It’s Springtime! Megjött a kikelet!

When French eonologist Stéphanie Berecz founded Kikelet Pince with her husband Zsolt in Tarcal, Tokaj, she wanted a name that was easy to write and pronounce. She chose Kikelet, which means springtime in Hungarian or more literally “out-waking” (“ki” meaning “out”, “kel” is “to wake up” so “kelet” is technically “waking”). Kikelet refers to that moment when the young buds open up and the first spring flowers start blooming as the snow melts. Stéphanie told us when we visited the winery some years ago that she was enchanted by the fact that there was a Hungarian word for this moment and that she named the winery after it. So Spring is in the air and we start craving for brighter, more fruit-forward wines that can be paired with green salads, spring vegetables and fresh fruits. Kikelet’s Hárslevelű and Furmint wines are delicious Springtime wines, quite mineral and savory and full of stony fruit flavors. Also from Hungary, the Gilvesy Bohém Cuvée is a fragrant and zingy blend of Olaszrizling, Pinot Gris, Rhine Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, the Gallay Bistronauta White (60% Pinot blanc, 40% Zenit) is an aromatic and easy going bistro wine, and the Pfneiszl Zefir is a refreshing … Continue reading It’s Springtime! Megjött a kikelet!

#WineWednesday Spotlight #122: Santomas Refošk

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

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

Mon Chérry…

Forced French puns aside, in the 11th hour brainstorming that usually precedes a newsletter to the trade, it occurred to me — cherries! Marasca cherries, which grow up and down the Dalmatian coast (including Slovenia and Southern Hungary) became famous all over Europe once distilled into Maraschino. Most of this production eventually moved to Italy after the destruction of WWII, but famous producers like Luxardo (1821) were all founded in Croatia. Cherry festivals can also be found all over Croatia and neighboring Slovenia. Whether you’re in Istria/Slovene Istria (Piquentum, Coronica, Santomas), Goriška Brda (Kabaj), the Kras (Štoka), Dolenjska (Martinčič) or Štajerska (Črnko), cherries abound. Sour, bitter and sweet, they also play a role in the cuisine as fresh soups, desserts, added to stews, jams, syrups, etc… Granted, I know I’m not breaking new ground by attaching cherry flavors to wine. It’s less about the wines tasting like cherries (although some really do), but a similar balance between bitter, sweet and sour. Whether it’s skin contact Ravan (Friulano), Rebula (Ribolla Gialla) and Sivi Pinot (Pinot Grigio), salty barrel aged Malvasia Istriana, bloody Teran, sweet and sour Cviček, bright and aromatic white field blends, or tart Refošk, there’s a kinship at play. … Continue reading Mon Chérry…

Istria, the new Tuscany

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

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

Atypical Wines From a Tough 2014 Istrian Vintage

2014 was generally a tough vintage throughout the Istrian peninsula, including the nearly 50 km Slovenian coastline (Slovenska obala) that runs north towards Trieste. Heavy rains in August and a cold summer overall meant lower yields for everyone. However, it was still a quality vintage if you farmed well, hand picked and weren’t tied to a recipe. Such was the case with the red wines from Coronica in Croatia and the Malvazija from Santomas in Slovenia. These are also the wines they each typically make the least of anyway. Coronica’s production is mostly white and Santomas is overwhelmingly red. Coronica Crno and Gran Teran Drive about 15 minutes southeast of the coastal city of Umag (50 km south of Trieste) and follow a small road named Koreniki and you will find Moreno Coronica. Even though the land is the same, Moreno’s grandfather was Austro-Hungarian, his father was Italian, he was Yugoslavian, and now his children are Croatian. Nevertheless, he has a stone tablet from 1764 with the family name carved into it that ties it all together. Moreno Coronica Even further back, the region’s long history also includes Romans, Goths, Franks, and Bavarians. The Republic of Venice also had a … Continue reading Atypical Wines From a Tough 2014 Istrian Vintage

The fall wines nobody will be asking for but everyone will be happy you poured

It was finally cold enough this morning to start thinking about sweaters and heaven forbid a beanie after a seemingly nine month summer. There are also a few wines that have been waiting for the weather to change as well. Namely, from the Istrian Peninsula where Italy, Croatia and Slovenia all meet along the Adriatic. I also added something from the Posavje and the Kras regions for good measure (both less than 2 hours by car). As the seasonal and justifiable urge to reach for Cru Beaujolais, white Burgundy, white Rhone, Cab Franc, Champagne and Riesling etc… grow closer, the following wines offer an equally justifiable transition to something new. Acid, salt, smoke, earth, tart fruits and bubbles can all be found here, they are just hiding in different places and complimented by flavors unique to this little slice of the Northern Adriatic. Moreno Coronica 2013 Coronica Gran Malvasia Istriana, Istria, Croatia The history of the indigenous variety Malvasia Istriana dates back to possibly before the Venetians. Over 30 types are still grown around the Mediterranean. Moreno Coronica’s Malvasia is considered a benchmark in Istria. In lieu of Garrigue, Croatians champion ‘Freškina’ (sent of the sea). Imagine the smell of … Continue reading The fall wines nobody will be asking for but everyone will be happy you poured

Wine & Spirits “Red Value Wine of the Month”: Santomas Refošk Liter

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

Follow the Liter

Whether you are hosting a dinner party or need the perfect wine for a lazy day at the beach, a liter bottle is the answer. Think about it: it’s 33% more wine! Not only does this format provide more volume, it is also greener for the environment and the wines tend to be low in alcohol, refreshing, and alarmingly easy to drink. As the 1-Liter trend is getting more and more popular, we have now quite a collection of liters from several countries and a dizzying array of grape varieties. Our newest 1 Liter: the 2013 Pfneisl Blaufränker Rather than make wine with their father and uncles who run the well established family estate in Austria, Birgit and Katrin Pfneisl decided to farm their ancestral vines In Sopron, Hungary, where Blaufränkisch is Kékfrankos and Pfneisl is Pfneiszl. Organic farming, old vines and wild fermentation all contribute to the finesse of their wines. Their Kékfrankos has always been more Blaufränkisch than most Blaufränkisch so we were happy to discover Birgit and Katrin’s increasing involvement in the Austrian estate and immediately taken with the results. Blaufränker is that wine: a collaborative wine project between Blue Danube Wine Co and the Pfneisl sisters, … Continue reading Follow the Liter