Many of them welcome visitors and allow tasting of their produce and of course the chance to buy direct from them. I love winding my way through the hills and valleys of central Istria tasting wine and eating well as I go. I have put together a route for a short tour that links together two of the best wineries, two top olive oil producers, a couple of fine restaurants and passes through stunning landscapes, all in the heart of Istria's truffle region.
Starting point, Kremenje Village, 3.5km from Buje.
Finish at Livade, 18 km from Buje.
From Kremenje take the road signposted Bric, Cortina and Oskurus. After 2.7 km you will see the Koslovic winery on the hillside to your left. Stop here to taste their fine selection of wines produced from indigenous Istrian grape varieties extending from an excellent Malvasia to a dark red Istrian Teran. My own favourite is Violetta; a rosé with the slightest sparkle. Served chilled it is wonderfully refreshing on a summer's evening. The winery is open to visitors from 10am to 6pm every day except Sundays and public holidays but for the full cellar tour and wine tasting you should book in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +385 52 779 177. The Koslovic family have been making wine here for generations.
As you leave the Koslovic winery turn to your left and take the first right turn to take the steep back road into Momjan with a view across the valley to Momjan's ancient castle tower. Once in the centre follow the road to the left. Try to plan your day so as to a stop for lunch at Konoba Rino. Here the open grill in the dining room provides a cosy atmosphere on a cold day or in summer time of course sit out on the terrace. I can particularly recommend steak with truffles or gnocchi with truffles. We are not talking about a sprinkle of truffle oil to provide the distinctive aroma. Your dish will come topped with a thick layer of grated truffle. Of course you must also try the restaurant's own wines sold under the Vinaprelac label.
From Momjan take the road back to Kremenj which passes the Kabola Winery where the Markežic family have been making wine for over a century. Stop here to sample the prize winning reds, Cabenet Sauvignon and Merlot. Opening hours are 10am to 6pm Monday to Saturday. Email:
From Kabola continue towards Kremenje and at the junction with the main road turn left towards Oprtalj. The view of Oprtalj when approached from Sveti Lucia is striking with the town perched on a hilltop and framed by a line of cypress trees. Oprtalj is one of the highest of the medieval hilltop town in central Istria. Park beside the town loggia on your right as you reach the top of the hill (or if no space there continue for a further 300 metres to a larger car park) and cross the road to pass through the narrow arched opening in the town walls. Wander through the cobbled and vaulted passageways of this ancient town and enjoy its medieval atmosphere. There are one or two boutiques and galleries but the town is still largely undiscovered.
One kilometre after leaving Oprtalj take the left turn on the apex of a sharp right bend following the brown olive oil route sign to Ipša . This narrow road which traverses a steep hillside is, in my opinion one of the most beautiful routes in Istria providing spectacular views across the Mirna valley to the fortified hilltop town of Motovun. Pull up outside the small cottage of Casa Maršic where you can taste the most delicious olive oils produced from their own olive trees which grow on the steep terraces below the house.
From Casa Maršic the road turns downhill - very steep in parts - until you enter the village of Ipša. Stop here to sample the Ipša range of extra virgin olive oils, all hand pressed on the day of picking to capture the freshness of the olive.
From Ipša continue downhill and when you reach the valley and turn right towards Livade. To finish your tour call in at the shop adjoining Restaurant Zigante on the crossroads in the centre of Livade. The shops sells fresh white and black truffles when is season and a range of preserved truffle products. The small jars of truffle oil make excellent presents to take home with you. An excellent selection of wines and olive oils from the region is also on offer.
Zigante Restaurant is unquestionably in the first rank of Istrian restaurants. It offers an imaginative menu largely comprised of dishes incorporating truffles. Even the sweets receive the truffle treatment; pear ice cream with white truffles, for example. Mr Zigante, the restaurant owner, features in the Guinness Book of Records for having found the largest truffle ever recorded.
The whole tour is 26 kilometres and can easily be completed in a day.