A Happy New Year 2012 Message from Wines of Croatia

Dear friends,

I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to believe. Another year has woven its winding path and is about to quickly disappear over the horizon. Yet I hope that somewhere along the way you found the time to stop and enjoy many of Life’s beauties and precious moments, glass of great wine in hand, and friends and loved ones by your side!

With that said, I would like to wish you all a very Happy New Year and to THANK YOU for your ongoing support, encouragement and friendship. It has truly been a wonderful journey so far! And I have no doubts that 2012 will bring us even better reasons to salute and celebrate the winemakers and wines of Croatia!

As always, I welcome your suggestions and feedback for the blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed, and website (yes, it will be completed in 2012 – I promise!). Remember, these pages are for you and for your enjoyment. So, I will be soon asking you for your ideas, comments and criticisms so that in the coming year we can serve you better.

In the meantime, enjoy the holiday celebrations – and please be safe!

May the New Year bring you much joy in your heart, sacred peace in your soul, passion and exuberance to your spirit, and vibrant health to your body! I hope that the days and months ahead bring you closer to your dreams and find you waking each morning with the excitement and lust that come from knowing that Life has a purpose, Love waits to greet you, and Opportunity and Success serenade you like the sweetest of songs.

I look forward to tasting our way down the wine roads of Croatia with you in 2012. “Sretna Nova Godina – and Živjeli!!!”


Cliff Rames

Founder, Wines of Croatia

Ensemble Vacations® Magazine Calls the Wines of Croatia “Worldly Delights”

In its Winter 2011 issue, Ensemble Vacations® Magazine features the wines of Croatia under the headline, “Worldly Delights”. The author, Alison Kent, goes on to describe Croatia as a “vibrant viticultural region” and a “country steadily gaining international recognition”.

Ensemble Vacations is a member-sponsored travel organization that “brings you a world of opportunity, presenting…experiences to spark your imagination and whet your appetite”.

To read a PDF copy of the article, please click the link below. Enjoy the article and feel free to leave your comments.

Link to article:  Winter11Vacations_Croatia

Wines of Croatia News Round-Up: December 18, 2011


In case you missed anything, here is a round-up of the past week’s links to the news articles, blog posts and videos that highlighted Croatia, its wine or wine culture.



1. Wine Enthusiast Magazine: Best of the Year 2011

December 1, 2011 (retroactively included)

Wine Enthusiast magazine includes Croatia on its list of the “Best of Year 2011” under the 2011 Highlights in Travel, noting Croatia’s “rich winemaking traditions”.


 2. Pacta Connect: Two Gems Visit Two Gems of Istria

December 6, 2011 (retroactively included)

U.K. wine bloggers Denise Medrano and Niamh Shields discover the wines and food of Istria. 


 3. By the Tun: How to Read Croatian Wine Labels

December 13, 2011

Is that the name of the region? The grape? The producer? The protected geographical area? @ravenoustravelr gives us a brief lesson on the quirks of Croatian wine labels. 


 4. Meininger’s Wine Business International: Croatia Makes Headway

December 13, 2011

In-depth regional analysis of Croatia and its wine by Darrel Joseph in Meininger’s Wine Business International (via the Blue Danube Wine Company blog).



5. Total Hvar: Hvar Wine from a Hvar Character, Andro Tomic

December 14, 2011

Profile of Hvar winemaker and “Bon Viveur” Andro Tomic.


 6. Jancis Robinson: Croatia – Land of Opportunity

December 14, 2011

World renowned wine writer and expert, Jancis Robinson, calls Croatia the “land of opportunity”. (Note: you must be a Purple pages subscriber to access the full text).

7. Brava Wine Blog: Wine 3 – On the Third Day of Croatian Vino

December 14, 2011

An introduction to the newest wine from Roxanich, 2008 Ines u Bijelom – a skin macerated field blend of Istrian-grown white grapes.


