Babic – Grocery Store find in Croatia

When I travel I am a big fan of hitting up the grocery store for goodies to enjoy during the down times and to see what is available to locals. This is a wine I grabbed blind, for random taste education. It had a beautiful ruby color in the glass.  This may be a poor example of the grape, as the first scent pounces on me like a city cat that was mangy.  Upon opening the aromas of wet tar come to mind and an astringent palate.
Always a lady…this wine shall be reacquainted after a chance to breath.
Image
At 48 Kuna this wasn’t pricey…under 10 US. Finally with some air I found hints of white fleshed plumbs (sour and sweet) and forest fruits, as they say in Croatia. Forest fruits, aka blackberry with boysenberry hints peek through the glass with glee.  This is growing on me, but I will look for a better example in the future.
I also tried a Teran from Dešković that had a beautiful bramble berry nose and was a pleasant easy drinker. I fully enjoyed the red berry fruit and light, airy dance this plays still in my memory. Traveling through glass to memories keeps a journey alive.
Cheers!

Rome – The First Encounter

I want to break down a vacation I took on a day by day style of writing. Feel free to let me know what you think. Hope you enjoy!

Travel is always fun, quirky, and for me, as long as the arrival part happens I don’t really care how the rest unfolds. I am unable to sleep on a plane, no matter how long the flight is. So when I land I usually like to go to bed early on, so the rest of my vacation is not tainted by fatigue. The sleeplessness has not a glimmer of cause in fear, it is purely the excitement of uninterrupted time. Time for stillness to read a book or to have a movie binge fest…best day ever! So while people decide to be fast friends and sleep on me and snore, thank God for headphones, I enjoy all the moments that I get to relax.

Getting off the plane we headed to the train station for a quick trip toward our hotel. Note to self, leaving through the back gives a total different view then the front. The front doors would have led to a view of busy streets and a quick few blocks to the hotel to drop off our luggage. The back, well, that shows you the other side of the coin. After walking through an eternity of back allied cobblestone streets, people laughing and shaking their heads, homeless resting where they can, we finally arrived at the hotel. Weary and desiring to off load the baggage I was carrying, pun intended, we discovered that we were 4 hours too early for check in. Without rest I was not my usual quick witted self and learning rapidly why I usually am the person that handles directions. We left our bags with the attendant and stumbled our way around the streets of Rome in quest for nourishment, until we turned a corner to go into a church (they truly are amazing works of art) and spied the Colosseum. Interwoven with my thoughts of awe, historic intrigue and delight, I knew there had to be food near and this girl was in need of a glass of wine!

1171 1237 12421198 126312741211

Back to the church real quick, I’m going to share a photo that I took after saying play that funky music white boy (enormous organ, to say the least). Fed and watered, I felt slightly more energetic. I knew we had a dinner idea for the future and I knew that is where the wine would happen. I had a moment glancing upon a decaying old stone wall that had wisteria climbing through the iron with graffiti tags that I knew this city was for me. The idea of people trying to rush about in there every day life, quick and hurried, while every turn showed a piece of history, of artistry, of  screams of the past standing triumphant over time, was engaging for all senses. I loved the dirty parts intermingled with the beautiful parts, the fresh new fun interwoven into old tales. I love that about humanity in general though, so this was normal times 100.

1239 1204

Viewing the majesty of the city briefly from a hop on/hop off bus, gave us an idea of where we wanted to revisit the next day after some rest. After checking into the hotel and washing up we enjoyed walking around hither and yon, stumbling upon ideas as fast as relics. Our first evening, a member of our party wanted us to enjoy a roof top dining experience that she had enjoyed with her late husband. So in honor of their time we headed to find it from her memories vault. We arrived early enough to watch the sun set over St Peters Basilica. Thinking of fine dining restaurant portions in California wine country I talked everyone into trying a tasting menu per person. Silly me, as someone very familiar with Italian families, I forgot about the portion size. At the end of our meal I remember being grateful for the amount of walking we were going to do the next day. Mentally preparing myself for smaller meals, got to love Mercato Trionfale take away! Blessed with a belly full of hearty, wonderful food and the Montepulciano shared around the table, I was very ready to rest my head after checking in on my home front. Next will be day 2 with the Vatican highlight reel.

1322 13251329 1317

Enjoy every moment you can travel, even if it is in a glass or in your own neighborhood. Every day withholds moments in need of discovery.

Cheers!

