Slovenia’s Vinakoper

I took a trip to Croatia that happened to drive through Slovenia from the Italian starting point. The first stop in Slovenia was Vinakoper winery. I loved the rich wood carved doors around the tasting room as well as leading into the barrel room. The lovely guide ushered us into the cool crisp hillside made up of mostly sandstone and began to explain the history of the largest winery in Slovenia.

The winery was founded in 1947. In 1949, they began blending vineyards and the cellar was officially finished in 1953.  The vineyards are located on the Slovene Istria area with beautiful rolling hills around the coast in ten different locations extending over 570 hectares, which is approximately 1,408.5 acres. They also make, Grappa made from two different grape varietals from their estate. The wine production is 70% red varieties & 30% white varieties. While 50% of the wines produced are considered local varieties such as Refosco, Cipro and a unique Malvasia. Multiple times we were informed the winery believes in natural production with a very high quality.

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Volume & barrel amount are listed on large barrels. For example, the biggest barrel pictured above, would last 56 years if you drank 2 liters every day. The close up on the barrel shows that the carving was in honor of the 1953 cellar creation. Red varietals are all aged in oak while the white varietals are aged in acacia, oak or stainless. They find that acacia seems to give a fruitier flavor in white varietals. They stopped using concrete tanks a while ago. The lovely winery tour guide explained how the cooperage of the barrels gives spice while the smaller barrels seem to show a deeper longevity for the wines, but they only used those barrels for 1 year for high end wines than the barrels are reused or sold. The barrel room is three quarters underground, maintaining a 53 degree temperature. Their oldest wine still in bottle is a 1966 Cabernet Sauvignon.

We were then ushered into a long tasting salon with barrels on one wall, views of the countryside on the other wall and a huge table with benches of thick, rich, beautiful wood. The first wine was a Malvazija, aka Malvasia made in a dry style. It was a sparkling light yellow with green youthful tones. Wafting into aromas of acacia blossoms, citrus infused almonds & tropical fruits. The flavors almost hinted of grapefruit with fresh unroasted almonds. As the wine warmed a slight honeyed note, hints of the varietal. I would pair this with a delicate white fish or a subtle cheese course that would acknowledge the acidity and aromatics. You can almost taste the Mediterranean sunny sea air in this glass.

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The next wine took a flight with me and I have been storing the last bottle for the perfect cool evening. Refosk, aka Refosco, the king of darkness, shows as ruby red with violet hints glimmering in the light. This was a complex kaleidoscope of blackberry, raspberry and blueberry notes with a hint of floral accompaniment. In the wines youth, there almost seemed to be the pizzazz of bing cherry. This wine calls for a bountiful charcuterie plate or a beautifully grilled steak. In some of the barrels the large blocks of tartaric crystals that have settled, it was referred to as wine stone, is retained and then used as yeast for bread, added in tea or as a powder to flavor foods.

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The last wine also traveled back with us and we shared the last bottle over Thanksgiving with friends. The sweet wine styled, Cipro, is refreshingly not a syrup or heavy handed dessert. It was a lovely scarlet red with slight brick red hues. I found aromas of violets and roses to be met with salty, sea air kissed strawberries and candied oranges. The playful aromas matched flavors of rose and rich, ripe strawberry with slight vanilla kisses that leave your palate in anticipation of pairing. I would chose a dessert that is drizzled with caramel and spiced with nutmeg or clove. It would also be beautiful with an airy chocolate dish garnished with a bounty of berries.

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Our visit concluded in the wine shop where my husband discovered what appeared to be converted gas pumps where locals bring jugs to fill with table wine and are charged by the liter. I think I need some of those at my house! I also brought some of their sparkling wines with me for hotel evening tastings. I will share my tasting notes on those in the future. The wines offered great euro value and would be a pleasant add to your collection for everyday enjoyment. I believe at this time they are not available through shipping though, so you should make Vinakoper a stop in your vacation plans.

Cheers!

 

 

 

New Zealand – Searching for Winter in June…continued

Part two of our travels we learned more, played with animals, chilled with the locals and took a day to check out the mountains closer, all while making each other laugh. Always looking for a giggle, I found the non-smoking sign on our room cynically humorous since I just quit. Like a reminder saying, you know you want another. Of course the sign at the petrol station was ironic for us, the newlyweds.

