Sunday in Slovenia

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We had a morning visit planned with a winemaker Shannon likes in Slovenia, a 45 minute drive east. We also made a reservation at a nearby restaurant where she takes her groups. Among the many emails  necessary to make these plans, she warned us that we’d likely need three hours at the winery. Three hours? That seemed excessive to me, our winery visits are usually completed in an hour or so, longer if it’s a thorough tour of the facility. But OK, we reserved with Matjaž at Tilia at 10:30, with lunch down the road at 1.

Yup, rain clouds over Slovenia. But oh, those rains make for a lush green landscape. The 114 carries you through a valley lined with vines and fields, with hills rising from small towns at their base. Each town seems to have at least one white church and belltower.

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Matjaz met us at his home, and we first wandered over to his cherry orchard to munch on ripe cherries as we talked. His father managed a winery, and he and his wife have worked their whole lives in the business. They’ve worked for wineries in Switzerland and in the US before buying this property and starting their own small winery. His wife completed her PhD, and now is a university professor. He buys grapes from farmers in the valley and produces three lines of wines–the fresh white for which the valley is known, Pinot Noirs and blends; and his top line Pinot Noirs.  He also consults to other wineries, and seems to have his oars in multiple waters. We spent some time in the cellars, and then commenced tasting. And tasting, and talking, and tasting some more. Matjaz is passionate about winemaking, has strong opinions, and likes to share them. I think we had tasted close to a dozen wines, then grappa, when we attempted to start easing ourselves out at 12:15. When we left with five bottles at 12:45, Matjez called the restaurant that we were on our way–aparrently the owner hates when people are late.

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Made it to Majerya in Vipava at 1:05. If you didn’t know this restaurant is here, tucked into a a twisting lane in a small farming village, you’d ride right past. In an airy stone building is a restaurant bustling with people enjoying a leisurely Sunday lunch–large tables of extended families, children running in the vegetable garden, young couples holding hands while sipping wine.  The food is sophisticated, elegant without being fussy. And surprisingly affordable for such high quality.

We were first brought glasses of sparkling wine with a little plate of savory pastries. We then split a wine pairing through the meal. I started with a dish that Shannon had described–fried dandelion leaves, served with a rich yogurt. The texture of the crisp, slightly bitter leaves with the dairy sweet yogurt was fabulous. Larry had a plate of transparent carpaccio, also wonderful. We shared a traditional extremely thin pasta with a sauce of spring vegetables that was one of the best things we ate on the trip. Then I had pork with a stuffing of nettles; and Larry lamb and spinach in a pastry case. We shared dessert of a cherry tart with cherry gelato. Fabulous meal, charming staff and all around experience. If you are anywhere in the neighborhood, you must, must go.

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Stuffed to the gills, we drove around the long way to get home. Up into mountains, alongside a turquoise river that reminded me of the color of the water in Plitivice in Croatia (I looked it up, it’s the same minerals that turn the water that color) , through more vine-covered hills, cherry orchards and small towns with white churches.

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Tons of people selling cherries by the side of the road, we stopped and bought a huge bag.  At one point we were driving a one-lane gravel road and met another car coming down–luckily the other driver knew the road and was able to back down and to the side to let us pass.

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Cherries for dinner.

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