Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dept. of Swords to Plowshares

Croatia goes from mines to wines:

Some of the best-known vineyards in Croatia have reopened after being cleared of mines left over from the war of the early 1990s.

The former leader of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito, owned a villa among the vines, which was used as a base by the notorious Serbian war criminal, Arkan.

....During the break-up of that country in the early 1990s the town of Vukovar became a battlefield. More than 1,000 Croats were killed and dumped in mass graves.

Landmines were laid by both sides. The Serbian paramilitary group known as Arkan's Tigers used Tito's villa as their headquarters for raids into Bosnia. When they left they scattered more mines throughout the area and dynamited the villa.

The building still lies in ruins, but now, all these years later, the mines have at last been cleared.

....It will take around three years before the last areas to be cleared of mines produce grapes that can be used for the region's famous white wines.

Traminac has been made since 1710, and was served at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Despite the blood that was shed in this area just over a decade ago, Serbian workers now cross the Danube to work alongside Croatians in the vineyards.

And, one place they will be able to work is at native Croatian, and Napa Valley legend Mike Grgich's vineyard:

In 1972, Mike joined Chateau Montelena as winemaker and limited partner. Four years later the success of his Chardonnay at the [Judgment of] Paris tasting led to fulfilling his life long dream of owning his own winery. In 1977, joining forces with Austin Hills of the Hills Bros Coffee family, Mike created Grgich Hills Cellar, located in Rutherford, the heart of the Napa Valley. The following year, Mike scored another huge victory in "The Great Chicago Showdown." There, 221 Chardonnays were brought together for a historic first, the largest blind tasting ever held of wines made from a single varietal. And Mike's Grgich Hills 1977 Chardonnay emerged triumphant with a first place ribbon. Mike later became affectionately known as the "King of Chardonnay."

Mike's influence also continues to spread. In 1996, he returned to his native Croatia and opened a new winery, Grgich Vina, to make fine wines and to bring Croatia the latest in modern winemaking techniques. In one of his proudest accomplishments, in 2002 Mike played an instrumental role along with U.C. Davis Professor Carole Meredith in tracing the mysterious roots of California Zinfandel back to a surprising source: his native Croatia.

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