Tuesday, September 30, 2014

In Search of 50 Great Cava’s in Spain



Wow, where did the summer go?

It’s been a whirlwind of great wine and food in Santa Barbara, Mendocino, the Okanagan, and now I’m off to Riga, Latvia, to visit @SigneMeirane -- then on to Spain in search of 50 Great Cava’s as part of a tasting panel and the so called "Dream Team”.  (I think you need to drink a lot of Cava before our group approaches dreamy, but whatever.)

I’m excited to be catching up with my pals, the dynamic duo of travel writing and photography-- Lara Dunston and Terrence Carter, of Grantourismo. I originally met Lara and Terence in Portugal and had a very memorable birthday celebration with many glasses of vintage Port and a homemade birthday cake.

The Birthday Girl and Lara Dunston

Also on the 50 Great Cava’s trip will be photographer Andrew Barrow @wine_scribbler, with whom I also spent a very memorable birthday, snowbound in a hotel in southern Italy. Although I believe it was more memorable for me as Andrew claims not to recall much of that night.

Andrew pictured at top left
Follow the trip as it happens October 6-10th as we go Cuckoo for Cava.
Twitter: @50greatcavas 
Hashtags: #50gc #cava #Penedes
Facebook: 50 Great Cavas

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Traveling Between the Lines: Writers Explore the Wide World



If you follow this blog it’s a fairly safe bet you like to read my musings on travel and wine. Now you can hear yours truly read in person at LitQuake-- the literary happening of the year in San Francisco. LitQuake is a nine-day literary extravaganza for booklovers culminating with Lit Crawl featuring hundreds of readings.

Come on down to Peace Industry in the Mission on October 18th at 7:00 pm where I will be reading as part of the Traveling Between the Lines: Writers Explore the Wide World event along with  Marcia DeSanctis, Laurie Weed, Lavinia Spalding, Laurie McAndish King, Jeff Greenwald, and Larry Habegger.

You’ll laugh, you'll cry, you'll lose your car keys and find a contact lens, and you may even meet the love of your life and share glass of wine. Well, maybe not all those things, but you will certainly be amused and entertained. Anyway, it would be great to see you there.

More details here: http://www.litquake.org/events/traveling-between-lines-writers-explore-wide-world

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Come for the Wine - Speakeasy Interview On Grape Collective


Recently, Jameson Fink featured me in his Speakeasy series on Grape Collective, and asked me about my love for Croatian wine, best wine travel tips, the key to a good travel story, Writing Between the Vines, and that Sasquatch of wine blogging -- the elusive AP wine blogger.

Click here to read full interview on Grape Collective.



Friday, August 22, 2014

The Wines of Croatia Big Bibich Bash--Event Recap!




I got called out, by a native Croatian, for serving sub-standard Ajvar but it was all in the spirit of goodwill and love for authenticity, at the First Annual Big Bibich Bash held on August 16, 2014. I'm going on record right now and calling it “First Annual” Bibich Bash, because drinking the wines of Croatia is something that needs to be done again and again. 

But back to the Ajvar for a moment—I had two types of Ajvar out in bowls and the minute Nenad Baračkov walked in and saw them he said—“I can tell without tasting, that orange looking one is Podkavak. Not the best!” He declared.

Nenad knows his Ajvar!

We had only just met, so I was a bit taken back, but he was right. Nenad proved to be the most delightful guest and a fabulous source of information on the regional cuisine of Croatia. We discussed hobotnice (octopus), the best source for tinned sardines, the amazing cheese from Pag--Paški sir, and the origins of Supa, a red wine based soup with olive oil, sugar, and toasted bread.


Many of the other guests were well versed in the Croatian food and wine scene too. I was lucky to host such a very convivial group.

But the guest of honor was the Bibich—From the Sparkling Rosé, a festive dry delight --to the Sangreal Merlot, and the rich and dreamy Ambra.

In a bit of a tasting reversal, we started with the reds first as the whites chilled. But I dare say with Bibich, tasting the wines a reverse order is not a problem. The Bibich reds are true shape-shifters, full of flavor and nuance.

The Rhone style G6 Grenache was a standout as was the Sangreal Merlot and Sangreal Shiraz. One of my favorites the R6, a blend of 34% Babic, 33% Plavina and 33% Lasin; smells like a Zin, but drinks like a Pinot.

Bas de Bas Rouge -- Dark, brooding, and beautiful, with elegance and structure--an embodiment of the land and place from which it hails.

Overall, I find that a thread of salinity runs through all the wines and seems to be a characteristic of many Croatian varietals both red and white.


As much as I love the reds it is the rare, unusual, and beguiling Bibich whites, the "Croatian White Unicorns” that I find most intriguing.

My beloved Lučia—The original “white unicorn” that I first tried in Croatia. In a word; this wine is captivating. The mythical, magical creation of Mr. Alen Bibić.

