After a long stretch of wet weather, Northern California is finally heating up. The hills are green with bright patches of orange poppies, purple lupine and yellow mustard flowers. It’s finally springtime and for our friend Marcy Gordon, it’s time to open a sunny and bright Bibich Sangreal Merlot: Spring is here and I decided to open a Bibich Sangreal that I’ve been hoarding for a while to pair with a mushroom polenta dish. At first, I thought Uh Oh..,I’ve held it too long. Then about 8 minutes later it was all…Ahhh….Yes!! It’s got that tell-tale Croatian salinity and that almost indescribable smell (a cross between a sunny beach and a lavender sage martini ) a Mediterranean garrigue that is undeniably Croatian. First taste was almost lemony and sour cherry. But upon opening, the body softens, the tannins unclench and it releases a pleasant bright cherry flavor (still a tad sour) along with notes of blackberry, mocha, and earth. The complexity of the region comes into play with a touch of thyme and mint and that sotto voce salinity. Merlot—it’s not just for breakfast anymore! It seems Merlot is on the rise again and if you are looking to explore … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #131: Bibich Sangreal Merlot
This month, the Kabaj Merlot 2012 is Wine & Spirits Magazine‘s critic’s pick: Jean-Michel Morel’s 2012 merlot is rich with ripe plum and black cherry flavors, but the wine never feels fat or jammy, thanks to the meaty tannins and savory notes of fresh-turned earth and roasted mushrooms. A distinct note of iodine lends a sanguine savor and enhances the wine’s Old World character. The 2012 vintage is not available yet in the US. In the meantime, try the 2011. It’s a complex wine, more savory than fruity, very well balanced, and ready to drink now.
Wine and Spirits Magazine has great reviews of the latest vintage of Kabaj in its October issue. These wines will be coming to the US shortly. In the meantime, low quantities of the 2013 vintage—also very well rated by the magazine—are still available (93 Points for both the 2013 Rebula and the 2013 Sivi Pinot!).
Merlot has a long tradition in Goriška Brda, a appellation located at the foot of the Julian Alps on the Italian-Slovenian border. While Brda is best known for its white wines, the Merlot grape likes the well-drained sunny hills of the region and a climate that combines Mediterranean and Alpine influences. French-born Jean-Michel Morel, having worked in Bordeaux and the South of France, knows well how to work with Bordeaux varieties. His Merlot, sourced from vines grown on steep vineyards and averaging 40 years of age, fermented with native yeast and aged 2 years in barrique, is refined and elegant. It’s also age-worthy. The 2011 vintage is still full of youth and needs some time to open up. It’s a complex wine, more savory than fruity, rich and well balanced, with mineral notes on the finish. The other night, the dinner was over but the wine was still developing in glass and becoming more and more delicious so we almost finished the bottle while watching TV. Try it yourself! You can find it here.
For the third year in a row, Kabaj has been chosen as one of the Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries for 2016. While the trade and consumer aspects of the event are of course vital, one of the best things about the Top 100 is simply getting producers from all over the world under one roof to taste each others wines. And year after year, this has come to reinforce how unique the Kabaj wines are and how they compliment the wider world of wine. At the same time, the Kabaj wines are often pigeonholed as simply orange, skin contact, macerated, and or amber rather than simply grape and place. A technique over terroir argument to some. While it’s technically true in that Jean-Michel embraces skin contact, oxygen, and patience rather than a fresh, temperature controlled reductive style, we could also just call his wines “wines” without further labeling. These are the traditional grapes, farmed well, handled clean and simple in the cellar, and barreled down and topped up until incredibly stable and delicious. As such, there are immense distinctions between vintages, vivid grape typicity, and the wines are alive and evolving. To be clear, there are plenty of … Continue reading Beast of Brda — Kabaj is Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries 2016
The main winery headquarters and tasting room. Windmills along the way. The same day that we paid a trip to the Hungarian side of Pfneisl (which is actually the separate company of Pfneiszl), we also took a trip across the Austrian/Hungarian border that no long exists due to the 2007 Schengen enlargement. After a bit more of a trip, we were able to see how wine making was for the Austrian side of things. As we quickly saw near the small town of Deutschkreutz, winegrowing appears to be going very well. The family has been making wine for over a century in this area and to date now harvests from an astounding 70 hectares (175 acres) of vineyard land. It’s quite overwhelming to stand in the middle of it. This is of course made all the more impressive by the extremely modern tasting room and headquarters that they constructed, which you can see in the photo above. The structure has won numerous design awards and is often featured in roundups of impressive winery architecture. Naturally, buildings are great because you need somewhere to age and taste the wine, but what is of course most important is the wine itself. Pfneisl … Continue reading The Austrian Side of Pfneisl
