Thursday, July 01, 2010

Tasting the Slovenian wines of Santomas at Albona with Winemaker Tamara Glavina

As most Soccer fans have learned, Slovenia is barely the size of Houston and was the smallest of the 32 nations that participated in the 2010 World Cup tournament. Nonetheless, its wine industry is one of the most advanced of the former Yugoslav republics. So I felt very lucky when I got invited by Frank Dietrich and Zsuzsanna Molnar of Blue Danube Wine to a Winemaker Dinner featuring the wines of the Slovenian winery Santomas at Albona Restaurant in San Francisco.

The Santomas winery is located in the coastal town of Kopler, on the Slovenian side of the Istrian peninsula. The Glavina family has been cultivated vines and olives for 200 years and over time, has expanded the estate to almost 50 acres of vineyards and 7,5 acres of olive orchards. Nowadays, the winery consists of a modern wine cellar, a tasting room, and a wine laboratory.

The current production is 70% Refošk or Refosco, a local varietal that also grows in Italy and Croatia and can produce tannic and powerful wines, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, and 10% Malvasia, an ancient grape of Greek origin that is found throughout the Mediterranean.

The winemaker dinner was at Albona Restaurant in San Francisco's North Beach district, the only Istrian restaurant on the West Coast. The Istrian cuisine has been uniquely influenced by Italians, Austrians, Hungarians, Slavs, Spaniards, French, Jews, Greeks, and Turks and thus combines classic Italian dishes with ingredients like cumin, sauerkraut, and strudels.

For the occasion, owner Michael Bruno had assembled a 4 course menu showcasing Istria's flavorful cuisine, and paired with 4 wines presented by Santomas Winemaker Tamara Glavina.

1st Course: Minestre de asparaghi (Puree of asparagus soup thickened with Yukon Gold potatoes)

The asparagus soup was paired with a 2008 Santomas Malvasia: the Malvasia vines grow on white soils that are hard to work on and thus require a lot of manual work. The harvest is manual. About 10% of the wine was aged in oak and rested on lees for additional body. My notes: golden color, aromatic nose of acacia blossom and citrus, fresh and slightly oily on the palate, dried herbs on the finish. The soup was really delicious and I loved the wine too!

2nd Course: Chifeleti de mia nona con sugo de carne al cumin (Grandmother's specialty: pan-fried potato gnocchi in a brown sirloin sauce laced with cumin)

The gnocchi dish was paired with a 2008 Santomas Cabernet Sauvignon: manual harvest, made with no oak. My notes: attractive raspberry nose, smooth mouthfeel, soft tannins, spicy on the palate, good acidity, worked very well with the meaty sauce and the subtle notes of cumin.

3rd Course: Involtin de porco con capuzi garbi e prosuto (Pork loin stuffed with sauerkraut, apples, and plums served with red cabbage sauté)

With the pork loin, we tasted the 2003 Santomas Big Red Grande Cuvée: the Grande Cuvée is Santomas's age-worthy premium blend made primarily from Refosco. Refosco is difficult to grow and historically vines were trained in a pergola style to optimize yields. Santomas moved to a guyot vine training system to reduce yields to 3000 l/ha. The wine is unfiltered, unfined. My notes: dark color, rich aromas, spicy, peppery on the palate, notes of garrigue on the finish. An excellent match for the apples, plums, and sauerkraut filling.

Dessert: Sorbetto (Housemade raspberry sorbet)

With the sorbet we were served a glass of 2007 Santomas Late Harvest Malvasia Invasia. Sadly, 2007 was the last year the winery produced a Late Harvest Malvasia. My notes: light golden color, fresh floral nose, with sweet apple aromas, light-bodied, semi-sweet on the palate, expressive, not cloying at all.

Winemaker Tamara Glavina introducing the 2007 Late Harvest Malvasia

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Hampers said...

Like your blog as I like wine tasting. Tasting Wines is a Fun and Delicious Learning Experience.

Sakib Raj said... nudi uporabnikom ponudbe slovenskih restavracij, trgovin, lepotilnih in športnih centrov; razvedrilne, zabavne in ostale vsebine z od 50 do 90-odstotnim popustom