Crljenak (surl-YEN-ack) is a rare, known by many to be extinct, grape variety that shares heritage with one of the United States’ most beloved wines, Zinfandel and Italy's Primitivo. This once abundant Croatian grape vine was wiped out in a phylloxera epidemic during the late 19th century. Crljenak is unique in character because it ripens quite early in the season, needs less hours of sun, is deeply red in color, has high acidity, and reaches higher alcohol levels.
After seeing a hillside of broom flowers cascading towards the sea, and hearing an old wives tale that this was good soil for a vineyard, Bob Benmosche and Marija Mrgudic began assembling plots of land that were not commonly known as ideal vineyard property. Bob's philosophy to do new things even though no one else is doing it, led them to a site which had soldier barracks from WWI, beautiful olive trees, and history likely dating back to Roman times. In 2006, Zinfandel plants (along with some Cab and Merlot) were imported from Napa Valley, and the vineyard was planted just by the seashore, in Viganj, far west on the Peljesac Peninsula.
One day in 2007, while building a road for the vineyard in Viganj, Marija's husband Ante noticed what might resemble vines growing in some brush. They stopped construction of the road and cleared the area revealing the old vines. After DNA testing, it was confirmed that these three vines were original Crljenak. There are only a few locations in all of Croatia where original Crljenak plants have survived the great Phylloxera.
The Dingač appellation is located on steep south-facing slopes, bordered by stone terraces, descending toward the sea. This area is one of the best locations for growing local Plavac Mali grapes. Plavac Mali is crossed between Crljenak and another Croatian varietal, Dobračić. The Dingač region was protected back in 1961, as a first geographical protected region in former Yugoslavia. The dry farmed technique of growing Plavac Mali in Dingač is the purest representation of Croatian wine making, embodying generations of history taken with each sip. Grape growing traditions here date back to the Greek and Roman periods.