Dan and I finally vacationed in Montenegro earlier this year! I had been dreaming of going to Montenegro for seriously like 10 years, and I was really excited to execute this trip! In planning, and in my last 10 years of Montenegro dreams, I mainly focused on the Adriatic coast: the Bay of Kotor, Budva, Petrovac, and Sveti Stefan. When actually planning our trip, however, I learned that Montenegro has much more to offer than its gorgeous coastline, including a really good wine industry. Yes, who knew?! The center of Montenegro’s wine industry is the tiny town of Virpazar, so we promptly booked a stay in Virpazar as part of our trip.
Tiny Virpazar is located about 1.5 hours from Perast (where we stayed on the Kotor Bay) and 30 minutes from Podgorica, Montenegro’s capital. We arrived via car transfer from Perast, with a brief stop in swanky Sveti Stefan en route (its kind of on the way!).
On arrival, we were shocked at just how tiny Virpazar is! Its really a couple streets with a bridge in the center of town. Being so small, Virpazar does not have any large hotels – only guest houses. We stayed at Vida’s House, right in the center of town. More like an old school Bed and Breakfast, Vida’s House was clean and had the most adorable little balcony over looking town!
Soon after we arrived, it was time for a wine tour that we booked in advance. We met our guide, a grandson of one of the wineries we would tour and a winemaker himself, for a wine tour and tasting of the area. As we learned on the tour, this part of Montenegro is the best for growing grapes, and most of its wine production is centered in this area (although there are others, such as Savina in Herceg Novi). We choose to tour around with this company – Garnet Winery’s Hedonistic Wine and Food Tour – because it was the only guided wine tour that we could book! You can drive yourself to several different wineries, but it will take some time, as the wineries are not that easy to find, the roads are not great, and hours and guaranteed English are iffy, at best. If doing this, I recommend working with a local to set this up and book tastings in advance.
On our Hedonistic Wine and Food Tour, our first stop was an excellent winery, Vinarija Kopitovic, located about 10 minutes outside of Virpazar. Vinarija Kopitovic is located on the side of a terraced hill and the tasting room is basically inside the owner’s home. And speaking of the owner, he was extremely kind and knowledgable about wine, but he speaks very little English. He also has a really sweet vineyard dog.
At Vinarija Kopitovic, we toured the barrel room and then tasted three wines. We really enjoyed their reds; we purchased a bottle to bring home. Our wine was paired with a large plate of bread topped with Montenegrin prosciutto and cheese and grapes and figs!!
Our second stop was a bit of a fancier, family owned winery, Winery Cermeniza, presented us with a tasting in their very nice tasting room. Here, we again tried three wines. Our tasting here was paired with cheese, more prosciutto, and local tomatoes. After the wine, we had our choice of flavored rajika (Montenegrin homemade liquor). While the wine was good and the winery’s story was totally interesting, this was my least favorite of the wineries, probably due to their small pours of wine = ). Side note, this was our guide’s grandfather’s winery!
Our favorite winery was another excellent winery, Garnet Winery (who put on the tour!) located in the mountains above Virpazar. Garnet does the best and most robust tasting of the wineries in the area, and its owners, from Podgorica, are very interested in promoting the Montenegrin wines. Garnet’s tasting room is set in a traditional stone town, where all of the houses are connected. Apparently this is the traditional style of housing in Virpazar, and the wine owner’s family used to live here long ago. The setting is really cool, and worth seeing even without the wine.
At Garnet, we tasted several wines, which were all quite good. The tasting was paired with another platter of Montenegrin snacks, and the figs were delightful! After our tasting, we were driven back to Vida’s House. If you are doing this tour on your own, Garnet is by far the easiest winery to visit, as its English speaking, tourist friendly, and within walking distance of Virpazar (60 minutes).
On the tour, we also learned that the weekend we visited just happened to be the weekend of Virpazar’s fall wine festival! Lucky us! The town was busy setting up very early the next morning. While we missed the bulk of the festival, we were able to catch the beginning, including some wine samples, a Duggar-style folk band (strange…), and the cutest wine themed treats!
Setting aside Virpazar’s wine industry, Virpazar is most well known for being located right on the beautiful Lake Skadar. Lake Skadar, on the border of Montenegro and Albania, is the largest lake in Southern Europe. Its designated as a national park in Montenegro, and draws all sorts of tourists looking at the lake, boating on the lake, and vacationing on the lake. Its actually more popular to visit Lake Skadar to see the lake than to taste the wine… A very popular activity in Virpazar is to take a boat tour on Lake Skadar. We took a two hour cruise around Lake Skadar with Boat Milicia, also associated with Vida’s House. Our tour was super relaxing, but an hour would probably have been sufficient… On our boat tour, it was just Dan and me and our guide, who pointed out lots of wildlife.
Aside from boating on Lake Skadar, one could spend an hour or so walking around Virpazar, stopping in its few shops of having a drink at a restaurant or cafe.
In terms of food, I did not find any fabulous restaurants in Virpazar, but we did have a nice meal at Restaurant Silistria, on a boat docked right in Lake Skadar! The food was pretty good, and it is definitely a fun spot for lunch!
STEAL OUR TRIP
Vida’s House: Charming guest house right in Virpazar.
Boat Milicia: Well established boating company on Lake Skadar. You can do 1 – 6 hour trips. We booked in advance online, which is recommended but probably not necessary.
Vinarija Kopitovic: Winery just outside Virpazar, which we visited on Hedonistic Wine and Food Tour. Very tasty wine.
Winery Cermeniza: Boljevici village, Virpazar, Montenegro. An entire resort about a 20 minute walk from downtown Virpazar. A great place to “get away from it all.”
Garnet Winery: Godinje, Montenegro. The winery through which we booked our wine tour. The owners speak English and are totally awesome. They live in Podgorica and are looking to expand tourism in Virpazar and the surrounding area. Book the Hedonistic Wine and Food Tour in advance!
Restaurant Silistria; Open daily 10 – 12. Reservations not necessary. Located on the water where you pick up boats to cruise Lake Skadar, very close to the Boat Milicia stand. Inexpensive and casual