The Captain of Krk and an Island Hvar Hvar Away…

Partly because it’s already hitting 80 degrees in my adopted hometown of Sacramento, and partly because I miss Croatia, I’d like to highlight two island wines this month. Island wine regions, whether they be Italian, Spanish, Greek, French, or Kiwi, are all fiercely independent with their respective language, food and wine. Croatia is no different and the Island of Krk and the Island of Hvar both possess something unique from the mainland. At the risk of both a Star Trek and Star Wars pun, these are both serious wines with great stories, made by wonderful people, and from impossibly beautiful places. 2013 Šipun Žlahtina, Island of Krk, Croatia… Crossing the bridge to the Island of 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 physical 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, … Continue reading The Captain of Krk and an Island Hvar Hvar Away…

Hungarian Wine Tasting Review by Christine Havens

Recently Frank Dietrich led an in depth tasting of Hungarian wines at Soif wine bar in Santa Cruz, CA. The wines represented many of the major appellations and indigenous grapes of the regions. Wine writer Christine Havens attended this event and has graciously permitted us to share her blog post, in which she provides detailed notes of the wines tasted as well as a little of her own connection to Hungary. You can view the original post, and all of Christine’s other reviews on her site. Hungarian Wine Tasting at Soif Wine Bar & Merchants by Christine Havens. My mother is Hungarian. My father was mostly English with some other nationalities thrown in, like most Americans, his family tree included a pinch of German and a nip of Irish. My dad never talked about his heritage, but my mother has always been fiercely proud of her ancestry. I suppose that’s why I’ve always identified as Hungarian, the country with some of the world’s most beautiful women and a famously high rate of depression, pessimism and overall gloominess. After my grandparents had passed, photos of my great grandparents emerged from dusty albums stored and long forgotten in their basement. My predecessors … Continue reading Hungarian Wine Tasting Review by Christine Havens

Fekete Bela Somló Juhfark ’11 by James the Wine Guy

James the Wine Guy continues his tasting exploration of Hungary’s volcanic appellation of Somló with this review of Fekete Béla’s distinct Juhfark: This wine variety is completely new, beautiful, gorgeous yet distinctive, knowing this wine as a indigenous grape variety from Hungary, the only place you can find it in the world and very few acres, under 200 acres from what I understand. [] What I like about these Juhfark variety wines is that they are really nuanced, there’s significant minerality to these wines and yet very approachable. So what I like about this wine is its distinctive mineral statement, fantastically beautiful, confident, and something that I think is so original and memorable. Watch the video:

The Advantages of Drinking the Unknown – Brkić Winery in Bosnia and Herzegovina

There are distinct advantages to drinking the unknown (at least unknown to us). The quality to price ratio of grapes and places we can’t pronounce from places we can’t readily find on a map can often be ridiculously high. Josip Brkić’s wines from Bosnia and Herzegovina are case in point. Ironically, many of the attributes that help make these wines great are buzz words easily found elsewhere in the wine world. The soils are limestone (Karst). Fermentation is native. Farming is Biodynamic. Production is small and everything is done by hand. Barrels are produced from forests just a few hours from the vineyard. Total sulfur use is minimal (>60 ppm), and so on and so on. I’ll skip the part where the wines are made in the vineyard. That said, none of these things are the lynchpin for why I believe these wines deserve attention. These wines are great because they are delicious while pushing us out of our comfort zone. The white Žilavka (Zhee-lawv-ka) and red Blatina are more herb like than fruity, more about texture than acidity, and aromatically make you manically search for that thing you just can’t put to words. Žilavka and Blatina Just an hour’s … Continue reading The Advantages of Drinking the Unknown – Brkić Winery in Bosnia and Herzegovina

2012 Brkić Plava Greda by Nenad Trifunović

Bosnia-Herzegovina may not be a country you would associate with ageworthy, distinctive wines. That is probably because you have not tried one of the finest red wines being produced in the country: Brkić Plava Greda. Josip Brkić’s biodynamic vineyards are located in the distinguished Southern Herzegovina region where grape cultivation dates back at least 2,000 years. “Greda” is the name of the vineyard where Josip sources the indigenous Blahtina grape for this wine. Wine writer Nenad Trifunović has followed Plava Greda for several vintages and generously shared his perspective with us. The original reviews, as well as all of Nenad’s work, can be found on his blog site Dnevnik Vinopije (Wine Drinker Journal). 2012 Brkić Plava Greda by Nenad Trifunović Multilayered, complex, sophisticated, biodynamic, organic farming, Bosnian oak are all terms often used in the attempt to describe Plava Greda. Interestingly the same terms are not automatically associated to Herzegovina and even the autochthonous variety Blatina. However, when someone asks which Blatina would I choose as the finest representative of its variety and origin, Plava Greda from Brkić is my top choice. I admit I rarely purchase wine in quantity apart from a few bottles since I have no suitable … Continue reading 2012 Brkić Plava Greda by Nenad Trifunović

