Explore Croatia with Secret Dalmatia

Written by Alan Mandić, founder Secret Dalmatia. As the founder and managing director, Alan is personally dedicated to the vision of bringing the hidden beauties of Croatia to every client. Alan has a deep connection to his country, so after finishing his university education at the New England School of Arts & Design in Boston, he decided to return to Croatia. The decision to found Secret Dalmatia followed an epiphany he had whilst wandering around Bribirska Glavica, one of the most important archaeological sites in the country. As the sunset settled in the distance, he stumbled upon two open sarcophagi and thought: “I must show this to the world!” Few months later, in 2005, he put together his passion, experience, and knowledge to create Secret Dalmatia and he has been dedicated to it full-time ever since. Savoring the lingering taste of Istrian truffles, Pag cheese and Ston oysters, bedazzled by the Adriatic’s virgin olive oils and world-class wines, Anthony Bourdain declared Croatia ‘the next big thing’. Travel Channel’s Andy Zimmerman followed with his Bizarre Foods. Traveling further back in time, he sought out authentic old specialties still simmering in spite of modern times, tasting, among others, dormice (dormouse special) on … Continue reading Explore Croatia with Secret Dalmatia

What to drink in Budapest’s Central Market Hall

In a rare moment of not being late and or lost en route to a winery, we had the fortune to eat and drink our way through the Central Market Hall (Nagyvásárcsarnok) in Budapest this past spring. Built in 1897 and comprised of three enormous levels (10,000 sq meters), it looks like a combination of a train station and a massive Church devoted to everything I want to eat and drink. It’s one of the finest markets in Europe. Taking into account that all of our new Blue Danube Wine arrivals from Austria and Hungary were grown within 2-3 hours drive from the market, I’d like to use the adage of what grows together goes together to introduce them. Starting in the basement level, it’s readily apparent that you’re entering ground zero for fermented fruits and vegetables. Pickle art is definitely a thing, and many venders grow their own produce. Much like a Viennese Heuriger grows and makes its own wines, the co-fermented field blends like Peter Bernreiter’s 2014 Gemischter Satz, 2014 Grüner Veltliner and 2014 Heuriger Liter all have the brightness and aromatics for furthering fermented consumption. A little further West along the Danube is the small town of … Continue reading What to drink in Budapest’s Central Market Hall

Guest House Khvanchkara: The place to stay in Racha, Georgia

Our time in Khvanchkara was only long enough for us to fall in love. It is a magnetic location inhabited by people who would live nowhere else. Aleko’s Guesthouse is a window onto this special place. The wines and accommodations reflect the local way of life. It as as easily accessible as could be for such a remote wine region which only a few years ago could only be accessed by Jeep. Aleko is a proud young champion of Khvanckhara. His wines and hospitality had us shouting as we drove away: “We will return!” -Stetson Robbins on his visit to Guesthouse Khvanchkara Aleko Sardanashvili is the owner of this traditional guest house located in the Racha-Lechkhumi region of Georgia. Racha is about a three hour drive from the capital of Tbilisi, in the northwestern part of the country. Aleko is from this part of Georgia originally, but spent several years living in Tbilisi before moving to Malta for eight years. During his time abroad, he gained experience in the tourism and hospitality industries. After spending so much time away from home, Aleko decided to return and apply the skills he gained in his own village. First, he starting making wine, … Continue reading Guest House Khvanchkara: The place to stay in Racha, Georgia

