A Day in the Golden Valley (part 1: Krauthaker)

After a comprehensive tasting at the Krauthaker estate. Too early in the morning, we’re plucked from our hotel in Dubrovnik and deposited at the small airport for our flight north to Zagreb. Just two hours later, we’re on our way by car to Slavonia, in the northeastern leg of Croatia bounded on three sides by Hungary, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We’re chauffered by the cheerful 23-year-old son of the label designer for Vlado Krauthaker in the town of Kutjevo, considered the center of Slavonian winemaking. The scenery here is very different from the coast, where precipitous, rocky slopes slant down to water’s edge and even inland valleys are ringed by craggy mountain ranges. Here there are vast fields of wheat and what looks like rye, and we’re told that much tobacco, too, is grown along this 55km valley with rounded ranges in the distance, which has been called the golden valley (Vallis Aurea) since Roman times. The vineyards are planted on the south slopes of the Krndija and Papuk mountains at 200 to 400 meters elevation. The region produces 80 to 90% white wine, and is known for elegant wines from the grasevina grape, a.k.a. welschriesling. We visit only … Continue reading A Day in the Golden Valley (part 1: Krauthaker)

A Day in the Golden Valley (part 2: Enjingi)

Gently sloped vineyards in Venje near Kutjevo. (continued from part 1) We have been told that Ivan Enjingi is a mercurial soul, but perhaps we’ve been immunized by our native habitat of New York — we find a generous, even gregarious man with twinkling eyes and a smooth cap of silvery hair waiting in his private cellar with a feast of cheeses and meats arranged on a barrel top. We sip Enjingi Zweigelt, a red with lovely aromatic herb, bayleaf, and red currant aromas until half of his pair of young enologists, Josipa Andrijanic, arrives. The other, Milan Budinski joins us as we wander through the fermentation rooms taking samples from the taps. It’s difficult to take notes on the hoof like this, but we taste Enjingi’s dry, late-harvest grasevina, a beautiful late-harvest Rhine riesling, about a dozen experiments and wines in development, and two real stand-outs: Enologists Milan Budinski and Josipa Andrijanic next to Ivan Enjingi. VENJE 2002 Named after the town where Enjingi is based, this is a blend of riesling, pinot gris, welschriesling, sauvignon blanc, and traminac that is made only in favorable years and is matured in barrique. It has medium body and an Old World … Continue reading A Day in the Golden Valley (part 2: Enjingi)

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

Croatian Cuisine & Wines at Del Monte

Del Monte Restaurant is in Sunnyvale, CA Since coming back from our trip to Southeastern Europe last summer, we haven’t had the chance to eat any dishes from the region as San Francisco is lacking in restaurants specializing in Balkan cuisine. Fortunately, for all of us Ćevapčići lovers in the Bay Area there is Del Monte Restaurant in downtown Sunnyvale, on Murphy Avenue. Del Monte, in spite of the name, is a 100% Croatian family business: Mate Slade, the head of the family, usually can be found in the kitchen doing what he loves best, while his wife Dragica can be found in the restaurant greeting the guests who all seem to know her, alongside her son who serves the tables. The interior of Del Monte Originally from Dubrovnik, they came to California some 25 years ago by way of Louisiana, New Orleans and Washington D.C. We recently had dinner for the first time at Delmonte with some relatives, and so we got to try almost everything in their menu. Although the decor is lacking in sophistication, it has a Croatian feel to it as well as a family atmosphere that we enjoyed together with the big plates of food. … Continue reading Croatian Cuisine & Wines at Del Monte

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

SLO and CRO wines on the air in L.A.

George at Silverlake Wine Wine expert and co-owner George Cossette of Silverlake Wine in Hollywood decants Croatian and Slovenian wines from the Adriatic region for L.A. radio station KCRW. The station aired an interview with him in the show “Good Food” hosted by Evan Kleiman. You can listen to the entire show at the KCRW web site or download the interview only (5MB) as an mp3 file here. Croatian & Slovenian bottles During a recent Sunday wine tasting, George featured these unique wines in his store and sold almost every bottle in stock. Here is the good news: Silverlake Wine has all these nice wines back in stock. So come on down…

Blue Danube Wine Co Shows off its New Wines

A pour for a guest ready to take notes. Last Monday on November 12th, we hosted a private tasting event for the trade of all our new arrivals. Frank with wines. This is a fun time for us because it allows us to share the wines that we’ve carefully selected to import for the first time with our colleagues in the trade and the media. This event was particularly enjoyable because we had new wines from all areas that Blue Danube Wine Company imports including: Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, and Montenegro. The well known Bacar Restaurant and Wine Salon provided a most suitable setting for this tasting event. This restaurant in the heart of SOMA in San Francisco is hip and modern, yet at the same time inviting and warm; a perfect place for sipping exciting new wines amongst others who love wine. Joining us for the invited tasting were the wine buyers and sommeliers of local wine shops, restaurants and wine bars as well as wine writers and critics. Checking the list It was great to see such a diverse crowd because everyone tasted the wines differently and they’re all looking for something unique to match whatever exciting plans … Continue reading Blue Danube Wine Co Shows off its New Wines

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

The Philosophy of Kozlović Part 2

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Malvazija is always best served cold. This is a continuation from Part 1 where we discussed the history and thinking behind the wines. Now, let’s get in to the wines properly. We started with the 2006 Malvazija which is the core wine the Kozlović production. The nose has this nice, soft, lilting grapey set of aromas to it. The body is bright and tones of grapefruit come through on top of everything else. The finish is nice and smooth. Gianfranco amongst wines There is dryness, but it works wonderfully to refresh you. As described elsewhere the color is really lovely on this wine. It’s a nice, pale, beckoning yellow that sits well in your glass on a hot day. We then moved in to the 2004 Santa Lucia. This is a Malvazija that has a great meaty nose that speaks of pršut, the ham that they eat with great abundance in Croatia. There is light fruit throughout it and a touch of sweet melon aromas as well. It is an incredibly fresh wine, bright and like a meal for the nose. The wine is mixed with … Continue reading The Philosophy of Kozlović Part 2