vinarija matuško, najbolje vinarije pelješac, dingač, plavac mali

Dingač i Crljenak – Na stolu američkog predsjednika Joe Bidena vina hrvatskih vinara

Kaštelanski Crljenak – Dar neba, suza zemlje, tekuća nada ili tek simbolični nektar spoznaje?

Vinarija Krolo Kaštela, Kaštelanski Crljenak
Vinarija Krolo Kaštela, Kaštelanski Crljenak

Intenzivan, živahan i koncentriran okus dalmatinskog nektara prožet je najfinijim taninima koji su u vrijeme Franje II ‘’išetali’’ iz njegovog carskog rasadnika i otisnuli se u svijet. Nenametljivo i fino, tek toliko da objave svoju prisutnost i postojanje.

Mekani, fini okusi dozrelog kaštelanskog crljenka, natopljeni okusima crnog bobičastog voća  brzo su  osvoji  fina nepca. S carskih polja u Splitu sadnice su početkom 19. stoljeća prevezene u Beč i Trst  te plodnu Napu  u Kaliforniju. Tu je kaštelanski crljenak nastavio puštati svoje korijenje utjelovivši se u kalifornijski zinfandel, a u Italiji u primitivo. Napokon su ga, nakon dugog lutanja, kaštelanski vinari vratili kući, u Kaštela kako bi ga na pradjedovini nastavili uzgajati i njegove dozrele bobice pretvarati u rujno vino, profinjenog okusa, “pa tako i mi u našem vinogradu i vinariji Krolo u Kaštelima”.

dingač, vina pelješac, joe biden inaugiracija
Vinograd Pelješkog vinogradara

 Hrvatska vina  na stolu  američkog predsjednika Joa Bidena

Mekano, pitko, slojevito i vrlo kompleksno vino crljenak, odnosno zinfandel svoje je mjesto pronašlo i na  raskošnom stolu u američkoj Bijeloj kući povodom inauguracije novog američkog predsjednika Joe Bidena. On i njegovi gosti zasigurno su uživali u mirisnim tonovima crnog bobičastog voća, likoriciji i zelenom papru, ali i  opojnim taninima pelješkog vina Dingač čije bobice plavca malog dozrijevaju na geografski zaštićenoj, istoimenoj južnoj padini otoka Pelješca te vrlo bliskoj padini Postup.

Dingač je zaštićeno, autohtono hrvatsko vino puna zrelog okusa. Bogatije je i korpulentnije od drugih vina, skladno, puno i ugodno gorkasto. Njegov je veliki ljubitelj bio i Robert Benmosche, bogati američki biznismen i  Obamin savjetnik.  “U svom sam vinogradu na Pelješcu, molim vas pustite me da završim branje grožđa i dolazim”  – svojevremeno je odgovorio Obami kada ga je telefonski nazvao i tražio da mu pomogne s posrnulom korporacijom. Benmosche je bio zaljubljenik u Pelješac i njegova vina, stoga je u Vignju podigao i vlastiti vinograd zinfandela, a na padinama Dingača sortu plavac mali. Uspješno je nastavio put Franje II, širiti svijetom okuse Zinfandela i Dingača. Zahvaljujući toj njegovoj strasti njime se danas nazdravlja i za stolom američkog predsjednika Joe Biden-a.

vino Dingač, inaugiracija joe biden, najbolja hrvatska vina
Padine Dingača, južna strana poluotoka Pelješca

Pelješki Dingač – svjetski poznato i priznato vino diljem svijeta

Prema riječima najvećeg  pelješkog vinara Ante Palihnića, osnivača Pelješkog vinogradara “ova vina se ne piju  samo u Americi, već širom svijeta, na najprestižnijim događajima i mjestima, dvoru kraljice Elizabete, papinskoj palači u Vatikanu, a Dingač je najdraže vino i britanskom premijeru  Borisu Johnsonu.”

Sigurno se pitate zašto je Dingač tako dobro vino?

Na jednom trsu ne smije biti prinos veći od pola kila grožđa. Posebnost mu daje  trostruka insolacija, mora, kamena i sunca. Idealan slador grožđa za Dingač je 21-23 %, a u Antinom vinogradu dosezao je i do 25 %  što u konačnici znači i 17 % alkohola,. “Vidjevši gradaciju bio sam oduševljen. Nisam mogao vjerovati!  Za usporedbu, desertno vino-prošek  ima 18 % alkohola” – znalački nam objašnjava Anto.

dingač, zinfandel, robert benmosche, inauguracija joe biden
Anto Palihnić, osnivač Pelješkog vinogradara

Kod potpunog zrenja na grožđu se u trenutku berbe nalazi i do trideset  posto osušenih  bobica. I u tim se bobicama kriju rijetke esencije koje vinu daju posebnu kvalitetu. Dakle, insolacija – mora, kamena I sunca,  ekstrakt dobiven iz suhica, mali prinos grožđa po trsu, i visoki šećer u grožđu ključni su za dobivanje visoko kvalitetnog vina. Malo tko u Hrvatskoj može uskladiti taj omjer, ali s obzirom na geografski položaj i znanje peljeških vinara Dingač je svjetski poznato i priznato vino diljem svijeta.