Visit a Winery: BIBICh in Dalmatia, Croatia

The Region Šibenik is an idyllic port city along the Dalmatian Coast, about an hour and a half from Split to the south, and Zadar to the north. Set against a backdrop of shimmering blue sea, the town is also an important access point to the Krka National Park and the Kornati Islands. The Winery The BIBICh Winery is located in the hills of Skradin, about 5 miles east of of Šibenik. Alen Bibić has really put the region on the map with consistently high-quality wines. Although Alen takes pride in indigenous varieties like the Zinfandel-related grapes Babić, Lasin, and Plavina, and the white Debit, he also enjoys working with international ones like Merlot and Syrah (Shiraz). Things to do and see The BIBICh winery offers special wine tasting menus that you will need to arrange ahead of time. Each wine is paired with a gourmet bite utilizing local products, thoughtfully put together by Alen’s wife, Vesna. While there is no onsite hotel, the nearby Villa Barbara hotel comes highly recommended. Located right by River Krka and the Skradin marina, Villa Barbara offers spacious apartments within walking distance of the local bus station. A trip to the Krka National Park … Continue reading Visit a Winery: BIBICh in Dalmatia, Croatia

Visit a Winery: Kabaj in Goriška Brda, Slovenia

The Region The border between Northeast Italy, and Western Slovenia runs from the Alps to the Adriatic Sea, dividing a terroir important to both. Known as ‘Collio’ in Italy, and ‘Brda’ in Slovenia, their shared meaning is ‘hills’. Due to its proximity to both the Alps and the Adriatic sea, Brda enjoys climate conditions most favorable for growing vines as well as cherries, peaches, apricots, pears, apples, figs, plums, and olives. Winters are mild and summers can be hot. Cool northeast winds help remove humidity and mildew in the vineyards. The region is known for white varieties such as Rebula, Sauvignonasse (formerly Tocai Fruilano), Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc as well as international reds like Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The Winery Winemaker Jean-Michel Morel is originally from France but after meeting his wife Katja Kabaj in a nearby Italian winery, decided to relocate to Slovenia and rebuild the Kabaj family estate. Jean-Michel, a Wine & Spirits Magazine 100 Wineries winner in 2013, makes world-class wines using local varieties and winemaking techniques. His skin-macerated white wines including Rebula (known as ‘the queen of Brda’), Ravan (an old local name for the grape formerly known as Tocai Friullano) and Sivi … Continue reading Visit a Winery: Kabaj in Goriška Brda, Slovenia

Visit a Winery: Schuchmann Wines Chateau in Kakheti, Georgia

The Region Kakheti is Georgia’s largest and premier wine region. Located in the eastern part of the country, sharing borders with Russia to the northeast and Azerbaijan to the southeast. Kakheti is also culturally rich with many historic monasteries, castles, and small hilltop towns. Although Georgia is home to over 500 indigenous grape varieties, the two most popular are Saperavi (red) and Rkatsiteli (white), which thrive especially well in the region. The Winery German-born Burkhard Schuchmann founded his eponymous winery in 2008 after falling in love with Georgian wines and feeling compelled to share them on a global scale. Burkhard was always a wine connoisseur and discovered Georgia, one of the oldest wine producing regions, through his travels. The winery is located in the village of Kisiskhevi within the Kakheti wine district. It produces wines out of three vineyard sites: Napareuli, Tsinandali, and Kindzmarauli, and mostly uses native Georgian grape varieties: Rkatsiteli, Mtsvane, Kisi, and Saperavi. Things to do and see The Schuchmann team can help coordinate accommodations at their chateau, wine pairing with local delicacies at the onsite restaurant, and custom wine tasting experiences. Offsite excursions are also available such as horseback riding through Kakheti and touring historical monasteries. … Continue reading Visit a Winery: Schuchmann Wines Chateau in Kakheti, Georgia