A tasting out amongst the Pfneiszl vineyards that started with their Sparkelina. Pfneiszl is a young winery on old lands. Or actually, it’s an old winery on its own old lands if that makes any sense. Sopron at sunset You see Pfneiszl (or Pfneisl depending on which side of the Hungarian/Austrian border you’re on) is an old family winery based in both Hungary and Austria. It’s just that in Hungary, the 27 hectares that made up their wine growing lands were seized by the former communist regime of Hungary in the name of collectivization. After that happened, they had to “make due” with the 70 hectares that the family kept in Austria just on the other side of the border. In 1993, these lands were returned to the family after decades of pumping out cheap bulk wine that was mostly sold to Russia. By this time, on the Austrian side they had been making very well-recognized wines and in what must be one of the most incredible gifts I’ve ever seen from a parent, they gave this 27 hectares to their daughters to work up and establish as a Hungarian winery. These stories are not uncommon in the area of … Continue reading Exploring the Hungarian Side of Pfneiszl
Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe The valley of Kozlović winery with the Momjan fortress above. The last stop on our whirlwind tour of Istrian wines was Kozlović. The location that the family has settled in is spectacular one, near the village of Momjan. While the village is typical of the type you see in Istria, it has a nice standout feature which is the ruins of a fortress up on a hill. Like something out of medieval fairy tale, this stony skeleton floats about the small valley where the family built their current cellar in 1904 on a hill, overlooking some of their vines. Gianfranco Kozlović opens a bottle. Even when you strip away the setting and just focus on the wines, you see that this is a family that knows what it is doing when it comes to the grape. Their Malvazija can be gotten here and is getting to be recognized as a quite stellar make of this Istrian varietal. But there at the helm of everything is Gianfranco Kozlović. He is a character who loves his wines and loves the process of making wines. His various philosophies and … Continue reading The Philosophy of Kozlović Part 1
Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Andy Šipetić pours up a taste. Our first encounter with the wines of Demian and the wine maker himself, Andy Šipetić was in Novi Sad, Serbia of all places. It was somewhat logical as we were there for a visit with friends and he was there for the wine festival that they’ve been holding for the last fourth years. While that visit gave us an initial taste of his wines, a lunch with the wines expertly paired to the dishes, and music played by Andy (who used to tour as a guitarist for the Gypsy Kings before making wine full time) we didn’t get a chance to see his winery. For that, we’d have to go to Istria and so naturally, once we got to Istria we made our way down there. The elegant Barrique The Demian winery has been producing in one way or another for about the last 80 years. From 1928 to the 1990’s, they produced bulk wine for Italian producers. For the last 14 years, they started making their own wines and the last seven has seen their brand and production grow … Continue reading Two Tastes of Demian
Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Veralda’s vineyards with Buje in the background. Fresh off our hibernation from the beach while in Slovenia, we headed back out to the coast of Croatia. This time, we focused on the region of Istria, that little triangle of a peninsula off the far west of Croatia. After the rather arduous task of finding a place to stay without a reservation in high season, we set about exploring some of the wines of the area, especially those along the Istrian Wine Route. Our first stop was Veralda. Luciano Visintin and vino We met with the owner, Luciano Visintin. His family has made oil and wine for somewhere around 1,000 years–give or take a few. In 1997 they started they took the family craft and made it a proper business, producing some 300,000 to 400,000 liters of wine a year, once again, give or take a few. They produce this large quantity of wine from 26 hectares of land and they also buy from a few vineyards who neighbor their vines. Out of all this, the bulk of what they produce is Malvazija. Additionally, they produce Muškat, … Continue reading In to Istria with Veralda