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Since we were farther south than we had ever been, it was only appropriate to check out the International Antarctic Centre and learn about cute little blue penguins. The Antarctic Storm experience was a blast! Learning about Scott Base in the Antarctic and viewing the museum set up with figures of living creatures, base camp and Hagglund rides made for an exciting excursion. Learn about the location here: http://www.iceberg.co.nz/

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As a huge animal lover, I heard about an open range zoo close to Christchurch, Orana Wildlife Park. Seeing these beauties up close and sometimes personal, like the giraffe droll bomb, was a day to treasure. We saw just how nasty, Asian small-clawed otters could be when hungry…oh, that is what hangry is. We had a few animals that sensed the paparazzi and gave me the talk to the butt pose. Even nature has a great sense of humor. This is a must stop if you are in the area. I’ve even donated toward the efforts since our visit. Check it out virtually: http://www.oranawildlifepark.co.nz/

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During the trip we dined on lobster, duck, lamb, and discovered a little Thai restaurant, as it was on our list of things our loved ones wanted us to do. We decided to go grocery shopping for snacks, breakfast travel food and discovered new crazy energy drinks (it’s a weird thing we do, wherever we travel). After some fancy dinner dining, we found ultimate comfort in a local joint, Speight’s Brewery. On our, head toward the mountains, adventure we ran into a small place where I discovered Speight’s beer while chowing on lamb sausage pizza. The lovely lady feeding us told us to go to the brewery before we left. The husband was mostly cocktail indulging as the wine and beer thing is more my wheel house. Not saying I don’t love making or drinking a good cocktail! Ironic how this former anorexic become such a food lover.

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Every day we walked a different direction in exploration of our area.  On the last morning we stumbled into the Christchurch Botanic Garden. In the cool of winter, I yearned to see it in early fall, when still lush from summers bounty. Guess that is the season I should schedule the next trip for.

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Hope you enjoyed this brief trip, stumble, but a lady does not fall, vacation experience. Not to worry, I take pretty good notes now so our future adventures may include more embellished details.

Cheers!

New Zealand – Searching for Winter in June

I know that this is a wine blog, but I feel a travel topic derail, abounding in my brain. It just is in need of being let out of the station. This is a trip I want to redo, with a few changes, sooner than later. At the time of this get away, I was dabbling as a travel agent and not the best about writing down or photographing all my wine with food adventures so, though it happened, you can’t see it. Oh, how times have changed. Now I’m behind my camera or phone clicking away. Keeping up with the cultures need to visualize also, appears to help keep the memories, so they don’t run away too rapidly.

This trip was literally planned because I wanted to go somewhere cold in June, I wanted my currency to be of better value and for whatever reason I thought the 1st overseas experience with my husband should be English speaking. We had a limited time table so the decision was almost immediately the south island of New Zealand.

The trip was based in Christchurch, with travel to different areas, exploring what we could in the time provided. I don’t generally do the tourist thing that is on the pretty brochure, yet we fit a few things in that where on the honeymoon registry. Oh, this was my honeymoon destination…not a Caribbean island girl. We felt like if people donated to our registry, part of the adventure was making all those items come into fruition. We did that then became a little more, where do the locals hang out? This is how I still travel. Hot points to local joints!

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Not too bad for one of the worst snows they had in years. Yet, we did crawl into our rental car from the trunk after chipping off the ice around the boot, but us winter babies just enjoyed the cool air.

 

 

 

A few people wanted us to go on a romantic horseback riding adventure so, booked it! My horse decided to leap over a puddle. Not like the jump that I was prepared for, more of bunny hop landing me on its neck for a few seconds. I just said sorry to the horse while scooting back into the saddle. Half an hour later, while crossing the river, my husband’s horse felt like the minute we were knee deep in cold winter water, it was the best time to splash around. Cold, yes. Funny, absolutely! Since we traveled off season this adventure, that could’ve been shared with 20 or more other people was just us. It was a giggly few hours of sightseeing, learning about the area, fresh air intake and silly moments to tuck in the memory bank for future laughs.

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A few people, ahem, are aware I enjoy the fruits of the vine. So the next to do item on the list was wine tasting. Since I paid full price for two, I notified the non-wine loving spouse that he would need to enjoy the sweet stuff he loves, whenever it was offered. However this guided venture in the Canterbury/Waipara Valley region ended in a shop full of Schnapps type spirits, which appeared to be my husband’s boozy candy store adventure. I enjoyed discovering the flavors of the region, yet nothing jumped in a bag to fly home with me other than a few types of flavored spirits. I foresee a future trip.

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I contacted http://www.nzwine.com/ prior to our trip, requesting anything they thought would be useful for wine discoveries. So with wine maps and other information in tow we decided to drive north to explore the wines in the Marlborough region. We started at the other Mud House Winery location so that I could discover if I could taste the difference in the regions. Then we wound our way around seeing what we could find. Views that had snow peaked mountains meeting sandy beaches caught my heart. We stopped for a late lunch at a natural food restaurant where I bought a lot of homemade fruit leathers to snack on during our road trips. There was a small tasting room that was attached to the restaurant, pouring five different wineries juice, and that was when the bottles decided they wanted to fly home with me. I can’t shake my taste for the small producer that pours their love into the bottle. Beautiful Pinot Noirs filled with young, delicate strawberry flavors and Sauvignon Blanc that enraptured me with tropical fruit baskets of guava and passionfruit. Truly tastes too be remembered.

