Experience Croatia and Slovenia’s Istria Region in the Flesh!

Being able to meet the people, eat the local food, attempt the language, and imbue every glass of wine with first hand experiences is why we got into the wine business. Context makes everything taste better. Plus, once you’ve visited, every time you have a wine from that place you’re immediately transported back. With this in mind, everyone at Blue Danube is happy to announce a partnership with Savor The Experience Tours, a company that has been running small group tours to Slovenia and Croatia for the past 9 years. As a Blue Danube Supporter, you’ll get 11 nights of winery visits, special feasts, and olive oil while staying with family run B&B’s. And once you return, you’ll have a gift certificate with us to purchase the wines stateside and relive the whole thing over again with friends and family. This October, don’t miss this unique opportunity to meet with some of Blue Danube’s best producers: Kabaj, Piquentum, and Kogl. For more information please contact info@savortheexperiencetours.com or call 206.529.4237.

NYT Resolution for 2014: drink adventurously, drink Kabaj!

Here is New York Times columnist Eric Asimov’s latest New Year resolution: 20 adventurous wines for $20 to drink this winter. Some are white, some are red, and all should warm your heart but they should also stretch your comfort zone: they will introduce you to intriguing grapes as well as little-known appellations from wine-growing regions rich in history and culture and long wine-making traditions. Besides the 2010 Kabaj Ravan from Goriška Brda in Slovenia listed in the article—“zesty and fresh with persistent, tangy flavors”—our portfolio contains plenty of intriguing wines for you to discover this winter. With fresh oysters on the half shell and crabs, enjoy a crisp and mineral Hárslevelű from Hungary. Experiment with skin macerated whites and try them with Swiss fondue or raclette. Consider the Croatian grapes Plavac Mali and Babić as delicious alternative to Zinfandel. Anyway, have fun! Happy Drinking and Happy New Year!

Beyond Italian Borders : Wines Of Croatia & Slovenia

When I first started selling wines from Croatia and Slovenia nearly four years ago, the myriad of Italian restaurants almost mocked me as I rolled my bag down the streets of New York City. Very often their food and quality of service were just begging to be married with the flavors and level sophistication of the bottles I had on hand. Yet, to get the Sommelier to even consider tasting was nearly impossible. “Sorry, Italian only wine list, no exceptions.” It’s not as if I was trying to pawn some New York State Riesling or Merlot onto their focused and curated list, these were wines that had an equally long tradition in the same regions as everything on their menu and these were the flavors that were meant for their food. Italy, perhaps more than any other country, embodies a strong sense of regional pride. All 20 regions have held fast to their gastronomic cultures, preserving their distinct styles of wine and food. Over the centuries the regions formed their unique cuisines based on what was available in their land. This is why ingredients like truffles are hallmarks of Piedmonte while a dish like veal Marsala is unmistakably Sicilian. It’s … Continue reading Beyond Italian Borders : Wines Of Croatia & Slovenia

Kabaj: TOP 100 Winery of the Year!

Congratulations Jean-Michel Morel! Kabaj wines have been praised by many wine critics and publications including Ed Behr’s “The Art of Eating”, Eric Asimov of the New York Times, Wine Enthusiast, Tasting Table National. Now we are thrilled that Wine & Spirits Magazine recently named KABAJ TOP 100 Winery of the Year. Jean-Michel and his family farm small plots of vineyards, where the Alps meet the Adriatic, on the Slovenian/Italian border in Goriška Brda, Slovenia. The name of the winery, Kabaj, is his wife Katja’s maiden name; Brda is their terroir: a special intersection of climate, geology, and culture that Jean intertwines into wine. Reflective of the diversity of their origin, there is something primal about them. Kabaj makes no fresh wine. Everything is aged and made to age. Dense in character, but never heavy, tension is drawn from minerality and grape tannin more than acidity. Less fruity than savory, the whites often have a textural quality akin to fine tea. They hate to be cold and typically show their best just below the temperature of their environment and company. The reds, made primarily from Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, are vinified in typical Bordeaux fashion and are intensely mineral … Continue reading Kabaj: TOP 100 Winery of the Year!

Teran is IRONic, because….

…it is grown in IRON rich soil called Terra Rossa and tastes of IRON. …though inky dark, Teran’s IRON cool character makes it a unexpectedly appropriate summer red. …while perfumed and pretty it is best suited to cured and chared rare meats. …Croatia has historic claim to the name Teran, but with their recent entrance into the EU, producers now have to find a new certainly less historic name for it. So, what is Teran? Italy, Slovenia and Croatia all produce wines called Teran (Terrano in Italy) that are related in both composition and form. In these three countries, the best examples classically come from patches of iron rich Terra Rossa soil that has significant influence on the wines. While there is a considerable variation in style among them, they relate to each other categorically. Intensely colored, they have typically more acid than tannin, though some extreme exceptions exist. They are ideally perfumed with brassy high toned fruit and an engaging medicinal/amaro edge that feels as nice as it smells. The sorts of grapes they are made from are related, but vary and are sensitive to the touch of the wine maker. We regularly find ourselves captivated by these wines, … Continue reading Teran is IRONic, because….