And a new unicorn --Bas de Bas Blanc. The Bas de Bas Blanc is multifaceted “orange” wine made from Debit grapes that spent 3 months on skins in stone vats, then 5 years in oak. At first it is comes across as herbaceous but not in a pyrazine green bean or bell pepper way-- but in a true herbal way. I got an immediate note of thyme, and a clean pleasing spicy tea tree oil scent that quickly opened into notes of apricot and honey and baked apple along with some lingering crushed herb notes such as parsley, sage, and rosemary—so along with thyme, it’s a veritable Simon and Garfunkel song.

The Bas de Bas Blanc has lot of complexity on the palate with a great weight that belies it’s 12% AVB status. I’m not sure if this is a wine for the masses, but I doubt that’s why Alen made it. It’s meant to be enjoyed on it’s own merits-- not billed as a summer sipper by any means. It’s serious and deserves contemplation. And I’m told that the back label reads: “Produced only for true wine lovers.”

Debit -- I love 100% Debit in all it’s manifestations and this is one of the best.

R5 -- Rich and unctuous blend of Debit, Posip, and Marastina, along with Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay; it’s a marvelous mouthful that is both refreshing and bold, and opens up to subtle corners of unexpected flavor.  Trust me-- you just have to try this. 

Posip 9 - A classic Croatian white, fresh and vibrant-- this wine is enthusiasm in a glass. Great balance with a lick of salt, and a puff of chalk, it’s a gateway drug to the more complex whites. 

Except for the Posip, I think most of the white wines may show best if you start out chilled but let them warm up at bit, as I believe they reach their true expression when at room temperature. The whites also have the structure and body to pair well with hearty foods and it was universally agreed that they went particularly well with sausage hot off the grill.


We had hashtags and tasting sheets and love notes to Alen-- but mostly we had a great time.

Tremendous thanks as always to Frank Dietrich, for bringing the Bibich and sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm for the wines of Croatia and in particular the wines of Alen Bibić. Thanks too, for introducing me to so many new and interesting people--Nenad Baračkov and Roberta Wahl; Zdravko and Marion Podolski; Gisele Carig, and Candace. Though we'd never met before, I do believe we were all bonded by Bibich by the days end. Also thanks to James, Fred, Thea, and Liza (and her wine protégés) for coming out.

If you are interested in tasting the Bibich line (and I heartily encourage you to do so) you can find them all at Blue Danube Wine.

For more information:
http://www.bluedanubewine.com/

Monday, August 11, 2014

BIG BIBICh BASH - Wines of Croatia



Three years ago this month, I held a Croatian wine tasting at my house with Frank Dietrich of Blue Danube wines, and it was the start of my love affair with Croatain wine and Croatia. See here, here, and here.

This Saturday, August 16th, we are doing it again with the BIG BIBICh BASH--featuring the wines of Alen Bibić.

I traveled to Croatia shortly after the 2011 tasting, and was supremely lucky to visit the Bibich winery in Skradin where I had one of the most phenomenal food and wine pairings of my life. The next day, some guy named Anthony Bourdain showed up for the same pairings and some extended drinking that was featured in an episode of No Reservations. But I like to say I was there first! 

My post about the Bibich Dégustation has become one of the most viewed posts of all on my blog. 

Frank will guide us though twelve BIBICh wines including the Lucia, Bas De Bas, R6 and R5, as well as the new to me P9 Posip. Follow the hashtag #BIBIChBASH for live tweets about each wine.

I’ve raved so much about my favorite BIBICh wines, such as the Lučia and R5, they have become known as “Croatian White Unicorns” by some of my wine friends due to the adoration and mythical status I bestow upon them. But Unicorn is an apt descriptor for these rare, unusual and mythical whites.

Here is a list of what will be poured at the BIG BIBICh BASH -- For more details, you can visit the Blue Danube site here.

Bibich Sparkling Rosé
Bibich Ambra
Bibich Bas de Bas Blanc
Bibich Bas de Bas Rouge
Bibich Debit
Bibich G6 Grenache
Bibich Lučica
Bibich P9 Pošip
Bibich R5 Riserva
Bibich R6 Riserva
Bibich Sangreal Merlot
Bibich Sangreal Shiraz

Okay, so no Teran above, but you can’t have everything!

Over the last three years I’ve been back to Croatia several times, and experienced an astounding array of food and wine. It is truly one of the best emerging destinations for wine travelers. If you plan to visit Croatia I offer you the following tips here

RELATED POSTS:
Spending Two Perfect Days in Zagreb
Best Places to Eat, Drink and Stay in Istria

Croatia Series:
Croatia Series Preview: Zivili!
Croatia Part 1: Bibich Dégustation
Croatia Part 2: The Splendors of Split
Croatia Part 3: Šibenik Caressed by the Sea
Croatia Part 4: Zadar, The Perfect Date
Croatia Part 5: Pilgrimage to Pag: Land of Paški Sir
Croatia Part 6: Istria--Truffles, Olive Oil, Prosciutto & Wine!
Croatia Part 7: A Taste of Zagreb

