Many events are by reservation only.¬†¬†¬†Please contact Pam Picazo at pam@picazovineyards or (408) 205- 4258. Allocations are available at www.picazovineyards.com Private Cellar.
A visit to a small winery in Slovakia, 26 April 2008
Slovakia, one of the newer members of the European Union, has been producing wine for more than a thousand years, though its products are less well known internationally than the wines of its western neighbor Austria.
The courtyard of the Chowaniec & Krajcirovic winery in Svaty Jur (Saint George), Slovakia. The office is through the door to the left, the wine cellar is entered through a door to the right.
On a Friday afternoon I had the opportunity to visit a small winery in village of¬† Svaty Jur (historical monument in 1990. There I observed a facility unlike anything to be found in the US, while tasting wines that were similar to those I have enjoyed in Germany or even the Livermore valley.; I will not attempt to produce the proper Slovak diacritical marks), some 10 km north of ,¬† in the foothills of the Lesser . The village has many nicely restored 16th and houses, and was declared a
As it turned out, this afternoon preceded the annual “name day” celebration of St. George, and already the main street of the village was lined with various booths where one could purchase a variety of edibles. Pork and chicken, with onions; various sweets. And assorted crafts. A stage was prepared for musicians in the center of the street, which was closed to auto traffic..
Wine grapes have been grown there, I was told, for 1200 years.The village is known as a wine town, similar to the small towns along the Weinstrasse of the Rhine valley in Germany. The similarity is probably not accidental, because many Germans lived in the area during the 17th century, and much of the wine culture derives from them, with influence also from Hungary.
The town appears in records as early as 1209 AD. A major event in the town history was when it was promoted to a free Royal Town in 1647. Around that time the local religious order built the main local church (of St. George) and a convent.¬† In those days it was not acceptable for the nuns to be seen on public streets, so a tunnel was constructed, under what is now the main street of the town, allowing passage of the nuns from their convent¬† up the inclined street to the church. (A simpler solution, you might think, would be to build the church and monastery adjacent to each other.) The tunnel had a series of sturdy vaults along it, cleverly constructed to allow passage of air, and in one of these ancient vaults, now underneath a house, stand the various containers of the wine of the firm of¬† Chowaniec & Krajcirovic
(their web site¬†www.vinnepivnice.sk¬†is available in English). It was there, under the thick ancient vaulted ceiling, that I was given samples of the wine of this area of Slovakia.
Winemaker Juraj Krajcirovic uses a glass “wine thief” to draw out a sample of wine for tasting, in the ancient vaulted room that serves for wine storage and aging.
This winery was started in 2001 byPeter Chowaniec and our host for the day, the winemaker Juraj Krajcirovic.¬†Our host spoke no English, but the essence of his remarks and comments were translated from Slovak by my Bratislava host, Professor Vlado Buzek.¬†¬† The winery had been operated by Mr. K’s grandfather, but during the decades of Communist rule the art of winemaking was lost; such vines as were allowed to remain were used to produce jug by the collective farm that managed the local agriculture. With the return of private industry, the winemaker began, by trial and error, to rediscover the secrets of making fine wine, with particular emphasis on the white wines for which the area is particularly well suited. His stated goal, according to their literature,¬† is to bring back the times when the wines from these vineyards “were considered the best of the Austro-Hungarian Empire”.¬†He has evidently succeeded; According to Vlado, who knows wines well, he produces some of the finest wines of Slovakia.
A sample of white wine, the specialty of the area, goes from the wine thief ¬†into a glass for sampling.
The quality of the wine owes much to the careful tending of the vineyards. They say that “wine is made in the vineyards”, meaning that although the harvest occurs in August, all year long there are tasks in tending the vines. In May the tasks are weeding and turning over the soil to let the vines breathe, but each season brings its own special activity.
From the street it is not easy to discover the entrance, but my companion Vlado recognized it and rang the doorbell; soon a young woman opened the way into the courtyard of the establishment, where we met our host and were guided into the winecellar.¬† A photo shows the courtyard
Along one side of the small vaulted underground room were chest-high black plastic tanks holding wine. The winemaker used a glass “wine thief” to remove samples for us, explaining each time (in Slovak) something about the wine.
We began with a Mueller Thurgau, a wine that is very popular on the German Weinstrasse;¬†¬† light with a nice fruity bouquet.¬† Then came a Veltlinske zelene, also a wine I have had in Germany. I then had a very nice Riesling, Rizling vlassky, a great choice for subsequent evening embibing as it turned out. At one time Rieslings were very popular with Livermore winegrowers, but now they are not so common. We concluded the white wines with a; very typical of this variety, very nice.
Winemaker Juraj Krajcirovic offers a sample of one of their fine white wines to your reporter, in the ancient vault that serves as a wine cellar and tasting room for the¬† Chowaniec & Krajcirovic winery
He had some nice reds too: a Frankovka modra, an Andre barrique, and a. All quite nice.¬† As a very special treat I was given a sample of a wonderful red wine, Alibernet, full and sweet, a truly wonderful tasting experience.
Winemaker Juraj Krajcirovic fills a container of Chardonnay for my consumption.
Having concluded the tasting (my companion Vlado had to forgo this, because he was driving), it was time for purchase. Vlado ordered some white wine, whereupon the winemaker proceeded to use a long plastic tube to siphon out wine into plastic liter bottles, recycled from holding water, and screwed on the caps.
