A New Business Expanding the Presence of Croatian Wine in the U.S.

A Delicious Pairing

When you think about where wine comes from, what countries do you think of?

I think about France, Argentina, Spain, Italy, and the state of California here in the United States.

I never thought of Croatia as a wine-growing region until I visited the country for myself in 2019.

Yet, it should come as no surprise that parts of Croatia are ideal for grape growing, considering it is located just across the Adriatic Sea from Italy.

Croatians have literally been making wine for thousands of years. And good ones at that. With the increase in tourists visiting the country in recent years (nearly 21 million tourists visited Croatia in 2019), it should come as no surprise that more and more people are tasting and liking Croatian wines.

And that’s why Win Burke and Mirena Bagur, Boston residents, decided that it was the right time to start introducing Croatian wines to the United States.

Mirena Bargur and Win Burke at a vineyard in Croatia.

Croatian Born

Mirena Bagur grew up in the small town of Metkovic in the Dubrovnik-Neretva region of the Dalmatian coast. For Mirena’s family, traditions were important. Her grandfather had a Plavac Mali (a type of Croatian red wine) vineyard.

Mirena is the VP of Brand Management of Croatian Premium Wines. She moved to the U.S. after college and started a career in global communications. She later became involved in high tech, which is where she met Win Burke some thirty years ago.

Win is what you would call a serial high tech entrepreneur. He is highly experienced in the early stages of startups and is the President and CEO of Croatian Premium Wines.

Win and Mirena became a couple ten years ago, and when Win traveled with Mirena to Croatia for the first time, he realized that the U.S. was missing out on some seriously good wines.

“I didn’t know there were Croatian wines prior,” Win said. “I was really impressed,” he said, after trying several types of wines while he was there.

With the increasing popularity of Croatia, and with the Boston-based couple having more time on their hands, it created a “perfect storm” to start a Croatian wine importation business.

Croatian Premium Wine offers reds, whites, and rosés sourced from the Komarna wine growing area of South Dalmatia. The soil is sparse here, mixed with limestone and faces south and southwest.

“We have lately been importing wines from Dalmatia because ultimately, that is where I am from,” said Mirena.

Picking grapes in a vineyard.

Pošip or Plavac Mali?

Pošip and Plavac Mali are the primary varietals of wine from this region. Pošip is a type of white wine that is crisp with flavors of apple and citrus.

Plavac Mali is the main red wine in Croatia. It is rich and has flavors of dark cherry and pepper.

Mirena likes to pair Pošip with seafood dishes, which is easy enough to do here in New England. “I am your classic Dalmatian cook,” she said. “I do a lot of veggies with grilled seafood,” she continued.  Personally, Mirena prefers Plavac Mali as her go-to, which she likes to pair with swiss chard, olive oil, potatoes, and red meat.

A New Wine: K7

Croatian Premium Wines, in collaboration with the Komarna Seven Association (K7), just created a wine specific to the American market called K7. Komarna Seven is a winery association of the seven wineries in the Komarna Appelation in Dalmatia, Croatia.

“To me, that is a true expression of Dalmatia,” said Mirena. It’s very aromatic; it’s got all the tannins that you want. “It’s dry,” she continued.

And it’s moderately priced! “I think it’s worth more,” said Mirena.

Meals Inspired By Croatian Wines

Recently, the couple has hosted three dinners in Boston that were inspired by Croatian wines.

“All three were sold out,” said Mirena.

Mirena and Win are continuing to work on expanding the presence of Croatian wines in the U.S. market and the growth in awareness of Croatia as a holiday destination and the moderate prices for this wide variety of wines from the Dalmatian region.

For information on Croatian wine, go to www.croatianpremiumwine.com

Explore Croatia and its wine while on your Croatia Yacht Charter.

Christopher Patrick’s Trip to the Galapagos Islands

Christopher Patrick enjoying some quality time with a local resident.

Christopher Patrick, the CEO and owner of CKIM Group, was open minded about his upcoming trip to the Galapagos islands. He knew that the cold Humbolt Current coming up from Antarctica created a unique ecosystem around these islands. That ecosystem included giant tortoises hundreds of years old, seals and marine iguanas. 

The view from Christopher’s hotel room.

He also looked forward to learning more about the people that lived there and their culture.  

Upon arrival in Guayaquil, a port city in Ecuador, Chris was impressed with how modern of an airport it was. There was a little bit of congestion going through customs and immigration, but altogether, it was not a bad experience. 

A blue-footed booby.

