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

No Escape from Balkan

After a long hiatus, new Balkan wines from Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina are finally here the second week of July. After looking over previous trip photos, putting together a fairly impressive Balkan playlist (currently listening to Dubioza Kolektiv), cooking some homemade Burek, and adding Ajvar to my morning eggs, I started to realize how much I missed these wines. The combination of salty, herby, oxidatively alive and zero to full tannins that both go with seafood sets these wines apart. We’ve even added some sparkling, sweet, Amfora, and some wines with 10+ years of age on them for good measure. Štoka Family Starting near the Italian and Croatian border in Slovenia, the Štoka family has been farming for over 200 years. The reds are sanguine, high acid, seemingly Marasca cherry infused and pungent despite being low in alcohol. They make you want rare meat, charcuterie and basically anything cured or pickled. If you over do it, please consider making some “Istarska Supa.” Moreno Coronica Directly south on western coast of Istria near the town of Umag is the Coronica winery. Moreno’s grandfather was Austro-Hungarian, his father was Italian, he was Yugoslavian, and now his children are Croatian. It’s … Continue reading No Escape from Balkan

Meet our Women Vintners

Do you know that as many as 13 of the wineries in our current portfolio are run or co-run by women? Witnessing an increasing number of talented women involved in the wine industry on International Women’s Day is exciting. They may have taken different paths — some took over their family estate from their parents, others founded their wineries from scratch — but they are all passionate about their work. Whether they have a degree in oenology or learned the trade while working with their family, these women are making important contributions to viticulture and winemaking. In Austria, grower and winemaker Ilse Maier pioneered organic farming in Kremstal when she took over Geyerhof, the family estate, in 1986. Dorli Muhr resuscitated her family vineyards in Carnuntum and now produces some of Austria’s finest Blaufränkisch. In Tokaj, Hungary, winemakers Judit Bodó and Stéphanie Berecz founded respectively Bott and Kikelet wineries with their husbands and are now making some of the best wines of the region. In 2014, Stéphanie was awarded by her fellow winemakers the prestigious title of “winemaker of the winemakers”. Sarolta Bárdos who owns and runs Tokaj Nobilis was the winner of the prestigious award of 2012 Winemaker of … Continue reading Meet our Women Vintners

#WineWednesday Spotlight #50: Carić Bogdanjuša

British-born and wine lover Paul Bradbury — who has made the island of Hvar his adopted homeland — recently launched Total Croatia Wine, a new website dedicated to Croatian wine tourism, winemakers, wine festivals and wine shops and bars. The site has also a useful section on indigenous Croatian grapes, including this article on Bogdanjuša, a unique white grape varietal native to the island. If you’ve never been on the Croatian island of Hvar, you’ve probably never had Bogdanuša wine, an autochthonous white wine, found almost exclusively on that island – that has been, as legend has it, grown there since the time of the ancient Greeks. Originally found on the Stari Grad Plain, a cultural landscape protected by UNESCO that has remained practically intact since it was first colonized by Greeks in the 4th century BC and where vines were one of the major crops, along with the olives. It is a white wine of a very rich greenish-yellow colour, unexpectedly fresh taste (with just the right amount of bitterness that is rarely found in other wines from the Croatian islands) and quite low alcohol content, almost always around 12%. Those that like bogdanuša will tell you that its … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #50: Carić Bogdanjuša

Experiencing the aromas and flavors of Dalmatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina

Two Blue Danubian, Gisele Carig and Catherine Granger, visited Dalmatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina last April for the first time. Catherine: It’s been 2 months since our trip to Croatia and Bosnia and I still remember everybody’s kindness and generosity, the striking scenery, and of course, all these fabulous wines and local dishes we were able to taste. Gisele: One of my favorite food and wine moments of the trip happened on the last evening. We were relaxing on the Skradin marina with Alen and Vesna Bibić, along with a few of their friends. Alen was very generously pouring us his 2015 Debit. The light freshness of the wine along with its slightly green almond finish was exactly what we needed after two long weeks of traveling through Plavac country. Then it arrived…the risotto dreams are made of! Skradin is famous for this particular style of risotto appropriately called “Skradinski Rižot”. Traditionally made by men, this risotto is composed of veal that is cooked down for around 8 hours, or until it completely falls apart. The rich meat stock is added in stages to the rice as you would with any risotto. The texture is amazing! The meat basically becomes … Continue reading Experiencing the aromas and flavors of Dalmatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina

