Tasting Sopron at Kocsis Pinceszet

Alex working the bar. As we mentioned previously, we were rather big fans of Sopron. It’s a small, yet pretty town in a nice part of of Central Europe at the border of Austria and Hungary. The amount of quality wine that’s there can be a bit overwhelming. Thankfully, there are a number of wine bars in the area to provide a more compact method to sample the region. The very extensive local wine list. Kocsis Pinceszet sits just outside the old town center. Right about here on Várkerület utca. The interior of the place isn’t anything to write home about with its long wooden benches and tables, but it’s inviting and relatively homey. The owner’s name is Alex (which in Hungarian is said more like Ow-lex) and he’s a charming fellow who speaks Hungarian, German, and a good deal of English. The later of which is not too common in this area. The best part of this wine bar is the fact that you can find just about every single wine from around Sopron (both on the Hungarian as well as on the Austrian side of the border) and Alex knows everything about all of them. He has some … Continue reading Tasting Sopron at Kocsis Pinceszet

The Austrian Side of Pfneisl

The main winery headquarters and tasting room. Windmills along the way. The same day that we paid a trip to the Hungarian side of Pfneisl (which is actually the separate company of Pfneiszl), we also took a trip across the Austrian/Hungarian border that no long exists due to the 2007 Schengen enlargement. After a bit more of a trip, we were able to see how wine making was for the Austrian side of things. As we quickly saw near the small town of Deutschkreutz, winegrowing appears to be going very well. The family has been making wine for over a century in this area and to date now harvests from an astounding 70 hectares (175 acres) of vineyard land. It’s quite overwhelming to stand in the middle of it. This is of course made all the more impressive by the extremely modern tasting room and headquarters that they constructed, which you can see in the photo above. The structure has won numerous design awards and is often featured in roundups of impressive winery architecture. Naturally, buildings are great because you need somewhere to age and taste the wine, but what is of course most important is the wine itself. Pfneisl … Continue reading The Austrian Side of Pfneisl

Exploring the Hungarian Side of Pfneiszl

A tasting out amongst the Pfneiszl vineyards that started with their Sparkelina. Pfneiszl is a young winery on old lands. Or actually, it’s an old winery on its own old lands if that makes any sense. Sopron at sunset You see Pfneiszl (or Pfneisl depending on which side of the Hungarian/Austrian border you’re on) is an old family winery based in both Hungary and Austria. It’s just that in Hungary, the 27 hectares that made up their wine growing lands were seized by the former communist regime of Hungary in the name of collectivization. After that happened, they had to “make due” with the 70 hectares that the family kept in Austria just on the other side of the border. In 1993, these lands were returned to the family after decades of pumping out cheap bulk wine that was mostly sold to Russia. By this time, on the Austrian side they had been making very well-recognized wines and in what must be one of the most incredible gifts I’ve ever seen from a parent, they gave this 27 hectares to their daughters to work up and establish as a Hungarian winery. These stories are not uncommon in the area of … Continue reading Exploring the Hungarian Side of Pfneiszl

Evening at Vinárna Bokovka

Our choice of bottle for the evening. Prague has fully opened up as a tourist destination over the last decade or so. The country that was literally joined at the hip with Slovakia has come in to its own for those seeking the almighty “safe” destination to holiday in the formerly scary Eastern Europe. Naturally, Prague is better known for its light, easy to drink, yet delicious beers. But, with the influx of tourists has come the rise of the wine bar. There are a good many around the city including Le Terroir, Cellarius, Viniční Altán, and Bandol. But, the one that really caught my attention was Vinárna Bokovka. Outside Bokovka For starters, this wine bar is only a wine bar. A great many of the others moonlight as restaurants or vice versa. Also, this wine bar is immediately given a touch of artistic class because it was started by Jan Hřebejk and David Ondřiček who are two Czech film directors. The name of the bar? That means, “Sideways” in Czech and yes, you can indeed buy the movie of the same name as well as t-shirts from the bar which were unfortunately out when I was there. The bar … Continue reading Evening at Vinárna Bokovka

A Bit About Plavac Mali

Plavac Mali grapes ripening towards the end of summer on the island of Hvar. So, what is Plavac Mali? Where is Plavac Mali? How do you even say, Plavac Mali? Let’s take a look at all of these items as we delve in detail into this particular grape. Plavac Mali (pronounced Plahvahts Mahlee) is a red grape varietal that is native to Croatia and more specifically, native to Southern Dalmatia. This is a strip of land that has Bosnia Herzegovina to the east and the Adriatic Sea to the west. It gets an obscene amount of sun throughout the year, so Plavac Mali is a happy grape to have Dalmatia as it’s home. The rugged karst of the Dingač wine region. By far and away, Plavac Mali is the dominant red grape in Dalmatia. Others like Merlot, Shiraz, and a number of minor native grapes pop up here and there, but inevitably, if you see a field of red wine grapes, they will be Plavac Mali. It wasn’t always this way though. Many, many years ago, there was another grape that enjoyed the Dalmatia summers which was called, Crljenak Kaštelanski. It has since been discovered that this wine is one … Continue reading A Bit About Plavac Mali

