The SOMM Journal

October/November 2014

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 109 of 120

{ }  109 TASTING NOTES Presently more than two dozen Croatian wineries pro- duce Zinfandel, but just a few are commercially available. In the U.S., Zlatan Plenkovic ´ Crljenak (VinumUSA), Vuina Crljenak Kaštelanski (Terraneo Merchants), and Korta Katarina Plavac Mali/Zinfandel Rosé (Katharine's Garden) are currently available. Robert Benmosche, the former CEO of AIG, also produces Zinfandel from vineyards he owns on the Pelješac Peninsula. Here are my notes on the two Crljenaks, plus one Plavac. —C. R. Vuina 2010 Crljenak Kaštelanski ($35) Nevin Vuina's vines are just a couple kilometers from the Ivica Radunic´'s "Original Zin" vine- yard. Bright and spicy, with zesty cranberry, red cherry, rosehip, licorice and just a touch of Old World funk. Vibrant, tart, balanced and tasty. Bring on the wood-fired pizza! TERRANEO MERCHANTS, CHICAGO, IL Zlatan Otok 2010 Crljenak ($40) "Vineyards with a view of the sea" is this winery's slogan, and Zlatan Plenkovic´'s Crljenak Kaštelanski vines cling to the white limestone foothills of rugged Biokovo Mountain overlooking the azure Adriatic. Richly extracted, viscous and slightly rustic with silty tannins. Dark, sweet Zin-like notes dominate: black cherry compote, Damson plum, pomegranate juice, menthol and a haunting hint of cured meat to complement a charcuterie and black olive board. Decant two hours before serving. VINUM USA, BASKING RIDGE, NJ Miloš 2009 Plavac ($26) Plavac Mali is Croatia's leading red grape, a cross between Zinfandel and Dobricˇic ´, and Frano Miloš is one of Croatia's most poetic, down-to-earth producers. The wine reflects the synergy: aromatic dark fruits, mission fig, black tea, Mediterranean herbs and earthy minerals, overlaid with a delicate whiff of dried flow - ers. Dusty yet elegant, savory and soft, with classic Dalmatian "friškina" (scent of the sea). Perfect with mussels, grilled fresh. BLUE DANUBE WINE CO., LOS ALTOS, CA 20,000 new vines. Commercial producers include Vuina and Putalj. Elsewhere in Dalmatia, the Zinfandel renaissance is flour- ishing in Omiš, Komarna, Hvar, Bracˇ, Pelješac, and Konavle. However, virus-infected plant material is a major issue fac- ing growers. All original ZPCT plants in Croatia tested posi- tive for viruses. Pejic ´ and Maletic ´ now lead a project to elimi- nate viruses and build a "mother block" of cleansed vines. Meredith reports the mother block currently contains 150 virus-free vines obtained by U.C. Davis from eight sources, including Crljenak and Pribidrag from Croatia, Primitivo from Italy, and "three selections from old California vineyards cho - sen for the Zinfandel heritage selection program"—all ready to propagate the next generation of Croatian vineyards. No one expects Zinfandel to supplant Plavac Mali as the primary red grape variety in Croatia. Yet wineries are eager to bring the grape home and capitalize on its fame and famil - iarity. Meredith believes that Croatian Zinfandel will never be more than a "wine geek" curiosity. But she also thinks that Croatian producers could capitalize on the Zinfandel story to promote Croatia as "a fine wine region with undiscovered wine gems." "Zinfandel was already known internationally and well- established before its Croatian identity was discovered," she adds. "It never would have become important if Croatian producers tried to promote it on their own without the California connection. Now that it is known Zinfandel is Croatian, I think many consumers and members of the wine trade are looking to see where Croatia is on a map and real - izing that it's an ancient wine region with a wine heritage as old as anywhere in Europe." Marija Mrgudic ´, a producer from Pelješac and one of Croatia's prominent female winemakers, is excited about the future of Zinfandel in Croatia. "It is a variety with higher acid and freshness than Plavac Mali with potential for aging," she says. "I think the future will bring a greater role for Zin in the vineyards of Dalmatia—and on the tables of Croatians and their guests!" PHOTO: CLIFF RAMES Zinfandel clusters just before harvest on Pelješac.

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The SOMM Journal - October/November 2014