Miloš Stagnum: The Perfect Thanksgiving Wine

Stagnum, the flagship wine made from Plavac Mali grapes by Frano Miloš and his children is my first choice for Thanksgiving. Stagnum is the Latin name for the small Croatian town Ston where the Miloš family lives and tends their organic vineyards. Here,the Pelješac Peninsula connects with the Dalmatian mainland less than 50 miles north of Dubrovnik. If there is one Plavac which truly represents the land from where it comes and what this popular Croatian grape tastes like, it’s Stagnum. It’s not cheap but worth every single drop. The 2006 vintage we offer is excellent, making this wine a special treat for every wine lover. Miloš makes Plavac Pur!   The main reason that Stagnum fits so well on our Thanksgiving dinner table is its versatility. Naturally, Plavac pairs well with BBQ meats of all kinds. More surprisingly is that it also works very well with Turkey, Chicken, and even more gamey fowl. Most visitors to Dalmatia are amazed when they experience that Plavac also is a great match for Oysters regardless of how they are prepared: fresh on the shell with just a touch of lemon juice, or baked with bacon, hot sauce, and other flavorful condiments. Plavac also reminds … Continue reading Miloš Stagnum: The Perfect Thanksgiving Wine

Island Whites

Somewhere in Croatia (photo: Michael Newsome) The coast of Croatia is a rugged mountainous seascape of 1000 islands. From the barren Kornati to the forested shores of Korčula, these are the jewels of the Adriatic. 3,500 miles of craggy untamed limestone coast, awesome in the truest sense. Only 66 of the islands are inhabited. Krk (Ki-rrk), Hvar (huh-var), and Korčula (Core-chew-la) are three of the largest, and most important wine wise are still very much wild. Each is home to their own autochthonous (formed in its present position) grape varieties—found little or nowhere else on earth, under conditions unique to each island, capable of expressing their position and the culture of those who farm them. The soils vary but are all limestone based. Conditions tend to be wet in winter and hot and dry in summer. Each of these producers is working small plots by hand, the dry windy growing season rarely requires vineyard treatment. Krk, Croatia’s northerly, largest island has long been famous for wine. Less of the Dalmatian islands are under vine today than historically. The 250 hectares today are a shadow of the 2,500 under vine during Roman occupation. Within Krk’s Kvarner Valley winemaker Ivica Dobrinčić maintains … Continue reading Island Whites

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

Juhfark-ing Around

All jokes aside, Juhfark is a grape name that is not heard too often. Meaning “sheep’s tail”, the grape is pretty much only grown in the tiny Hungarian appellation of Somló. Juhfark grape bunches grow in a distinctive cylindrical shape which recalls to mind a sheep’s tail, hence the name. The grape is early to break bud and tends to be quite high yielding. Juhfark used to be extensively grown throughout northern Hungary for this reason but soon fell out of fashion. When allowed to produce such high yields, the berries produce a neutral, high acid, uninteresting wine. However, the volcanic soils of Somló have proven to be Juhfark’s best terroir, allowing the grape to express a sense of place and varietal. As of 2008, only 358 acres of Juhfark were planted in all of Hungary, primarily in Somló, but the small amount of wine that is produced today from this grape is truly something to experience. Juhfark acts as a direct link to experience the terroir of Somló. The nose hints at green apple/pear with a floral yet herbal character. But on the palate, the fruit disappears and the star of the show becomes the unique smokey, ash, and … Continue reading Juhfark-ing Around

The Wines of Georgia – The “Alice Perspective”

Wine has been an integral part of Georgian culture for thousands of years, yet the wines are just beginning to become known and respected outside of the country. As part of our effort this month to provide more in depth knowledge on Georgia, I conducted a brief interview with Alice Feiring. Alice is a respected, passionate wine writer with a keen interest in natural wines. She recently wrote a book on Georgian wine, so I knew her insights would be first hand and authoritative. I hope you’ll enjoy reading the interview below and get inspired to experience first hand this ancient wine culture. 1. What made you interested in writing a book about the wines of Georgia? Actually, the Georgian government approached me. The country had already translated Naked Wine into Georgian and they wanted an “Alice” book on my perceptions of Georgian wine, but on my part, it was a love project. I am hoping to triple the pages on the book and get an American publisher on board. My agent was funny, he was like, who would be interested in Georgian wine? But when he started to read the book, he quickly changed his mind. 2. What is … Continue reading The Wines of Georgia – The “Alice Perspective”