Written by Maria Jose Wright.
Most people don’t know much about Slovenia. Those that do, know only Ljubljana, its lovely capital city, the Postojna Cave natural wonder, and the beautiful, postcard perfect Lake Bled. But there is so much more to this small country, as my husband and I discovered on a recent ten day Slovenia private tour.
One of the unexpected and delightful discoveries was the wine culture of Slovenia, which should be among Slovenia’s tourist highlights. If you don’t have time to do them all, you can choose a couple that can be done as day trips from Ljubljana.
Among the many interesting visits to castles and monasteries with some of the prettiest scenery in Europe, we were lucky to stop at six different and very varied wineries. After a fascinating tour of Brežice Castle and its magnificent ceilings, which should definitely be among Slovenia’s top ten attractions, a change of pace was the visit to Repnice and the Vino Graben winery. Repnice are catacombs dug in the sand that maintain a stable low temperature and give the vintners of the area a perfect natural wine cellar. Among a very friendly group of Slovenians that were also visiting, we tasted Rumeni Plavec, Pinot Gris and a maturated Chardonnay among others, as we learned of the ancient tradition of the Repnice.
Our next winery stop was of an even more ancient process. Our host, Božidar Zorjan, is a bio-dynamic farmer whose philosophy is that there is a sacred connection between land, animals, man and nature. He does not use any chemicals, his sheep have names and come running when he calls, and their only job is to maintain the vineyard well fertilized. Most fascinating is his cultivation of a very ancient grape variety called Dolium which he processes by burying it in clay pots so that the fermentation and maturation happens totally naturally. The result is an unexpectedly delicious wine. Both these wineries are in the Tinjska Gora area and could be incorporated in a day trip in Slovenia.
On another day, we visited the wine area of Jeruzalem. It’s in absolutely breathtaking scenery of rolling hills full of vineyards with a small church on practically every hill top. There we stopped for a fantastic lunch among the vineyards at Gostišče Taverna where we tasted delicious Vino Kupljen. The Taverna has a great old cellar that is a treat to visit with a rather “adults only” vibe. Just a bit down the road we stopped at the biggest winery in the area, Vina Jeruzalem Ormoz. The place is Zidanica Malek and besides tasting the wines you can see a tiny, recently discovered, secret chapel.
Our final wine area visits were in the Goriška Brda very near the Italian border. In fact, if we didn’t know we were in Slovenia, we would have sworn we were among the Tuscan hills. There we visited an organic vintner, Štekar. Sitting at the outside table with the views of the hills and the vines while we tasted Rebula, Chardonnay and Merlot and munched on delicious hams, breads and cheeses was la Dolce Vita.
The last winery was Ščurek. This is a winery run by a family of father and five sons. They have a very interesting concept in that they are an Art Consulate also. As you tour the winery, you find incredible art from young artists from different countries, painted on many of the barrels. Their wine tasting was incredibly generous and we consumed Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon, and Ribolla Gialla among others.
After all that, we walked back to our hotel through the vineyards escorted by one of our hosts. This was great fun as we crossed back and forth between Slovenia and Italy and took pictures of the old border crossing station, now crumbly and covered in vines.
Slovenia is a country to enjoy at a slower pace and sipping their wines is a great component of one of our most enjoyable vacations.