Monday, August 30, 2021

Destination Terra Madre - a Komarna and Dalmatian Winery

One of the most eventful excursions during our three-week European vacation was a tour of Terra Madre Winery led by oenologist Marko Šuman and Executive Director Davor Martinović. The winery is located in Komarna, just north of the border with Herzegovina and adjacent to the middle of the Peljesac Peninsula. Terra Madre is also a founding member of the Komarna AVA which consists of seven members -- all certified by the EU for organic wine production. 

Organic certification among the members was accelerated because the wineries started near the same time in the early to mid-2010s. They were able to leverage the same resources when surveying plots, planting the vineyards, and building out production and tasting room facilities. Economies of scale in action. Their youthfulness also allowed them to adopt the latest in technological advances pertaining to vineyard management and winemaking chemistry where even some laboratories are utilized by Croatian state wine officials. Such is the case with Terra Madre, where the appellation-wide K7 Plavac Mali was vinified by Šuman at their state-of-the-art facility from fruit contributed by each Komarna winery.

Our visit to Terra Madre was facilitated by Croatian Premium Wine Imports, the importer of Komarna wines into the United States.  It occurred during the return ride from a pilgrimage to Medjugorje and when we arrived Mr. Martinović informed us of the cross in the vineyard which was a replica of one from the holy site and that the apparitions were an inspiration for naming the winery "Mother Earth".  

This cross sits near the base of a 45-degree limestone slope that is populated with vines from the 200-600 foot summits to the Adriatic. The grapevines are predominately two indigenous Dalmatian varieties, Plavac Mali and Pošip, with smaller plantings of Chardonnay, Syrah, and Cabernet.  They are planted facing south-southwest in order to receive the longest sun exposure from the star itself and from reflection from the sea. In total, the estate covers 16.55 hectares with 125,000 vines planted. 

The Terra Madre winery itself is a structure occupying 2600 square feet on top of the largest hill. The first floor is intended for wine tasting and is dominated by a terrace with its amazing views of the Neretva Bay, Pelješac Peninsula, and apparently on especially clear days, the outline of the islands of Brac and Hvar. 

After Mr. Šuman and Mr. Martinović greeted us we proceeded with a tour of their facility with Šuman describing both the equipment and his winemaking goals for the region. This equipment included a large press, gravity-flow fermenting stainless steel tanks, stainless steel tanks for aging, large barrique casks, a separate barrel room, a large chemistry lab, and a modern bottling line.  They have complete control of the vinification process. 

Šuman also discussed his ideas for the winery and the region. They will continue to focus on Plavac Mali and Pošip while developing various new styles. One example is their new Pošip aged on lees which is a clear distinction from their flagship stainless steel Pošip. Whereas Šuman believes the standard Pošip will still dominate sales, the lees Pošip will entice those who desire a white wine with a larger mouthfeel or have more funk in their palate. Šuman also related how they have experimental plantings of autochthonous grapes that are more prevalent in other Dalmatia regions. One of these is Grk from the island of Korčula and while Šuman wants to stay connected to the camaraderie of the Komarna appellation, he also wants to start promoting the Dalmatia region. He believes a focus on Dalmatia wines will elevate the region on the world market. 

Returning to the tasting room and over a plate of prosciutto and cheese we sampled the two versions of Pošip mentioned above, the 2019 Plavac Mali Rosé, the 2015 Barrique Plavac Mali, the eye-opening 2016 Premium Plavac Mali, and a cellar bottle of the 2017 Premium Plavac Mali. From previous samples and subsequent purchases from Croatian Premium Wine Imports, we were already well-versed with the 2018 PošipRosé, and the Premium Plavac Mali and the tasting just reinforced our fondness for these wines. Interestingly Šuman plans to lighten the rosé in order to make it more appealing for the summer heat and visitor's palates but we definitely prefer this more textured version.

The 2018 Pošip Sur Lie provided a delicious alternative with its creamy mouthfeel and funky finish.  A gifted bottle did not last long when we returned to Dubrovnik. And I wish we could pair with Mali Ston Bay oysters -- considered the best from all of Europe. We also were gifted the next iteration of the Premium Plavac Mali which will allow more time aging in the bottle for the tannins to become a little tamer.

During our visit, a large group arrived for a similar tasting as ours with wine, cheese, and prosciutto. Komarna is a short trip from both Split and Dubrovnik so check out excursions when visiting each destination. Two weeks home and I'm already itching to return to Croatia to revisit Terra Madre but also the other K7 area wineries such as Rizman and Deak Family Farm or onto the Pelješac Peninsula to Grgić or Saints Hills. In the meantime, I will have to settle for the large selections of wines available from Croatian Premium Wine Imports.  Živjeli.

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