An Elixir for the Ages: 1963 Kutjevo Graševina from Croatia

Photos and text by Cliff Rames © 2013

(Note: In the summer of 2012 I was asked to contribute a piece for the next edition of the “Every Wine Tells a Story” book compiled annually by Tara O’Leary. Unfortunately, the book was never published, but here is what I wrote for it, now shared for you here. I hope you enjoy it. ~Cliff)

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THEY SAY THAT LIFE is made up of moments. That at the end when we look back on our individual lives certain fragments of time will blink like stars in a dark sky. That along the timeline of our lives certain small personal interactions or experiences will be recalled with laser clarity: distinct milestones – either meaningful or nostalgic – that we may or may not have noticed at the instant of their occasion.

Every once in a while, a lucky wine lover will encounter a certain vino that changes the game, shifts the boundaries of perception, and leaves one stunned, mystified… Gaping like a beached fish, overwhelmed by the mysteries of the universe, by the inexplicable ways that wine evolves in the bottle. A wine that transcends this world and dispatches the drinker’s consciousness into a parallel dimension where muses enlighten, angels and deities celebrate, and the sands of time flow not to make us old but to revive us with revelations and new discoveries.  

In 2012, I had the honor of being visited by one such wine – a 1963 Graševina “Arhivsko vino” (archive wine) from the Kutjevo winery (a historic bastion of cellared treasures in the Slavonia region of Croatia) on two separate and equally memorable occasions: once at the winery, and subsequently at a vertical tasting workshop of aged graševina wines called “Wine of Grace” at the Zagreb Wine Gourmet Weekend in Croatia.

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Tasting the same wine on two separate occasions did not diminish the profundity of my experience but reaffirmed it. Indeed both encounters left me paralyzed in awe, helpless to summon my professional sommelier training to conduct a point-by-point assessment and expound pretentiously upon the wine’s merits and misdemeanors.

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Instead I sat there dreamy-eyed, slack-jawed and loose-limbed, struggling to suppress the urge to whimper and weep like a baby. Lost in this dumbfounded comprehension of the implications associated with being touched by such a wonder of creation, I yielded to its mysteries and allowed myself to be absorbed.

Forty-nine years of dormancy and leisure in a mold-crusted cellar deposited a patina of fossilized dust and organic matter on the bottle, cloaking it in ash-colored velvet. I watched with mixed emotions (excitement, sorrow, anticipation, unworthiness) as the bottle was opened, revealing a cork that was amber and black with age, ripe and moist.

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What emerged from within was a beautiful liquid genie: older and wiser, perhaps, but no less enchanting with sultry hues of gold, a brilliant clarity and regal structure. Now exhumed from her confines, this “wine of grace” released – or rather, bestowed upon us like a cherished, granted wish – an alluring, continuously unfolding tapestry of rich aromas: honey, roasted nuts, candied citrus peels, autumn bouquet, buttered forest mushrooms, something akin to apricot cobbler….

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Ensconced as I was in such a blissful stupor – sniffing, swirling, marveling – I quietly flipped back pages of history. Over the decades in which the 1963 Graševina laid still in the damp darkness of its lonely old cellar in Kutjevo,  the world outside the cold stone walls was bustling, with many things coming to pass: my parents’ marriage; my birth; Beatle Mania; the deaths of Elvis and John Lennon; the Vietnam war; Jimi Hendrix’s ascent to guitar god; Watergate; Apollo 11 and Neil Armstrong; the heady days of Led Zeppelin; the ’69 Mets; the first Apple computer; Disco; mullet haircuts; Jaws; the Space Shuttle; Michael Jackson’s lifetime; the fall of the Berlin Wall; the break-up of Yugoslavia and the war in Croatia; Seinfeld; cell phones and smart tablets; the Millennium; September 11th; endless wars in the Middle East; Facebook and memes; the unrealized Mayan prophesies; the first African-American U.S. president…..

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Like wrinkles and wisdom, history was now woven into the wine’s fabric. While graševina is not a wine noted for its noble pedigree or ability for long-term aging, the 1963 from Kutjevo winery decisively dispelled any generalized notion about the inability of certain white wines to age. Barely frayed or faded, it was clearly still a living thing, delivering layer upon layer of rich texture, exotic nuance, and vibrant character.

I was not the only one to notice. Judging by the reflective silence and mesmerized faces of those with me, the moment in time we collectively shared while in the throes of vinous enlightenment was truly an enchanting and unforgettable experience.

