Lulu McAllister of SF’s NOPA on hometown hits and new favorites

Great interview by Luke Sykora in the latest Wine & Spirits Magazine with Lulu McAllister, one of San Francisco’s top sommeliers behind the wine lists of Nopa and Liholiho Yacht Club. She had some nice things to say about Blue Danube Wine Co and the Hungarian grape, kadarka! This year I’ve really loved working with kadarka. It tastes brooding in terms of aromatics and fruit profile, but it’s actually fairly zippy, leaner than the color in the glass would suggest. They call it “bull’s blood,” so sometimes I will explain that to people. It can handle a wider range of flavors than most medium-bodied, thicker, more rugged wines can handle. I can actually pair it with lighter dishes and it can hold its own when heavier dishes come out. I wouldn’t say it’s like pinot noir exactly, but it works in a similar way. Eric Danch [the northern California sales manager] at Blue Danube, is kind of the guy for these funky grapes. His portfolio is one of the most exciting out there right now; he’s going all-in on wines that are really obscure for most people. And if he says, “You’ve got to try this….” Read the whole article … Continue reading Lulu McAllister of SF’s NOPA on hometown hits and new favorites

Orange wine isn’t what you think it is

Orange wines, or perhaps more accurately described as amber wines, have been gaining more and more popularity with wine consumers. Writer Robin Shreeves gives these wines a try with the help of Keith Beavers, wine educator and owner of New York City’s In Vino Restaurant & Wine Bar, for Mother Nature Network. What is orange wine? The simple way to explain orange wine is that it’s white wine made like red wine. For white wine, the skins of white or red grapes are separated from the juice immediately. When red wines are made, the juice and the skins are left together for a time, imparting the color and the tannins from the skins, seeds and stems into the wine. Orange wine is made from the juice of white grapes that have contact with their skins for a time before fermenting, imparting an orange or amber tint to the wine. See Robin’s notes on a few of the “orange” or “amber” wines we import: Oil was what jumped out at me the first time I breathed in the scents of an orange wine — although I got motor oil, not linseed. Our host chose Piquentum Blanc’12 from Croatia made from the … Continue reading Orange wine isn’t what you think it is

Blue Danube, Selling Croatia’s Original Zinfandel in California

With its 130 indigenous grape varieties — including the original Zinfandel — Croatian wine is attracting interest around the globe, but how easy is it to sell Croatian wine in the Zinfandel heartland of California? Paul Bradbury from Total Croatia News interviewed Frank Dietrich and his team from Blue Danube on January 31, 2016, who are doing exactly that. And with great success. Here are some of the interview’s highlights: Wines from Eastern Europe selling in a wine heartland such as California sounds like a tough sell. How did you come up with the idea and tell us how you started? We hail from Europe and returned to Europe to build marketing and sales for a fast growing American computer company. After our return to California we decided to leave hi-tech and start Blue Danube Wine, an import company dedicated to the wines of the ancient wine regions along the Danube River and the Eastern Mediterranean. We knew a lot of wine was historically produced here. Our hopes that the wines would become better over time have been confirmed vintage-by-vintage. It has been an exciting journey so far. The new, young generation of wine makers active today in Central, East, … Continue reading Blue Danube, Selling Croatia’s Original Zinfandel in California

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

E-Gift Cards Make Gifting Wine Fast and Easy

We are very excited to announce that we are now selling E-Gift Cards in the webshop! These make the perfect last minute Holiday gifts if you already missed shipping cutoffs. They also eliminate the need to guess which wines your friend or family member will enjoy best, since they will be able to browse our complete online inventory. How it works: Indicate an amount of your choosing to put on the card, provide the recipient’s name and email address, then instantly your gift will arrive via email. Or you can elect to postpone delivery to a future date of your choice. Our E-Gift cards are available in four different celebratory styles, making them suite any occasion! E-Gift cards can be purchased here.

#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

A Georgian Sparkler to try: Bagrationi 1882 Classic Extra Dry

  Looking for a different type of sparkler for your holiday celebrations? Why not try one of the Bagrationi Sparkling wines from Georgia? Founded in 1937, Bagrationi is the first specialized company producing sparkling wine in Georgia. Nowadays, Bagrationi 1882 is the Georgian market leader of sparkling wines. Wine writer Meg Maker recently reviewed the Classic Extra Dry: A dry sparkling wine from the country of Georgia, made from Chinebuli, Mtsvane, and Tsitska grapes. The fragrance has a faintly grapey fruitiness, suggesting musk melon and white flowers, and its active, crackly body feels green-citrusy but with a welcome bitter finish. This is a Charmat method wine so its complexity is modest, but the approach highlights the fruits’ freshness and pure flavors. More interesting than much Prosecco at this price level. Pair with fresh cheeses, crackers, snacks. 12% abv Other Bagrationi Sparkling wines available: Bagrationi 1882 Classic Brut Bagrationi 1882 Reserve 2007 Bagrationi 1882 Rouge Bagrationi 1882 Royal Cuvée Brut Bagrationi 1882 Semi-Sweet

An Uncertain Future for the World’s Most Iconic Sweet Wines

Is there a future for traditional sweet wines as global taste changes? Zachary Sussman explores the “uncertain” future for the world’s famous sweet wines, like Hungary’s Tokaji Aszú, in this article for Punch. Ironically, the examples that have fallen the furthest out of fashion—basically, port, Sauternes and Tokaji—were once revered as the coveted darlings of kings and counts and royal courts. It was by virtue of their sweetness, in fact, that they first gained international fame. Not only did high sugar contents prevent spoilage during the days before refrigeration, allowing wines to enter the export market as global commodities, but sugar also enjoyed luxury status at the time: The kind of intense sweetness found in a bottle of port or Tokaji was inseparable from its aura of aristocratic splendor….What’s next? Faced with declining sales and a wine culture that increasingly prizes the savory, the saline and the mineral, will these regions take the necessary steps to remain relevant? Or are they destined to survive as mere museum pieces? Our own Stetson Robbins weighs in on the shift away from traditional wine styles in Tokaj: Even at the sweetest levels, producers in Tokaji are moving towards a brighter, modern style. Hopefully, … Continue reading An Uncertain Future for the World’s Most Iconic Sweet Wines

Forget Red, White, and Rosé—Orange Wine Is What You Should Be Sipping This Fall

Fashion alert! “Orange” wine is in for fall says Carson Demmond for Vogue Magazine. Five years ago marked the entrance of “orange wine”—an obscure category that has stirred some very vocal proponents and riled some very vocal detractors—into the international wine scene. Though the style has been produced for quite some time, the “orange” description was purportedly coined in 2004 by a U.K.-based wine importer who encountered a bottle in winemaker Frank Cornelissen’s cellar in Sicily. It refers to certain white wines (yes, they’re made from white grapes) that fall somewhere on the color spectrum of fall foliage. Their flavors also have great autumnal appeal, since many can be downright and broodingly earthy. This style of winemaking, which involves extended periods of skin maceration, is very traditional in some countries like Slovenia and the Republic of Georgia. The article suggests a few must try wines for fall, including one from Kabaj, a winery we have worked with for some time now. 2011 Kabaj Rebula Goriška Brda, Slovenia Since very little has been written on the ancient methods, Kabaj’s winemaker—Jean-Michel Morel—opted to study at a Georgian monastery to fine-tune his craft. This rebula (the Slovenian name for Italy’s ribolla) ferments with … Continue reading Forget Red, White, and Rosé—Orange Wine Is What You Should Be Sipping This Fall