Chris stayed at the local Courtyard by Marriott. The shuttle driver was waiting for him at the airport. While the driver was waiting for another passenger, Chris took the opportunity to buy a SIM card for his phone for $15. This would allow him to make calls and send texts in the Galapagos as well since the islands are part of Ecuador.  

Giant tortoises relaxing.

Chris received a warm welcome at the hotel and the woman working the front desk recommended that he take the 8am airport shuttle for his flight to San Cristobal.  

When Chris got to the airport, his flight was cancelled due to the protests occurring throughout the country against austerity measures put in place by President Lenín Moreno. 

A delicious lobster meal onboard.

Chris managed to rebook his flights. He flew with Avianca, a Colombian airline. The crew were pleasant and from Ecuador.  

Passing through San Cristobal Airport was simple and easy. All visitors are levied with the Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee ($100 USD) when entering the country.  

Upon arriving at the villa, Chris was stunned by the surrounding beauty The beach was filled with sea lions. The sound of the ocean, cool breeze and welcoming staff made the place very inviting 

Delicous Ecuadorian ice cream.

Lunch was huge. Chris follows a vegan /plant-based diet, and there were more than enough food options for him, including Andean Bean Ceviche (it was delightful), vegetarian sushi rolls, an incredible salad, fruits and more. And lots of plantain! A staple in the Galapagos diet.  

Soursop, a fruit native to the Americas and the Caribbean, was widely used as a fruit drink.  

The water is beautifully clear in the Galapagos, but quite cold!

After lunch, Chris and his fellow colleagues hiked for 35 minutes to Cerro Tijeretas Cove for snorkeling. The water was super cold!  Chris forgot his swim cap, which would have been ideal for the cooler waters. The group stopped at two beaches on the way back and got to see a bunch of sea lions 

Dinner at the villa that night was huge and filling. For Chris, there were incredible salads, vegetables, and more.  

After dinner, Chris retired to his Master Villa, leaving the sliding door open and the shutters down. Chris thought Karin, his wife, would have loved it there. He felt that he could easily have stayed for a few more days there.  

The next day, Chris enjoyed a huge breakfast and the group departed at 10:30 AM for an excursion to El Junco Lagoon, a lake in the highlands of San Cristóbal. The group was lucky. They had clear skies, cool temperatures and there weren’t that many people there.   

After taking in the lagoon, the group went to the giant tortoise sanctuary. It was 15 minutes from El Junco. The group spent an hour exploring the sanctuary.  

After leaving the sanctuary, the group drove to the port where they met the crew of Grand Majestic, a 127-foot motor yacht. Two tenders took the group to the yacht which was anchored in the bay.  

Chris was pleasantly surprised at the Grand Majestic. It offered 8 staterooms including a master on the main deck, four double bedrooms below with each converting to twins. All rooms were en-suite. The yacht had a crew of 10 including the captain and a chef in the galley.  

The main deck had outdoor dining on the aft and a large saloon with a dining area. Large windows allowed natural light to enter the saloon and dining area. The master suite also had large windows.  

The group enjoyed a delightfully large dinner complimented with strawberry Paila ice cream for dessert. Paila ice cream is a traditional, Ecuadorian-style sorbet made in a bronze bowl.  

Another healthy meal onboard Grand Majestic.

While the guests slept, the yacht sailed for Post Office Bay, on the island of Floreana, arriving in the early morning.  

Chris woke at 5:45 AM to a beautiful morning with the moon still high in the sky and the sun starting to rise. What paradise! 

They enjoyed breakfast on the aft deck then set out at 8:00AM to explore the lava cave and to snorkel in Post Office Bay.  

The Lava Cave was amazing. The group descended into the cave via stairs.

After the cave they went to the mailbox barrel on the island to search for postcards that they could deliver close to where we live. The barrel was originally used by homesick sailors to drop off letters for their loved ones in the hopes that sailors returning home would deliver them, or at least mail them once they arrived home.  

The tradition has continued and Chris dropped off his post cards as well as looked to see if there were any cards that he or someone else from the group could deliver.  

After, the group went snorkeling in the bay. They were blown away by the sea lions that played with them as well as the large turtles and loads of fish and coral. 

The group returned to the yacht to recover, had lunch, rest and get ready for the next excursion: Devil’s Crown.  

There, the current was strong, said Chris.  There were lots of fish, a few turtles, and one of the other members of the group saw two white tip sharks. According to Chris, it was “not as beautiful as Post Office Bay.” 

Our next excursion was Cormorant Point at 4:00 PM to see the Flamingoes, then hike over to Green Beach and Four Sand Beach,” said Chris.  

