Visiting Croatia with Eric and Michael: Šipun Winery

For part of the month of April, two of our sales managers, Eric and Michael, were able to taste around Croatia searching out more deliciously unique wines to bring back for your drinking pleasure. Here is from Michael one of several parts of that trip: Crossing the bridge to Otok Krk, one might be surprised by all the advertisements; some for a local casino, some for other types of seemingly out of place entertainment venues. Sadly this is the direction most of the inhabitants of the island are heading to generate income. The idea of producing a product, be it wine, olive oil, or other goods is being left behind for the easier income of renting out apartments. There is however, one man who is not only sustaining himself and his family with winemaking, but is making great strides to preserve it on the island of Krk. Ivica Dobrinčić is a man full of passion for the grapes he grows to make wine from as well as many others. At Šipun, two main wines are produced from the local varieties of Žlathina and Sansigot. But Ivica doesn’t stop there. He has a vineyard planted for the express purpose of preserving … Continue reading Visiting Croatia with Eric and Michael: Šipun Winery

Splendor of the Isles: Saveur’s Best Bottles from Croatia

In the new issue of Saveur Magazine, writer and radio host Brendan Francis Newnam takes us to his family’s homeland: the tiny island of Murter in Northern Dalmatia, sharing family stories and traditional seafood recipes: Skampi na Buzaru (Langoustines in Tomato, Garlic, and Wine Sauce) Crni Rižoto (a Black Cuttlefish Risotto) Riba na Rostilju (Whole Grilled Fish with Lemon) and Brodet (a Croatian Fish Stew made with white wine). “In Croatia, a fish must swim three times: once in the sea, once in oil, and once in wine,” explains the author’s cousin. While you enjoy reading the article, pour yourself a glass of one of Saveur’s wine recommendations from Dalmatia and Istria. We are proud to point out that 5 out of 6 are imported by Blue Danube Wine Co: Carić Vina Bogdanjuša 2012: If you haven’t heard of bogdanjuša, a grape from the Island of Hvar whose name means godsend, you’re not alone. Redolent of grapefruit peel and Mediterranean herbs, Carić Bogdanjuša 2012 ($17) is the first wine made from the rare grape to be exported to the U.S. Its citrusy flavor makes it a nice match for whole grilled fish. Coronica Malvasia 2012: Malvasia Istriana, one of Friuli’s … Continue reading Splendor of the Isles: Saveur’s Best Bottles from Croatia

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!

The SF Chronicle: the whites of Central Europe are ideal wines for winter

Finally! Some recent rainstorms and snow falling over the Sierra Nevada gave us a small peek at winter weather as well as cravings of cheese fondue accompanied by one of those crisp and mineral Alpine wines that go so well with hard cheese. But winter with its rich food is also a great time to expand our wine horizons argues Jon Bonné, wine columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. Beyond the Alps, he recommends exploring Slovenia, a country bordering the eastern section of the Alps as well as neighboring Hungary and Croatia. What the wines of these regions share, he writes, is “a bridge between that lean mineral cut of the mountains and the richness and exoticism of ripe, fleshy grapes.” These countries have been growing grapes for centuries and offer an incredible diversity of native grape varieties that are just coming to international awareness: spicy Furmint, the dominant grape in Tokaj, Muscat-like Irsai Olivér also from Hungary, crisp and floral Rebula, called Ribolla Gialla in nearby Friuli, aromatic Malvasia Istriana from the Istrian Peninsula at the north of the Adriatic sea, and many more. Check out Jon Bonné’s recommendations, you’ll find some of Blue Danube’s best selling wines: the … Continue reading The SF Chronicle: the whites of Central Europe are ideal wines for winter

Experience Croatia and Slovenia’s Istria Region in the Flesh!

Being able to meet the people, eat the local food, attempt the language, and imbue every glass of wine with first hand experiences is why we got into the wine business. Context makes everything taste better. Plus, once you’ve visited, every time you have a wine from that place you’re immediately transported back. With this in mind, everyone at Blue Danube is happy to announce a partnership with Savor The Experience Tours, a company that has been running small group tours to Slovenia and Croatia for the past 9 years. As a Blue Danube Supporter, you’ll get 11 nights of winery visits, special feasts, and olive oil while staying with family run B&B’s. And once you return, you’ll have a gift certificate with us to purchase the wines stateside and relive the whole thing over again with friends and family. This October, don’t miss this unique opportunity to meet with some of Blue Danube’s best producers: Kabaj, Piquentum, and Kogl. For more information please contact info@savortheexperiencetours.com or call 206.529.4237.

