My first official Blue Danube Wine Co tasting since having relocated to NYC mid-July was just down the street from where I am staying in Bed-Stuy. Appropriately named Bed-Vyne Wine, it is owned and operated by Michael Brooks. A big community advocate, Michael often adds a wine component to the many neighborhood events. This time he teamed up with the good people at Common Grounds, a cozy coffee shop around the corner from Bed-Vyne, an artist who paints on canvas with spray cans, and a line up of our Hungarian delights.
The favorites were the delicate Szõke Királyleányka , praised for its refreshment, and the sweet/spicy Törley Fortuna. Though this was a free tasting (as retail tastings in NY are), the participants were way into this Hungarian wine stuff and bought the store out of the Törley. Super casual atmosphere, people good and curious to taste and learn, this is all that’s needed for true wine appreciation. You don’t even need stemware!
Eventually, I would like to do something bigger with Bed-Vyne that incorporates the full throttle Jamaican and Trinidadian cuisine and strong musicality of the area. We may have to bring the Fortuna back for the Jamaican jerked chicken.
Thank you to Bed-Vyne for inviting us to this event and a special thanks to Tremaine of Common Grounds for her fine hospitality and refreshing lemon blueberry smoothy.
91 PointsKabaj 2006 Goriška Brda Cuvée Morel: Winemaker Jean-Michel Morel bases this blend on merlot (60 percent) along with cabernets sauvignon and franc and a small amount of petit verdot. But it is not merlot-easy. The musky scent and potent, gravelly tannins made it austere, a powerful, chewy red that needs bottle age. Already sophisticated, with a bit of a swagger in its personality, this is built to cellar. 91 PointsKabaj 2009 Goriška Brda Ravan: Ravan is another name for zeleni sauvignon, which is [tokaj] friulano across the border in Friuli. This one is golden in color and massively fruity, balancing its grassy passionfruit flavors with a clean, tense line of acidity. It ends on a smoky note. A match for roast partridge. 88 PointsKabaj 2009 Goriška Brda Rebula (Best Buy): Deep gold in color and smoky in its scent, this wine focuses on lees and tannins, holding juicy apple flavors underneath. The structure lends it a pleasing textual roundness, finishing firm, almost gruff. For braised dark meat chicken. 92 PointsKabaj 2007 Goriška Brda Amphora: Fermented as whole berries in buried clay amphorae, this rests and clarifies in sealed vessels for ten months before racking to oak tanks for another year. The blend is primarily ribolla along with malvasia and friulano, coming together in something grand. The texture is juicy, the structure tannic and tight, the flavors more meaty than fruity, somewhere between halvah and the crown roast of pork with which it would be delicious. 91 PointsKogl 2010 Podravje Mea Culpa Pinot Gris (Best Buy): a pinot gris with clean flavors of the grape, this layers pears and whetstone scents with pale wheat. It’s lush and creamy while holding to freshness. Serve this cellar temperature with an oyster pan roast. 86 PointsKogl 2010 Podravje Belo (Best Buy): equal parts riesling, sauvignon and chardonnay, this packs floral scents of lilies into a crisp white with spice to match its vibrant acidity. For afternoon, sipping. 90 PointsBatic 2009 Vipavska Dolina Pinot Gris: the color is a rosé tawny, the grape flavors edging toward red as well, with a hint of cranberry and tangerine. This is austerely dry, a meaty, full-bodied, ﬂinty white to serve with roast veal.
Our Austrian bio-estate Geyerhof continues to gather many kudos from wine critics. In their July edition the Wine Enthusiast awarded 90+ points to two Gruner Veltliner: Steinleithn and Gaisberg, both from premier cru vineyards: 93 Points Geyerhof 2010 Steinleithn Erste Lage Reserve Grüner Veltliner (Kremstal): Steely and mineral in character, this is a taut, nervy wine. It has great acidity and balance, with green fruit and sliced apple flavors. Keep for 3–4 years. Screwcap. 92 PointsGeyerhof 2010 Gaisberg Erste Lage Reserve Grüner Veltliner (Kremstal): While the wine is technically dry, its richness gives it a sweeter sensation. The ripe apricot and pineapple fruit is cut with knife-like acidity, allowing this concentrated wine to remain poised, with a crisp finish.
The Kirchensteig Vineyard was a cellar selection, online exclusive: 93 Points Geyerhof 2010 Kirchensteig Erste Lage Reserve Riesling (Kremstal): One of a series of great single-vineyard wines from Geyerhof, this is as impressive as the rest. It has weight, complexity and richness. Its perfumed fruits provide a delicate counterpoint to the acidity, taut minerality and herbal edge. For aging over at least five years.