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From here we decided to visit closer attractions to the town for a few days with one more mountain driving excursion. For now, I’ll leave this as a too be continued until tomorrow story.

Cheers!

 

 

Christmas Movie & Wine Pairings

Not sure about you, but I’m happy Christmas is on a Friday for us! I’ve worked every holiday for the last 6 years and gratefully I’m blessed to be home on Christmas Eve with my husband this year (so I don’t have to be jelly of him sleeping in). I love the idea of having a full weekend after the chaos of festivities. Ah, the opportunity to relax and watch Christmas movies if I need to unwind. Snuggling up with a crackling fireplace, candles flickering, and furry dogs with a glass of wine. Releasing my brain to the silly deflection of movies and a nice glass of wine conjured up my ideas on how I’d like them to play together. I’ve chosen wine from Italy, Slovenia and Northern California because they picked the film in my mind.

My 1st wine is fun with hints of sweet so curl up with your favorite blanket to start watching Elf (2003) and pop the top on a beautiful Prosecco. My pick would be Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze D.O.C.G. as it marries the sweet golden apple and citrus flavors with the bubbly, light nature of the movies humor. There is something about sparkling that makes me smile and I love that laughter creeps into everyday it can.

The 2nd wine is dark and bubbly for the lushness of the winter. Call the kids in to indulge in a moment of stillness while you pour a glass of Vinakoper Capris Classic Brut Refosco and enjoy the classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. You can chose the 2000 version with Jim Carrey for a longer moment of quiet or the shorter cartoon version from 1966. No matter the movie version, this King of Dark grape will intrigue with sour cherry notes followed by bounding gentle bubbly nature as your heart grows a few sizes larger at the unique discovery.

Call your girlfriends over for a movie night or choose a solo night in your fluffy slippers and favorite pajamas. Open up the beautiful Cartograph Wines 2013 Mariah Vineyard Pinot Noir while you turn on the romantic drama with moments of laughter, The Holiday (2006). The wines forest notes will entwine with the travels of these ladies while the cranberry chutney hints keep you in holiday comforts best season upon your palate. This is a glass to escape into on it’s own, but with this movie on play, you should engulf a few hours in luxury.

Hope you enjoy the beauty of the holiday season with delicious wines with peeled away moments of quiet movie watching stillness to rejuvenate your being.

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Wine Reads

When the weather gets cooler it beckons you indoors to restore your being. This is a great time to catch up on your joy of reading. You can chose to escape, learn something new or laced in a fresh perspective, or take in moments of beauty to live in. I chose some of my favorite wine reads all for different reasons & hope you find something to enjoy within these pages.

Wineocology by Caitlin Stansbury with Heidi Shink is a breath of fresh air for someone curious about learning how to deeper enjoy wine without wanting to read encyclopedia style. It is written in an approachable & almost playful way that helps a beginner feel comfortable while being a relaxing read for an expert. The book is available through Amazon, but starting on the books website is a great opportunity to learn about the author & her perspective: http://wineocology.com/book/

Wineocology

The Essence of Wine by Alder Yarrow with Photography by Leigh Beisch has to be one of the most beautiful books I own about wine. The book uses an eloquent journey through your palate in words that enrapture your senses in a beautiful growth of terms from the earth’s bounty. The journey is exquisitely paired with photography that enables you to dive into the pages to take a bite. This book makes a beautiful coffee table book for even your most discerning of friends, should you not keep it for yourself. Available at: http://www.vinography.com/essence_of_wine.html

The Essence of Wine

The Essential Guide to Wine by the Wine Folly dynamic duo of Madeline Puckette & Justin Hammack is a great read to dive into wine education with an ample amount of graphics to drive the knowledge deeper for the visual learner. This book has a vibrant & fun appeal that almost makes it feel like a quick read that just jet set you around the world of wine. Whether you read through or use it for reference this is a great gift, travel read, or fireplace bound Sunday sipping book to enjoy. Watch a trailer & purchase a copy here: http://winefolly.com/book/

The Essential Guide to Wine

The Exes in My IPod by Lisa Mattson was a book that I was glad to have purchased on my IPad before a long flight. It is a wit laced, humorous journey through love & songs on shuffled rotation. Whether you deem this book as a guilty pleasure or a peek into relationship traversal in the modern era it is a must read with a great glass of wine. Available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Exes-My-iPod-Playlist/dp/1490959866

The Exes in My IPod

Hopefully you get to tuck in some time for yourself to enjoy a glass of wine with the peace of escaping to a hidden journey. Whether you chase lounge read or jet set travel explore pick up a book & view another world through the pages.

Cheers!