Judith Burns of Pacta Connect ponders the 1963.
Judith Burns of Pacta Connect ponders the 1963.

A wine of such grace and rarity may not come our way everyday. But if you ever have the opportunity to discover an older vintage or indulge in a unique bottle of some strange varietal wine from a far-off land, please don’t miss it. The experience may turn out to be one of those moments in life that you will treasure forever.

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IF THIS WINE were a celebrity it would be Meryl Streep: an actress of such grace and charm who grows more lovely, sophisticated and relevant with age. Like Mona Lisa on canvass, on screen Meryl shines with just the right balance of profundity, grace and sass, coddling the soul, providing comfort to the heart, and stoking the fires of imagination – all this while defying the ravages of time with her elegant poise, child-like charms and timeless beauty. (Note to Meryl: I still have one more bottle of the 1963 Kutjevo Graševina in my cellar. Stop by anytime. I’d be happy to open it for you.  🙂 )

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Tomac Winery, Anfora, and the Wine Guys – in Pictures

Last week, two editors from Wine Enthusiast magazine, Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen (aka the World Wine Guys), visited Croatia to receive the Golden Pen Award from the Croatian National Tourism Board for their article called “Croatia – In Living Color”, which was published in the September 2011 issue of Wine Enthusiast.

After receiving the Golden Pen Award (“Zlatna Penkala”), the Wine Guys toured a selection of wineries, vineyards, hotels, and restaurants in the continental region of Croatia.

The Wine Guys were escorted by Cliff Rames, sommelier and founder of Wines of Croatia, who along the way captured a few snapshots of their journey. We will be sharing an assortment of Cliff’s photos with you over the next few weeks, starting with this collection of shots from Tomac winery in the Plešivica wine-growing hills – a cool, hilly region about 30 minutes west of Croatia’s capital city, Zagreb.

Tomac is best known for his sparkling wines and iconic Anfora wines. You can read more about Tomac HERE.

(All photos ©2012 Cliff Rames)

Welcomed to Tomac winery by the roses.
Tomislav Tomac

The House of Anfora
Buried anfora
Sparkling rose on a spring day – perfect!
Fine “perlage”
A riesling of great potential.
Tomac “Classic” 2006 sparkling (70% Chardonnay; 30% field blend)
Anfora 2009 Riesling

Wine Guys with Zvonimir and Tomislav Tomac
Nothing like good wine talk & debates!
The Gang: Cliff Rames; Jeff Jenssen; Tomislav Tomac; Mike DeSimone; Zvonimir Tomac
Plešivice vineyards

Wines of Croatia News Round-Up for May 20, 2012

In case you missed anything, here is a round-up of the latest links to the news articles, blog posts and videos that highlighted Croatia, its wine or wine culture.

1. Corkbin: A Taste of Croatia

May 09, 2012

Reviews of Cattunar 2010 Malvasia Istraina and Clai 2009 Malvazija Sv. Jakov by Pacta Connect.

 

 

2. Wines of Croatia Blog: Reflections on the 2012 Zagreb Wine Gourmet Weekend – Part I

May 10, 2012

Part I of a two-part report about one of Croatia’s most important wine festivals.

 

 

3. Total-Hvar.com: New for 2013 – Californian Students on Hvar’s Vineyards

May 12, 2012

An exchange program between a university in California and Hvar’s winemakers has been launched, which will offer internships to viticulture students.

 

 

4. Pacta Connect Blog: Wines of Croatia ~ Cliff Rames

May 12, 2012

Trevor and Judith from Pacta Connect (a U.K. importer of Croatian wines) profile Wines of Croatia founder Cliff Rames.

 

 5. The Telegraph UK: A Croatian Wine for M&S – Out on an Istrian Limb

May 14, 2012

The story behind the selection of Pilato Malvasia Istriana for a leading U.K. supermarket. 

 

 

6. Harpers Wine & Spirits Trades Review: Joe Wadsack: My Take on Marks & Spencer’s New Middle East Wine Range

May 14, 2012

More background stories about the recent addition of two wines of Croatia – malvasia istriana from Pilato and Grasevina by Krauthaker – to British supermarket Marks & Spencer “Eastern Mediterranean” portfolio.

