The Captain of Krk and an Island Hvar Hvar Away…

Partly because it’s already hitting 80 degrees in my adopted hometown of Sacramento, and partly because I miss Croatia, I’d like to highlight two island wines this month. Island wine regions, whether they be Italian, Spanish, Greek, French, or Kiwi, are all fiercely independent with their respective language, food and wine. Croatia is no different and the Island of Krk and the Island of Hvar both possess something unique from the mainland. At the risk of both a Star Trek and Star Wars pun, these are both serious wines with great stories, made by wonderful people, and from impossibly beautiful places.

Vrbnik, one of the oldest villages on the island of Krk.
Vrbnik, one of the oldest villages on the island of Krk.

2013 Šipun Žlahtina, Island of Krk, Croatia…

Crossing the bridge to the Island of Krk, one might be surprised by all the advertisements; some for a local casino, some for other types of seemingly out of place entertainment venues. Sadly this is the direction most of the inhabitants of the island are heading to generate income. The idea of producing a physical product, be it wine, olive oil, or other goods is being left behind for the easier income of renting out apartments.

Ivica Dobrinčić from Šipun in his vineyard.
Ivica Dobrinčić from Šipun in his vineyard.

There is however, one man who is not only sustaining himself and his family with winemaking, but is making great strides to preserve it on the island of Krk. Ivica Dobrinčić is a force of nature on the island and Žlahtina is his flagship white grape. Gently gardenia scented with a whiff of Friškina (scent of the sea) and plenty of weight and acidity. In addition to classic pairings like Muscadet, Sauvignon Blanc or Chablis for oysters, please give this a try. Works well with the entire and perhaps more familiar Italian kitchen as well.

The gorgeous south side of Hvar.
The gorgeous south side of Hvar.

2008 Carić Plovac Ploski (100% Plavac Mali), Island of Hvar, Croatia…
Our next stop are the impossibly steep vineyards on the south side of the Island of Hvar. To get there you need to drive through the semi terrifying, unlit, 1.5 km, one-lane Pitve tunnel originally designed for water pipes, never for cars. Once you hit daylight, the hillside vineyards climb up and disappear into the fog and descend right down to the Adriatic’s edge. It’s like the Mosel meets the White Cliffs of Dover. See also the Cliffs of Insanity.

Ivo Carić and his own-rooted Plavac Mali.
Ivo Carić and his own-rooted Plavac Mali.

It’s also where the Carić family grows their Plavac Mali. Ivo, whose hands immediately remind you that you’ve gone far too soft, is constantly picking herbs, smelling them, and feeling the various soils — you can tell he spends on inordinate amount of time here. Plavac Mali from this area takes on the Umani like brininess typical to the grape but also embodies the sun-baked herbs and weathered stone soils overlooking the sea. Locals drink it with Dalmatinska Pašticada, a beef based stew where the meat is pierced and stuffed with garlic, cloves, carrot and bacon, then salted and marinated in vinegar overnight. Add a bunch of prunes, nutmeg, and Prošek and cook for hours and hours.