Benkovac Wine Tasting

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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 Bankovac 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.

One evening in Unije

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Unije is another one of the islands of Northern Adriatic that I have never been to before. Right after visiting Susak, we continued further and decided to stay overnight in Unije. It is a very pretty island with a lovely bay and a small island right in the bay. Unfortunately, the bay is open to western winds but well protected from most of others.

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Unije from the air (Photo by skokpadobranom.com)

Unije is one of the few small islands that has an actual landing strip for small airplanes (since 1996). It is located in the middle of Unije field, one of a very unique features of the island as it is quite rare to find such a flat ground by the sea. Basically 10% of the island is fertile which is very rare among all the islands of the Mediterranean.

We arrived late in the afternoon. Very few boats were at the pier and only two anchoring.

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In the bay

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Unije village

Unije is a tiny village. It has only 88 inhabitants according to the latest census (2011). The island has seen many better days and it was inhabited since the old Stone Age and, according to some reports, it had over 20 000 olive trees during the Roman times! Now, only a few locals are working in the fields…

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Unije is also known for numerous bays on the eastern side and great white cliffs just a bit norther of the village.

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And there is a lovely lighthouse just before entering the bay.

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Vnetak lighthouse (1873.)

This lighthouse is famous for big flocks of sardines (and other similar fish) grouping in the waters before the lighthouse. This is also attracting big tuna fish and, a local story goes, a while back one big tuna dragged a fisherman far away and he was never to be seen again.

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While there, I decided to take a walk through the village and take some photos. Just for keeping the records and memory how it was…

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Very wrong doors…

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Inside of the village is very quiet. I have not seen anyone. The silence was beautiful and sad at the same time.

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Sv. Andrija (St Andrew) – late 18th century

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It was time to have dinner and the offer was quite limited as there were only two restaurants open (out of three). The menu in the one closer to the pier was also limited but octopus salad is always a treat. The night was falling on the island and the sunset was beautiful!

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We were getting ready to go to rest while a flock of mallards was swimming around the boat.

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And a group of young Italians enjoying a glass of wine watching the Adriatic sunset in the distance.

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That’s a proper way to enjoy life!

Unije. A very special place at the very edge of Croatian Adriatic…

 

To learn more – and definitely worth it! – UNIJE or a wonderful site dedicated to this beautiful island: http://otok-unije.com/ Pity it is only in Croatian but offers a wealth of great stories and details about Unije.

 

 

The sands of Susak Island

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I always wanted to visit Susak. There is something (actually, A LOT  of) unique about that island. Well off the radar, it is a peaceful paradise far away from popular and noisy islands of the Dalmatian coast.

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Beware when entering as there is a sunken pier right next to the harbor

Susak is the only island in the Adriatic completely made of sand. So no complaints about rocky beaches here! It is also not covered by trees but almost entirely by reed and bamboo.

susak-53Being far away from the mainland, Susak also developed a bit differently than the rest of the coast and has some unique cultural differences. Most unique is the definitely the way they (traditionally) dress!

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Traditional costumes for men and women (photo by croatianhistory.net/etf/susak.html)

 

…and you cannot find a sign like this anywhere else!
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The village consists of two parts: lower Susak – by the ferry harbor and upper Susak, the original settlement around the church on the hill.

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A lot of steps!

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Sv. Nikola (1770)

Both have traditional elements and some lovely classic architecture often found on our coast.

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Unfortunately, most of the houses are long abandoned…

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It is often considered that “Pusti me proć” in Split is the narrowest street in Croatia. But it is not…

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The upper village is filled with wonderful details. Quite charming.

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Susak had a economic boom in 1930s while most of the islanders were vintners, fishermen and farmers. Production of wine was significant and everything was exported. The problems started with mass emigration after WW II as the islanders were fleeing just formed Yugoslavia. Most of them rowed across to Italy and then made their way to US. Majority settled in Hoboken, New Jersey. Only 188 inhabitants according to the last census…

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Closed down wine cellar

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There are some lovely views of the bay from the upper village.

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The lower village is also quite pretty.

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The dominant language on the island is English; New Jersey accent:)
And there are some lovely, typically US details, too!

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Susak has a small harbor. Good enough for several smaller boats and yachts.

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And, as on all islands, the life thrives around the harbor and especially when the regular connection comes.

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Soon, life returns to normal, slow pace.

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And we leave beautiful Susak heading north. Hoping to return soon.

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Read more about this beautiful island at: http://www.croatianhistory.net/etf/susak.html