And Jon Bonné of the San Francisco Chronicle marvels about the Geyerhof 2010 Gaisberg Reserve Grüner Veltliner: “The Maier family has long occupied a lesser known part of the Kremstal, on the south side of the Danube. While their Rosensteig is beautifully refreshing, the loess-filled Gaisberg vineyard offers up Gruner as meditative object: White spices and red apple, with all the Kremstal’s filigreed delicacy but also a heady, warm side of ripe quince, pear liqueur and marjoram. Think sturgeon.”
Born and raised in Tokaj, Sarolta embodies a strong maternal sensibility coupled with a keen sense of the changes and challenges facing probably the best known, but arguably most forgotten wine region in the world – Tokaj-Hegyalja. Beginning her career studying at the University of Horticulture in Budapest, she also took advantage of the recently fallen Iron Curtain and spent time in France, Italy and Spain.
Upon returning to Hungary, she worked at Gróf Degenfeld and soon after became the inaugural winemaker at Béres Winery in nearby Erdőbénye overseeing 45 ha of vineyards. Preferring closer attention to detail and the total knowledge inherent in small-scale winemaking, she left and planted her own 6 ha in 1999. In 2005 a traditional 19th century house was converted into a winery and cellar in the middle of the town of Bodrogkeresztúr, 5 kilometres from Tokaj. She grows mostly Furmint along with Hárslevelű, Muscat and Kövérszőlő.
Kövérszőlő, also known as Fehérszőlő (the fat grape) originated in Transylvania but also found a home in Tokaji and in neighboring Romania. In the mid 1800’s Phylloxera nearly wiped it out, but a few plantings survived and it’s slowly making a comeback thanks to a handful of growers. Big berried, early ripening, and high in potential sugar made it historically ideal for Aszú production, but with extensive pruning, crop management, and picking early, Botrytis (Noble Rot) can be avoided.
Planted in mineral rich rhyolite tuff soils, hand-picked, fermented with native yeasts in used Hungarian Oak, and with no added sulfur until bottling, the wine is greenish in color, honeyed without the weight you’d expect, and possess all of the characteristic spice and salinity of Tokaji. This is the resurrection of one of the oldest grapes in the oldest wine appellation in the world.
We will receive a very small amount of this wine by the end of September. Please contact email@example.com for pricing and availability.
87 PointsTörley Etyek Gála Sec (Best Buy): a charmat-method blend of chardonnay, pinot noir, riesling and királyleányka, this is frothy and floral. The clean, crisp red apple and green pear flavors make it a refreshing aperitif or companion to a seafood curry.
Our Törley Hungaria Grande Cuvée also received a Best Buy designation: 86 PointsTörley Etyek Hungaria Grande Cuvée Brut (Best Buy): Törley’s flagship bottling, this is a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and riesling fermented in bottle and left on the lees for a year and a half. broad and full with sweet red apple flavors, it’s weighted for richer dishes, like biscuits and gravy at brunch.
San Fransisco based freelance photographer Robin Jolin has expertly documented a number of Blue Danube Wine Co events. Usually asking for payment in wine, we have watched her interest grow beyond the glass. Robin and her husband Jarred made their first trip to Middle Europe this past April. They spent two weeks wandering between the Slovenian/Italian border and the Island of Krk visiting wine producers and absorbing the hospitality, culture, olive oil, truffles, and most of all wine. The photographs are Robin’s, the words are Jarred’s. Read and view with caution, or risk an impulse purchase of a plane ticket to Ljubljana.
Stetson: Beforehand what were your expectations of this trip?Jerred: We expected to experience a beautiful foreign land with the freedom a rented, compact automobile offers, all the while remaining well-fed on delicious, local fare and wine varietals, and to meet a small cross section of those responsible for creating these delectable treats. One aspect of traveling through this part of the world that we didn’t expect was the hospitality offered us by the winemakers we visited. Although strangers they treated us like important guests, providing us with anything necessary to keep us satiated. Another aspect we didn’t expect was the price differential between the cost of beer and the cost of wine at cafes and restaurants. In both Slovenia and Croatia, the cost of a beer was generally 2 to 2.5 times that of a quality glass of wine which is opposite of the way things work here in the U.S. of A.
Stetson: What was the most difficult part?
Jerred: The most difficult part of the trip for us was navigating without a GPS unit. While we did have a road map, accessed google maps at times, and managed to reach all of our destinations without getting seriously lost, it wasn’t always the case that directions were easy to follow. Getting into the cities and villages was simple enough but it became more challenging when looking for specific places based on building number/street name combos, especially when the latter weren’t clearly marked. Another difficulty was when my navigator began dozing on the job.
Stetson: Was it a challenge not speaking the language?
