Hello dear readers!
As you can see, I’m a bit under the weather right now. I have been hacked and I’ve had to strip down to bare naked bones.
I’ll be back soon!
On our way out of Rovinj, we meandered along the country roads of Istria, in to the village of Zminj. Here, we were going to take part in a traditional lunch at a konoba, or tavern. When we pulled up, I wasn’t quite sure if we were at someone’s house, or a public dining establishment, but as it turns out, it was a bit of each.
Much like the small restaurants throughout western Europe, there was no menu, we just ate what we were served. It was a chilly, drizzly day, and I was happy to duck inside and sit down next to the fire at Konoba Puli Pineta. The owner and master chef, Josip Pino Kihar, is well known in Croatia and comes from a rich cultural history of cooking. His name, the name of his village, and everything leads to the word “cook”. As you can see from Liza’s pictures, he can cook!
First up, as we dried off in front of the hearth, was a Rakija tasting. Yes, more rakija! This nectar of the gods is Croatia’s version of Grappa, the distilled spirit usually made from grapes. Here in Istria, it is also called Grappa, so you might see those terms interchanged. Pineta‘s offerings were fig, cherry, and regular, and it was just the thing to wake up the Wine Premacy!
Be sure to catch all the action at the Craft Spirits Carnival in San Francisco on June 15th & 16th. This unique event combines the showcase of an old fashioned big top, with hundreds of craft creations: small batch mezcal, tequila, whisky, bourbon, vodka, gin, rum and absinthe, and an assortment of flavors and libations you’ve never known before.
Each purveyor will present their delicious spirits, as well as a signature cocktail. This is not to be missed! The best part about this carnival? If you taste something you can’t live without, you can purchase it at the end of the day so you can recreate the magic at home.
Check out local favorites St. George Spirits and Charbay, as well as small batch distillers from Oregon, New York, and all over the country.
Buy your tickets now – and get 60% event pricing, just $32-40 for a full day of sipping! VIP packages include both days and early entry so if you are a mixologist in the making, make sure to grab your discount early. So many discoveries were made here last year.
See you there!
**picture heavy post**
After we settled in to the Hotel Lone, meaning we dumped our bags, dropped our jaws at the amazing location, and looked around, we were whisked off to our next Istrian Adventure locale of Stancija Meneghetti, just outside of town, to experience the farm, the guest house, and the delicious wine.
Meneghetti is a beautiful old villa, located in the heart of Istrian vineyards. From our location in the middle of the scrubrush, one could hardly tell we were a stone’s throw from the Adriadic, but the cooling breezes and climate are a large influence here. As we drove through the countryside, I wasn’t quite sure if our Istrian guide, Marko, was disposing of us – or taking us to a great wine location! But finally, after passing several questionable sites, we arrived at the old iron gates of Meneghetti, and the brush cleared to show a beautiful property.
Once a private villa available for rentals, Villa Meneghetti is now a luxury boutique hotel, with four distinctly elegant rooms, two swimming pools (gah!), and a unique wine & food experience.
Built in the vicinity of the biggest Austro-Hungarian stronghold in this area, Stancija Meneghetti was the place of rest for officers and their guests. There they could hide from the blazing Mediterranean sun or get warm beside an Istrian fireplace, have a glass of wine and eat home-made cheese and smoked ham. Like many other estates at the Mediterranean, this one is a mixture of urban and rural elements, modern and traditional ones, surrounded by intact nature.
Built of white Istrian stone, the same one that glitters like lace on St.Marcus’ Square in Venice, Stancija Meneghetti is harmoniously incorporated into the central part of an ample, cultivated space, like an island in the sea of peace and green foliage. Conceived as a separate “station” with independent production of basic ingredients of healthy and currently so popular Mediterranean cuisine, it continues the tradition of producing best olive oil and wine.
But enough about the history! What about the wine? What about the food? As luck might have it, and also hunger, we were able to keep our Funky Zagreb tour guide Mladen, over for lunch.
First up, the 2011 Malavazija, which for the rest of the Wine-Premacy, was paired with an ingenious Crab Shake. These spectacular spectaculars are an ingenious display of layered ingredients, served in a covered dish which the diner is encourage to shake vigorously. Of course for me, since I didn’t want to cut my vacation short with a seafood induced ER visit, I had the most delicious St. Jacob’s Shell (Scallops) with cauliflower. Malvazija (Malvasia) is the indigenous white grape of the region. There will be many more Malvasia’s to come, so stay tuned on that!
After the seafood course, we moved on to the pasta. As this part of Croatia is very near Italy, the food is heavily influenced by that. These delicate pillows of cheese filled heaven were served with cauliflower. Now OK, i’m the first to say I hate cauliflower but this changed my life.
