How Tomaz Became a Great Wine Star

Total Croatia News

Updated on:

Time: 04.04.2017.

Place: Villa Ariston, Opatija

Event: The day when Klaudio Tomaz stopped being a wine hope and became a true wine star.

This is what is would have looked like if we had tried to telegraph about the dinner of Klaudio Tomaz in Villa Ariston, but as we do not live in the time of telegraphs, but rather the Internet, thus I will try to depict this dinner in more detail.

Why did I think of the telegraph? Well, the wonderful Villa Ariston took me back in history.

Villa Ariston Opatija was originally owned by the Haas family from Vienna who, if I am not mistaken, dealt with chocolate production. The current owner now lives in Milan, so it seems the world elite still cares about having something on Kvarner. Villa Ariston now functions as a small hotel of a high category, which it is. The building was carefully restored so it has the recognisable spirit of the times when money was not an issue and comfort, splendour and beauty was desired above all. Thus remained the wonderful staircase, entire palette of decorations and figurines, elevating the environment to a completely new level with plenty of details from 1900s. Naturally plenty of modern luxury has been added which makes life easier so you can enjoy absolutely everything. There is the pool and private beach, but more on the hotel in another article.

This short description of Villa Ariston serves to offer an understanding of the space Klaudio Tomaz chose for his first great wine evening, as I believe after it nothing will be the same.

At the very beginning it should be emphasised it was not a commercial evening, with Kvarner caterers as guests. Hats off to Klaudio and his team as he managed to bring together around 90 percent of the top Kvarner caterers, which is not easy. That fact alone shows how much Tomaz wines are appreciated, but also Klaudio as a person.

Personally, I have been following Klaudio and his winery and family for a long time. I believe were among the first to write about him (not a surprise, G.E.T. was always in an exploratory mood) and we have spent many wonderful moments in that winery. This led to me becoming a godfather to his Merlot one night now known as Silente – as it is so good it leaves people speechless. I am especially proud of that, as his other wines were given names by the family.

This is how Silvija and I found ourselves in a dinner not meant for the media (on the contrary, the media were not planned this time, although we are talking to Tomaz to do a story like this just for the press colleagues).

I enjoyed the dinner completely, as all the faces showed how pleased they are and here I return to the beginning – Tomaz is no longer a wine hopeful, but a true wine star creating big, powerful, purebred wines and he and his wines must be respected in every way. We were led through the dinner by the annalist of Istrian winemaking Emil Perdec, with masterful ease, a witty remark here and there in the right moment, and when wines are in question, with plenty of knowledge and authority.

Another man who did his part in this dinner was Robert Benzia, main chef of Villa Ariston. If you haven’t heard of him yet, you certainly will in the near future, not just from me. I will only say one things: Robert is perfecting his knowledge at a prestigious culinary academy in Italy. We will write about him very soon, as he deserves it, and we have been invited to the tasting of the chef’s menu and we look forward to it. Meals we tasted this evening were wonderful and what is most important to me, every meal has his signature, his handwriting in the entire menu. You can feel with how much love and passion Robert cooks; I believe Villa Ariston and Robert need just a bit more media attention as they belong in the very top of Croatian cuisine.

Let me present what was offered for dinner.

1. Welcome – extra dry rose sparkling
With welcome snacks, the dinner began with an exceptionally aromatic, fruity, slightly sparky, but very pleasant in the mouth, newest product from Tomaz – extra dry rose sparkling, which Tomaz makes from three varieties – Teran, Merlot and black Malvazija.

2. Crudaiola from Kvarner scampi, baked sheep curd, green apple and celery salad, strawberry and citrus crème
Rose Flaminio 2016
Scampi prepared quite well, wonderful, gentle and pliable, excellently blended with sheep curd, with celery and apple adding freshness and acidity, just enough in the end, strawberry and citrus crème, as in the end – the Rose Flaminio 2016 was served with this meal. It is a rose which has its own body and character, but also that lovely fruity playfulness where, aromatically, strawberry is most prominent.


3. Black and white rice risotto with oysters and domestic asparagus froth
Istrian Malvazija Avangarde 2016
A risotto is a dish with which chefs, if not up to the level, are easily mistaken with. Although it looks simple, it is a quite demanding dish. This black and white rice risotto with oysters and domestic asparagus was near perfection. The rice was thermally processed as good as it gets, oysters added their touch, and the asparagus froth elevated it all to a significantly higher level. A very good meal, lots of wonderfully intertwined tastes. The asparagus froth, as it wasn’t equally mixed into the risotto (on purpose), elevates and descends the taste with every new mouthful. Especially exciting and interesting. The Istrian Malvazija Avangarde 2016 or as we like to say, Tomaz’s fresh Malvazija, is an especially mineral wine. Drinkable, harmonious, but above all a mineral wine, it exerts this special terroir and in the after taste there are hints of saltiness. This is why I would have loves if Robert had added some flower salt on the risotto so that in every third or fourth mouthful I would get a strike of saltiness and minerality of flower salt. I believe then that wine and dish would have been in perfect balance; this way the wine was slightly more accentuated, due to the minerality. But these are details and just my thoughts.


