The Fragrance of Austria by Stuart Pigott

On March 22nd we held a tasting of two dynamic Austrian wine estates, Geyerhof and Muhr-van der Niepoort, at Jadis Wine Bar in New York. Acclaimed wine critic and writer Stuart Pigott attended and has graciously allowed us to share his review of the event here. Enjoy! New York Wine Diary: Day 5 – The Fragrance of Austria by Stuart Pigott Last night at Jadis wine bar on Rivington Street in the Lower East Side I had a Close Encounter of the Third Kind with the wonderful fragrance that Austrian wine is capable of. I’m not talking about the in-your-face kind of aromas that many so-called Icon Wines from around the globe have – they are often so over-concentrated that they slams into you like rogue waves – much less the kind of overwhelming artificiality that many modern fragrances (for men and for women!) display. No, I’m talking about the aromatic delicacy that is possible in various parts of Austria, particularly with indigenous grape varieties like the white Grüner Veltliner and the red Blaufränkisch (aka Kékfrankos / Lemberger), or well-integrated immigrants like the white Riesling (from Germany) and Sauvignon Blanc (from the Loire in France). Let’s start with tannic red … Continue reading The Fragrance of Austria by Stuart Pigott

An Interview with Jasenka Piljac Zegarac, author of “Zinfandel: A Croatian-American Wine Story”

A group of Blue Danubians are preparing a trip to Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast around the middle of April. As we started to put together our agenda we realized we should make visiting the original Zinfandel, or as the grape is known in Croatia, Crljenak Kaštelanski vineyards a top priority. This brought to mind the book written by Jasenka Piljac Žegarac, one of the scientists on Dr. Carole Meredith’s team who participated in the discovery of Zinfandel’s Croatian heritage. We got in touch with her to find out more and prepare for our own journey of discovery. 1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What is your professional background? I was born in Croatia, but largely educated in the US where I completed both my high school and college education (UC Davis, biochemistry). I come from a family of well-established research scientists, physicians, and authors. Therefore, although my background is in plant biology (PhD) and natural products chemistry (postdoctoral work), I’ve always had an interest in medicine, medical research, and science writing. 2. What brought you to UC Davis to trace the origins of Zinfandel? My family moved to Davis from Croatia in early 1990s, due to ongoing … Continue reading An Interview with Jasenka Piljac Zegarac, author of “Zinfandel: A Croatian-American Wine Story”

Introducing Coronica Crno Vino

A review of a new wine from Coronica: Crno Vino, or red wine, by Croatian wine writer Nenad Trifunović: No name. Simply “red”; Crno in Croatian. Only Coronica can get away with something like this. The “CO” logo alone is sufficient incentive to buy a bottle. Immediately the distinctive Teran spice is apparent on the nose. You can smell, and taste, a wild, iron-like character. Coronica blends Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon along with the Teran which can be felt on the palate. Beautiful simplicity that is not easily accomplished. Coronica is a skilled master after all. Even his simple table wine is a true, serious wine. Perfect for everyday consumption. Hearty, lively, sleek, with no tannic roughness or any components demanding more time to soften and mellow. Ready upon opening the bottle, with a very drinkable 12% alc,  suitable with many dishes. I am quite sure this wine, aside from a small percentage perhaps, has not aged in any wood, yet I am confident many will comment on certain “woodiness” on the nose. Both aromatic sensations and well balanced vinous acids are features of a wine ideal for casual consumption. For example, I was endlessly thankful how it paired with … Continue reading Introducing Coronica Crno Vino

Top Croatian Wines in the USA: Indigenous Grapes Grow Sales

Cliff Rames, founder of Wines of Croatia and sommelier, writes about indigenous Croatian grapes making the most impact in the United States market for Total Croatia. On January 21, 2016, I asked the top three American importers of Croatian wines to reveal which Croatian wines were best sellers in 2015 and provide clues about what new and exciting developments await in 2016. So grab a glass of your top Croatian wine and check out revelations below, listed alphabetically by producer, with tasting notes and added commentary by the importers about what made the wines successful in the U.S. Here are the wines we import: Bibich R6 2012 (Red) 34% Babić; 33% Lasin; 33% Plavina “This northern Dalmatia wine shows more smoke and Mediterranean herbs than heavy, overbearing fruit,” observed Eric Danch, Northern California Sales Manager at Blue Danube Wine Company. “There’s immediate life and levity without compromising its unique character. It’s a wine that can be readily be devoured at a casual dinner party and yet capture the attention of wine professionals.” Miloš Plavac 2010 (Red) 100% Plavac Mali “Plavac Mali has a much thicker skin than any of the three native grapes in the Bibich R6,” noted Danch. “The … Continue reading Top Croatian Wines in the USA: Indigenous Grapes Grow Sales

The Start of a Croatian Wine Love Affair

Travel/wine writer and founder of Writing Between the Vines, Marcy Gordon loves Croatia, especially the wines. Check out what sparked her interest and read about her first visit to Croatia. Thank you for sharing with us, Marcy! The first time the wines of Croatia came across my radar was through a random Tweet I saw by Cliff Rames (founder, Wines of Croatia). Until that point I’d never tried any wine from the region and knew little about Croatian varietals. I was directed to Blue Danube Wines as the place to start. Through the Blue Danube Portfolio I was given a wonderful overview of what Croatia had to offer. I found a rustic elegance in the wines with flavor profiles both bright and deep, and a briny kiss of salinity that was intriguing and enjoyable. One producer that stood out for me was Bibich. My love affair with Bibich wine began with that tasting and shortly afterwards I had the opportunity to visit Alen Bibić at his winery in Skradin, outside of Šibenik on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. It was there that my simple infatuation with Croatia bloomed into lust — an appreciative lust for the wine and food and the … Continue reading The Start of a Croatian Wine Love Affair

