The Stekar family started with humble beginnings in the Goriska Brda zone of Slovenia back in 1985. With only a few hectares of vines, they were farmers for a nearby cooperative until they began to grow and have the means to start their own winery. Today, still small and dedicated to the best fruit they can grow, they farm 10 hectares of vines and produce 35,000 bottles in total. Combined with another 22 hectares of cherry orchards, as well as an agriturismo, Roman Stekar, and his son Jure, run this lovely natural winery in the stunning hills of western Slovenia. In 2006, the winery received its organic certification, showing further their commitment to low-impact start-to-finish wine-making which they have supported since the beginning. Their use of neutral oak barrels, tiny amounts of SO2, and pure expressions of the locally used varietals proves to be working for them as they continue with their gorgeous winery in one of the most famous ‘natural’ wine regions of the world.
The Sivi Pinot is the family’s remarkable Pinot Gris, coming from a varying age of vines, within their Pročno and Španc vineyards. The famous Opoka soils (or marl) gives Sivi Pinot its extraordinary personality, with minerality and aromatics. After a hand harvesting the fruit spent 25 days in contact with the skins to give extra texture and depth during natural fermentation. The wine is fermented and aged for 11 months in used French barrels (225L) before it enters bottles. Intense on the palate with dried and ripe fruits, spicy tones, and an undertone of fresh minerality, this wine has gorgeous depth, slight grip, and well-rounded acidity. A chef’s dream for pairing, as the Sivi Pinot accompanies so many foods well.
The Rebula (known in Friuli as Ribolla Gialla) is planted on the famous local Opoka (marl) soils of the area, and was hand-harvested in late September. As the natural fermentation began, the skins remain with the must for 14 days in a large bin before being pressed. The pressed must is placed into 225L Slovenian Acacia barrels, to help accentuate the aromatics of the grape, with the alcoholic fermentation commencing after about 30 days. 11 months later the wine was bottled unfiltered, and the result is expressive and spectacular. Aromatic and inviting on the nose, the Rebula showcases great fruit and soft flowers, with an underlining minerality that foreshadows a crisp refreshing quality on the palate. A complex depth of fruit and mineral sit on the tongue with a particular weighted freshness. (A sidenote: the 14th century poet, Boccaccio, listed indulgence of Ribolla wines as one of the sins of gluttony! — ENJOY)
The Cabernet Franc comes from a small plot of fruit grown on the hillside very close to the winery and agriturismo. A hand harvest of this organically farmed Cabernet Franc takes place typically around early October each year, and comes into the cellar for a natural fermentation in stainless steel. Once complete, the wine is placed into very neutral French Tonneau for nearly 16 months to go through malolactic fermentation, and to rest before being bottled. The final wine is not fined or filtered and is full of life and energy. This Cabernet Franc is not as typical ‘lean and green’ as some of the French examples, as the fruit and earthiness are a bit rounder and fuller. However, the character of the grape really shines through with an herbal and savory quality that is laced around dark berried fruit, plum, and soft wood spices, and finishes very long and pleasant.
The Merlot comes from a 20-year-old hillside vineyard on the property, which produces one of the most special wines at the estate, because the oak that the wine ferments and ages in for 13 months, is entirely Slovenian oak from the oak trees on the property. The wood is cut, dried, and turned into barrels, where the reds of the estate can soften in them — but what makes the Merlot extra special, is it is the only wine that is solely aged in the estate’s own wood. The fruit is brought in for native fermentations in these barrels, and is not filtered before bottling, which is also the only instance when the wine sees any sulfur additions. The fresh quality of fruit, with ample acidity, and lovely supple tannins, make for a remarkable Merlot to drink around the dinner table with many different cuisines. Red cherries, plums, and spices come through on the nose and on the palate, bringing an overall balance to this age worthy red that is truly spectacular.
The Cabernet Sauvignon comes from a couple, small, 10-30 year old vineyards called Podčetrka, with beautifully sloped land where fruit can ripen perfectly. The grapes are hand-harvested in the morning and brought in for natural whole-cluster fermentation in 500L used oak barrels. The wine then rests for 2 years before bottling. A combination of French and American barrels is used, as well as Slovenian oak that actually comes from the estate’s own forests. They cut the wood, age it outside for 6 years, and send it to be made into barrels, adding a truly unique and special characteristic to their finished wine. The color is a deep purple with hints of ruby, and brings on aromas of forest fruits, ripe plums, and spices. The palate is very balanced, with enticing tannins and ample acidity, and loaded with dark red and black fruit, pepper spice, vanilla and clove, and finishes with a gorgeous structure.