"I\u00a0should import this! How hard can it be?\u201d\r\n\r\nMany wine lovers traveling in a distant land sip a local wine and consider this thought. So, when Blue Danube Wine, an importer of Eastern European wines, invited me to tag along for two weeks to visit producers and scout wines along the Dalmatian coast in Croatia, I didn\u2019t hesitate to say yes.\r\n\r\nYes, to leisurely days tasting wine in luxurious coastal settings. Yes, to living the glamorous life of a wine importer.\r\n\r\nI quickly learned, however, that wine importers must be well prepared for the rigors of the road and palate. The schedule is packed, the pace unrelenting. We tasted more than 60 wines and barrel samples before lunch. Long days of tasting were followed by evenings evaluating sample bottles and taking detailed notes.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAnd on the road, often there\u2019s no map. We got lost several times and detained by the police. We raced three hours in the pitch-black night around the Pelje\u0161ac peninsula without a GPS to catch the last ferry to Kor\u010dula, arriving with four minutes to spare. We couldn\u2019t find the hotel, because it had changed its name but not its signage. We finally checked in well after midnight.\r\n\r\nThat was only day one.\r\n\r\nOff-road, importers, I learned, must be masters of sketchy directions:\r\n\r\nTurn right past the building with the pink balcony. Follow a dirt track. Turn left at the big boat by the olive trees. Keep going until you see the airport flight path markers.\u00a0\r\n\r\nThat\u2019s how we found one of the original Zinfandel grapevines known as Crljenak Ka\u0161telanski. Trekking to the vineyard, we saw the famous vine identified by an aluminum dog tag with a serial number and pedigree around its trunk. Not exactly sacred surroundings, but thrilling all the same.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThe wineries here are not grand estates. Several are bleak, communist-era remnants of Yugoslavian state production. Some tasting rooms are wine-makers\u2019 homes\u2014centuries-old stone buildings where we would gather around the family table with bountiful spreads of breads, cheeses, olive oils, cured meats, tuna, capers and homemade confections. If the surroundings were humble, the hospitality was grand.\r\n\r\nI discovered that the life of an importer is not about fancy chateaus and grand meals. Rather, it\u2019s about connecting with people over a glass of wine and, often, a home-cooked meal. Most everyone we visited has been part of a winemaking family for generations, and by -doing business or breaking bread together, you become part of the family, too.\r\n\r\nOn Hvar Island, we were set to tour the famed Zlatan Otok winery, founded by Zlatan Plenkovi\u0107, an icon and legend of modern of Croatian wine, who recently died. But his son, Marin, guided us somewhere more personal.\r\n\r\nHe led us to a small cemetery, adjacent to the winery, that overlooks the sea. It\u2019s there that we stood over his father\u2019s grave. The weight of the father\u2019s legacy braced upon the son\u2019s shoulders was at once palpable and heartbreaking. We never did see the winery. It wasn\u2019t important: Marin showed us all that mattered.