This Family Owned Vineyard in Croatia Produces Everything They Serve
“Oh, I love your guests, they love to drink wine!”
Her often and infectious laugh sounded out over the plain as we sat on the large wooden communal tables where our wine tasting would take place later. Ana sat petting their shaggy farm puppy with her usual twinkle in her eye and beaming smile as she tried to convince us not to film her speaking.
All around us sat empty tables that will be filled with guests later, laughing, chatting, sipping wine, and digging into giant cast iron pans filled with their homemade Croatian specialty. We were there early to get her and Hora Farm’s story, a story of one of my favourite places in the world.
“I’ll be so bad” she said with a laugh, though I knew she wouldn’t be. She’s most likely given their wine tasting presentation hundreds of times to our guests, and I’ve had the honour of sitting through it at least 40 times, and never has she dipped in enthusiasm when giving it. You can tell that Ana loves Hora Farm and the work that her, the other staff, and the family do there, and I love it just the same every time I go.
“Hora is quite special, located in the middle of the Stari Grad Plain and protected by Unesco. The family that owns it, like everything they grow, they grow totally organic. From the vegetables to homemade bread, everything made by themselves.”
After a sip (or two) of their walnut grappa for each of us to ease nerves, we walked behind Hora Farm’s main building to their gardens so she could tell us about the farm’s produce. Row after row of fresh vegetables; tomatoes, cucumber, kale, lettuce, courgettes stretched out in perfect lines through the dark red soil soaking up the high noon sun. She sat beneath the bright green vines cascading from the roof of the kitchen and looked out over the fields.
“Our policy is not to buy anything. Everything we put on the table is our product. Everything we grow, we grow totally organic. Even the cheeses, the salami, the bread (which is the best bread in the world) and the anchovies — everything we have made. You can’t control the quality if you don’t produce it.”
Behind us, the chef was placing the first of the cast-iron dishes into the brick ovens that were smoldering with flames. Dishes of potatoes and other vegetables would be combined with lamb and meats and left for hours to cook slowly inside the flaming brick ovens. This is Peka, means “Under the Bell” for the method it’s cooked, and is one of the most traditional Croatian cuisines.
“We stick to the traditional cuisine. When Peka is made at home, you make it on really special occasions with family because it takes a lot of time to prepare it. You put the vegetables, or the vegetables and meat together, and you cover it with an iron lid with hot coals on top. Cooked for two and a half hours and everything gets so tender you don’t need a knife.”
As we walked back around to the front, the vibrant grape vines danced in a bit of breeze flashing green and yellow in the sunlight, and the massive purple lavender bushes swayed from them. Everywhere you look there is something growing, something indescribably beautiful, something special about this farm and the valley it’s wedged in.
Soon the lavender field and grape vines would be filled with MedSailors guests wandering through with their wine glasses, taking in the farm’s surroundings with the backdrop of high mountains in the distance between tastings and presentations. The sun would be just
beginning to dip down directly over Stari Grad in between both sides of the valley, igniting Stari Grad Plain and the farm with a fiery sunset.
“The family here, they make wines that are only authentic to this region. You can try varieties authentic only to the island Hvar. Bogdanusa is really special, it grows only on Hvar, nowhere else in the world. The name means ‘Gift from God.’”
Through the cobbled pathway which splits through the lavender and grapes and runs past the ancient stone walls surrounding the farm sat Start Grad in the distance, literally meaning ‘Old Town”, hazy now in the summer heat against a backdrop of the glistening sea. The valley as a whole feels ancient, with stories spanning centuries and more stories to be made tonight when our guests arrive.
“It’s protected because the ancient Greeks arrived on this island four centuries before Christ. The whole plain is protected because they made a division of the whole plain. 73 totally equal plots to give the 73 families they arrived with equal land to farm. They made the division with these stone walls. These same stone walls are still intact, in the same condition. 2,400 years this plain has been cultivated.”
It was time to leave Ana and the Farm again, though I’d be returning in a few hours for potentially my 41st time. And though I’ve been to Hora Farm and the same wine tasting more times than I can remember, it’s a place I cannot wait to return to every week and every season.
Hora farm is a place that sticks with you, a truly unforgettable place with the loveliest people waiting to show you their culture and passion.
Are you ready to experience Hora Farm and get to know the story for yourself (and taste loads of amazing wine)? Book your MedSailors Croatia sailing holiday today!