Kvaliteta počinje u vinogradu. Ovisi o dobrom grožđu, a ne o proizvodnji vina. Treba biti zaljubljenik u vinovu lozu, stvoriti suživot i obostrano razvijati poštovanje. Reći vinogradu  dobro jutro i laku noć, nahraniti ga,  osloboditi grožđe da mu ništa ne zaklanja sunce, obrezivati ga i pomno paziti da ga ne unište prirodne nedaća i bolesti, i “ono će vam vratiti stostruko” –  kaže Anto.

On će u hrvatskom vinarstvu zasigurno ostati zapisan kao jedan od modernih začetnika vinarske proizvodnje na Pelješcu. Posao je izrastao na skromnoj tradicijskoj proizvodnji koju je započeo njegov pradjed. Od oca je baštinio tek 15 000, a danas u njegovim vinogradima raste 100 000 trsova vinove loze, sorte Plavac mali. U vinariji uz kooperantski urod godišnje napravi, uskladišti i proda osamsto tisuća boca vina.

Vinograd je strast, a ne  posao

 “Kada bi se po radu gledalo ja ne bih imao ni dana radnog staža” –  kroz smijeh će. Poseban užitak  daruju mi ta mala zrna koja sazore na trsu i vino koje od njih napravim. Jednostavno sam prepušten toj ljubavi. Kada vidim kako mi moji vinogradi svake godine obilato vraćaju nosi me volja, strpljenje,  upornost i želja da im dam još više. Plavac ne miješam s drugim sortama jer to je po meni najbolja vrsta kojom nas je Bog ovdje obdario. Bila bi šteta remetiti tu prirodnu harmoniju.”

Četiri je puta Antino vino u šest godina bilo proglašeno šampionom za kvalitetu. Njegove se kolege ponekad ljute, a Anto im uvijek kroz šalu kaže “što vam ja mogu, tko zna, zna!”

Njegovo mišljenje dijeli i jedan od poznatijih peljeških vinogradara Mato Violić Matuško iz Potomja.

inauguracija joe biden, pelješka vina, najbolja hrvatska vina, zinfandel, dingač
Vinarija Matuško

Šampanjac – piće užitka i strasti

“Bog nam je dao da živimo u raju na Zemlji i iskoristimo ovo podneblje. Dao nam je blagu klimu,  kvalitetnu sirovinu i vrijedne ruke, a time i mogućnost da proizvedemo vrhunsko vino, ali ne samo dobro vino, već i šampanjac!”

Šampanjac je po njegovim riječima piće trenutka, veselja. Ono se ne pije da bi se pilo, već da bi se predalo  strasti, senzualnosti i uživalo u nestašnoj igri zaigranih mjehurića.

Plavac mali dozrijeva u vinogradima zasađenima na strmim, šljunkovitim, teško pristupačnim padinama Dingača i Postupa koje s jedne strane padaju sve do oštre obale mora, a s druge se penju prema golim, brdskim kamenim vrhovima.Tu su sunčeve zrake najjače, odbijaju se od kamen i more dajući vinogradima svjetlost i toplinu, a time i bogatstvo okusa koji ga opravdano raznose dalekim svijetom.

joe biden inauguracija, hrvatska vina, dingač, zinfandel
Šampanjac Vinarije Matuško

Znatiželja dalmatinske vinare neprestano gura dalje. U dane nakon jematve. Zorno iščekujući susret s mladim vinom i njegovim zavodljivim okusima koji mami i provocira nepca. Tim okusima nisu odoljeli ni Franjo II, ni Benmosche, ni Biden, diveći se rujnoj boji, gustoj teksturi i okusima koji nakon svakog gutljaja umilno  prožimaju tijelo.

Čudni su ti Dalmatinci, emotivci bez kraja i granica. Iako se ne bi reklo! Srce i dušu ostavljaju u te čarobne kapi jer za njih je vino dar s neba, tekućina nade i nektar svjetovne spoznaje. Znaju oni da se još ništa veliko na svijetu nije stvorilo bez emocija, pa ni opojna vina Dingača i Zinfandela!