Vinakoper Sparkling

So when I finished the tour of Vinakoper winery I found myself surrounded by bottles of temptation. If you want to read about the tour check out the link: http://gotchabythegrapes.com/?p=450 . These are the tasting notes from the sparkling I bought blind i.e. not tasted at the winery. Consider a blind purchase like a trust them experience or an adventure in a glass. As someone that loves the playful nature of discovery, I found these wines elating as city lights erupting after dusk.

2416 24902471

The first bottle I opened post bath on a relaxing evening in Opatija, Croatia. I would go back just to spend a few days in this beautiful city. The Capris Classic Brut is comprised of 70% Chardonnay & 30% Malvasia. It has aromas of tangerine and citrus blossoms with light honey hues in the glass. The sip finishes cleaned up from the appearance of sweetness and lends a sense of crispness with hints of richness that is perfect for your truffle salted popcorn comedy movie nights. I perfectly enjoyed it with the hillside backdrop of the town alight with occasional house lights and a gentle coastal breeze whispering of relaxation in luxury.

1490 28502833

The second bottle I opened was a week later when the tour guide, my husband and I decided to slip into our hotels lounge in Split, Croatia. We wanted an evening, tasting unique wines we procured on our adventure that we had yet to taste. The Capris Classic Brut Refosk is comprised of 100% Refosk, aka Refosco, and is visually a dark vixen red. It was rich with strong influence of sour cherries that would have tasted amazing with a fabulous Rib-Eye Steak in balsamic reduction. I think I would even enjoy this sparkling with grilled wild duck breast or simply in conclusion of a rich meal.

Cheers to travels through glasses!

Slovenia’s Vinakoper

I took a trip to Croatia that happened to drive through Slovenia from the Italian starting point. The first stop in Slovenia was Vinakoper winery. I loved the rich wood carved doors around the tasting room as well as leading into the barrel room. The lovely guide ushered us into the cool crisp hillside made up of mostly sandstone and began to explain the history of the largest winery in Slovenia.

The winery was founded in 1947. In 1949, they began blending vineyards and the cellar was officially finished in 1953.  The vineyards are located on the Slovene Istria area with beautiful rolling hills around the coast in ten different locations extending over 570 hectares, which is approximately 1,408.5 acres. They also make, Grappa made from two different grape varietals from their estate. The wine production is 70% red varieties & 30% white varieties. While 50% of the wines produced are considered local varieties such as Refosco, Cipro and a unique Malvasia. Multiple times we were informed the winery believes in natural production with a very high quality.

440 451445 446

Volume & barrel amount are listed on large barrels. For example, the biggest barrel pictured above, would last 56 years if you drank 2 liters every day. The close up on the barrel shows that the carving was in honor of the 1953 cellar creation. Red varietals are all aged in oak while the white varietals are aged in acacia, oak or stainless. They find that acacia seems to give a fruitier flavor in white varietals. They stopped using concrete tanks a while ago. The lovely winery tour guide explained how the cooperage of the barrels gives spice while the smaller barrels seem to show a deeper longevity for the wines, but they only used those barrels for 1 year for high end wines than the barrels are reused or sold. The barrel room is three quarters underground, maintaining a 53 degree temperature. Their oldest wine still in bottle is a 1966 Cabernet Sauvignon.

We were then ushered into a long tasting salon with barrels on one wall, views of the countryside on the other wall and a huge table with benches of thick, rich, beautiful wood. The first wine was a Malvazija, aka Malvasia made in a dry style. It was a sparkling light yellow with green youthful tones. Wafting into aromas of acacia blossoms, citrus infused almonds & tropical fruits. The flavors almost hinted of grapefruit with fresh unroasted almonds. As the wine warmed a slight honeyed note, hints of the varietal. I would pair this with a delicate white fish or a subtle cheese course that would acknowledge the acidity and aromatics. You can almost taste the Mediterranean sunny sea air in this glass.

Picture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next wine took a flight with me and I have been storing the last bottle for the perfect cool evening. Refosk, aka Refosco, the king of darkness, shows as ruby red with violet hints glimmering in the light. This was a complex kaleidoscope of blackberry, raspberry and blueberry notes with a hint of floral accompaniment. In the wines youth, there almost seemed to be the pizzazz of bing cherry. This wine calls for a bountiful charcuterie plate or a beautifully grilled steak. In some of the barrels the large blocks of tartaric crystals that have settled, it was referred to as wine stone, is retained and then used as yeast for bread, added in tea or as a powder to flavor foods.

