All wines below are available for purchase in our web wine store: http://www.topochines.com.
New Shipment of Wines from Croatia! Why are we so excited? Because we literally went the entire 2020 without getting any new wines shipped from Europe. Our “regular” wine importing involves flying the wines here, rather than shipping via boat, so that we can get the wines quicker and avoid any adverse temperature situations (too hot or too cold) that sea travel might entail. Our thousands of bottles of wine come to the U.S. the same way all travelers do: on a commercial jetliner. Sometimes Air France sometimes Alitalia, other times domestic U.S. airlines. They just sit in the cargo section vs. the passenger compartment.
Of course, for most of 2020, there were zero flights into any U.S. city from Europe or, well, pretty much anywhere else. The Rome-San Francisco route that we used most often to bring in Croatian wines was completely shut down for almost the whole year. At first, like most people, we figured we had weeks or a few months to wait until life returned to some sort of normal. Eventually, we realized that “normal” was unlikely to return in 2020 and it might be well into 2021. Grudgingly, we decided to ship our wines via container ship in the Fall – after heat of the summer subsided and before the winter temperatures kicked in.
The trip from Italy (where the container ships consolidate their many containers) to the U.S. can take anywhere between 10 days and a few weeks depending on whether the destination is New York/New Jersey or Los Angeles (which requires a trip through the Panama Canal). In this instance, we chose Los Angeles, which turned out to have been a mistake as it took nearly a month for the wines to clear customs. Due to Covid-19, staffing and procedures at the Port of Los Angeles were severely disrupted and there was a line of container ships backed up like cars on the 405 Freeway.
Alas, the wine finally got offloaded, cleared customs, and then made it to our warehouse in the Rutherford section of Napa Valley. And the wines are now available for purchase! After a few anxious weeks of the dreaded “Sold Out” status on many of our wines, we are happy to reintroduce many of our wines to our customers. We re-ordered many of the “old favorites” that our customers have come to love, in large enough quantities to keep “sold out” at bay for a while. Here are a few of the wines that we reordered:
2018 Stina White Cuvée. This wine is a blend of Pošip and Vugava two white grapes native to Croatia), and a small amount of Chardonnay. This delicious wine is offered at the hard-to-believe price of $13.00. We would stack this up against Napa and Sonoma white white at 2-3 times the price and believe it holds its own. At this price, it’s a great every night white wine (but good enough to drink on weekend date night as well).
2017 Saints Hills Pošip. This wine is 100% Pošip, made from grapes grown in both Istria and on the island of Korčula off the Western coast of Croatia. The end result is a wine with great body and structure. $20.00 a bottle.
2017 Korta Katarina Pošip. Another single-varietal Pošip wine, this 2017 Korta Katarina is a bold, powerful expression of this Croatian varietal. $30.00 a bottle.
2018 Stina Vugava. You’ll find many wines from Stina Vina in our web wine store; we consider them one of the finest wineries in all of Croatia. They sell much of their wine in Croatia and we feel privileged to be able to import some to the U.S. This wine is made from the grape Vugava, another grape indigenous to Croatia and most commonly grown on the tiny island of Vis in the Adriatic Sea off of the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. Wine experts most commonly compare Vugava to Viognier, and some believe that Vugava is in fact the origin of this more well-known Rhone varietal. Another steal at only $20.00 a bottle.
2018 Josić Graševina. Our first foray with this artisan winery in Croatia was their superb red blend. In one of our prior shipments, our team on the ground in Croatia snuck in a sample of Josić Graševina for us to taste and we were hooked. We ordered quite a few cases so our customers can enjoy this lovely white wine. Graševina is the most commonly-planted white wine grape in all of Croatia, growing in vineyards in the continental (ie, not coastal) part of the country. Slavonia, the forested part of Croatia, produces some excellent wines from Graševina. We offer this at $20.00 a bottle.
2017 Meneghetti White Blend. This wine is 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Blanc and is as rich, structured and complex as any white wine I have had recently – from anywhere. Although it fetches $40.00 a bottle, this wine should be on your list if you’re looking for a serious wine with international appeal.
2014 Saints Hills Nevina. This offering from Saints Hills winery is a blend of Chardonnay (30%) and Malvazija Istriana (70%) grown in Croatia’s Istria region. This wine has an intense and complex aroma but a smooth, creamy texture with an excellent blend of acidity and fruit. $25.00 a bottle.
