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Korcula Winery
Destination Dalmatian Riviera:
Eat, Drink, Cycle
(Dispatch #12)

Story and photos by Tom Weber

the writer biking at Korcula

hey say you never forget how to ride a bike. Well, I'm about to find out as I don a helmet, mount a rental and join the peloton that is the "band of merry media" – 18 travel writers and photographers invited by Insight Vacations (Insight) to sample a portion of its Bosnia and Dalmation Riviera itinerary – as it snakes its way out of Korčula Town and up into the hills of this picturesque island, one of the more than 1,000 isles along Croatia's Dalmatian Riviera.

bikers on the rode to Lumbarda, Korcula

Where to? A winery in Lumbarda, overlooking the sea, for a private tasting. It's the first of several Insight "signature" moments planned for the day, IF I don't fall off this contraption. Come on legs, you can do it!

vineyard in Korcula

To understand the wines of Korčula, you really need to have an appreciation for the island's early vine history. In a nutshell, the Greeks arrived on the scene 2,500 years ago and planted an unknown varietal from their homeland. The vines flourished, the white wine was superb, the locals loved it and named it Grk, in honor of the Hellenians who introduced this vowelless, rarest-of-rare wine. You see, Grk is only produced here in Lumbarda – about 30,000 bottles a year – and nowhere else on the planet.

road sign pointing to Frano Milina's Bire Winery

Set among a forest of pine trees, stone walls and limestone hills that wink at the sea, Frano Milina's Bire Winery, a 400-year-old family estate, is one of the few vineyards that puts Grk in the bottle and the only one that has enough left over to pour a few fingers worth for each member of the "band of merry media."

a bottle of Grk wine

Swirl. Smell. Sip. This Grk is at once dry and aromatic with hints of pine. Figures, the island is densely populated with centuries-old pine, oak and cypress.

the Grk and the red Plavac Mali; Marinka

Astonishingly, the Grk grape only has female flowers, so it can't reproduce on its own. Not to worry. The femme fatal Grk shares the terroir at Bire with its garnet-colored lover, the Plavac Mali. It lives on and so do we as Marinka, our hostess, gives us a generous pour of this robust, full-bodied red.

a bike tour around Korcula takes visitors through vineyards, sandy beaches tucked inside little coves and several seaside villages

Back in the saddle the bikes weave, actually we do, as our local cycling guide, Andrej, owner of Kaleta Travel Agency – a full service agency in Korčula Town that handles accommodations, excursions, transfers and bike rentals, like the ones we're sorta mastering – leads us on a scenic, but circuitous route through more vineyards, along sandy beaches tucked inside little coves, past several seaside villages, even some guy's junk, before bringing us back to GO.

Insight Vacations bus

Looking and feeling like a trail-weary cowboy after a two-month-long cattle drive through the Texas Panhandle up to the railheads in Abilene, Kansas, I walk bowlegged back to the Marko Polo Hotel, Insights four-star digs on Korčula, where I shower, change clothes, splash on some cologne and transform myself into a city slicker for the day's second "signature" moment.

Sometime during each and every Insight journey a Club Bon Voyage dinner-party breaks out and returning guests are given a special nod and toast.

Yours truly happens to be one of six seasoned road warriors so honored tonight, as I've traveled previously with Insight on its Country Roads of Italy, Bohemian Rhapsody and Iberian Adventure journeys.

After a celebratory aperitif of bubbly – okay, several – outside on the hotel's pool terrace, where the view of the sunset over the port is just perfect, we stroll back into Korčula Town for dinner, on Insight's euro, at Filippi.

