ZinFest 2021 was a three day event that took place in Kastela, near Split this past November as the first wine festival dedicated entirely to zinfandel wines in Croatia. As many know, Zinfandel originates in Croatia and its Croatian name is actually crljenak or kastelanski crljenak as it originates right here in Kastela.
The Roots of Zinfandel
It was 20 years ago that it was proven that Zinfandel originates from the vineyards of Kastela. The whole story has been heavily publicized and you can learn more here: http://tasteofcroatia.org/podrum/hello-im-tribidrag-crljenak-zinfandel-primitivo/ . However, the stories became rare lately. Like most things worth writing about in Croatia, the story of Zinfandel’s origins is also slowly fading away. It will probably get popular in some 20+ years when someone re-discovers it. However, the good and hard working folks from Kastela are not letting the story go! This first Zinfest is to start telling the story and continue working on building the brand of Crljenak.
Zinfest 2021 took place at Marina Kastela. The space was adequate and could accommodate all the winemakers. There are not too many of them, anyway. While there are all sorts of zinfandel festivals in US, this one is just starting. When my good friend and Secret Dalmatia guide Nives asked me to come along, I was quite happy that something was happening.
As the weather was beautiful, all the windows have been open so it felt like back in the good old days when we did not have to wear masks. Very few had them, anyway. Besides the wines, there were few other producers and my favorite was smoke house from Kastela. They are local producers of smoked meat but also smoked tuna and smoked mussels, too.
There were all major crljenak wine makers present: OPG Ante Kuzmanić, Vinarija Matela, Udruga maslinara Kaštela “Mastrinka”, Riba Dražin d.o.o., Vina Tomić, Vinarija Marin Milan, Vinarija Milan Kaštel Novi, Kairos vina, Vinarija Vuina, Poljoprivredno braniteljska zadruga Svilaja, OPG Perišin – vina i vinogradi Perišin, Putalj Vinarija, Krauthaker d.o.o., NIRS d.o.o., Bek pušnica d.o.o., Vina Bedalov, Vinarija Krolo, Klaster Zora, Vina Stina – Brač, OPG Ivica Radunić, Kraljevi vinogradi, Poljoprivredna škola Braća Radić, Biškić čokolada – Nadalina, Vina Sikuli i Turistička zajednica Kaštela.
All the wines have been quite good. Some had more character than the others. I was glad to see that some winemakers were trying something new. Like sparkling crljenak wine of Matela wine cellar! Quite an interesting wine. Matela family was mostly restaurateurs, but Mr. Matela got inspired by the story of crljenak and zinfandel so he got into winemaking! Even better, his daughter is continuing family tradition and she was serving her family’s wines.
Simply a must is stopping at Mr. Jakov Bedalov stand. We have been sending guests to his cellar for a while now and have been getting rave reviews. Especially when plavac mali wine risotto was on the menu!
Another one of our favorites was crljenak by Marin Milan wine cellar. Quite an interesting wine. This winemaker has only one label, but it is a good one.
We also met with Mr. Ivan Kovačević of Sikuli wine cellar who is just starting their wine story in Kastela. It is great to see so many young folks continuing traditions.
Besides the wines, there was some good food served, too. Working together with a local culinary school, the organizers gave us the best of Kastela. Had a great dish of Kastelanski brujetin or cuttle fish with broad beans.
Zinfandel wine tours
This was a great little event, Inspired us greatly for some new programs and tastings in the Split region. Interesting local wines and delicacies always have an audience on our food and wine trips in Croatia or thematic food and wine day tours.