Edison, the group’s guide, offered an educational talk at each location. I know more now about the Galapagos, turtles, flamingos and bluefooted boobies. Our guides were amazing,” said Chris.  

Chris said he ate more than he normally does since the food was so good, but also because of the snorkeling in cold water, hiking and cooler temperatures, it was needed to keep him energized!

The Grand Majestic sailed overnight to Española. The group went ashore at 6am in order to be the first group ashore to do a two-hour hike around the island. Española is uninhabited (by humans) and is home to many Albatrosses, Blue-footed Boobies, and many other bird species.  

Sea Lions and loads of marine iguanas lined the beach near the jetty where we landed,” said Chris.  

We had to be careful since the path was very rocky. It was incredible viewing the blowholes, Albatrosses, boobies and other species so close,” he went on to say. These animals were not afraid of humans. 

Chris said that particular excursion was one of the top three experiences of the whole trip.  

“There is nothing like an early more hike with the sun rising, a cool breeze, majestic scenery and a good group of people,” he said. “I loved it,” he continued.  

They returned to the yacht after to enjoy a well-earned breakfast and then went for another snorkeling excursion.  

After lunch, the group explored a nearby beach, followed by a memorable last supper onboard Grand Majestic. 

After an early breakfast, the group disembarked by tender on the island of Santa Cruz. They boarded a bus and went to the giant tortoise sanctuary for one last experience with these ancient giants.  

They then boarded the ferry for the island of Baltra, where they would depart these majestic islands and continue the tradition of delivering postcards throughout the world.

 

Enjoy Luxury Living on New Horizons Fleet in Greece

Who wouldn’t want to enjoy the azure water of Greece?

If you want to plan a charter to Greece, than chartering one of the New Horizons catamarans offered by Big Blue Yachting is the way to go. With ample space both above and below deck, gourmet food and water toys aplenty, there are plenty of reasons to charter in Greece.

Big Blue Yachting currently has three catamarans in its New Horizons fleet. They are all owned by the same owner. They have a year round crew onboard and every winter, they are meticulously maintained in order to ensure that they are ready for the busy summer season. They already have confirmed charters for the 2020 season.

The spacious foredeck onboard New Horizons.
New Horizons

New Horizons is the smallest of the fleet (46 feet) and built in 2014, refitted in 2017. She is a Lagoon 450.

Dia Pappas is the operations manager for Big Blue Yachting, and she assured us that the catamaran is in impeccable condition and a perfect vessel for a more intimate charter setting (she has four cabins).

Enjoy gourmet cuisine onboard New Horizons.

All three boats are based in Athens and can do itineraries in the Cyclades, Ionian and Saronic islands.

One of the double cabins onboard New Horizons.
The New Horizons II also has plenty of deck area, both shaded and in direct sunlight.

Although there are some suggestedroutes for the boats, “we’re flexible on moving the boats around,” said Pappas.

There is an ideal deck for sunbathing on Horizons II.
New Horizons 2

New Horizons 2 is a Saba 50 and was built in 2016. She has ample space both above and below deck. She has five cabins: one master, three doubles and one triple and can accommodate up to 11 passengers.

Her aft seating area is covered so that you can lounge and dine in the shade. The foredeck is an ideal lounging spot for anyone wanting to enjoy some sun and take in the sights.

There is an upper deck  as well. She is staffed by a full-time crew of three.

Horizons II interior space is also ample.
Horizons II at sail.
New Horizons 3

The New Horizons 3 is the newest of the fleet (built in 2019) and has a total of five cabins. She is a Bali 5.4. and is also staffed by three crew members.

The New Horizons 3 is spacious and offers the best indoor/outdoor living.

New Horizons 2 and 3 can carry up to 11 people, and the New Horizons 3 can carry up to 10 people.  “All boats have been customized for a luxury holiday experience,” said Pappas.

Each boat has its own gourmet chef. “They are certified chefs,” added Pappas, and are perfectly capable of taking on even the most difficult of dietary preferences. She said that they recently had a charter on one the catamarans that had to be an all Kosher charter, and it it went smoothly.

“Preference sheets are sent to the crew at least a week before the charter” added Pappas, to ensure that all guests are happy with what they are served.

Each catamaran is equipped with a water maker so you don’t have to worry about running out of water.  “Everything onboard is very unique,” said Pappas.

Other perks onboard these boats making them the “Tiffany’s of Catamarans” according to Big Blue Yachting, is that each boat has teak decks throughout, air conditioning, hydraulic gangways and they even offer robes and slippers to each guest.

Horizons 3 spacious interior.