8. Taste of Croatia: Best of Croatian Wines Under 60 KN

December 15, 2011

A few suggestions from the Taste of Croatia team for budget-friendly Croatian wines to try this Christmas with family & friends.


 9. Wines of Croatia Blog: A Very Donkey Christmas – Vinarija Dingac 2005 Postup

December 17, 2011

Sharing a little holiday cheer, inspired by our friend the Donkey.



P.S. We love to hear from you!

If you have comments or other news to share, please comment on this post or email us at info@winesofcroatia.com


A Very Donkey Christmas: Vinarija Dingač 2005 Postup


Okay – just a quick post to share some happiness and holiday cheer. A couple nights ago I brought a bottle of the Vinarija Dingač 2005 Postup to the Caudalie Vinotherapie Spa at the Plaza staff holiday party. The wine, made from the Plavac Mali grape, was well loved by my colleagues who tried it. Mind you, this is a group that is accustomed to being around and drinking Grand Cru Bordeaux. Said one colleague, “I’m surprised by how smooth it is. It’s really delicious.”

(photo courtesy of Blue Danube Wine Co.)

Yes, the wine showed really well. Elegant and poised yet intensely aromatic on the nose. The light, translucent garnet color betraying its bold notes of dried fig, dusty dried cherry, black olive, iodine, wet limestone, and hint of black truffle. Oh yeah – and that alluring yet all-too-familiar hint of barnyard (our Dalmatian friend, Brett), faint but distinct, adding just the right amount of Old World charm.

At 6 years old, the fruit remained intact, the tannins softened, the wine “so smooth” that it simply slipped too easily down the gullet, leaving a medium, cocoa dust, dried fig and cherry, and seaside mineral finish.

As often is the case with the Donkey and similar Dalmatian wines, this style evokes in my mind images of dining at one of the many open air cafes and restaurants along the Adriatic Sea on Croatia’s Dalmatian coastline. On the table: local prosciutto and cheeses, olives, grilled Adriatic squid, seafood risotto, stewed chard, fresh tomato salad, and crusty bread….

In the background, a troupe of local “Klapa” singers sing songs of the sea, olive picking, lost love, and the beauties of Dalmatia. In the sky, the powdery white path of the Milky Way stretches across the heavens with a vibrancy unknown to many city-dwellers. The air is scented with sea salt, fig leaf, wild herbs, and wood-fires that roast fish to perfection. All is perfect, especially when the wine – made from Plavac Mali or other indigenous grapes – goes down as easy as this Postup.

(BTW: Postup is the name of the geographically-protected area on the Peljesac peninsula where the Plavac Mali grapes were grown. More on that at another time.)

Postup appellation on the Peljesac peninsula (in red)

Too bad then that the Vinarija Dingač 2005 Postup wine is SOLD OUT on the U.S. market. Justifiably so, it seems. Like real donkeys in Dalmatia, this donkey wine is a rare beast: only limited quantities are imported to the U.S.

But fear not, a new batch of Vinarija Dingač wines are on the way and should be available from Blue Danube Wine Company very soon. But if you really need a Plavac Mali wine for your holiday table, other options are available: according to its website, Blue Danube still has limited quantities of Dingač Vinarija 2006 Dingač, Bura-Mrgudić 2007 Dingač, Bura-Mrgudić 2007 Postup, PZ Svirče 2006 Ivan Dolac, Miloš Plavac, Miloš Stagnum, Zlatan Plenković Zlatan Plavac 2007 Barrique or 2007 Grand Cru, and Saints Hills Dingač. Please check with Blue Danube regarding holiday shipping possibilities and times!

In the spirit of the faithful Donkey, I wish you all a very happy, healthy and wondrous holiday season, with many warm memories and exciting dreams inspired by a perfect glass of wine.

To help you get in the spirit, enjoy this video (below) called BOŽIĆ NA MORU (Christmas on the Sea).


-Cliff Rames

Wines of Croatia News Round-Up: December 11, 2011

In case you missed anything, here is a round-up of the past two weeks’ links to the news articles, blog posts and videos that highlighted Croatia, its wine or wine culture.

