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)

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

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!

A Bit About Plavac Mali

Plavac Mali grapes ripening towards the end of summer on the island of Hvar. So, what is Plavac Mali? Where is Plavac Mali? How do you even say, Plavac Mali? Let’s take a look at all of these items as we delve in detail into this particular grape. Plavac Mali (pronounced Plahvahts Mahlee) is a red grape varietal that is native to Croatia and more specifically, native to Southern Dalmatia. This is a strip of land that has Bosnia Herzegovina to the east and the Adriatic Sea to the west. It gets an obscene amount of sun throughout the year, so Plavac Mali is a happy grape to have Dalmatia as it’s home. The rugged karst of the Dingač wine region. By far and away, Plavac Mali is the dominant red grape in Dalmatia. Others like Merlot, Shiraz, and a number of minor native grapes pop up here and there, but inevitably, if you see a field of red wine grapes, they will be Plavac Mali. It wasn’t always this way though. Many, many years ago, there was another grape that enjoyed the Dalmatia summers which was called, Crljenak Kaštelanski. It has since been discovered that this wine is one … Continue reading A Bit About Plavac Mali

A Tinderbox Outing

The well-appointed interior of Bernal Height’s Tinderbox We recently had the enjoyment of eating at the new digs of Tinderbox. It’s a restaurant in the Bernal Heights area of San Francisco that is wedged in the middle of a burgeoning gourmet ghetto. The dishes are focused around that growing genre of food called, “New American”, which, as was the case at Tinderbox, means new twists on old dishes that surprise you in new ways. The avocado cutlet The menu has been coupled together with a very unique and tasty wine list compiled by the sommelier and general manager, Omar White. It includes a good number of Blue Danube Wine selections like the exotic Juris St. Laurent from Austria, an unoaked Hungarian Szõke Chardonnay, and the indigenous Pošip Marco Polo from the Croatian island of Korcula among others. We started with a nice Dolcetto to warm up our palates. It was inviting and light, yet still flavorful and enjoyable to sip with our appetizers. It also had the ability to not trounce the fact that one of us had the grilled sardine appetizer. Omar tops off Frank Dietrich From there, we split off with a glass of white for the cod … Continue reading A Tinderbox Outing

The Supetar Suprise in Baković

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe The port of Supetar. Hrvoj Baković is a tad tricky to find. It’s true that he’s in one of the biggest towns on Brač, Supetar, but we were on the lookout for a full winery and instead found his home. He was a little surprised by our tenacity (as were we) but he was very welcoming nonetheless, inviting us in for a little chat. Hrvoj and his wine. He’s quite a character who worked for many years as a sailor in New Zealand to save some money to start his own winery, before returning back to his homeland. Once there, he bought five hectares of land and worked to build up his winery. He started at something of a disadvantage because while his family has a history of growing grapes, they didn’t have a history of making wine. None of this has held back Hrvoj and he has learned a great deal about the climate of Brač in a short time. He knows what grapes work and what don’t. He is one of the few wine makers who has tried other grapes only to fall back … Continue reading The Supetar Suprise in Baković

Matulić of Dol on Brač

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Frane Matulić in his tasting room. Dol is a small village tucked away in the deep recesses of a small valley of the island of Brač, which explains the name that merely means ‘valley’ in Croatian. Matulić Plavac It’s a really lovely village that doesn’t seem to see a lot of traffic and because it’s not near the beach, the look of the town is 100% authentic with no ugly beach apartments. This also explains why there are only 112 people living in a village that once sported a slightly more bustling 750 souls. It is here, nestled in a 130 year old house and wine cellar that Frane Matulić makes his wines. He started four years previous and is currently pumping out 27,000 liters of wine a year. This is produced from the one hectare that he cultivates and about 20 more that he buys from. There is a wine growing tradition in his family, which has been additionally tempered with a dose of large business acumen working as the general director for Badel 1892, a massive alcohol producer in Croatia that is based in … Continue reading Matulić of Dol on Brač

Theres More to Brač Than Sandy Beaches

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe The harbor to the right, winery to the left. Tourists dead center. The island of Brač, the third biggest of the 1,184 off the cost of Croatia, and the biggest in the region of Dalmatia, is mostly known for its postcard-perfect beach in the town of Bol. Described by the Croatian Tourist Board brochures as “the most beautiful beach on the Adriatic”, the famous Zlatni Rat (Golden Beach in Croatian) owes its fame to its original cone shape and for being one of the very few on the Croatian coast that features sand instead of rocks, pebbles, or the most unfortunate: concrete. PZ Wines. Although currently the economy of Brač is based mostly on beach tourism, historically it has always been famous for its wines, goat cheese, and olive oil (as well as its white stone which, as a side note, it was used to build the White House in DC). Nowadays the biggest and oldest winery in Brač is PZ Bol, the island’s cooperative that now belongs to the Jeruzalem wine company in Zagreb. Founded over a hundred years ago, in 1903, it is located … Continue reading Theres More to Brač Than Sandy Beaches

Sviličić and Rokis, a Taste of Vis Locals

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe Inside the tasting room of Roki’s. The wineries of Sviličić and Roki’s are two of the many small producers on Vis along the Wine Route. Ivo Sviličić and wine. They are working to grow their production capacity without stunting the quality of their wines. Obviously this is not an easy goal, but they both have long family traditions on the island that should give them a foundation for making this possible. Starting 10 years ago, Sviličić has been producing from two of his own hectares. Out of this, he produces 10,000 liters a year, of which 70% is white. We first tried his white, the 2006 Vugava. It has a good deal of fruit to the nose. The body sparkles a bit more than other Vugavas that we tried and there is a delicious touch of apple in the body. The finish pulls out very smoothly. From there, we tried his 2006 Plavac. It is a much more dry version of the wine than we’re used to. You can even smell the dryness in the nose, as well as some good berry aromas. The finish comes … Continue reading Sviličić and Rokis, a Taste of Vis Locals