The roads that link Buje (Buie), Momjan (Momiano), and Grožnjan (Grisignana) are narrow, steep, and winding, but they snake through some of the most scenic real estate in Istria. Buje is a short hop from Umag on the coast, and the town itself is fairly uninteresting, except for an 18th-century church (Sv. Servula Mučenika) and a monument and plaque commemorating Tito’s 1954 visit to the town. At that time, Tito became an honorary citizen of Buje and dedicated a World War II monument to the freedom fighters from the area. The road out of Buje northeast toward Momjan is a jumping-off point for both the wine and olive oil roads of the region, meandering past tavern Konoba Marino and the ruins of Momjan Castle. The Momjan area is a good place to try the region’s outstanding wines, especially those from the Kozlović Winery, which has a beautiful tasting room built into its original 100-year-old winery building.
South of Momjan, the tiny hilltop village of Grožnjan is one of the prettiest hill towns anywhere in Croatia. Grožnjan was almost deserted 45 years ago, after most of its Italian population left for economic opportunity. In 1965, the town saw an influx of artists, who took over the town and saved it from extinction by renovating its old town core. Since then, Grožnjan has blossomed into a full-fledged artist’s colony, replete with galleries, shops, restaurants, and a jazz festival in July and August that attracts big-name talent and plenty of fans. If you can’t get there for a performance, you can stop at one of the village’s pleasant restaurants for a bite while listening to the mellow sounds emanating from all corners of the village during daytime practice sessions. It’s also fun to poke around the loggia, gates, walls, and maze of small cobbled streets. In keeping with Grožnjan’s reputation as a “town of artists,” numerous shops and ateliers in town sell original paintings, pottery, and jewelry made by local craftspeople.
On the Wine & Olive Oil Road
The best way to explore Istria’s wine and olive oil roads is to pick up a map produced by the Istria Tourist Board (www.istra.hr) that lists about six dozen winemakers and two dozen olive oil producers in the region. Most of Istria’s wineries are in the country’s north-central region, and you will need a car to get from one venue to the next. Roads do have directional signs for the wine and oil routes, and producers have marked the paths to their doors in some cases. Don’t miss the cellars of Kozlović and Kabola, both full-fledged wineries that have expanded their production into microclimate vintages. Kozlović is not set up for unannounced tasters, so call ahead; Kabola welcomes drop-ins.
Kozlović Winery (www.kozlovic.hr; tel. 052/779-177) is at Vale 78 in Momjan, open from 10am to 7pm Monday through Saturday. It produces an impressive 100,000 bottles a year. Look for their red Teran, white Malvazija, and muśkat dessert wine.
Kabola Winery (www.kabola.hr; tel. 052/779-208) is at Kanedolo 90 between Buje and Momjan. It includes a small winemaking museum and a knock-out eatery, Konoba Marino. The winery is open for tasting from 10am to 8pm Monday through Saturday. Kabola is known for the classics, Istrian red Teran and white Malvazija, plus a white sparkling wine called Re (brut).
Tip: You can stop in at any of the olive oil producers on the map to purchase products, but if you want to see a pressing in action or pick a few olives, reservations are required. Consult Istria’s Olive Oil Road Map for details and contact information.