Marko Polos Hometown, and the Wine He May Have Drunk

Approaching Korčula by Ferry. After gazing longingly for two days at the picturesque walled town of Korčula across the water from our hotel balcony, we finally hop on the ferry and head back to the island with Boris. He has arranged for his former boss, at Marco Polo Tours in Korčula town, to give us a tour of the old city. This charming, professorial man in a houndstooth jacket clearly loves his native city. He leads us up the steps to the old walled city—steps that used to be a drawbridge over the moat. On the outside of the city gate is a relief of St Mark’s lion—the lion of Venice. For some 400 years, until about 1800, Korčula was a part of the Venetian empire, at the same time that Orebic, across the water, was the farthest outpost of the Dubrovnik Republic. Just inside the main gate is the early Renaissance St. Mark’s Cathedral, with more lions guarding the portal, and two Tintorettos, among other treasures, inside. As we walk through town, we’re told that the streets were laid out in a fishbone pattern in order to control the passage of hot and cold breezes through the city. Marko … Continue reading Marko Polos Hometown, and the Wine He May Have Drunk

Hvar Island – Home of Zlatans Grand Cru

Seaside Tasting Room of the Zlatan Plenkovic Estate on Hvar. (Photo courtesy Leith Steel) A vineyard assistant named Nevin drives us the four hours south from Krk to Split in the rain, where we slog to the catamaran that will take us to Jelsa, on the north side of Hvar island, in 90 minutes. Jelsa is a gorgeous town with a riviera look—there’s obviously plenty of money here, at least in tourist season. We’re on Hvar to visit the single winery in all of Croatia, called Zlatan Otok, that produces a Grand Cru wine. Zlatan Plenkovic, the owner, is not available to us, but his son Marin (who is finishing his studies to take up a position at the winery) takes good care of us for the twenty-odd hours we’re here. He drives us from Jelsa over the top of the island to the south side, where the winery is, via a single-lane tunnel with rough rock walls carved through the mountaintop. Marin pauses about 100 meters into the tunnel and points to a room off to the side where stainless-steel tanks are visible through the doorway—they store some of their white wine here without need for refrigeration (because of … Continue reading Hvar Island – Home of Zlatans Grand Cru

The Hanging Vineyards of Dingač and Postup (part 2: Bura)

Niko Bura in the middle of an extensive tasting at his kitchen table. Niko Bura is a Croatian garagiste, with his setup on the ground floor of his house, and he is one of this region’s leaders in quality. Niko is making wine in the vineyard, not in the winery. Indeed, we met him this morning tilling the soil between newly planted vines on the family’s Dingač hillside. Niko himself is soft-spoken, clearly proud of his artist daughter, whose painting hangs on the wall of the small tasting room, and appears on the label of Bura Galerija, a light cabernet sauvignon that was first released this year, made from grapes grown in a prime valley location. He is also experimenting with marsellane, a cross between cabernet and grenache. It will be three or four years before the first bottling. The wine called Bura, of 100% Dingač plavac mali, was first produced in 1995. This year saw the release of the first bottles of Mare, from Postup plavac mali and named after its maker, Niko’s sister Marija. MARE 2004, Postup. For this vintage, the grapes were partially raisined due to lack of water on the hillsides. The wine is an unfiltered … Continue reading The Hanging Vineyards of Dingač and Postup (part 2: Bura)

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

The Chrons Sense of Debit Humor

The San Francisco Chronicle recently reviewed a number of wines in their Wine for Every Occasion section. The good news is that they like the Bibich Debit a great deal. The bad news (or maybe the expected news) is that they found the name a bit humorous. Not to be surprised as the first time I saw a bottle of Debit I wondered what it meant. From my background in Croatian, I assume it comes from “debeo” which means “fat or thick” which is fitting given that it’s a very tasty, full-bodied white wine. Of course, I could be completely wrong on this and am more than willing to stand corrected.

The First Wine Guide to Dalmatia & Herzegovina: Vinologue

I walked through Pile Gate in Dubrovnik, my friend Ivana leading the way down the Stradun and then off on a side street that I hadn’t yet discovered in the Old Town. We arrived at a bar named Carpe Diem, sat down in the early evening and ordered. I had no idea what to order. I didn’t speak Croatian and so I was ordered a glass of red wine. At this point, everything changed. The wine was the Zlatan Plavac from Zlatan Plenković. That was in 2004 and I remember thinking it would be fantastic to learn more about these deceptively good Croatian wines, but there was nothing to be found. While beach tourism was taking off in Croatia, there were no wine brochures and there were no wine guides. People in most of the shops didn’t really know all that much as wine was wine. Frustrated and stubborn, I dug and started to read every scrap of news I could find. I drank more wine. I learned Croatian. I found importers in the US like Blue Danube Wine Company, learned more, and drank more wine. In 2007, I met my future wife who helped me to focus my interest … Continue reading The First Wine Guide to Dalmatia & Herzegovina: Vinologue

Croatian/Slovenian Tidbits and Praise

Providence in L.A. features a number of our wines Just a few quick words about goings on in the blog world. The rather exotically-titled blog, Exile Kiss has a comprehensive nice article with even nicer photographs extolling the virtues of an IRON CHEF tasting menu at Providence restaurant in L.A. They paired our Peljesac from the Dalmatian coast with “Assorted Shellfish” of squid and mussels. Earlier this summer we were lucky enough to be invited by sommelier Drew Langley to pair our wines with the exquisite cuisine of chef Michael Cimarusti at a private cooking class. We were blown away how good the food was but equally how well the Weinrieder Kugler Riesling, the Crnko Yellow Muskat and the JURIS Pinot Noir Selection paired with it, a real pleasure for our taste buds. chef Michael Cimarusti. Also from a culinary perspective a little further south, Food GPS writes about a recent dinner at Mesa in Orange County, CA. The photos can be a bit tricky at points because they were taken with a flash, but it looks like it was a tasty meal. It appears that the meal was made even tastier by the addition of the Croatian Bibich Riserva … Continue reading Croatian/Slovenian Tidbits and Praise

Croatia is bursting on the Scene…

Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV tasting Zlatan Plavac. …says Gary Vaynerchuk of the Wine Library TV after tasting his first Zlatan Plavac Barrique. Gary continued all excited about this find: “This wine is sensational, downright great sensational.” Thanks for your kind words, Gary, you confirm what we and many of our customers already knew: There are excellent wines produced in Croatia today and Zlatan Plenkovic is one of the top producers in the country. For details on Gary’s excitement tune into the third part of the recent edition of the Wine Library TV, episode 553: Wine Library TV, episode 553. And if you like to encounter some really good Croatian Malvasia and Grasevina we recommend the wines made by Kozlovic and Enginji. They rock just like the Zlatan Plavac rocks. Cheers!