tsinandali, an appellation controlled white wine blend from the Republic of Georgia. The indigenous grapes Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane combine to create harmonious flavors and aromas of citrus. This is a superb wine…really spectacular! On this I’m getting notes of moist stones, green and yellow citrus zest, quince, and passionfruit. Gorgeous minerality to this wine, lean yet assuringly generous at the same time…seek this wine out! If you are not familiar with James’s wine reviews, he creates videos for each wine and posts them on YouTube. Watch the video below to see his full evaluation of this “compelling” wine!
San Francisco Magazine features an interesting article by John Capone in their latest March issue, exploring the diversity of Hungarian wine “Beyond Bull’s Blood”. Thanks to sommeliers and wine buyers eager to introduce “new” bottles to their customers, Hungarian wine is enjoying newfound respect on the well-vetted lists of restaurants like the Progress, Petit Crenn, Lord Stanley, Octavia, and the Slanted Door, and occupying hallowed shelf space at institutions like Bi-Rite and Bay Grape. Our Northern CA Sales Manager Eric Danch says: What’s most encouraging is that many of these wines don’t linger on lists; they move and get reordered. We’re seeing this in numbers; there’s undeniable growth. This year, we’re bringing in at least eight brand-new producers. What are the sommeliers saying? Jeff Berlin of À Côté on 2011 Fekete Béla Juhfark: “A fascinating grape that cab be rich and ripe, but always displays the (terroir) or its volcanic vineyards.” Courtney Humiston of Petit Crenn on Patricius Sparkling Brut: “…drinks dry but has enough richness to carry your meal”. Flora Gaspar of Da Flora on 2013 Vylyan Portugieser: “discreet spice, the jammy fruit backed by subtle tannins, and the slight lick of acid”. Chaylee Priete of The Slanted Door … Continue reading Beyond Bull’s Blood
Great interview by Luke Sykora in the latest Wine & Spirits Magazine with Lulu McAllister, one of San Francisco’s top sommeliers behind the wine lists of Nopa and Liholiho Yacht Club. She had some nice things to say about Blue Danube Wine Co and the Hungarian grape, kadarka! This year I’ve really loved working with kadarka. It tastes brooding in terms of aromatics and fruit profile, but it’s actually fairly zippy, leaner than the color in the glass would suggest. They call it “bull’s blood,” so sometimes I will explain that to people. It can handle a wider range of flavors than most medium-bodied, thicker, more rugged wines can handle. I can actually pair it with lighter dishes and it can hold its own when heavier dishes come out. I wouldn’t say it’s like pinot noir exactly, but it works in a similar way. Eric Danch [the northern California sales manager] at Blue Danube, is kind of the guy for these funky grapes. His portfolio is one of the most exciting out there right now; he’s going all-in on wines that are really obscure for most people. And if he says, “You’ve got to try this….” Read the whole article … Continue reading Lulu McAllister of SF’s NOPA on hometown hits and new favorites
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 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
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