Tasting at Škaulj Winery 2018

This past Sunday I had a pleasure to attend a very special wine pairing lunch at Škaulj wine cellar. This is one of the most important wine cellars of Nadin region of North Dalmatia and is know for a great selection of quality wines.

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Nadin with view of flooded Nadinsko blato valley

Nadin region is known for superb fertile land for millennia and settlements from pre historic times are here to prove it. The main vineyards are located in Nadinsko blato – a depression in the fields that gets flooded in the winter months. While the tradition exists in this region for several centuries, the new breed of winemakers are planting mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot…but also local Plavina and Maraština. Among several producers, Škaulj, Vrsaljko, Odžaković…are best known.

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The event started by a short presentation by Mr. Šime Škaulj and his son Tomislav. All 9 labels of theirs will be offered in 2018. season and they are also creating an interesting surprises. But more on that once the wines are released.

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Mr. Šime Škaulj
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Mr. Tomislav Škaulj

While the cellar is not much, the entire property does offer a lovely learning experience on local traditions and both Šime and Tomislav talk with passion about their wines.

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Here is a great video on their cellar and wines!

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The meal was prepared by chef Vrsaljko, a Nadin local with international experience and all meals were paired with Škaulj’s best wines.

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Chef Vrsaljko

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The menu was superb and well executed.

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Asparagus moose on green apple
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Scampi ravioli
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Swordfish
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Beef filet
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Profiteroli
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Ice cream by Eva from Zadar

The selection of ice cream and sorbet at the end was provided by artisan ice cream place in Zadar called Eve. A MUST when in Zadar!

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Tasting room

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Overall, the meal was great and we made some new friends. Nadin has a great potential when it comes to wines and wine tourism and true stars of the region are its people!

Of all wines, Cabernet Sauvignon is simply superb and an excellent value at just 120 Kuna! Maraština and Rose were also great but they will be more appropriate with warmer weather. Perfect for hot, summer days!

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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.

St . Vincent’s Day in Imotski

Thanks to wine cellar Grabovac near Imotski, St. Vincent’s has become one of the most important dates of a winter calendar for winemakers in this part of Dalmatia. It is celebrated on the 22nd of January and it is more connected with traditions of continental Croatia but, for the past 9 years, it has been celebrated in Imotski as well. So, after I got invited by Igor and Srđan of Klub Gurmana i Hedonista, Split, I decided to join them and finally go to Grabovac wine cellar that has been on my list for a while. After all, I am a big fan of entire Imotski region and their wines so it was about time…

Grabovac estate in Imotski
Grabovac estate in Imotski

We got there around Noon time and the stew was still cooking and it was cooking slowly as it was quite cold. The low temperatures prevented gas from flowing nicely so the chefs had a lot of trouble finishing everything. Next to them, grill was serving as a heater as well.

Cooking and warming up
Cooking and warming up

Basically, whole fuss is about a priest coming and blessing the start of the new season of works in vineyards and tasting young wine.

The priest arrives...
The priest arrives…
Tools of the trade
Tools of the trade

 

And then it is some ceremonial works in the vineyard before we get back to eating and drinking.

One in charge
One in charge

The food was ok. It did not really got cooked but who cared. We were there for wines.

And Grabovac has something to offer!

The selection at very affordable prices!
The selection at very affordable prices!

Once we got to the cellar, we had a chance to learn (and taste) more wines. Most of these are available in stores and restaurants but my personal opinion is that every restaurant in Dalmatia should have them on their list because they are quite modern and “playful” yet not pretentious or trying to be something they are not. Their most popular wines are “Modro Jezero” : couvee of merlot, trnjak (local wine), vranac and cabernet sauvignon – and sparkling wine “Grabovac”. This sparkling one is made of pinot grigio, chardonnay and sauvignon.  Traditional method is used.

Grabovac sparkling wine - still on the rack
Grabovac sparkling wine – still on the rack

Once we go deeper in the cellar, true treasures started coming out of barrels…

Main cellar bellow the ground
Main cellar bellow the ground

Just to name two that impressed me the most.

Prošek – sweet, dessert wine is true Dalmatian classic that is so hard to find these days in it’s original form. At Grabovac, they have a barrel or two of this nectar and it it is mind blowing! Although not done the authentic method of drying grapes on the net but they instead, leave it to dry completely on the vine, it is probably one of top 3 prošek I had.

Milan Grabovac giving us a tour
Milan Grabovac giving us a tour

Another one is their young blend Žilavka – Pošip. The one we tasted – 2012, the young one – was unbelievable! Very refreshing even at 0 degrees Celsius. If it stays like this, it will be the perfect summer wine and I can’t wait for summer heat to open a perfectly cooled bottle.

Grabovac wine cellar
Grabovac wine cellar

As we were leaving Imotski behind and climbing into the gray winter hillside, wines of Grabovac kept us warm. The idea of showing this treasures to travelers and wine lowers materialized and our new program” Wines of Dalmatia’s Hinterland” will be offered to travelers from this spring.

Vineyard of Grabovac
Vineyard of Grabovac

Combining Grabovac and my friend’s traditional kujunđuša with some traditional meals of the region is simply a winner for travelers looking to escape crowds and go off  the beaten path. So, I look forward to Spring visit, more photos and checking out that Žilavka – Pošip again.

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