It was back in 2007 that I set about to write the first edition of my Dalmatian wine guide. Since then, I’ve fully updated it four times to arrive at the current edition. I realize of course that even the most recent edition will need updating again as these wines are constantly in s state of flux, especially when taken in the context of watching this evolution for the last decade. I was in Dalmatia for the Dalmacija Wine Expo this year. While it was my first time, the event has been going on for the last six years or so, first further south in Makarska and then for the last two years with a couple of additional days spent in Dalmatia’s much easier to reach capital, Split. People naturally told me that the event in Makarska sees more winemakers and is much more of a party. Maybe at some point I’ll find the time to make it there but what I saw and tasted in Split was plenty to re-acquaint myself with wineries I’ve gotten to know well over the years. The biggest thing to note in Dalmatia wine has been the evolution of most winemakers’ portfolios. For me, … Continue reading The Youthful Evolution of Dalmatia
The potato gnocchi, which are a good deal different that what you might be used to. When it comes to Italian restaurants in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood, the choices are nearly endless. When it comes to Italian restaurants in the area that are actually good, the list tightens up a great deal. So enters Albona, which is best described as the Italian restaurant in North Beach that is pretty much not Italian nor in North Beach. A simpler way to say that is to call it an Istrian restaurant. The menu Istria is a peninsula that sticks off the far western corner of Croatia. This wasn’t always the case as the region has been under flags of Venice, Italy, and even France for a spell. This is reflected in the cuisine a great deal. While it’s easy to call it “Italian-esque” and leave it at that, this would do a heavy disservice to what makes the food unique. It’s a crossroads of Central European, Mediterranean, and Slavic foods and you taste that with every bite. Take for instance the strudel. Yes, that’s right, a strudel. Try and find that on an Italian menu! This dish which is oft considered … Continue reading Albona: San Franciscos Istrian Restaurant
Looking out over the town and vines of Međugorje in the heart of Herzegovina. There is a great deal of truth in the saying that “good things come to those who wait”. About two years ago, I discovered what a great wealth of wine was on offer in the Herzegovina region of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Unfortunately, beyond what I could pack in to my suitcase for the flight home, I was unable to taste it since. This has all changed now that the wines of Vinarija Čitluk are available to be purchased here in the U.S. And from our travels in 2007 you can read all about a visit to Čitluk here. The best part in all of this is that Blue Danube Wine Co. was able to get a hold of most everything Čitluk produces, thus providing a great taste across the core varietals of Herzegovina. A Roman carving in Herzegovina This includes several of the white Žilavkas, several of the red Blatinas, and even some Vranacs which people will find is a bit different than what is being made across the border in Montenegro. For those looking to try a bit of everything, there are the Premium Mostar … Continue reading Herzegovina is Here
IntoWine is a nice, review show for wine that is based in San Francisco. They have a good tendency to pick different wines for review on the web-based episodes. This naturally means that they pick up on a Croatian wine here and there. Recently they reviewed the 2006 Bibich Riserva. It’s a wine that I personally love and was happy to see it get some good press. The reviewers all gave it favorable marks. For some reason, they picked up on the oak of the wine a great deal, which is surprising as I’ve never found it all that oaky, but hey, they’re professionals, so maybe there’s a nuance I’ve been missing or I need to have a glass of the 2006 again. You can also try it for yourself to see what you think. It should be noted that in what Broadbent said, the third grape in the wine actually isn’t Bibich, but Babich. It’s a small detail, but the first is Alen Bibich’s family/winery name and the later is a common varietal grown in the Northern Dalmatia region.
