Zinfandel: A Homecoming Celebration

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The “Zinfully” Intriguing  I Am Tribidrag Conference Prepares to Host Some of the Wine Industry’s Biggest Names

By Cliff Rames

It’s been over 15 years since we learned of Zinfandel’s origins in Croatia, where 15th century documents identify the nearly forgotten wine grape variety by its ancestral name, Tribidrag. Today, the revelation continues to resonate in vineyards, wineries and wine glasses across the globe—Zinfandel has finally come home.

The story of Zinfandel’s repatriation is one of deep roots, old vines, and forgotten vineyards—a fascinating script with an amazing cast worthy of a Hollywood movie treatment. Cheekily referred to as “Zin Quest”,  it is an epic tale of intrigue and modern forensic detective work that spanned two continents and involved a team of UC Davis researchers, headed by Dr. Carole Meredith, and two Croatian grapevine geneticists, Professor Edi Maletić and Professor Ivan Pejić.

 

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Hollywood movie aside, if you haven’t yet read the story or require a refresher, check out my Zinfandel in Croatia: A Sort of Homecoming article, which I chronicled in 2014 for The SOMM Journal and later republished (with permission) on this blog.

Better still, make plans to attend the first-ever I Am Tribidrag International Conference! This two-day celebration and immersion program into the amazing story of Tribidrag/ Zinfandel/ Crljenak Kaštelanski will be held April 27-28, 2017 in Split, Croatia at the five-star Hotel Park, just a few short miles from the Kaštela vineyard where the “Original Zin” vines were discovered in 2001.

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Ivica Radunic’s “Original Zin” vineyard in Kastel Novi (photo by Cliff Rames)

The I Am Tribidrag conference will feature an exciting program of guided tastings, supplemental wine tours and excursions, and lectures by several winemakers and distinguished authorities in the industry, including: Dr. Meredith; professors Maletić and Pejić: California winemakers David Gates (Ridge Vineyards) and Joel Peterson (Ravenswood Winery); botanist and grape geneticist (and co-author of Wine Grapes) Dr. José Vouillamoz; and Italian winemaker Lisa Gilbee.

Jancis Robinson, Master of Wine, will also be attending as a special guest. Described by Decanter magazine as “the most respected wine critic and journalist in the world”, Robinson has authored several books, including The Oxford Companion to Wine and The World Atlas of Wine (with Hugh Johnson). Ms. Robinson also co-authored the book Wine Grapes, which authoritatively defers to “Tribidrag” as the historical and rightful name for the variety also known respectively as Crljenak Kaštelanski, Primitivo, and Zinfandel (in fact, if you turn to the entries in the book for those varieties, Robinson directs you to “See Tribidrag”).

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With an incredible line-up of speakers, the I Am Tribidrag Conference is a must for any Zinfandel advocate, wine lover, history buff, or student of ampelography (the field of botany concerned with the identification and classification of grapevines). Guided, comparative tastings of over 20 different wines will showcase how variations of terroir impact the character of Tribidrag grown in different areas of Croatia and benchmark regions like California and Italy. A series of extracurricular wine tours and excursions will provide guests with an introduction to the Dalmatian landscape that Zinfandel calls home.

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One of the “Original Zin” (Crljenak Kastelanski) vines found in the Radunic vineyard (photo by Cliff Rames)

Here is the conference program schedule:

Day 1: Thursday, April 27, 2017
16:30–18:30: Registration
18:30–19:00: Opening ceremony, presentation of the Programme and Speakers
19:00–20:00: Story of Tribidrag (Prof. Carole Meredith, Prof. Ivan Pejić)
20:30–23:00: Buffet dinner and tasting of indigenous Dalmatian varieties

Day 2: Friday, April 28, 2017
10:00–11:30: Zinfandel in the United States, with tasting (D. Gates, J. Peterson)
11:30–12:00: Coffee break
12:00–13:30: Primitivo in Italy, with tasting (L. Gilbee)
13:30–15:00: Lunch break
15:00–16:30 Tribidrag in Croatia, with tasting (Prof. E. Maletić, G. Zdunić)
16:30–17:00: Coffee break
17:00–18:30: Tribidrag in the Rest of the World, with tasting (J. Vouillamoz); Special guest Jancis Robinson

Up to 150 guests are expected, and tickets are selling fast. To reserve your spot at the conference, please follow this link: http://tribidrag.org/prijava-registracija/?lang=en

I hope to see you all in Split, where we can raise a glass and unanimously declare, We Are Tribidrag!

