Trapan Wine – an Istrian modern classic

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One of the highlights of any culinary adventure is finding a special place, that is unlike any other in the local region.  Trapan Wine is one such place, in the heart of Istria, one of the most culturally diverse and historic wine cultures in central Europe. Driving in to the winery, the sun was setting and the views were stunning.  The gentle rolling slopes of the hills, some under vine, most not, glistening in the late winter sunlight. Bruno Trapan, a young urban winemaker drawn to the region as he studied enology at the local university in Poreč, was inspired by the land and his education to a creative and dynamic art in his vineyard and cellar, undertaking a task that was challenging at best, arduous at least.  Bucking the trend, he was looking to unlock the secret to the red soils of Istria, and uncover new secrets in winemaking. While Trapan Wine does produce the classic wines of Istria – Malvasia and Teran – they are also looking to internationally known varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah to create new traditions in winemaking.  These varietals fit nicely in to the landscape naturally, but are new flavors in the local wine culture and are breaking new bounds of tradition. These wines are unique, filled with traditoinally flavors with modern twists and are a must top on your enotourism checklist of Croatia. 2012 Trapan Malvasia – Rich Meyer lemon, citrus, stone fruit.  Fermented in stainless steel tanks, the flavor profile is unique, with a very different terrori than northern Istria.  The northern areas are rich in limestone, lending a minerality and stone finish, while in Pula, where Trapan Wine is located, the average temperature is 3 degrees (Celsius) warmer.  This brings forward the aromatics in the Malvazia, with less fruit forward, and bright acid notes. Ever the rebel, Trapan Wine uses both wild, natural yeast, as well as commercial yeast.  Each lot is fermented separately, but the final bottling is a blend, and not all wines in a lot are bottled at once.  Some wine is kept on yeast longer which gives a more complex creamy wine.   2010 Trapan Teran – Teran (Terrano in Italy) is one of those grapes that had been used for rough and ready, work-a-day wine.  At first taste, Teran reminded me of Touriga Nacional, a rough, but loveable worker.  However, refined and elegant, this Teran changes the status quo.  This bold and dense wine is similar to a Merlot, but rough and tumble, with lots of spice, and huge tannins that allow it to be aged for years to come.  Earthy dust, muddy dirt, big brambly berries, this is the Teran I fell in love with. 2011 Trapan Nigra Virgo Revolution is a red blend, with 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 20% Syrah, and 10% Teran.  This is like a Bordeaux on steroids!  Teran is a strong grape, and so you have to be cautious when creating blends that it doesn’t overpower the blend.  Teran, being native to Istria for […]

Fresh from the sea, Konoba Batelina swims with excitement

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 Meanwhile, back in Istria, we were exploring the countryside and small wineries that are producing some amazing wines, that are holding fast to traditional styles, such as at Konoba Batelina.  While there are certainly international varieties creeping in, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, the vast majority of production includes Malvasia and Teran. Along the same note, Istria plays host to some of the most amazing food I’ve had travelling in many years.  After the lunch at Konoba Pineto, I could have died happily, but we were in for more treats at Konoba Batelina. Arriving at this small tavern in a village outside of Pula, there is no menu.  Instead, the offerings are given to you verbally by your extremely enthusiastic waiter, who describes each dish with a lust that made my mouth water.  Hey, if Konoba Batelina is good enough for Bordain it’s good enough for me! I was a little worried as we were told that we would not be getting a selection of dishes, but rather…ALL of them, but my worry turned to a fight for the last bite as they brought dish after dish of hot and cold appetizers from the Adriatic nearby.  I love fish, and I order it a lot when I’m travelling because a) I can’t cook it worth a #$(*& and b) coastal countries know what they are doing. Chef David Skoko presented us with our menu (I undoubtedly forgot some dishes but there were something in the neighbor of 8 colds, 6 hots, pasta, and dessert): Monkfish Shark liver pate Conga eel Red Mullet in lemon Marinated sardines Octopus salad Scallops Boiled spotted Dog-fish Crab salad (yes, this one I avoided but BrixChick Liza got my share so she’s happy!) Grey mullet fish soup with a corn meal “scallop”, basically polenta that was cooked in a scallop shell which was a beautiful presentation pasta with dried fish roe, a house specialty and famous.  The salty brininess of the fish roe was so subtle, and entirely amazing Dessert.  Oh I can’t even go in to dessert.  There were 7 of them!  Each one was a  different taste sensation. More than the food, the conversation with the chef enthralled me.  David’s stories of his life growing up in Istria, and his father’s adventures as a fisherman, which inspired him to open the restaurant, as well as our conversations about how Croatia joining the EU on July 1st will impact the local economy were inspiring.  From the local fish to the politics of a region that has been influenced by a dozen cultures, Konoba Batelina is a stop you need to go out of your way to visit. Special thanks to the Istrian Tourist Board, our guide Marko, and Chef David for a truly unique and wonderful experience. Google