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October 2013

Daruvar Grasevina 2011

Oddly, I can't find much information on this winery anywhere.  It's located in the town of Daruvar in the east Croatian region of Slavonia.  The climate is continental and there are geothermal springs here that make the town a tourist destination.  Grasevina is a very productive grape variety.  Back when they were under the Soviet yoke Grasevina was over produced and and watered down into a characterless cheap wine, like much else.  Now, using green harvesting and aggressively controlling yields wines like this are starting to really show what the Grasevina grape can do.

The first thing I notice is that the Daruvar Grasevina has a particularly deep and golden color (at least for a young white wine).  Actually, the first thing is what a tall and thin bottle it comes in!

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Aroma: The first aroma of the Grasevina that hits my nose is a fresh light ginger smell; not cooked or candied and not too overpowering, but a nice prickly little ginger.  The defining aromas are of white flowers, lemon zest, and white grape.  Yes, I'm describing a wine as smelling like white grapes, it happens sometimes.  There's also a seductive fresh hay smell that you notice after you get around the lemon and grapes.  And then just as you think you're done smelling it I smell fresh butter: really nice fresh creamy butter.  The aroma isn't very powerful, but it has plenty going on and is really nice!

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Taste: Hmmm, there's a really cool, tasty, and familiar fruit right up front that's hard to pin down.  Really fresh champagne mango; that's shat I'm going with.  It's bright and there's nice acidity, but the fruit is pretty rich, plus the wine has a good full mouth filling texture.  After the fresh fruit up front the taste transitions into more racy qualities with a slightly pithy puckery lip smacking chewy quality.  And then, surprisingly, the finish goes back to fresh not totally ripe champagne mango and that beautiful fruit with a hint of meatiness.  

This is a really tasty interesting white that has the body and stuffing to stand up to serious food.  Food like baked chicken, roast haddock, halibut, even sword fish, and......turkey.  Yeah, I said it.  Available by the glass at Henry and Marty's and retail at Oh No Cafe, Rosemont on Munjoy hill, RSVP, and Aurora Provisions for $14.99


Visit with Jean Michel Morel of Kabaj

Jean Michel from Kabaj in Goriska Brda Slovenia came up to Portland to visit last week along with his daughter Tina and Stetson Robbins, a representative from Blue Danube, his US importer.  Devenish has been selling Jean Michel's wines in Maine for about a year, but I didn't feel like I really knew them; I didn't have an understanding of why the wines of Kabaj are so different and unique.  After a day driving around, talking, and drinking with Jean I have a very different and deeper understanding; the wines are really expressions of his personality and beliefs.  

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Jean Michel was born in France, moved to Italy, and only ended up at Kabaj after he met and married his wife, whose family owned the vineyard.  Jean Michel over and over kept repeating that you had to love what you do with the obvious point that he really loves what he is doing.  He was clear that making and selling wine is his job but that he loves the process of crafting the wines and also meeting new people and connecting with them.  In two nights and one day we covered a lot of ground, from a wine tasting with Rosemont at Tandem Coffee, a very fine dinner at the Cumberland Club, and tastings with staff at Cinque Terre/Vignola, Jen Flock of Flock and Vine, Hugo's, Caiola's, and the Blue Spoon.  

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Jean Michel is really excited about wine.

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We also found time for beers at Bunker.  

Jean talked a lot about fresh wines and how he doesn't like them.  Wines are wine he would say, fermented and shouldn't normally be super bright.  Wine is food he kept saying and wines should go well with food.  His are exceptional in this way.  The extended amount of time his whites spend on the skin gives them lots of flavor, but low acidity so that they pair with many flavors and tastes.  

Another comment that stuck with me is "We make wine in the vineyard, the cellar is for drinking and sleeping."  I can imagine him drinking and falling asleep in a cellar!  His point though is that the grapes are why the wines taste the way they do and that the real work happens growing them.  Jean Michel is a genuinely open generous man and his wines stylistically mirror those qualities. Look for more info on these individual wines and coming events soon.


Eugenio Rosi Riflessi Rose

One of the things I love about wine is that it regularly forces me to re-evaluate my expectations and knowledge about it.  Case in point: rose is a great drink in the summer, but once the air get's cooler and the days shorter that's it, right?  NO.  There are plenty of varied roses out there that are made for autumn, winter, and spring drinking.

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This Rose from Eugenio Rosi in Trentino is one of them.  Eugenio started out in wine making working for other companies, but his exactingly high standards kept pushing him forward and eventually he decided he had to create is own winery and have total control.  He bought and leased varies small plots around Valagrona and produced his first vintage in 1997.  All farming and wine making is, in his words, "normal".  Rosi doesn't believe natural wine making and farming should be viewed as an oddity or fad, since it's the way all wine was made long ago.  Semantics aside, yes, all his farming and wine making is natural.  He adds a little bit of sulfur at bottling to stabilise the wine but that's it.  In fact, he's so hands on that his barrel aged reds are aged in cherry wood barrels that he makes himself from his own timber!

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Aroma: Eugenio Rosi's rose has an exuberant and pure aroma that draws me in.  Bright fresh home made cranberry sauce is the first thing I smell, but there's also a soft aroma of juniper right along with the fruit.  That slightly spicy foresty aroma gives the Riflessi more spring in the aroma but don't get the wrong idea with cranberry aromas, the wine isn't fresh to the point of being sharp.  There's also and aroma of ripe fresh strawberry; really ripe meaty strawberry and some blackcherry too.  The Riflessi's aroma is a great combo of fresh vivid aromas of ripe lush seeming fruit.

Taste: Rosi's rose lights up the palate with fresh strawberry and cranberry right at first, but then settles down into a mid palate that is more rounded, relaxed, and supple.  It really rolls over your palate with fruit that's bright and vibrant tasting, but a texture and character that's more thoughtful and restrained.  I really like this approach and complexity of the wine.  The mid palate has a fleshiness that's the fleshiness of fresh juicy strawberries.  Finally, the wine lingers with a finish that's lush and relaxed with just a hint of a woodsiness.  This wine actually kind of makes what I normally drink seem clumsy.  

Available at Browne Trading for about $27