An upscale restaurant along the Zakerjan promenade that looks out at the Pelješac Channel, Filippi planned to serve us outside under the stars, but the strong Bora wind has just blown in, so we head inside. No problem.

chef Marko at the Filippi

Taking a page out of the authentic Dalmatian cookbook, Marko, the twenty-something chef, works his magic creating contemporary dishes from local artisan ingredients, seasonal herbs and daily catches straight out of the Adriatic that surrounds Korčula.

dishes at Filippi restaurant

The presentation alone at Filippi has you begging for more, but don't take my word for it, grab a fork and have a virtual nibble of the homemade zrnovo macaroni pasta with shrimps and cherry tomatoes, grilled sea bass on a bed of sautéed veggies, and panna cotta in a wild berry coulis. Mmm.

bike with the Adriatic Sea in the background

A bike ride over hills with sea views of the bluest-of-blue Adriatic, a private tasting of a rarest-of-rare wine, AND a three-course meal of the finest-of-fine Dalmatian fare. Now, I'd say that's quite an EAT, DRINK, CYCLE kinda day, wouldn't you?

Insight Vacatoions' Sarajevo and Dalmatian Riviera brochure

For complete information on Insight's premium and luxury-escorted itineraries, including 110+ journeys throughout Europe, just click HERE, or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

Dubrovnik

It's an early wake-up call tomorrow for the "band of merry media" as we hop back on the motor coach and head for Dubrovnik, the "Pearl of the Adriatic," with its unbelievable views out to sea over terracotta rooftops. Along the way, we'll visit another winery, just to stay hydrated. Care to join us?

Related Articles:
The Great Debate on Korčula; Mali Ston, Croatia on the Half Shell; Split, Croatia: Diocletian's Seaside Digs; The Daredevil Divers of the Stari Most; Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope; Sarajevo's Storied Bridge to World War I




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Let Tom know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Destination Bosnia: Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope

Spent time in Sarajevo in the fall of 1973…beer was excellent!

--- David

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Hi Tom,

I must say, you're photographs are always amazing. They are top notch. You bring so much class to Traveling Boy. It's photographs like yours that make me want to go out and do my own traveling. Please don't get tired of sending us your amazing adventures. It's such a delight for the soul.

--- Raoul, Whittier, CA

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Hi Tom:

I'm also an American living in Italy. I've read with interest your blog and articles. I'd like to speak with you regarding residency and citizenship for Americans in Italy as you do seem to have a great deal of knowledge on all of these subjects. Would it be possible to give you a call on the phone? If so, please let me know how to reach you. If not, I can ask my questions via email.

Thank you!

--- David

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Hey Tom – Wow! Love those photos – they are so super that they make me A) Want to start eating NOW. B) Go there myself. C) See all that pristine beauty that looks so restful and peaceful. Great story, superb pix!!! Bravo!!

--- John, Los Angeles, CA

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Feedback for Destination Southwestern France: Saint-Émilion

Good job, Tom, and timely info. St. Émilion is in the list of places Jim Hayes and I will visit in September 2014. If we get the chance, we will exploit your experience to enhance the trip!

--- Bobby Harper, Dameron, MD

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Feedback for Vicenza Walks – Monte Berico

I lived in Vicenza for 4 years in the U.S. ARMY from 1963 to 1967. A wonderful place to explore. Palladio’s works are amazing. Have been back twice since and find new places to visit. My favorite is MONTE BERICO where I have some wonderful photos of my family.

--- Dr. Albert Pizzi, Hanover, MA

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I liked the new TB particularly the Vicenza article that took me back as a youth when we lived in Naples and travelled up there for a baseball tourney (U.S. Military Bases dependent schools played each other.)

Took me back to the plaza.

--- Bill

Feedback for A Canterbury Trail (Sutri)

Very interesting note. I have wedroned which route the early pre-Christian and Christian pilgrims travelled to Rome from England. Is it still possible to travel the Francigena trail?

--- Pawel

You can find out more info on walking tours of Via Francigena at this site: http://www.compagniadeicammini.it/en/. Thanks for stopping by and commenting..

Tom

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Good article, enjoyed reading it. Saved your recommended sights for future use.

--- Dardenne Prairie, MO

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You're going to be great at this Tom. Congrats.

--- Donna Vissa -Montreal




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