1. Wines of Croatia Blog: Cliff Rames – The Champion of Croatian Wines

November 30, 2011

An in-depth interview with Wines of Croatia founder, Cliff Rames, in “Croatia – A Fortnight in Review”. 



2. Soapbox: The Newest Wine We Are Crazy About

November 30, 2011

Soapbox, “a digital magazine written by chefs” names Pilizota Babić as its “NEWEST WINE WE ARE EXCITED ABOUT”.


3. Come for the Wine: Pilgrimage to Pag – Land of Paski Sir

November 30, 2011

Wine, food and travel blogger Marcy Gordon visits the island of Pag, “one of the most rugged and beaten down places” she’s ever visited.



4. Croatia Exclusive: Two Medals for Krauthaker Wines

December 2, 2011

Krauthaker winery wins two medals at the international Merlot competition “Mondial du Merlot” in Lugano, Switzerland.



5. Wines of Croatia Blog: Croatian Wine Story DVD Now Available in North America

December 5, 2011

Looking for that perfect holiday gift for your favorite Croatian wine lover (or yourself)? A new, beautifully-filmed DVD from the wine roads of Croatia is now available.



6. By the Tun: Talking Croatian Wine with Dolores Milicic

December 6, 2011

Talking Dingac, Croatian Wine, Donkeys, and Why Tasting Fees Shouldn’t Exist.


7.  Wine Enthusiast: Buying Guide – Croatian Wines

December 7, 2011

Croatian wines reviewed and rated in the new edition of the Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide!

8. Blue Danube Wine Blog: Our Top 5 Wines in 2011

December 7, 2011

U.S. importer, Blue Danube Wine Company, compiled a list of its 5 Top selling wines of 2011. Find out here what they are and how many are from Croatia!

9. Manjada: An Unusual Teran from Butoniga Lake Terroir

December 7, 2011

Gogo reminds us why it is “always a good idea to leave half full bottle of red wine for tomorrow”.


10. Liveistria: What’s in a Bottle of Wine

December 8, 2011

Ever wonder what it’s like to work the harvest? To “toil under the Istrian sun, as generations have done before”? Find out the story behind what’s in a bottle of wine and check out this enjoyable read from LiveIstria.



11. Food Republic: Top 5 Emerging Wine Regions

December 8, 2011

Are you surprised? @foodrepublic names the Istria region of Croatia among its “five unexpected wine regions making a splash right now”!


12. Vinologue: Down in Smokvica at Jedinstvo PZ

December 9, 2011

Reviews of Jedinstvo PZ’s portfolio of Pošip wines.



13. Wines of Croatia Blog: Giving Thanks with Terzolo 2008 Teran

December 10, 2011

“Darth Vader dancing like Fred Astaire”? Find out what was going on when Terzolo Teran filled our glasses.

P.S. We love to hear from you!

If you have comments or other news to share, please comment on this post or email us at info@winesofcroatia.com


A “TwitterView” with Cliff Rames of Wines of Croatia

On July 28, 2011, Eatingvine.com conducted an online interview with Wines of Croatia founder and Certified Sommelier, Cliff Rames.

Cliff Rames (photo by Jeff Tureaud)

Eating Vine is a “central online space for people who love to share what they eat and the wines they drink.” The main focus of Eating Vine is recipe sharing and wine pairing. It is the first food and wine website that pairs user recipes with wines in the individual’s price range.

The forum for the online interview was Twitter, which in social media-speak is called a “twitterview”.

For those of you who are new to Twitter, Wikipedia defines a “twitterview” as follows:

“A Twitterview is a combination of the terms Twitter, a popular microblogging platform, and interview. It is a type of interview for which the medium restricts the interviewer and interviewee to short-form responses. Twitter, from which the phrase was derived, limits users to 140 characters. The concise style of this form of interview encourages participants to be more direct with their statements. Unlike traditional interviews, a Twitterview allows the public to join in on the conversation and become participants themselves. It is typically conducted with a reliance on hashtags, marking the subject, so that online browsers may collectively search, view and track the ongoing dialogue.”