Jamón, Prosciutto, and Pršut

A plate of jamón in a restaurant in northern Catalonia, Spain. When it comes to a meat that is enjoyed across the Mediterranean, forms of cured pork have spread far and wide. Jamón, prosciutto, and pršut from Spain, Italy, and Croatia, respectively are all similar to some degree, yet share some differences from one another. As to which is the best, that’s not a question to get in to with anyone from one of these three countries as they will always believe that theirs is the best. The most democratic approach is to say that they are all really good and they are best enjoyed within the countries where they are made. Jamón is stunningly delicious and is pretty much only available in Spain. Export out of Spain is nearly non-existent because the Spanish wisely keep their prized meat safely at home. But when in Spain, it can readily be found and should be had in great quantities once found. When it comes to wines, many people fall prey to the old rule of white with pork and while a white such as Verdejo tastes wonderful with some nice slices of jamón, reds pair with it equally as well due … Continue reading Jamón, Prosciutto, and Pršut

Finding The Hidden Vine

Yes, it is indeed hidden, but you can find it. The Hidden Vine is a perfectly-named wine bar in San Francisco. Sitting on the edges of Nob Hill, The Tenderloin, and Union Square, owners and master hosts, Angela and David Cahill pour wines for the masses with, what cannot be stated in any better terms than “down home” hospitality. Amazingly, no matter how busy it is on any given night, you will always feel like you are their only guest and they are very excited to show you what new wines they have that month. Ah yes, that’s an important element to their wine bar that’s always fun in that they feature a different region each month to taste, so in addition to their wine list always being updated and tweaked, returning guests can enjoy something brand new, 12 times a year. But more on this in a little bit. The history of their wine bar starts back on the East Coast. David and Angela bopped around New Jersey, Maryland, and North Carolina for awhile. It was in Chapel Hill that they encountered the West End Wine Bar. They had great times there and liked the whole setup of the … Continue reading Finding The Hidden Vine

Return of the Michelin

Jean-Paul Naret and Marcia Gagliardi during the Michelin Guide presentation So it was that last year, that the first Michelin guides entered the US with in New York City and San Francisco. We didn’t get to read the 2007 guide, but took more of an interest this year as they’re introducing Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Jean-Luc speaks Also, the director, Jean-Paul Naret was at a local bookstore to promote it a bit. So, we went down to see it. As it turned out, the event also featured Marcia Gagliardi of Table Hopper there to talk as well. While very much about food and dining in San Francisco, it was something of an odd paring as listening to Jean-Paul Naret was amusing. He’s a very charismatic fellow and very, very French. Putting Marcia next to him showed just how international he was and how local she was. In theory the line up should have worked to show different of approach to food that their respective writings take, when it actually just showed the different leagues that the two worked in. The 2008 Guide Naturally, we bought a copy of the guide. Want to know some ratings? Well, it would be … Continue reading Return of the Michelin

A Tinderbox Outing

The well-appointed interior of Bernal Height’s Tinderbox We recently had the enjoyment of eating at the new digs of Tinderbox. It’s a restaurant in the Bernal Heights area of San Francisco that is wedged in the middle of a burgeoning gourmet ghetto. The dishes are focused around that growing genre of food called, “New American”, which, as was the case at Tinderbox, means new twists on old dishes that surprise you in new ways. The avocado cutlet The menu has been coupled together with a very unique and tasty wine list compiled by the sommelier and general manager, Omar White. It includes a good number of Blue Danube Wine selections like the exotic Juris St. Laurent from Austria, an unoaked Hungarian Szõke Chardonnay, and the indigenous Pošip Marco Polo from the Croatian island of Korcula among others. We started with a nice Dolcetto to warm up our palates. It was inviting and light, yet still flavorful and enjoyable to sip with our appetizers. It also had the ability to not trounce the fact that one of us had the grilled sardine appetizer. Omar tops off Frank Dietrich From there, we split off with a glass of white for the cod … Continue reading A Tinderbox Outing

Europe Travels End… For Now

The modern art of our travels. Click for a much bigger version. And so for now we draw to a close with the Europe Travels. It was an incredibly delightful way to spend four months of our lives. But now we’re back in the US and thought we’d look back on the trip, giving both an overview and a map for some visual representation of the trip we took. It all started with landing in Dubrovnik, Croatia, where we first spent time in the Konavle region to the south (bordering Montenegro) and then in Pelješac to the north. Pelješac offered us some great red wines from Dingač and many other winemakers in the region that are doing wonderful things with Plavac Mali grapes. From there we went up to the island of Mljet, where wine production is very minimal and then it was a short catamaran ride to Korčula where a great amount of wine is produced, including the Čara Pošip. We headed south from there, in to the coast of newly independent Montenegro, tasting their Vranac along the way. It was then up in to Serbia, where we had some very good white wines and were very fortunate to … Continue reading Europe Travels End… For Now