#WineWednesday Spotlight #94: Štoka Teranova Peneče

What is light, airy and deliciously summery? Pét-Nat! Pét-Nat (short for Pétillant Naturel) is a sparkling wine made in the méthode ancestral, an ancient technique where the wine is bottled before having completed its fermentation. The fermentation process continues in the bottle, finishing converting sugar into alcohol and thus producing light bubbles of carbon dioxide. Unlike Champagne, Pét-Nat is not disgorged and can be cloudy. It is also often low in alcohol with a touch of sweetness, which makes it light and refreshing. For sommelier and author of The MODERN GENTLEMAN: A Guide to Essential Manners, Savvy & Vice Jason Tesauro, the deep red Štoka Teranova Peneče is among The 10 Best Pét-Nat Wines Under $40: Wind, erosion, drought, and iron-laden soil make the Kras region one of the most severe and unique terroirs in the world, producing this sparkling red from the inky Teran grape. We’re getting Štoka’s new Pét-Nat production in our coming container from Slovenia. Check it out!

Mon Chérry…

Forced French puns aside, in the 11th hour brainstorming that usually precedes a newsletter to the trade, it occurred to me — cherries! Marasca cherries, which grow up and down the Dalmatian coast (including Slovenia and Southern Hungary) became famous all over Europe once distilled into Maraschino. Most of this production eventually moved to Italy after the destruction of WWII, but famous producers like Luxardo (1821) were all founded in Croatia. Cherry festivals can also be found all over Croatia and neighboring Slovenia. Whether you’re in Istria/Slovene Istria (Piquentum, Coronica, Santomas), Goriška Brda (Kabaj), the Kras (Štoka), Dolenjska (Martinčič) or Štajerska (Črnko), cherries abound. Sour, bitter and sweet, they also play a role in the cuisine as fresh soups, desserts, added to stews, jams, syrups, etc… Granted, I know I’m not breaking new ground by attaching cherry flavors to wine. It’s less about the wines tasting like cherries (although some really do), but a similar balance between bitter, sweet and sour. Whether it’s skin contact Ravan (Friulano), Rebula (Ribolla Gialla) and Sivi Pinot (Pinot Grigio), salty barrel aged Malvasia Istriana, bloody Teran, sweet and sour Cviček, bright and aromatic white field blends, or tart Refošk, there’s a kinship at play. … Continue reading Mon Chérry…

Istria, the new Tuscany

Olive tree groves, vineyard-dotted hills, truffles and medieval hilltop towns: we’re not describing Tuscany but Istria, a heart-shaped peninsula — the largest in the Adriatic Sea — located south of Trieste. Long ruled by the Venetians and later the Hapsburgs, it is now shared by three countries: the largest part (89%) is in Croatia, the northwestern part lies in Slovenia, and a very tiny portion belongs to Italy. While they both enjoy a rich food and wine culture and a beneficial Mediterranean climate, Tuscany and Istria are not completely similar: more than 80% of Tuscany’s production is in red wine while about 80% of the wine produced in Istria is white. Its most significant grape variety is Malvasia Istriana (also the second most important Croatian white grape after Graševina). This ancient grape is believed to have been introduced by the Venetians from Greece. Young Malvasia, simply vinified in stainless steel, produces fresh and crisp delicious wines, ideal partners for grilled sea bass, squid, sardines, and langoustines from the Adriatic. On the other hand, barrel aging and a few days of skin contact can produce a more full-bodied and age-worthy style, perfect accompaniment to Istrian pasta with truffle, black risotto, and … Continue reading Istria, the new Tuscany

#WineWednesday Spotlight #81: Kabaj Merlot

Merlot has a long tradition in Goriška Brda, a appellation located at the foot of the Julian Alps on the Italian-Slovenian border. While Brda is best known for its white wines, the Merlot grape likes the well-drained sunny hills of the region and a climate that combines Mediterranean and Alpine influences. French-born Jean-Michel Morel, having worked in Bordeaux and the South of France, knows well how to work with Bordeaux varieties. His Merlot, sourced from vines grown on steep vineyards and averaging 40 years of age, fermented with native yeast and aged 2 years in barrique, is refined and elegant. It’s also age-worthy. The 2011 vintage is still full of youth and needs some time to open up. It’s a complex wine, more savory than fruity, rich and well balanced, with mineral notes on the finish. The other night, the dinner was over but the wine was still developing in glass and becoming more and more delicious so we almost finished the bottle while watching TV. Try it yourself! You can find it here.

Meet our Women Vintners

Do you know that as many as 13 of the wineries in our current portfolio are run or co-run by women? Witnessing an increasing number of talented women involved in the wine industry on International Women’s Day is exciting. They may have taken different paths — some took over their family estate from their parents, others founded their wineries from scratch — but they are all passionate about their work. Whether they have a degree in oenology or learned the trade while working with their family, these women are making important contributions to viticulture and winemaking. In Austria, grower and winemaker Ilse Maier pioneered organic farming in Kremstal when she took over Geyerhof, the family estate, in 1986. Dorli Muhr resuscitated her family vineyards in Carnuntum and now produces some of Austria’s finest Blaufränkisch. In Tokaj, Hungary, winemakers Judit Bodó and Stéphanie Berecz founded respectively Bott and Kikelet wineries with their husbands and are now making some of the best wines of the region. In 2014, Stéphanie was awarded by her fellow winemakers the prestigious title of “winemaker of the winemakers”. Sarolta Bárdos who owns and runs Tokaj Nobilis was the winner of the prestigious award of 2012 Winemaker of … Continue reading Meet our Women Vintners

Too cold to drink rosé? No way!

