New California and New Tokaj: Furmint and Hárslevelű

In the Spring of 2013 we hosted Judit and József Bodó of Hungary’s Bott Winery in California. With their giant map of the Tokaj appellation, box of soils, and rock samples, I dragged them all over the Bay Area for the usual sales gambit. In addition to all of the tastings, dinners, and semi desperate pleading with many of you for some sit down time, we also took a short trip to California wine country. The shared experiences and risks of growing grapes and making wine for a living quickly bypass the often stale formalities between strangers. Within minutes Judit and Cathy Corison were digging into gender politics of the wine business and József was on his hands and knees inspecting old vines at the Library Vineyard with Tegan Passalacqua. After their first (ever!) encounter with Mexican food, our final stop was with Steve and Jill Matthiasson. As it turns out, Jill has both Hungarian heritage and a penchant for Furmint and Hárslevelű. We tasted through the one another’s lineup, ate oranges off their tree (too cold in Tokaj for citrus), walked through the vineyards, and the Bodós attempted to hide their feverish jealously over the new Matthiasson tractor. While … Continue reading New California and New Tokaj: Furmint and Hárslevelű

Taste Georgian Wines with Sarah Grunwald of Taste Georgia

We are excited to be hosting a few tasting events with Sarah Grunwald, founder of Taste Georgia, over the next few weeks in California. Sarah is a sommelier and Georgia enthusiast. Hopefully you can join us at one of the events listed at the end of the post! Allow Sarah to introduce herself and her company: “I am absolutely thrilled to be partnering with Blue Danube this summer to co-host three Georgian wine tastings in California with the support of the Georgian National Wine Agency. Blue Danube is a leader in the emerging Eastern European wine markets which includes the Republic of Georgia, the oldest known wine region in the world. We’ll taste a variety of wines, which both represents the ancient techniques and also showcases the way Georgians are embracing modernity. I contacted Blue Danube a few months ago about this then potential collaboration in California that will be held while I am visiting. Though I live in Rome, Italy, I am from California, a state that nursed my passion for wine until I moved to the old world. I studied for and passed the sommelier exam and eventually started teaching a University level class at the Instituto Lorenzo … Continue reading Taste Georgian Wines with Sarah Grunwald of Taste Georgia

Join Blue Danube at the Hungarian Heritage Festival

Celebrate Hungarian culture at the Hungarian Heritage Festival this Saturday May 9th, in Belmont, CA. There will be music, dance, food and wine from 12pm to 9pm. Also don’t miss Prof. Eric Danch’s presentation on “The Hungarian Wine” from 1:30pm to 2:00pm. Our wines will be available to pair with Pörkölt, Töltött Káposzta, and Lángos. Here is the program. Looking forward to seeing you this Saturday!

The winemakers are coming, meet them in Danubia!

Danubia is a border-less wineland situated geographically and philosophically between wine’s contemporary western position and its ancient Eastern origins. The mighty Danube River spans not just geography but also culture and time, defining landscape and the tastes of our Danubian wine loving predecessors. We dub it Danubia: unity through diversity. Nothing else in the world tastes like these wines. From steep terraced limestone vineyards overlooking the Adriatic, to basalt volcanoes whose wines once promised male progeny, to the world’s first classified vineyards where botrytis meets flor, these are the flavors of Danubia. Join us in DANUBIA and meet our fabulous winemakers that will be visiting the US this month: Grand Liquoreux Master Samuel Tinon will be presenting his remarkable Tokaji wines in New York. He will be joined by Skradin winemaker star Alen Bibić and natural wines pioneer Miha Batič, who will also visit Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. For the new Miloš generation, Ivan, Franica, and Josip, this will be their first US trip. They will bring their most respected Plavac wines to Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and finally New York. This will be a rare opportunity to armchair travel to Central … Continue reading The winemakers are coming, meet them in Danubia!

Crljenak Kaštelanski, the original Zinfandel, now a certified grape in California

Almost 200 years after the Zinfandel wine grapes arrived in America via the Austrian Imperial Nursery, the almost extinct Dalmatian grape and original Zinfandel Crljenak Kaštelanski has arrived in California via the Foundation Plant Services at UC Davis. Crljenak was discovered in September 2000 in a vineyard of mixed planting along the Dalmatian coast by Dr. Edi Maletic and Dr. Ivan Pejic of the University of Zagreb. Along with Dr. Carole Meredith of UC Davis, they had been looking for a Croatian Zinfandel for many years, collecting and analyzing many samples of old Croatian varieties. Fortunately, DNA testing at Dr Meredith’s lab quickly revealed that Crljenak and Zinfandel were the same variety. The quest for Zinfandel’s roots was finally over. In 2008, at the request of Dave Gates, vice-president of vineyard operation at Ridge Vineyards, Drs Pejic and Maletic sent vines of Crljenak to the Grape Registration & Certification Program at UC Davis that tests the grapevines for viruses and diseases. Several other native varieties were thought to be valuable to California growers and were sent as well, including Plavac Mali, Babic, Debit, Dobricic, Glavinusa, Pribidrag, Skrlet, and Zlahtina. The now certified and disease-free Crljenak will be propagated and planted … Continue reading Crljenak Kaštelanski, the original Zinfandel, now a certified grape in California

