Destination Dalmatian Riviera: Korcula |©thepalladiantraveler.comThey say you never forget how to ride a bike.

Well, I’m about to find out as I mount my two-wheeler and join the peloton that is the “band of merry media” — 18 travel writers and photographers invited by Insight Vacations (Insight) to sample a portion of its Bosnia and Dalmation Riviera itinerary — as it snakes its way out of Korčula Town and up into the hills of this picturesque island, one of the more than 1,000 isles that dot Croatia’s Dalmatian coastline.

Where to? A winery in Lumbarda, overlooking the sea, for a private tasting. It’s the first of several Insight “signature” moments planned for our day, IF I don’t fall off this contraption. Come on legs, you can do it!

Destination Dalmatian Riviera: Korcula |©thepalladiantraveler.comTo understand the wines of Korčula, you really need to have an appreciation for the island’s early vine history. In a nutshell, the Greeks arrived on the scene 2,500 years ago and planted an unknown varietal from their homeland. The vines flourished, the white wine was superb, the locals loved it and named it Grk, in honor of the Hellenians who introduced this vowelless, rarest-of-rare wine. You see, Grk is only produced here in Lumbarda — about 30,000 bottles a year — and nowhere else on the planet. Destination Dalmatian Riviera: Korcula |©thepalladiantraveler.com

Set among a forest of pine trees, stone walls and limestone hills that wink at the sea, Frano Milina’s Bire Winery, a 400-year-old family estate where a pair of goats greets you at the entryway, is one of the few vineyards that puts Grk in the bottle and the only one that has enough left over to pour a few fingers worth for each member of the “band of merry media.”

Swirl. Smell. Sip.

This Grk is at once dry and aromatic with hints of pine. Figures, the island is densely populated with centuries-old pine, oak and cypress. Destination Dalmatian Riviera: Korcula |©thepalladiantraveler.com

Astonishingly, the Grk grape only has female flow­ers, so it can’t reproduce on its own. Not to worry.

The femme fatal Grk grape shares the terroir at Bire with its garnet-colored lover, the Plavac Mali grape. It lives on and so do we as Marinka, our hostess, gives us a generous pour of this robust, full-bodied red.

In between sips, we’re treated to another rare find, pieces of Paški sir, a delicious tasting cheese made from the milk of 40,000 or so sheep that wander about carefree on the island of Pag in the northern part of Dalmatia.

Destination Dalmatian Riviera: Korcula |©thepalladiantraveler.comBack in the saddle, the bikes weave, actually we do, as our local area cycling guide, Andrej, the owner of Kaleta Travel Agency — a full service agency in Korčula Town that handles accommodations, excursions, transfers and bike rentals, like the ones we’re sorta mastering — leads us on a scenic, but circuitous route through more vineyards, along sandy beaches tucked inside little coves, past several seaside villages, even some guy’s junk, before bringing us back to GO.

Destination Dalmatian Riviera: Korcula |©thepalladiantraveler.comLooking like a trail-weary cowboy after a two-month-long cattle drive through the Texas Panhandle up to the railheads in Abilene, Kansas, I walk bowlegged back to the Marko Polo Hotel, Insights four-star digs on Korčula, where I shower, change clothes, splash on some cologne and transform myself into a city slicker for the day’s second “signature” moment.

Sometime during each and every Insight journey a Club Bon Voyage dinner-party breaks out and returning guests are given a special nod and toast. Yours truly happens to be one of six seasoned road warriors so honored tonight, as I’ve traveled previously with Insight on its Country Roads of Italy, Bohemian Rhapsody and Iberian Adventure itineraries.Destination Dalmatian Riviera: Korcula |©thepalladiantraveler.com

After a celebratory aperitif of bubbly — okay, several — outside on the hotel’s pool terrace, where the view of the sunset over the port is just perfect, we stroll back into Korčula Town for dinner, on Insight’s euro, at Filippi.

Destination Dalmatian Riviera: Korcula |©thepalladiantraveler.comAn upscale restaurant along the Zakerjan promenade that looks out at the Pelješac Channel, Filippi planned to serve us outside under the stars, but the strong Bora wind has just blown in, so we head inside. No problem.

Taking a page out of the authentic Dalmatian cookbook, Marko, the twentysomething chef, works his magic creating contemporary dishes from local artisan ingredients, seasonal herbs and daily catches straight out of the Adriatic that surrounds Korčula.

The presentation alone has you begging for more at Filippi, but don’t take my word for it, grab a fork and have a virtual nibble of the homemade Žrnovo macaroni pasta with shrimps and cherry tomatoes, grilled sea bass on a bed of sautéed veggies, and panna cotta in a wild berry coulis. Mmm.

Destination Dalmatian Riviera | ©thepalladiantraveler.comA bike ride over hills with sea views of the bluest-of-blue Adriatic, a private tasting of a rarest-of-rare wine, AND a three-course meal of the finest-of-fine Dalmatian fare. Now, I’d say that’s quite an EAT, DRINK, CYCLE kinda day, wouldn’t you?

For complete information on Insight’s 112 premium and luxury-escorted journeys around Europe, just click HERE, or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.

It’s an early wake-up call tomorrow for the “band of merry media” as we hop back on the motor coach and head for the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” Dubrovnik with its unbelievable views out to sea over terracotta rooftops. Along the way, we’ll visit another winery, just to stay hydrated. Wanna come along?

Destination Dalmatian Riviera: Dubrovnik |©thepalladiantraveler.com

©The Palladian Traveler

Borsalino w/ props SMALL | ©Tom Palladio Images

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Written by The Palladian Traveler

Tom traded his hometown St. Louis Cardinals' baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and he now hangs his "capello" in the Puglia region of southeastern Italy. A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have got him into and out of 50 countries and counting, Tom fell in love with the "Bel Paese" years ago. As he notes, "I'm inspired by the beauty I find in all things that are very, very old, and reliving history, or at least meandering along cobblestone streets that were laid down over a thousand years ago and just looking up and marveling at what occupies the space still today, really gets my 'Vespa' running." Tom has a good eye behind the lens and is a graphic storyteller, but he'll let you decide as he keeps his camera batteries fully charged and the posts flowing from his creative hideaway in the hills overlooking Ostuni. You can also follow his dispatches along the cobblestone via TravelingBoy.com.

9 comments

  1. My kind of cycling, Tom. Bill and I have talked before about cycling through the French wine country, but so far our cycling is confined to near us. He’s the real biker; I only do short trips. But yours sounds lovely and was obviously beautiful in all ways…except, perhaps, when you tried to walk after getting off the bike.

    janet

    Like

  2. Thanks for my weekly arm-chair tour and the excitement of you drinking and biking. Now I get an idea how the bicyclist (The Big Boys) do the “Tour de France”, the local wine helps stretch those legs to complete the days voyage.

    Like

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