The “hashtag” (#) that was utilized for this particular twitterview was #TVwoc.

Here is the “twitterview” as it unfolded live on Twitter on July 28th. Other public participants who joined in are included as well. The questions asked are in BOLD.

In order to make it easier for you to follow along, we reversed the standard Twitter format that begins the tweet with the user name (@name) of the person receiving the tweet. In our reversed format the tweet begins with the speaker’s user name, indicated by the “@” tag.


@EatingVine: What should American customers expect from Croatian wines?

@WinesofCroatia: They can expect yummy boutique wines of unique character with a distinct sense of place, made from native grapes!

@WinesofCroatia: What are some wines that have been showcased on @Eatingvine?

@EatingVine: Our users enjoy Krauthaker Riesling. We have also seen nice tasting notes Malvasia.


@EatingVine: How many different Croatian wines are now being imported to the US?

@WinesofCroatia: Currently there are around 50 labels available on the US market, mainly on east & west coasts & in Chicago.

@EatingVine: Wow! 50!! Thats great! Out of all those wines – what’s your favorite wine? Why?

@WinesofCroatia: Ah! My preferences change w/ my moods, what I’m eating, who I’m with. Wine should b about adventure & discovery!

@lovefoodloveme: Wanna know more about Croatian wines? Check out the sweet interview bt @Eatingvine and @WinesofCroatia #TVwoc

@WinesofCroatia: What encounters w/ Croatian wines has EatingVine had?

@EatingVine: They seem to be everywhere lately! These wines pair very nicely w/ everything from seafood to red meat!

@EatingVine: So Cliff, where can our American followers currently purchase these amazing Croatian wines?

@WinesofCroatia: In NYC, Chicago, LA, SanFran, NJ. @BlueDanubeWine & @VinumUSA offer nice selections & BDW ships.

@WinesofCroatia: In @EatingVine’s view, how do small country producers like Croatia reach mainstream US consumers?

@EatingVine: Add their tasting notes to #EatingVine, w/ a website link, so users can find out where the wines are being sold.

@EatingVine: We get this one all the time from our readers: What’s the difference between a Žlahtina and a Riesling?

@WinesofCroatia: Žlahtina grows on an island in the Adriatic Sea (Krk); Riesling grows on slate slopes in Germany. Deliciously different!

@WinesofCroatia: Žlahtina is a great seafood wine. An island wine! Toljanic, PZ Vrbnik & Katunar are main producers

@WinesofCroatia: How do you know about Žlahtina (“zhlah-tee-na”)?

@EatingVine: We LOOOVE drinkable wines & Žlahtina is a wonderful drinking wine due to its low alcohol percentage. It pairs wonderfully w/ seafood too!

@EatingVine: So Cliff, what are a few Croatian varietals that American consumers might not be aware of?

@WinesofCroatia: Croatia has over 65 native varieties. Crljenak, which we know as Zinfandel; Pošip, Grk, Debit, Babić – & Žlahtina!

@WinesofBalkans: @EatingVine @WinesofCroatia Yes, of course, together with Dobričić grapes 🙂 Cheers! Awesome to see this twitter action!

@WinesofCroatia: Does @EatingVine know the relationship between Plavac Mali & Zinfandel?

@EatingVine: Good question!! Isn’t Zinfandel one of the “father” grapes of Plavac Mali?

@WinesofCroatia: Yes! Zinfandel (Crljenak) cross bred w/ Dobričić (another red grape) and gave birth to Plavac Mali!

@EatingVine: Hooray! We got it right!


@EatingVine: Blumenthals #TheFatDuck @HestonFatDuck features a few Croatian wines. Any other top restaurant featuring these wines?

@WinesofCroatia: In NYC: Veslo; @anforanyc; Felidia; Marseille; Regis Royal; Del Posto; 10 Bells – to name a few!

