Benkovac Wine Tasting

Earlier this spring we had a pleasure to show our hospitality to several quite interesting guests from USA. Mr. Frank Dietrich of Blue Danube Wines, joined by his staff, wine writer Marcy Gordon and Zdravko and Marion Podolski of GoHvar blog all joined us at a very special little tasting in Benkovac.

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The tasting was held at a 15th century Benkovac castle – an impressive historic monument that was nicely restored and now houses a local museum. It is often used as a great presentation venue for various events.

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When the guests arrived, the food was also served. Just small bites but very tasty and quite authentic: escargot done the traditional way for the region…

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and prisnac.

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Lady in typical Bukovica outfit.

But the stars of the day were, of course, local wines! All the major wine makers showed up: Škaulj, Figurica, Masvin…

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Mr. Šime Škaulj from Nadin at his stand

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Figurica from Smilčić

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Almost all wines were organic and had the eco label which was a bit surprising but I am glad that the wine makers of the region are taking the right path after the war and neglected vineyards. Most of the wines were local maraština (white), merlot, plavac but also Masvin served their own Crljenak which was surprisingly good.

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One of more interesting wines was Asseria by small Bačić winery as it was a blend of several wines and also local maraska cherry brandy.

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The event was a great success and the best proof how a very unique settings can serve as a fabulous place for small and intimate events. The organisation was at a high level and all wines served proved that the quality is (finally) coming back to the region of Ravni Kotari. The region was once a major exporter of wines but, in the past 60-70 years has lost all the quality in favor of mass production… Badel, a major Croatian company for wine and liquor, made the tide turn with their Korlat vineyards and now is being followed by small local winemakers all over the region.

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The Benkovac tourist board with Bankovac Museum did a wonderful job in organizing everything!

So, what to say but “Živjeli!”

Explore more of Croatian food and wine with our Culinary Croatia.

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Secret Dalmatia cooks for homeless

We are lucky to have met dozens of great people in our line of work. Many amazing people are working with us with one goal: to provide great experiences for travelers. One of them is Lana Iljadica who is not only our dear friend and one of the best guides ever but also a person with love for everyone. She runs a project called O La La 366 – the goal is that volunteers team up any day they can and cook one meal for the people in need. You can find out more on their FB page (in Croatian): https://www.facebook.com/groups/123892347724030/?fref=ts

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So, as Mariana who is part of Secret Dalmatia does this whenever she can, we got the April 17th as “our” date. It is always easier when you have a professional managing everything and actually knowing what to do when cooking for 30 people so it was time for another great person we are blessed to know. Tatjana happily accepted our invitation and we were all meeting in front of a supermarket in Trogir on the 17th.

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At Tatjana’s

The shopping was quick as there were 5 of us and with a great list so next stop Tatjana’s Trogir home. Many will recognize it being featured in Adrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods Croatia but this is also a place where we have our, now famous, cooking class and special “behind the closed doors” experiences.

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And cutting and chopping and peeling…

Tatjana assigned the tasks and Mariana, Dubravka and Marija were quickly at their stations with aprons on.

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I have chosen an important task of documenting everything and cutting the bacon :)))

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It was an afternoon of hard work but also a lot of fun and VERY delicious food!

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Soon, the aromas and scent of some great dishes filled the air and nearby streets outside Tatjana’s 12th century courtyard. It was the time for tasting and packing.

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Banana bread muffins (with chocolate)

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The food for all 33 of the guests was ready by 6 PM and packed. There were three courses + salad prepared. All in unmistakable Tatjana’s creative way! A fiesta of tastes and colors. Anyone who has eaten there at least once will know what I mean 😉

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Starting packing

The dinner was served at 7:30 at the homeless shelter in Split. We did not go with Mariana, Dubravka and Tatiana as we had to go back home but seeing those happy faces was a very rewarding experience according to the girls! Happy to do the same at least one more time this year!

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The cooking team!

If there is anybody else who would like to help and “donate” a dinner, feel free to contact O La La 366 at their Facebook page!

The heritage of Škopljanci

Škopljanci is a tiny hamlet, part of  Radošić village in the Dalmatian hinterland known as Zagora. Just about an hour north of Split, I usually take a scenic drive over Malačka panorama point that makes this drive extra special. Getting to Škopljanci is easy. The hamlet is well marked with signs for traditional Bikijada: a festival of village Olympics combined with bull fighting. To get a better picture of what is happening there on that day (last weekend of May, usually) this is from their web site:

Olympics in numbers

If we 22. edition of Olympics and Bullfights expressed in numbers, could say like this: almost 10.000 visitors, over two hundred contestants, almost two hundred lambs roasted on the spit, few roasted pigs…

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Bull horns in the tavern

So, when we were invited for a tour and talks about possible cooperation, I was really looking forward to learn more. Also, Škopljanci usually wins every list for a great and authentic experience.

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Stone houses preserved

Family Škopljanac has been protecting and renovating their family’s heritage for years now. The 12 old stone houses have been renovated with special care and they are now housing tasting room, smokehouse, large dining room, ethnographic museum, museum of bull…

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Škopljanac family preparing a light tasting of their super, home made goodies

So we took a walk around the estate. Visiting the entire property takes time as it is fairly big and there is plenty to see.

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Zog za buće or Zog for buće in English (bocce ball court)
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Part of the collection at their museum
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Traditional costumes of the region
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Some sort of a ZOO…

There are some treasures to be found!

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A classic!

The place still needs work in making everything more “polished” but, in general, their offer is of high quality as they offer a very good experience and great food.
A bit too oriented to larger groups coming by coach, I still find this place to offer a pretty authentic experience and be sure to visit at the time of the (in)famous bull fights.

More information (and lovely photos) on their website:
http://www.radosic.com/o-nama/?lang=en