Saints Hills Vinaria

Peljesac peninsula is one of those regions that is considered to be  one of the “wine countries” of Croatia just like it is Istria or Plješivica… Famous for it’s rich bodied plavac from Dingač and Postup appellations, this region is simply a must for any serious wine lover. In 1961 Dingač became Croatia’s first recognized appellation with “Protected Geographical Origin”. It was followed in 1967 by a neighboring area, Postup.
The wines coming from the peninsula had their ups and downs and the quality is not exactly consistent. However, there are several great producers but also several new stories developing in the region.

One of the latest great enterprises is definitely magical Vinaria of Saints Hills.

Vinaria from the air

Vinaria from the air

Founded by Mr. Ernest Toljthe Saints Hills winery produces some unique wines from a number of different localities. Some of their most popular wines include Nevina, a blend of Malvazija and Chardonnay that originates from Saints Hills vineyards at Radovani in Istria. Saints Hills’ quite interesting Dingač is aged in barrels for 18-24 months while their Sveti Roko plavac is made with grapes from vineyards at Komarna. Mr. Tolj wanted to get the best out of his wines so he formed a special oenological team led by World known French specialist Michel Rolland.

Entering the cellar

Entering the cellar

The property at Oskorušno is nothing short of impressive. The traditional old house was transformed to state-of-the-art cellar and tasting facility. From the moment one sees the property from the road, it is already clear that there is some serious love (and money) invested. No expense was spared in making this at par with similar properties around the world. From the equipment of the cellar to the design, Vinaria is simply breathtaking!

French oak barrels

French oak barrels

And the architecture of the typical Peljesac property has been respected to the maximum without any silly, tasteless interventions.

Behind the main building

Behind the main building

The main building

The main building

There are few apartments for guests to stay over as well.

The apartment at Vinaria

The apartment at Vinaria

And then there is the main tasting room.

Tasting room

Tasting room

Besides great wines, Saints hills offers a superb tasting menu as well! The young chef masterfully prepares some Dalmatian classics mixed with various influences. Of course, all the dishes are perfectly paired with Saints Hills wines.

When on Peljesac... Ston oysters with lemon granita

When on Peljesac… Ston oysters with lemon granita

Escargot a la Peljesac

Escargot a la Peljesac

Shrimp risotto with edible 24 karat gold

Shrimp risotto with edible 24 karat gold

The five course tasting menu ends with one of the best chocolate souffles I’ve ever had!

chocolate souffle

Chocolate souffle

In general, Saints Hills Vinaria is one of the finest properties on the coast. Offering the highest standards in both food and wine, it is a perfect getaway for any foodie! And there was something that took me right away when I got there: it is a product of love. You can clearly see that this belongs to a person (family) that lives with their wines and wants only the best for both their wines and guests. Highly recommended stop if in the region.

Curious “gallery” on Šolta Island

In Croatia, although small, there are hundreds of really cool spots that I still have to visit. One, visited recently, easily makes the top 10 list of the strangest and coolest places I have seen in a while! It is nothing particularly exceptional, it is not something breathtakingly beautiful but it is just a very cool and unusual place. It is a mysterious exhibition in an abandoned military tunnel on the island of Šolta.

Magical coast of Šolta

Magical coast of Šolta

I have stumbled upon the information on one local forum and ever since wanted to visit personally. It took me several months to finally find time to go to Šolta and once there, we drove to the small inlet on the western side of the island where the remains of a former Yugoslav military base can still be seen.

Remains of a former military base

Remains of a former military base

One can also see where former canons were placed. Now gone, I am not sure if they were taken down by our military after the war or by the scrap metal collectors operating (devastating) numerous places on the coast.

Former canon outposts

Former canon outposts

Military tunnels are no mystery to me as we have visited several over the years and one this past summer on Vis Island: https://secretdalmatia.wordpress.com/2014/11/29/military-tunnels-of-vis-island/

But this one is different. Completely!

Instead of holding the remains of former army life, traces of the times that passed by, this particular tunnel on Šolta someone turned into a gallery….

Entering....

Entering….

Someone has made large prints of photos of famous people from the mid 20th century and placed them on the walls of several rooms inside the tunnels.