 

 

7. Balkan Travellers.com: 10 Reasons to Attend the Balkans Wine Competition 2012

May 14, 2012

The first-ever Balkans International Wine Competition will take place in Sophia, Bulgaria on June 14-17, 2012. Here are 10 reasons why wineries, exhibitors and guests should attend.  

 

 

8. The Globe and Mail: The Next Big Wine Country (Hint – It Starts with C and Ends with A)

May 17, 2012

Canada’s Globe and Mail echo Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations by also asserting that Croatia is the next “big wine country”. 

 

P.S. We love to hear from you!

If you have comments or other news to share, please comment on this post or email us at info@winesofcroatia.com

 

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Wines of Croatia

From time to time, questions arise: What is the mission of Wines of Croatia? Who is behind the name and logo? What are its goals and future objectives? Does Wines of Croatia sell wine?

Often it is easiest to simply push ahead with business as usual and grow blind to the need for periodic adjustment of course, to the value of connecting with friends and supporters, and the necessity to ensure that the message is resonating with the right people in the right way.

I think you will agree, lately things have been pretty exciting. Last summer (in June 2011) we had the first-ever Grand Tasting of the Wines of Croatia in New York City, a successful event attended by over 200 U.S. wine professionals.

Grand Tasting, NYC, June 2011 w/ Fred Dexheimer MS (r)

Then in September, one of the most important wine magazines in the United States, Wine Enthusiast, published a 10-page color feature about Croatia and its wines. Then in February 2012, Jody Ness broadcast a series of episodes entitled “Croatia Calling” on his Wine Portfolio program.

Jody Ness in Croatia (image courtesy of Croatia.hr)

This year, the spring kicked off with a series of wonderful wine festivals: first the Zagreb Wine Gourmet Weekend and then the Dalmatia Wine Expo, both in April, followed by Vinistra, which kicks off this weekend in Poreč. A few weeks ago, Anthony Bourdain launched Season 8 of his wildly popular No Reservations TV program on the Travel Channel with an episode from Croatia.

Anthony Bourdain in Croatia (Photo courtesy of the Travel Channel)

With so much buzz about Croatian wines and the increasing responsibility I feel to work harder to better represent and promote Croatia, its wines and wine lifestyle, I decided that the time is right to take a moment to reassess and clarify Wines of Croatia’s mission and address a few of the questions I sometimes get asked. Much of what is covered in this post will also appear on the About Us and Mission pages on this blog and will shortly be available on the Wines of Croatia website.

I hope you find this post informative and interesting. Cheers!

Sincerely,

Cliff Rames, Founder, Wines of Croatia

1. Who is behind Wines of Croatia?

Wines of Croatia was founded in 2007 by Cliff Rames, an American of Croatian descent who is a Certified Sommelier and Certified Specialist of Wine. Cliff administers the Wines of Croatia Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest pages, as well as writes for and manages this blog. When he is not spending his time at the helm of Wines of Croatia, Cliff serves as sommelier for the Caudalie Vinotheralie Spa at the world-famous Plaza Hotel in New York City. He also loves to spend time with his cockapoo (and Wines of Croatia mascot), Smokie.

Smokie!
Cliff Rames

2. What is Wines of Croatia?

Wines of Croatia is an independent, privately-funded, and increasingly membership-driven organization that supports, coordinates, initiates and/or conducts ongoing educational and promotional activities and events that raise awareness, expand appreciation and consequently increase demand for quality Croatian wine in the U.S., U.K. and other key international markets.

Wines of Croatia is the first and leading organization that promotes Croatian wines and the producers that make them, the wine regions wine roads that showcase their vineyards, the native grapes that give up their juice for us, the importers and distributors that enable the wines to reach our tables, and the wine tourism opportunities and agents that wait to welcome us to Croatia.

For more information, please refer to our Mission Statement.

3.  Where is Wines of Croatia located or based?

Wines of Croatia is based in New York City. However, our mission and vision is global and focused on key markets where Croatian wines are in demand by consumers, imported and distributed by private businesses, and sold in retail shops and restaurants. We are in close contact with many Croatian wineries and other wines professionals in Croatia and internationally. Our friends and supporters come from all around the globe and many walks of life. One of the many beauties of wine is that it unites people. Our doors are open to anyone who shares our love and passion for Croatia’s wonderful wines, winemakers and wine regions!

Meet the Winemakers of Croatia tasting, Oak Room at the Plaza, NYC, Nov. 2010

4. Is Wines of Croatia a government agency?

No. Wines of Croatia is an independent, privately-funded, and increasingly membership-driven organization. It is not affiliated with or sponsored by any government agency.

