Late Monday night, a savage wildfire consumed large swaths of scrub pine, olive and fig trees, and vineyards on the Pelješac peninsula in Dalmatia, one of Croatia’s most renowned wine-growing regions, leaving as many as 600 hectares of rocky landscape–as well as cars and some homes–blackened and charred at the height of the tourist season.
Especially hard hit was the area around the tiny seaside hamlet, Trstenik—home of the world-famous Grgić Vina, a winery founded by legendary—and Croatian-born—Napa Valley winemaker, Mike Grgich of Grgich Hills Estate in Rutherford, CA.
Located in the hills above Trstenik, overlooking the Adriatic Sea and surrounded by pine forests and vineyards, Grgić Vina is a major tourist attraction and stopping point on the road between Dubrovnik and Dingač, Croatia’s oldest geographically-protected wine growing appellation—and source of some of the greatest Plavac Mali wines.
While the stone-walled Grgić winery building was badly damaged, an adjacent metal storage building was completely destroyed, along with more than half of the winery’s bottled Plavac Mali wine inventory. Photos from the scene show charred and tangled metal, blackened walls, and piles of broken and burned bottles and cardboard wine boxes bearing the Grgić Vina logo nearly reduced to ash.
According to Ivo Jeramaz, Vice President of Vineyards and Production at Grgich Hills Estate, all the 2013 and 2014 Plavac Mali aging in barrels (there was no Pošip made in 2014) was intact and undamaged, and no one was injured.
Reports from the Croatian press suggest the fires ignited around 10:00pm local time and quickly spread, fueled by gusty hot “Maestral” winds. Three hundred firefighters from surrounding municipalities, aided by over fifty soldiers from the Croatian army, two Canadair CL-415 planes, and three helicopters, struggled to contain the fire and keep it away from villages.
Latest reports indicate that by morning the fire was brought under control.
In a statement on the Grgich Hills Estate Facebook page, Violet Grgich, Mike Grgich’s daughter and current Vice President of Operations and Sales, issued the following statement:
“Thank you to everyone for your concern regarding the forest fire on Pelješac, home to Grgić Vina, our winery in Croatia. Most important, everyone is safe. The winery and nearby town were evacuated. Our stone winery is fine but we did lose an attached metal building that held much of our current bottled wine and some of the surrounding vines were burnt. We’re not sure of the extent of vineyard damage yet. Our bulk wine was not affected and we still plan on harvesting this year. Thanks again to everyone for your good wishes.”
For anyone who was planning to visit Grgic winery on Pelješac, the good news is, the family intends to rebuild. In an an email to Wines of Croatia, Jeramaz said that even prior to the fire there were plans to build a new cellar. “Now we will just expand the scope of work,” he said.
For more photos from the scene, please visit: