Curious & Thirsty – Magic Wine: Tokaji

After communism ended in the 1990’s, a rush of investors, both foreign and domestic, bought up vineyards with the intention of resurrecting this dormant legend. The potential in the wine was re-realized almost immediately. However, the world’s thirst for sweet wines had turned dry. A blessing in disguise, clever producers began to experiment with making dry wines. Today, it is the dry wines that offer winemakers and enthusiasts the greatest insight into the character of the specific vineyards. The volcanic Csontos vineyard In addition to the classical aszú and modern dry wines, adventuresome wine makers are reviving almost forgotten traditional styles and experimenting with new styles. What is most amazing, is that regardless of forms, the distinct signature Tokaj leaves on its wines dominate. The natural conditions in the region are so unique, nothing like Tokaji can be produced elsewhere—even with all the knowledge and technology available now. There is a Renaissance under way in Tokaji, unlike any the wine world has ever seen. It is quite possibly the most exciting place to be drinking from today. Read the full story…

Culture connections

With Sherry fest in full swing in NYC , here is an unexpected connection worth sharing. A few months ago at a Wine and Spirits magazine event, I had the pleasure of pouring the 2007 Samuel Tinon Dry Szamorodni for Sherry aficionado and Spanish chef Alex Raij of Basque restaurants Txikito and La Vara. Like dry Sherry, the distinctive character of the Szamorodni is partly derived from a veil of natural yeast—called flor in Spanish—that develops on the surface of the wine as it ages. As a special example of the maligned style of dry Szamorodni, the Tinon spoke to her. In the spring of 2014, it will be paired with a dish Chef Raij will prepare as part of a James Beard House dinner. She also recently added the Tinon to the wine list at La Vara. I find it inspiring that one of New York City’s most discerning Spanish chefs sees connections and harmony between Spanish cuisine and a little known style of Hungarian white wine. Connecting seemingly disparate cultures in this way is good. It enhances their appreciation and hopefully inspires others to see associations that are less than apparent. Tokaji and Sherry are more alike than … Continue reading Culture connections

A year in the life of a Tokaji vine

This is a follow-up from the previous post Adopt a Vine. Gifted Tokaj vigneron Samuel Tinon charts the life of a traditionally cultivated vine planted on the slopes of the classified vineyard of Hatari between the villages of Olaszliszka and Erdőbénye in the year of 2013. It is a vine that our band of merry Blue Danubian’s selected on their trip this past January to the legendary appellation to be charted through the vintage. Here are his photos and his words. September update September 4 2013, 6:00AM at sunrise. Wonderful! We are very close to having a top dry furmint base and start studying the terroir of a first class vineyard. Also, we have to decide today wether to harvest next week for an Auction lot in 2014. Only one week to wait. We had another GOOD rain on September 1st. Samuel     August update August 8 2013, This summer is too hot and I have a bad feeling about this. Even the color of the vine in the picture indicates that it is too dry and hot. Samuel   August 25 2013, These pictures were made just before the first quality rain (around 30l/m2)… The vintage starts to … Continue reading A year in the life of a Tokaji vine

Ode to LA

Going back to LA for Blue Danube Wine Co. Summer School after living in Brooklyn for the past year, felt more reunion than class. The massiveness of this personal experience dawned when the Summer air hit me outside LAX and memories forgotten and familiar swirled together. LA has changed. Not because it needed too, but because this is what it does best. It was great to reconnect with many of the people responsible for this, I did not know that I missed them so much. Seeing that what were conversations, some quite old, come to fruition and play a part, is in my world profound. Wine defines this business, but relationships give it value. For those in LA who have supported what we do, hosted us in their businesses and taught at least as much as learned, my hat is eternally tipped. The invitation we sent out for the trade tasting listed me as an instructor, the reality is that I am among the students, in LA most of all. Extra hat tips to: Silver Lake Wine – for hosting the awesome Sunday Tasting Terroni – For hosting the Summer School Gjelina – for the 5th year anniversary party and … Continue reading Ode to LA

Teran is IRONic, because….

…it is grown in IRON rich soil called Terra Rossa and tastes of IRON. …though inky dark, Teran’s IRON cool character makes it a unexpectedly appropriate summer red. …while perfumed and pretty it is best suited to cured and chared rare meats. …Croatia has historic claim to the name Teran, but with their recent entrance into the EU, producers now have to find a new certainly less historic name for it. So, what is Teran? Italy, Slovenia and Croatia all produce wines called Teran (Terrano in Italy) that are related in both composition and form. In these three countries, the best examples classically come from patches of iron rich Terra Rossa soil that has significant influence on the wines. While there is a considerable variation in style among them, they relate to each other categorically. Intensely colored, they have typically more acid than tannin, though some extreme exceptions exist. They are ideally perfumed with brassy high toned fruit and an engaging medicinal/amaro edge that feels as nice as it smells. The sorts of grapes they are made from are related, but vary and are sensitive to the touch of the wine maker. We regularly find ourselves captivated by these wines, … Continue reading Teran is IRONic, because….