JURIS wine tasting with the Stiegelmars

Last week, we enjoyed the visit of Axel and Herta Stiegelmar, the charming owners of Juris Winery, who participated in a series of promotional events in San Francisco and Los Angeles. In San Francisco, they were featured at Portfolio, our annual tradeshow located this year at the San Francisco Old Mint, pouring their Pinot Noir and St. Laurent wines non-stop from 11:00am to 3:00pm. Juris is a family estate in Gols, Burgenland, run by the Stiegelmar family since the late 1500’s. After acquiring practical experience in Germany, Bordeaux and California, Axel Stiegelmar is now considered a Pinot Noir and St. Laurent specialist, producing wines of character and style with aging potential. Pinot Noir and St. Laurent are two difficult and fussy grape varieties that have actually many common characteristics. Pinot noir was most likely brought to Austria in the late 14th Century by Cistercian monks from the Order’s motherhouse in Burgundy. It grows well in the mild climate regions of Burgenland and Thermenregion (Lower Austria) and is recently gaining more importance in the country (1.4% of the plantings in 2009, up from about 0.8% in 1999). The origins of St. Laurent are mysterious but thanks to genetic testing, it is … Continue reading JURIS wine tasting with the Stiegelmars

Jeff Berlin of À Côté

Jeff Berlin “Your wine list definitely leans toward the esoteric: Slovakian riesling, kadarka from Hungary, a cornalin from Switzerland and recently an entire zierfandler flight. How are you able to get away with a list like that?” Jeff Berlin, the General Manager of Oakland’s À Côté restaurant is one of our biggest supporters. Jeff was recently interviewed by Wine & Spirits Magazine about the success of his unique outstanding wine list. Read the entire interview.

The 2009 Juris Saint Laurent Selection is very, very delicious

2009 Juris Saint Laurent Selection As a sales rep, you never know what to expect when you taste with an account for the first time. Fortunately, my first tasting this past week with Prima Ristorante & Wine Merchants in Walnut Creek, CA was a pleasant surprise. John Rittmaster, Wine Director and Owner, has been with the restaurant and adjoining wine shop since 1994. He has developed one of the most dynamic wine lists in the area. A well respected palate, to say the least. I was pleased when he and his partner Frank Rothstein got excited about our ’09 St. Laurent from Juris, one of our Austrian producers based in Gols, Burgenland. John was so impressed that he passed along the write up below that he sent to his customer base. Thanks John for allowing us to use your wonderful post. Cheers! “Want to know how we wine merchants spend our own hard-earned dollars? Here’s a wine that I can guarantee you will find in all of our own cellars. Winemaker Axel Stieglmar Saint Laurent (Sankt Laurent locally) is one of those grapes you typically have to experience in situ, maybe from a pitcher, ever so slightly chilled, alongside one … Continue reading The 2009 Juris Saint Laurent Selection is very, very delicious

Bistro SF Grill Rocks

Hosts Hasim, Seni, and Gino at Bistro SF Grill. San Francisco has recently added a very vivid food destination and we are happy to be part of it with our wines: Bistro SF Grill. This is a gourmet burger restaurant owned and managed by three multi-talented friends hailing from Bosnia-Herzegovina: Hasim, Seni, and Gino. We sometimes jokingly call them the ‘Balkan Trio’. The line-up. In a short couple of months the trio has managed to put their ‘almost famous’ burgers on top of the heap. This is not your ordinary burger joint where the choices are between American or Swiss cheese. At Bistro SF Grill they serve only the finest beef some of it as exotic as Alligator, Buffalo, and Ostrich. Then there is a Lamb Burger and another made from organically fed Kobe beef. I tried most of them and my favorite is the Balkan Burger, made from a mix of lamb and beef with savory spices. Our wines from Balkan countries like Slovenia and Croatia pair beautifully with these burgers. For instance, try the Donkey Dingac or the Bibich Riserva R6 with a Balkan burger and you will agree that the wine will make the flavors jump. The … Continue reading Bistro SF Grill Rocks

The New Wave of Blue Danube Wines

The long run of the Danube River from the Black Forest to the Black Sea. It is with pride and pleasure that we invite the trade and media to join us at our special upcoming tasting events. We will be introducing the latest arrivals from Hungary and Croatia. Our hosts, A Cote, Da Flora and Mignon, will be serving appetizers inspired from their travels along the road from Budapest to Venice. This is our best selection from Hungary ever and the U.S. Premiere of most of the wines: * First organic vintage of the popular Pfneiszl Kekfrankos. * First U.S. showing of the fiery Kadarka from up-and-coming estate Eszterbauer. * Vylyan’s Pinot Noir, considered the best Hungarian PN to date (Caroline Gilby MW). * New vintages from red wine super star Attila Gere: Portugieser, KOPAR, SOLUS. * Sweet and dry premium Tokaji wines from top estate Patricius. * First arrival of beautiful Tokaji wines by artisanal wine maker Judit Bott as featured in the recent NY Times article on Tokaj–Hidden in Hungary,Treasures on the Vine. From Croatia we will introduce our first red Teran, delve deep into the story of Malvasia and share super premium wines from one of the … Continue reading The New Wave of Blue Danube Wines