 

 

 

 

A Terra Madre Winery – a breathtaking view of  the Neretva Bay

 

Everywhere you turn, there’s nothing but boulders and thickets on the hilly terrain by the sea. Will this meager land in Komarna, near Dubrovnik, ever be able to bear juicy fruits ripened in the sun? A few wondered, many doubted, but not the bravest, Stipe and Damir Dominikovic and Davor Martinovic. After a series of business successes in the partner company “Poljopromet”, they decided to take on a new business challenge – the reclamation of karst on hillslopes. They wanted to plant new vineyards on that rocky soil and grow their own vines.

From the rocky terrain to the Decanter award

The rocky, steeply sloping terrain wasn’t too promising, but they wanted to cultivate at least 5-6 hectares. The venture began! Heavy machinery occupied the hill. The crushing of the boulders started on a wide area surrounding the hill, first cautiously, and then more and more resolutely. Day by day, their idea took on a more and more concrete form.

 “We had to dare, resist the conventional belief that nothing can grow on this rocky terrain. The most important thing was to beat this hard, long-neglected soil and prepare it for planting new vines” – director Davor Martinovic began his story.

Today, the vineyards cover a total area of 16.55 hectares and have 125,000 vines.  Perched on top of a small hill is the contemporary Terra Madre winery, occupying 800 square metres and equipped with giant wine containers and wooden barrels to store wines. The upper floor occupying 400 square metres is intended for wine tasting. It is the gastronomic paradise for all who are eager to savor delicious wine and domestic food: prosciutto, cheese, marinated and salted anchovies. The terrace offers a magic and unforgettable view. The clear blue sea of the Neretva bay merges with the azure blue sky, green vineyards of the Pelješac peninsula, one of the best-known wine-growing regions in Croatia, and Mali Ston Bay, a gastronomic destination renowned for oysters.

Thanks to several hardworking and persistent people like Davor, Damir and Stipe, Komarna has become the youngest Croatian terroir. The endless rows of vines at the foot of the hill merge with the craggy shore. This harsh rocky environment is where plavac mali grows. “That autochthonous Croatian variety gives excellent sugars and acids, as well as sharp flavors and bitterness,” continues Davor. “But in addition to plavac mali, we also planted smaller quantities of the French syrah and cabernet sauvignon varieties, which give plavac extraordinary gentleness and softness”.

“This is limestone, dry area with minimal fertile land. Therefore, we irrigate the  plavac vines in the initial stage of ripening, which repays us manifold in quality. Bora, scirocco, triple insolation, karst, sea, and sun affect the grape yield and wine quality”.

Silver will soon be replaced by gold!

Wine Plavac Mali Premium
Wine Plavac Mali Premium

The Terra Madre winery produces five types of wine, including two reds made from the plavac mali variety. This production requires aging in wooden barrique barrels for up to three years. Plavac mali premium wine is made from plavac grown on selected terrains. “Yields are lower in quantity because pruning is regulated, and the fruits are partly removed. Due to this, the wine is of special quality. The silver medal won at Decanter, a prestigious London wine fair, testifies to this”, says Davor proudly. His daughter and trusted associate Vedrana Martinovic Trutina (32)  joined our conversation, too.

“When we exhibit at wine fairs, especially at the biggest ones such as ProWein in Dusseldorf, it becomes clear to me where we are and what we do, and how strong our competition is. It is great to be in the company of winemakers from around the world. We are constantly working to be as close as possible to them in terms of offer and quality. But we also have our powerful aces up our sleeve – organic production, indigenous varieties, new vineyards, and a God-given location”, says Vedrana, also revealing that her biggest desire is to place the wines on new, still undiscovered international markets.

Dubrovnik guests drink Terra Madre rosé

In addition to red wines, plavac combined with syrah gives an extraordinary mild Rose. “That is the wine most sought after in Dubrovnik area, especially popular among female guests who like to drink it as an aperitif wine or in combination with light seafood. Pošip is a white wine that pairs well with Adriatic white fish, swordfish, John Dory fish, dentex fish and shellfish, and especially with oysters from Mali Ston”, Davor shares his abundant experience.

K7 wines are drunk in prestigious American restaurants

Overseas markets also recognized the quality of wines from Komarna. The enterprising American woman of Croatian roots visited the Terra Madre winery as a guest. She liked their wines so much that she wished to offer them to all Americans, and she succeeded! As other winemakers from Komarna joined this project, she grouped them all under the unique K7 brand. The market’s differences and administrations were reconciled successfully, and Americans can drink that wine in more prestigious restaurants.

