Experiencing the New La Vinyeta

Over a summer two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe.

Through a personal connection we were very fortunate to get a first glimpse of an exciting new winery in north-eastern Spain near Figueres called, La Vinyeta. The overall region is called d.o. Emporda and this is a new winery that has been built over the last few years. They now lay claim to 40 hectares (100 acres) of thriving vines. Part of this area was and continues to be occupied by 75 year old vines that are growing Garnatxa (Grenache). The rest have been planted with many different varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot.


We were given a taste of the Merlot from the tanks before it has been aged in the French Oak barrels. It’s quite an exquisite wine that has a nose like that of a Merlot that has already been aged for five years or more. The taste is relatively light and will need some time in the oak to really play out the full potential, which will undoubtedly be fantastic.

In addition to the Merlot, we were given a real treat in trying the Garnatxa from the tanks. In two words: absolutely delicious. For those not familiar with this, it’s a sweet wine that shares some flavors in common with Tokaj, but is very much its own. You’ll taste wonderful caramel flavors as well as smell these aromas in it.
rosatAs a sharp contrast to the age of these vines is the owner, Josep Serra Pla, who is a very fresh face in the winemaking business at only 29. A native of the area, he has invested a great deal of time and money in to building this winery quite literally from the ground up. While the Merlot and Garnatxa have yet to be released unfortunately, they have already released a Rose that is called Heus Rosat, a white called Heus Blanc, and a red called Heus Negre (the Catalans refer to red wine as a “black” wine, thus the ‘negre’). Both are solid wines at their core and while only currently available in Spain, they show great promise for La Vinyeta. We look forward to tasting more in the near future!

Europe Travels

Over a summer two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe.

Your hosts: Michael and Elia. Their target: wines of Southern Europe.

We are Michael and Elia, two seasoned travelers and wine lovers who will be writing a series of blog posts for Blue Danube Wine as we travel around Mediterranean Europe, sampling the local wines and cuisines. We will be writing both about wineries that are trying new methods of production like “biodynamic” and about those that have done things the same way for literally hundreds of years. While we are not on a quest to find out what it is that ultimately defines these wines, we will definitely be noting similarities and comparing how different growing techniques, climates, and cultures affect the wines of each region we pass through.

We are starting our trip in north-eastern Spain, in the region of Catalonia. From there, we will be making our way to southern Dalmatia in Croatia, including a few of the islands. Then, we will look in to the wines of recently independent Montenegro before heading up to neighboring Serbia. After a stop in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we will be back out on the coast of Croatia to try the wines of northern Dalmatia. We’ll then turn inland again to try the continental varietals of Croatia before stopping in Slovenia to taste their offerings.

This trip is going to take several months and we look forward to everyone following along as well as being able to sample a great many of the wines we will be tasting, by purchasing them on this site. Pleasant reading!

Movia Wine Dinner

Aleš KristančičFrank told me that A Cote in Oakland would be pouring several of Movia’s wines paired with a five course meal and hosted (or more narrated as I found out) by Aleš Kristančič who is part of the family that has been making these wines since 1820 in Slovenia. I could ramble on and on about how great the food was and how good the company was but it was the second course where they poured the 2001 Pinot Noir, where I paused.

I have something of a romantic longing for this wine. The first time I tasted it, was in 2006, in the wine bar that Movia owns in Ljubljana. The bar is quite a place to see if you’re ever there, framed by the beautiful old city that wraps around the hill upon which the old castle stands. It all adds to the atmosphere and sitting in the dark recesses of this bar, it would have been impossible to not enjoy what I was drinking, which was the Movia Pinot Noir. Naturally, I longed for another sip once back the US.

Movia WinesAs I sat in A Cote, I looked in my glass. Could it be my long-lost wine? I inhaled and then I drank. It was as I remembered. The deep flavors swirled around. It had that great plushness that I so love in a Pinot Noir. There was a slightly tannic aftertaste to it, but it finished great. Yes, they do a fine job with this wine. This dinner was a great taste of just some of the wines that Slovenia has to offer. I highly recommend them if you get the chance to taste them.

