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?

 

split dalmatia croatia

        Split continues to be enjoyed for its’ high-voltage

Beware, once seduced by the floral scents and “secret recipe” sensations, temptation quickly takes over. It’s all too easy to feel bewitched, even helpless.

Marinko Biškić made one-ton chocolate bar
Marinko Biškić made one-ton chocolate bar

Casting a spell that promises only joy and playfulness,   Marinko Biskić, a former Guinness World Record holder, boasts a special gift. In Nadalina, his pint-sized Split boutique, this artisan meticulously and zealously creates hand-crafted pleasures—chocolates infused with lavender, rosemary, fig and olive oil.

“They are love and passion,” extols Biskić, standing behind a counter filled with pralines and chocolate bars. Ardently discussing how his concoctions are made from the choicest Peruvian and Domincan Republic cocoa beans, he continues, “We are the only ones in Croatia to roast the beans, to not use ready-made chocolate. We mix spices, sage, anise…always experimenting with new flavors, to me chocolate is for the palate and the soul.”

Mirroring Biskić’s infectious enthusiasm, a wild and artistic bent that compelled him to celebrate Nadalina’s 25th anniversary by producing a 101 sq. meter, one ton chocolate bar, Split is similarly mischievous, unpredictable and exciting. Unlike that devoured chocolaty slab (which was the Guinness record holder in 2015), Split continues to be enjoyed for its’ high-voltage, adrenaline-fueled nightlife, partying and festivals, especially the Ultra Europe music fest.

Always throbbing with laser lights shows and cocktail extravaganzas, Split has had a pronounced BUZZ ever since Roman Emperor Diocletian sought refuge on these sun-caressed, Adriatic shores in A.D. 295. He built a must-see palace (a UNESCO World Heritage site stuffed with treasures), along with a labyrinth of bedeviling cobblestoned passageways—and to appreciate strolling,  first find some sustenance.

At Krafne kod Mate—where marmalade, vanilla creme, or chocolate donuts are artfully baked by Mate Bajamić. Using only choice flour, he insists donuts “expressing love” can only be made by bakers “coming to work in a joyful mood.” So feel the energy in this minute space, and discover that the chocolate donuts are pure happiness.

Arterija brings other types of dazzling pleasures. Located inside the palace, this bold, cutting-edge “concept store” attracts modish fashionistas hoping to find attention-grabbing necklaces and earrings, simple yet provocative and unconventional dresses. Here there is a powerful, even defiant feminine aesthetic—and under the ownership of Gorana Gulišija, “fashion is passion.”

Arterija Shop

Instead of breaking with tradition, the Uje Deli Shop pays tribute to the past, particularly Croatia’s rich  agricultural heritage. Besides offering a dizzying array of locally-sourced olive oils—there are savory, golden-green varieties from Hvar and Brac—Uje boasts an abundance of carefully-curated wines from Dalmatia to Istria, Slavonija and Zagorje. Enjoy one of them with some sardines and the shop’s famed anchovy pie.

Adjacent to the Diocletian Palace, the always-thronged Bokeria Kitchen & Wine offers its’ own alluring specialties. Here the vibe is decidedly young and casual, and the gastronomic flourishes from the bruschetta to the grilled octopus and swordfish are a wonderful mix of Croatian and Mediterranean influences. The Red Roga, a type of pepper with minced meat and creamy mashed potato must also be savored. It’s divine!

Bokeria Kitchen&Wine Bar
Bokeria Kitchen&Wine Bar

So is Dvor Restaurant.

Dvor Restaurant

Commanding views of Solta and Brac islands from its intimate outdoor terrace, the serene, highly-acclaimed Dvor is a Michelin Guide favorite. This restaurant/bar is surrounded by towering pine and tamarisk trees, and its’ very diverse menu also reaches flavorful heights. Especially the seabass pate, freshly-baked olive bread, the mushroom risotto, fish dishes wrapped and roasted in salt, and of course, the fudgy and heavenly chocolate lava cake. It’s a taste Explosion!

But Split’s delights never seem to end. There’s also Os Kolač, Tea Mamut’s pastry shop that is renowned throughout Croatia for its’ green violet cake made with pistachios and blueberries. Every bite of this sweet-sweetie is a thrill, and the same can be said about her vanilla and chocolate cream cakes.

Oš’ kolač – Pastry shop

They sparkle, just like Split!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trogir Dalmatia Croatia

Trogir – discover the little gem by the sea

Stirring her magical boiled dish of squid, octopus and cuttlefish in black ink, the aromatic sensation that transports her patrons to gastronomic heaven, chef Marija Hell smiles delightedly.

Clearly excited by the alchemy she is performing in her  Pašike restaurant, Hell gushes, “We want our guests to taste a part of Dalmatia and our traditions. To enjoy dishes that caress the palate—the happiest of moments.”

