Friday, December 31, 2010

Grgich Hills Estate Winery

We recently had the pleasure of visiting the Grgich Hills Estate winery in Napa Valley, California. Having already visited the small and understated Grgich winery on the Peljesac Peninsula in Croatia, our expectations were tempered. However, upon arriving at the family winery just off of St. Helena Highway in Rutherford we immediately realized we were in for a pleasant surprise. The winery and tasting room is housed in a large, rustic building with beautiful surroundings. The winery’s Croatian history is clear to anyone familiar with the Croatian flag; the highly recognizable red & white check motif is used in abundance throughout the estate.

The Grgich Hills tasting room is one of the most popular in Napa, owing to its famous owner’s international recognition at the celebrated Paris tasting of 1976. Then, in a blind tasting, a panel of distinguished French judges chose Mike Grgich’s 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay as the finest white wine in the world. This stunning achievement helped to legitimize California’s bourgeoning wine industry and to launch the Grgich Hills Winery. Grgich Hills Winery became Grgich Hills Estate Winery in 2003 when it began producing wine only from its own vineyards, which are all certified organic and biodynamic. Unlike many of its neighbors, Grgich has resisted the temptation to grow large, but instead concentrates on achieving a consistently superior level of quality. Having tasted several wines on my visit to the winery, I can attest to Grgich’s success in this regard.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Drinking Water in Croatia

One question we often get from visitors to Croatia is “Is the tap water safe to drink?”. The answer is mostly yes. It is certainly safe in Southern Dalmatia and especially in Dubrovnik, which has a great natural water source nearby. Water is generally safe to drink throughout Croatia, but it is always best to check with the locals in case it is temporarily considered undrinkable. For instance, during or after a heavy rain in Dubrovnik the water often becomes murky, and locals recommend drinking bottled water until it clears up.

At most restaurants diners will be offered still or sparkling water. These are bottled waters, and diners will be charged for each bottle they drink. The most popular Croatian bottled water is Jana, which has become a fashionable water to drink in and outside of the country, with even some New York City shops carrying it. It is advisable to check the price of bottled water before ordering at restaurants, as it can sometimes be 30 to 40 Kuna (4 to 5 Euros) per bottle. If you prefer to drink tap water (which is free of charge), you can usually order it by the glass or pitcher. The waiter may bring you a bottle of water anyway, but be persistent, and send it back if necessary or you will be charged.