Happy Birthday, Loisium

Prof. Dr.Tim P. reports from his recent trip to the Austrian wine regions:

After your tenth or twentieth or two hundredth winery visit, they all start to look the same—tanks over here, barrels over there, crush pad in the back, tasting room out front. The same is true for wine bars and wine lists: even the most creative combinations end up sounding familiar after a while. The next fancy wine tasting bears an uncanny resemblance to the last fancy wine tasting.


And then there’s the Loisium, a wine experience absolutely in a class by itself. No; make that its own universe. It’s quite a package: whimsical, ultra-modern architecture linked with ancient wine cellars; spacey sound and light environments; a blend of wine history that’s half fact and all fantasy. You might expect this kind of edgy wine trip to pop up in New York or London or maybe Berlin — not in the middle of a vineyard in Langenlois, Kamptal, way out in the Austrian countryside, where it opened in September 2003. more…

Croatian White Wines Getting Great Press

Matt Markovich writes in the San Francisco Bay Guardian the wine column Bottle Rockets (yes, that’s what they call it!). This week he is reporting on a recent trip to Dubrovnik in Croatia. Clearly, Matt had a great time sampling a number of Plavac Mali red wines. This is the ancestor of the Californian Zinfandel which in turn is the reason Matt entitles his article Original Zin.

But his real love is for a particular Croatian white wine, the Pošip Čara made on Korcula Island where the famous world traveler Marco Polo was born. Matt sings the praises of this wine:Posip

Despite tasting around, we found ourselves ordering Posip Cara (poe-ship charrah) again and again. The experience of taking sips and gulps of chilled Cara in the hot sun was like taking a slurping, juicy bite from a perfect green apple. Always smooth, never too tart, and free of any alcohol bite or bitterness, it made me curse the fact that it’s apparently unavailable in the States.

Do we have good news for him and all other lovers of this fine Croatian wine. You can buy it in the US! We do have it in stock and a number of restaurants carry it on their wine list. So get in touch with us and we’ll get a few bottles of the Pošip Čara to you, pronto!

And since we are at it, let’s also quote the newest edition of the illustrious UK wine magazine Decanter reporting from “the world’s best wine competition”:

“Thank goodness for the Croatian whites, which sang of their roots and pierced the tastebuds; great wine making and not just a happy origin.”

What more is there for us to say than: the same is very true for the Croatian red wines.

World Wine Market files for Liquidation

We are sad to read the news that the World Wine Market filed for Chapter 7 (i.e.liquidation). This was the San Francisco based wine trade show where Blue Danube Wine Company got its public start in 2003. We also participated in the next year with an expanded portfolio of wines from Austria, Croatia, and Hungary.

For us, the World Wine Market provided direct exposure to some of the key people in the trade and media in California and elsewhere in the US. It was a great venue for networking: for instance, we met the folks from Cafe Europa in Boston, Mass. and started distributing their Croatian wines from FeraVino in California. Next year, we met the top management from the import and distribution company Wine for Everyone and convinced them to represent us in the State of Florida.

We will miss this show right in our neighborhood and close to the center of the Californian wine industry. For the gory details of why the WWM failed as a business turn to the article in the North Bay Business Journal.

Winemaker Wohlmuth Visits California

This weekend we had guests from Styria, the only Austrian wine region where Gruener Veltliner is not king but where Sauvingnon Blanc, Muskateller, and Morillon (Chardonnay) shine. At NiebaumIt also happens to be the birthplace of California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Styria’s top wine maker Gerhard Wohlmuth came with his wife Maria and their friends from their home town Kitzeck. They were invited to present the Wohlmuth wines at the big Annual Styrian Ball which took place in Sacramento’s Sheraton Hotel. And since wine is their life they were eager to tour the Californian wine country. One day it was Napa Valley, then it was on to Sonoma’s Russian River, and finally to the Lodi Wine Center in the Central Valley.We started the day with a visit to the historic Niebaum-Coppola estate. Here are the Wohlmuths and the Schauers in front of a spectacular stained glass window. At NiebaumWe all agreed that the flagship Rubicon 2000 was one of the finest wines we sampled that day, together with a rare Mondavi Fume Blanc Reserve, exclusively made from grapes grown in the I-bloc.