Che Guevara

Che Guevara

Dr. Albert Schweitzer

Dr. Albert Schweitzer

There are also some giant fuzzy spiders hanging from the ceilings!

Spiders! (from Mars?)

The main “gallery room” is the most impressive although I could not recognize several faces…

Main room

Main room

And there is also a guest in one of the rooms that could not find his way out :)

Left behind

Left behind

I could not find any details on this tunnel. No details who created this, what is the message behind this “installation”… Maybe to remind us of that crazy part of the 20th century (60s and 70s) when these tunnels were built?

But the place is just great and well worth visiting! And preserving the exhibition as is! Please note that abandoned military tunnels are not 100% safe so do not visit unless with a local.

There is one exit to a small cove. Although there is plenty of air in the tunnels, fresh sea breeze coming from this exit seemed to bring all the famous rosemary and myrtle scents of Šolta.

The light at the end of the tunnel

The light at the end of the tunnel

Visiting these tunnels was a very different experience. One does not expect something this unique and different to be found in a completely abandoned place. Just faces of once important people in tunnels long abandoned. And that eternal scented breeze of Šolta finding its way through the darkness.

Kastel Gomilica – Faded gem of the past

Kastela are not often part of my visits. Once a beautiful part of the coast (if not the most beautiful), now is simply a mess of modern construction, 50 years of socialist industrial “planning” and 25 years of not doing anything… or at least anything good. So, even the 7 lovely historic towns definitely deserve attention, it is just a narrow strip by the sea that is worth visiting. And for all the good reasons! History and architecture: typical Dalmatian coastal villages, wine: Bedalov cellar is right by the water and we offer a very unique “behind the closed doors” foodie experience in Sućurac at our friend’s beautifully restored place. So when a friend of mine, Mr. Ivan Šuta, director of Kaštela museums invited me for a short tour, I was more than happy to come along.

Kastilac fortress of Kastel Gomilica

Kastilac fortress of Kastel Gomilica

All of Kastela got their names after castles that were built in each 7 of them and most of them are still standing. Today, Kastela are making up one large, 40 000 inhabitants big town but it was not like that in the past and each of them was a separate little town with its own history.

Arguably, Kastel Gomilica is the prettiest one. It was built in the first half of the 16th century by Benedictine nuns from Split who built it for protection of their servants from the Turks that were pillaging in the region. This patch of land was donated to them all the way back in 1078 by King Zvonimir of Croatia and there is still an ancient church nearby standing as a silent witness. They also erected Catholic Monastery on a small island, that became today’s Kaštilac.

Kastilac from the inside

Kastilac from the inside

Kastilac today is in a very poor shape. The local authorities have bought one ruined building right next to the entrance and they are starting the renovation of the main tower as well as a nunnery at the opposite end of a short street. Kaštilac is fairly quiet and very few people still live there. And cats…

Lazy Tuesday morning in Kastel Gomilica

Lazy Tuesday morning in Kastel Gomilica

But some folks are quite creative with elaborate seashell design :)

Seashells all over!

Seashells all over!

The Kastilac will have a very interesting appearance on the Game of Thrones in season 5 acting as a distant and mysterious Braavos! That will bring more visitors for sure and, hopefully, some funds for full restoration of this beautiful heritage site.

Getting ready for the summer

Getting ready for the summer

Next door, the boats are getting painted for the season… Just a picture perfect Dalmatian scene!
Then we ventured into the town itself. Mr. Šuta warned of several Roman monuments that, over the centuries, became parts of the the local house walls and facades.

One of the walls is even holding Aesculapius head! This gem of late antiquity is now in a fairly risky spot next to cables and wires and there are discussions of its removal.

Aesculapius and a Roman monument at one of the houses.

Aesculapius and a Roman monument at one of the houses.

So, Kastel Gomilica holds many secrets but it is still a mess. This is not a place you enjoy just as a typical tourist destination although it can be such a lovely seaside town attracting flocks of people just for an easy stroll or some nice sightseeing.

Old doors

Old doors

For now, the doors will remain closed and we can only hope that a better times are coming.

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