Tokaji Terroir

photoJust a short while ago we visited Tokaj, the historic Hungarian wine region, for the very first time. Here we witnessed a window into the very dynamic renaissance of wine making, fueled by highly motivated and very competent wine makers, the financial interests of (often foreign) investors, and the existence of a rather unique terroir and a proprietary style of wine making.

As my time allows I will report on this trip in short installments, today, let me introduce my co-travelers: my wife Zsuzsa Molnar, and our dear new friend, capable trip organizer, and wine collector extraordinaire, Charles Cruden. Zsuzsa is holding a new publication on Tokaj’s Terroir in her hand, while Charles is making arrangements for the next appointment on his indispensable cell phone.

Of course the man in the center of it all is Istvan Szepsy, the wine maker of Kiralyudvar who has been providing so much guidance and leadership for the emergence of the contemporary Tokaj. Our Thank You goes to him and all of his colleagues who are extremely hospitable, cheerful, and passionate in their mission to show the world: THIS IS TOKAJ.

Just Out: Austrian Wine Guide 2004/2005

guideIn time for the recent VieVinum wine show in Vienna, the Austrian wine magazine Falstaff has published the English language wine guide for 2004/2005. The German language original has long been indispensable for anybody interested in Austrian wines and her wine makers. Here is the slimmed down English edition, published for the second time around. Great resource that includes maps and information about the key wine regions in this small–but Oh so beautiful–wine country.

The Ultimate Austrian Wine Guide 2004/2005,290 pages, colour
in Europe: € 19,90, worldwide: € 22,90

Falstaff Publishing Ltd.Inkustrasse 1-7, A-3400 Klosterneuburg
Tel.: 0043-2243-34798, Fax: 0043-2243-25840

Kiss that Frog: Hungary

bookHungarian wines seem to crack their decade long ‘Sleeping Beauty’ spider web. These days even the English speaking world is starting to take note. At least the PR engines are starting to spit out English material about the topic. In any event, the Hungarian wine scene is certainly pretty dynamic today with more and more interesting wines being produced by a growing number of capable and very committed wine makers.

bookYou can catch up on the fast moving events try by reading either one of the following magazines: The UK’s Decanter Magazine contained a special booklet in their printed April 2004 issue, a US start-up named Wine Country International featured Hungary in its first edition, and a newly formed Hungarian group has posted a long introduction to contemporary Hungarian wine making as a 6MB Acrobat pdf file. It’s entitled Hungary Uncorked and is probably the most informative of the bunch. Well worth the download. Be aware that this will be more than 120 printed pages so keep an eye on your printer and keep some extra paper handy!!

10 Year Anniversary Tasting – The Age of Riesling

We have been waiting for the annual invitation to the big summer tasting hosted by Bay Area Riesling fan & wine merchant, Bill Mayer. Finally, his newsletter arrived with only a few weeks to go to the big event. Looks to us as if Bill still is the same sponti, except of the Berkeley variety, we were in Berlin some years ago. This time we’ve been surprised that it is already his 10th tasting in a row. More than 50 fine wines (mainly from Terry Theise’s portfolio of German and Austrian wines) will be served for a fee of only $30.

We have experienced a couple of earlier tastings and can attest: they are always fun, there are usually plenty of fine wines to sample, and a good time is had by all. Well worth the money!

Saturday, July 31st, 2004

12 noon to 5pm

Oakland, California

call Bill Mayer at: (510) 549-2444 or write him at

And keep Bill’s advice in mind: Don’t forget to spit!

Introducing Refreshing New Varietals from Hungary

Blue Danube Wine Company is proud to introduce the Craftsman series of wines from Hilltop Neszmély Winery of Hungary to California and the West Coast. This exciting new line brings the refreshingly flavors of some of Hungary’s finest grape varietals to American palates.

The six whites, two reds and one sweet wine have been carefully selected to capture the flavor and character of Hungarian wines. The varietals include Királyleányka, Irsai Olivér, Olaszrizling, Muscat Ottonel, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Grigio (Szürkebarát), Kékfrankos (Blaufränkisch) and Tokaji Aszú.