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The I Am Tribidrag Conference is organized by the Tribidrag Association of Zagreb, Croatia. Founded by wine enthusiasts Davorka Krnić-Trick, Fani Prodan,and Iva Drganc, in collaboration with Edi Maletić and Ivan Pejić. The association’s mission is to promote the native wine grapes of Croatia in partnership with other wine enthusiasts and renowned wine experts.

For more information, please visit www.tribidrag.org, or email info@tribidrag.org.

For further Information about accommodations and available wine tours, please contact mice@globtour.hr

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New York sommelier promotes Croatian wine

(Translated from the original post, published 11.03.2016 by Peter Panjkota, RTL Televizija Croatia)

For the past ten years, Cliff Rames, a native New Yorker whose father is from Murter island, has been on a mission to popularize Croatian wines in America. Many top sommeliers have listened, and Croatian wines are now offered in many bars, including one in the heart of Manhattan.

“Sometimes bar owners or sommeliers have not heard of Croatian wine or do not want to take the risk to buy a wine they think nobody knows,” said Cliff. “That is why it is hard work and you have to personally hand-sell these wines. But once they taste them, they usually say, ‘this is interesting…this is great…we should do this’”.

And they do. Like here at Anfora wine bar, where Plavina from vineyards around Šibenik is offered among proven favorites from France and Italy.

“These wines are special in their own unique way,” said Cliff. “I think that people who understand wine will want to taste the uniqueness of the wines of Pelješac, Hvar, Slavonia or Plešivica and be willing to pay a few dollars more for the experience—the experience of tasting a unique, indigenous variety that grows no where else except on a single island or field in Croatia.”

And has this experience been shared by any American celebrities?

“I once served wine to Jennifer Lopez,” laughed Cliff. “Unfortunately it was not from Croatia. It was from France. There is still time. So, Jennifer, if you’re watching….”

Conversations over wine often turn to politics, so a question for Cliff: What about this crazy campaign for the US presidency?

“Before i answer that, I need a drink!” laughed Cliff. “This is one of the craziest elections. What will stay with me—I hate to say it—is fear. Fear that this has opened a Pandora’s box of craziness, intolerance, hatred and just terrible politics for the future. So much negativity. So much attacking. It’s going to influence elections in the future and it makes me afraid, it makes me unhappy,” revealed Cliff.

Regardless of whether Hillary or Trump prevails, we hope that Croatian wine will be ever more frequently consumed.

For the original text and video, please click HERE.

Wine Review: Kozlović Santa Lucia Malvazija (93 Points, Jamie Goode)

On October 3, 2016, Jamie Goode, the esteemed British author of The Science of Wine and a wine columnist in the U.K. for  The Sunday Express, published a stellar review of the Kozlović Santa Lucia Malvazija 2015 from the Istria wine making region of Croatia, granting it 93 points.

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(Photo courtesy Wineanorak.com)

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Wine Review: Bibich 2015 Debit

Text and photos © 2016 Cliff Rames

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Debit, a white variety native to Croatia’s Dalmatian coast between the cities of Šibenik and Zadar, was once considered a workhorse grape of great proficiency, so much so (the story goes) it gained its nom de plume during the Napoleonic Era when Dalmatian land owners would barter and pay off their tax debts with their crop instead of coin. This was possible because debit, when unmanaged in the vineyard and left to its own devices, will produce high yields (and consequently simple, one-dimensional wine). So, debit’s proficiency and reliability  served the locals well during the Napoleonic era–and later through the 20th century during Croatia’s time as one of the republics in Yugoslavia, when Socialist-style cooperatives demanded quantity over quality.

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Los Angeles Times discovers the wines of the Plešivica region

By Cliff Rames

In a September 26, 2016 Los Angeles Times article entitled “In old-world Croatia, here are four trendy towns worth visiting”, author Margo Pfeiff lists four towns that one must visit in northern Croatia, which she describes as “rural regions known for their vineyards and welcoming agri-tourism farms….”

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(Photo: © 2016 Cliff Rames)

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Photo Gallery: Dalmatia Wine Expo 2016

(All photos © 2016 Cliff Rames)

If you were unable to attend Croatia’s 2016 Dalmacija Wine Expo in April, don’t dismay (but start  making plans for next year!) and instead check out these exclusive photos for an insider’s look at the festivities. For a full report of the event and more photos, check out our recent post by Cliff Rames: “Dalmatia Wine Expo 2016: Three Things I Learned” .

Živjeli! (Cheers!)

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Sunday Snapshot: A Peek at Vuina Plavac

By Cliff Rames © 2016

Secrets from the cellar of Vuina winery in Kaštel Štafilić: Bottles of Vuina 2010 Plavac Mali Štafileo Barrique at rest, waiting to be sent into the world and into the glasses of happy consumers!

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