On their recent trip to Croatia, Eric and Michael enjoyed their visit to the island of Hvar where they met Ivana and Ivo Carić.
It’s a rare occasion to be eager to swim in the area where ferries dock but even more rare that the water there is crystal clear and littered with sea urchins and schools of fish. The moment we drove our mighty Fiat off of the boat, even before walking on solid land, it was obvious to us that this island is pristine and busy with life. We began our journey by meeting up with recent friends Marion and Zdravko Podolski. This couple who usually reside in California also have a house on Hvar and a near encyclopedic knowledge of it — check out their website. We joined up to meet, and beyond just visiting vineyards and tasting wine we circumnavigated and learned the history of the entire island and what makes it undeniably unique.
Our first stop was to tour the UNESCO protected Stari Grad Plain. These are agricultural parcels (900x180m) called “Chora” replete with a rainwater collection system, cisterns, and rock walls dividing everything within a maze of stone roads. This may sound typical but it’s been unbroken this way for over 24 consecutive centuries. Walking through, you are surrounded by a crazy patchwork of grapes, olives, onions, fennel, figs, onions, and lavender. The plots are so small that it’s basically a polyculture of everything you want to eat and drink. This is where the Carić family grows their vines of the native white Bogdanjuša. Ivo, who has hands that immediately remind you that you don’t work hard enough, was constantly picking herbs, smelling them, and feeling the various soils; you can tell he spends on inordinate amount of time here and is well connected to this land.
We stopped for lunch at Kod None in the town of Svirče, easily one of the most memorable meals of our trip. Pogača sa inćunima (thin crust bread filled with onions, anchovies and herbs), whole baked fish, Ćrni Rizot (cuttlefish ink seafood risotto) and maybe the best calamari I’ve ever had accompanied by, of course, a table littered with bottles of Carić wines.
Our next stop was the impossibly steep vineyards on the south side of the island. To get there you need to drive through the unlit, 1.5 km, one-lane Pitve tunnel. When you pop out it’s like leaving black and white Kansas and entering full color Oz.
The hillside vineyards climb up and disappear into the fog ahead of you while behind they descend right down to the Adriatic’s edge. A scene that seems like the Mosel meets the White Cliffs of Dover.
This is also where Ivo and Ivana grow their Plavac Mali. Ivana, constantly juggling a toddler and newborn, is the perfect balance to Ivo’s ceaseless manual labor. She is incredibly patient, knowledgeable and determined to impress the importance of this place upon us as much as possible.
To that end, every time I drink Plavac Mali from Hvar I can smell the wild sage, rosemary, lavender, salt air, see the little towns tucked into the canyons, and the marvel at the head trained vines burrowed deep into the rocks. It’s an impressive place to grow grapes and we are grateful to everyone who made this visit possible. We will be back, and in the meantime we’ll drink the wines and attempt to recreate the food we ate.
Eric Danch & Michael Newsome
Curious to taste the wines from Hvar and smell the aromas of the island? The Bogdanjuša and Plavac Mali from Carić are available on our website.