Two of the plastic bottles went with me, for evening consumption but Vlado also purchased some cases of properly bottled and corked wine to put away in his large .
Winemaker Juraj Krajcirovic brings several cases of his fine wines which will be added to a wine cellar for later enjoyment.
The experience was not one that an uninformed tourist would be likely to have; you really need a knowledgeable local who can identify the door to the winery and can persuade the winemaker to show you his wares. But the experience was¬† unique: a charming ancient environment, in daily use for the business of wine production on a very small scale, and wines that are deservedly highly regarded by those who value wine — wine that cannot be obtained beyond the borders of the local region.
Tough times be damned. People are stepping up to give big. Bless the people of the Naples Winter Wine Auction for coming through for those who really had a bad year. See you there!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE¬†
Dawn Montecalvo, Executive Director, NCEF, ,
NAPLES, Fla. (Jan. 20, 2009) ‚Äď Prized wines that are praised by wine experts as among the finest in the world will be finding new homes. They are traveling from pristine private cellars, to the auction block at the 2009 Naples Winter Wine Festival on Feb. 7, and into the cellars of winning bidders. The cellar gems, donated by private , range from Old World to New World vintages and 750mL bottles to Imperials. Every dollar raised during the auction of 65 one-of-a-kind lots will go toward helping underprivileged and at-risk children through the Naples Children & Education Foundation.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄúThe passion for fine wine coupled with the desire to help children in need is abundantly evident in the wine donations from private collectors,‚ÄĚ said Larry Andrews, chairman of the festival‚Äôs vintner committee and a trustee of NCEF, which founded the festival in 2001. ‚ÄúIn sharing their treasured wines, donors will have a significant and meaningful impact on the neediest children in Collier County, Florida, where pockets of poverty create deplorable living conditions.‚ÄĚ He added, ‚ÄúLast year, a private donor lot of 75 bottles of from the 2000 vintage raised $220,000. That one lot funded vision screenings and new eyeglasses for 500 children in addition to sending more than 200 children to summer camps.‚ÄĚ
Highlights of wine lots from private donors:
This nostalgic collection of some of the 1990s‚Äô greatest wines includes nine Magnums from Silver Oak and , a case of Dunn‚Äôs Howell Mountain Cabernet, four vintages of Shafer Hillside Select and more.
Donated by baseball legend Rusty Staub‚Äôs foundation, this lot blends the best of Burgundies and baseball: 10 Double Magnum Burgundies from the highly acclaimed 2005 vintage and four tickets to the New York Mets 2009 season opener at the city‚Äôs new stadium, Citi Field, with dinner at Daniel in New York.
Four 100-point Bordeaux presented in large format are oenophile attention-getters with an Imperial of 2000 Pavie in addition to three of Bordeaux‚Äôs all-time classics: the 1982 Leoville Las Cases, 1986 1990 and the .
This lot, called Millennial Triumphs, holds 36 bottles of Bourdeaux from the 2000 vintage. The wines ‚Äď Chateau Figeac, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Pichon Lalande and Chateau Haut-Brion ‚Äď are outstanding examples of this historic vintage and are expected to age well over two decades.
Thirty-six bottles form a ‚Äúdream team‚ÄĚ auction lot of up-and-coming California Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Syrah. There are 16 top Cabernet Sauvignons, including the first three vintages of Sloan, four top single-vineyard offerings from Hundred Acre, and one from Colgin‚Äôs IX Estate. All-stars of Pinot Noir are represented with three vintages of Marcassin, Aubert‚Äôs UV Vineyard, Sine Qua Non‚Äôs final release and the 2004 Kosta Browne Kanzler ‚Äď Wine Spectator‚Äôs highest scoring Pinot Noir ever. Very special Chardonnay and Syrah vintages complete the lot.
This is a 44-bottle collection of Italy‚Äôs Angelo Gaja, including his bold and powerful reds and ephemeral whites. The lot includes four ultra-rare Double Magnums: Barbaresco, Darmagi, Costa Russi and Sori Tildin.
Titled Bordeaux Blockbusters, this lot comprises three cases of what wine experts consider the most coveted wines from the 1998 vintage: Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, Chateau Leoville-Las Cases, Chateau Mouton Rothschild. and
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The Naples Winter Wine Festival is a three-day affair that begins on Friday, Feb. 6. It includes a tour of children‚Äôs charities, a lunch and wine tasting guided by some of California‚Äôs finest vintners, and evening vintner dinners in the elegant homes of 17 NCEF trustees presided over by famous chefs and vintners. On Saturday, there is a culinary showcase and wine tasting that precedes the auction on the grand lawn of The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples. In the evening, there is a ‚Äúwine-down‚ÄĚ party, and on Sunday, the festival concludes with a celebration brunch.¬†
NCEF trustees who founded the festival had a vision to create an exquisite event that would raise funds for children‚Äôs charities in Collier County, Fla. Since the first festival, $69.5 million has been raised toward making a profound and sustainable difference for children in need. The festival is ranked as one of the top arts and entertainment events for wealthy Americans by the Luxury Institute and as the top charity wine auction since 2004 by Wine Spectator.
For a schedule of 2009 festivities, a complete listing of auction lots and more information about the Naples Winter Wine Festival, please visit napleswinefestival.com, or call the wine festival office at .
See you at the Naples Winnter Wine Festival!
Back Roads Wine is you Livermore and California¬†Independent Wine News Source!