The Komarna Region & The Pelješac Peninsula
Places Along this Wine Trail to Explore
- Pelješac Bridge (Ston or Orebič)
- Ston/Mali Ston
Two roads head south from Split. The fast, super highway A-1 or the slower, coastal and more scenic route (highway 8, although signs on the ground only depict directional locations rather than numbers of highways). That scenic route will take you to Makarska, known as the Croatian Riviera. A small and incredibly scenic seaside village beyond Makarska worthy of a stopover is Podgora.
If the faster A-1 is taken, two exits to consider are Ploče and Kula Norinska. Both will lead to the river delta known as the Neretva – a picturesque place of row crops, rivers and boats. The Kula Norinska exit will take you to either the city of Metković or to the new Pelješac bridge. In Metković, the family-operated Winery Volarević offers amazing wines locally made from the Komarna region (firstname.lastname@example.org or call +385-20-690631).
From either Ploče or Metković, head toward the Pelješac Peninsula and the new bridge connecting the mainland to the Peninsula.
Before construction of this bridge, travelers had to pass through a small section of Bosnia-Herzegovina on their way to Dubrovnik. Now the bridge allows for all travelers to remain in Croatia.
There are three main wineries in the Komarna region, which boasts some of the newer and innovative producers of wine in Dalmatia. As mentioned above, Volarević operates a tasting room in Metković, but the other two wineries Vinarija Rizman and Vinarija Terra Madre do not yet have established tasting rooms connected to their wineries. Both are worthy of visits nonetheless.
The Rizman wine can be sampled at, of all places, a rest stop wine shop on the highway just past Raba (before the bridge).
This particular location is not only worth a stop but a photographer’s delight given the extraordinary views of the Rizman vineyards down to the sea and the Pelješac Peninsula beckoning in the distance.
Pelješac Bridge (Orebič or Ston)
The new bridge opened in mid-2022 and connects the mainland to the Pelješac Peninsula – an elongated arm of the mainland extending into the Adriatic like an island. Once across the waterway, there are two options: head east (to your left) toward Ston (and Dubrovnik beyond) or west (to your right) along the spine of the Peninsula toward Orebič and the ferry connection to Korčula.
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.
In Ston are wine shops that carry indigenous wines of the Pelješac. In both Ston and Mali Ston are charming restaurants that will entice with fresh oysters harvested nearby – try with Pošip, an indigenous white variety originally from nearby Korčula, which pairs perfectly with any fish.
The main road out of Ston leads either east (to the left) to Dubrovnik or west (to the right) back 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 if you want to explore the Pelješac.
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 is a much more scenic and authentic route, and eventually crosses over the new bridge highway.
The “Y” in the road toward Mitohija, 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 Plavac 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 along a stunningly beautiful coastline overlooking Trstenik.
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, two ways to go: one standard, 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.
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 of 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 Pelješac 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 Bartulovič winery tasting room, 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 to experience the classic sloped vineyards of the Pelješac, 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. Again in 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 Peljesač 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 the sign.
It is a stunning setting with an incredible terrace overlooking hills and vineyards.
Saints Hills offers gourmet tapas, cheese platters and three course fixed-price meals to pair with outstanding wines. Broader in scope and varieties than most other wineries on the Pelješac, Saints Hills blend local varieties with classic Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes producing 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 any meat or cheese pairing (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 you should be visiting 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.