How to drink and stay on your feet?

The oenologists Marko Šuman and Gorana Dominikovic are influential wine experts. They have been taking care of young and aged wines for a long time.

They are continually checking the quality and maturity, especially of red wines aged in barrels and bottles, for up to five years before tasting. We cannot relax until we get positive quality ratings. We do this from day to day, from year to year, because mature wines get consumed, while at the same time new ones are being produced”, says Marko and continues:

“We taste wine every day. We have to feel all its flavors, and at the same time, memorize that taste from yesterday. Every sip of wine must be clean, rinsed with water so that the flavors do not overlap and mix. The palate is our most important ‘tool’ for assessing the quality, dryness or hardness of wine.”

These two young people make a great team, although Gorana is still learning next to Marko. Next year he will let her take care of the cellar, while he plans to devote himself more to the vineyards where, in his own words, “the quality of wine stems from.” They are always supportive of each other. The greatest pleasure for them is recognition for a job well done and high-quality wine. Terra Madre winery is undoubtedly at the forefront of the wine-making business, side by side with well-known wine producers.

An unforgettable vacation in a vineyard by the sea

But this is not where the story ends! These hardworking people do not stop planning and dreaming new dreams. Director Martinovic has retired, but he is still developing new projects with his partners.

The soon-to-be-opened luxury restaurant will provide special delicacies, grilled Adriatic fish, traditionally cooked meat, and homemade cakes. Apart from the wine tasting, the terrace with splendid views will offer a new gastronomic experience as well. Enjoying the small stone-lined Dalmatian houses surrounded by the green vineyards and drinking wine under the starry sky is bound to lift each spirit. What more can one wish, except to visit that magical place?

 

Romance in the Trogir Noble House

The bell from Trogir’s city tower strikes twelve. The sun shines on the old town, inviting the tourists to take a short break because, after sunset, many of them eager for discoveries and new experiences will revisit them. Curious, they will walk the streets, peeking through half-open wooden windows whose lace curtains hide the intimacy of Trogir families and the charming spirit of the surrounding restaurants.

That is so good, what a pleasant smell! The fish is grilled somewhere nearby! I follow a street lined with stone houses, built several centuries ago.  Curious, I enter through a wooden door to one of the most beautiful stone courtyards still only seen in nobles families’ houses.

I have to sit and enjoy the sumptuous court’s ambiance. I imagine tender tones of the harp and dancing ladies dressed in lavish crinolines in arms of sleek nobles. Delicacies from the richly set tables sweetened their mouth and stolen kisses in one of the dark corners of this courtyard.

That place is magical! Happy people are sitting around the tables full of excellent food. Lobster on buzara, grilled white fish, shrimp wrapped in bacon, black cuttlefish risotto, pasta with seafood. Meat, grilled, cooked in a real Dalmatian sauce.  I can’t even talk about imaginatively prepared cakes, especially Dalmatian rožada, because while I’m just looking at it, I want to feel its caramelized taste in my mouth. I feel so good while my imaginations wander through,  from the past to the present.

Unbeknownst to me, thanks to the fantastic smell of grilled fish, I came to the well-known restaurant and hotel Monika, located in the noble, Cega family house’s historic ambiance. The restaurant, with its fifty years of gastronomic tradition, does not lag behind the rich past.

I wonder who owns this hotel and restaurant, who had the strength to make this splendor in the middle of the old urban city and restore it to its former aristocratic splendor? Each piece exudes with luxury and carefully selected details,  with a specific style and taste.

It would be best to meet Jasminka Vranješ, the owner who belongs here with her charming and engaging behavior. Only a woman with an uncompromising will, inexhaustible energy, professional experience, and personal wisdom can build this “empire.” She had the pleasure to refurbish this space for herself and guests worldwide who have been faithfully returning to her for half a century.

She started putting together her catering story back in the seventies with her husband Vinko. In an instant, she had to continue their familiar story on her own, fighting like a lioness, all to make their dreams come true. “There have been ups and downs, crisis years, but I always went forward, believing in myself. If I had succumbed to bad thoughts at any moment, my dream would never become shattered.” She did it! She kept her promise!

In the beautiful authentic the ambiance of the old Trogir stone court, there is an open part of the restaurant with a hundred seats, accompanied by an interior space, specially decorated for romantics who want a unique atmosphere and intimacy.

