The family winery Saints Hills reflects love and passion for wine, nature and the life of Ivanaand ErnestTolja, a young couple who only recently appeared in the Croatian wine scene and quickly conquered it. Knowing them as a cordial and merry, but very professional and trendy married couple with an eye for details, nothing less was expected from the carefully chosen building of their winery which they bought in a devastated state in Zagruda on Pelješac and officially opened it in May of last year.
Zagruda, a small picturesque locality of only four inhabitants, can be reached by land on a road across Ston and towards Trpanj, but it is faster and more simple to reach by ferryboat from Ploče to Trpanj and then drive a couple of kilometres. At the top of the hill, you cannot but notice and impressive large house of white stone which will take your breath away just like it did to Ernest Tolja seven years ago when he first caught sight of it. Even though in ruin and covered by the patina of time it still looked powerful. Ernest discovered that its cellar had always been a winery and that it had belonged to the Bibice family which, like many inhabitants of Pelješac, scattered around the world after the phyllox era had devastated the vineyards. It was easy to find all the heirs, about thirty of them, and some of which did not even know they had property in Croatia, but the effort paid off and the house was finally bought. That was when its restoration started.
The house has retained its original appearance, almost everything that had been found was renewed and preserved, and the combination of traditional and contemporary elements of the Mediterranean environment breathed new life into it. Typical Pelješac fruit and vegetables were planted around the winery as well as an olive grove with about forty olive trees under which a vineyard with tiny grey Plavac would soon grow. That was the official beginning of the Vinaria (winery- vinarija), without the letter ”j” which finally realized the desire of Ivana and Ernest Tolja to introduce to the world in the best mannerCroatian autochthonous sorts and wines of contemporary production but respecting nature. On a total surface of2,700 square meters and with a cellar at several levels there is Restaurant Kužina (kitchen) of symbolic name and based on local foodstuff with the contemporary approach of the young chef Špiro Pavić, accompanied by two luxurious apartments as well which will soon amount to four.
“Vinariain Zagruda is an oasis for us and our wines. It is the meeting place of all the beauty of the south, all the wilderness and peace it offers. It is also the reflection of tradition which we preserved and the knowledge we are acquiring. The only choice here is wine and the pleasure of wine, all the rest is secondary – at least briefly. In visiting the winery, you experience the path of life of our wine, you enjoy it completely in its glass, and then you carry that experience with you. The dishes that come out of our Kužinaare made to discover the character of a wine and, therefore, the ”wine&dine experience”offers satisfaction to all senses. We are happy when we see guests coming back to Vinaria, to our wines, which means that we have succeed in transferring onto them some of the love, passion and energy of our locality”, says lovely Ivana Tolj, who is largely responsible for the final look of the interior.
Vrhunska vina i etikete
Saints Hills vina proizvode se sa tri pomno izabrana vinorodna područja kako bi se ostvario maksimalan potencijal zasađene sorte. U Istri – u selu Radovani kraj Višnjana, u vinogradu sv. Ante, sadi se Malvazija istarska, koja se kupažira s malo Chardonnaya i tako nastaje Mala Nevina. U Komarnoj – u vinogradu sv.Roka, sadi se Plavac mali od kojeg nastaje svježi, voćni plavac Sv. Roko, netipičan upravo zbog kamenitog terroira i specifičnosti koje ovo vinogorje nosi. Na pelješkom položaju Dingač sadi se također plavac, iz kojeg nastaje zreli, kompleksni Dingač. Plavac s ovih položaja pretočen je u pitki rose koji poznat po jedinstvenoj etiketi i imenu St. Heels. Spoj tradicije i znanja Saints Hillsov je lajtmotiv koji se ne proteže samo u proizvodnji vina, nego i eksterijerom i interijerom njihove boutique Vinarie na Pelješcu.