2013 Kabaj Ravan ($21)
Goriska Brda, Slovenia
Ravan aka Friuliano aka Jakot aka Sauvignon Vert
Kabaj released its first wine 20 something years ago but the family has a long history of winemaking. This begs the question, why did they need a Frenchman to put their family name on the map? It began with love and then the marriage of Katja Kabaj to Jean-Michel Morel. Parisien born, Morel worked in the Languedoc, Roussillon, Bordeaux and Collio before crossing the border into Slovenia. Since making Slovenia his home, he’s fully owned up to the native winemaking traditions and vintage after vintage continues to craft expressive, delicious wines under the Kabaj name.
Vineyard: Sandstone and slate, 30 years old on average.
Farming: Practicing organic.
Vinification: One-week skin maceration in tank. Aged 12 months in 225 liter French oak barrels on its lees. Rough filtration. Four months bottle aging.
Tasting Note: Medium bodied with both richness and precision on the palate, peach, citrus and herbs with mineral underpinnings..
Food Pairing: The importer, Blue Danube, suggests pairing with “cured, salty flavors” and I concur…it would go well with gravlax and especially smoked sturgeon. Salads with fennel and citrus would be great, too.
Drinkability: Now – ten years.
SO2: 70 ppm
2010 Batič Angel Grande Cuvee ($36)
Vipava Valley, Slovenia
Pinela (40%), Malvasia (20%), Chardonnay (20%), Rebula (10%), Laski Riesling (7%), Zelen (2%), Vitovska (1%)
With 421 years of winemaking under their belt, Batič pretty much has things dialed in. Beyond organic and biodynamic, Ivan Batič and his son, Miha, take their cues from the moon and the stars, letting the celestial world dictate harvest. It is the first winery in Europe to use a Physics Based Cropping System.
Vineyard: Surrounded by old growth forests. Never sprayed with anything, not even elemental sulfur. Thirty-year-old vines, marl soil.
Farming: Biodynamic (Demeter certified)
Vinification: Varieties fermented separately, some with one to five days skin fermentation. Aged 36 months in used Slovenian oak. Unfined and unfiltered.
Tasting Note: Minerally and rich with almonds, apples, pears and a note of fresh chamomile, this reminded me a bit of a Côte-de-Beaune white.
Food Pairing: According to the website, the 2010 Angel should be paired with, “Tuber soup, smoked trout with polenta or asparagus, veal steak with fresh Ceasar’s mushrooms…” Who am I to argue but I’d add mushrooms in somewhere. If you don’t eat meat, try a mushroom, potato and cheese concoction of some sort.
Drinkability: Now – 2035.
2010 Tauzher Vitovska ($39)
Tauzher is on the Slovenian side of the border with Italy, but the family was originally from Germany. It has passed down through successive generations and is now in the hands of Emil Tavčar, who was the first to make an estate-bottled wine.
Vineyard: Planted in 2000 on iron rich red clay at an 885-foot elevation.
Farming: Certified organic.
Vinification: Three-day skin maceration, fermented in neutral Slovenian oak, aged two years in older 225-liter barrels, unfined and unfiltered.
Tasting Note: It took four hours for this wine to open up – for the first hour all I got was tannin. Seriously, it tasted like underripe, sour Thompson seedless grapes and you are probably wondering why bother writing about something that was initially so ghastly. Well, patience is often a virtue when it comes to wines and if you are willing to wait you are often surprised, especially by orange wines. After half a day of aeration it metamorphosed into a saporous and texturally intricate wine with layers of apricots, nuts and an array of savory and baking spices.
Food Pairing: Pungent cheeses. Fowl. Mushrooms.
Drinkability: Now – 2030
2015 Batič Rosé ($23)
Cabernet Sauvignon (97%), Cabernet Franc (3%)
Vineyard: Vogrsko, Brajda. Twenty-five year old vines on marl and clay.
Vinification: Pressed, briefly soaked and aged in stainless steel. Unfined but lightly filtered.
Tasting Note: Peppery with subtle berry fruit and a hint of residual sugar.
Food Pairing: The winemaker (Miha) suggests fish, especially scallops. I’m thinking Mexican…fish tacos.
Drinkability: Now – 2020.
SO2: 16 mg free sulfur.
2009 Kabaj Cuvee Morel ($45)
Goriska Brda, Slovenia
Merlot (60%), Cabernet Franc (18%), Cabernet Sauvignon (18%), Petit Verdot (4%)
Considering Jean-Michel Morel spent his childhood summers in Bordeaux it seems only fitting that he would opt to make a Merlot dominated Bordeaux blend in his adopted homeland.
Vineyard: Average 20-year-old vines. South, southwest, and southeast facing slopes on sandstone and slate, 500 – 800 feet elevation.
Farming: Practicing organic.
Vinification: Co-fermented on its skins 14 – 21 days in concrete. Aged 36 months in 225-liter oak barrels and four months in bottle.
Tasting Note: I’ve had Kabaj’s Morel numerous times, but this is the first one I’ve had with as much age and now I get it. With a conglomeration of plum driven fruit, spice, minerals, dried leaves and forest floor held together by rich though not overbearing tannins, it has the breed of a premier grand cru classé St. Émilion. If you like Right Bank Bordeaux and are willing to pay for the top estates, this is a bargain.
Food Pairing: Jean-Michel suggested lamb and food with herbs and cheese.
Drinkability: Now – 2019.
SO2: 60 ppm
2009 Rojac Refosk Renero – $55
Slovenian Istra, Slovenia
The Rojac family has been making wine in Istra for over 300 years. Bruno Rojac, who became a well-known figure in the Slovenian wine world, took it a step further in 1994 when he started the winery under the name “Savrin.” In 2002, now with his son Uros on board, the name was changed to Rojac. After Bruno passed away in 2005, Uros took over, continuing in the direction set forth by his father to make world class wine from Istra.
Vineyard: Planted in 1994 on sandy soil at a 650 – 820 elevation.
Farming: Certified organic. Grapes selected in the vineyard.
Vinification: Fermented in oak barrels with 35-day skin contact.
Tasting Note: This is a big, fleshy wine with sappy black fruit that will appeal to a lot of California red drinkers, especially anyone who loves bigger Zinfandels or Cabernets.
Food Pairing: Steak.
Drinkability: Now – 2029.