Visiting the hotel means experiencing Trogir as it once was, the style and way of life of the Cega noble family, whose tradition collapsed in a historically turbulent and relentless moment. But new times have brought new opportunities as well. Jasminka had a mission! Renovated the house and gave it back the look and sophistication of a noble home. “For twenty years, I bought part by part of the house. When I put all the torn parts back under the same roof, I started renovating the space. After three years, I opened a hotel with sixteen spacious rooms, decorated in a synergy of a traditional and modern style”.

Luxurious, soft beds covered in red satin and velvet dominate the space, facing the windows that each overlook their part of the old town. Unique charm is given by refined, imaginative decorations that fill the rooms, giving them dreamy warmth and harmony. The terrace between the roofs of Trogir houses and the view to the surrounding city gardens, the old town, and the bell tower of The Cathedral of St. Lawrence intertwined with the blue sky and sea is a new experience that I will remember for a long time.

Jasminka has given her whole life into the restaurant and hotel, past, present, and future. “I have nurtured this hotel as a child, giving all my best. I can see that I am successful by the guests’ reactions who are delighted with what they feel. I am happy and grateful when I see a smile and shine in their eyes; it means that I have fulfilled my mission. ”

Even today, after fifty years of working,” My every new day is my new beginning, I work there with equal passion, paying attention to every detail.  There is a vast love for work, long-term  staff, and this building that I have renovated, to the pride of myself and the city of Trogir!”

She has successfully built and edited, but she has always primarily cared for the guests’ wishes, desires, and comfort. Grateful for the hospitality, welcome, and goodwill, the guests give it to her back with kind words and selfless attention, proposing that everybody must experience it in person.

 

 

 

Brač best vinery

Enjoy wine, champagne and prosecco tasting on  the Brač Island!  

It was time to pick grapes! Berries hovered over the vines, and many pickers at the vineyard worked diligently. The Senjković wine cellar workers were ready to accept the crop and turned grapes into tasty champagne, red and white wine, or prosecco drops.

Winery Senjković Brač
Winery Senjković Brač

Returning from the vineyard to the Dračevica in Brač, I started to explore the village. After a few steps, I heard the voices. I saw some men in the narrow street who transported grapes from the truck to the cellar.  Although I didn’t know who they were, I entered a spacious courtyard located between the houses, impatiently waited to start talking with them. I liked the similar places! They stirred the past and present times, traditions, customs, and habits of the local people.

A pleasant surprise! The hosts invited me to sit and taste the original homemade wine and food. Refined flavors alternated in nine courses of wine, champagne, and Dalmatian prosecco. Fifteen sequences of various delicacies were prepared from the highest quality island ingredients, served in the most modern ways. It was a gastronomic feast created by Magdalena Senjković.

A layer of pate with a full, intense aroma in which the taste of liver parfait prevailed, dark chocolate, and bitter orange on toasted brioche was so delicious. ” The island’s ingredients, tradition, and my living atmosphere are base for all my prepared dishes. I also use modern techniques, and that give the food a refined and sensual taste “- explained Magdalena, who led me little by little to the new Brač experiences. Her husband Saša Senjković, an excellent wine connoisseur and producer, joined us in our conversations, pouring wine in my glass. So I tried the best food and wine drops at this hospitable island’s family.

Along with liver parfait, Saša served me Pošip – Tristeca, vintage 2018. The wine was macerated for six hours during production and aged for a year in Bosnian oak.

Wine with butter and peach notes aged in wood has a more decadent taste and a powerful character, and deeper taste. It goes better with more robust food” – said young Senjković. This unique wine has dedicated to his father, who has inherited his ancestors’ huge wine culture.

I looked around the yard, partially covered with eaves overgrown with greenery and only a few tables with twelve seats reserved for the guests eager to taste good food and wine.  I was thinking about Senjković family members who have been working hard for four generations, their work, and customs, but Sasha’s voice moved me to reality.

“This is Spoža, vintage 2019, our best Rose made from Plavac mali, a very aromatic, aperitif wine. Aroma sets of light summer flavors of fruit, strawberry, and watermelon give it a sweet taste that goes the best with white fish, shrimp, and fruit. At the same time, Spoža, vintage 2018, characteristically loves more decadent foods.”

Magdalena served the fragrant food that went best with it. “Now you’re going to try the shrimp elements and turnip crude. The cappuccino made from shrimp shell is in the cup. On the plate are tails stuffed with mousse from the head and pliers. Crude, in its mild and delicate texture combined with bread toasted with pink pepper, prefers young wine from 2019. Cappuccino and tails go best with wine, vintage 2018.”

