The Wine Gods Smile On Us Once Again

Welcome to the ancient city of Primošten!  It was built on an island that was easily defended by land.  It is a beautiful city because of its spectacular setting.   We grabbed a mooring ball just outside the walls, and headed ashore with our friends for a little bit of exploring before they had to leave us.  It became readily obvious that none of us had eaten all day when the first thing that caught our eye was an Irish Pub….well, not so much the pub itself, but the giant poster of these amazing looking burgers.  We have struggled to find good beef in Croatia much less a true “American” looking burger.  We wiped the drool from our lips and made our way through the gate to the ancient city.  We headed to the top of the point to the old church and cemetery that overlooked the entire city and surrounding sea.  The views were glorious, and the headstones quite fascinating since they mark many members of the family, have their picture, and contain dates ranging over hundreds of years.  That is about as far as we got before our friend proposed burgers and beers before anymore exploring.  Heck ya!  We were all game (of course our burger addled brains never gave a second thought to our fourth partner who does not eat beef… our defense, we didn’t know that was all they served until we sat down).  She was an awesome trooper though and settled for French fries while we got our burger fix on.  You may be asking yourself, “so we’re the burgers as good as they looked on the billboard?”  Believe me, I wondered the same thing before we ever walked in.  They were fabulous!  I think it had been 4 or 5 months (at least) since the last time I had a burger….definitely worth the stop.  With full bellies, we wandered some more exploring the sights and shops before heading back to the boat.  At that point it was time to say a sad farewell to our friends, so Dan took them ashore where a cab waited for them.

Primosten sunset view from Zoe
Last day with our visitors!

Dan and I had opted to stay here for an additional night to wait out some weather that was forecasted to come through.  Since this was our second visit here, we decided some more land based excursions were in order.  We arranged for a rental car, and Dan set about planning our adventures.  Number 1 on his list was Bibich Winery.  This winery had received rave reviews, was over 500 years old, had been visited by Anthony Bourdain, and had bounced back from the destruction of the Civil War.  We crossed our fingers, and Dan made the call to see if they could fit us in for a tasting tour the next day.  He spoke to the wife of the owner at great lengths, and lucky for us, there had  been a cancellation.  She explained to Dan that this was a food and wine pairing of 9 different courses.  Each dish was hand crafted by her and not made in a commercial kitchen, so it was imperative that we arrive promptly at 1:00.   We also planned to visit a couple of cities on the mainland as well.  With our plans secured, we settled in for a quiet evening.  

We were set to meet the rental car at 10:30 but were told they would call when they left the city (1/2 hour away).  Needless to say, we were a bit anxious since the winery was an hour drive away.  If you’ve been with me through this blog journey, you’ve already accurately predicted where this is headed 😝 After phone calls back and forth, mishaps on their end with the police, they finally arrived at our meeting point….at 11:30!!  By the time we finished paperwork and were on our way, it was 11:45….talk about cutting it close.  Thanks to Dan’s speedy and efficient driving 🙄, we arrived at the winery at 12:45.  We were promptly greeted in the parking lot by a young man dressed very smartly in all black and white, complete with white gloves.  I’m still not sure how he knew we were there for this special tasting….but he did.  He escorted us through the beautiful grounds of their facility to a room at the end.  There were several tables elegantly set, and we were given our choice of a table for two.  We chose the one right by the window with a view of the grounds.  There was a table of 3 ladies, and a table set for a party o 8 that had not yet arrived.  We began with a taste of their sparkling wine.  We were told they are one of the few wineries in Croatia willing to tackle the nuances of making a sparkling wine.  

After our pre-taste, the party of 8 had still not arrived, so we were brought another taste of this sparkling wine, and it’s accompanying food pairing.  This consisted of a multigrain cracker blended with cuttlefish ink to give it the black color.  On top was a rich, creamy, garlic cheese adorned with a cuttlefish “lace.”  We were told that the theme of the winery is black and white (hence their formal attire), and therefore all our dishes would follow a black and white theme like this first one.  So, those of you that know me know that my adventurous spirit comes to a screeching halt when it come to things I am going to eat or drink (I am working on this though…as you will soon see).  I followed our host’s direction, and the taste was amazing!  Like nothing I have ever experienced…okay, this was going to be fun!  What follows is a blow by blow of our tasting experience, so if you find that boring, you may want to scroll quickly.

Black cracker with herbs and cuttlefish ink topped with garlic cream and cuttlefish lace. Paired with debit champagne

As I said, the big party was already quite late, so we were told we would be getting an extra course to our tasting.  Woo hoo….gotta love bonus features.  We were given a white wine paired with a smoked yogurt topped with garlic foam.  Hmmm, sounds like an odd taste.  By itself, I did not care for it but when paired with the wine, the flavors were incredible.  At this point, the big table arrived.  Bet you can’t guess where they were from!  Yep!  Americans….decked out like they were headed to the beach and very loud….loud through the whole experience.  While the rest of us enjoyed our bonus tasting, the late group caught up.  The really interesting part of this experience was that the hosts talked you through your pairing as an individual table rather than talking to the whole room…a very personal and intimate experience.  Back to the tasting….

