When my friend Ante Mustapić of Split’s Zinfandel pulled me to one of the presenters at the last VINOcom with the words: “You have to try this Babić!”, I had no idea where it would end. The Babić was good, but the place was already too crowded for any decent tasting and conversation was out of the question so my first encounter with wines of the Rak family was brief and superficial. But a note was lodged in my head that I must get to the bottom of this. A few months later, in Zagreb again, it was Pink Day – Rak winery again, with Opolo from Babić. I give it a taste and – the wine is fantastic to the point that I declared it best festival wine in my article on Pink Day (judged by me, of course). It was enough for the G.E.T. Report crew to make our way into the hinterland of Šibenik. Naturally, to Rakovo village.
The Rak family has been in winemaking, well forever. It used to be a large farm with a substantial number of vines. Grapes were sold to a cooperative and the living was slow. The war times of the nineties led to much neglect, as there were more important matters than vines. So the Rak family farms around three acres of vineyards today, with a few more to come – but not too many, as they say: “5-6 acres in a few years would be just enough.”
It’s currently a completely family business. Father Rade Rak and his two sons, Ante and Andro, manage to take care of the vineyards and cellar, while mother Marina and daughter-in-law Petra help primarily with guests. Along with expanding vineyards, they plan to build a few guest rooms, which would complete their offer.
With the wine, in their tasting room, filled more often with groups, you can currently try cheese and prosciutto, but a complete meal as well, such as under the baking bell. The baking bell can cover anything – veal, lamb, octopus, but primarily fresh and homegrown (except the octopus, of course); you can get first grade fish as well. In fact, let the hosts take care of everything. I was personally most impressed by the salad – vegetables form their garden, grown from their seeds; perfect potatoes, while the tomatoes and cucumbers will stay with you for a long time after you depart. They can host up to 50 people, but I feel 25-30 is optimal. They’ve recognized the great potential of touristic development and invest plenty in perfecting themselves as a tourist destination; people recognize this and keep coming back, with new guests as well, so you may have to reserve your spot soon.
The wines are a special story – they are proof that you don’t have to be a well known winery to be successful, as their wines can be found in Split’s Zinfandel, but Šibenik’s Pelegrini as well (and they know their stuff, Pelegrini isn’t the best restaurant in Croatia for nothing). The Pelegrini crew point many guests to the Rak estate. This fact in itself speaks of the quality of their wine.
We first tried the Maraština. It’s an indigenous sort from their region, which never managed to thrill me. However the Rak Maraština is something else. The wine knocked me off my feet. Exceptionally good They make it in a barrique variant (partially aged in barrique, partially in stainless steel), but as such it has incredibly good acids (this is Dalmatia after all), lovely structure, powerful yet well rounded and harmonious body, not too strong alcohol. Simply a flawless wine. Definitely the best Maraština I tried. I would certainly advise they make a fresh version (undoubtedly great too) – clear, flowing and fresh, to be sipped on the terrace as we wait for lunch and her older, serious, barriqued sister.
Opolo is, for those who don’t know, a name for the grape juice and wines made from such juice of dark grapes, making Opolo wine rosy red to pink red color (the color of Rose). This is the method the Rak family gets their Opolo from the Babić sort. Well chilled, this wine will thrill you – flowing, light, drinkable wine, made for summer terraces and yet in it you feel the power of Babić and like it or not, approach it with respect. It’s not just a Rose… the Rak Opolo is a wine many wine critics will write about, undoubtedly positively.
So we slowly arrived to the Babić. I believe the Babić sort need no introduction: it is one of the most famous local sorts. The Rak Babić is a finely balanced wine with a just right amount of tannins and fullness, so it feel quite harmonious in your mouth; nothing gets in the way. Wine for pure pleasure. They understood there is no need for strong alcohols. Simply, it’s a wine asking for another glass.
Naturally, there is something called a reserve, a selection of Babić grapes. This wine is done in very small quantities (around 300 numbered bottles), only in the best years, with much more extract, fullness and potency… Once you try it, you will crave it forever.
The wine palette is small but perfect and is a reflection of their philosophy. They grow few sorts, but do it perfectly, know their way around and need not invent warm water… Do what you know and do it best.
It’s wonderful to see Andro and Ante enjoy the land and blend with it; they are still young people. One of the best moves by Rade was to bring his sons in the business as partners; made them part of every segment, making decisions together and this approach makes them respect him even more. If you want your family to carry on your work, you have to behave like a family; you have to be boos and father, which can be quite hard.
The family cannot be just a workforce, but family as well and yet someone needs to have the final word and not by force, as the family needs to allow you to have it and respect you. This harmony, almost unreachable, functions well in the Rak family. They develop slowly, without rushing into loans, don’t aspire to hugeness and slowly, but surely head into the direction they want. Yes, the price of their wines are quite friendly. No, I will not say what they are; you will have to get in touch with them, but believe me, you won’t be sorry.
In the end, I can only repeat: they are currently a small and not well known winery, with big and renown restaurants as customers keeping them a secret… But as the G.E.T. Report discovered them, soon others will follow. Believe me, soon everyone will know of Rak winery. So, word for word with our hosts, bottle after bottle, with the last few from reserve, time has come to part. Then I realized how much they need those guest rooms.
Not to worry, we will follow the development of this winery and you will be notified.