5. Does Wines of Croatia import or sell wine?

No. Wines of Croatia does not directly engage in importation, distribution, wholesaling or the retail sale of wine. However, we work closely with many of these businesses, and we would be happy to advise you where you can purchase Croatian wines in your neighborhood.

6. How does Wines of Croatia fund/sustain itself?

Great question! You may have noticed that there is no advertising on this blog or our website. Whether or not this will change in the future is currently under examination. The harsh reality is, no matter how much we love the wines, it requires quite a lot of time, resources and support to operate as an effective and credible organization and to continue serving as a reliable source of timely information, news, data, and events.

Until now, Wines of Croatia has been self-funded through private resources, mainly provided by Cliff Rames with some help from a couple of generous individuals. U.S.importers such as Blue Danube Wine Company, Oenocentric, Dalmata and VinumUSA have periodically and graciously supplied wine samples. The Croatian National Tourism Board and the Croatian Chamber of the Economy have also provided airfare and lodging support for a few trips by Cliff Rames to visit wineries and wine expos in Croatia.  The Chamber of Economy also provided financial backing for last year’s Grand Tasting in New York City, for which we are sincerely grateful.

From time to time we also offer certain quality items for sale. Sales of these items help to offset some of Wines of Croatia’s operating expenses. Currently on eBay we are offering a video called Croatian Wine Story, which is now on sale for $15. Please check this link for more info or to purchase your copy.

Looking ahead, the challenge of sustainability is an issue we must address. That is why we are planning to create a membership program, and we invite wineries, wine-related businesses, importers, distributors, retailers, restaurants and individual advocates to become members of Wine of Croatia in return for ongoing advocacy and promotion activities. Other options are also being considered, such as advertising, premium content subscriptions, and donations. Individuals or businesses that wish to become a member may contact us via email at info@winesofcroatia.com.

7. When will the Wines of Croatia website be finished?

Now that a new sustainability concept is in place, work on the website will resume. We project that much of the work will be completed in 2012. As new members come on board, content relevant to the members will proportionately expand.

8. Can Wines of Croatia make winery visit arrangements for me or develop an itinerary for my wine tour to Croatia?

Yes, but for a fee. Please contact Cliff Rames at crames@winesofcroatia.com for a consultation.

9. I am interested in importing Croatian wines. Can Wines of Croatia suggest some wineries that may be interested in having an importer?

Yes. Please contact us via email for an exploratory consultation.

10. What is the best way to contact you?

The best way to contact Wines of Croatia is via email at info@winesofcroatia.com.

Wines of Croatia also maintains an integrated social network presence. You may find us and also contact us on Facebook, on Twitter, or via the comments section on this blog.

If there is a question we missed, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

Thank you for your friendship and support! Cheers!!

Wines of Croatia News Round-Up for January 22, 2012

 

In case you missed anything, here is a round-up of the latest links to the news articles, blog posts and videos that highlighted Croatia, its wine or wine culture.

 1. Pacta Connect: Remember, Remember the Fifth of November (Part 2)

January 5, 2012

The team from Pacta Connect recalls a delightful day of mushrooms, Morgan Restaurant, & Cattunar winery during a visit to Istria, Croatia.

 

 

2. A Traveler’s Mind: Why Croatia? The Wine of Course

January 5, 2012

Vanessa Day answers the question: Why Croatia? “With its vast expanse of land, wide grape variety and ideal climate, Croatia has more than enough options for you to choose from when it comes to wine.”

 

3. Wines World: Croatia’s Wine Industry

January 11, 2012

 An interesting overview of Croatia’s wine industry by the wine, food & travel blog, Wines World.

 

 

4. By the Tun: BIBICh Winery – The Best Culinary Experience of My 5-Week Culinary Press Trip

January 11, 2012

Mattie John Bamman discovers that “BIBICh wine dances” and few wineries can create an wine & food experience as awesome as Alen and Vesna Bibic can. 


5. Wines of Croatia Blog: Two Croatian Wine Stories Published in New Book

January 12, 2012

A recently published book called “Every Wine Tells a Story” includes two stories about Croatian wines, one by Wines of Croatia founder Cliff Rames, and the second by U.K. wine importer Judith Burns of Pacta Connect.

