One-Donkey Dingač

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe There is a bit of confusion surrounding the wine producer, Dingač on the Pelješac Peninsula in Croatia. The issue primarily revolves around the fact that the major wine region in Pelješac is called Dingač and that this is also the name of this company. This in by itself wouldn’t be so bad except that several other winemakers in the area also make a wine which is called Dingač, because their wines are made from the high-quality grapes of this region. So, to clear this up once and for all, the wine producer, Dingač, is what’s left from the cooperative that was built there in 1982 for wine production in what was then, Yugoslavia, and the one that features a donkey logo in its wine labels. >The cooperative had been actively producing wines before then, since about 1960. Today, they still function in a similar fashion wherein they buy the grapes from small, local farmers for large-scale wine production to the tune of 1.5 million liters a year. The big difference between now and before the fall of communism is that grape growers now have the choice … Continue reading One-Donkey Dingač

Dingač, a Very Unique Wine-Growing Region in Southern Dalmatia

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Pelješac is a 65km long peninsula in Southern Dalmatia, about an hour north of Dubrovnik, which produces some of the best wines in Croatia. The majority of them are produced from the red Plavac Mali grapes grown in a thin strip of land of only 2km in the Southwestern side of the peninsula, known as the Dingač region. Dingač comprises the lower half of a steep mountain that runs along the sea by the village of Potomje on the other side of the mountain. For centuries, the people of Potomje and the surrounding villages had to travel on donkeys, horses or mules to tend to the vineyards in the Dingač slope, on the other side of the mountain. They also had to bring their yearly harvest by those same beasts of burden to Potomje, to crush and age the grapes. Naturally, this was a very labor intensive process, so in the early 1970’s all the wine growing families in the area decided to pool their money and order the construction of a tunnel through the mountain. This tunnel, which was finished in 1973, made life a … Continue reading Dingač, a Very Unique Wine-Growing Region in Southern Dalmatia

Miljas – A Family Rebuilds

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe. The home of the Miljas family was built in 1897 when the great-grandfather of the family began to produce wines in the Konavle Region at the southern-most tip of Croatia. With the invention of Yugoslavia, their winemaking stopped as they had to feed their grapes in to the general collective for wine production and could not produce it themselves. As Croatia broke away from Yugoslavia, they again began to produce, but only to be forced to abandon their homes when the Yugoslav Army rolled in to the area for a lengthy occupation. While their vines didn’t immediately suffer any damage, the fact that they couldn’t tend to them caused a great deal of harm to the old vines and they were forced to replant nearly all of their vines. Thankfully, they did not have to contend with landmine removal as a great many winemakers in the area of Slavonia did, which greatly sped up the process of replanting. Today, they are growing again and producing good quality wines from the region. Like most wineries in Konavle, they were very hard to find and are actually in … Continue reading Miljas – A Family Rebuilds

Visiting Crvik Winery

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe. Čilipi is a small town in Croatia near Dubrovnik and it’s not known to many foreigners as being anything other than home to the airport for Dubrovnik. But, just over a hill or two, in a village of Čilipi called, Komaji is the family winery of Crvik. It’s a nice, out of the way setting that is very much off the beaten path and takes some searching to find. There, in a little vale, Crvik grows their two hectares of vines amongst a very forested area that is a sharp contrast to the rugged grey rocks that are a dominant part of the Damatian Coast of Croatia. Like most wineries, they also source grapes from the Konavle region as well to meet their 100,000 liter a year production. All of this is barrel-aged in oak from Slavonia, the top, eastern-most region of Croatia. Like most wineries in the region, the breakup of Yugoslavia was very tragic for them. They lost all their old vines because they were unable to tend to them and had to replant everything again upon returning home after the war. Thus, all … Continue reading Visiting Crvik Winery

Large Production at Dubrovački Podrumi

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe. The Konavle region is at the most southern point of Croatia, even further south than Dubrovnik, bordering Montenegro. Historically, it was the region that produced all of the food for what was the Ragusan Republic and is present-day Dubrovnik. These days, the fields are covered with a great many grapevines and a lot of that feeds in to Dubrovački Podrumi, which is a very large wine producer in Gruda, a small town at the southern end of Konavle. Upon first glance, the building is anything but welcoming. The concrete construction that echoes the “aesthetic” of Socialist construction is menacing. There is no business name out front and we had to look for the tell-tale signs of new bottles on palettes to know we were in the right place. With some rather awkward Croatian, we talked to a worker who was leaving for lunch and were guided around to the other side of the building where they’ve built a very pleasant tasting room, but without any signs pointing you there. Upon entering, we could see why the signs were scarce, since it was very apparent that they … Continue reading Large Production at Dubrovački Podrumi