OTHER CROATIA POSTS
The Wines of Croatia: A Preview Tasting
Croatian Wines Making Waves
Country of Good Vines: Countdown to Wines of Croatia
I Can Almost Taste It! Croatian Wine is Near
Wines of Croatia Tasting: The Recap
Ajvar Smackdown
Croatia: Memories Lost and Found
Eli's Caffé in Zagreb--Wake Up and Smell the Coffee
Maraschino - Wrapped in Tradition

Friday, August 8, 2014

13 Santa Barbara County Wines I Can’t Get Out of My Mind



These are the wines I keep thinking about since I tasted them in Santa Barbara County during the July 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference. You’ll see three Chardonnays on this list, and while I am not an ABC’er by any means, I don’t usually buy that much Chardonnay outright. But that's changing, and I’m happy to find many new-to-me producers that have captured my attention and patronage.

A word on tasting notes: I present my notes to highlight what I found in a particular wine, and my initial thoughts and experience while tasting. Consider this a nudge in the right direction to make your own discoveries. Below are some quick impressions I jotted down, wines are listed in no particular order of preference.


1.  2012 Tercero Roussanne Camp 4 Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley
One of the first wines I tasted upon arrival in Los Olivos. There is so much harmony and balance going on in this Roussanne. A delicate floral nose unfolds into a rich body of creamy spiced fruit and acidity. I bought a few bottles on the spot and then, having no restraint, immediately drank them when I got home. Now I’m pining for more.

2.  2012 Fes Parker “Rodney’s Dry Riesling, Santa Ynez 
Captivating nose of cut grass, petrol, jasmine and gardenia floral notes. Bright with acidity and flavors of lemon, lime and orange with a bit of honeysuckle.

3.  2013 Star Lane Sauvignon Blanc, Happy Canyon 
Peachy-Lychee, creamy vanilla with a pleasant mid-weight on the palate and long rolling waves of flavor.

4.  2013 Grassini Saugnion Blanc, Happy Canyon
I only got a quick sip at the speed tasting event, but it slowed down time around me. The bright, fresh hit of fruit and punch of acid made me want to grab the bottle and find a quiet place to enjoy it at a more leisurely pace.

5.  2010 Jonata “Flor” Sauvignon Blanc, Ballard Canyon 
Ginger cookie on the nose with great spice and pineapple notes. Sea salt and sandstone minerality, like a luxurious day at the beach. Elegant and understated but with wonderful tension and energy. 

6.  2012 Clos Pepe Estate Chardonnay, Sta. Rita Hills 
Wes Hagen’s “homage to Chablis” was a direct hit to my brains flavor center. Vigorous minerality tempered with a soft round mouth feel and light spicy floral notes of carnation.

7.  2013 Melville Estate Chardonnay Clone 76 Inox, Sta. Rita Hills 
Good grief, the nose on this was jump-out-of-the-glass gorgeous. On the palate, a slight chalky note, but tons of white florals and tart apple flavor with great minerality and a light ocean breeze of salinity. Inox, a french term, means stainless steel.

8.  2012 Alta Maria Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley 
My first thought --where can I buy this? This Chardonnay had a brilliance from within, like entering a snowglobe of earth and light and bright fruit flavors all falling softly around me. It shook me up. 

9.  2011 Foxen Pinot Noir La Encantada Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills 
“No dump” --my shorthand note meaning all of this beautiful juice is going down my throat not in the dump bucket. When tasting numerous wines in a day, “no dump” is a mark of high praise indeed. Deep cherry, loamy, dusty floral nose and marvelous mouth feel. This wine had a spring in it’s step and a song in it’s heart.

10.  2012 Presqu’ile Whole Cluster Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley
I tweeted out this mini tasting note while I was at Presqu'ile: Whole cluster Pinot from @PresquileWine light and accessible but then reaches an unexpected depth. And indeed it did. The layers of flavor developed further with each sip. 

11.  2012 Lindley Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills
I tried this at the Authentic Press party Shawn Burgert hosted, and I wish I’d gotten more details, but it grabbed my attention at first taste.  On the bus back to the hotel I scribbled the name down in my notebook with the words-- "Check out what's going on at Lindley."

12.  2008 Qupe Syrah Bien Nacido BLock X, Santa Maria Valley 
X Block is the original Syrah vineyard at Bien Nacido. This dark, bold Syrah had great character with deep savory flavors of earth and spice. Fined with organic egg whites and bottled without filtration, the end result is a pure reflection of what happens in the vineyard.

13.  2010 Smasara Syrah Turner Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills 
This beaufiul Syrah made with 100% whole cluster, presents with a bit of pyrazines (bell pepper) on the nose, then provides an intense peppery flavor and long finish.


NOTE: Many of the above wines were sampled at the Drinking in the Differences Seminar held at Star Lane Winery in Happy Canyon and conducted by MS David Glancy of San Francisco Wine School. Stay tuned for a new post about that excellent event coming up.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Top 14 Tweetable Moments from 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference













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