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September 2018

Forces restored, bellies full, we were ready for what was probably the
best and most authentic part of our trip: “bandima”, the grape harvest. We joined Jure, of the Žorž vineyard, and his joyful troupe of around 10 people in gathering Pinela grapes while sharing thoughts, jokes, and ‘bevanda’, or watered-down wine, to keep hydrated. We were saddened when we had to leave an hour and a half later, but Anja was waiting for the degustation in the wine cellar. There we learned more secrets of the art of making wines, and tested the local wines like Zelen, and the Pinela we were picking earlier, accompanied by prosciutto and cheese. We even got to test their awesome Konjak (yes, with K, because we are not in France).

We left in a hurry (mental note: don’t fill the agenda next time) to Zemono mansion for lunch, up on a hill overseeing the Vipava valley, in an impressive former hunting house of the Lanthieris. Tomaž prepared for us, using typical local ingredients, some incredible not-so-typical dishes that were a feast both for the palate and the eyes. I thought I would never enjoy eating a dish based on turnip-rooted celery so much!! Another incredible experience was eating lemon ice cream with drops of gin-tonic gelatine, while being bathed in dry ice pouring from a juniper-filled recipient.  All while looking down to the hills and the valley.

After the 3-hour long lunch, we took off to our final destination Cultus, in Podraga, the oldest wine cellar of the valley: almost 400 years old !! The place itself is amazing, and even though they are still restoring it, the sensations that emanate from stone walls, the 300 years old tree, and the stream right next, are hard to describe. In a very intimate discussion, Matej shared with us not only their wines, but also his vision about producing wine, and his future plans. We are looking forward to stay at such an incredible place once they finish restoring the living quarters, and try again those wonderful wines.

It was not without a heavy heart that we said goodbye to Matej and his family, and to Vipava in general, but as the sun was suggesting, it was time to get back on the road to Ljubljana, taking with us some wine, a couple extra kilos, and really, really wide smiles.

Mariano Cecowski in Žiga Puternel

Photos: Mariano & Žiga