Sunday 6th Sept 2015: Onto Maribor
We left Prebold, but were fairly unimpressed by the towns we passed through, not enough to stop anyway. Scenery was less mountainous by still pretty and agricultural. The barns are architecturally really interesting.
More churches and always with hills in the background.
Hops for the two Slovenian beers being harvested now: Union and Lasko
Our destination was the motorhome parking at the top of a hill with the intention of walking on the morrow. Best laid plans and badly laid roads put paid to that! We started up the hill on the dirt track – too many water tracks and rattlings: Chardonnay and our teeth! Abort and plan B … Maribor, which was planned next anyway.
Our general expectations of Maribor were not high – even though it is Slovenia’s second city on the river Dava. (Boys and girls – were we surprised! Read on…). We arrived at our first Agro Camping at about 4:00 pm – the Horvat Vinejardji. Our hosts were out and we settled the van onto a very sloping pitch – chocks brought into play to level the bed. Settled to some admin work – and after a while, our host arrived – quick warm welcome (we were their first motorhome, despite being in the Agrotourism book for a while). K offered the standard EUR10 – refused! He asked if we would like a wine tasting a little later in the evening – does the fat dog slide on lino? At about 7:30 – he knocked and we followed him into the house… We tasted about 5 different wines – all white – this area is mainly white – Sauvignon Blank, some different Reisling, Chardonnay…. on we went … slowly with decent sized glasses. Then – our hostess appeared with a large platter of food! A real mixture: local cheeses, sliced onion on bread with a light lard butter (tasty – honest) and pumpkin oil drizzle, gammon on bread – and so tasty. J ate most of it – this was our evening meal – superb ! Our host’s English was very good, so he was able to talk to us about wine growing generally in Slovenia … mostly family run businesses and 6 major large firms, until last year when one in Maribor went bankrupt. Due to the sunny summer this year the harvest is starting this week and expected to be good. Last year there was very little sun and the harvest was poor. We discussed how the little known quality of Slovenian wine impedes its demand and therefore export to the rest of Europe. He also talked about the wines to look out for in the different areas as we travelled Slovenia. We were welcome to park up as long as we liked.
A nightcap wine tasting of our own back in the van – that fat dog just will not stop sliding – thanks to Thomas O’Reilly for that one, Amelia!
At EUR 5.99 fro 5 litres it really was a poor finale.
The view from Chardonnay looking up at some of our host’s vines
Monday 7th Sept 2015: Magical Maribor Moments
This may be a long blog – no need for sleeping pills tonight… AM – we cycled into Maribor – I (J blogging here) did a sort of walking tour guide thingy. Maribor was 2/3rds destroyed in WW2 and boasts a large 1980’s iconic bus station. Most of the architecture reflects the ‘proletarian’ history of factories (source our 2001 guide book). However a number of old buildings such as 4 old town wall towers and a synagogue survived. We avoided the tourist train (Kerstin, if you are reading, this pic is for you!) – it did not seem to move due to the lack of tourists :).
We saw the oldest vine in the world – 400 years old – it’s in the Guiness Book of Records – it still produces wine. As there is a festival to harvest its grapes so the date is pretty much fixed to end of Sept / start October. The wine produced is distributed by the Mayor in small bottles.
The wrinkly old vine is on the right!
It had a small and free museum and had some of our overnight host’s wines – Horvat.
Journalists waiting to ask us how our trip in Slovenia was going … actually Serbian journalist interviewing Slovenian wine experts … should have asked us, we seem to be tasting enough to become expert!
That led to a sampling of the local wines in a conveniently nearby restaurant – only 4 wines, but we were sharing, honest!
We fell into conversation with a lovely lady – Petra, and her Crufts Bichon Frisee, and she gave us very good advice on the area and things to see and do.
