Just as these bucolic, verdant landscapes are ideal for hiking and biking, any tour of the vineyard and wineries is an ideal day trip from nearby Zagreb or certainly worth a whole weekend.
This is the home of Graševina, which thrives in this cooler terroir inland with its continental climate. Late-harvesting and resistant to disease, it also ages well – the 2013 vintage is said to be exceptional.
Here in Bjelovar-Bilogora County, it’s not just Graševina that is grown. You’ll find several other varieties, too, top-quality reds as well as whites, which you can discover by touring the region.
Two destinations in particular, Daruvar and Bilogora, are lined with wine roads, allowing the visitor to pop into several places and sample local labels.
© Marina Domitrović
Around Daruvar, where the undulating slopes of Papuk provide ample sunshine, seven wineries feature. The first port of call is Kovačević on Franje Kuhača in the west of town. In the same family for five generations, Kovačević produces classic Graševina, Mirisni Traminac, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir on an estate of nearly two hectares. There’s also enough space for 40 visitors in the barn, 15 in the tasting room, 60 on the open terrace and four staying the night – this is a successful operation above and beyond what gets bottled. Tours are also laid on.
The next stop, a few hundred metres away, is venerable Badel 1862 that, as its name suggests, dates back nearly 160 years. Originally based in Zagreb, the company later expanded into regional wine. Here, they cultivate Graševina, Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Rajnski Rizling on 160 hectares. But there’s more to this estate than just vineyards. Built by the Janković family who settled here in the early 1700s, the mansion contains a so-called ‘golden cellar’, where the wines are stored and matured in consistently low temperature. On the ground floor is a wine salon and tastings are held on-site.
Across the street, the Kavana Queen offers these wines, along with house specialities such as the Trio Queen with pork medallions in mushroom sauce.
Around the upper slopes, the family-run Lotada Daruvar has been gazing over town from Daruvarski Vinogradi since 1996. Adela and Oto Lneniček oversee production of Graševina, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Traminac, stored in an extensive cellar of 200,000-bottle capacity. Up to 70 visitors can be accommodated for samplings, with gift-wrapped presents also available.
Also on this side of town, in Vrbovac at the top of a hill with sweeping views of the surrounding vineyards, OPG Voborski has sited its tasting room in the lookout point of the Vezmar Towers.
© OPG Voborski, P.Uskoković.
To the north on Milke Trnine, another Badel winery sits next to the Sirana Biogal, where offers 20 types artisanal cheeses to accompany any tipples you might buy.
To the east of Bjelovar, the wine trail of Bilogora takes in a series pretty villages where smaller producers have set up huts to welcome the public. Some now house outlets where tastings also take place, some even offer a homely domestic cuisine.
Once such village is Maglenča, alongside Veliko Trojstvo, which has train connections with Bjelovar, Osijek and Zagreb. Here you find the Čačija Winery, which produces Graševina and Chardonnay, and three red varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zweigelt and Portugieser, across four vineyards, including Martinac and Višnjevac. Here in Maglenča, the main cellar has been modernised and is equipped to accommodate visitors, who can also sample local produce in the farmhouse and picnic area in summer. Private functions can also be organised.
© TZ BBŽ, Vinograd Vinarija Čačija
Also in Maglenča, the Roma House museum details the rural and equestrian traditions of the ethnic Lovari people.
To stay over, Vinia in nearby Puričani contains five four-star rooms, a rustic restaurant fashioned from an old farmhouse and barn, and the family winery where Riesling, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are produced. These are sold in the cellar, where stainless-steel barrels and oak barriques store up to 9,000 litres of wine.
Further north in Jabučeta, the Vinarija Coner uses state-of-the-art cultivation methods to produce ten varieties, six white and four red also served at its restaurant, and at the upscale Franz Bistro in Bjelovar. You can also book rooms or apartments here.