It’s no secret that I love wine, and touring any winery I can get to. But what IS strange is that my love of winery tours probably stems back to a late May afternoon in Slovenia. Yes, Slovenia.
My parents and I spent our annual trip that year in northern Croatia, Slovenia, and northern Italy, and adored every minute. Our time in Slovenia was spent with friends who work for the State Department, and they’re always great about finding fun and unique things to do together when we visit.
On this particular day, we spent the morning at the seaside in Piran, then drove up into the hills for an afternoon of Slovenian wine. Paula and Joe brought us to Rojac, a family-owned winery run by Sonja and Uroš in Gazon. They met us in the yard and Uroš immediately welcomed us in and took us on a tour of the cellars and bottling operation…with a little bit of wine to start off, of course!
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These pictures aren’t very good because of the low lighting and my old camera, but I thought this was super interesting and wanted to share. He gave us a little taste of orange wine, which I’d never heard of. Contrary to its name, it has nothing to do with orange fruit. Instead, it’s wine made using white grapes and keeping them in contact with their seeds and skins during fermentation. It’s a very natural process, and results in a very unique drink (though not as much to my taste).
Interestingly, I’ve started to see orange wine pop up on tasting menus in the States recently, and also was offered one in France last fall while visiting some wineries, so it seems to be becoming more mainstream. You can read more about it on Madeleine Puckett’s Wine Folly site if you’re interested.
After seeing the operations, we all went upstairs to the tasting room to try a number of the wines and learn about how they’re made. Rojac is one of the longstanding Slovenian wine families, and is known for Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malvazija Istriana, and of course the famous Slovenian Refošk.
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We spent a couple hours with Sonja and Uroš nibbling on some snacks, learning about their wines, and listening to them talk about life in Slovenia, wine making, and how they’re building their business. Uroš talked about his trips to the United States to discuss distribution, and we loved hearing about how Slovenian daily life has changed over the past 20 years.
One of the things that’s really cool about Rojac’s approach is that it’s organic and super natural, not adding sulfites or anything to the wines. This made them easier for me to drink, and they talked about how they stay true to the artisanal family-operated style of wine making rather than turning into a big global operation.
Before we left, we spent some time out on their beautiful patio, which has a great view over the surrounding hills and countryside. This has been family land for some time, which is just such a cool concept to me.
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Eventually we had to head back to Ljubljana for the night, but it was hard to leave. I bought four bottles to bring back home—two for gifts, and two for me 🙂 I’m still hoarding my two bottles for a special occasion.
Our afternoon at Rojac was such a special experience, for so many reasons. Many people don’t automatically think of Slovenia when they think of wine in this area (Croatia gets more buzz, and of course you have Italy right next door), but I highly recommend spending a day in Slovenian wineries if you’re in the area!
Have you tried Slovenian wine? What’s your favorite? I loved the Refosk, but the Cabernet Sauvignon still reigns supreme for me.
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