Image2336

The last wine also traveled back with us and we shared the last bottle over Thanksgiving with friends. The sweet wine styled, Cipro, is refreshingly not a syrup or heavy handed dessert. It was a lovely scarlet red with slight brick red hues. I found aromas of violets and roses to be met with salty, sea air kissed strawberries and candied oranges. The playful aromas matched flavors of rose and rich, ripe strawberry with slight vanilla kisses that leave your palate in anticipation of pairing. I would chose a dessert that is drizzled with caramel and spiced with nutmeg or clove. It would also be beautiful with an airy chocolate dish garnished with a bounty of berries.

Image2348

Our visit concluded in the wine shop where my husband discovered what appeared to be converted gas pumps where locals bring jugs to fill with table wine and are charged by the liter. I think I need some of those at my house! I also brought some of their sparkling wines with me for hotel evening tastings. I will share my tasting notes on those in the future. The wines offered great euro value and would be a pleasant add to your collection for everyday enjoyment. I believe at this time they are not available through shipping though, so you should make Vinakoper a stop in your vacation plans.

Cheers!

 

 

 

New Zealand – Searching for Winter in June…continued

Part two of our travels we learned more, played with animals, chilled with the locals and took a day to check out the mountains closer, all while making each other laugh. Always looking for a giggle, I found the non-smoking sign on our room cynically humorous since I just quit. Like a reminder saying, you know you want another. Of course the sign at the petrol station was ironic for us, the newlyweds.

New Zealand 082 New Zealand 099

Since we were farther south than we had ever been, it was only appropriate to check out the International Antarctic Centre and learn about cute little blue penguins. The Antarctic Storm experience was a blast! Learning about Scott Base in the Antarctic and viewing the museum set up with figures of living creatures, base camp and Hagglund rides made for an exciting excursion. Learn about the location here: http://www.iceberg.co.nz/

New Zealand 104 New Zealand 107 New Zealand 109 New Zealand 119 New Zealand 122

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a huge animal lover, I heard about an open range zoo close to Christchurch, Orana Wildlife Park. Seeing these beauties up close and sometimes personal, like the giraffe droll bomb, was a day to treasure. We saw just how nasty, Asian small-clawed otters could be when hungry…oh, that is what hangry is. We had a few animals that sensed the paparazzi and gave me the talk to the butt pose. Even nature has a great sense of humor. This is a must stop if you are in the area. I’ve even donated toward the efforts since our visit. Check it out virtually: http://www.oranawildlifepark.co.nz/

New Zealand 123 New Zealand 124 New Zealand 128 New Zealand 136 New Zealand 139 New Zealand 142 New Zealand 148 New Zealand 151 New Zealand 153 New Zealand 154 New Zealand 155 New Zealand 157 New Zealand 168 New Zealand 170 New Zealand 174 New Zealand 176 New Zealand 178 New Zealand 181

During the trip we dined on lobster, duck, lamb, and discovered a little Thai restaurant, as it was on our list of things our loved ones wanted us to do. We decided to go grocery shopping for snacks, breakfast travel food and discovered new crazy energy drinks (it’s a weird thing we do, wherever we travel). After some fancy dinner dining, we found ultimate comfort in a local joint, Speight’s Brewery. On our, head toward the mountains, adventure we ran into a small place where I discovered Speight’s beer while chowing on lamb sausage pizza. The lovely lady feeding us told us to go to the brewery before we left. The husband was mostly cocktail indulging as the wine and beer thing is more my wheel house. Not saying I don’t love making or drinking a good cocktail! Ironic how this former anorexic become such a food lover.

New Zealand 183 New Zealand 186 New Zealand 188 New Zealand 189 New Zealand 194 New Zealand 196 New Zealand 197 New Zealand 201 New Zealand 203

Every day we walked a different direction in exploration of our area.  On the last morning we stumbled into the Christchurch Botanic Garden. In the cool of winter, I yearned to see it in early fall, when still lush from summers bounty. Guess that is the season I should schedule the next trip for.

New Zealand 207 New Zealand 208 New Zealand 209 New Zealand 211 New Zealand 212 New Zealand 222 New Zealand 223 New Zealand 224

Hope you enjoyed this brief trip, stumble, but a lady does not fall, vacation experience. Not to worry, I take pretty good notes now so our future adventures may include more embellished details.

Cheers!