Smoked yogurt with garlic foam Paired with 2015 fume Blanc aged two years in French oak barrels

For the third selection, we were told that this was an ancient method of preserving seafood back before refrigeration.  They took prawns which were fried and then stored in olive oil and balsamic with assorted chopped peppers and spices.  The name is Savur, and I really want to attempt this particular dish as it was one of my favorites.  Each dish paired exquisitely with the chosen wine beginning with lighter whites, moving to bolder whites, and moving into the similar pattern of reds. 

Fried prawns “savur “ preserved in olive oil balsamic vinegar, peppers, onion and garlic. Ancient Dalmatian technique to preserve fish. Paired with Debit white wine

Next up….sea bream (a type of bass) coated in carob and pan fried.  This was accompanied by black purée (potato colored black with cuttlefish ink) topped with a black caviar (not from the cuttlefish…they don’t have caviar so this was house made black caviar).  The potato delicacy was once again going to challenge my adventurous side, and once again, I was amazed and delighted.  Are you getting hungry yet?

Sea bream fried with carob flour and cuttlefish fish ink served with mashed potatoes with caviar. Paired with R5 White wine

The next dish was really interesting (I know….they all are!) This was Egg White Carbonara.  “Noodles” were made from pressed egg whites topped with pancetta and a creamy carbonara sauce.  Low carb as our host explained to us with a chuckle.  The taste was really good, but the texture was a little odd to me from the faux noodles.  It’s hard to describe how different each wine tasted alone versus tasting it with the food….all I can say is…wow!  By the way, this was the first round in the reds tasting. 

Egg white noodle with pancetta in cream sauce paired with “Babic Bibich” red wine

Our next dish was a piece of chicken breast accompanied by Pag cheese (considered the best in all of Croatia) purée topped with white caviar.  Also included in this white dish was blanched almonds and a powdered butter.  This was another dish at the top of my list.  By now the theme was really coming through.  The white wines were paired with “black” dishes and the red wines were paired with “white” dishes.  A little background….red wine is called crno vino in Croatian which literally translates to black wine. 

Free range chicken with Pag goat cheese puree topped with white caviar. Blanched almonds and powdered butter on the side. Paired with 100 percent Shiraz aged 12 months in French oak

From there, we were treated to a 24 carat gold flake coated Veal risotto ball (also known as arancini). 

Veal risotto deep fried Arancini style and coated in 24k gold. Paired with 100 percent Merlot 2013 vintage

Then we moved on to beef cheeks in a wine reduction over polenta.  This was paired with one of their best reds.  We were told that this wine should be put up for a few years, but they sell out of it before they can even begin to age it.  Another phenomenal pairing. 

Beef cheeks braised 6 hours in Bas de Bas wine over polenta. Paired with #1 rated wine in Croatia – “Bas de bas” 90 percent single vineyard merlot

We are now heading into dessert….ugh, so full!  A vase is placed on our table with a thorny arrangement sticking out of it and adorned with two hanging strings with a ball attached to the end of each.  The ball was made of four layers of Pag cheese over an olive then rolled in a crushed nut covering.   This was to cleanse the palate before dessert.  And now….the finale!  Dessert was a deconstructed tiramisu with a moscato dessert wine. 

Decomposed tiramisu (inside out) with Moscato Bianca dessert wine

All I can say is that this was the most amazing and memorable wine tasting I have ever done.  This is a must do if you are in Croatia.  After, we were given the opportunity to revisit (taste again) any of the wines we were considering.  In the end, we left with 6 bottles of white wine 🙂

Making our way back to the boat, we stopped in the ancient city of Šibenik.  They had a Renaissance Festival taking place while we were there which seemed so aptly appropriate in this setting.  It definitely gave you a feeling of the city back in ancient times.  As we came into the square, we were treated to music and dancing from the time period.  It was beautiful to watch.  Unfortunately there was a wedding reception taking place in a restaurant in the square at the same time, so they trumped the live, period music.  The band bowed out and said they would be back when the reception was over….not sure who made that scheduling error.  After a little more exploration of the ancient alleys and St. Jacob’s Cathedral, we made our way back to the car to head home.

Cathedral of St James. UNESCO listed world heritage site and most important Renaissance period architecture in Croatia.
There are 74 donors to the cathedral’s construction that are immortalized by sculptures around the periphery.
Ancient roman square in Sibenik

***(Turn the volume up on the video – we were pretty impressed by the talents of these musicians and folk dancers)***

We arrived back in Primošten in the early evening and hit up the farmers market for some fresh produce before heading back to the boat.  As we approached our dinghy, loaded down with wine and produce, we were shocked to find the front end almost fully deflated!  Things were going way to smoothly, right?!  We loaded up our goodies, climbed in, and limped our way back to the boat (praying that whatever was happening was only affecting the front pontoon and we didn’t end up swimming back to the boat!) We got back safely, hauled the dinghy up, and decided this mess could wait until tomorrow.  Now mind you, we have to go back to shore in the morning to return the rental car 😝

That morning, we pumped up the deflated portion of our dinghy and headed in to town once again.  We decided we probably better head out early to go to the marina shop in the next bay, before we had to return the car, in order to buy a patch kit.  Problem was we didn’t want to drive all the way there if they didn’t have what we needed.  Luckily we reached the shop (we had become regulars there when we were marina bound for the last storm), and he had the patch kit we needed.  With that done, we returned the rental car, returned to our dinghy (still well inflated), and headed to the boat to get underway.  Time to continue our journey north.  Our season was rapidly coming to an end.

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