In such a pleasant atmosphere, Saša recalled his childhood and youth time.   “I didn’t work in the vineyard, I ran more in the field and climbed the nearby olive branches. My family members worked hard all day arranging vineyard and picking grapes,” he said with a laugh. “But now as an adult, I know that staying and playing in the vineyard has determined me. Thanks to that, today I am what I am, a lover of viticulture and winemaking,” – says Saša, briefly returning to his memories.

I watched him assess how deep he stepped at that time, didn’t want to interrupt his memories. It was an excellent way to quench my curiosity. I wanted to introduce as much as possible local people’s customs and traditions.

But Saša didn’t give to become confused! He started to present his another pride – “This is red wine Bročka rič, vintage 2018, made of a mixture of Plavac mali, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine in its taste is powerful and elegant with fruit and summer flower aromas”. Saša served this wine with gnocchi prepared with sheep cheese and lamb.

Princess under the glass bell
”Princess” under the glass bell

“I inherited a passion for work from my father and great-grandparents, and the least my family and I can do to work hard and achieve our goals. We built a new winery and have renewed the plantations, knowing in advance what kind of wine we will make. We want to meet certain expectations of our guests. Their months-long pre-orders and desire to taste our wines are a confirmation of our good work and efforts. Honor, but also a big responsibility! In gratitude to my great-grandfather, we made Bosso, savory red wine, of strong and musculin aroma of paper and tobacco. This wine goes well with  Brač lamb and steaks.”

Dita is an intense and structure, full-bodied red wine. Senjković produced this sort of wine only in their most fertile years. Only twice in the last ten years, in 2012 and 2016. It was an honor! I tried the best wine whose collection consists of only 2000 bottles. The wine kept for three years in French oak and almost the same number of years in bottles. The combination of Plavac mali, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon is wine nectar that is hard to find and repeat! It went so well with soft pieces of lamb stabbed and roasted on the spice, with potatoes fried into lamb fat. I was eating a lamb with hands, like the locals. It was profound my connections with the island and its people.

After a series of milder and more salty dishes, Magdalena successfully surprised me with sweet delicacies. Creamy “princesses” were carefully served under a glass bell to keep all sweet flavors.

However, pear-shaped white chocolate was the queen of this gastro evening. In my opinion, it was a Magdalena gastro masterpiece. The chopped pear pieces, flambéed in pear and lemon juice, with almond praline, was shaped into a pear and topped in white chocolate. The soft texture, tenderness, and aroma can delight even the pickiest gourmet, additionally stimulated by the sweet drops of homemade Senjković prosecco.

Olive Oil Škrip

The Beauty of Olive Island

Written by Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh

Photos by Anita Palada

Long before the Mediterranean Diet became a health-enhancing trend, Kruno Cukrov, 50, would stand in his olive tree grove watching scores of sheep eating the grass, and appreciate their giving a special “blessing” to his land.

Proud that he’s using totally organic cultivation methods dating back to the Romans, he insists, “We are respecting a great past, no chemicals, the sheep’s natural fertilizer, picking by hand…”

Olive trees and stone on the island of Brač
Olive trees and stone on the island of Brač

As Kruno bites into a few olives, and shares this bounty with me, it’s understandable why he works slavishly everyday to produce the highest quality extra virgin oil.  Along with feeling a special reverence for his land, he hopes to continue another trend.

His grove on the sun-swept island of Brač, and other small family Croatian cultivators are winning increasing international recognition for their limited quantity oil.

What does Cukrov and his counterparts on the island of Krk, and in the northern region of Istria, have in common?

Kruno Cukrov
Kruno Cukrov

They share a passion for the land, for the verdant trees, for handpicking each olive and pressing them the same day to guarantee the utmost taste.

Recognizing that his 1000 olive trees are a legacy from his grandfather that must be honored, Cukrov calls these trees “mothers.” He feels they give birth to oil with the best balance of fruit and bitterness, along with prized distinct aromas.

So he works. Continuously. Relentlessly. Lovingly. Digging the land around the trees, picking grass and sprouts, even encouraging the sheep to come visit, to give their “blessings.”

Olives trees at Cukrov field
Olive trees at the Cukrov field

As we talk about Brač’s riches—one million-plus trees (mainly Oblica which fare well in drought and wind), and his own trees, Cukrov pauses for a few moments to look at the shimmering blue Adriatic. The views from his elevated property are stunning, certainly part of the excitement that accompanies any visit to the Olive Oil Museum he and his wife Katija built in a charming, restored stone building in Škrip.

His museum, a tribute to 1800’s hand-made production methods, is graced with olive presses, spindles, a fireplace for heating water, and numerous wooden casks.

