The Pelješac Peninsula
Places Along this Wine Trail to Explore
North and then west from Dubrovnik is the Pelješac Peninsula – where small and big wineries harvest grapes from red stone earth in the mid-peninsula to impossibly steep slopes down to the blue Adriatic. Winemaking here dates back to the 13th Century.
Head north out of Dubrovnik and follow the signs to Split (while road maps use numbers for highways, these are rarely seen on the ground – so use places to set your direction).
About an hour north along the coast from Dubrovnik, there will be a left turn to Ston. This is your entrance to the Pelješac Peninsula. A short 5km later, you will arrive in Ston with paid parking on the left with the village just across the road.
Ston and adjacent Mali (little) Ston are well worth a visit to see or hike the Great Wall of Croatia built centuries ago and recently restored that connects by foot the larger village of Ston to the smaller Mali Ston.
To get a good sense of the “Great Wall” a shorter route up, around and down the wall begins in Ston and ends in Ston. For the more adventurous, a 2.5 km walk connects Ston uphill to Mali Ston. The walls were originally built from the mid-1300’s to 1400’s in part to guard the valuable salt pans or flats of Ston – some of which remain operational today. Featured more recently in the Game of Thrones, these walls are the longest complete remaining fortress system in Europe.
Ston has wine shops that carry indigenous wines of the Pelješac. In both Ston and Mali Ston you will find charming restaurants that feature fresh oysters harvested nearby – paired with Pošip, an indigenous white variety originally from nearby Korčula.
The main road out of Ston leads to a new faster highway to the Pelješac bridge that connects the Peninsula back to the mainland and north to Split. This is NOT the road to take out of Ston. Within a km or so upon leaving Ston, there is a “Y” in the road that quickly appears with signs to Split bearing straight or left (which will take you across the new bridge) and a road to the right to “Mitohija” – take the road TO THE RIGHT.
This road will lead you to small villages and local winemakers. In the tiny village of Ponikve (look for the road sign as most maps do not show it) on the right there will be a rustic carved wooden sign marking the entrance to Vinarija Miloš.
Operated by the Miloš family, it is recommended to call ahead (+385-98-9656880) to arrange for a tour of the limestone wine cave next to the tasting room.
Delightful Rukatać white wine (refined minerality with hints of grilled pineapple) and the powerhouse red wine Plavać Mali (black fruit, herbs with high tannin) are proudly poured by the brothers Miloš.
Continue on from Ponikve, and follow the signs to Orebič (again avoiding the signs to Split which will take you off the peninsula on the new bridge back to the “mainland”) and you will enter the heart of the Pelješac.
On the road to Orebič, a brief stop in Janjina reveals Winery Bezek – producer of typical local varieties of wine; Bezek also produces unique distilled spirits and liqueurs. The road then leads to Potomje.
While Potomje is a must see wine-dominated village, just before Potomje is a highly recommended short side trip to Trstenik. This postage stamp sized seaside village is dominated by the prominently placed Grgič Vina (look for their large sign off the main highway).
It is among the most recognized wineries in all of Dalmatia – established in 1996 by legendary winemaker Miljenko “Mike” Grgich who actually began making wine in the Napa Valley of California before returning to his native Dalmatia.
Award winning Pošip whites and Plavac Mali reds are made here making this a wine and cheese pairing experience overlooking this unparalleled view of the Adriatic and a lovely seaside village.
For a future offering, look into an overnight stay in their recently prepared sea view apartments (likely open by mid-2023, call +385-0202-748090 or check email@example.com), Grgič Vina is a stunningly beautiful location on the bluffs of the dramatic coastline overlooking Trstenik. There are few tasting rooms anywhere that have a better view.
The village of Trstenik has a handful of modest restaurants along the beach and harbor. Small cruise vessels dock here for good reason. The place is a hidden gem and with an afternoon dunk in the warm water and a seaside meal — it’s memorable.
From Trstenik, there are two ways to go: one standard, and one a little daring. The regular route is to double back to the main highway and head again in the direction of Orebič. This will take you to the next stop, Potomje, which you can find a little farther below. The more daring and truly breathtaking route is to head west (along the water) through the village of Trstenik and head toward Dingač – there’s only one direction so you can’t get lost.
Dingač is an area of seaside land on the Peninsula accessed only by a scenic back road that will deliver you to impossibly steep plantings of vineyards clinging to the rocky slopes of the classical growing grounds of the Pelješac.