The third course was Adriadic tuna tartare, which is not something I can accurately describe, unless you’ve actually had Adriadic tuna. There is a unique flavor in the tuna, that is much more delicate, salty, adn special than the tuna we get here in the states. Paired with the Merlot, this meaty fish dish was out of this world.
The last course was a pork chop, paired with the Crveno, a red blend
. The richness of the wine, which was poured with flair from a beautiful decanter by our lovely host at the villa, was perfectly paired with the creamy pork (complete with amazing balls).
Finally, we enjoyed a chocolate mousse tower, floating on a pillow of whipped cream, with an olive oil based. Olive oil is used in many dishes, and should not be limited to just the main courses. The peppery spiciness
was an elegant contrast to the richness of the mousse, and paired with the dessert wine (and of course, a touch of Rakjia), it was a roman candle end to a 4th of July worthy meal.
The unique experience at Meneghetti gave me a peek in to the luxurious world of Istrian food and culture,
with a warm welcome. The stories, the laughter, and the wine of the people that make this their lives, truly impacted me.
Our chef, Bojan, is half of a dynamic duo that blends the cultural history and traditions of Istria with a modern presentation, which will set your head to spin.
My suggestion? Get ye to Meneghetti! Packages with accommodation and a wine experience start at 170 Euros. That is a bargain for a villa where Brad & Angelina stayed and plalyed! A truly amazing afternoon.
Special thanks to the good people of Meneghetti and the Istrian Tourist Board for providing the Wine Premacy with a unique and endearing experience to kick off our Istrian Adventure!
There is something so special about mountainside fruit in Napa Valley. With both Mount Veeder and Howell Mountain boasting some famous vineyards & producers, and a very different flavor profile emerging from both of these unique areas, they are both small AVAs that hold a special place in my heart.
Napa Valley has been making Cabernet Sauvignon for over 100 years. Napa can be, and generally is, synonymous with New World Cabernet. But, for some people, the stereotypical big, fruity, over powering valley floor fruit can be too much. Now of course, there are always expectations to this rule (Titus are you listening?), but in my personal and professional opinion, there is a lot to be gained by looking up.
Why? In the case of Howell Mountain, the rolling hills and steep slopes have created several micro climates. Each small clearing is above the fog. When the white stuff rolls off of the ocean, and my house is socked in the pea soup, the weather on Howell Mountain is sunny, but cool. Sitting on this inversion layer, the weather flip flops, and evenings are warmer than the days, which help to maintain the heat spikes that can be more extreme down the hill.
Located on the eastern side of the Napa valley, and north of Atlas Peak, Howell Moutain is roughly parallel but north of Chiles Valley and east of Srping Mountain, and St. Helena.
Rocky, dry soils on the mountain are well drained, and the cooler temperatures and later bud break lead to warm summer nights. All of these factors help to create balance between acidity and sweetness, which means, complexity and richness in your glass. Yum!
In the Cornerstone Cellars, the 2009 Howell Mountain Cabernet really shows these elements. Farmed organically, the Ink Grade vineyard is on the east side of Howell Mountain at 1800 feet. Producing smaller berries with an intensity of flavor, a touch of Oak Knoll Cab and Carneros Merlot are blended in. I adore this wine, and found it deep, and earthy with beautiful blue black notes of blackberry and blueberry, with cracked black pepper and dutch cocoa. The word that came to mind immediately was unctuous.
At $80 it’s a splurge, but well worth it for wine lovers and a special occasion.
This wine was provided by the winery for consideration, and while all opinions are my own, seriously, this is the good sh&*!
After our adventures in Hum, the Wine-Premacy piled back in our
trusty questionable mini van, and hit the road to Rovinj. Sitting at the western edge of the Istrian peninsula, Rovinj is a city of cultural crossroads, and crumbling Venetian glamour.
The old fortified hilltown can still be seen with the main city gates, build during the Venetian rule, along with the city walls. While most of the walls are gone now, there are still spots that you can see them, and the shape of the hilltown follows the original town walls.
The stunning views of the Adriatic from the top of the church hill, you can nearly see Venice. You can certainly feel the influence, and imagine the crowded summer speedboats that make the day trips from Venice.
Rovinj (Rovigno in Italian) has been Venetian, Austrian, Yugoslav, and now – Croatian. This is seen in the architecture, particularly the old city gates that were remnants of the Roman rule, and Venetian grandeur. Now, it is quite clearly Istrian, with heavy Italian influences. Our guide, Michaela, was quick to point out that many older local residents still speak a distinct dialect of Italian that is most closely related to Venetian, as well as Croatian. You are also likely to find them speaking English and some German, to accommodate the tourist trade.
One of my favorite parts of travelling is experiencing the local diversity. This part of Europe fascinates me, as cultures collide and borders are fluid. What is a line on a map to the people that live there? Italy? Austro-Hungarian? Roman? Yugoslavian? Not really; Istrian!