Visit a Winery: Gere in Villány, Hungary

The Region Located in southern Hungary near the Croatian border, Villány is one of Hungary’s top wine regions. About a 1,5 hour drive from Budapest, it has a well-developed tourism infrastructure and is known for its quality red and rosé wines. The region’s warm, sunny climate is ideal for the indigenous red variety Portugieser. “Bordeaux” varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc have also found a home here. The Winery Gere winery may be one of the largest in the region, but careful attention is still paid to every wine. The organically grown grapes are hand-harvested and sorted. The combination of tradition and modern technology give as result fresh, easy drinking wines such as Olaszrizling, Rosé and Portugieser, all the way to rich, full bodied, age-worthy cuvees and single-varietal wines from Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or even from Tempranillo, Syrah and Pinot Noir. To utilize natural antioxidants, the winery has also its own production of health care products from grapes, such as 100% grape seed oil, and grape seed micro extract. Things to do and see Create a complete experience at Gere Winery including accommodations, gourmet restaurant, and wine tasting! Crocus Gere Wine Hotel is Villány’s 1st … Continue reading Visit a Winery: Gere in Villány, Hungary

Visit a Winery: Füleky in Tokaj

The Region Tokaj, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has been long renowned for its intoxicating sweet wines. It is located at the foothills of the Zemplén Mountains, at the confluence of the Bodrog and Tisza Rivers. The rivers provide the right mix of moisture to infect the ripe grapes with Noble Rot, a type of fungus responsible for concentrating all the sugars in the grape. The most popular grape grown in the region is the native Furmint, which is enjoying a renaissance as a quality dry wine, something not seen very often just 10 years ago. There are several other widely planted indigenous white varieties in the region such as Hárslevelű and Kövérszőlő. The Winery The history of the estate dates back to György Füleky who was the founder of the First Tokaj Wine Growers’ Society. The 18th Century Baroque winery sits at the center of the town of Bodrogkeresztúr and went under a serious modern renovation in 2011. Founded in 1998, the Füleky estate owns 25 hectares of some of the best historical vineyards in the region. Making dry, late harvest and Aszú wines, the distance from the Bodrog River in tandem with the marshlands is key. Things to … Continue reading Visit a Winery: Füleky in Tokaj

Savor the Experience Tours — and Blue Danube wines — with Andrew Villone

On the second day of our Kabaj visit we met a group of cheerful US tourists that were just starting a tour through Slovenia and Croatia. Their tour leader was Andrew Villone — a longtime friend of Blue Danube Wine Co. — who had just moved to Slovenia from Seattle with his Russian-born wife and two children to grow his Savor the Experience touring business. “I love it here,” he told me later that night as we were sipping our Cuvée Morel on the terrace. “Running Savor the Experience from Ljubljana is so much more convenient than from Seattle. And we don’t regret the big city. The life here is much better for my wife and my kids. Plus the schools in Slovenia are excellent.” We also talked about his plans to introduce special Blue Danube tours for wine and food lovers. The itineraries would be designed around visits to Blue Danube producers, where guests could enjoy exclusive wine tastings and food pairings. I thought this project could surely appeal to our customer community in the US. The group left the following morning — some still sleepy as they stayed until 3am in the Kabaj cellar with Jean-Michel! — in … Continue reading Savor the Experience Tours — and Blue Danube wines — with Andrew Villone

Croatian Holiday with Adventures Croatia

It looks like this summer everybody I know is going to Croatia. This includes my sister, who should be crossing the Croatian border as I write these words, my friend, who is taking her kids on a Game of Thrones Tour along the Dalmatian coast, and then in September, my husband and I will be spending a week in Istria, just the two of us! I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Since the end of the Serbo-Croatian War, Croatia has become an attractive touristic destination with a reputation of being one of the most romantic getaways in Europe. This is not surprising: with more than a thousand islands and a 3,600 miles of coastline, Croatia is full of natural and historic wonders including Roman ruins, Byzantine mosaics, Venetian towns, and a picturesque hilly interior covered with olive groves, vineyards, and medieval villages. Now if you need help organizing your Croatian Holiday, we recommend Adventures Croatia. They have a team of knowledgeable travel consultants that can assist you with your itinerary. They’re particularly specialized in designing tours for honeymooners as well as couples seeking a romantic getaway. They will partner with you to design a great travel adventure based on your … Continue reading Croatian Holiday with Adventures Croatia