Blue Danube wines excell at Wine & Spirits 24th Annual Restaurant Poll

On May 1, 2013, Wine & Spirits Executive Editor Tara Q. Thomas organized a tasting of sommelier favorites from Eastern Europe for the Wine & Spirits 24th Annual Restaurant Poll. Watch the sommelier interviews that were conducted during the tasting and notice their enthusiasm for the wines: “These are wines with a sense of place, these are wines that tell a story of a remote region, and wines that make you travel, let’s say, imaginary travel while we’re drinking them.” shares Ciprian Toma from Domaine Wine Bar. Also note that several Blue Danube wines were among the sommelier favorites!

Silvo Črnko presents the 2012 Črnko Jareninčan

These humble liter bottles represent half of Črnko’s total production and until the 2009 vintage, had only been sold locally in the nearby village of Jarenina from where the wine takes its name. High toned Laski Riesling and Ravenec, aromatic Muscats, and a silty minerality characteristic of the estate define the 2012 vintage. During the summers in the village of Jarenina, locals mix it with sparkling water and then proceed to consume well into the next day.

Are orange wines the Kardashians of wine?

For a brief primer on “Orange Wines”, read this article by Richard Betts: Why Tecate Is Greater Than Orange Wine. Tart and pulpy, it strips the veneer of mystique off this totally misunderstood category of wine. First, it is important to point out that “Orange Wines” are not made out of oranges. They are white wines that are fermented on the skins like red wine, turning orange instead of red. Macerated white wine is the more appropriate term but what a unattractive name for a style. Not all “Orange Wines” are created equal; some are the product of tradition and experience and some are experiments. Success and failure exists among both schools but I do agree with Betts that most of them can go away. For me, they are too often plagued with any combination of over-extraction, oxidation, volatility, bacteria and sometimes things you can’t identify but do not enjoy. However, when they are right, they are right. Kabaj—mentioned as one of the exceptions in the article—is one of the masters. Subtlety, elegance, precision, texture, minerality, longevity define their wines. Since I will be there this time next week, now is a good moment to reaffirm my love of the … Continue reading Are orange wines the Kardashians of wine?

Why This Bottle Really? 2010 Kabaj Rebula

It was a nice surprise to find the 2010 Kabaj Rebula reviewed in the current issue of The Art of Eating. The Art of Eating is a quarterly publication that has nothing to do with these glossy food magazines that have more ads than recipes. It is instead all about telling stories that underscore the connection between traditions and the sense of place, stories about artisanal food and drinks and the people that make them. So in some way, this was not so surprising to find the Slovenian winery featured in the magazine. The Kabaj family has been farming vineyards on the terraced hills of Goriška Brda for generations but it is only in 1993 that Katja Kabaj and her French-born husband Jean-Michel Morel released their first vintage. Jean-Michel Morel, a Bordeaux-educated winemaker, proudly combines traditional winemaking—using some ancient techniques he studied in Georgia— with modern facilities built recently on the property. His approach is not to produce a fresh, crisp, fruit-driven international style. Instead, he vinifies his whites with long skin contact during maceration, goes through full malolactic fermentation on the lees, and ages them at least 12 months in large oak barrels. The article was written by Joe … Continue reading Why This Bottle Really? 2010 Kabaj Rebula

Grape Festival at the Slovenian Hall

What a memorable way to begin my career with Blue Danube! The other Saturday, Frank and I introduced some of Blue Danube’s current Slovenian portfolio at the Slovenian fair in San Francisco. It was both charming and informative discussing Slovenian wine with Slovenians. More than once did a Kabaj wine invoke a smile and a personal history. Cheerful strains of a Slovenian folk duo consisting of an accordion and a stringed fretted bass instrument echoed in the hall while some of the more free spirited Slovenians danced. The entertainment made for a great tasting atmosphere. The crowd favorite of the tasting was the Crnko Yellow Muscat. One of my favorite wines we were tasting was the Stoka Teran 2009-a fleet wine with an intense raspberry flavor, and touches of cinnamon and pepper. All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a more delightful introduction to Slovenian wine culture and Slovenian culture at large. Plus, now I know how well the Stoka Teran pairs with mushroom brie.