Charters can be personalized, weather permitting and can range from one to three weeks.

Some of the places that you can visit include the Cyclades island group, which offers sandy beaches, instagram-worthy blue and white architecture, and Greek traditions and history.

The foredeck of Horizons 3 at sunset, which also offers a perfect setting for dining.

Mykonos is part of the Cyclades and is one of the most well known Greek islands. Here, you will find those idyllic sandy beaches.

Nearby, is the island of Delos. Considered one of the most important archeological sites in Greece. The island can be reached by ferry from Mykonos, Paros or Naxos. If the weather permits, you charter boat captain can take you to island and arrange for a tour guide. Or, if you hop on the ferry, there are guides offering their services as you land.

The island is an important archeological and historical site. Evidence shows that Delos has been inhabited since the third millennium BC. There is a museum to visit here, as well as the different archeological sites.

And when being awed by the richness of Greek history gets too much, there are always watersports. Each boat has SUPs (stand up paddleboards) and sea scooters. They are equipped for water skiing, tubing and snorkeling.

“The diving is also very nice,” said Pappas. There are sunken ships, planes and even archeological sites to dive on.

For more information on the New Horizons catamarans, reach out to Christopher Patrick at chrispatrick@ckimgroup.com.

New Horizons is €8,800- €14,500 /week

New Horizons 2 is €14,000 – €18,000 /week

New Horizons 3 is  €17,500 – €26,000/week

Rates do not include VAT and expenses.

What could be better than fresh lobster?

Nevis: What’s New and What Has Stayed Exactly the Same

Hamilton Estate is an old plantation in Nevis located right above Charlestown, the capital of Nevis.

Nevis isn’t known for being particularly fast paced, which most visitors quite enjoy. However, from time to time, new things happen. So here is a mix of some of the new things happening on the island, as well as a few goldie oldies that are worth the experience.

New: A Pier Designated For St. Kitts – Nevis Water Taxis

Due to the infrequency of flights into Nevis, residents and tourists alike usually arrive via the Robert L. Bradshaw International airport in St. Kitts. There is a fairly well-oiled machine in place that runs passengers to Reggae Beach where several water taxi companies ferry passengers and their luggage to Nevis. Many of the taxi drivers are in business with the captains and owners of the water taxis, so they are able to keep each other perfectly informed as to when clients are arriving, which significantly reduces wait times.

The drive across the peninsula has incredible views of both islands, the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. At night time taxi drivers will wait with you until the boats have pulled along side the pier on the St. Kitts side, which is great since it can be pretty desolate on that side of the island at night.

Paradise Beach overlooks the St. Kitts peninsula and is a beautiful stop for a dip.

For awhile, on the Nevis side these water taxis docked at a couple of different piers along the coast, which would sometimes cause some discontent for other boats and/or hotels sharing those docks. This, in part, led to the construction of a cement taxi pier located just to the right of Oualie Beach Resort and the Nevis Yacht Club. The pier is gated and well lit at night.

Villas on Paradise Beach.

Relatively New: Great Self-Contained Villas on the Beach

Paradise Beach Nevis constructed new villas right on the beach that offer an experience on the island unlike any other. There are five, two-bedroom beach houses that offer private plunge pools, a fully-equipped gourmet kitchen and drawbridge stairs for complete privacy. Guest has access to concierge services including a private chef.

These villas certainly seem like a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but they might be short lived. Rumor has it that they were built outside of property lines and might have to be moved. I am not privy to the ins and outs of the legal proceedings with this, so who knows what the outcome will be, and/or if anything will happen at all.

Four Seasons Resort Nevis is undergoing some renovations as well which includes a new infinity pool overlooking the Caribbean Sea, and a new beach restaurant concept offering farm-to-table menus. The resort is scheduled to finish renovations by October 2019 (so long as there is no hurricane damage) which, knowing the Nevis and the Caribbean as whole, could be a bit of a stretch. However, no matter when the renovations are done, they are sure to impress.

What Hasn’t Changed:

The Hermitage still offers its West Indian pig roast every Wednesday night. For vegetarians, vegans or anyone who doesn’t like seeing a spit roasted pig, the experience might not be for you. Even so, there are plenty of other dishes to choose from including tania fritters, johnny cakes and plenty of veggie dishes.

The Hermitage is a hotel built around one of the oldest wooden houses in the Caribbean (built circa 1670) and has charming cottages scattered throughout the property. The Lupinacci family have owned and operated the hotel for decades. They are also some of the most hospitable people that you will ever meet.

