St. Andrea Winery, Eger, Hungary
We first tasted St. Andrea's 2006 Merengo Egri Bikaver Superior (bull's blood) at the Michelin-starred Borkonyha (literally translated Winekitchen) restaurant in Budapest. (Side note - this is one of the most affordable Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. We closed out a night of first courses, main courses, dessert, and wine for $125 USD.) Upon the recommendation of our waiter, we ordered a bottle of the Merengo and are oh-so-glad we did.
Primarily made of the Kekfrankos grape, called blaufrankisch in Austria, Egri Bikaver is a spicy, deep-red fruit wine. St. Andrea rounds theirs out with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. When made well, as St. Andrea's is, it has smooth, lush tannins and excellent balance. After the fact, I've come to realize that the 2006 Merengo is one of the best Hungarian wines in recent history. (Food & Wine mag back me up.)
Before leaving Budapest, we found two bottles of Merengo to ship home: a 2009 and a 2011. Bortarsasag wine shop on the Buda side of the Chain Bridge is an incredible wine shop, by the way. The 2006 was sold out, so we ran back to Borkonyha to buy a bottle from them, but we had drunk their last bottle!
A year later, we brought our 2009 bottle to dinner with a prominent Napa wine industry veteran and winery owner, who was stunned at the quality. I'm only relating this story to drive home the point that this is some darn good wine.
While we didn't visit St. Andrea's estate in Eger itself, they are open to wine tourism.
Even more surprising and elating is that St. Andrea has apparently opened a wine bar in Budapest! Located in the financial district on the Pest side of the river, this bar serves all of St. Andrea's wines, including several vintages of Merengo. I know exactly where I'm going on the next visit to Budapest!