Introducing our new Georgian producer: Bibineishvili Winery

The southwestern subtropical region of Guria/Adjara is known for tea, citrus and the cultish local Chkhaveri. This ancient pinkish-violet grape variety is originally a maghlari vine trained to grow up trees. Wine from Chkhaveri can be hypnotic, light but resonant, textured and tea-like. Exactly how Chkhaveri is suppose to be made or taste has been lost, but as far as Luka Bibineishvili is concerned, it’s “Aia Yi!”, which roughly translates as “This is it!.” Chkhaveri is likely a pre-Christian Meskhetian variety. The ancient region of Meskheti had a highly developed wine culture and was possibly responsible for the invention of iron metallurgy. Before the Ottoman rule in the 16th century, wine from Meskheti was famous outside the region. Unfortunately, almost 100 known aboriginal species were lost to the Turks. Today, only 30 or so hectares of Chkhaveri exist made of small plots of less than 0.5 hectare. Production never stopped, the vineyards and traditions only moved into the protected highlands where old vineyards of forgotten sorts can be found in the forest. The Bibineishvili family farms 0.6 hectares, 0.4 planted to Chkhaveri, the remainder to Megrelian Ojaleshi, Tsolikuri, Tsitska and Krakhuna. The winery is located in the Adjaran village of … Continue reading Introducing our new Georgian producer: Bibineishvili Winery

Introducing our new Georgian producer: Lapati Wines

Lapati Wines is the joint project of French-born Guillaume Gouerou and Vincent Jullien. The two men met originally at the Art Villa Garikula, a Center for Contemporary Arts in Georgia. Vincent was there to realize his first experiments of natural sparkling wine with grapes from the villa and Guillaume was invited as an artist. They completed their Marani (traditional Georgian cellar) in Sagarejo, Kakheti in 2015 and currently produce about 3,500 bottles. Natural sparkling wines comprise more than half their production. About half of the grapes comes from their own vines in Kakheti and Shida Kartli. The remainder comes from growers who are also farming organically. They only buy what is necessary to allow them to fully fill the four one-ton qvevris they have buried in the marani. They intend to eventually increase the production but not beyond 10,000 bottles as they want to personally handle all aspects of production. The Saperavi Super Ravi (in French, the word “ravi” means “happy”) cuvée is made by placing whole clusters of Saperavi from the village of Mukuzani into two qvevris. After sealing the qvevris with clay, the wine ferments for 2 weeks with carbonic-acid gas. There is not much compression in a … Continue reading Introducing our new Georgian producer: Lapati Wines

Great places to drink Blue Danube Wines in San Francisco

There’re so many fine places where you can find Blue Danube wines in San Francisco! In particular, note these three restaurants: they have great reviews in the October issue of Wine & Spirits Magazine and carefully curated wine lists that perfectly match the food in the menu. At August 1 Five, try gol guppa, which are crispy pastries filled with spiced potatoes, with Štoka Teran Rosé: Here, gol guppa crispy pastries filled with spiced potatoes—arrive with a flight of brightly fruit-flavored waters, poured in at table to maintain the crispness and burst of flavor with each bite: biryani is made elegant with long, long grains of rice and perfectly balanced seasonings. Austin Ferrari’s tightly curated wine list is in perfect sync with the food, focused on spicy, earthy wines like Stoka teran rosé and Inconnu Sonoma County cab franc. (Full review here) At Birba, try marinated anchovies with Fekete Furmint: You won’t find the usual suspects here, but rather things like sparkling pineau d’Aunis from the Loire, Béla Fekete’s volcanic whites from Somló in Hungary and six vermouths by the glass to go along with the charcuterie and olives and a soundtrack that veers from Beyoncé to salsa. (Full review … Continue reading Great places to drink Blue Danube Wines in San Francisco

Harvest report in Tokaj, Hungary: Interview with Samuel Tinon

This year, we decided to interview a few of our winemakers to get their impressions of the 2017 harvest and the overall 2017 vintage. We first reached out to Samuel Tinon on September 17th, just as some rain began to fall. Fortunately, the sparkling base wines and Sárgamuskotály (Yellow Muscat) had already been picked and most of his Furmint was still in early ripening. According to Samuel, “In Tokaj we can have up to 10 book chapters in a 2-month period. In these conditions, it is far too early to talk about vintage. Anything can happen. In a written book, from the first chapter you can get a idea of the book, with Nature not.” By September 21st, the weather had changed. Completely botrytis-free harvest had moved into botytris, or what Samuel would call “Tokaj premier grand cru only.” Sugar levels still good, acid starting to drop, but Aszú berries beginning to take shape. By September 25th, roughly 40 L/m2 of rain had fallen so it was time to harvest all the remaining botrytis-free grapes. All in all, and like all quality wine regions the world over, it’s impossible to have a recipe or a crystal ball. Best to end … Continue reading Harvest report in Tokaj, Hungary: Interview with Samuel Tinon

