Saturday, 29 February 2020

Tomislav Ruszkowski, a Whiskey Professional of Zagreb

February 29, 2020 - There is a corner of Zagreb which is forever Scotland thanks to the whiskey passion of Tomislav Ruszkowski. 

February, not such a cold month of the year anymore, yet whiskey lovers prefer to stay warm while tasting most exclusive and unique whiskeys. At the Bornstein Wine Bar in Zagreb, Tomislav Ruszkowski holds a whiskey evening once a month. In the last meeting, held on the February 24, 2020, the main topic was the Scottish island Islay and the considerable goodness it provides.

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When you enter the wine bar, you enter a different atmosphere: dim lighting, slow music, chatting in the distance, old bottles of wine all around. On each table for each person, there are five glasses carefully filled with various whiskeys, covered with a wooden cap so that whiskeys do not lose their quality. As the evening progresses, Tomislav Ruszkowski explains the content of every glass. In an educative and intriguing way, he talks about the history behind every bottle and barrel. Guests, who are mostly friends of Ruszkowski, try every whiskey, make a comparison between them, comment, and enjoy every breath of those rare specialties.

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During a break in the presentation, I got a chance to talk to Tomislav Ruszkowski personally.  

Where does your love of whiskey come from?

Many years ago, at a Christmas Eve family gathering, my father opened a bottle of Single Malt whiskey. Until that day, we had tried Ballantines, Johnnie Walker, etc., but this fifteen-year-old whiskey was extraordinary. In the year 2003, I started to dig more into this, and that evening was the reason. This whole domain of Single Malt whiskeys has many organoleptic combinations and beauty. But Scottish whiskeys aren't just that, they are also about the people who are making them, the nature, history, stories...

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Are you self-taught, or did you attend presentations of other professionals?

When I first get involved in this story, there weren't any presentations I could learn from. But I traveled a lot (I try to go to Scotland at least once a year), so I learned a lot from the owners of the distilleries, I have read a lot of books, and of course, I use the Internet as an inexhaustible source of information. Now I love to attend other professional lectures because there is always room for more knowledge. I know a lot about this topic, but I like to discover additional fine details. The late Silvano Samaroli, the greatest whiskey persona, said he is more attracted to the imperfection of some whiskey than perfection. Because perfect is perfect. Flaws are the things that lead you to new worlds.

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Tell us the story about your presentations in Zagreb and how they started?

The Whiskey Fair here in Zagreb demonstrated that many people are interested in that specific drink. I held a couple of presentations at this Fair, but as the interest grew, I decided to begin my own evenings here in Bornstein. I started with a group of ten people, while now 35 people are the usual number of guests. Of course, there are plenty of topics connected with Scottish whiskeys, so I always try to introduce people to them in an intriguing way. It is a challenge for me to make these presentations interesting enough for people who attend them, especially if they are new to this world. In addition to Zagreb, I have held presentations in Rijeka, Istria, and Italy.

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When in Scotland, which distillery is a must-visit? Do you have a favourite you are always returning to, or do you visit a different distillery every time?

My first journey was to the island Islay, to the distillery Ardberg. We had to change our plane three times, three times the plane was late. There was a terrible storm. So I guess a visit to this distillery will always remain in my memory. But to be honest, the whole island, all of these distilleries produce such high-quality whiskey that it is very hard to choose. 

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Do you have a particular favourite whiskey?

Well, that is hard to say. Today my favourites are the ones we are having here. But if I have to choose, I would go with some Samaroli edition of Laphroaig. The reason lies in the scent that today whiskeys don't have, for those older whiskeys were produced using different types of yeast and barley. 

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What is the most significant thing for you in whiskey?

Fragrance. You taste whiskey with your nose, mouth, and with the third dimension, which brings you all the flavours that overlap one with another like ocean waves when you swallow the liquor. But the most important thing for me is the fragrance that fills my nose. In this way, I can feel most of the things I like in whiskey. 

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After a short pause, guests returned to their sites and eagerly awaiting the resumption of proceedings. In the end, each guest commented on his favourite number as well as his least favourite at that time. In the late-night hours, which are now cold enough to feel uncomfortable, unless you just tried a couple of whiskeys from the private barrel, I said goodbye to this whiskey world. 

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I am genuinely grateful to Tomislav Ruszkowski for the conversation as well as to Julio Frangen for the great photos. 

If the story got you interested enough in the world of whiskeys, make sure you visit Whisky Fair and Whiskey Leaks that are held every year in Zagreb.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Wine Tuesday: "Young Međimurje" Presented at Bornstein

On Tuesday, 20 November, the Bornstein wine shop and wine bar in Zagreb hosted the second edition of the Wine Tuesday event, in collaboration with the website. This edition of Wine Tuesday surprised even wine experts by presenting young winemakers from the Međimurje region. Six winemakers spoke about their wineries and specifically about their young wines. In line with the time of the year and their young age, the whole evening was titled Young Međimurje. The goal was to taste and rate the young wines of the 2018 vintage. They were presented to Bornstein's guests, sommeliers, restaurant owners and bar owners, as well as media representatives. Everybody agreed that the wines are extremely light, joyful and drinkable, characterized by their minerality, fruitiness and freshness.