4. Segreto of Spanish black pig, reduction of aceto balsamico and coffee, baked cannoli with caponato, micro greens salad
Merlot Silente 2015
When I read the menu before dinner and saw in the same sentence black Spanish pig, coffee and aceto balsamico, I must admit I became very curious. Segreto of black Spanish pig was made exceptionally well, but the main component of this meal is the reduction of aceto balsamico and coffee, and of course, the spices Robert mixed in. Well…! The taste was heavenly; simply put, an explosion of tastes you’d wish would never disappear from your mouth. There was also an excellent salad from micro greens and a very good baked cannoli with caponata (Italian dish with eggplant and vegetables) – they certainly added their touch to the meal, but that reduction with meat is above all expectations. For me personally, the best meal of the evening, and it came served with Merlot Silente 2015 – an exceptionally good wine with all merits of Merlot, classic example, but with such full taste, extract… Noble and mighty wine whose time is yet to come. I hope there will be a bottle left in 5-6 years, as then, in my opinion, it will be in best shape.
With this meal the wine was a better experience and vice versa; such harmony I haven’t come across in a long time.

5. Buck striploin, Teran and blackberries reduction, forest mushrooms selection, baked Roman gnocchi
Teran Barbarossa 2015
Buck in a reduction of Teran and blackberries was more than good. It was all well blended with baked Roman gnocchi, but the selection of forest mushrooms was the part that gave a special touch to this meal. In fact, the mushrooms had the strength necessary to take on the exceptionally mighty and extract Tomaz Teran, but… I wish there had been more. For example, if Robert had placed them as a placenta for the entire meal, not as a side dish. But again, this is only my view. Teran is mighty, strong; I feel all wine lovers know it already – a true wine delicacy. A wine which is always slightly hard-headed, no matter how the winemaker shapes it, Teran always leaves a bit of its character, just enough so you know you have to work with it, not boss it around – then together you will achieve fantastic results, and Klaudio knows this well.


6. Chef’s dessert
White Muscat Dolce Anima 2016
What to say; a very well made tart, and in it excellent creams, not too sweet, just supple and gentle, and still very much prominent and of course, lots of various fresh fruit on top. Fine and interesting, although I feel Robert could have played a bit more with the dessert, as Tomaz’s Muscat certainly deserves it. It is one of the Muscats which has all the qualities expected of it, but also with a body and strength; it’s not just a sweet wine, it is a strong and yet fine and pleasant wine with 28 grams of sugar residues and certainly deserves your attention.

7. Strawberry sorbet
Strawberry sorbet came after the dessert, to refresh our mouths between the Muscat and Sesto Senso Malvazija.

8. Noble mould cheese in a wrapper of honey and sage
Istrian Malvazija Sesto Senso 2015
In the end, of course, we were served the aged Malvazija 2015, named Sesto Senso. Well, I find it hard to write of this Malvazija, it is a wine to be enjoyed; if you ask me, it is a wine Zen. This wine has fine, harmonious tastes, schooled in wood and so complex to describe, it’s a miracle. You simply must try it! Sesto Senso is the best wine of Tomaz winery and deserves the best attention. Knowing all this, I was especially intrigued which snack Robert will combine with such wine greatness. He truly succeeded. He took three types of blue cheese and by melting them combined them and shaped their cheese spheres, and then the honey gelled with tapioca and sage was wrapped around the cheese. The end result was pure perfection. So many tastes coming one after another and mixing, supplementing, slowly, in perfection fusions… It cannot be described in words. Combined with Sesto Senso Malvazija… This is where the absolute Zen phase comes in. This combination must be made part of the Chef’s menu in Villa Ariston, as this is perfect.

What to say in the end?

It was evident all present were more than pleased, and when your profession supports you, it means you’ve made it. It was the first great wine evening of Klaudio Tomaz and extremely successful, and I am certain there will be more. The ambient, wines, food, guests, service and personnel (this last one brings great merit to hotel director, Cyntija Vučaj, invisible, and yet omnipresent) – were all at a high level.

I want to say that I am proud that I can call Klaudio Tomaz my friend and share with him such wonderful moments.

A new great wine star is born.

For the original and more from the G.E.T. Report, click here.


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