Hilltop Neszmély Winery is at the forefront of the renaissance of Hungarian wine making and internationally renowned wine critic Jancis Robinson terms the winery “one of the country’s leading wine exporters”.

Focusing on importing top wines from Central Europe, in particular from Austria, Croatia, and Hungary, Blue Danube Wine is pleased to expand its portfolio of sophisticated flavorful food friendly wines. Our winemakers combine old winemaking traditions and indigenous grape varietals typical of their regions to produce distinctive wines. more

94 points to Hilltop-Neszmely Tokaj Aszú

tokajWhat a big surprise when we read the recent Wine Spectator in which Bruce Sanderson conducted a major tasting of Tokaji wines imported to the U.S. Here is what he said about the Hilltop-Neszmely 5 Puttonyos Tokaj Aszú 1993:

Lush and smoky in aroma, with flavors of orange marmalade, apricot and smoke, this is elegant, with a vibrant structure coaxing the flavors to a lengthy conclusion. Really hitting its stride now. Drink now through 2010. 125 cases imported. Wine Spectator, June 15th, 2004

Well, we had just received our alotment of a few cases as part of taking on distribution of the dry Hilltop wines in California.

BTW we do sell the Hilltop Tokaj for only $39.95, not bad considering its excellent quality. This is your chance to give it a try if you have never tasted a Tokaj Aszú.

EuroCircle Party in San Francisco

We just participated in a great reception with a very interesting international group of people from EuroCircle. This is a loose association of Europeans and folks who love Europe (or a European ;-). EuroCircle has members all over the world and organizes events, parties, dances, and well: wine tastings. Check it out and join them at their next event near you.

Blue Danube Wine Company was selected to present some of our top wines. This evening’s winner by popular vote was the Cardinal made by the Weingut Giefing in Rust, Austria. Everybody agreed that this is a wonderful Austrian style blend. The guests who were invited by founder Kaisa Kokkonen and her SF volunteers to come to a fancy modern appartment overlooking Alcatraz in the Bay of San Francisco liked the Weinrieder Eiswein very much as well. We had to force them pour smaller glasses!

Indigenous Grapes are the Way to Go

Yesterday I attended an interesting tasting in San Francisco under the heading All About Greek Wine. This is some kind of loose association of Greek wineries exporting to the US market. The 15 or so wineries presented all offered good quality wines with prices ranging from $10 to $30. The claim was made that these wines represent the ongoing renaissance of wine making in this ancient country.

One theme stood out: the focus on indigenous grape varietals (rather than pouring the Cabs, Merlots, and Chards, which are also grown in Greece). I tasted many grapes for the first time in my life and my ears are still ringing from their beautiful sounding names: Agiorghitiko, Moschofilero, Malagousia, etc. Does not look like it when you see it written, does it? Get more info at:

The lesson I learned for our efforts to import wines to the US: focus on indigenous grapes and offer wines that are special and add a unique dimension to the world of flavors.

Kurt Feiler inducted to Academie Internationale du Vin

Kurt Feiler, the junior principal of the Feiler-Artinger estate in Rust, at Lake Neusiedl in Austria, has been inducted to the elite wine association Academie Internationale du Vin (AIV) headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

At the beginning of December Kurt Feiler will become the Academie’s youngest member and join internationally reknowned wine makers, critics, and chefs such as: Elio Altare, Léon Beyer, Yiannis Boutaris, Willi Bründlmayer, Michael Broadbent, Colette Faller, Angelo Gaja, James Halliday, Jean-Marie Peyraud, Bruno Prats, Serena Sutcliffe, Maurizio Zanella.

The wines of Feiler-Artinger are among the top Austrian wines in all categories, red, white, and sweet. I particularily enjoy their Ruster Ausbruch, a special botrytis wine made by only a few wine makers of the Ruster Ausbruch Cercle. Unfortunately, they are not easy to find in the US, so if you see a bottle, buy it!

Rieslings Deserve More Respect

Mike Dunne, the wine writer of the Sacramento Bee says: Rieslings deserve more respect. Dunne reports about a regular gathering of Riesling fans at the Thai Basil Cafe in Sacramento.
I have not attended any tastings yet but it does sound interesting and certainly indicates that Riesling continues to find new friends.