Rural Slovenia, a glass of wonderful Pinot Draga, some slices of homemade prosciutto with cheese, wine conversation and also, American football conversation! Imagine that! Being in small village Kojsko with Janko Štekar talking about his wines and my beloved passion American football. Isn’t it paradise? Then he says he used to pull for the Oakland Raiders, and well, uhmmm, yeah, well, I never said Janko was perfect…

Janko is a natural guy doing natural wine. His kingdom, Kmetija Štekar, is halfway between the Pre-Julian Alps and the Adriatic Sea, in Goriška Brda, a small town called Kojsko, a place so well protected from the cold jet streams coming from the north and with the help of the Burja wind coming from the East that contributes avoiding humidity when it is more important not to have it in the vineyards. Vineyards, by the way, placed in terrace and worked in organic way. Janko cuts the grass twice a year and once cut he leaves it there. In this area, rain is very strong, and the erosion it causes in the vineyards sometimes makes the ground to lose as much as 15 centimeters per year, therefore protecting the floor is necessary, not just a modern tendency.

Janko’s business is not only wine. Along with his wife Tamara they run a bed and breakfast, and as it is very common in Slovenian wineries or countryside homes, they also make their own prosciutto and ham. A room in the cellar serves as ageing place for the wonderful products they make.

As for the wine, Janko as a natural producer, as we mentioned, and he is very passionate about making wines this way. He can talk for hours about how this is the proper way of doing wine and not just doing a technological wine. He uses just a small amount of sulphites as their wines need protection when they travel overseas. Slovenia is a small country and most of his production is sold outside.

The vineyards are in front of the house; set in terraces that you can walk around, very interesting seeing the way he has to work with them. Small plots for each variety that you can easily imagine they require a hard work when harvest comes. There is a small mud road to use a small vehicle to transport the grapes to the cellar, but they are steep terraces anyway. The view from the house, especially in clear days, is something. You can see behind the snowy top of the Alps and the sea. Just an amazing view.

The cellar is rather small too. Janko uses chestnut and cherry wood barrels, no oak. Different sizes for different varieties. He has two lines of wines, a fresh line with no use of maceration on the skins and the reserve one with maceration. The maceration periods are very short, four to five days for the Malvazija, Chardonnay and Pinot Draga (Pinot Grigio), up to fifteen days for the Rebula.

After walking around the vineyards and the cellar, it was time to replenish our energy levels. Wine and prosciutto, or it was the other way around? In any case, the day was sunny and warm, so we continued our conversation round a glass of wine and some homemade prosciutto.

We opened it with two wines of the fresh line: Rebula 2016 and Belo 2016. The first one reflects perfectly the soul of this important variety in this part of the world: the Rebula or Ribolla Gialla in Italy. Non-macerated wine, you could easily drink the entire bottle while the cheese and the prosciutto lasts. Very fine wine, all natural, and so much enjoyable. We followed with the fresh white blend: Belo has a 50% of Chardonnay and the other half is split between Pinot Bianco, Sauvignon and Rebula. Both a fantastic examples of natural fresh wines.

The second part of the tasting was for the macerated wines, and believe me, Janko makes masterpieces in this. We started with the Jankot 2016. This is the local Friulano grape. As my faithful reader, you know that this variety was named Tokai Friulano in this area, but in 2007, the Hungarian wine producers sued them for the use of their name Tokaj, so they had to cease using it for their wines. Therefore, you can see Friulano in the labels, though some producers use the work Tokaj spelled the other way around: Jakot. But our hero today, Janko, only adds a letter to his name, Jankot, creating this way a nice wordplay with the word Tokaj.

The Jankot was followed by his Re Piko 2013. This is a blend of Riesling and Picolit. Yes, Riesling, you read it well. Janko has a Riesling vineyard and with it, he produces a wonderful wine macerated on the skins for 25 days. Then, Tamara showed up with a bottle of their Malvazija 2013. Fascinating wine. And every fireworks show ends up with a big bang and Janko left the big bang for the last: Pinot Draga 2011. I had already enjoyed this wine and this time it was simply amazing. This Pinot Grigio is amazingly great.

We bought some wine and packed it in the bags for going back home. Unluckily, the Rebula 2016 broke inside the bag. This had to occur, as this is very common way to bring great wine home. When I heard the noise of the broken glass inside the bag I feared the worst. Bottles broken, all content staining the clothes and all, but hey! Janko produces natural wines, did I say that? No single stain in all the clothing. Just perfect.

Soon we will talk to Janko about his wines and winemaking philosophy.