Kissed by sun from the sky, the reflection of the Adriatic and the white rocky calcified slopes, these vines produce Croatia’s best Plavac Mali – the hard-to-tame robust red wine, rich in tannins with intensely flavored dark fruit. Wines harvested here are designated from the Dingač, the oldest recognized wine region in Dalmatia (Dingač appears on labels, but it is always Plavac Mali grapes).
This narrow road, like the vineyards it bisects, clings precariously to the vine-covered slopes and is a treat for the senses. The islands in the distance seem to float timelessly in the azure blue of the Adriatic. Continuing along this narrow road through the vineyards, you will come to a one-car-at-a-time short tunnel from the steep side of the Peljesač heading inland to the valleys.
Before construction of the tunnel, harvested grapes were transported by large baskets strapped across donkeys to wineries over the stone ridge that geographically defines this place (at the Bartulovič tasting room outside Potomje, look for old photos of these donkeys). The short tunnel will daylight into the village of Potomje.
If you choose the “regular” route out of Trstenik, Potomje is the inland side of the Dingač tunnel and one can quickly duck through the tunnel at Potomje and to experience the classic sloped vineyards of the Peljesač, with little effort and time.
Potomje, alone, could occupy a day of wine tasting. There you will find Matusko, one of the largest producers of wine in Croatia and Europe. It also boasts one of the best, most-extensive wine cellars in all of Croatia (more than 3000 square meters).
The cellar is worth a block of time and a tour (again, good idea to call ahead +385-99-2136255). Underground stone and brick hallways are lined with amphoras and barrels with walls of aging wine bottles in impossible numbers.
Many other wine shops abound in Potomje, from large to small. Check out Vinarija Madirazza of the former and Miličić Winery of the latter. Back to the direction of Orebič on the main highway, heading out of Potomje, is Vinarija Bartulovič. Family owned for centuries, this organic farm has that magical feel of old Croatia having been farmed by the Bartulovič clan for 17 generations.
Under the label “Bartul” the wine bottles graphically and cleverly demonstrate where on the Pelješac the grapes were harvested: slopes or valleys.
Try their white wine Rukatac (from the Marastina variety) and the classic red Dingač from Plavac Mali grapes with an a-la-carte menu of local, simple dishes. The family also operates stone farmhouse apartments for overnight farm stays. (See their website for more information).
Continuing on to Orebič, another worthwhile side trip is toward Oskorušno (look for the directional sign to Tripanj), just north of the main highway. Saints Hills Vinarija is a must stop, not far from the main highway. The drive up the hill to Saints Hills is a quick switch back to the right, keep a lookout for their sign.
It is a stunning setting with an incredible terrace overlooking hills and vineyards.
Saints Hills offers gourmet tapas, cheese platters and three course price-fixed meals to pair with outstanding wines, broader in scope and varieties than most other wineries on the Pelješac. Blending local varieties with classic Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes produces delightful white wines that pair beautifully with the Croatian delicacies like cheese from the island of Pag in the north, olive oil and pršut (prosciutto) from Istria, Croatia’s “other” wine growing peninsula.
Dingač based Plavac Mali at Saints Hills is that classic dark red wine of herb aromas, dry plum with hints of raisins, and high tannins to complement a platter of local meat and cheese pairings (call ahead for reservations: +385 99 369 8004).
Back to the road to Orebič, the route bends again toward the sea. A few kilometers from Orebič, is the wine region known as Postup (similar to Dingač where hardy Plavac Mali vines grow along steep seaside slopes). Look for the sign to Mokalo – where the Boutique Winery Mikulič is located along with their Museum of the Pelješac Tradition. Mikulič also operates a classic Boutique Hotel Adriatic in Orebič, serviced by an excellent seafood restaurant, the Old Captain (Stari Kapetan), outside the front door of the hotel. All Mikulič’s wines are served here.
Just before the main town of Orebič, is the jewel of the Pelješac: Villa Korta Katarina & Winery. Luxurious stays are accented by excellent wines (described as Croatian wines with American roots), seaviews and yacht trips. You may not be staying there, but it’s worth a visit while in Orebič to experience this unique and magnificent place in southern Dalmatia. (See their website for more information).
Beaches near Orebič attract locals as well as international travelers. Check out Trstenica for the full Croatian beach experience. Another Orebič attraction is the 15th century monastery on a hilltop about a 20 minute walk from the Hotel Bellevue.
Orebič is the terminal for the short ferry ride (both car and passenger ferries depart from here) across the channel to Korčula – another Croatian Wine Trail to be explored.