Monday, October 22, 2012

One of Many Tuscan Favorites

Castello di Verrazzano 
The Castle of Verrazzano is located on a hilltop overlooking the Greve valley in the Chianti Classico area near Florence.  The impressive Tuscan sprawl became the property of the Verrazzano family in the 7th century.

This Italian family is also tied to American history, as Giovanni da Verrazzano discovered the New York harbor in 1524.    There is a statue of Giovanni in Battery Park, and the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge, the famous suspension bridge that spans New York Harbor, connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island was named after Giovanni da Verrazzano.

More recently, in 1958, the Cappellini family took over and restored the Castle.   Now owned and operated by Luigi Giovanni Cappellini, the Castle of Verrazzano is one of the most renowned wineries in the area.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

No Reservations and No Doubts About Croatian Cuisine Whatsoever

The best wine of my life!!!
Croatia has been on my travel radar for quite some time.  Why, do you ask? Perhaps it’s because that after so many years of war they are experiencing the fruits of being a liberated nation, or maybe it’s because of the significant amount of tourist attention they’ve received lately, or it could be due to all the pictures I’ve seen on Pinterest (that have constantly made me drool).  This particular trip came about when my brother, Matt, suggested we incorporate Croatia into our upcoming trip to Italy.  

Matt had me watch the “No Reservations” episode where Anthony Bourdain takes his Travel Channel show to the famed Dalmatian Coast.   My mouth salivated as I watched each segment of this enticing episode and visually experienced the impeccable culinary cuisine and wine that is now prevalent in Croatia.    Matt is nobody’s fool.  He knows the effect of food porn on my impressionable stomach.  It is quite remarkable how successful his strategy was. He managed to get me to, of my own free will, cut into our days in Tuscany and the Cinque Terre to make this happen. Of course, I was driven by a powerful incentive… Amazing wine and food. How could I resist?

After taking the 12-hour all night ferry from Ancona, Italy to Split, Croatia, we rented a car and headed to the island of Pag in search of the Boškinac Hotel and Winery ( ).  This was not as easy as one would have hoped.  The fine folks at Google Maps laid their tile in the wrong place (I’ll deal with that failure later).  Luckily when we showed a little old lady running a fruit stand a picture of Boškinac on the iPad, which by the way seemed to be an entirely new concept to her, she responded by nodding and using her hands dramatically to motion about ten turns for us to follow.     I must give props to the fruit-slinging-Croatian granny… we went right to the winery without any problems  (Granny - 1, Google-0).

As we walked up the beautiful stone staircase to the front of the Boškinac Hotel and Winery, I have to admit, I was rather giddy.   I knew I was about to experience food & wine that Anthony Bourdain seemed to feel was life changing amazing.  He said something along the lines of, “If you haven't been here, you're a f-@$% idiot. I'm an idiot."   That is not a decree I was about to take lightly.  This was potentially my Jerusalem, but instead turning my heart towards her in prayer, I would be raising my glass towards Tuscany and toasting (to God’s amazing creation of course).

The Boškinac Hotel and Winery did not disappoint, it was exactly as Bourdain described, “an amazing, crazy-ass spot.” This beautiful property is tucked away on a hillside in Novalja, a town in the north of the beautiful island of Pag, along the Adriatic Sea and is surrounded by vineyards, olive orchards, and pine trees.  While it is just a short drive to the famous Zrće Beach, it feels like you have entered an oasis far removed from the business of life and even the much dreaded and hard-to-completely-avoid tourism traps.   There is a distinctly Mediterranean feel to the luxurious hotel pool, patios, and rooms.  The entire sprawl is gorgeous. This family-run establishment is by all accounts a complete class act.  There is no detail forgotten or any part of their operation that has not been thoroughly thought out and perfectly executed.

This is where you turn off the main road - hard to miss.
The main entrance once you are parked and walking up.
Heading down to the wine cellar
Hotel lobby and bar.  There is a nice sitting area and access to the patios
I thought this organ in the hallway was a classy touch
The bathroom in the suite was gorgeous
                                                                                    Charcuterie plate and shrimp

The Boškinac red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from 2009 is hands-down the best wine I have EVER had in my life. This is no exaggeration.  Served with handmade pasta and lamb goulash, I could have stayed here forever.



Mirela Šuljić and Boris Šuljić are the owners of Boškinac.  Mirela was busy preparing for a wedding that evening, but stopped what she was doing to give us a tour of the cellar.  It was really cool to hear their story and the history of their winery.  Mirela is wonderful and has the most beautiful blue eyes I have ever seen.

Zrće beach