A sleepy fishing village in the off season, the multicultural mix of residents, food, and architecture made for a great walking tour. Meandering around the small town, you can see the old tobacco factory, one of the primary industries in this region. The modern factory employees many local residents, but
this historical building now houses city offices and stands over the old town like a grand dame.
You can feel the closeness to Italy in Rovinj, and if you look the other way, you would swear you were in Tuscany or Venice. In fact, Rovinj was a little Venice of sorts, with two islands that were completely separated by a grand canal, which was filled in in the late 1800s to connect the two pieces. This canal is now the wide main street, but it’s clear that there is a separation
between the two sections of town.
As you hike up the hill to the cathedral, you are in a classic Italian hill town, with meandering narrow lanes sloping down to the sea. Sitting on the western edge of the town, the famous bar to the left offers gorgeous views, rocks to sit on, and live music. Can I go back?
This charming town is a perfect stop while you are in Istria. I wish we had more time here, but I plan a return visit soon. Easily accessible from both Venice and several European gateways, this is an affordable Adriatic vacation!
Our erstwhile mob was housed in the modern Hotel Lone, just off the main square, and a quiet walk along the waterfront. This modern
hotel is part of a unique collection of hotels in Croatia, with a focus on design, functionality, harmony and elegance. Arriving at the front door, you almost feel as if you are being dropped off at an airport. From the other side of the hotel, you can see the wave design melding in to the hillside, giving the appearance of a boat.
Our rooms had large balconies, which, if I were there longer, I would have spent a lot of time on. The large rooms had every possible amenity and were very comfortable. I had a hard time prying myself out of the bed! With a command center located by the front door as well as the bed, we could control all of the lights and room functions with a single touch. Every amenity was of the best quality, and the large business center would be an ideal location for a wine conference.
We were treated to dinner in the Restaurant On, one of the hotel’s dining options. Here, the Central European food is served with simple and creative plating, with a focus on flavor and freshness. My halibut with pea puree had the most intense color, and simple, yet intense flavors. It was a late dinner after a long day, and while we enjoyed the fresh and delicious food, I was remiss in taking pictures of my food.
The Hotel Lone was a perfect home base for our day of adventure walking around Rovinj, but also for our afternoon adventure to Managhetti (more on that shortly).
It’s been 23 years of Passport to Dry Creek Valley. Way back in 1990, the Winegrowers of DCV started this event to bring people together at a time of year when we can celebrate the vineyards, the families, the roots of DCV and of course – the wines.
I am so excited to be attending Passport to Dry Creek Valley again this year! During the weekend of April 27-28, 50 wineries will welcome visitors with special pairings, wine, food and entertainment. One of the special parts of Passport is that many wineries offer unique tours, and grape to glass stories of their property.
Check out this list of yummy wineries that I’ll be stopping by (partial list of all pouring)
I’m really excited to see all of the new names on the list!
In addition to these graet wineries, you can take a tour of Preston Farm and Winery on Sunday, and check out Grandpa’s Red jug wine – one of the last great jug wines produced. You can also wander the gardens, and taste some of the delicious organic produce. Or, on Saturday, take a ride up the hill to Gustafson Winery, with sweeping views of the valley, and learn about the unique soils while sipping the delicious Cabernet.
I can’t wait to see you there! Tickets are $120 for the weekend, or $70 for Sunday. This is event ALWAYS sells out, so make sure to pick up your tickets early HERE!
Ahhh the good old days. Back a few years ago, you know,
18 or so five or six, I was an undergrad at SSU. Boy how times have changed! My little university is all grown up, with a rather outstanding wine business department.
The Wine Business MBA students have been busy making wine in cooperation with Kokomo Winery, and this year is their second release. The 2011 Dry Creek Valley Cuvee is ready to roll, and they will be celebrating with a release party on April 20th at the winery!
Sonoma State Cellars started as a pipe dream, but it has come to be a wonderful reality. One day, I hope to further my education with this stellar team of teachers, wine makers and business people, but for now, please join me on April 20th at Timber Crest Farms to celebrate the new release!
Over the past two years, Kokomo Winery has worked closely with the MBA candidates at SSU to create a real-world project in wine business. As luck would have it, this liquid asset has been wildly successful. Who knew, that in the fall of 2010 when Erik Miller, erstwhile winemaker and owner of the winery, visited of the classes that he’d be so inspired. Watching the program develop and seenig the first crop of graduates grow in their wine business careers spurred him to stay in touch, and participate in industry gatherings like this one.
Last year, the school turned the fun project of winemaking in to a graduate class (BUS525W – Wine Business Experience), where students could learn more about the hands on operation and complexities of marketing wine. I personally cannot wait to have this experience for myself!
To receive your allocation of this limited production wine, please visit www.sonoma.edu/
Time: 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Place: The picnic grounds and bocce court at Timber Crest Farms, 4791 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg
Please RSVP to email@example.com to make sure the headcount is correct.
See you there!