She talked about how her family, wealthy Ljubljana, had different capitalist ideas to a lot of Slovenia, who were still emotionally locked into the Tito era. She recommended a particularly good restaurant – Mak’s – for special occasions – possibly expensive – K’s eyes lit up the street and she asked Petra to book us in for 6:30 this evening! Bugger the budget Mrs Spontaneous…
Not having had enough of wine tasting, we headed for the largest underground wine cellar in Slovenia – 20,000 sq metres. A good tour of timber and concrete (?) wine barrels – with German and Dutch couples – the wine tasting then began (again !). Our tour guide was the manager of the overseas consortium that was trying to buy the bankrupted wine firm from the receivers (see note above about 6 large wine firms). He was Dutch married to a Slovene and had worked in many industries (we did get his life story) but it was very interesting to hear his take on some Slovenine attitudes to competition and pricing based on old Communist beliefs.
No fountain, so visitors press coins into the wall for luck.
7 wine tastings later, we retrieved our bicycles and wobbled back to Horvat…. J was ready to nap before the 6:30 restaurant booking – K disappeared into chez Horvat to purchase some of the wine, where she was offered more wine tasting and a tour of the bottling equipment and the main cellar. The generosity of our host is amazing: he rounded each price down and threw in a bottle of a different grape! In telling our host about the cave tour, he said how a consortium of vineyards had bought some vines from the bankrupt large company and they were in a really poor way but a lot of work on them and they should produce some good kilos of grapes this year. Slovenia is a small country and is is fascinating to hear parts of the same story from different people.
K back with 2 minutes to spare before the taxi arrived….. a very quick clothes change and minimal makeup.
The restaurant decor was fairly bland. The chef / host David was eccentric … jeans, jacket and a mop of unruly hair. He offered up his 19 month son as the main course! We left ourselves entirely in his hands re the meal and the wine. He does not produce a menu as it depends what is available. The pictures can do the talking. It was truly amazing. So much food, but served slowly and all so light that neither of us had that leaden stomach feeling.
1. Bottom left to right and up – you need directions are there were so many elements just to the starter!
Beetroot macaroon with chicken liver pate and foie gras.
Parsley with homemade sausage and …. on top.
Crostini with Slovenian parma ham
Corneto with minced spiced beef and cream cheese
Lollypop of 24 month aged cheese with pumpkin seeds
1. Continued … hot part
The lightest tortilla with cauliflower cream
Sweetbread in crumb with ginger and soy sauce
James knowing he is in for a good time.
Wine was Zlata Radgonska Permina 2006 – apparently the oldest sparkling winery in Slovenia
2. Soup Course
Tenderest salmon strips in a yellow pepper soup. Quail egg, caviar and a jelly of sweet and sour pumpkin. Served under a large dome with herb smoke.
WINE: Verus Sauvignon Blanc … delicious
3. Salad Course
Dressed leaves with roasted pumpkin seeds and chargrilled chicken.
As the chicken was on the bone, they came later with a large bowl, jug of warm water and rolled towels so we could rinse our hands!
4. Main Course
Most melt in the mouth lamb with lightest mashed potato, meat juices, onion sauce and papardelle of pumpkin and carrot.
WINE: Zamut Cabernet Sauvignon (Augustus) 2008 (we rejected an earlier suggestion as we felt it was too heavy – Shiraz)
Marinated pear balls, pear ice-cream, cinnamon and wine poached pears, bitter chocolate biscuit, chocolate soil, white chocolate mouse with a mango centre (when you cut in it looked like a poached egg!)
WINE: Most …. this is actually not a wine…. yet. On a certain day in November the celebration is the the grape juice is now fermented enough to become wine. Until then, it is Most (pronounced Mosht)
We were offered a cheese course!!!! To finish we were given shot of grappa, told to only drink half of it as it was a long drink ins a small glass. The glass was then topped up with Chardonnay grape juice.
As we left, we had a sour cherry shot! In any normally circumstances, we would feel bloated, poisoned and plastered … it is a testament to the quality of the food and wine and the lovely long gaps that we felt replete but in no way uncomfortable. Amazing experience. WOW – WHAT A DAY!