The First Wine Guide to Dalmatia & Herzegovina: Vinologue

I walked through Pile Gate in Dubrovnik, my friend Ivana leading the way down the Stradun and then off on a side street that I hadn’t yet discovered in the Old Town. We arrived at a bar named Carpe Diem, sat down in the early evening and ordered. I had no idea what to order. I didn’t speak Croatian and so I was ordered a glass of red wine. At this point, everything changed. The wine was the Zlatan Plavac from Zlatan Plenković. That was in 2004 and I remember thinking it would be fantastic to learn more about these deceptively good Croatian wines, but there was nothing to be found. While beach tourism was taking off in Croatia, there were no wine brochures and there were no wine guides. People in most of the shops didn’t really know all that much as wine was wine. Frustrated and stubborn, I dug and started to read every scrap of news I could find. I drank more wine. I learned Croatian. I found importers in the US like Blue Danube Wine Company, learned more, and drank more wine. In 2007, I met my future wife who helped me to focus my interest … Continue reading The First Wine Guide to Dalmatia & Herzegovina: Vinologue

Croatian/Slovenian Tidbits and Praise

Providence in L.A. features a number of our wines Just a few quick words about goings on in the blog world. The rather exotically-titled blog, Exile Kiss has a comprehensive nice article with even nicer photographs extolling the virtues of an IRON CHEF tasting menu at Providence restaurant in L.A. They paired our Peljesac from the Dalmatian coast with “Assorted Shellfish” of squid and mussels. Earlier this summer we were lucky enough to be invited by sommelier Drew Langley to pair our wines with the exquisite cuisine of chef Michael Cimarusti at a private cooking class. We were blown away how good the food was but equally how well the Weinrieder Kugler Riesling, the Crnko Yellow Muskat and the JURIS Pinot Noir Selection paired with it, a real pleasure for our taste buds. chef Michael Cimarusti. Also from a culinary perspective a little further south, Food GPS writes about a recent dinner at Mesa in Orange County, CA. The photos can be a bit tricky at points because they were taken with a flash, but it looks like it was a tasty meal. It appears that the meal was made even tastier by the addition of the Croatian Bibich Riserva … Continue reading Croatian/Slovenian Tidbits and Praise

Croatia is bursting on the Scene…

Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV tasting Zlatan Plavac. …says Gary Vaynerchuk of the Wine Library TV after tasting his first Zlatan Plavac Barrique. Gary continued all excited about this find: “This wine is sensational, downright great sensational.” Thanks for your kind words, Gary, you confirm what we and many of our customers already knew: There are excellent wines produced in Croatia today and Zlatan Plenkovic is one of the top producers in the country. For details on Gary’s excitement tune into the third part of the recent edition of the Wine Library TV, episode 553: Wine Library TV, episode 553. And if you like to encounter some really good Croatian Malvasia and Grasevina we recommend the wines made by Kozlovic and Enginji. They rock just like the Zlatan Plavac rocks. Cheers!

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…