NYT Resolution for 2014: drink adventurously, drink Kabaj!

Here is New York Times columnist Eric Asimov’s latest New Year resolution: 20 adventurous wines for $20 to drink this winter. Some are white, some are red, and all should warm your heart but they should also stretch your comfort zone: they will introduce you to intriguing grapes as well as little-known appellations from wine-growing regions rich in history and culture and long wine-making traditions. Besides the 2010 Kabaj Ravan from Goriška Brda in Slovenia listed in the article—“zesty and fresh with persistent, tangy flavors”—our portfolio contains plenty of intriguing wines for you to discover this winter. With fresh oysters on the half shell and crabs, enjoy a crisp and mineral Hárslevelű from Hungary. Experiment with skin macerated whites and try them with Swiss fondue or raclette. Consider the Croatian grapes Plavac Mali and Babić as delicious alternative to Zinfandel. Anyway, have fun! Happy Drinking and Happy New Year!

Beyond Italian Borders : Wines Of Croatia & Slovenia

When I first started selling wines from Croatia and Slovenia nearly four years ago, the myriad of Italian restaurants almost mocked me as I rolled my bag down the streets of New York City. Very often their food and quality of service were just begging to be married with the flavors and level sophistication of the bottles I had on hand. Yet, to get the Sommelier to even consider tasting was nearly impossible. “Sorry, Italian only wine list, no exceptions.” It’s not as if I was trying to pawn some New York State Riesling or Merlot onto their focused and curated list, these were wines that had an equally long tradition in the same regions as everything on their menu and these were the flavors that were meant for their food. Italy, perhaps more than any other country, embodies a strong sense of regional pride. All 20 regions have held fast to their gastronomic cultures, preserving their distinct styles of wine and food. Over the centuries the regions formed their unique cuisines based on what was available in their land. This is why ingredients like truffles are hallmarks of Piedmonte while a dish like veal Marsala is unmistakably Sicilian. It’s … Continue reading Beyond Italian Borders : Wines Of Croatia & Slovenia

Leo Gracin on how to grow Babić

Dr. Leo Gracin, a professor and enologist at the Faculty of Food Technology and Biotechnology in Zagreb is a specialist of Babić, a indigenous variety that grows primarily in Central Dalmatia, near the towns of Šibenik and Primošten. The wine he produces, Gracin Babić, is actually considered one of the finest red Croatian wines today. Babić is believed to be genetically related to the more widely planted variety Plavac Mali through their common parent, the ancient wine grape Dobričić. Although the vines are very vigorous, like Plavac Mali, they can produce great wines when growing in extreme conditions: sun-drenched slopes and poor, rocky soils, which gives lower yields and more concentrated flavors. The resulting wine is dark, full-bodied, quite earthy and tannic, with more acidity than Plavac Mali. It is also well suited to barrel aging. Watch Enologist and Winemaker Dr. Leo Gracin explain how to farm Babić in his Primošten vineyard:

Dossier Zinfandel: Zinfandel’s Origins Demystified

Last thursday was the premiere screening of Dossier Zinfandel at the third annual Napa Valley Film Festival. Directed by Mika Barisic, the documentary tells the compelling story of Zinfandel, “California’s own grape,” and the search for its mysterious origins. When Croatian-born winemaker Mike Grgich arrived in Napa Valley in 1958, he noticed that the Zinfandel vines looked familiar and very similar to Plavac Mali, a native variety from the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. He was convinced at the time that Plavac Mali and Zinfandel were the same grape. With his support, UC Davis professor and grapevine geneticist Carole Meredith started a collaboration with the University of Zagreb. In May 1998, she traveled to Croatia to meet scientists Ivan Pejic and Edi Maletic and the three of them started exploring the Dalmatian coast. Eventually, they collected 150 samples that Dr Meredith brought back to UC Davis so that they could be identified in her lab using DNA fingerprinting. While Meredith’s team was able to confirm that the Italian grape Primitivo and Zinfandel were clones of the same variety, they found out that Plavac Mali was not a good match. Instead, they identified the Croatian grape as an offspring of Primitivo/Zinfandel. It … Continue reading Dossier Zinfandel: Zinfandel’s Origins Demystified

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….