Meandering around medieval cities, popping into photography museums, and lying on pebble-y beaches is all well and good. But what I really like to do on vacation is drink wine during normal business hours while my fellow cubicle dwellers are in over-air-conditioned purgatory.
So, we went to the Peljesac peninsula for a day.
One of the surprising things about Croatia is how fantastic their wines are. But honestly, it shouldn’t be, considering how similar Croatia is to Italy, and well, we all know how Italian wines have turned out. (It’s also apparently quite good in the northern part of Croatia — Istria — according to this knowledgeable lady who was also JUST there.)
Other than some traffic in and around Dubrovnik, the drive up the peninsula was lovely. Lots of slate colored rocks pushing up into mountains and dotted with greenery and grape vines. Oh, and ocean views pretty much everywhere you looked.
There’s only one main road going up the 40 mile peninsula, but the drive takes about 2 hours due to the terrain. We ended up going about three-fourths of the way up the peninsula, stopping at a tiny little picturesque cove of Trstenik where we watched the goats beat up against the small docks and just viewed the sleepy little town from across the cove.
After that peaceful little time out, which involved me waiting patiently while my Ansel Adams boyfriend XFE took numerous pictures with his fancy new camera, it was time to backtrack and hit some wineries. (Literally, the town was so still and quiet I thought it’d had been taken over by alien-ghost-zombies. I stayed close to the car, ready to leave XFE to the apocalypse, if it came down to it. Sorry, i’m not sorry. I totally would. I have a cat to raise.)
I had done a ton of research and identified about a dozen wineries that we might be able to visit, but like so much of the Peljesac peninsula, things were a bit sleepy on the informational front, meaning that many of the wineries did not have websites and those that did, did not have hours of operation. They’re very much along the lines of, “just stop by and flag someone down and they’ll give you some wine.”
Our first stop was a disappointing bust. We tried to stop at Grgich. Grgich is quite famous. Apparently the wine maker, Miljenko (Mike) Grgich came to the United States as a young man and met a very rich person who set him up with his own winery. That’s not at all what it says in his bio for his Napa Valley winery, but that’s what our waiter at lunch told us. When he found out we were from Washington D.C., he ran and got a bottle of Grgich Chardonnay and told us it was the White House white wine.
That would be the only Grgich wine we would see that day. The Grgich winery, which was in a very simple stucco building, was closed on the weekends. Which, to me, makes absolutely no sense. What winery isn’t opened on a Saturday? Isn’t that a busy day for visitors?
Vinarija Matusko in Potomje worked out a bit better, in that, at least it was open. We had a very nice young lady take us through the various wines, of which there were plenty, including Dingac, Posip (not to be confused with Prosip, which was a sweet wine), and Plavac Mali. The Dingac was, not surprisingly considering the rocky terrain, far too mineral-ly for my taste, but we did like the Plavac Mali and ended up buying a bottle.
The wine wench (?is that appropriate?) told us a bit about the peninsula, which apparently is as subdued as we suspected. To be frank, she said it was quite boring. And you need a car. She also taught me how to say “dog” (there was a large wine dog watching us with big bloodshot eyes nearby) in Croatian and “cheers.”
After tasting some wines, we went down the road a short bit to Vinarija Milos. This time, there were quite a few other people there for tastings, including an American family with about 4 kids. Because you know what I love to see at a winery, besides pregnant women? Loads of children.
It was also a very homegrown operation, with the wine maker on hand pouring and his wife hand washing wine glasses just on the other side of the tasting bar. I don’t know if it was the scent of dish-washing detergent or the children, but I just wasn’t into Milos’ wines. What can I say? You win some, you lose some. I’m sure the wine was fine, but we just weren’t feeling it. Plus, it was time to go to lunch.
We were ridiculously excited about lunch. The Peljesac peninsula is known for two things: wine and oysters. Very special oysters that you can’t get anywhere else.
Right where the peninsula meets the mainland is Ston and Mali Ston. Ston’s natural lake-like bay has been the site of mussels and oyster farms since Roman times. We even saw fishermen selling oysters by the road. The area is also known for it’s salt flats, but I wasn’t interested in salt so much, unless it was sprinkled on some oysters.
We had lunch reservations at Bota Sare in Mali Ston, an 800-year-old stone building that had been used for salt storage in ye olden tymes.
The oysters are a variety called Ostrea Edulis and only 2 million are produced each year, solely for domestic consumption. The oysters are smaller than others we’ve had, and the shells are very fat. The meat was rich and firm and wonderful.
We ended up ordering about 4.5 dozen oysters — raw, grilled and fried. They. Were. Amazing.
I’m also pretty sure that our fellow diners were quite impressed at how many oysters we put away, but since we knew we couldn’t get these anywhere else (and they were delicious), we gorged.
However, I still found room to take home some dessert. I overheard our waiter explaining Ston cake to another table and was intrigued. A cake made with leftover pasta? How’s that? Yes. Yes, I want some.
It was weird, and cinnamon-ey, and lemon-y and just…..odd. It wasn’t pretty, really. It was very odd looking. And the texture was….interesting.
Just like the Peljesac peninsula — totally distinct but in a good way.