The First Release of Perafita

Over a summer two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe. While staying in Catalonia, we set out from Figueres to make a day trip to Cadaqués. Due to misunderstanding of roundabout, we ended up on the isolated northern beaches of Roses, but managed to eventually twist and turn our way back to the right road. This delay ended up being incredibly lucky as it had us driving over the top of a hill where the vineyards of Perafita are located. We entered the winery at the exact right time to visit while they were having their grand release day for their very first wines: Perafita 2005, Cadac 2004, Muscatel 2006, and Garnatxa 2006. The Perafita and Cadac were both reds. Perafita was the lighter of the two, even though it had an alcohol content at 14.5%. You could really taste the Merlot and Garnatxa in the blend as the Cabernet Sauvignon seemed to be propping those two up more than the other way round. It also had strong oak flavors to it that came through very well. The Cadac was much deeper and approached a more standard California alcohol level of 15% in an area where … Continue reading The First Release of Perafita

An Extensive Tasting at Espelt

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Given the setting, Espelt is a young winery that was founded in 2000 on a family property in Vilajuïga in northeastern Catalonia, led by the eldest daughter Anna Espelt who studied enology in the US. In spite of being a traditional, family-run business, it is a cutting edge winery with experimental vine growing techniques and labels designed by Mariscal (famous for having designed the mascot of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics). With this in mind, it’s not surprising that in only five releases it has become the biggest winery in the area (the D.O. Empordà) with the largest vineyards. The vast majority of those vineyards are located inside two natural parks in the area, producing mostly local varietals, such as Carinyena (Carignane) and Garnatxa (Granache). In the natural park of the rugged Cap de Creus, the easternmost cape of Spain, Espelt has reintroduced vines planted in the traditional terraces of dry stones. This area had been a historical wine-producing region until the phylloxera plague destroyed all of it in the late 1800’s and since that point the land was left barren. We had the chance to taste … Continue reading An Extensive Tasting at Espelt

Experiencing the New La Vinyeta

Over a summer two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe. Through a personal connection we were very fortunate to get a first glimpse of an exciting new winery in north-eastern Spain near Figueres called, La Vinyeta. The overall region is called d.o. Emporda and this is a new winery that has been built over the last few years. They now lay claim to 40 hectares (100 acres) of thriving vines. Part of this area was and continues to be occupied by 75 year old vines that are growing Garnatxa (Grenache). The rest have been planted with many different varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot. We were given a taste of the Merlot from the tanks before it has been aged in the French Oak barrels. It’s quite an exquisite wine that has a nose like that of a Merlot that has already been aged for five years or more. The taste is relatively light and will need some time in the oak to really play out the full potential, which will undoubtedly be fantastic. >In addition to the Merlot, we were given a real treat in trying the Garnatxa from the tanks. In two words: … Continue reading Experiencing the New La Vinyeta

Europe Travels

Over a summer two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe. Your hosts: Michael and Elia. Their target: wines of Southern Europe. We are Michael and Elia, two seasoned travelers and wine lovers who will be writing a series of blog posts for Blue Danube Wine as we travel around Mediterranean Europe, sampling the local wines and cuisines. We will be writing both about wineries that are trying new methods of production like “biodynamic” and about those that have done things the same way for literally hundreds of years. While we are not on a quest to find out what it is that ultimately defines these wines, we will definitely be noting similarities and comparing how different growing techniques, climates, and cultures affect the wines of each region we pass through. We are starting our trip in north-eastern Spain, in the region of Catalonia. From there, we will be making our way to southern Dalmatia in Croatia, including a few of the islands. Then, we will look in to the wines of recently independent Montenegro before heading up to neighboring Serbia. After a stop in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we will be back out on the coast of … Continue reading Europe Travels

Movia Wine Dinner

Frank told me that A Cote in Oakland would be pouring several of Movia’s wines paired with a five course meal and hosted (or more narrated as I found out) by Aleš Kristančič who is part of the family that has been making these wines since 1820 in Slovenia. I could ramble on and on about how great the food was and how good the company was but it was the second course where they poured the 2001 Pinot Noir, where I paused. I have something of a romantic longing for this wine. The first time I tasted it, was in 2006, in the wine bar that Movia owns in Ljubljana. The bar is quite a place to see if you’re ever there, framed by the beautiful old city that wraps around the hill upon which the old castle stands. It all adds to the atmosphere and sitting in the dark recesses of this bar, it would have been impossible to not enjoy what I was drinking, which was the Movia Pinot Noir. Naturally, I longed for another sip once back the US. As I sat in A Cote, I looked in my glass. Could it be my long-lost wine? … Continue reading Movia Wine Dinner