“This is not just a building that has been declared a cultural asset by the Republic of Croatia,” says Crukov. “It’s a former gathering place of social life that has been completely restored to the spirit of life and customs (of the past)…a spirit best reflected in Katija’s kitchen.”

Katija Cukrov
Katija Cukrov

Yet this cozy kitchen presents a major dilemma. When is it best to savor her sheep and goat cheeses along with olive spreads adorned with almonds, garlic and anchovies?

At the start of a visit to Brač or at the conclusion of a six-kilometer walk that is known as the “Olive Trail”?

Take that excursion. It winds past numerous groves where oil and the local wine can be enjoyed.

Then meet Katija, a maestro in the kitchen. Faithful to traditional recipes, yet still willing to add modern nuances, she combines olives with “capers, cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and other Mediterranean ingredients.

Delicious food at Oil Museum

“All these foods and spices are here from time immemorial..but our ancestors ate and combined them differently…we are left to follow tradition and upgrade antique dishes. We just want to give our visitors good taste.”

And good memories of a genuine “farm to table experience.”

Olive Oil Museum
Olive Oil Museum Škrip

So come meet this hard-working couple desperately trying to provide glimpses into authentic Croatian life. Wedded to the soil, and its’ riches, they too are a treasure.

 

 

 

Wonders from sheep island!

Written by: Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh

Photos: Tourist Board Kolan, Cheese factory MIH, Cheese producer Šime Oštarić

Grandma Tonica was a risk taker, a woman with a “secret recipe” which she shared with her family—a recipe that is now winning international acclaim.

Back in the 1990s Tonica Pernjak owned a small restaurant on the Croatian island of Pag, otherwise known as “Sheep Island.” Farmers, salt producers and other local people showered her with praise for the hard sheep cheese she hand-made in her basement.

MIH's prized sheep
MIH’s prized sheep

That chorus inspired her. Tired of simply cooking, and hoping to launch a more profitable business that would use old-fashioned cheese production methods, and be environmentally-friendly, Tonica taught her son Dubravko, and later her grandsons, the intricacies of that remarkable recipe— and to have a “passionate” relationship with cheese making.

While she attributes her good health at age 88 to eating “lots of Pag cheese,” Dubravko and his sons learned their lessons well. They devoted themselves to following her recipe to make an indigenous Promenka sheep cheese that is naturally flavored by salt. They also strove to give their cheese various aromatic qualities influenced by the sheep’s grazing on pastures which contained thyme, sea fennel, sage and other herbs.

Treasures await at MIH
Treasures await at MIH

“Tonica had this wonderful dream, the special hands needed to adjust the moisture in the milk, to mold cheese, to really create magic,” insists Šime Baričević, the CEO of MIH SIRANA KOLAN, the Pag company that Tonica’s grandsons Šime and Marin now operate.

“Even though producing cheese on this barren island that is buffeted by strong Bura winds is very difficult work, she remained faithful to her dream. She always prized quality, doing everything by hand, keeping cheese on wooden palettes, not plastic, to increase flavor, and she always preached these lessons to her son and grandsons. She had the dream, they made it happen.”

Now appealing to Paksi Sir cheese connoisseurs in Croatia and other European countries, MIH has grown into a dairy with 550 sheep and 27 employees who are scrupulously schooled to respect Tonica’s revered production techniques. They painstakingly filter, cool, filter again the milk, add dairy cultures, and finally mold the cheese.

But as another Pag Island cheese maker Šime Ostarić says, “anyone making hand-made cheese must inject special energy into cheese, put yourself into the cheese. Cheese making can’t just be for money. Your hands must show love.”

MIH Beauties on Display
MIH Beauties on Display

Baričević is certainly passionate about MIh’s “unique” and highly-lauded Tartufin, or black truffle cheese.

“While all of our products are the result of our special environment close to the sea, our truffle cheese is unrivaled. We only use the choicest black truffles from Istria, so the smell is fantastic. This hard cow cheese made from Pag curd has black truffle aftertaste that is just superior, a cheese that shows our commitment to pure old-fashioned quality.”

MIH Cheese Makers
MIH Cheese Makers

Compared to the island’s largest cheese company Paksi Sirana, MIH with its’ 550 sheep is a relatively small company. That allows MIH to maintain the highest quality, and to make other artisanal cheeses such as Otancan, a cow and sheep cheese, and Kolanjac, a cow cheese. Both are also highly-regarded by aficionados.

Yet on Pig  where scores of small producers offer tourists a selection of homemade cheeses on their farms and in Kolan houses, Šime Oštarić is a one-man, boutique cheese maker.