The building that houses the Alexander Hamilton Museum is in fact where Alexander Hamilton was born. You would think that with the incredible rise of the popular Hamilton musical there would be more people visiting. Yet, it is just as sleepy as it used to be. The building was originally constructed around 1680 and was later destroyed in an earthquake in 1840. The building was restored in 1983. The museum also has general information on Nevis history and culture. It is not by any standards a state-of-the-art multimedia museum, but even just to stop by and admire the building and to take in the interconnects between Caribbean and U.S. history, makes it worth the visit.

There are a few new things going on, but Nevis remains a sleepy island. It is ideal for relaxing and getting one of the best night sleeps of your life. The Queen of the Caribees is most definitely worth a visit.

Gulet Libra and Captain Marko Offer a Unique Croatian Experience

Gulet Libra at anchor. Photo by Pearl Macek.

Everyone who meets Marko Mrcic falls in love with him, no matter who they are.

His smile is contagious and his enthusiasm for his boat, his work and his country is admirable. If all boat captains were like Marko, the charter industry would run smoothly at all times.

Marko has been the proud owner of Libra for six years, and was a skipper on catamarans and other boats ten year before that. Libra is a typical Turkish gulet that is a common sight along the Dalmatian coast.

Antonia, Marko and Antonijo on Libra. Photo by Pearl Macek

These boats are ideal for charters, as they are equal parts motor and sailboat and generally have tons of room both above and below deck. Libra is a more traditional gulet than those that were built in recent years, but it adds to her charm. She is 34 metres long (112′) and can sleep up to 12 guests in her six cabins.

Marko said that it was “love at first sight” when he set eyes upon Libra. “When I saw Libra and it’s beautiful lines, lots of space on deck and beautiful middle lounge area, at that moment I knew she was a perfect boat for charter,” said Marko.

Libra and other gulets at anchor. Photo by Pearl Macek.

Marko always has three additional crew onboard, including a chef.  The team he had when I was onboard offered impeccable service throughout the charter. Nikola, Marko’s brother, was first mate, and these two worked seamlessly together. In fact, Nikola and Marko are co-owners of Libra.

Antonia Buktenica is chief stew and has worked for Marko for several years. She always seemed to know what you wanted before you yourself even knew.

Antonijo Misicin, the chef, cooked up amazing dishes that incorporated the delicious Croatian olive oil with fresh ingredients and made me want to never leave. He cooked up everything from  beef bourgignon to fresh fish as well as preparing deliciously light salads of lentils and fresh yoghurt.

Libra and other gulets docked in Zaton, near Dubrovnik. Photo by Pearl Macek.
Choosing crewmembers

“For me it’s important you have ambition to learn from me and my way of work, and that you’re a really, really kind person,” Marko said. “Those two things are most important to me,” he continued.

All the crew worked seamlessly together and they really seemed to genuinely love and respect one another.

One big, happy family

“We really are like a big family. It’s the best part of our job,” said Marko.”We always help and support each other. Croatian maritime history is really long and on every island people, fisherman and sailors, we are always helping each other. We learn that from childhood. It’s normal for us.” He continued.

Which definitely seemed to be true, not only among the crew on Libra, but between the captains and crew on the other boats as well. Maybe it is because a lot of the gulet charter boats are owner operated, or maybe because Croatians understand the true definition of camaraderie. Whatever it is, it makes for a truly enjoyable charter experience where you feel more part of a family than a charter service.

Libra and other gulets stern-to in Korcula. Photo by Pearl Macek.

At every port, Marko offered advice on where to go to eat. He was always more than happy to talk about the good and bad parts of Croatian history (their history is long and therefore has many parts), and he always had this genuine air of being so happy to do all of it.

“I really like my job and  I’m still not sure which part is the best,” he said.”I like boats, sea and interaction with people.”

Not your average gulet

While some of the other, more modern gulets may provide more luxurious layouts and electronics, the experience you get on Libra gives you this true feeling of authenticity: both in service from her crew and her being a truly traditional yacht.

She is not all old school: she does have some of the typical accessories that guests look for, including paddleboards, skis, snorkeling gear and fast Wifi.

And what you receive in terms of a stellar crew is incomparable. I looked at the guestbook and it contained pages upon pages of glowing compliments toward Marko and his crew. It was easy to see just how much everyone enjoyed themselves by the descriptive lengths they went to in order to express their gratitude.

 
“I’m trying to make Libra the nicest and most popular wooden sailing boat on Adriatic,” said Marko. I would say he is definitely on his way.
 
Gulets tied up stern-to in Hvar. Photo by Pearl Macek.