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Vrhovac - Excellent Wines and Homesteads

Updated: Jan 14

The southern side of the Žumberak hills along the Kupa river valley is home to the 30 km long Ozalj-Vivodina wine road. The sun-bathed slopes of Vivodina, Lović and Vrhovac hills are ideal for vine growing, which is why today 80 hectares of the land is covered in vineyards.

Video by: Visit Karlovac

The Vivodina region, hiding as many as 26 villages and settlements between deep dales, woods and wine-bearing hills, has long been known for vine growing. Of some 70 Vivodina certificates from the Middle Ages (from 1550 to 1776), 32 are purchase agreements through which local inhabitants sold or bestowed vineyards. Tradition has it that several manors were established in the area in the Middle Ages, the most powerful feudal lord being Vivoda, after whom the region was named. The very old village of Vivodina (first record dates back to the 14th century) is located on top of a hill offering a magnificent view.

The scenery is marked by the slim, tall belfry of Saint Lawrence county church. Its exterior, and especially the interior with valuable inventory, are a work of excellent architects who created a particular building scheme, making this church one of the most valuable baroque monuments of the Ozalj region. The beauty of the Ozalj-Vivodina region was best described in a book of Davorin Trstenjak, a historian, “Travelling memoir”, where he states: “Those who haven’t seen the Kupa Valley from Saint Cross church above Lović haven’t seen the beauty of Croatia!“. Indeed, the lookout on top of Lović will enchant any visitor.

Next to this wonderful natural environment, the wine-road offers rich gastronomy as well. Wine-road visitors can enjoy top-quality wines which made this region famous. At households along the wine-road, kind and hospitable hosts will offer you good wining and dining at reasonable prices. Here you can enjoy high-quality white wine sorts such as Riesling, Sauvignon, Rheinriesling, Chardonnay and Yellow Muscat, as well as red varieties such as Pinot noir, Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt and Portugiser noir.Do something for your body and soul and visit the Ozalj-Vivodina Wine Road.

Šoštar Wines

Vrhovac is definitely a wine-road stop you should not miss. It is interesting that almost any family in Vrhovac carries a last name after a trade they used do (Lončar or Potter, Kolar or Wheelwright, Bakarić or Cooper). A breathtaking countryside of mild hills, cultivated vineyards with little cottages (hisi) and small weekend-houses will warmly welcome not only fanciers of good quality wine, but also all nature lovers. The region is especially interesting for linguistis, as the people here talk ikavian dialect (ikavica) mixed with kajkavian words.

Among the wineries here, we visited Elvis Šoštar, tremendously hospitable and talented winemaker, whose family for decades produces wine. His wine cellar in Vrhovac is a place of many merry gatherings, but also a place of great wine knowledge. Šoštar is very proud of his wines, especially Blaufrankisch (frankovka), which became a signature wine of this cellar, beautifully rich in its ruby colour and fresh in taste. People in this region value his Riesling and chardonnay, and they are indeed good, but given the spectre of wines in Šuštar cellar, they might be slightly wrong.

Take his Traminer, for example. It might well be the best white wine coming from the Šuštar winery, rich in specific bouquet and beautiful in taste. Recent achievement is rose, made from Blaufrankisch grapes, fresh and mild, just as it should be. Absolute top, and sadly in very small quantities, is Muscat ice wine harvest.

Šuštar’s love for winemaking is only matched with his love for horses. Horse breeding is passed from generation to generation in Šoštar family, and everyone in the family likes horseback riding in Vrhovac and Ozalj, along the Kupa river.

Elvis Šoštar Vrhovac 63, Ozalj +385 91 5069 632

Homestead Čulig

On top of a vineyard hill in midst of Vrhovac stands old homestead of family Čulig. This part is called Boljevidovac and there is no better name – in Croatian it means „a place with a good view“. In last few years Ankica and Stjepan Čulig run this place as a peasant homestead. They offer unique experience of rural holiday in vineyard region of Vrhovac.

A grand hall with a century old fireplace and village memorabilia is place where every food enthusiast can indulge in homemade cuisine. The family itself makes češnjovke sausages, homemade bacon, ham, and cracklings. Češnjovka is garlic sausage, fresh or just a bit smoked sausage made of pork and herbs, with garlic being the most important one. Usually, češnjovka is popular sausage, eaten with simmered cabbage.

In the village itself there are numerous small producers of fresh milk, cow cheese and sour cream, dried cow and goat cheese, ducks, turkeys, chickens, lamb, suckling pig, eggs, and various vegetables. All their products are easily brought to the Čulig table and offered to the guests. We too enjoyed excellent food while staying at Čulig place.

Mrs Ankica made us Vineyard Pie, a traditional dish of the Ozalj region. The pie always contains only the fresh ingredients of the season, and is full of flavour. But the real beginning of a day is the peasant breakfast. Next to fresh milk and eggs, we were nothing less than astonished by the texture of dandelion jam, which Mrs Ankica makes herself. And while we ate, we looked at pictures of gone by age and icons of vineyard saints – St. Vincent and St. Martin.

The grand dining hall has capacity for up to 60 guests, and it is often used for celebrations and merry gatherings. Additionally, guests can sleep in more than cosy double bedrooms, equipped with TV and wireless Internet. Peace and quiet of rural stay here is only seldom broken by soft bleat of sheep or sudden bark of dogs.

Enjoyment continues in the Čulig wine cellar. Under the refurbished old vaults stand the pride of vineyard region. Čuligs make Graševina, Riesling, Sauvignon, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Yellow Muscat. We have tried Cabernet Sauvignon which is great choice for sausages and dried meat on the table. It is a pure enjoyment to be in Čulig cellar and sip a glass of Muscat, whose scent and aroma are pure and fruity.

The family offers homemade plumb, pear, and herb brandy (rakija), and makes their own strawberry, cherry, wild cherry, walnut, and blackberry liquor.

Although it does not make a substantial difference in excellence of flavour, the brand combining Vrhovac church and rolling hills, with blue and yellow colour, for sure visually stands out.

Seljačko domaćinstvo Stjepan Čulig Vrhovac 68 L, 47280 Ozalj, Hrvatska 00 385 99 2731134, 00 385 98 364392

Photos: Taste of Adriatic and Domaćinstvo Čulig

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