As our friend’s car propelled us up the jagged slopes of Kozjak Mountain in Croatia’s Dalmatia region, we struggled to steady our cameras enough to document the increasingly-magnificent view. Simultaneously fearing for the health of my friend’s tires which risked being ruptured on the rocky dirt road, I marveled at the panorama along this stretch of Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. In the late-afternoon sunlight, the Adriatic Sea twinkled, and despite technically being wintertime, it called us to take a plunge. The limestone hills overlooking seaside Split and Kaštela wore a blend of foliage. Some trees sported withering, rust-colored leaves from the past season, and others prematurely exhibited pastel blooms and berries. As our Croatian friends had been telling us for weeks, the winter had been unusually warm, raising concern that the flora would be adversely impacted should another cold snap roll in. Given that so many locals dabble in the Mediterranean tradition of winemaking and olive oil production, this did not come as a surprise.
“From wine what sudden friendship springs!” – John Gay
We started the day in the seaside city of Trogir, Croatia on a quest to find Zinfandel’s ancestral home. By the day’s end, we’d not only savored many splendid glasses of wine, we’d also acquired a greater appreciation of Croatian culture while broadening our circle of international friends. Our wine tasting tour in Split and Kaštela was crafted by Alan Mandic at Secret Dalmatia, whose personal network of friends passionate about Croatia made it all possible.
We instantly clicked with our guide, Srdjan, who picked us up in his white Lada 4×4, that he’d playfully introduced as ‘the vineyard car.’ Events later in the day would vindicate the car’s namesake.