The bottle includes a handy map so you don’t get lost in varietals Having visited Pfneiszl last year, I’ve been intrigued by the wines that Birgit and her sister Katrin have been making. In preparing for her career as a winemaker, Birgit literally traveled around the world to learn about winemaking in Italy, California, Argentina, Chile, and New Zealand. The result of this was an interest in trying out the various wines from these regions in their vineyards in Hungary. These few vines were just starting to produce last year and they had they have had their first proper harvest of them. The end result is the távoli világ, a wine that is a blend of Shiraz, Carmenére, Malbec, Zinfandel, and Sangiovese. Definitely a wild blend (that I hope I never have to pronounce in front of a Hungarian), but one that is done quite delicately reflecting the fact that Birgit learned these grapes well in her travels. It’s quite subtle at first, but then opens up with mint and watercress in a decently mineral nose. That watercress then turns in to a peppery, enjoyably spicy body that is light and fresh with the slightest tinges of strawberry and much … Continue reading A Chance Pfneiszl Tasting
The exterior of the building, rusty iron and all as is the design fixation in Catalonia currently. It was just a bit over a year and a half ago that I first visited the new (at the time) winery of La Vinyeta. What a difference 20 months makes. For starters, they now have their website fully up and running which does a great job of showing the design aesthetic that goes in to the look of all things Vinyeta, which are created by the winemaker’s brother. It was a bit hard to convey that in 2007 as the winery wasn’t finished and they only had a couple of releases. The winery is indeed done now and open for visits most of the week, although they generally follow the sun, meaning that winter hours are shorter and summer hours, longer. Visiting in the winter probably isn’t allowing this region of Catalonia to be all that it can be. Upon getting out of the car, it was like getting clocked by a sack of ice cubes as the Tramuntana wind ripped through every layer I had on, freezing me to the core until I got inside the winery. The Puntiapart & Llavors … Continue reading A Cold, Wintry Revisit to La Vinyeta
The tasting menu and apparently a complimentary pen. Last Saturday, CAV hosted a tasting of Slovenian wines. Enjoying at the bar Naturally, such a tasting wouldn’t be proper without Frank Dietrich from Blue Danube Wine in attendance to point out the various facets of the extremely long list of wines. In case you missed it, stay up to date at the News & Events section on this site as well as my twits that I write about wines and events in San Francisco. And what it list it was, drifting from whites to reds, to desserts. It showed that not only is Emil able to somehow talk these very small producers in to exporting, but also that Slovenia is really producing a great wealth of wines these days. Starting with such wines as the Guerila Pinela those in attendance wandered in to the Batič Cabernet Franc and Batič Rosso 2005 (which I hadn’t tasted previously, but found to be one of my new favorite vintages). Batič at the ready Then it was off to the bolder reds such as Santomas Big Red and Santomas Antonius to experience the great, full-bodied Refošk that the Slovenes on the coast are producing. Closing … Continue reading A Taste of Slovenia at CAV
Sweet Garnatxa in the sun, waiting for deliciousness to happen to it. Cantallops, Spain. The name for English speakers might sound like, “cantaloupes”, but it couldn’t be further from that in meaning. If you take it at face value, in Catalan it means, “singing at wolves”. But it appears if you dig a bit deeper that the name has an old Latin root to it that Elusive Masia Serra means something more along the line of “wolves’ rock” which makes much more sense given that the town is built on a massive rock outcropping and they had a big problem with wolves up until the 19th century. Probably the best thing about this small hamlet sitting on the edge of Pyrenees is that they have two (count ’em) two wineries. One is Masia Serra, which it seems only has its information on the Empordà wines website. It’s a gorgeous place, but not often open, which makes it hard to judge the wines as getting a tasting is tricky. The other winery is Vinyes dels Aspres. Now, this is a winery that we actually encountered back in 2007 at a Spanish wine show in San Francisco. 2006 bottled and waiting. I … Continue reading Cantallops, Where the Fruit is Wine
The San Francisco Chronicle recently reviewed a number of wines in their Wine for Every Occasion section. The good news is that they like the Bibich Debit a great deal. The bad news (or maybe the expected news) is that they found the name a bit humorous. Not to be surprised as the first time I saw a bottle of Debit I wondered what it meant. From my background in Croatian, I assume it comes from “debeo” which means “fat or thick” which is fitting given that it’s a very tasty, full-bodied white wine. Of course, I could be completely wrong on this and am more than willing to stand corrected.
I walked through Pile Gate in Dubrovnik, my friend Ivana leading the way down the Stradun and then off on a side street that I hadn’t yet discovered in the Old Town. We arrived at a bar named Carpe Diem, sat down in the early evening and ordered. I had no idea what to order. I didn’t speak Croatian and so I was ordered a glass of red wine. At this point, everything changed. The wine was the Zlatan Plavac from Zlatan Plenković. That was in 2004 and I remember thinking it would be fantastic to learn more about these deceptively good Croatian wines, but there was nothing to be found. While beach tourism was taking off in Croatia, there were no wine brochures and there were no wine guides. People in most of the shops didn’t really know all that much as wine was wine. Frustrated and stubborn, I dug and started to read every scrap of news I could find. I drank more wine. I learned Croatian. I found importers in the US like Blue Danube Wine Company, learned more, and drank more wine. In 2007, I met my future wife who helped me to focus my interest … Continue reading The First Wine Guide to Dalmatia & Herzegovina: Vinologue