A year in the life of a Tokaji vine

This is a follow-up from the previous post Adopt a Vine. Gifted Tokaj vigneron Samuel Tinon charts the life of a traditionally cultivated vine planted on the slopes of the classified vineyard of Hatari between the villages of Olaszliszka and Erdőbénye in the year of 2013. It is a vine that our band of merry Blue Danubian’s selected on their trip this past January to the legendary appellation to be charted through the vintage. Here are his photos and his words. September update September 4 2013, 6:00AM at sunrise. Wonderful! We are very close to having a top dry furmint base and start studying the terroir of a first class vineyard. Also, we have to decide today wether to harvest next week for an Auction lot in 2014. Only one week to wait. We had another GOOD rain on September 1st. Samuel     August update August 8 2013, This summer is too hot and I have a bad feeling about this. Even the color of the vine in the picture indicates that it is too dry and hot. Samuel   August 25 2013, These pictures were made just before the first quality rain (around 30l/m2)… The vintage starts to … Continue reading A year in the life of a Tokaji vine

Adopt-a-vine

After a long chain of embarrassing late arrivals to appointments with producers and an exasperating hike up a steep snowy hillside vineyard during our visit to Tokaj this past February, my team of adventuresome Danubians – Michael Newsome (Sales LA), Henry Beylin (Gjelina – Venice Beach, CA), Matt Stinton (Terroir/Hearth – NYC, NY) and 2 of Tokaj’s most iconic producers shared a special moment together in the vineyard of Hatari. Had we been on time for our appointments, it would not have been so special. Just before, we were among Judit Bodo‘s vines in Csontos. The full moon began to rise and we left for wild pheasant soup at her house, or so I thought. But then she pulled off the bumpy road for one even rougher and icier, and rumbled us towards a man standing by a van in a giant furry Russian snow hat—which I discovered is called “ushanka”. Although it was already dark, the hat made the outline unmistakably Samuel Tinon. We were supposed to visit his vineyard earlier, but since things had gotten so late and Judit and he had been in contact, I assumed she had canceled the meeting for us. Not the case. Samuel … Continue reading Adopt-a-vine

The Many Flavors of Tokaj

I’ve always let my taste guide my interest in the world of wine. The flavors that resonate with me most often lead me to esoteric, or at least non-mainstream, regions and styles. One country I cannot get enough of is Hungary. The diversity of flavors and styles offered by traditional varieties and regions is impressive in its own right, but it is the quality and purity of unique flavor that draws me in deeper. One of my great interests in Hungarian wine are those of Tokaj. This historically lauded and anciently renowned region produces exceptional wines, both dry and sweet, through traditional techniques and with indigenous varieties. These are the same characteristics of top regions worldwide, and Tokaj is on the fast track to reclaiming its place among them. One thing I love is that you can find wines that are best by the glass and for everyday drinking, as well as a premium wines, at times the most expensive on the list, and worth every sip. The selection at the recent Blue Danube Wine Co. industry tasting at Terroir Tribeca showcased a commitment to a comprehensive sampling of the region’s best. There were wines from 7 different producers, not … Continue reading The Many Flavors of Tokaj

Countdown to MARKET TASTING NYC III

Today is Blue Danube Wine Co.’s break-out NY Trade debut at Terroir Tribeca. Too close for comfort, all the samples have arrived. Were it not for Zsuzsa’s hard work, Fed-Ex and customs would have never known how bad we needed these wines! Double luck: Frank Dietrich swang by JFK via SFO to pick up the J and J Eger Kekefrankos we were also waiting on! That means all our samples have arrived on time for the tasting. We are so proud to be a part of this vinous cultural process and so excited to share (drink) these wines we love so much. You soon will too! NYC, here we come!! Tokaji—Eden Abandoned—No region has impressed us at Blue Danube Wine Co. as the volcanic hills of Europe’s first protected wine region, Tokaj-Hegyalja. It is to us what Burgundy is to others. A chain of 400 volcanoes of impossible geological and microclimatological complexity, a long history as a wine region and a plethora of indigenous varieties and styles of wine, we can’t get enough of it. Some say there is a wine renaissance underway in Tokaj today; we are inclined to agree. All our samples have finally arrived from Hungary! Bodrog … Continue reading Countdown to MARKET TASTING NYC III