Reputed for such “taste explosions” as pasticada, and the delectable almond cake Trogirski rafiol,” she is well worth a visit to Trogir, an inviting town with a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation only 17 miles from Split on the Croatian coast.

Trogir Dalmatia Croatia
Trogir Croatia

Surrounded by 14th Century walls, the “Stone Beauty,” or the Little Venice of Dalmatia” merited that UNESCO tribute because of its well-preserved Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance architecture—a veritable city-museum of enchanting stone buildings and maze of streets that evoke Medieval life.

But a visit here means more than celebrating an illustrious past; cobbled streets promising mystery and romance, a vaunted cathedral, a fairy tale-like Cipiko Palace, and a third century BC relief.

Trogir
Trogir Croatia

One of Dalmatia’s greatest “secrets,” Trogir also flaunts a visual, very playful version of Marija Hell’s “spicy, extra explosion of flavors.” Combining historical streets and vistas with an intensely modernist vibe, the town offers,  along with the neighboring waterfront at Ciovo, all sorts of indulgent hedonism.

Choose your pleasure.

Charter a sightseeing boat and venture out to a diverse array of bewitching, palm tree-lined islands.

Down glasses of locally-produced grappa together with grilled fish at either Restaurant Capo, Restaurant Riva or Restaurant Kamerlengo. These and other seaside places epitomize taking Life Very Easy while feasting on wines and seafood.

Of course there are more “energetic” pursuits at hand.

Stroll in the Old Town among the enchanting stone houses. Then walk  on the Riva embankment, dine at any of the numerous restaurants, or go to Caffe Bar Smokvica, Caffe Bar Trogir or Corte Bar for innovative cocktails, high-decibel music and great people watching.

Trogir Dalmatia Croatia
Trogir Croatia

If more adventurous, and ready for an all-out binge, hop in a taxi and go to Laganini, a Labadusa beach club-cocktail bar that sways to a lulling seaside beat.

Here there’s a beach with lounges, massages for every ache and part of your body, and very devilish cocktails, most notably the elderflowers and crushed raspberries’ burst of wickedness. Yum! The perfect way to greet the night—and AM hours.

Split and other Croatian getaways also pulsate at night. So why go to Trogir?

Get away from the crowds. Trogir offers countless courtyards and terraces for less jarring, more intimate experiences than in nearby Split and the always jammed (but beautiful) Dubrovnik. It is stately, subdued, and waiting to be explored—a homage to history and to the new inventiveness in its’ kitchens

Trogir Dalmatia Croatia
Trogir Croatia

“There is not much philosophy in Dalmatian cuisine, everything is cooked in olive oil, onion, parsley, garlic and wine,” says Hell, who also owns a four star Trogir hotel by the same name. Still intent on extending “love” in every dish, as her very popular almond cake, she adds, “So all the rafiola pieces are there, but several completely different. In this way we respect the traditional cake but give it a modernist look, an extra explosion of flavors.”

Or in keeping with the holiday atmosphere in Trogir, a boundless burst of “happy moments.”

So discover this little gem by the sea, its’ secrets, and sensations.

And be ready to be charmed by “Little Venice’s” magic.

Trogir Dalmatia Croatia
Trogir Croatia

 

 

Mala Velika Paklenica

Discover all of Paklenica’s natural glories! 

Written by: Anita Palada, Edward Kiersh

Surrounded by massively-large boulders, a stunningly green mountain peak in the distance beckoned to the adventurer inside me. Even if the path towards this spire meant braving the narrowest of trails, and then ascending through a steep gorge lined with unforgiving and intimidating-looking craggy stones, the prospect of taming this wilderness kept me going, even high-spirited. Knowing there was breathtaking beauty ahead, I didn’t surrender to my fears, and continued walking, determined to overcome all challenges, and to discover all of Mala Paklenica’s natural glories.

A legendary, Croatian National Park Paklenica in northern Dalmatia, abundant with spring-fed streams, torrents, endangered bird species, and 300 meter high canyons, the Mala Paklenica has long stirred fears and the imagination. Its’ gorges and ascents can be treacherous. But hiking with Jure and his skilled helpers, I was mentally getting ready to hook myself to steel cables and to expend all my energy to reach that green summit.

National Park Paklenica
National Park Paklenica

While surrounded by majestic, towering trees of every variety, and chirping birds cavorting above me, I was still surprised when encountering a dry riverbed. One of the park’s scenic wonders, especially when the mountain runoff cascades down the cliffs, it was clearly the victim of the dry winter, or far more worrisome, dry because of climate change.

I still pushed ahead, entranced by the almost supernatural silence—the other-worldliness calm that greets Paklenica’s visitors. There are so many different ecosystems, flowers, and animals, to marvel at, there is no time to think about life outride the park. Here there are only caves to explore, rich vegetation, and panoramic views of fascinating rock formations.

