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.

 

 

 

    Welcome to the Love Boat

Written by Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh

Photos: Anita Palada

Always the rogue, the lover of women and their most stunning attributes, the Captain mischievously laughs at his feeling helpless in a “sea of confusion.”

“I kept marveling at the sight in front of me, it was so beautiful, so heavenly,” recalls Tomislav Mravičić – Mito, the captain known throughout Croatia and the Balkans for his “party boat” and wild, often ribald storytelling.

Captain Tomislav Mravičić Mito Makarski Jadran
Tomislav Mravičić Mito

“I couldn’t move. I had gone to get my work permit, told I couldn’t get one, and here was this secretary in a low-cut blouse with this unbelievable cleavage.

“Seeing I was persistent, she took pity on me and gave me a cup of coffee. When handing it to me she bent over me, and seeing so much of her, I had to say, ’they are so beautiful…the most beautiful I have ever seen. So wonderful, so amazing!”

Makarski Jadran
Makarski Jadran

The Captain got his permit—even if the startled secretary spilt her coffee, yelled unprintable words at him—and his life on the sea, looking for mermaids and adventures, began.

That was 30 years ago.

Now Captain Mito is a free-spirited fixture on the alluring Dalmatian Coast. Plying the turquoise waters near Split, Hvar Island, Korcula and Brac, this 70-year-old libertine is known for steering passengers to uninhabited dance parties, gluttonous food feasts, and other wild merriment aboard his ship, the Makarski Jadran

“I can’t talk now,” bellows Mito into the phone, smiling devilishly at me. “Go, go, get some delicious grilled sardines on deck. Can you please put on a new (sea-faring, blue-striped) T-shirt?

Adriatic sea
Life is Wonderful

Then returning to his phone call, he adds, “There is a beautiful lady in my cabin. We are busy. She needs all my attention. Let me take care of ship’s business.”

Laughing uproariously at his own humor, he abruptly ends the phone conversation, and ushers me to the top deck where scores of female passengers have jumped onto tables. Their hips swaying wildly to the beat of loud music, and waving excitedly to onlookers on Bol’s Zlatni Rat beach– a long white sandy expanse—these dancers have ripped off their tops, and exchanged for fo tight-fitting T-shirts. They only want to party, to feel totally liberated.

“I dance too, I know how to create a good mood with giving out T-shirts, but now I must take care of the ship,” says Mito, grinning. “My young sailors also know how to treat  women.”

The Best Life Nearby Sea
Best Life Near the Sea

The sea is so transparent at Zlatni Rat many people on board jump into the water once the ship anchors offshore. I, too, couldn’t resist these warm waters that are so calm, so soothing. So as the seagulls flew over me, and the music from the ship continued to tickle my senses, I swam and swam, never wanting to stop.

Once this swim-n-sardine interlude ended, Mito was again up to his old tricks, shouting at a woman waving from her house.

“Ivanka, here I am, wait for me, I am coming, soon, wait, wait,” he yelled, obviously trying to entertain passengers with his joking, trying to be the King of the Sea.

Between Biokovo Mountain and Adriatic Sea
Between Biokovo Mountain and the Adriatic Sea

“I have a very beautiful, very dangerous wife,” he admits, a woman who is his constant North Star. “I always listen to her. She provides me with wonderful food, a warm bed, and the inspiration to show everyone on my ship memorable good times.”

As the ship sails towards Makarska, and Mito begins to think of the “adventures” that await him at home, he continues to talk about his ship.

“Of course sailors want action. They must keep their distance on the ship, but the summer passes quickly. If they need a day off for love I never ask a question. I just tell them to agree on who will do what, how, and that’s it.

“We have had several cases on board that resulted in marriage. Love flared up, really flared up on this ship. Even my son found love on this ship. He met his wife onboard”.

The suggestion is clear. Mito’s  ships a “Love Boat”

Good Mood on the Boat
Good Mood on the Boat Makarski Jadran

 

Though momentarily at a loss for words, I could understand what Mito meant. This was no ordinary cruise to gorgeous islands. It was a passage that took me back to my past, to my youth, a time when I ached to be in love-to find a soulmate.

Not an ordinary companion, but one I shared my dreams with – one which made that fire flare up. That would be real companionship, exploring and finding joy together.

Don’t we all need that now? Real togetherness, sharing our humanity together. Wouldn’t that help us get though the current storm?

Captain Mito, along with all his jokes and stories, certainly knows all about love. He has certain wisdom. So as I headed home from this momentous day at sea, I kept smiling. I knew I would soon return to the “Love Boat.” Very soon!

Can you catch the sun?
Can You Catch the Sun?