#WineWednesday Spotlight #114: Kabaj Rebula

The Kabaj Rebula “is not the kind you get when cross the Florida-Georgia border; the kind you buy for your Aunt Millie who puts it away in a cabinet never to be looked at again.” For writer Patrick Ogle over at Surprising Wines, this orange wine is for adventurous palates. Giving white wines extended skin contact is something you see more of these days. It is a tough wine. It gives you the bird the whole time you are drinking it. Out of the bottle Rebula is tight even on the nose. It has an almost candied citrus peel nose with a bit of honey, but a honey with flowery characteristics (orange blossom). It smells like it is going to be sweet but instead it is harsh, woody, tannic (on a level you might associate with big red wines). You may get some citrus, or citrus skin, here but most fruit is buried initially. Patrick Ogle recommends opening the wine several hours in advance: When this wine calms down, when the tannins and woodiness retreat, you find that citrus and stone fruit blossoms. This starts several hours after opening (3 or more) but accelerates after 24 hours. It is still … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #114: Kabaj Rebula

#WineWednesday Spotlight #111: Kabaj Merlot

This month, the Kabaj Merlot 2012 is Wine & Spirits Magazine‘s critic’s pick: Jean-Michel Morel’s 2012 merlot is rich with ripe plum and black cherry flavors, but the wine never feels fat or jammy, thanks to the meaty tannins and savory notes of fresh-turned earth and roasted mushrooms. A distinct note of iodine lends a sanguine savor and enhances the wine’s Old World character. The 2012 vintage is not available yet in the US. In the meantime, try the 2011. It’s a complex wine, more savory than fruity, very well balanced, and ready to drink now.

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

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!).

The Rise of Blaufränkisch

It seems that in the last few years, Blaufränkisch (German for blue Frankish) has become Austria’s most successful red wine variety. It’s not a new grape: based on its name, we think that it had been growing in Central Europe since the Middle Ages. The name Fränkisch comes from Franconia, a German region praised for its quality wines in the Middle Ages, and so at the time, grapes that were producing superior wines were called Fränkisch. Better rootstock, denser plantings, better cover crops management and nuanced winemaking explain the recent rise in quality with more and more Blaufränkisch wines showing great complexity and finesse. Some producers describe Blaufränkisch using the “triangle” comparison: the grape has the elegance of Burgundy Pinot Noir, the pepperiness of Northern Rhône Syrah, and the structure of Piedmont Nebbiolo. Its home is Burgenland where many of the finest examples are grown. Carnuntum, a region just southeast of Vienna, is also a source of quality Blaufränkisch where they are especially fresh and elegant. Burgenland was part of Hungary until 1921, when most of it was annexed as Austria’s ninth and easternmost state after the dissolution of he Habsburg Empire. The exception was Burgenland’s capital Sopron, which was … Continue reading The Rise of Blaufränkisch

#WineWednesday Spotlight #100: Martinčič Pinot Noir Rosé

An hour’s drive from Ljubljana in Southeast Slovenia, the Dolenjska wine-growing district is one of Slovenia’s largest wine growing region. Thanks to a combination of alpine and continental climatic influences, its gentle, south-facing hills at the edge of the woods are ideal for growing grapevines. The region is famous for its light, fruity, low-alcohol reds, especially the Cviček, a traditional, slightly sour red wine made by blending red and white grape varieties. Made in the same light and fruity style, try this Pinot Noir Rosé from the family-owned Martinčič winery: showing a lovely pale salmon pink hue, the wine is dry and tangy with a refreshing round palate. With only 11% alcohol in a 1 Liter bottle, bring it to your next picnic with a cured salami and a fresh loaf of bread.

The Tart, Salty and the Nutty from the other side of the Adriatic: Summer Wines from the Balkans

15 wines is a lot to get through without losing you after this sentence. However, there is a salty, tart, and often nutty line that connects them all from the Bay of Trieste down to Southern Dalmatia. These are our table wines for the summer. For the past few years, we’ve brought the Martinčič Cviček liter in from Dolenjsko (in between Zagreb and Ljubljana in Slovenia). This tongue-twisting blend of red and white grapes must be between 8.5-10% alcohol and dry by law. Now we are finally adding two more liters to round things out – the 2016 Modra Frankinja (Blaufränkisch) and 2016 Modri Pinot Rosé (Pinot Noir). They are both around 11-11.5% alcohol, incredibly low in SO2, and are impossibly fresh and full of character. Chill all three down and let them come up at the table. Roughly 2 hours West and a bit south by car and you hit Istria (Istra in Slovenia). Dominated by Malvasia Istarska, Teran and Refošk, the diversity by soil and proximity to the Adriatic is immense. Keeping with the liter theme, the 2016 Santomas LNG Refošk is our Dolcetto by the sea in that it satisfies the pizza/pasta needs but still lends itself … Continue reading The Tart, Salty and the Nutty from the other side of the Adriatic: Summer Wines from the Balkans

#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