Jerred: For the most part somebody was around that could speak a little english so it wasn’t as challenging as we’d expected. The language is difficult with respect to pronunciation which resulted in us mispronuncing things quite regularly. One humurous recurrence was when Robin thanked people in Slovenian. The word for it is ‘Hvala,’ however Robin consistently pronounced it ‘Valhalla’ which is a hall in Norse mythology in which heroes killed in battle were believed to feast with Odin for eternity. So, we’d be at a restaurant or something and the server would say something like:
“Here is some complimentary mistletoe grappa.”
And Robin would respond:
“The hall in Norse mythology in which heroes killed in battle were believed to feast with Odin for eternity.”
Stetson: What is the first wine that comes to mind from the trip?
Stetson: The first meal?
Jarred: A plate of lardo in Portoroz, Slovenia. Chewing this stuff wasn’t even necessary; one could just mush it around with their tongue and it would dissolve into a buttery goodness that coated the throat all the way down to the stomach. It was a huge portion and we didn’t want to look silly like we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into so we forced it down until the possibility of intestinal discomfiture became very real.
Stetson: Where did you not stay long enough?
Jerred: Ljubljana, Slovenia. This capital city was charming, reasonbly priced, historical, and full of culture. At the top of the hill was the Grad Ljubljana while below graffiti of all forms and types adorned both modern and old buildings. History of human settlement in this area dates back roughly 10000 years and the oldest known wooden wheel and axle (dating back some 5100 years) were exhumed from the Ljubljana marshes. Also, Jason of Argonauts reknown was believed to have slain a dragon here, the likeness of the latter being displayed throughout the city. Far too much to see and comprehend in the short amount of time we had here.
Stetson: What cultural difference did you most enjoy?
Jarred: That a plate of prosciutto and salami was the cornerstone of a typical breakfast meal.
Stetson: Are there any customs you encountered that you would like to incorporate into your lives?
Jarred: Using olive oil as a spice vs. using it only for cooking. At numerous restaurants, dishes would be drizzled with delicious olive oil that greatly accentuated the flavors contained in them. I’m sure this also had to do with the exceptional quality of their oils, too.
Stetson: What type of person would you recommend travel to Slovenia and Croatia?
Jarred: Somebody who is interested in the confluence of cultures and how, with time, these come together to form something new.
Stetson: What single shot best represents the trip for you?
Jerred: A shot of firey grappa at the conclusion of a meal.
We have been pretty busy at Blue Danube Wine this spring. Several weeks ago, we were featured at Google’s Wine Wednesday, a biweekly tasting event organized by the Google wine club. To help the chefs of the hosting cafe prepare tidbits that could be paired with each wine, we had brought some wine samples to them ahead of time.
We anticipated that few Googlers would be familiar with Central-Eastern European wines so we chose the following selection of wines from Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, and Croatia, showcasing some of the best wines currently produced along the Danube river and the Dalmatian coast:
2010 Sommer Bergweingarten M Grüner Veltliner: founded in 1698, the Sommer Winery is now run by winemaker and Grüner Veltliner specialist Leo Sommer and his wife Silvane. The estate is located in the Neusiedlersee-Hügelland region near Lake Neusiedl in eastern Austria. The wine was dry, crisp, mineral with a good structure on the palate. The chefs chose to pair it with a creamy Morel and Aspargus Risotto.
2009 Kabaj Ravan: Kabaj Winery is owned and run by French-born winemaker Jean-Michel Morel and his wine Katja Kabaj. It is located in Goriška Brda in Western Slovenia, an appellation known as Collio on the Italian side of the border. The wine is 100% Sauvignon Vert also known as Friulano in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. The wine is aged in French barrique for malolactic fermentation and 12 months on the lees. Paired with Brandade, a salt cod puree with garlic and olive oil, it was medium-bodied with a moderate acidity, nutty flavors and a distinctive complexity on the finish.
2009 Krajančić Intrada: Pošip is a Croatian indigenous grape variety primarily found on the island of Korčula in Dalmatia and Poet winemaker Luka Krajančić of Krajančić Winery is one of the best Pošip producer on the island. The wine’s name is Intrada, which means entrance and it is the best introduction to the Krajančić Pošip production. Showing an attractive floral nose, it had a good concentration on the palate with a mouth filling acidity. This was a last minute addition to our tasting so there was no proposed food pairing for the wine. 2009 J. Heinrich Blaufränkisch Goldberg: the wine is produced by Johann Heinrich of J. Heinrich Winery, located in the Mittelburgenland wine region, Austria’s red wine country. It is 100% Blaufränkisch sourced from the estate’s top vineyard, the Goldberg, from vines Heinrich’s grandfather planted 50 years ago. The wine was dark with a nose of wild berries and black cherries. On the palate, it was spicy with balanced tannins and acidity. It was paired with Smoked Duck Breast Salad & Preserved Stone Fruit.
