Boškinac Winery & Restaurant, A Quintessential Pag Island Experience
Continuing our coverage of the recent Gastronaut tour of Pag island, a look to a glorious gastronomic destination on April 6, 2018
When you start your day with a visit to a 2000-year-old underground aqueduct, follow up with a walk through the enchanting olive gardens that are just a tad younger than the first stop in the itinerary, then round up the experience with a lovely lunch in the shade of ancient olive trees…. It’s hard to top such a tour, each of the stops an unforgettable highlight in its own right. And yet, Pag island never ceases to surprise, another breath-taking destination always awaiting right around the corner.
The most memorable things in life usually aren’t displayed in plain sight, out in the open, but are instead tucked away in their own little pieces of paradise. You’ll have to get off the main road to discover the best Pag has to offer – a theorem first proved right in Lun, and then again in the evening of that same day.
We headed to Boškinac, a hotel-restaurant-winery known as the leading gastronomic destination on Pag island. A sort of a meeting point of all the famous features and products of Pag – salt, herbs, cheese, lamb, olives, wine, all intertwined. Prepared with care, dusted with a dash of island magic, and enjoyed in the unique ambiance of the Boškinac estate.
A short drive through fields soaked in sunset and dotted with sheep, and you’ll find yourself in front of an incredible stone villa, enveloped in a plethora of pines, overlooking vineyards and olive groves.
Sage and heather popping up along the path as you make your way to the front gate, their gentle scent lingering in the air over the terraced gardens.
As stated on their website, Boškinac is more than a hotel, more than just food and wine. Boškinac is a story, playing out in the embrace of Pag magic. And what a story, presented by its founder and owner Boris Šuljić in a captivating, erudite overview of their family history.
It all started with Šuljić’s father, who was throwing a solemn glance in our direction from a photograph displayed on the wine cellar wall. A man who was both a winemaker and a folk poet, known and loved by the entire local community. He passed down his knowledge and skills to his son Boris, who set in motion a proper renaissance of the local Gegić sort some twenty years ago. In 2000, he opened the winery; in 2003, the rest of the Boškinac estate came to life, named after their family nickname as a tribute to the history and tradition making up the very foundations of their gastronomic story.
What started as an experiment in his wine cellar turned into a success story. When Šuljić was first starting out, Gegić was a borderline extinct sort in the wider Novalja area, overlooked and underappreciated, left to sink into oblivion. He brought the indigenous sort back to its former glory, his example later followed by several other winemakers from Pag. Šuljić never stopped exploring the vast potential of the Pag-specific sort, his latest outstanding creation being a cuvée of Gegić, Sauvignon Blanc and Debit, named Ocu – to my father, a loving tribute to the man who set this entire story in motion.
On the red front… as Šuljić himself stated, it was hard to get Babić at the time he first delved into winemaking, and he thought it too pretentious to attempt cultivating Plavac. It wasn’t a story to be told on Pag, he said, so he opted for Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon instead, both thriving on the local terroir, giving way to a phenomenal cuvée.
A couple of years ago, Boškinac winery produced the first sparkling wine on Pag. In 2014, a notoriously bad year for wine, Šuljić was struck with a very specific case of horror vacui – a fear of emptiness. People used to have a fear of empty walls, Boškinac said; he had a fear of empty cellars. So he decided to see what could be done with the grapes they had at hand, and the Viaz sparkling wine was born.
The cellar hosts wine tastings on the regular, so you know what to do if you want to sample the selection of the exceptional Boškinac wines. After a glass of Viaz, we headed up to the restaurant – a whole another level, both literally and metaphorically, a gastronomic temple based on Pag’s delicacies. Their specialty is best described as Pag classics with a twist, timeless rudimentary ingredients elevated to fine dining at its best.
We were to enjoy a menu titled Pag Spring, inspired by the iconic gastronomic delights: lamb, escargot and Mediterranean herbs. First, a lovely entrée, a silky fish carpaccio served on a jelly of wild herbs and basil cream, paired with the renowned Boškinac Gegić:
On to the first course, a creamy fennel risotto with escargot, complemented by Boškinac Sauvignon 2016. A dish so good, it was gone in a blink of an eye, leaving no photos behind.
And then, some phenomenal curd ravioli in a sage sauce, dusted with dried lamb powder and sprinkled with salicornia, all paired with Boškinac white cuvée 2015:
And finally, to the crown jewel – a soft, luscious leg of lamb, served with carrot cream, pickled vegetables and roasted new potatoes. Nicely complemented by Plavac reserva of PZ Svirče:
For dessert, a mouth-watering creation: Pag apple, a fruit-shaped flavour bomb of sage mousse served with homemade ice cream on the side… and a glass of Boškinac prošek as a perfect pairing to the sweet finishing touch.
Trying to convey the Boškinac magic using only words is a tough challenge – take a look at the video below to get a better sense of their dreamy gastro creations:
After such a dinner, you won’t be willing to leave this place any time soon. And you don’t have to – Boškinac hotel has eight rooms and three apartments, all boasting a sleek decor and providing a perfect destination for a weekend getaway.
A fragrant oasis that sprang from the owners’ love of Pag stone, salt, and wine, based on traditions and customs of their ancestors. Boškinac is a truly fantastic venue, one that presents the unique features of Pag in their best light, showing the world how much this stunning island has to offer.
Photo credit: TCN, Gastronaut.hr Facebook, Boškinac