Croatian wine tasting at the Barrel Room

Last night we had the pleasure to attend a nice overview of Croatian wines at newly-opened the Barrel Room (more) in San Francisco. We were mainly along for the ride given that we focus on knowing all we can know about Croatian wines, but the official host for the evening was Eric Danch of Blue Danube Wine.

For those who attended (or didn’t and were curious) the wines poured were:

Daruvar – Graševina 2009
Krajančić – Pošip “Intrada” 2009
Terzolo – Teran 2008
Miloš – Plavac 2006
Zlatan Plenković – Crljenak 2008

We’ve tasted all these wines previously and are quite familiar familiar with them. They cover the wine growing regions (in order of the tasting list) of Slavonia, Korčula Island, Istria, Pelješac, and Hvar Island. That’s a pretty solid overview of the main growing areas in Croatia and the wines poured were very representative of the main Croatian grapes being grown, especially the now slightly-less-rare, Crljenak which is of course the same as Zinfandel, except the native to Croatia type.

The response was really overwhelming with a packed house at the Barrel Room. People were really interested in trying these wines. Some had heard references to them before while others had just heard that there was a region tasting at the Barrel Room and trusted that the owners, Sarah and Nikki were going to have something interesting and worth their while.

One of the most rewarding things in observing a tasting like this are the reactions to the wines from people. Because they have absolutely no expectations going in, they’re able to be a great deal more open and “varietal-curious”. It’s much different than if they were to taste a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon which most wine drinkers would infer to have certain qualities and they might be let down if it didn’t.

There really was no consensus among the crowd as to which were the stand out favorites, which is actually a good thing because it means the wines made people think and have an opinion instead of “Oh, it has 95 points, it must be good”. For us, our favorite in the group was the Krajančić Pošip as it offers a a great take on that grape with a good deal more personality than the Pošip produced by the larger producers on Korčula. It has a larger body, grapefruit aromas, and desire to open up even more when it breathes in your glass.

Of course, a base element to we humans is the fact that we like to associate the unknown with something that is known. In the wild, this works to tell us to fight or flee. In wine, we use it to judge tasty or shitty. Given that these wines were unknown to a most of the people at the tasting, folks had many comparisons such as comparing the Pošip to a Chardonnay. Obviously, this wasn’t meant as far as taste characteristics given that they’re very different from one another, but more in the place of the wine; what foods to serve it with and so forth. I certainly wouldn’t disagree with this, but it’s also the case that Pošip can fit it to many slots in a meal as it’s a relatively versatile, albeit strong white.

The Crljenak was also of interest to people, which was a given due to this tasting happening in California and Zinfandel being such a popular grape here. There were many who were most definitely fans of the wine. All along, it’s been one that we like, but wouldn’t rave about given the fact that it’s still a very young wine and the enologists in Croatia are still working with the grape to re-learn it due to Crljenak being nearly extinct and not produced.

Overall though, it was a really good, vibrant night of tasting for all who attended. We look forward to the Barrel Room’s Eastern Europe focus in the near future as well as these continued weekly tastings that they host.


Álvaro Palacios - L’Ermita 2016
Very light red cherry, raspberry, tea leaves, dried fennel, light touch of anise, bay leaf, dried flowers, touch of fig compote, truffle. Exceptionally light and delicate on the palate, very very fine red fruits, integrated tannins, plush with a slightly buttery, velvety aspect, very long finish.
85% Grenache 14% Carignan 1% "Others" · 15% · 1160EUR
97+ 3 Stars

Ancestral Wine Cellar - Khikhvi 2014
First harvest of Khikhvi. Light apricot notes, peach skin, lemon peel. Citric in the mouth, fresh, lively acidity, vibrant. Very holistic, full and deliciously good.
100% Khikhvi · 12% · 30GEL
95 3 Stars

Álvaro Palacios - Les Aubaguetes 2016
Linear plum and dark cherry notes, powdery cocoa, orange peel and blossom, raspberry at the base along with minor vanilla and dark spice touches. Delicate on the palate, light touches of dark fruit, good wealth of tannins yet held in check, medium plus acidity, very long finish. Needs much more time in the bottle.
77% Grenache 21% Carignan 1% Grenache Blanc 1% Macabeu · 14.5% · 455EUR
95+ 3 Stars

Petriaant Marani - Khikhvi 2015
Bruised red apple, touch of lemon peel, limestone minerality, and some white pepper notes at the back of it. High acidity and full in the mouth. Luscious, involving, elegant wine.
100% Khikhvi · 14% · 25GEL
94 3 Stars

Tchotiashvili - Khikhvi 2014
Apricot, yellow peach, orange peel, and a touch of honey. Quite complex aromatically. Orchard fruit much more prevalent in the mouth with young apricot notes. Rich and elegant, touch of astringency in the finish.
100% Khikhvi · 13.1% · 28GEL
93+ 3 Stars

Domaine of the Bee - Cuvée 2015
Ruby with minor garnet rim. Rich red fruits with an underpinning of ripe plum, orange peel, licorice, cocoa. Broad, round tannins with a touch of toast and sweet cocoa in a long finish. Manages to stay very light on the palate despite the higher alcohol.
50% Grenache 50% Carignan · 15% · 25EUR
93 2 Stars

Aquila del Torre - Primaluce 2015
Bruised yellow apple, bit of fig compote, chalky mineral notes, and hazelnut. Light oxidized touches that work to embellish the wine. Rich palate that carries lovely texture with the age of the wine.
100% Sauvignon Blanc · 13.5%
93 2 Stars

Domaine Augustin - Adéodat Blanc 2016
Lemon and white peach, strong kick of salinity, and toasted notes. Very fleshy and full on the palate, peach notes more prominent as well as Meyer lemon, medium plus acidity and a lengthy finish.
100% Grenache Gris · 14.5% · 20EUR
93 2 Stars

AA Badenhorst - Secateurs Red Blend 2012
Forest bramble with ripe red fruit, touches of cherry, ripe red plum, tiny bit of prune, cumin, anise, black licorice, wet cement mineral note, underlying fig jam. Crisp medium plus acidity, medium tannins, medium plus length, medium alcohol, overall medium plus body that’s ripe and lively but super fresh and balanced at the same time. Bit of rugged wildness to it but doesn’t get out of hand. Easy to drink but with just enough underlying complexity so that it stays interesting.
56% Syrah 27% Cinsaut 6% Grenache 4% Cabernet Sauvignon 7% "Others" · 13.5% · 12EUR
93 2 Stars

Domaine Treloar - Motus 2015
Dark ruby, minor rim. Big, mighty bouquet of red cherry and other brambly forest fruit, vanilla, almond blossom, orange peel, and cocoa. Rich and full on the palate with a wealth of tannins still integrating, leading into a crunchy, lingering finish.
80% Mourvèdre 10% Syrah 10% Grenache · 14% · 14EUR
93 2 Stars