Raise a Toast to President Biden with a Glass of Croatian Wine!
Croatians were proud to hear that a red wine from their small country was among those planned to be served at Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration last week in Washington, D.C. The wine in question, Benmosche Family Dingač 2015, unites both sides of the Atlantic. It comes from vineyards on Dalmatia’s beautiful Pelješac peninsula, planted in 2006 by US insurance executive Robert Benmosche. After Benmosche passed away in 2015, his family continued his labor of love, only to see their wine end up on the new president’s table!
The 1,500 Zinfandel plants Mr. Benmosche imported from Napa Valley to start his vineyards further link the United States and Croatia. DNA testing has proven that the progenitor of California Zinfandel is the Crljenak vine, native to Croatia. Roots of this ancient vine were found by chance when building a stone wall on another Benmosche property.
Limited Edition Croatian Wines from a Pristine Peninsula
Only 4,000-5,000 bottles of Benmosche Dingač and Zinfandel are produced each year. The vineyards are dramatically situated on the steep slopes of the Pelješac peninsula. Here sun, salty sea air, and moist soil combine to create the ideal growing conditions.
Even closer to Dubrovnik is the Grgić Winery in Trstenik. It is one of the few to welcome visitors for tastings. The bright acidity of the elegant red wines produced by both wineries goes surprisingly well with a variety of locally caught seafood, including the prized European flat oysters and the mussels farmed in Mali Ston Bay.
Ston: City Walls & Salt Pans
A narrow strip of land connects the slender, fingerlike Pelješac peninsula to the mainland. The two join up near the town of Ston, 30 miles northwest of Dubrovnik. Most visitors on their way to wine country start here and are immediately wowed by Ston’s massive 14th-century walls.
These are the longest defensive walls in Europe. Twenty towers and 3.5 miles of wall still stand between Ston and the old port of Mali Ston. Walking the Ston section of the walls takes about 20 minutes. An additional 40 minutes is needed to climb up and over the hill to Mali Ston. Here you can reward yourself with a well-deserved shellfish lunch and a glass of Dingač wine at a cozy waterside tavern!
Main purpose of these massive walls was to protect Ston’s salt pans. The value of salt in the Middle Ages was equal to that of gold. Today the salt pans produce around 530 tons per year and harvesting is still done by hand. Don’t expect to find this sea salt sprinkled on your French fries, though. Most of the salt harvested in Ston is destined for industrial purposes, like melting ice on the roads.
Croatia Like It Once Was
Pelješac is a peninsula, but in many ways it feels like an island. Those in the know treasure Pelješac for its out-of-the-way feel. It’s how most of Croatia felt before the rest of the world started flocking here.
Keep this rugged peninsula in mind if you’re looking for a day trip that’s less than an hour’s drive from buzzing Dubrovnik. Pelješac is still largely free of crowds. That means you’ll have the scenic roads that wind through wine country, the sunbaked beaches, picturesque villages and laid-back restaurants to yourself, at least for a little while longer!