The Hanging Vineyards of Dingač and Postup (part 1: Grgic etc)

The Dingač at its best: steep slopes, old vines, tons of sunshine right at the coast. We arrive by ferry on one end of the island of Korčula and are picked up by Marija Mrgudic and her son Boris, who drive us to the ferry dock at the other end of the island. This is a sneak preview only—we’re leaving the island immediately for Orebic, on the mainland, and will return to Korčula in a day or two. Orebic is a waterfront town on the edge of the Pelješac peninsula, where the renowned wine producing areas of Dingač and Postup cling precariously to hillside terraces overlooking the Adriatic. In terms of prestige, Dingač and Postup are the Napa and Sonoma of Croatia. Marija Mrgudic and her brother Niko Bura and their families are a leading wine producer in the area, under the name Bura Estate Winery. Boris is in his twenties, and does marketing and PR for the winery while also working in marketing for a local hotel group. He spends his weekend driving us through vineyards, crisscrossing the Pelješac, and talking with us about the growing private wine industry and rampant experimentation in the region, notably with plavac mali’s … Continue reading The Hanging Vineyards of Dingač and Postup (part 1: Grgic etc)

A Day at Katunar, on Krk Island

Panoramic view of the city of Krk on the island of Krk. The next morning, we set off for the island of Krk, driven by Antonella. Driving east toward Rijeka, we pass Tuscan-looking hill towns and a public forest at the side of the small, local highway, which Antonella tells us is a truffle forest where locals go to try their luck. There is a controversy about continuing public access to the forest, which the truffle hunters consider their right. At Rijeka, we need to take a sharp right turn and head south, but first, we need to get past Mt. Ucka. There’s a tunnel through the mountain, but we decide to go over it, and head upward at a steep angle along switchback curves, past tiny, five-house towns, through the forest. We stop as the road starts to slope downward again, to look out over the Adriatic toward Krk to the south and Rijeka below us (shown), situated in the dog’s-leg turn where Istria becomes the Kvarner region of northern coastline, mercilessly blown in winter by the bura, Croatia’s version of the mistral winds. First we drive through the resort villas of Opatija, playing a game of “if I … Continue reading A Day at Katunar, on Krk Island

Malvasia and more from a leader in Istrian wine making

Line-up of the bottles at the Kozlovic tasting. We drive through Slovenia toward Istria, the area just below Trieste, Italy, that was part of Italy for twenty-five years until the end of World War II. As we approach Croatia, the Germanic-looking houses and barns and the typical hay drying racks–a ladderlike wooden rack open to the air but protected beneath a roof–disappear, and we no longer see maypoles in the little towns we pass. Our destination is Porec, about a third of the way down the western coast of Istria. It’s a pretty resort town with bars and restaurants lining the waterfront street on the land side, and luxury power yachts lining it on the water side. We’re here to join a group from Vinistra, the Istrian wine trade show that is going on this weekend, on a pleasure tour by boat. Our hosts are three prominent producers, Kozlovic, Degrassi, and Matosevic, who have been working together to build an Istrian wine brand closely linked to tourism in the area. As the boat makes its way south along the coast to Rovinj, a beautiful medieval fortified town crowned by a church, we sit on the top deck in the frigid … Continue reading Malvasia and more from a leader in Istrian wine making

We taste promising, modern wines in Slovenias oldest wine cellar

Barrel tasting in Slovenia’s oldest wine cellar, Ptujska Klet. [This trip was taken in early May. It was organized by an importer for whom my husband is a consultant.] The three of us wind through the streets of Ptuj in the car, past the hilltop castle, a monastery, and countless unknown wonders. We won’t see anything in Slovenia’s oldest town (mentioned by Tacitus in AD 69) except Slovenia’s oldest wine cellar, Ptujska Klet, which can be traced back to the year 1239. When we arrive, we are given first the tourist treatment, then the behind-the-scenes tour. As tourists, we walk through a cold cellar beneath the visitor center and tasting rooms, where there are rows of oval wooden barrels taller than I am, rich dark-chocolate wood trimmed in forest green, with picturesque scenes of winemaking carved (recently) on the barrel heads. We also see the famous wine archive, where wines dating back to 1917 are stored, recorked every twelve years. Tito drew wines from this archive, and anyone fairly young can still buy a wine from their birth year, back to at least the 1950s, in the shop next to the tasting rooms. There we spot a wine from my … Continue reading We taste promising, modern wines in Slovenias oldest wine cellar

A Day in the Golden Valley (part 1: Krauthaker)

After a comprehensive tasting at the Krauthaker estate. Too early in the morning, we’re plucked from our hotel in Dubrovnik and deposited at the small airport for our flight north to Zagreb. Just two hours later, we’re on our way by car to Slavonia, in the northeastern leg of Croatia bounded on three sides by Hungary, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We’re chauffered by the cheerful 23-year-old son of the label designer for Vlado Krauthaker in the town of Kutjevo, considered the center of Slavonian winemaking. The scenery here is very different from the coast, where precipitous, rocky slopes slant down to water’s edge and even inland valleys are ringed by craggy mountain ranges. Here there are vast fields of wheat and what looks like rye, and we’re told that much tobacco, too, is grown along this 55km valley with rounded ranges in the distance, which has been called the golden valley (Vallis Aurea) since Roman times. The vineyards are planted on the south slopes of the Krndija and Papuk mountains at 200 to 400 meters elevation. The region produces 80 to 90% white wine, and is known for elegant wines from the grasevina grape, a.k.a. welschriesling. We visit only … Continue reading A Day in the Golden Valley (part 1: Krauthaker)

A Day in the Golden Valley (part 2: Enjingi)

Gently sloped vineyards in Venje near Kutjevo. (continued from part 1) We have been told that Ivan Enjingi is a mercurial soul, but perhaps we’ve been immunized by our native habitat of New York — we find a generous, even gregarious man with twinkling eyes and a smooth cap of silvery hair waiting in his private cellar with a feast of cheeses and meats arranged on a barrel top. We sip Enjingi Zweigelt, a red with lovely aromatic herb, bayleaf, and red currant aromas until half of his pair of young enologists, Josipa Andrijanic, arrives. The other, Milan Budinski joins us as we wander through the fermentation rooms taking samples from the taps. It’s difficult to take notes on the hoof like this, but we taste Enjingi’s dry, late-harvest grasevina, a beautiful late-harvest Rhine riesling, about a dozen experiments and wines in development, and two real stand-outs: Enologists Milan Budinski and Josipa Andrijanic next to Ivan Enjingi. VENJE 2002 Named after the town where Enjingi is based, this is a blend of riesling, pinot gris, welschriesling, sauvignon blanc, and traminac that is made only in favorable years and is matured in barrique. It has medium body and an Old World … Continue reading A Day in the Golden Valley (part 2: Enjingi)