Croatian Wine Tasting at Bistro SF Grill

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you must go visit Bistro SF Grill! It is a cozy, intimate spot in San Francisco’s Lower Pacific Heights neighborhood. Co-owners Gino, Hasim, and Seni make you feel right at home with their slightly Balkan influenced menu and wine list; all three are originally from Bosnia-Herzegovina. We had the pleasure of spending an evening with them this week to celebrate our latest arrival of Croatian wine. The guys put together a flight of 5 wines for guests to choose which included: Bibich Debit, Šipun Žlahtina, Bibich G6 Grenache, Miloš Plavac Mali, and Dubrovački Crljenak Kaštelanski (aka Croatian Zinfandel). It was a fun night of exploration, good conversation, and wine! The experience is not complete without one of their fabulous burgers. I highly recommend the Balkan Burger, which is a lamb patty between pita bread with mint yogurt sauce.

Dalmatian Island Wine: The Carić Winery

Our friends Andrew Villone, of Savor the Experience Tours, and Wine Awesomeness teamed up to present this informative interview with Ivana Carić herself about why you need to visit Hvar and her winery. Particularly interesting are her local food and wine pairing suggestions. We, the Carić family, love salted anchovies served with raštika (collard). We pair this with our white wine Bogdanjuša. Collard is a very old type of cabbage, eaten in the Roman times. Today, it’s hard to find this form of cabbage in the market or in stores, but every house on the island has it in its garden. Read the whole article here. Browse Carić wines here.

The Captain of Krk and an Island Hvar Hvar Away…

Partly because it’s already hitting 80 degrees in my adopted hometown of Sacramento, and partly because I miss Croatia, I’d like to highlight two island wines this month. Island wine regions, whether they be Italian, Spanish, Greek, French, or Kiwi, are all fiercely independent with their respective language, food and wine. Croatia is no different and the Island of Krk and the Island of Hvar both possess something unique from the mainland. At the risk of both a Star Trek and Star Wars pun, these are both serious wines with great stories, made by wonderful people, and from impossibly beautiful places. 2013 Šipun Žlahtina, Island of Krk, Croatia… Crossing the bridge to the Island of Krk, one might be surprised by all the advertisements; some for a local casino, some for other types of seemingly out of place entertainment venues. Sadly this is the direction most of the inhabitants of the island are heading to generate income. The idea of producing a physical product, be it wine, olive oil, or other goods is being left behind for the easier income of renting out apartments. There is however, one man who is not only sustaining himself and his family with winemaking, … Continue reading The Captain of Krk and an Island Hvar Hvar Away…

Island Whites

Somewhere in Croatia (photo: Michael Newsome) The coast of Croatia is a rugged mountainous seascape of 1000 islands. From the barren Kornati to the forested shores of Korčula, these are the jewels of the Adriatic. 3,500 miles of craggy untamed limestone coast, awesome in the truest sense. Only 66 of the islands are inhabited. Krk (Ki-rrk), Hvar (huh-var), and Korčula (Core-chew-la) are three of the largest, and most important wine wise are still very much wild. Each is home to their own autochthonous (formed in its present position) grape varieties—found little or nowhere else on earth, under conditions unique to each island, capable of expressing their position and the culture of those who farm them. The soils vary but are all limestone based. Conditions tend to be wet in winter and hot and dry in summer. Each of these producers is working small plots by hand, the dry windy growing season rarely requires vineyard treatment. Krk, Croatia’s northerly, largest island has long been famous for wine. Less of the Dalmatian islands are under vine today than historically. The 250 hectares today are a shadow of the 2,500 under vine during Roman occupation. Within Krk’s Kvarner Valley winemaker Ivica Dobrinčić maintains … Continue reading Island Whites

Visiting Croatia with Eric and Michael: Carić Winery

On their recent trip to Croatia, Eric and Michael enjoyed their visit to the island of Hvar where they met Ivana and Ivo Carić. It’s a rare occasion to be eager to swim in the area where ferries dock but even more rare that the water there is crystal clear and littered with sea urchins and schools of fish. The moment we drove our mighty Fiat off of the boat, even before walking on solid land, it was obvious to us that this island is pristine and busy with life. We began our journey by meeting up with recent friends Marion and Zdravko Podolski. This couple who usually reside in California also have a house on Hvar and a near encyclopedic knowledge of it — check out their website. We joined up to meet, and beyond just visiting vineyards and tasting wine we circumnavigated and learned the history of the entire island and what makes it undeniably unique. Our first stop was to tour the UNESCO protected Stari Grad Plain. These are agricultural parcels (900x180m) called “Chora” replete with a rainwater collection system, cisterns, and rock walls dividing everything within a maze of stone roads. This may sound typical but … Continue reading Visiting Croatia with Eric and Michael: Carić Winery