“Of course I want to profit from my work,” say this 31-year-old who only owns 50 sheep on his small farm near Kolan. “But i do this very hard work because I really do love the whole process.”

Artisan Šime Oštarić at work
Artisan Šime Oštarić at work

“My mother Maria taught me everything I know about cheese making. I’d come home from milking the sheep, and she’d patiently explain all of her secrets to me. That’s what cheese making is, secrets, your hands, your love, and also knowing the wind here, the ferocious wind here.

“The Bura can be very cruel, drying the land, and making it hard for the sheep to eat. Then I have to buy corn for them and hope. Hope to survive, and to show people that my cheese is made my way with the greatest of love.”

 

   Pig Heaven

Written by Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh

Photos: Anita Palada, Hotel Marmont

Mr. Pig is very muddy.

It’s been raining in this heavily-forested, northeastern part of Croatia near  Lika, and finding acorns on the pastures close to the Korana River means lots of scampering through the mud.

Black Pig
Black Pig

He runs, jumps, sniffs a lot, burrowing his pink nose deep into the ground. Mr. Pig is very determined, seemingly aware that being a member of his very elite Black Pig fraternity carries great responsibilities.

The Sweet Seduction

Written by Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh

Photos by Anita Palada, Goluzarije

“The seduction, the magic, begins with the hands, the kneading, the stretching,” laughs this modern-day Michelangelo sculpturing another sweet masterpiece in his cozy Split patisserie.

“Of course my perfect strudels also need eggs, vanilla cream, the top ingredients, the very best almonds, nuts, yogurt mix and how I interpret various secrets, Croatian recipes from the past,’” continues Ivan Matić, 43, frenetically reaching for heaping amounts of sugar and gloriously-tart cherries.

 

“But the real secret to making great strudel is the hands. Mine are filled with love. They are very sensitive. Perfect for making wonderful Strudel.”

His colleague, baker Eleonara Višić, enthusiastically agrees. Standing alongside him, his partner in sweetness, she emphasizes just how critical hands are to preparing dough for kneading. An equally-experienced artisan, schooled by her beloved mother and grandmother, she compares her work to a much-revered painting, the always-crowded, sweetly-scented Guluzarije bakery to an artist’s studio.

 

“When I see dough I see a blank canvas in front of me,” she passionately explains. “I’m a painter with a brush in my hand. I have an image of the dough, how I will transform it with creams and fillings, how I will mix these vivid colors. I completely immerse myself in the dough so my hands and spirit are giving life, love. The dough then gives me a lot of great scents in gratitude.”

But this duo’s deeply-felt passion—and ambitions—go far beyond strudel. While they meticulously sift flour, mix sugar, and stretch the dough into just the right flaky thickness for strudel, these tradition-minded Croatians are also faithfully “recreating the specific smells and tastes of people’s childhoods in Dalmatia”— offering classical desserts that have long disappeared from bakeries.

Welcome to Goluzarije Patisserie
Welcome to Goluzarije Pastry Shop!

“The real people of Split are proud of their culinary traditions, rich and full of sweetness,” insists Ivan. “Fritters are a traditional cake in our country, made for hundreds of years, but they could not be bought anywhere. I want to evoke happy moments spent in homes with families, so I am making Brač Hrapoćuša, Trogir rafioli, apple and cherry strudels, vanilla rolls. Menus from a lost time.”

Matić’s devotion to the past has spurred dreams about the future. He hopes to open two more “fairy tale” patisseries. In the meantime, patrons animatedly chat with Eleonora about concocting a strudel crust coated with melted butter, and seek out more than baking advice from Ivan.

The Best Fritters In Split
The Best Fritters In Split

“People know I have a big heart like a bus, that I know all about love,” says Matić proudly, keenly eying his oven to make sure the dough bakes for 30 minutes at 180 degrees.

“I tell them that love goes through the stomach first. Eating fine food, it is one of the ways to seduce a woman, and to maintain love beloved woman is smiling and happy, and I always want to see her that way. I want to treat my guests to the same beautiful experience, to eat deliciously, and to love each other.”

Now that people are increasingly flocking to Guluzarije, Ivan thoroughly enjoys seeing people laugh with every flavorful bite of his strudel. Their smiles are making him—and Eleonora-even more committed to offering “absolute perfection.”

“Pastries are happiness, so here dough is our love,”says Eleonora. “When I prepare cakes I am transported to a different dimension, another state of mind. I am happily divorced from reality.”

It’s a wondrous realm both of these bakers want to share with each of their strudel lovers.

Goluzarija Joyful Team
Best Regards From Goluzarija Joyful Team!