But Mala Paklenica remains a terrific physical and mental challenge—for colossal boulders often confront those who hike these narrow goat trails. Where to put your foot? Will the gravel hold your weight? What should I do with my hands? These critical decisions must be made in split seconds to get past the boulders. So my instincts had to take over,  fueled by a mighty rush of adrenaline.

Totally focused, knowing success means finding new survival skills,  I take a breath and summon the resolve to go forward. One small step, then another on our intimidating path. There can be no respite. Too many of Nature’s miracles await us.

National Park Paklenica
National Park Paklenica

Specifically, the vast meadow below the Velebit mountain range. Abuzz with bumblebees and songbirds, this vast field seems like a rainbow glistening under my feet, covered with wild, flourishing roses in every conceivable color, dark reds, violet, yellow, peach and Kelly Green. It’s Mother Nature’s coming out party, her warm-hearted greeting, saying “Come, feast on my riches. Walk here, and taste the delights.”

Hypnotized by this streaming rush of colors, and the soft breezes enveloping me, I gazed at the Adriatic Sea in the distance. “What could be more beautiful?” I asked myself. “This is Creation, the real soul of life.”

Amazingly, there was one more marvel to enjoy, the Velika Paklenica canyon, a geological must-see. It too contains a striking array of plant and animal species, including falcons, eagles, deers, bears and lynx.

But sunset is quickly approaching. After eight hours in the Park, it’s best to collect our memories, impressions that may have even changed our notions about beauty, and to wind our way down the gravely goat trail towards the  “real world.”

What an experience!

Yet amid all the roses, canyons, and wild animals, I also discovered something besides scenic wonders. I found a power inside me, the conviction that I could encounter hazardous obstacles, and without any prodding, keep on moving, keep on climbing. Towards that rainbow!

Whether it was finding a field of wild flowers, or fulfilling some life’s ambition—that reaching this goal was indeed attainable.

Photos were taken by Anita Palada

Ferrata Omiš Dinara Mountain

If you want to fly learn how to climb!

My heart was violently beating. I was so afraid of flying.

Every time I walked in the mountains I jealously looked at the birds soaring above me, and wanted to be just like them, free to spread my wings, to reach the sky.

These birds just didn’t stay in one place. They could wander, be playful and independent, free to see the world, and to enjoy Nature’s wonders.

Here was my opportunity to be like a bird, to reach new heights, and to touch the clouds—if I could overcome my fears and do Ferrata.

But as I looked at the cliffs, the difficult to pass boulders, the many cables, and the other hurdles attached to doing Ferrata, my becoming a true “bird” seemed impossible. I was that scared.

I also knew that a young, inexperienced bird had to be courageous, so I tried to banish all the bad thoughts in my head—the horror movie which had me coming to a very untimely END.

Omiš Dinara Mountain
Ferrata
Omiš Dinara Mountain

But could I really fly? Could I roam over the sea, be a part of Nature, and feel her power?

I didn’t usually have so much self-doubt. I certainly didn’t admit defeat  too often. I liked taking chances—and because the views atop these cliffs overlooking the magical Adriatic Sea were so exhilarating, it was impossible to turn away from the mountain, to refuse this chance to take flight.

So there was no more thinking, no more doubts.

Click!

I would be a bird. Brave and determined.

I hooked up the carbines with steel sites, gazed up at the menacing-looking boulders—and said a quick prayer to God. “Please protect this small bird. Help me fly for the first time. I want to see the world. See oceans and forests. Please watch over me. Help me become fearless.”

So I took my first steps.

I saw the team of climbers, moving, climbing, everyone in line. Led by experienced climbers, we moved toward the mountaintop, even as I kept wondering, “Why am I doing this?”

But I also realized every little bird has to take chances, leave the nest of security and learn to fly, to be free. Sure it meant risking my life, but I couldn’t live my life crippled by fear.

I kept climbing. After digging and burying carbines, I had this new amazing feeling. It was a wondrous surge of energy, electricity, an unqualified sense of FREEDOM. It was a feeling joyously new to me. I was a bird…I was completely alive.

At the summit the pleasures continued. Outstretched before me were glorious green hillsides, the azure Cetina River, and a necklace of coves with alluring white beaches.

The mountain first seemed to be a cluster of rocks, harsh, unfriendly and beyond conquering. But believe me, they are special rocks. They led me to discovering new strength, new resolve, and the faith that I could take risks, overcome mighty obstacles.

So I often return to Omiš Dinara Mountain to feel the wind and to see my fellow birds hovering over me. I wave to them. They make all sorts of happy noises, as if noticing that I too know how to fly. I do!

Like them, I am also free.