Harvest report in Carnuntum, Austria: Interview with Dorli Muhr

This year, we decided to interview a few of our winemakers to get their impressions of the 2017 harvest and the overall 2017 vintage. Here is Dorli Muhr, owner of the Muhr-van der Niepoort winery located in the Austrian appellation of Carnuntum east of Vienna, and known of her elegant Blaufränkisch wines: How would you describe the 2017 vintage? 2017 is a very diverse vintage. We see fantastic quality in some vineyards, and less interesting grapes in others. You will find outstanding wines from the 2017 vintage, and you will find quite poor wines. For the consumer and for the trade, tasting and comparing will be very important. How is this vintage different from last year’s? This year, we had a very hot and extremely dry summer, while in 2016 we had enough rain. The grapes were very balanced in 2016, very tasty, very relaxed in a way. In 2017, many grapes could not mature perfectly, because they did not get enough water. But for some vineyards, the hot summer and the rainfall we got finally in September, was just ideal. Those vineyards will make incredibly good wines. What’s the biggest challenge this year? We need to pick very carefully, … Continue reading Harvest report in Carnuntum, Austria: Interview with Dorli Muhr

New Kabaj vintage reviewed in Wine and Spirits Magazine

Wine and Spirits Magazine has great reviews of the latest vintage of Kabaj in its October issue. These wines will be coming to the US shortly. In the meantime, low quantities of the 2013 vintage—also very well rated by the magazine—are still available (93 Points for both the 2013 Rebula and the 2013 Sivi Pinot!).

Introducing Our New Producer Gallay

József Borbély purchased his first vineyards in 1990 in Nyéklákháza, in the Bükk appellation, a wine district located in North-Eastern Hungary, right between Eger and Tokaj. The region has been making wines since the 14th century and today, it is awakening thanks to a handful of quality producers like József Borbély, who are working hard on reviving the region. The winery is named after József’s mother-in-law Isabella Gallay. The Gallay family owned a winery and vineyards before World War I but they lost everything after the war. Now the Borbély family is working on rebuilding the family heritage. While József cultivates grapes, his younger son Roland, who has a degree in viticulture and oenology and professional experiences in Napa, Tokaj and Eger, is the family winemaker. Near the village of Nyékládháza, they grow Pinot Blanc and Zenit, a unique Hungarian white grape variety created in 1951. The two are blended together to create a fresh and fruity wine called Bistronauta and a creamy white sur lees called Gallay Blanc. They also produce a bright and spicy red from the Zweigelt grape.

Introducing Our New Producer Tornai

In 1945, Endre Tornai, the only survivor of his family, walked home to Hungary from the Russian front. Linka, a girl he fancied from before the war waited for him and they got married at Christmas of the same year. They bought a one acre vineyard on the Somló hill, and in 1946 they had both their first child and their first harvest. Anna, one of his grandchildren says “my grandfather was in love with the Somló, and so is my father”. This love made the Tornai family endure, and led them to dedicate their life to the Somló. After communism ended in ’89, they could buy back their old lands and now are farming 70 acres. They are open to innovation while working with the traditional grapes of the Somló: Juhfark, Furmint, Olaszrizling, Hárslevelű. The Somló is the smallest appellation of Hungary – basically one basalt hill popping up from a flat landscape. It’s one of the most expressive terroirs in the world, a truly magical place. We are excited to have another producer from this tiny yet powerful region. The Tornai Juhfark and Furmint will be available later this month!

Introducing Our New Producer Oszkár Maurer

After meeting Oszkár Maurer for the first time, my hands were sore from taking so many notes and my head was spinning. Serbia? Tokaj connections? Oldest pre phylloxera Kadarka vines in the world? Origin of Furmint? Far too much to cover in this newsletter, but here’s the pitch along with my hopes that as many people as possible try this limited wine. Oszkár’s Kadarka, planted in 1880 in sand, is from the Sremska region in Northern Serbia, but was historically the Hungarian appellation of Szerém. Before the Ottoman Occupation in the early 16th Century, this was one of the most famous appellations in Hungary. In the mid 1400s, it’s thought that settlers from here brought grapes like Furmint and Sárga Muskotály to Tokaj and knowledge for using Aszú (dried berries) for sweetening wines. Oszkár believes that the Szerém appellation was established as early as 1452. He’s a fervent student of wine history and lectures at home and abroad. Back in Serbia, he organically farms a number of grapes ranging from Bakator, Szerémi Zöld, Kadarka, and Mézes Fehér. Everything is done by hand or horse. Fruit trees grow amongst the vines and fallen peaches litter the ground. Bugs, rabbits, and life … Continue reading Introducing Our New Producer Oszkár Maurer

Meet Turkey’s Visionary Vintner Güler Sabancı

Ancient but challenged, wine culture perseveres in Turkey writes journalist Deborah Parker Wong in SOMM Journal. In her article, she talks to businesswoman and founder of Gülor Winery Güler Sabancı regarding the future of Turkey’s wine business: “[Over the last decade] Turkish consumers have been learning about quality from fine imported wines,” says vintner and philanthropist Güler Sabancı whose Gülor winery in Thrace is sited in the historical center of Turkish wine production. “Considering that there have been no incentives for the industry and our ability to market wine at home is quite limited, I’m very optimistic.” Modern wine culture emerged in the early 1990s when visionary producers picked up where the Turkish government left off after the introduction of French grape varieties to Thrace in the 1950s. Although Gülor is credited with the country’s first commercial production of Bordeaux-style wines, Sabancı champions the country’s indigenous grapes grape varieties as a way for Turkey to differentiate its wines on the global market. The boutique winery has recently begun exporting wine to the U.S. and is looking at Russia and the U.K. as well. Read the whole article and learn more about the Turkish industry and its wines here. Sabancı’s wines … Continue reading Meet Turkey’s Visionary Vintner Güler Sabancı