Take a good dose of nationalism, a slightly larger dollop of history, and fuse it with taking the best from what’s around you and creating something new. This Slovenian and Istrian container is emblematic of changing flags and political systems forcing winemakers to make something that can’t be taken away from them. New co-fermented liters from Štajerska and Dolenjsko. Sanguine Teran, Refošk, Malvazija and Vitovska from both Istria and the Kras. The singular (and extremely limited) Batič wines from Vipavska Dolina. And finally, an iconic example of the most planted grape in Croatia. The borders move around, but the land and people often don’t. In 1993, Željko Adžić scored for the Croatian National soccer team and helped defeat Ukraine 3-1 — hero status in Croatia! In 1998, he left soccer to follow his larger passion for making wine in Kutjevo (interior Croatia), working with his father Antun full time. Slightly prior to 1993, Cistercian monks founded a winery in Kutjevo in 1232. It still stands and produces Graševina (Grash-eh-veena), the most planted grape in Croatia. The Adžić family continues this tradition. Graševina is high in acidity, has great weight, and carries both residual sugar and botrytis well. In Kutjevo, where … Continue reading Border(less) Regions are Great for Wine
Wine enthusiast Jim van Bergen has an entertaining wine blog that driven by his passion for finding wines that his readers will enjoy, want to share, and love to taste. In one of his latest posts, he highly recommends Etty Lewensztain’s PLONK Wine Club as a holiday gift: Etty is a sommelier who sources delicious world wines at under $30/bottle. She curates artisanal, small-batch, sustainably grown, organic and biodynamic boutique wines from around the globe for PLONK. Etty’s club is designed for both the new wine lover who wants to learn about wine, as well as those like myself – jaded oenophiles who know what they like but like trying new and exciting things, and LOVE finding new, small-batch producers who are making their way in the world offering tremendous values. . . . . Why do I like her approach? Well first, I liked her wine choices. They’re great! He particularly enjoyed the Santomas Refošk 2015, included in one of the club shipments: Color is deep garnet, with an opaque center. The nose offers dark red fruit, heat, eucalyptus, and forest floor. On the palate, I received full-bodied sour cherry, red plum, with strong tannins and mouthwatering acidity. Final … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #122: Santomas Refošk
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
Olive tree groves, vineyard-dotted hills, truffles and medieval hilltop towns: we’re not describing Tuscany but Istria, a heart-shaped peninsula — the largest in the Adriatic Sea — located south of Trieste. Long ruled by the Venetians and later the Hapsburgs, it is now shared by three countries: the largest part (89%) is in Croatia, the northwestern part lies in Slovenia, and a very tiny portion belongs to Italy. While they both enjoy a rich food and wine culture and a beneficial Mediterranean climate, Tuscany and Istria are not completely similar: more than 80% of Tuscany’s production is in red wine while about 80% of the wine produced in Istria is white. Its most significant grape variety is Malvasia Istriana (also the second most important Croatian white grape after Graševina). This ancient grape is believed to have been introduced by the Venetians from Greece. Young Malvasia, simply vinified in stainless steel, produces fresh and crisp delicious wines, ideal partners for grilled sea bass, squid, sardines, and langoustines from the Adriatic. On the other hand, barrel aging and a few days of skin contact can produce a more full-bodied and age-worthy style, perfect accompaniment to Istrian pasta with truffle, black risotto, and … Continue reading Istria, the new Tuscany
As I opened our bottle of Piquentum Terre Refošk 2012 last weekend, this reminded me of our trip to Istria in fall 2014 and our visit to Piquentum and its owner, Dimitri Brečević. I am afraid to say, we first missed the place and had to call Dimitri for assistance. For our defense, there was no obvious sign from the road that could indicate the winery, just big industrial doors leading to an underground Italian water cistern. Fortunately, we found Dimitri waving at us as we were retracing our steps. Being raised in Jurançon in south-western France, Dimitri speaks a pleasant musical French. It was a friend of his Croatian father, as he explained to us, that found this water cistern at the bottom of the medieval town of Buzet (Pinguente in Italian). With an average temperature of 10ºC (50ºF) throughout the year, this was the perfect place to make and age wines. There are no vineyards around Buzet, which is better known for its truffles, and some of Dimitri’s best vineyards are a few miles away, around the historic town of Motovun. In some way, Istria is a “new old world”. Contrary to France, explained Dimitri, there’s a lot … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #9: Piquentum Terre Refošk 2012, the friendly wine
Wine & Spirits magazine recently reviewed Santomas LNG Refošk Liter, one of our bestselling wines, and named it the “Red Value Wine” winner for the month of July! 2014 Slovenska Istra Ludvik Nazarij Glavina Refosk: A terrific bargain and great introduction to refošk, this bright and juicy wine shows lovely aromas of violets and spices, with brambly black raspberry flavors and a light meaty note. Serve with pork shoulder. 89 points -Stephanie Johnson Our notes: LNG are the initials for Ludvik Nazarij Glavina who reestablished the Santomas estate in 1997. It is primarily composed of fruit harvest from younger vines. Despite its tremendous value and liter volume it is made entirely from grapes they grow that undergo the same rigorous selection.The easiest drinking of the Refošk Santomas produces, it remains distinctly Refošk. At once nimble and deep. Forest fruit is accented by a spicy Mediterranean twang. It’s a light but highly expressive, surprisingly complex wine. Bottles like this are customarily consumed with local ham (Pršut) that benefits from the dry “Bora” wind which imparts the same savory notes found in the wine, but is quite versatile elsewhere; even with some seafood. The fact that it comes bottled by liter only … Continue reading Wine & Spirits “Red Value Wine of the Month”: Santomas Refošk Liter
Tamara Glavina with Roger and Cindy at Caffe Venezia in Berkeley. This is what’s called “Just In Time Delivery”. When our guest Tamara Glavina, the wine maker of the top Slovenian winery Santomas, hopped on the plane to visit San Francisco for the first time in her life, our friends at IntoWineTV posted the video of the Santomas Big Red tasting on their web site. Then Roger and Cindy followed up with a delicious Slovenian wine maker dinner at Caffe Venezia in Berkeley. What a nice way to welcome Tamara in California. We always knew that the Santomas Big Red is a great wine but now our opinion has been confirmed by a group of expert tasters which gave it excellent ratings. Made from 100% Refosk, the Slovenian name for what Italians call Terlano and Croatians call Teran, it is easily recognizable by just looking at its deep purple color. The Big Red sports dark red cherry and black berry flavors. A good dose of acidity makes it an ideal wine to pair with many foods. But watch the show yourself and then pop a cork of this inexpensive beauty.
Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Duvilio, the man and his bottle. When visiting Istria, the most common encounter with the name “Žigante” is in the form of truffles. This is one brother, Gian-Carlo, in the Žigante family who has invested himself heavily in truffle production for the area and they are indeed good truffles. Then there are the other brothers, Duvilio and Denis, who have invested themselves in to the wine making craft and as we found out are making some very good examples of wines from the region. Malvazija 2003 and 2004 The truffle thing is relatively new product for the Žigantes, seeing as how their family has been making wine for about 300 years. In 1997, the business came to fruition and started producing a greater volume of wine up on the top of hill near the village of Kostanija. They produce from 14 hectares that are solely owned by the family and a few other growers around the immediate area. Even still, they produce just 50,000 bottles a year, seemingly leaning towards growing a lower yield from the vines. Duvilio is quite a character that opens up a … Continue reading The Wine Half of Žigante