@WinesofCroatia: In Chicago: Sixteen at Trump; Lockwood & Potters Lounge; Peninsula; Purple Pig: & Autre Monde.

@WinesofCroatia: In LA & SanFran: A.O.C.; Bar Tartine; Pourtal Wine Bar; Mignon; Bistro SF Grill. @bluedanubewine.

@BlueDanubeWine: We’re very happy to be bi-coastal: Milos Plavac just landed @TerroirNY & @ACoteRestaurant in CA. This is a traditionally made Plavac.

@BlueDanubeWine: There are a few other restos in CA featuring Croatian wine: @LavandaFoodWine in Palo Alto has a full list.

@BlueDanubeWine: Not to forget @LouWineBar in LA. Lou is tops when it comes to taste leadership & flavor exploration. We’ve many Croatian wines there.

@WinesofCroatia: @BlueDanubeWine THX U to @louwinebar for your support . #sharingthelove

Grasevina (photo courtesy of Kazalic winery)

@EatingVine: Out of all these beautiful wines, what are some of the most popular Croatian varietals?

@WinesofCroatia: In terms of plantings, the Top 3 are: Graševina (white), Malvasia Istriana (white), and Plavac Mali (red).

@WinesofCroatia: Other favorites include Pošip (white), Babić (red), Teran (red), Debit (white), Grk (white), & Malvasia of Dubrovnik.

@EatingVine: OOhhh I hear Babic’s are lovely! So excited to try some!!

Babic (photo by Cliff Rames)

@WinesofCroatia: What kind of wines do you feature on @Eatingvine?

@EatingVine: Our users have added tasting notes for Grasevina, Malvasia and Riesling and growing!

@EatingVine: We have over 23,000 wines to choose from & users add wines that we don’t already have in the database.

@WinesofCroatia: Cool! We’ll have to work on getting more Croatian wine in your database!

@EatingVine: We would love to have ALL the Croatian wines in our database. Can’t wait!


@EatingVine: Who are some of the main producers to look for in stores? What price points to expect?

@WinesofCroatia: BIBICh, Bura, Clai, Coronica, PZ Dingač, Enjingi, Kozlović, Matosević, Saints Hills, Toljanić, Tomić. $14-$65.

@WinesofCroatia: Just want to add that the new issue (Sept) of @wineenthusiast magazine has an article about Croatian wines!

Wine Enthusiast magazine, September 2011 "Croatia - An Historic Wine Lovers Paradise" (photo by Cliff Rames)

@EatingVine: Well Cliff, I know u have to jet so we’ll sadly have to end this great Twitterview, lets do it again soon. So much to learn!

@WinesofCroatia: THANK YOU @EatingVine for this opportunity to #sharethelove for Croatian wines. Let’s do #TVwoc again sometime! 🙂

@WinesofCroatia: if anyone else has questions, please post w/ #TVwoc hashtag. We will answer throughout the evening!

A Waltz through Wines of Croatia History: A Tweet Heard by No One

Text by Cliff Rames, © 2011

Some of the greatest vineyards on the planet were once just humble fields or plots of undeveloped land, fallow and overgrown with brush, or planted with generic crops or fruit trees. Others were once cattle ranches or sheep pastures, moonscapes or volcano slopes.

Moonscape (photo by Cliff Rames)

It takes an open mind, some vision, a willingness to dream, and the stamina to work hard (as well as the capacity to risk much) for a person to be able to look at a parched and barren scrape of dessert, an overgrown plot of scrub brush, or a steep, craggy hillside and say: I can make great wine here.

(photo by Cliff Rames)

While I didn’t realize it at the time, I first cast eyes over the landscape of my future “vineyard” in 1989, when I was an exchange student at the University of Zagreb in the capital city of Croatia. That landscape emitted subliminal messages in the form of little voices that whispered, “Something is going on here; you should pay attention; this is where you need to be”.

Being young and crazy at the time, I heard the message but didn’t think much of it. There was too many other things going on, places to go, people to meet….