2008 Eszterbauer Tüke Bikavér: The Tüke Bikavér is a modern, well-crafted version of the traditional Hungarian Bull’s Blood. It is a rich and complex blend of Kékfrankos, Kadarka, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc, produced by 10th generation winemaker Janos Eszterbauer of Eszterbauer Winery. The winery is located in the Szekszárd Wine Region, one of the oldest red-wine-growing areas in Hungary. The Google chefs proposed Lamb Sliders & Pepper Ragout to go with this food friendly wine.
2005 Miloš Stagnum: the wine is produced by Frano Miloš, a true artisan winemaker on the Croatian peninsula of Pelješac. Is is 100% Plavac Mali, a cross between the original Zinfandel (Crljenak) and Dobričić, an ancient grape variety from the Dalmatian coast. The wine is sourced from steep sloping vineyards facing the sea. The wine had a dark color and rich flavors of dark fruits and dried herbs. A big favorite of the Google chefs, it was paired with Wagyu Ribeye with Fingerling Potato Chips, Garlic Aioli, English Pea Puree.
2006 Patricius Red Lion 3 Puttonyos: founded by the Kékessy family, the Patricius Winery is located in an remodeled wine press house in the historical Tokaj-Hegyalja wine region. A blend of 70% Furmint, 30% Hárslevelű, this Tokaji Aszú 3 Puttonyos (out of 6 Puttonyos) is moderately sweet with aromas of ripe, juicy apricots, and very refreshing on the finish. It was paired with crunchy little Blue Cheese Puffs.
Ildikó Eszterbauer and vineyard manager Miklós Klein are visiting the United States for the first time and will be pouring their wines in New York at Alphabet City Wine Co. in the East Village on Friday, May 18th from 6 to 9pm.
Next week, Miklós and Ildikó will be at Anfora‘s Producer Night on Tuesday, May 22. Then on Wednesday, May 23, they will be hosting a Hungarian Wine Class & Dinner at Terroir Murray Hill from 7:30-9:00pm. The wines will be accompanied by seasonal salads, spring bruschetta’s and an array of fried treats. Only $30 for food, wine and good times!
The Great GoogaMooga is coming to Brooklyn this weekend. GoogaMooga is a music festival in historic Prospect Park with a spotlight on the food and the wine. A feast of elevated street food will be served, including foie gras doughnuts, dirty duck dogs, and pork-belly-shawarma tacos.
Blue Danube will be there with our special guests Ildikó Eszterbauer from the Eszterbauer winery in Szekszard and her fiancé and vineyard manager Miklós Klein.
We’ll be serving a selection of Eszterbauer wines as well as our Croatian best sellers, the BIBICh R6 Riserva and Dingač Pelješac. The Črnko Jareninčan, a juicy 1 Liter blend of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, will be our “housewine” for the event.
Last week, we enjoyed the visit of Axel and Herta Stiegelmar, the charming owners of Juris Winery, who participated in a series of promotional events in San Francisco and Los Angeles. In San Francisco, they were featured at Portfolio, our annual tradeshow located this year at the San Francisco Old Mint, pouring their Pinot Noir and St. Laurent wines non-stop from 11:00am to 3:00pm.
Juris is a family estate in Gols, Burgenland, run by the Stiegelmar family since the late 1500’s. After acquiring practical experience in Germany, Bordeaux and California, Axel Stiegelmar is now considered a Pinot Noir and St. Laurent specialist, producing wines of character and style with aging potential.
Pinot Noir and St. Laurent are two difficult and fussy grape varieties that have actually many common characteristics. Pinot noir was most likely brought to Austria in the late 14th Century by Cistercian monks from the Order’s motherhouse in Burgundy. It grows well in the mild climate regions of Burgenland and Thermenregion (Lower Austria) and is recently gaining more importance in the country (1.4% of the plantings in 2009, up from about 0.8% in 1999).
The origins of St. Laurent are mysterious but thanks to genetic testing, it is believed to be a crossing between Pinot Noir and an other unknown vine. Like Pinot Noir, it came to Austria from France and is now planted in Burgenland and Lower Austria. Because St. Laurent ripens sooner than Pinot Noir, it is well suited to regions with short growing seasons like Austria. It is also one of these finicky grapes that has been recently rediscovered by Austrian growers. In 2009 it covered 1.7% of the total grape plantings in Austria, up from 0.9% in 1999.
After Portfolio, we all met again at Bar Tartine in the San Francisco Mission for a wine and food event featuring a vertical lineup of Juris Reserve St. Laurent from 2002 to 2009. My favorite was the 2005, a well-balanced wine, with rich fruits, good complexity, and an elegant finish.
To accompany the wines, chefs Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns provided tasty little tartines, small open-faced sandwiches topped with various Eastern European inspired ingredients.