Introducing Kövérszőlő to the United States

Sarolta Bárdos of Tokaj Nobilis Szőlőbirtokot Born and raised in Tokaj, Sarolta embodies a strong maternal sensibility coupled with a keen sense of the changes and challenges facing probably the best known, but arguably most forgotten wine region in the world – Tokaj-Hegyalja. Beginning her career studying at the University of Horticulture in Budapest, she also took advantage of the recently fallen Iron Curtain and spent time in France, Italy and Spain. Upon returning to Hungary, she worked at Gróf Degenfeld and soon after became the inaugural winemaker at Béres Winery in nearby Erdőbénye overseeing 45 ha of vineyards. Preferring closer attention to detail and the total knowledge inherent in small-scale winemaking, she left and planted her own 6 ha in 1999. In 2005 a traditional 19th century house was converted into a winery and cellar in the middle of the town of Bodrogkeresztúr, 5 kilometres from Tokaj. She grows mostly Furmint along with Hárslevelű, Muscat and Kövérszőlő. Kövérszőlő, also known as Fehérszőlő (the fat grape) originated in Transylvania but also found a home in Tokaji and in neighboring Romania. In the mid 1800’s Phylloxera nearly wiped it out, but a few plantings survived and it’s slowly making a comeback … Continue reading Introducing Kövérszőlő to the United States

Tokaj At Terroir Murray Hill in NYC

It’s only in the last few decades that the infamous sweet wines of Tokaji have fallen off of mainstream restaurant lists and the common-knowledge radar of average wine drinkers. Changes in the political climate of Eastern Europe are the main cause of this absence of Tokaji in the mainstream wine world. With the new generation of drinkers, the millenials, we are seeing a resurgence of appreciation for this ancient region. The enthusiasm goes beyond the famous sweet wines and explores all of the styles these aromatic wines come in. A few weeks ago Rienne Martinez of Terroir Murray Hill and I decided to share our love of Tokaji wines with New York. We developed a pairing menu that showcased the dry and sweet wines of Patricius, letting the flavors explain why these wines have been so prized throughout history. The crowd favorite was overwhelmingly the 3 puttunyos with duck confit salad. Check out the beautiful video below, produced by David DuPuy, to get a glimpse into this special event, first of many!

Time For Tokaji

Sommelier Jeff Berlin from À Côté (Oakland) in Tokaj. Tokaji Aszu, certainly the most famous wine from Hungary, may even be the most famous sweet wine of the world. Still, for all its fame, it is often passed over both on restaurant menus and store shelves. But why? Those of us who have experienced the beauty and joys of drinking Tokaji cannot comprehend such behavior among fellow wine lovers. After a few months of tasting with industry insiders and the general public, I have come to realize that people are afraid. Restaurant owners are afraid to put it on the list because they don’t think anyone will order it. At stores, patrons are afraid to take a bottle home because they don’t know if their guests will like it. This fear afflicts even those purchasers who love the wine and recognize its value. It’s no shocker that the king of wine and wine of kings has earned a reputation for being a bit pricey, and admittedly, the prices can climb to the upper end of the scale. Even when it’s a great value, expensive price tags are not in fashion. The American stigma against sweet wines, a rapidly changing dogma, … Continue reading Time For Tokaji

A Tinderbox Outing

The well-appointed interior of Bernal Height’s Tinderbox We recently had the enjoyment of eating at the new digs of Tinderbox. It’s a restaurant in the Bernal Heights area of San Francisco that is wedged in the middle of a burgeoning gourmet ghetto. The dishes are focused around that growing genre of food called, “New American”, which, as was the case at Tinderbox, means new twists on old dishes that surprise you in new ways. The avocado cutlet The menu has been coupled together with a very unique and tasty wine list compiled by the sommelier and general manager, Omar White. It includes a good number of Blue Danube Wine selections like the exotic Juris St. Laurent from Austria, an unoaked Hungarian Szõke Chardonnay, and the indigenous Pošip Marco Polo from the Croatian island of Korcula among others. We started with a nice Dolcetto to warm up our palates. It was inviting and light, yet still flavorful and enjoyable to sip with our appetizers. It also had the ability to not trounce the fact that one of us had the grilled sardine appetizer. Omar tops off Frank Dietrich From there, we split off with a glass of white for the cod … Continue reading A Tinderbox Outing

Tokaji Terroir

Just 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.

94 points to Hilltop-Neszmely Tokaj Aszú

What 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.