Archive - June 2015

Our Favorite Istrian Wineries

Istria’s burgeoning wine business is something that locals will tell you is a tradition dating back millenniums. The region supplied Roman emperors, popes, Austro-Hungarian diplomats, and wine consumers throughout the wider Mediterranean. Today, this Istrian export is traded globally, and many of the region’s wineries have established tasting rooms, some in 19th century farm houses, others in modern, design driven spaces. Epitourean has strong relationships with many of the regions best wineries where we bring our clients on group or solo excursions. Here are a few of our favorites:

1. Kozlovic Wine Estate is a family run business that has been making award winning red, white and dessert wines since 1904. These forth generation wine makers focus on producing native Istrian varietals on their 62 acres of vineyards. Their wines are delicious and seem to taste better when tried on site in their new modern tasting room. Don’t leave without sampling their white Valle wine, a crystal clear and fruity wine and one of Kozlovic’s classics.

2. Kabola Wine Estate produces one of the most unique wines in Istria, if not the world. They are of the few wine producers globally to make a wine fermented in large clay amphoras that they keep buried in the ground and allow fermentation to occur from the circulating natural yeasts in their environment. The result is a pleasantly unusual wine, best for drinking after dinner or by itself, and persimmon in color. Kabola is situated in a gorgeous valley that seems like a Tuscan landscape, and hosts daily wine tastings.

3. Bale San Tommaso Wine Estate sits on a 150-year old estate in Istria’s quiet village, Golas. Wine tastings happen in the winery’s recently renovated 19th century farm house. It’s a cozy wood clad room with tables and benches, and an upstairs loft that doubles as a sort of museum with an assemblage of antique farming and wine making equipment. Istrian delicacies and nibbles are offered to pair with the estate’s tipples, and the staff is incredibly warm and welcoming, not to mention wonderfully knowledgable of the Istria’s pantheon of wines.

4. Matosevic Wine Estate seems to always be bustling with eager oenophiles passing through to try the house’s latest vintage. The estate where the wine tastings happen is small, but charming, and has a large back yard planted with fruit trees and furnished with tables and chairs where tastings happen during the warmer months. These first generation wine producers are best known as the founders of Vin Istria, one of the region’s most important annual wine fairs.

5. Degrassi Wine Estate is probably Istria’s most prodigious wine making family, producing a whopping list of 30 different wines. Hidden off a busy road in northern Istria, this family run winery is blessed with a lively and animated sommelier who explains with clarity and detail the company’s wine making philosophy and the tasting notes of each Degrassi vintage. The tasting room is charming and rustic, and flanked on either side by a large fireplace and family-style table where the tastings are presented.

 

 

24 Hours in Pula

Walking through the historic center of Istria’s capital, Pula, is like leafing through a  ledger of the region’s layered and complicated history. This beautiful Adriatic city on the southern most tip of Istria is well know for its large port, its mild climate and its long standing traditions of fishing, shipbuilding, and winemaking, just to name a few. But perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Pula is that, over the centuries, this bustling port city has been coveted my one tribe or another, and mostly empires of extreme power and might. And nowhere is this more evident than in the architectural footprints that each civilization left on their way out.

Even though Pula’s history dates back over 3000 years, the Romans left an indelible mark on the city. Their domination of Pula changed the city forever; its urban planning, from roads to sanitary and public services, were left vastly improved. And though the Roman empire eventually fell, you can still see what it left behind:  ancient forums, Roman columns, a temple to the Emperor Augusts, and a breathtaking colosseum near the edge of the city’s port. These are just a few of the colossal architectonic reminders that great powers have passed through here. Later empires left equally amazing urban relics.

Anyone travelling by foot through Pula’s center will immediately notice that the Venetians, the Austro-Hungarians; and fascist and communist regimes were also here. Instances of these are found in brick and stone throughout Pula’s main square, Piazza Foro. Here you find examples of ancient Roman temples and stonework; heavy Austro- Hungarian buildings; rationalist architecture, and blocky Venetian brick work buildings. These are all clumped together in a pastiche of public building that tells the story of how Pula was and continues to be amazingly cosmopolitan. Literary luminaries like Dante Alighieri and James Joyce passed time in Pula, and during a casual stroll though town you will see placards and statues that mark where they and other artists once lived.

