Destination Dalmatian Riviera:
Eat, Drink, Cycle
Story and photos by Tom Weber
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.
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!
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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 Peljeac 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.
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.
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.
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?
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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
Great Debate on Korčula; Mali
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