A four-course dinner on the Slovenian coast with two different wines per dish. We’re tasting some of the best (and expensive) wines in the region by winemakers Movia and Gordia.
If you’re a food and wine fan like me, then you’ve probably attended a few food and wine pairings in your life. But have you ever been to one where you were served two wines per dish rather than one?
Challenge: Double the Wine Per Dish
On a recent Friday evening at Kamin Restaurant in Isola on the Slovenian coast, we faced the challenge of drinking two different wines with every course, except for the dessert. You can imagine how much wine we could have consumed by the end of the evening.
This double pairing came as a surprise. Even though I knew we were going to taste wines by two winemakers—Movia (Goriska Brda) and Gordia (Ankaran)—I thought they would alternate with every dish. So as soon as I found out about the double deal, I braced myself and prepared not to drink too much.
Seaside Nostalgia (Appetiser)
I get to Isola just in time for sunset. With no time for a walk-around, we head straight for Kamin Restaurant as dinner is due to start at 7 pm. An amuse bouche is already waiting for us on our table but I choose to get back to that later and go out onto the restaurant’s terrace to get a last glimpse of daylight and admire the view.
As I look out over the sea towards Isola, I think about how much I miss being near the sea. I am an island girl after all.
Slovenian Wine Star: Movia’s Aleš Kristančič
A balmy smell of seaside air hangs around me and I’m happy to remain enveloped in a dreamy marine-themed cloud till it’s broken by a cheery “Hello!” from the boisterous and unmistakable Aleš Kristančič, the face of Movia wines and star of the Slovenian wine scene.
The so-called wine genius is so friendly and outgoing that I instantly feel I’m in the company of someone I’d met and spoken to before on a regular basis. Yet this is the first time I’m having a conversation with Aleš that extends beyond a ‘hello’. (I have yet to visit his Brda wine cellar, as that time we’d attempted an impromptu visit we were unlucky with the timing.)
Aleš keeps reassuring us that we’re going to be just fine with the large quantities of wine we’re about to consume this evening. “If it’s good wine, it’s not a problem, you can enjoy!” he stressed. I just have to wait and see.
Crunchy Sourdough Bread & Tasty Butter Trio | Sparkling Rosé & Puro
Back to our table inside the restaurant, we’re about to enjoy a food menu devised by sous chef Tilen Župevec.
The amuse bouche or appetiser (‘pozdrav iz kuhinje’ in Slovene which literally means ‘greeting from the kitchen’) consists of three different-coloured rolls of butter: one natural, another with beetroot, and the other with black olive. Now, an amuse bouche is normally meant to be eaten in one bite. But this is an exception.
Some very addictive crunchy sourdough bread with a lovely barbecue taste is a more-than-perfect base for the tasty butter. And we’re definitely having more than one bite!
The wine accompaniment consists of Movia’s Puro sparkling wine and Gordia’s pet-nat rosé.
Disgorging Movia Puro
Movia’s Aleš Kristančič serves his Puro sparkling wine with his usual theatrical mannerisms (including some exciteful arm waving) and a little show. Out comes the special tool that he himself devised to disgorge his Puro sparkling wine. Side note: To disgorge is to remove the sediment or dead yeast from the wine.
With the wine bottle upside down, Aleš sticks the cork into the tool and submerges the bottleneck in a wine bucket filled with water. The tool is quite similar to a lug wrench (the tool you’d use to tighten or loosen the nuts on your call wheels).
He tugs the bottle sideways away from the tool’s handle, and out shoots the cork with a tiny amount of wine into the water. Aleš proudly walks around the dining room and fills up our glasses. A waiter helps to disgorge some other bottles using the same method, and Aleš congratulates him for doing it so well.
Japanese-style Sea Bass | Malvasia & Sauvignonasse
Next on the food menu is Japanese-style raw sea bass with Kombu algae (an edible seaweed typically eaten in East Asia), celery, apple, candied kumquat (a small orange fruit native to East Asia), and dill.
The wines are Movia Gredič and Gordia’s Malvazija, both from 2019. Malvasia wine is a specialty of the Gordia estate. The locals claim this grape variety is at its best when grown at a specific distance between the vineyard and the sea. So Gordia winery definitely has an advantage with its seaside spot. This Malvasia is light and crisp, also low on alcohol. Therefore, it’s a nice starter to an evening of wines.
Pasta with Porcini & Guanciale | Orange Wines
You can’t go wrong with a plate of pasta with porcini, something I love to cook at home. This pasta has the added touch of guanciale (cured meat made from pork cheeks) and radicchio.
What really pulls this dish off are the orange wines we’re drinking: Gordia’s Amfora 2018, and Movia’s Rebula 2018. They’re equally exceptional, with a lovely smooth texture in the mouth. Fantastic examples of Slovenian orange wines made by two great organic wine producers.
Venison Tenderloin | Refošk & Veliko Rdeče
Here’s another touch of East Asian cuisine: enoki mushrooms, which are long, thin, and white. I can’t say they’re very tasty. Their crunchiness makes them more interesting, and they do a good job of not overpowering the venison. Particularly enjoyable are the crunchy topinambur (Jerusalem artichoke) balls and the venison demi-glace.
As for the wines, we’re onto my favourite: reds! We’re having a Refošk 2016 by Gordia and Veliko Rdeče (Double Magnum) 2003 by Movia. Both exceed my expectations. Even though I find Refošk too dry and astringent, this one by Gordia is very pleasant and smooth because it’s had some ageing.
The Veliko Rdeče 60% merlot, 20% pinot noir, 20% cabernet sauvignon is of course the wine of my dreams… Silky, elegant, smooth, not too oaky. It must be excellent to be sold at €290 a bottle!
Choux au Craquelin with Chestnut & Caramel Chocolate | Dessert Wine
The sweet ending is a choux au craquelin with a chestnut, caramel, and chocolate cream filling. This is served at room temperature alongside a brie and dried flowers ice cream. It has a mild taste, similar to fior di latte. Since this dessert is not overly sweet and rich, I can really enjoy the Gordia Damigiana 2015 dessert wine. Dessert wines can at times be too rich and heavy. But this one is not the case.
Wine Wine Wine: Two Better than One?
Not sure I can confirm at this stage that two glasses of wine per dish are better than one. It is harder to control the quantity intake. But we did get to try NINE really particular wines during this event and the opportunity to decide which of the two wines we preferred at each course. Though by now doesn’t really matter that much. My head is ‘slightly’ fuzzy anyway. At least the event organisers made it easier for us in the end with the dessert wine as we got only one 🙂
About Kamin Restaurant
Kamin Restaurant forms part of the Belvedere Resort. It’s located on a well-positioned vantage point: the cliffs overlooking the Isola town and port and the Gulf of Trieste. Eating out on the terrace on a warm evening is one of my favourite summer treats.
Its culinary offer consists mainly of Istrian and fish specialities, along with international dishes. What I also particularly like is that Kamin Restaurant makes its own homemade PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) extra virgin olive oil. Pour some of this olive oil into your side plate, dip Kamin’s homemade crunchy sourdrough bread I mention above, and… simply enjoy!