Beyond architectural wonders and a fascinating history, Pula has a trove of rollicking bars and innovative chefs. Their menus are inspired by their back yard larder: fresh fish and shellfish, Istrian wines, truffles and local cheeses and herbal breads. Epitourean has spent years exploring Istria, and more closely Pula, to create historical, adventure and gastronomic tours and unforgettable experiences for their clients.

Oil Tasting in Istria

Moveable Feast: Istria’s Overlooked Olive Oil Artisans Part I

Some of the Europe’s best olive oil producers work along meridians with extremely favourable conditions. These typically include blistering heat and proximity to the sea. But even so, not all countries create the same olive. The richness of farmland differs from country to country, as do the intensity and dedication to fruitful farming practices. But in Istria, one of Croatia’s most beloved Adriatic destinations for food and travel, this part of the world is blessed with some of the best terrain for creating olive oils that are more akin to delicate wines. Istrian oils in particular have spicy or grassy notes, they are meant to savour, and they are typically produced in small batches. Small batch production, a hallmark of Istrian olive oil farmers, allows them to capture intense and completely unique flavours that shine bright in their olive oils.

One of those producers is Babić, a long standing producer of extra virgin olive oils in north-western Istria. Many farmers here still use old stone mill methods for extracting oils from their harvest. While this traditional way of processing is beautiful to witness, it tends to diminish the oils intense flavours as this antiquated extraction method takes longer, and some of the refined tasting characteristics in the oils are lost to oxidation. The Babić family uses state-of-the art facilities, cold press techniques and centrifuge processing to extract the highest quality oils on the market today. Excursions to Babić’s family production happen year round, and in addition to fascinating tutorials on olive oil tasting, the family accompanies these excursions with tastings of homemade cheeses, herb infused breads and local wines. Epitourean is proud to work with family run olive oil producers, and to offer our clients a range of these experiences in the culinary excursions that we operate throughout Istria. Visit our website for a more in depth view of the many artisans we share with our clients.  www.epitourean.com

 

 

 

Discovering Italy’s Ancient Fishing Village Termoli

Italy’s Adriatic Coast is flecked with stunning seaside villages like historic Termoli in the unspoilt Molise region. Thankfully many of the coastal towns here are overlooked for more popular destinations like the Amalfi Coast. But places like Termoli are unique; beautiful as they are, they are still not over run with tourists, cruise liners and the general comings and goings of tourists marching across Italy year round. Once a sleepy fishing village, Termoli has over the years become a finely kept secret by Italians, who come here for the area’s clean beaches and to explore the old town’s fortifications. The old town of Termoli is especially fascinating; in recent years many of the cathedrals and 12th and 13th century stone buildings have been restored. It’s Romanesque architecture is simply incredible; like its gorgeous Termoli Cathedral the town’s imposing and tiered castle.

But architecture isn’t Termoli’s sole strength. The town has a rollicking port life where fishing and food are at the core of local living. One of the area’s most distinguishing features are its trabucchi, which are elaborate wooden fishing structures that jut out into the sea and lend this coastal Italian region its further magical and dreamy characteristics. Culinary traditions are seafood based, and the local restaurants and cooking schools are blessed with a daily glut of fresh clams and shrimp, and other bounties from the Adriatic. Epitourean is privileged to have forged excellent relationships with the town’s fishmongers, hoteliers and generally speaking, many locals, that have opened doors for our clients to experience this endlessly surprising culture from its culinary riches to its ancient monuments. We take clients to the local fish market and to a local trabucco where they see and participate first hand in the day to day activities of this astounding region of Italy.

Epitourean’s Edible Destinations

Welcome to Epitourean’s new blog! As we grow and have more exciting offerings for our travellers, we wanted to create a space where we can share news about some of our latest culinary destinations. We also want our friends and clients to hear about updates on where we travel and whats in store. Epitourean receives such positive feedback from people we have sent to places like the Almalfi Coast or to the south of France, and we want to share the stories of their memorable experiences, as well as relate travel and food news that we are following.  In the simplest terms, we are creating a useful public platform that celebrates the art of food and travel.

Those who are new to Epitourean’s Edible Destinations; we are a niche travel company offering lovers of food and travel with outstanding cooking vacations, gourmet tours and culinary getaways. A lot of our return clients like the fact that we have flexible packages, such as mini 2-4 days getaways, longer excursions up to 10 days, and even tours that we tailor for solo travellers to amazing gastronomically rich sites all over the world. Thanks for tuning in and please follow us on twitter @Epitourean and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EdibleDestinations for our latest news and travel deals.  -www.epitourean.com