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The Dvanajščak-Kozol family is one of the younger winegrowing and winemaking families in Međimurje. Continuing the tradition of parents Rajka and Zdravko, they planted their first vines in the period from 1990 to 1992. Rajka, Zdravko and daughter Tea have passed a sommelier exam, and Tea, who is just 16, is the youngest sommelier in Croatia. The family nowadays cultivates eight hectares of vineyards which are located on excellent, sunny and elevated locations near Dragoslavec, under the names Grofovo, Okrugli Vrh and Mohokos. The Mohokos peak is located at 344.40 m above sea level and is the highest point of Međimurje. Tea’s brother Viktor presented Cuvee of two varieties, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Blanc. Both varieties were harvested mid-September and they are already showing their potential.

The Preiner family is a winemaking family that has been involved in winegrowing for many years. It is becoming increasingly successful and better in wine production. The family is made up of Darko and Štefica Preiner, son Nenad, daughter Ljerka and grandmother Sabina. They plan to construct a new cellar and a tasting room and, of course, to continue producing even better wines. We tasted Silvanac Zeleni, with grapes harvested in early September.

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The Cmrečnjak family continues a long tradition of vineyards and winemaking. The first family cellar dates back to 1884 and today it houses the family archives. In addition to the market results, the success of Cmrečnjak family has been confirmed by the experts, since the family regularly participate in national and international competitions, winning an enviable collection of medals and awards. With an expansion of the vineyard, there has been growing demand for the Cmrečnjak quality wines. We tasted Rizvanac, harvested on 21 August 2018.

The Kocijan family cultivates vineyards located in Banfi and Orehovčak and produces excellent white wines Pušipel, Graševina, Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon, Traminac Mirisavi, the Štrigovska Zvona coupage and the Cabernet Sauvignon red wine. We tasted Chardonnay, and the grapes were harvested on 3 September.

The Štampar family wines begin their lives in the vineyards, just like in the old days. They started with just 3,000 vines of one variety, with an old Croatian oak press from 1927 and barely a few dilapidated barrels in a small cellar. Today, in a constant search for the perfect combination of tradition, knowledge and innovation, the Štampars offer extremely high-quality and award-winning wines from a dozen representative varieties of the Međimurje wine area. We tasted Silvanac Zeleni, harvested on 15 September 2018.

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The Kunčić family is based in Banfi, in the extreme northwest corner of Croatia. The borderline with Slovenia passes through their yard and the house, and their winery's terrace overlooks the Slovenian Pomurje region and Hungary a little further away. The cellar and the vineyards are an example of a diligent and careful approach to winemaking and continuous investment, which ultimately results in excellent wines. We tried a Cuvee of Chardonnay, Yellow Muscat and Sauvignon, with grapes harvested on 15 September.

In addition to wines, Bornstein served their famous meat plates, and the event was supported by the Oletić Butchers, with a tradition that has lasted for four decades. It is an ambitious family farm that strives to satisfy demanding customers and offers fresh meat and top-of-the-range meat products, as well as game meat and specialized meat products. Oletić has two butcher’s shops in Varaždin and Šenkovec, and a meat processing facility. With a large assortment of fresh beef, pork, veal, chicken and game meat (roe deer, boar, deer) and cured meat products processed traditionally, it supplies a number of catering facilities throughout Croatia.

The Moravec family farm – once you reach Nova Ves Petrijanečka in Varaždin County, you can follow the signs along the road and easily reach the Moravec family farm. It is a farm with 150 white goats and a dairy plant which produces various products made of goat milk, such as cheeses with colourful pepper and red pepper, spreads with pumpkin seeds and chives, and curd, while the main product is goat milk which is bottled and carries the "Milk from Croatian Farms" mark.

For more on Croatian wines, click here.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Stina and Ledinić Wineries Present Wines You Cannot See Even in Films

They say that the Plavac Mali wine variety has a thousand faces, that its nature is wild, that it is unbridled and rustic, but also that in the hands of a good winemaker the variety produces wines of exceptional quality. The truthfulness of these claims was confirmed in Zagreb recently as part of Jelena Bulum’s programme entitled Wine&Cinema held at the Bornstein wine shop and wine bar, which paired wines and films.

The guests tasted wines of different stylistic expressions: on one hand, Stina’s modern wines – Bogondon 2017, Plavac Mali Barrique 2013, Plavac Mali Majstor 2015; and, on the other hand, the wines produced by the winemaker Željko Ledinić from Pelješac, more focused towards fans of the traditional Plavac – Plavac Mali Selection 2013, Plavac Mali Prestige 2011, and semi-dry Plavac from 2011.

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The tasting was accompanied by clips from psychological thrillers, and the selection of the films was explained by the event organiser Jelena Bulum who said that such complex and serious wines such as Plavac can found their pair only in films whose protagonists are equally complex.

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A ballerina who “breaks down” under the weight of expectations in Black Swan, the talented Tom Ripley from the eponymous film who thinks that “it is better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody,” the pathologic liar and kleptomaniac Marnie, a creation of master the of the suspense Hitchcock.

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Marnie was paired with the Majstor wine. Stina’s wines were tasted accompanied by the well-known snacks from Bornstein's kitchen, and Ledinić's wine with fresh oysters from Mali Ston and authentic Croatian cakes “Granma’s Kisses”, with all ingredients coming from family farms.

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The audience showed its support with active participation and by commenting on the films and wines, with applause repeatedly heard for the Stina wine labels, the spontaneity of Željko Ledinić, and the film knowledge of Martin Milinković who, together with the selected films, presented some of the trivia about them. The organisers say the Christmas edition of the Wine&Cinema programme is already being prepared.

For more on wines in Croatia, click here.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Wine Tuesdays Launched at Bornstein Wine Shop and Bar

If it’s a Tuesday and you love fine wines, Bornstein is the place to be.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Wine Bar Bornstein