For the third time this year this column has received contact from far beyond Oregon’s borders.
In April, a public relations firm in Los Angeles issued me press credentials to cover the Willamette Valley Wineries Association Pinot Noir Auction. In August, I heard from a New York PR firm that diplomatically asked me to correct several small errors I made about their client, the 634-year-old Italian Antinori family winery. And, in this column on Nov. 1, I told of the coming interest in wines from Slovenia, a country I had visited in my footloose youth. Four days later, I received an intriguing telephone call.
A voice with a slight accent said he was calling from the Embassy of Slovenia in Washington, D.C., and he thanked me for writing about the wines of Slovenia. I said I looked forward to having the opportunity to taste the wines I had once tasted so long ago and hoped they would soon be available to purchase here in the Northwest. The voice then said, “I will send you several bottles, and there is no obligation to purchase.” I asked how he got my phone number and he said Google, and then read me my address, which he also obtained the same way. I thanked him, smiling to myself, since I was sure someone who knew me was playing a joke on me... Hmm, maybe ‘twas Bobbi Lippman, whose column we read in these pages every Friday.
Several days later, an email told me a FedEx package was en route and soon a box landed at my front door before I had even gotten out of bed. In it were well-written brochures on the wines, the people, the culture and the history of Slovenia, which they proclaim is the only country in the world whose name contains the word “love,” plus four bottles — two red and two white.
Christina and I decided to assemble a small panel to taste and assess these four wines that were grown in beautiful terraced vineyards in the foothills of the Italian Alps that spill over the Slovenian border. We invited former Bay House Restaurant sommelier and Newport Seafood and Wine Festival wine judge for many years, Thomas “Mac” McLaren, and our local Grocery Outlet wine buyer, Eric Vaughn. The wines were tasted before, and with, a dinner of Christina’s roast salmon.
The consensus of the four tasters is as follows:
1) Krasno 2017 white blend (40 percent rebula, 30 percent sauvignasse, 30 percent Chardonnay) —Crisp, with good balance of acidity and fruit; not completely dry, slight honeyed nose and some grapefruit on the finish.
2) Avia 2018 pinot grigio — High acid, moderate minerality, good pear-to-peach flavors came through on the finish; reminded us, not surprisingly, of pinot grigio from Italy’s Collio region, which this part of Slovenia once was. Even today some vineyards still straddle the border between the two countries.
3) Krasno 2016 red blend (40 percent cabernet franc, 30 percent cabernet sauvignon, 30 percent merlot) — Good acidity, pepper (the cab. franc); some tannin, finishes a little green (the cab. sauv.); modest structure.
4) Avia 2017 cabernet sauvignon — Some raspberry on the nose, but simple and falling apart; least interesting of the four wines.
The panel wondered how the white blend would compare with 100 percent rebula, Slovenia’s signature grape. The food pairing with salmon went well, but the reds, of course, suggested beef and tomato-based sauces. The suggested shelf price on the two Krasnos is $16-18 and the two Avias, $7-10. The wines should be available soon in Portland.
Yes, I would love to return to Slovenia, to the town of Ptuj (whose name I love to pronounce: puh-tooey) where, I’ve learned, the oldest winery in the country is located, perhaps the very one from whose giant cask, large enough to live in, I bought wine back in my twenties.
And to think that such lovely memories — and nice wines — have come my way again when I mentioned the wines of Slovenia here. What’s that, Christina? No, there is no context for me to say Dom Perignon or Romanee-Conti at this time…