Best Wine Moments of 2016 - Part 1
F u c k y o u 2016! For lack of better words or creativity. But in all seriousness, I precisely remember the moment during New Year's Eve last year where after a blah year I exclaimed "2016 is going to be so much better!" Well.. Way to cry wolf sister. This year was pivotal and very difficult in terms of work and personal life for me (and for the whole world it seems). I finally admitted to myself - and more importantly to the people around me - that I may not really enjoy what I do for a living currently and had more unimpressive romantic encounters than I'd care to recollect. There was however one aspect of my life that blossomed and kind of held it (me) all together - wine. I forced myself to do a recap of this year in all aspects of my life and wine definitely stands out as the one big reminder that it wasn't all a bunch of horse shit. I mean - there are two parts to the best wine moments of 2016! How spectacular. So without further ado, here they are.
End of January we hosted the lovely Veronique Sanders from Chateau Haut Bailly at a portfolio tasting in Chateau Heralec. Accompanying her was director of export at Duclot, Gerda Beziade, and I had the pleasure to spend the whole evening talking to and translating for both of these women. The estate is by far one of my favorites in Bordeaux and I look back at the evening fondly as a showcase of much needed female power in this industry. I wrote about it here in more detail.
The day that basically changed my life and I ain't even joking - my first tasting of natural wine, Jakub Novak's Pinot Blanc. In retrospect it was definitely a no-going-back kind of moment and I will never forget it - the beautiful fragrance of the wine, the taste. As a majority of people who are somehow involved in the natural wine community, I have a very conventional wine background and didn't even know this part of the wine world existed at that point. I am so so happy that I discovered it and continue to learn more. A gift that keeps on giving.
Milan Nestarec, the superstar of the Czech natural wine community. In February I took it upon myself to taste as much of his wines as possible and tried to keep that promise all year. Experimental but uncompromising, his wines are exciting and just plain delicious. One of my favorite moments of the year was drinking his Antika Tramin with an ex-lover on the terrace of my new apartment, a light summer breeze blowing and bossanova playing in the background. It was the most love inducing atmosphere :-) One of 2017 resolutions - keep drinking more of his wines.
End of February, trip to Cuba. Not exactly a wine moment since I actually didn't drink wine for FOURTEEN DAYS but it was there that I met Ivan who introduced me to his sister, chief editor of Bar Magazine Slovakia. One thing led to another and today I have a regular column titled "Wine Dictionary" where I try to playfully educate peeps on all things wine. Writing the column and the mostly really positive feedback surrounding it has been one of the highlights of my year.
March marked the first time I visited the first all natural wine bar in Prague, Veltlin. Simple but chic interior, great location and fantastic selection of wine. Standa, the most positive man and a great taster, who is in charge and his team do a great job. Another resolution for 2017 - visit more often!
March also marked the tasting of New Zealand winery Saint Clair in Bratislava. I got to meet the sweetest couple Mark and Sarina who both work at the winery, Sarina being the daughter of the founding owners. Such a fun night, I really hope to visit them in New Zealand one day.
Nona Sinfonia, one of my favorite discoveries of the year that I also drank bucket loads of. This col fondo prosecco together with Casa Belfi are my top from what I've tasted to date. I'm just a sucker for some good bubb.
April marked my fourth time in Bordeaux, this time once again for some en primeur campaigning. It's definitely not 'my world' and a place I feel exactly comfortable in in terms of the wine world - it's hard for me to keep my shit together in all the fancy tasting rooms as you can tell above - but it's always an interesting experience and a chance to meet people with different perspectives on what wine is (should be). Gotta keep tabs. Plus, Bordeaux is a gorgeous city. 2017 resolutions though are to finally visit Burgundy and.. CHAMPAGNE.
At Chateau Heralec we work very closely with Czech winery Travnicek & Korinek. For me, they are one of the most promising wineries in the Czech Republic in terms of quality and value and on a really good trajectory towards becoming all organic (and hopefully natural someday). We annually visit the winery near Znojmo to taste the portfolio and this year in August was a blast as always. Their Pinot Noir (Apri!), Chardonnay and Riesling are especially stand outs. Looking forward to working more closely with them in 2017!
When I first discovered the natural dry wine spritzer Hoxie through my favorite wine writer Marissa A. Ross. (who has a book coming out next year yay!) I schemed on how I could get my hands on some. Difficult, because they only sell in a couple states in the US, mostly California. But nothing is impossible! When one of my closest friends who lives in Oakland was visiting in May I made her go to Ordinaire Wine, a wine bar there, and get me some. And she did! So I enjoyed the most amazing warm afternoon on my terrace drinking some Hoxie that flew half way across the world to get to me. And it was d e l i c i o u s. Wish someone around us would take the memo and produce such great stuff too, it's perfect for the summer.
One of my favorite reads this year was the book aptly titled "Spritz" by Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau. They travelled essentially across all of Italy to taste the local variations and discover that it's really more of a lifestyle than a cocktail. Fascinating read into the history of it's creation and the philosophy of wine as a lifestyle and community connection, not just a drink. Plus it has the loveliest recipes and most beautiful illustrations. Highly recommended.
May also marked my first time attending the natural wine festival Prague Drinks Wine organized by afore mentioned Veltlin. Showcasing more than sixty winemakers from all over the Central European region and abroad, it was impeccably organized and so much fun. Drank as much as I laughed, which was a lot. Wrote about it in more detail here. Can't wait to go back next yeaaar!
The beginning of June also marked my first visit to Slobodne Vinarstvo at their annual event Gavalier. They are by far one of my favorite Slovak wineries in terms of everything - style, quality, focus on reds, desire to experiment. Their Cutis Deviner 2014 is one of my top wines of 2016 full stop. I have no photos from the event because it was absolutely pouring down apocalyptic rain but it was wonderful - fresh baked goods, workshop on tai chi, tasting of the portfolio and music. Definitely going back next year.
Mid June I went to my first tasting of Tibor Melecsky, organized by the guys over at Plny Pohar. The man does not even have a website! And thank goodness. If more people found out about his absolutely mind blowing wines there would be less for those of us who are fortunate to know. I rave about him everywhere I go which is kind of counter to what I just said above but he deserves it - smart, charming with rhetoric that makes him seem like he does not belong to this time or any other really. A unique man with unique wines. In the second half of the year I had the wonderful opportunity to visit his cellar and I had no idea there was so much truth to the cliche 'a place where time stops'. 2017 resolution, stock up on as much as I can for he will be more and more of a rare commodity.
Closing off part one, we have the end of June aka my birthday. I celebrated with dinner at my absolutely most favorite restaurant and cafe in Bratislava where I practically live, U Kubistu, with my closest friends drinking amazing wines. Including another one of my highlights of 2016, the Meinklang Foam 2014. We giggled, had cake, drank wine and then got totally drenched in the streets afterwards, dancing and laughing all the way home. A great birthday. Grateful for my friends, family and people who do great work such as the staff at U Kubistu every single day.
See you in part 2 that will be up after tonight - throwing a special special pre New Year's Evve tasting that definitely needs to be on there.