#WineWednesday Spotlight #4: Shumi Zigu

Shumi Zigu​ – A Georgian “Port” wine made from more than 300 native grape varieties​ The Shumi Winery sits in the appellation of Tsinandali within Georgia’s largest wine region, Kakheti. The specialty of the appellation is a dry white wine of the same name. We visited Shumi on our first trip to Georgia and were immediately impressed. ​They are a mid-size operation and everyone from CEO and wine maker to the marketing and bottling teams is extremely down to earth​, ​friendly​, and competent.​ Shumi greeted us with a special tasting of ​​wines and one of the most delicious meals during the trip. We sat in a beautiful garden setting enjoying kebabs grilled over grapevines, the freshest salads you can imagine, exquisite traditional vegetable stews, and heavenly bread, straight from the oven. Of course we were enjoying our tasting of the Shumi wines as well. Then a small bottle was brought out and we were simply told that it was a special wine the winery was trying out. What it turned out to be was “Zigu”, a ​field-blend of grapes picked from the winery’s experimental vineyard. This vineyard contains around 300 grape varieties, mostly Georgian in origin. The grapes are co-harvested … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #4: Shumi Zigu

#WineWednesday Spotlight #3: 2011 Fekete Béla Olaszrizling

I don’t pride myself on wine parlor tricks like blind tasting, but I’d bet my first or second born on picking out a glass of just about anything from Hungary’s Somló appellation. There is such a visceral reaction to the salt, botrytis and weight in these wines. My olfactory memory is rarely this loud and clear. This is particularly the case with the 2011 Fekete Béla Olaszrizling. It’s also strange that this grape is perhaps one of the most widely planted in Central Europe. In Croatia it’s called Graševina, Welchsriesling in Austria, Riesling Italico in Italy, and Laški Rizling in Slovenia. Why so unique in Somló? Maybe it’s because in 1752, local laws stated that if you were found adding water to wine, expect 25 lashings as the minimum punishment. If you were found to be labeling wine as Somló but using other fruit sources, you would be banned from making wine permanently and might even have your property confiscated. Perhaps this historical legacy, or that Hungarian Kings bought vineyards here, or that insurgent Hungarian troops fighting against the Habsburgs would solute the vineyards as they marched past, but what is certain is the unique community of growers here. Perhaps … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #3: 2011 Fekete Béla Olaszrizling

Introduction to Georgia: Discussing Producers and Grape Varieties

Part two of our interview with Stetson focusing on introducing our new Georgian producers and some of the indigenous varietals to become familiar with. Read part one of our interview here. Let’s talk about the producers. How would you introduce them? S: I’ll start with Kindzmarauli Marani and Shumi who share a similar story. Both are larger, modern wineries, producing “European-style” wines. This means that instead of qvevri they use stainless steel and/or oak barrels. They are located on either side of the Alazani River, in Kakheti — Georgia’s largest wine region — within two major appellations. Kindzmarauli Marani is on the left bank in the Kindzmarauli appellation, known for semi-sweet reds. Shumi is on the right bank within Tsinandali, an important white wine appellation. Even though both are considered large wineries, there is so much care that goes into the wines. Instead of purchasing fruit, both source from their own estates. Both are also dedicated to Georgia’s viticultural future. You can find experimental vineyards at both estates with hundreds of varietals, both indigenous and international. The goal is to see which grapes are most successful in their conditions. It’s encouraging to see this interest in supporting Georgia’s rich viticultural … Continue reading Introduction to Georgia: Discussing Producers and Grape Varieties

#WineWednesday Spotlight #1: 2011 Kabaj Ravan

New feature on our blog! Every week a Blue Danubian will highlight his or her favorite wine of the moment. Starting things off is Tom, our newest sales guy in the San Francisco Bay Area: Conformity, regularity, status quo, etc. Call it what you will, these terms have again and again been stricken from my vocabulary. Rather than going “by-the-book”, I have always chosen to pursue the road less traveled, even if it sometimes led to learning things the hard way. For exactly this reason, I was delighted to meet winemaker Jean-Michel Morel of Kabaj (Ka-BUY) Winery in Slovenia. He truly embodies the spirit of being an expat, leaving his native France to create an entirely different style of wine in a country that has been underestimated in terms of its wine production (especially compared to the juggernaut that is France). He’s a no-nonsense kind of guy. He knows what he likes, he knows what he doesn’t, and his brutal honesty is perfectly balanced and underscored by his charming personality. This aspect of his personality is reflected in his skin contact wines, which offer an unusually grippy and full-bodied mouthfeel supported by subtle undertones playing a back-up role. Mention the … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #1: 2011 Kabaj Ravan

“Great Wines from Slovenia” by Now And Zin Wine

Last month we had the privilege of hosting Jean-Michel from the Kabaj Winery for a few action packed weeks. Jean was here primarily to attend the Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries event in San Francisco. Kabaj Winery, located in Goriška Brda, Slovenia, was listed as a Top 100 Winery for the second time. To celebrate this achievement we arranged a number of events throughout California and New York. One such event was a reception at hot new restaurant Hatchet Hall in Culver City. Wine blogger Randy Fuller, who writes Now and Zin Wine, was able to join us, and has now graciously allowed us to repost his blog post about the event here for you! Many thanks, Randy! Trust Your Importer – Great Wines From Slovenia Blue Danube Wines is one of those importers you want to check in with from time to time. For those who don’t have an extensive knowledge of wines from countries other than the US, a good importer is a good thing to know. Importers tend to find the wines they like, and bring them home to the rest of us. So, if Slovenia, for instance, or some other Central European country catches your … Continue reading “Great Wines from Slovenia” by Now And Zin Wine