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!!!”
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.
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 Plazastaff 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.”
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.)
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, ZlatanPlenković 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).
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.
On July 28, 2011, Eatingvine.com conducted an online interview with Wines of Croatia founder and Certified Sommelier, Cliff Rames.
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?
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.
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.
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 CroatiaFacebookpage, Twitterpage, 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).
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.
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.
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).
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.