But Wohlmuth was as eager to let the Californians taste his wines as he was to taste theirs and to convince everybody that he is a world class wine maker himself. So we organized a small tasting group with wine writer Mike Dunne from the Sacramento Bee and a few Sacramento experts on good food and even better wine, including wine merchant David Berkley and Austrian born chef Ivonne Morgan from Cafe Vienna. The picture of course shows wine connoisseur Darrell Corti giving Gerhard Wohlmuth valuable

Victors Wine of the Month: Our Királyleányka

Today, we are the recipient of a lucky double whammy: This morning we read in the Sacramento Bee Mike Dunne’s favorable notes about the Irsai Olivér made by the Hilltop Neszmély Winery, then the letter carrier delivered the new Newsletter edited by bottle shop owner and tasting bar manager Victor Pugliese of Vin, Vino, Wine, our favorite wine shop in Palo Alto.

Victor has published the VVW News for almost two decades. During that time it has been a monthly guide for us into the wide world of wine. You can imagine how proud we are when he surprised us by selecting one of the Hungarian wines we distribute as his featured White Wine Value of the Month. Here is what he had to say about the Királyleányka:

“The world is a big place. One of the cool things about it is that you’ll never master it, you’ll never know everything. There are always new discoveries. In that spirit, and in the spirit of bringing you the best, most interesting wines we can find, here is a new discovery for us, a Hungarian white, from an Eastern European grape called Kiralyleanyka.

It comes from the Neszmély district along the Danube, between Vienna and Budapest. It is in the style of a very good Pinot Grigio, or Gruner Veltliner – bright, zesty fruit, a sprinkling of spices and herbs, a hint of minerality. It is dry and unoaked, with a svelte texture and simple deliciousness that is remarkable for its price.

The label is a bit kitschy and international, understandable, perhaps, when you think about the hurdles a purely Hungarian language package must have in foreign markets. But the wine in the bottle is what counts, and it is both a bargain and a gem.”

We could not have said it any better. Interestingly enough, it is this wine with the funky name which was selected by another wine merchant with a distinguished track record and excellent tasting buds: David Berkley of the fine wines and speciality foods store in Sacramento which carries his name and relies on his reputation. The best advice we can give you, our dear reader, is to follow the advice of experienced wine merchants like David and Victor and let them assist you in making new discoveries. Expanding the dimensions of your wine world and adding new flavors to it can be so much fun!

Blogging Back: Dunne on Wine in the Sac Bee

Thanks to Mike Dunne, restaurant and wine editor of the Sacramento Bee, we have the honor to publish our first Blog-Back. You may ask: What’s a Blog-Back? Well, in his wine column, Dunne on Wine – Blogging through a week in the life of a wine writer,

just out today, Mike writes about a tasting of the Irsai Olivér. This is a new Hungarian white wine which he tasted at the famed Corti Brothers store in Sacramento. Blue Danube Wine Company happens to be the distributor of this fine wine, one in a line-up of eight fresh and fruity wines from the Hilltop Neszmély winery in Hungary. And he is so kind to link to our wine blog, the very one you are reading here.

So we take the opportunity to say: “Egéségedre, Mike, i.e. Good Health to you (in Hungarian) and Thank You, too.” And Blog-back to his column at the Sacramento Bee so that our readers might check out his informative writings.

We also want to make sure you are aware that you can purchase a bottle of the Irsai Oliver at Corti Brothers in Sacramento and a few other places around the Bay Area. Just look here for more info about the stores. If you are interested to learn more about this wine and other Hungarian liquid beauties like Királyleányka, Muskat Ottonel, Kékfrankos, and such we invite you to our home page: www.BlueDanubeWine.com

Svijet u Čaši

Svijet u CasiAfter many long hours of trying to find information on Croatian wines I’ve finally come across Svijet u Čaši the web site of a magazine published in Zagreb. It’s in Croatian only which is why I have started to learn a little Croatian. The name means “The World in a Shot” or shall we say “The World in a Glass”. I hope I am not making too much a fool of myself with this translation.

Anyhow, the web site has tasting notes, a detailed map of Croatian wine regions, and a buying guide. The latter does not mean much here in the US other than some indications as to who is hot, excuse me, Who is Who of Croatian wine making. If you are interested to taste the real thing and not just look at the virtuality of top Croatian wines you should look at our excellent selection of Graševina, Frankovka, Dingac, Postup, etc, definitely one of the very best in the U.S. of A.

I started a subscription to the paper edition and will keep you abreast as to what I can learn from it. For now, go to the web site and brush up on your Croatian.