Nonetheless it stuck with me and quietly influenced the paths I chose that would eventually lead me to the Promised Land, that place in mind and soul where suddenly everything makes sense. Call it a vineyard.

Okay, I’m not really talking about a real vineyard (at least not yet). The vineyard I refer to is a metaphorical one: it’s a fertile idea. More practically, it’s a project that started out as a single tweet on Twitter – sent out to no one.

Somehow through the mysteries of social networking, that single seed in the form of a tweet (a “tweed”?) has since grown, spread, and wrapped its tendrils around many trellises in the virtual vineyard. Its clusters of fruit symbolize the final product, the idea-made-real. You know it as Wines of Croatia.

Within that tight cluster are many juicy berries, individual parts of one whole. One berry is this blog. Others include the Wines of Croatia Facebook page, Twitter page, and soon-to-be-launched website.

This metaphorical vineyard is heavy work. But it is a labor of love, born out of discovery, nurtured by the collective family of friends and followers (you!), and propelled forward with anticipation and excitement for each new virtual – and real – vintage.

Yes, its seeds were cast upon the fertile land at a time before I knew anything about vineyards or wine. But as is often the case with farming, you learn as you go, pressing out small bits of knowledge and wisdom from nature, the land, and the wine (as well as many books, classes and visits to real vineyards and winemakers).

(photo by Cliff Rames)

It all began one cool, autumn evening in Zagreb, circa 1989. I was sitting in an outdoor pizzeria (which featured amazingly aromatic wood-fired oven pizzas) with a few other American exchange students. While we each came from widely scattered parts of the United States, our little group shared a common purpose: we were all in Croatia (it was still part of Yugoslavia at the time) as part of a program to learn the Croatian language, culture, political life and history.

But that evening – and in many days and nights afterward – I learned something that was not part of my college syllabus: the joys and wonders of Croatian wines.

(photo by Cliff Rames)

As it happened, my hungry companions that evening noticed my fascination and interest in the local wines and appointed me czar of the wine list and asked me to order our dinner bottle. After a few minutes of pretending that I knew what I was doing, I randomly chose a wine called “Laguna”, a 1986 Merlot from the Istria region along the north coast of Croatia (it had a different label back then, a black one I think).

At the time I knew nothing about the producer (Laguna is presently owned by Agrokor Vina, a conglomerate that produces a wide array of decent and fairly accessible wines) or whether or not this particular wine was well-regarded by “critics”. All I knew that evening was the wine rocked my world.

Unlike some of the astringent, undrinkable and cheap plonk I had come to know – and wreck my stomach with – in college, the Laguna Merlot was so soft, smooth and sultry, with a distinctive sweet black fruit and earthy quality. In my memory, I recall that it was a lighter-style Merlot, translucent and garnet – not opaquely purple like many contemporary Merlot wines.

The pizzeria we were sitting in was one of the best at the time, and I’m sure the pizza was awesome, but I don’t remember it at all. The wine had my full attention. Transfixed by it, I couldn’t get enough. The little specks of sediment at the bottom of my glass fascinated me and added allure, convincing me it was not just another industrial wine but was perhaps a “natural wine” – unfiltered and unadulterated.

(photo courtesy of http://www.moja-kuhinja.com)

Was the wine great? Did it deserve impressive scores and flowery tasting notes? I can’t say. It doesn’t really matter now. To my young and admittedly naïve palate, it was delicious, seductive, memorable, and transformative (and a hit with the group, too).

(photo by Cliff Rames)

It can often take a decade or more to plant and nurture a vineyard to the point where the vines are ready to give juice that is worthy of wine. In my case, it would be another 17 years before I became certified as a sommelier and another three years before I sent out the first lonely Wines of Croatia tweet.  

But wine is a product of patience. What matters to me is this: that evening at the Zagreb pizzeria I became a changed person. My eyes (and palate) were forever opened to the magic and romance of wine.

The landscape of my future vineyard called out. Eventually I listened – and started to dream.