 

6. Croatian Times: Croatian Wine Manufacturer to Take on China

January 12, 2012

Croatian wine and spirits producer Badel 1862, and Chinese Tadee Holding Group agree to joint venture that will bring Croatian alcoholic beverages to the Chinese market.

 

7. Fodors: 21 Places to Go in 2012

January 14, 2012

Fodor’s names Istria as one of “21 Places to Go in 2012”. “Istria is like a less-touristed, more affordable version of Tuscany. Think medieval hilltop villages, miles of vineyards, and restaurants serving incredible seafood and pizza and pasta dishes…”

 

 8. Taste of Croatia: Kozlovic – Wine Drinker’s Kindergarten and PhD School

January 15, 2012

An inside glimpse of the newly rebuilt and remarkable Kozlović winery in Momjan, Istria. 

 

9. Foodspring: The Future of Wine

January 15, 2012

Britain’s oldest wine and spirit merchants, Berry Brothers & Rudd, predicts that Croatia will be among the wine-producing countries that will feature more prominently in the future and recommends BIBICh as a producer to try. 

 

10. Digital Journal: Hvar Wines – Plavac Mali ‘Could Unite China and Russia’

January 16, 2012

A 1.5 million Euro deal with a Chinese businessman stands to benefit local wine growers on Hvar island in Croatia and could help to elevate the Plavac Mali grape variety further onto the world stage.

 

 11. Vinologue: Crvik Winery in Dalmatia’s Konavle

January 16, 2012

A short profile of the Konavle wine region of south Dalmatia and the wines of Crvik winery.

 

 12. Bravawine: Wine #8. On the 8th Night of Croatian Vino

January 18, 2012

Review of Matošević 2009 Grimalda Red.

 

 

13. The Drinks Business: Croatian Wine Looks to Crack Global Market

January 20, 2012

The rebirth of a country’s wine tradition is underway, led by wineries like Roxanich.

 

 

14. Wines of Croatia Blog: A Time for Pruning & Partying – The Feast of Saint Vincent

January 21, 2012

A short history of he Feast of Saint Vincent of Saragossa.  

 

P.S. We love to hear from you!

If you have comments or other news to share, please comment on this post or email us at info@winesofcroatia.com

 

A Happy New Year 2012 Message from Wines of Croatia

Dear friends,

I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to believe. Another year has woven its winding path and is about to quickly disappear over the horizon. Yet I hope that somewhere along the way you found the time to stop and enjoy many of Life’s beauties and precious moments, glass of great wine in hand, and friends and loved ones by your side!

With that said, I would like to wish you all a very Happy New Year and to THANK YOU for your ongoing support, encouragement and friendship. It has truly been a wonderful journey so far! And I have no doubts that 2012 will bring us even better reasons to salute and celebrate the winemakers and wines of Croatia!

As always, I welcome your suggestions and feedback for the blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed, and website (yes, it will be completed in 2012 – I promise!). Remember, these pages are for you and for your enjoyment. So, I will be soon asking you for your ideas, comments and criticisms so that in the coming year we can serve you better.

In the meantime, enjoy the holiday celebrations – and please be safe!

May the New Year bring you much joy in your heart, sacred peace in your soul, passion and exuberance to your spirit, and vibrant health to your body! I hope that the days and months ahead bring you closer to your dreams and find you waking each morning with the excitement and lust that come from knowing that Life has a purpose, Love waits to greet you, and Opportunity and Success serenade you like the sweetest of songs.

I look forward to tasting our way down the wine roads of Croatia with you in 2012. “Sretna Nova Godina – and Živjeli!!!”

Sincerely,

Cliff Rames

Founder, Wines of Croatia

“Cliff Rames: The Champion of Croatian Wines”

In its November 2011 issue, the English-language magazine published, Croatia: a Fortnight in Review published an extensive interview with Wines of Croatia founder, Cliff Rames.

Croatia: a Fortnight in Review is a bi-weekly, subscription-only magazine published inZagreb for English-speaking residents ofCroatia, including ex-patriot, diplomats and foreign business people.

The 3-page interview begins with this: “We could not pass up the opportunity to consult sommelier Cliff Rames, who is arguably the most prolific (and passionate) promoter of Croatian whites, reds, oranges, roses and sparklings internationally, for his take on the status and the future trajectory of the local industry.”

To read the full article (in flip-book format), please see pages 20-22 of Issue #20 by clicking HERE.

We hope you enjoy the interview, and please feel free to comment below.