Adopt-a-vine

After a long chain of embarrassing late arrivals to appointments with producers and an exasperating hike up a steep snowy hillside vineyard during our visit to Tokaj this past February, my team of adventuresome Danubians – Michael Newsome (Sales LA), Henry Beylin (Gjelina – Venice Beach, CA), Matt Stinton (Terroir/Hearth – NYC, NY) and 2 of Tokaj’s most iconic producers shared a special moment together in the vineyard of Hatari. Had we been on time for our appointments, it would not have been so special. Just before, we were among Judit Bodo‘s vines in Csontos. The full moon began to rise and we left for wild pheasant soup at her house, or so I thought. But then she pulled off the bumpy road for one even rougher and icier, and rumbled us towards a man standing by a van in a giant furry Russian snow hat—which I discovered is called “ushanka”. Although it was already dark, the hat made the outline unmistakably Samuel Tinon. We were supposed to visit his vineyard earlier, but since things had gotten so late and Judit and he had been in contact, I assumed she had canceled the meeting for us. Not the case. Samuel … Continue reading Adopt-a-vine

Wine: a cultural preservative?

The last few weeks have been particularly active for us, even nuts. We are in the middle of a visit from Ivica Dobrinčić of Šipun and Alen Bibić of Bibich Winery in NYC for Vina Croatia. In the air right now are Judit and Jozsef Bodó of Bott Pince in Tokaj who will visit us in NY first then SF and LA. Finally I take a moment to read the pamphlets Ivica brought to promote his wines at the various tastings. Nice pictures, good information, nicely written, and then the last few sentences made me stop to share. He is writing in reference to the wines of his native Krk, “The traditional, but sometimes neglected viticulture and wine production have recently evolved in a modern technologically sophisticated and promising industry, Such a development has improved the existence of many domestic families. It has also prevented people from leaving their birthplace, and at the same time generated superior results.” We understand wine as a beverage and a commodity, but cultural preservative, or even cultural booster? When I consider the history and tradition behind these families, hear them share their visionary ideas and then taste their already singular and delicious wines, I … Continue reading Wine: a cultural preservative?

Are orange wines the Kardashians of wine?

For a brief primer on “Orange Wines”, read this article by Richard Betts: Why Tecate Is Greater Than Orange Wine. Tart and pulpy, it strips the veneer of mystique off this totally misunderstood category of wine. First, it is important to point out that “Orange Wines” are not made out of oranges. They are white wines that are fermented on the skins like red wine, turning orange instead of red. Macerated white wine is the more appropriate term but what a unattractive name for a style. Not all “Orange Wines” are created equal; some are the product of tradition and experience and some are experiments. Success and failure exists among both schools but I do agree with Betts that most of them can go away. For me, they are too often plagued with any combination of over-extraction, oxidation, volatility, bacteria and sometimes things you can’t identify but do not enjoy. However, when they are right, they are right. Kabaj—mentioned as one of the exceptions in the article—is one of the masters. Subtlety, elegance, precision, texture, minerality, longevity define their wines. Since I will be there this time next week, now is a good moment to reaffirm my love of the … Continue reading Are orange wines the Kardashians of wine?

Countdown to MARKET TASTING NYC – after the show

Market Tasting NYC at Terroir Tribeca went off without a hitch. For those who could not be there, it was a blast and we missed you! Center stage Tokaji/Somlo wowed and dazzled, to oooohs, aaahhs and the odd exclamatory foot stomp. Part of the Blue Danube Wine Co. mission is to see the greatness of these historic regions realized again. These precious few samples were an important step. To all the producers who sent them, you rule. As do all the other producers wines who were poured. All together this was one of the finest events we have participated in and it would not be possible without your wines! A special thanks to co-host Indie Wineries, made us feel like family.

Countdown to MARKET TASTING NYC III

Today is Blue Danube Wine Co.’s break-out NY Trade debut at Terroir Tribeca. Too close for comfort, all the samples have arrived. Were it not for Zsuzsa’s hard work, Fed-Ex and customs would have never known how bad we needed these wines! Double luck: Frank Dietrich swang by JFK via SFO to pick up the J and J Eger Kekefrankos we were also waiting on! That means all our samples have arrived on time for the tasting. We are so proud to be a part of this vinous cultural process and so excited to share (drink) these wines we love so much. You soon will too! NYC, here we come!! Tokaji—Eden Abandoned—No region has impressed us at Blue Danube Wine Co. as the volcanic hills of Europe’s first protected wine region, Tokaj-Hegyalja. It is to us what Burgundy is to others. A chain of 400 volcanoes of impossible geological and microclimatological complexity, a long history as a wine region and a plethora of indigenous varieties and styles of wine, we can’t get enough of it. Some say there is a wine renaissance underway in Tokaj today; we are inclined to agree. All our samples have finally arrived from Hungary! Bodrog … Continue reading Countdown to MARKET TASTING NYC III