2017 Ahearne “Wild Skins” Blend. Are you a fan of orange – or skin contact – wines? I have a love-hate relationship with this style of wine – by which I mean I normally hate them! So many orange wines are overly funky with aroma and flavors that one of our kids says resembles “feet.” But I have fallen in love with an orange wine that in many ways is a classic example of the style (and yes, a bit funky), but still delicious. . Jo Ahearne is one of the very few Masters of Wine on the planet, a London transplant who decided to move to Croatia and make wine. We’re glad she did! Her orange wine is a blend of three grapes indigenous to Croatia – Bogdanuša (40%), Kuč (40%), Pošip (20%). She makes this wine from grapes grown on Croatia’s Island of Hvar. A bottle of truly stunning wine and I bet you’ll reconsider orange wines like I did. These grapes were on their skins for 30 days to (in some cases) 350 days, and the juice was on the lees for 9 months with regular stirring. $30 at bottle.
We might as well start with Plavac Mali, the quintessential red grape of Croatia. If there is one grape that defines Croatian wine, it is this one, just as Pinot and Chardonnay define Burgundy and Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot define Bordeaux.
2013 Edivo Winery Plavac Mali. If you are looking for a classic Plavac Mali, this $29.00 beauty should be right up your alley.
2018 Stina Red Cuvee. This Stina Winery red blend is anchored by Plavac Mali (70%) but also has a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon (10%), Merlot (10%), and Syrah (10%). The resulting blend has the character of wine from Croatia that is a bit more international and approachable for those that might be new to wines of the region. Only $14.00 a bottle!
2014 Ahearne Plavac Mali. Made from grapes grown on the Croatian island of Hvar, this wine is 98% Plavac Mali and 2% Merlot. This wine is bursting with fruit but has plenty of acidity and earthiness – a truly sophisticated offering. $39.00 a bottle.
2014 Saints Hills Plavac Mali Dingač. If there is one wine-growing region in Croatia that has the gravitas of a Bordeaux or Tuscany, it would be Dingač, a tiny strip of vineyards on the Pelješac Peninsula jutting off the western part of Croatia into the Adriatic Sea. The entire region is no larger than 20 hectares. Excellent Plavac Mali is being made from grapes grown up and down Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, but you need to try one from Dingač as it is truly a unique terroir and the wines that come from Dingač have a unique flavor profile. $40.00 a bottle.
2016 Matuško Dingač. This well-known winery produces a superior Plavac Mali also from grapes grown in Dingač. This is a bold and powerful wine and one that we enjoy having side-by-side with other Dingač Plavac Mali to compare and contrast aroma and flavor. This is an incredible bargain $26.00 a bottle and, if you want to dip your toe into Croatian reds, a perfect place to start. But buy fast if you are interested, this wine will sell out faster than any of the others based on prior experience.
2009 Korta Katarina Reuben’s Reserve Plavac Mali. Those looking to pressure-test the ability of Croatia’s red wines to age should give this gem a try. Even at 10 years of age, this wine shows no sign of fading – it can be consumed now or held for at least another 10 years, likely more. A bold and powerful wine. $60.00 a bottle (750 ml). A magnum is also available.
2012 Korta Katarina Plavac Mali. This 7-year-old wine is bursting with aroma and flavor, a classic Croatian Plavac Mali. $40.00 a bottle.
2015 Stina Tribidrag. You’ve probably not heard of Tribidrag (or the other, even less pronounceable name for this grape – Crljenak Kaštelanski). But if I said “Zinfandel,” of course you would recognized that grape. Well, Tribidrag / Crljenak Kaštelanski are the same as Zinfandel. After years of trying, Napa Valley winery owner Mike Grgich (Grgich Hills) was able to get scientists to prove that Zinfandel (and Italian Primitivo) are in fact descendants of the Croatian grape. You can read the fascinating story here: https://topochinesvino.com/2019/03/20/original-zin-the-real-story-of-this-unique-grape/
We should warn you, though, this is not the Zinfandel that you may be used to drinking. You know the ones I mean: those big, “jammy” fruit bombs that California is famous for. This is a lower-alcohol, earthier, and more rustic red wine, but delicious all the same. $44.00 a bottle.
2017 Matela Crljenak Kaštelanski. Another Croatian “original Zin.” This is a fantastic example of this variety and has consistently been one of the wines that we sneak extra bottles from our story inventory for “quality control” drinking at home.
I hope you try out some of our new wines and let me know what you think! Cheers!
February 6, 2021