Should you drink Rosé in Winter? What about having Rosé for Valentine’s Day? In his latest Wine Column, wine and food writer for The Washington Post Dave McIntyre think we’re wrong to consider Rosé as a summer wine: The market is up against two consumer misconceptions: That rosé is only for summer, and that only the most recent vintage is worth drinking. Here’s the problem: We match rosé to the season, but we pair any other wine to the food we’re eating. You still eat pizza in winter? Salads? Anything garlicky, or with a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern accent? Don’t rule out rosé: It doesn’t clash with long sleeves. And don’t worry about drinking the 2015s; they’re just fine. In fact, I recently found some forgotten 2014s from California and France in my basement. They were delicious — less fresh and invigorating for gulping, perhaps, but age had given them a bit of character that made them shine with food. We have plenty of delicious Rosés in our portfolio for your Valentine. Check them out.

Wine Awesomeness: Best Wine Club for Beginners

Launched in 2012, Wine Awesomeness is a popular wine club focused on helping millennials learn about cool wines from around the world without being pretentious. Their curatorial team, led by a Food & Wine Sommelier of the Year, “combs the globe to find the coolest, craveworthiest wines. This is vino you don’t see everyday, but will want to drink everyday.” The club was recently reviewed by Reviews.com, a website providing Product reviews, testings, and comparisons. The Reviews.com team looked at twenty online wine clubs and reduced the list to eight contenders and three final picks, based on how well they introduce curious drinkers to the depth and breadth of the world of wine in a affordable way. Wine Awesomeness was their pick for the Best Wine Club for Beginners: For the beginning wine enthusiast, Wine Awesomeness delivers a great experience at an affordable price (even the name seems targeted for a millennial audience). A price of $45 gets you three wines a month, and you can choose among red only, white only, a variety pack (including the chance for rosé or bubbly), or a $75 mondo pack featuring six wines. Each delivery arrives in a fun blue box with a … Continue reading Wine Awesomeness: Best Wine Club for Beginners

Beast of Brda — Kabaj is Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries 2016

For the third year in a row, Kabaj has been chosen as one of the Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries for 2016. While the trade and consumer aspects of the event are of course vital, one of the best things about the Top 100 is simply getting producers from all over the world under one roof to taste each others wines. And year after year, this has come to reinforce how unique the Kabaj wines are and how they compliment the wider world of wine. At the same time, the Kabaj wines are often pigeonholed as simply orange, skin contact, macerated, and or amber rather than simply grape and place. A technique over terroir argument to some. While it’s technically true in that Jean-Michel embraces skin contact, oxygen, and patience rather than a fresh, temperature controlled reductive style, we could also just call his wines “wines” without further labeling. These are the traditional grapes, farmed well, handled clean and simple in the cellar, and barreled down and topped up until incredibly stable and delicious. As such, there are immense distinctions between vintages, vivid grape typicity, and the wines are alive and evolving. To be clear, there are plenty of … Continue reading Beast of Brda — Kabaj is Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries 2016

#WineWednesday Spotlight #56: Kabaj Rebula

For the third time, Kabaj is one of the Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries for 2016 , an honor the winery also received in 2015 and 2013. Maybe most impressive is that many of the Kabaj wines reviewed by Wine & Spirits are white grapes fermented with the skins, a technique usually used for red wines. Call them orange, amber, macerated or skin contact whites, this ancient wine style is largely misunderstood and does not typically garner significant professional praise, especially with such consistency. The reason is simple: Kabaj does not make “an” orange wine. Besides a small amount of red, he makes only orange wine. Even in the wine region of Brda in western Slovenia where the technique has historic precedence, few producers have so much experience. As with red grapes, a poorly managed maceration of white grapes can erase all notion of variety and origin. Done correctly though, the technique can coax out and intensify subtle grape varieties and result in wines with aromatic expression and dimension that their un-macerated parallels lack. At Kabaj, 30 days maceration make Rebula more Rebula. Rather than the pale neutral wine all too common of Rebula (called Ribolla Gialla across the … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #56: Kabaj Rebula

#WineWednesday Spotlight #39: Štoka Teran Rosé

Is this a best-wine-ever story? Close at least. It was a hot and sunny day in Lake Tahoe and we were hiking to find a secluded beach on the east shore. When most of the Lake Tahoe summer visitors are familiar with the sandy beaches of the south and north shores, the east shore has a series of hidden beaches along Highway 28, only accessible by boat or by hiking down moderately steep trails. The one we were looking for was Skunk Harbor, a picturesque cove at the end of an old forest road. After hiking 1.5 miles or so under the fragrant Ponderosa Pines, we reached the shore of the lake with a magnificent view overlooking a sandy beach and its crystal clear water, surrounded by big granite boulders. There were a few boats anchored in the water and people swimming and jumping from the boulders. At the end of the trail, you can either continue straight down to the beach or turn left, follow the shore and reach an even more secluded cove called Axelrod beach, a perfect spot for picnicking, swimming and sunbathing. It’s on our way back to the car — a 560 vertical feet hike … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #39: Štoka Teran Rosé