The SOMM Journal

June / July 2017

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110 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } JUNE/JULY 2017 Vouillamoz cautioned that it is still early to determine how Tribidrag from Croatia, with just 100 hectares planted, will develop. "Time will tell and show if it can find its place on the world stage." Postcards from the I Am Tribidrag conference would show an array of fascinating, beautiful, inspiring and sometimes amusing images: A winemaker arriving on horseback to a tasting; the curi - ous but suspicious faces of guests about to sample Zinfandel from India; a glorious sunset over "Royal Vineyards"; a red Volkswagen bus advertising "Birthplace of Zinfandel" wine tasting tours; a buffet of local wines and delicacies (the candied orange peels are to die for!) at a seaside castle; Ivica Radunic´ proudly displaying his first com - mercial bottling of wine produced from his "Original Zin" vineyard; grapevines clinging to dramatically steep limestone slopes on Bracˇ island; Vouillamoz dressed up as a medieval king . . . and this author mutilating a traditional Dalmatian "klapa" song at the closing dinner. "Indeed, Tribidrag has many stories to tell," observed Vouillamoz. "People from all over the world came together around one topic, connecting in an awesome way. That was the strength and success of this conference." Robinson concurred, concluding: "Everyone associ - ated with this diverse grape variety can be proud. I have learned the most amazing amount and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. The only thing left to say is, I am Tribidrag!" Tribidrag (aka Zinfandel, Primitivo, Crljenak Kaštelanski) is a founder variety, meaning an ancient grape with significant genetic influ - ence on the ampelography of a region. Over centur ies founder varieties have spawned many of the wine grape varieties we know and love today (e.g., Cabernet Franc + Sauvignon Blanc = Cabernet Sauvingon). In the Balkans, Tribidrag is parent to a number of obscure but regionally important grapes. Let us introduce you to a few of them: Babic´: An often overlooked yet interest - ing and potentially high-quality variety from northern Dalmatia. At its best when grown on rocky, nutrient-deprived hillsides, it can deliver bold reds with silky tannins and loads of earthy, dark fruit. One of my faves! Grk: A rare but increasingly popular white variety native to Korcˇula Island; the wines are viscous yet well structured, with distinct Asian pear, tropical fruit and salty mineral notes. Geeky Grk! Plavac Mali: A direct descendent of Tribidrag, resulting from a cross with another local variety, Dobricˇic´. Plavac is the most planted red grape in Croatia, mainly in coastal Dalmatia, having supplanted Tribidrag centuries ago for its heartier nature and later ripening. Capable of pow - erful, high-tannin reds with hearty Zin-like flavors, especially from south-facing seaside slopes (e.g., Dingac´, Postup). Its name means "little blue." Plavina: Widely planted the Dalmatian hinterland, it's a workhorse red, often used in blending or for medium-bodied, easy-drinking table wine and refreshing rosé. Recently, more serious single-varietal efforts laced with spicy red fruit are emerg - ing. A variety to watch! V ranac: An ancient variety whose name means "black stallion," it shows loads of potential, especially from sweet spot grow - ing areas in Montenegro and Macedonia (Vranec). Wines are deep and dark, rich and bold, beautiful and exotic, with dark forest fruit and sweet spice notes. Needs time to be tamed! —C. R. Tasting Notes: A Tribidrag Trilogy Ravenswood 2013 Old Hill Vineyard Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley ($60) From one of the oldest continuously planted vineyards (since 1861) in California, this 75% Zinfandel, 25% mixed blacks indigenous yeast–ferment is bright and complex, reserved yet assertive, displaying aromas of red fruit, dried flowers, anise and bramble spice. Firm but fine tannins support long aging potential and an enjoyable finish with flavors of dark berry and mint. Morella 2011 La Signora Primitivo ($30) Bio-dynamically produced from 75-year old Primitivo bush vines grown in terra rossa soil and aged for 14 months in French oak, this wine is powerful, opulent and mouth-filling, with concentrated black cherries, liquored prunes, tobacco, and chocolate notes. Zlatan Otok 2011 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 Adriatic. Richly extracted, viscous and slightly rustic with grippy tannins, the wine exudes dark, Zin-like notes: black cherry compote, dried fig, pomegra - nate juice and menthol, with a haunting hint of seaside miner- als—think iodine. Team "ZinQuest": Dr. Edi Maletic´, Dr. Carole Meredith and Dr. Ivan Pejic´ reunited in Croatia 15 years after their Tribidrag discovery. PHOTO: DAMIR FABIJANIC ' Zin & Kin

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