When I think about Vipava Valley I can recall beautiful memories from my childhood on.
I saw it first from my mother's back when we climbed Mt Nanos, the valley's beginning coming from Ljubljana side, so from the central part of Slovenia towards the town of Nova Gorica and the Italian border.
In the time of my adolescence, I often visited Zemono Manor where I had the honor to attend the beginnings of Pri Lojzetu's story, now a famous gourmet destination for fine-dine lovers and foodies ran by top-class chef Tomaž Kavčič.
This part is from the period of my achievements in music when I was getting the highest marks on the musical contests. I just didn't like somehow the fact I'm playing Beethoven with tuba, accompanied just by a piano.
Anyway, while the official part of the contest usually took place in Ljubljana, the winners had the exhibition concert for the TV and the banquet in some of the concert halls with great acoustics around Slovenia.
I can't forget all those glamorous dishes Mr Tomaž was creating to spoil us after the musical part was over in the incredibly acoustic baroque hall of the richly decorated Zemono Manor.
When I turned young and curious, I was often crossing the vintage villages of Vipava Valley with my brass band 'Dej še'n litro', which literally means 'Give me another liter'.
The name refers to our calls to the waitresses during the first gigs when the name was not chosen yet.
The best drink for us was the wine mixed with the mineral water, known as Špric or Spritz.
We always had been putting more wine than water into the glasses, so due to the number of calls for another liter of wine, one friend once got enlighted and decided our call for wine will be our name.
The gigs were my first contact with the excellent wines of Vipava Valley.
In recent years, I'm improving my knowledge and getting deeper into the Vipava Valley's untold stories with my guests.
For centuries, Vipava Valley has been known for its wine, fruits, and vegetables.
Located in the western part of Slovenia, some 70km (45mi) from the capital Ljubljana, between the Julian Alps and the Mediterranean, it enjoys a favorable submediterranean climate.
Locals joke that they could not improve much nature's job above the ground, so they focused on the underground.
There, most of the local, often barter wine trade has been going on.
When you enter the wine cellars dug into the ground, you start to understand how people tend to create a sustainable life combining available natural resources with smart use of the room and space.
All in the modern, progressive way, so it's common to see around either the free electric car charging stations or milk vending machines.
Despite the fact everything stays in perfect order, life has been going on in a slow-paced mood.
In the summertime, you can see cats and dogs together, lazily stretching out in the shade, while their owners are taking care of the beehives, vineyards, fields, fruit groves, or simply relaxing in front of the white-washed houses with the stones on the roofs, having a glass of their own wine and waiting for the meticulous dishes to be prepared by their ladies.
It can easily happen that a simple, casual 'hello' extends into a merry evening and tasting of homemade wines, dry-meat delicacies, cheeses, fruits, and much more.
Stones on the roofs?
Vipava Valley is home to the strongest wind in Slovenia.
The Bora wind can blow reaching the speeds over mighty 200km/h (125mi/h), the stones on the roofs turned out as the best protection during centuries of co-existence with it.
Its power even turned the wheel of history once, as the local legend goes.
It's about the famous battle in the year of 394, when allegedly in the village of Vrhpolje, close to the town of Vipava, the emperor of the Western Roman Empire, Eugenius, met the emperor of the Eastern part, Theodosius.
The first was a pagan, the latter a Christian.
It's said when Theodosius was praying for his victory, the Bora wind turned all the arrows into the Eugenius' soldiers. The battle was over.
This battle decided the Christian religious background of Europe.
At a marvelous panoramic spot above the Vrhpolje village, there is a T-shaped monument dedicated to the historic Theodosius' pray.
Despite the fact it blows away everything not properly fastened and bolted, Bora wind is one of the most significant features of the Vipava Valley, beside the lush scenery, premium indigenous wines and delicious locally produced food.
The combination of all then for sure blows away all your problems, the locals say.
Ok, let's begin step by step.
What to do in Vipava Valley?
Visitors love the wealth of outdoor activities you can go for.
No matter the time of the year or the weather, you will always find something to please your desires with, above or under the ground.
There are two popular hiking paths leading up to Mt Nanos, a largely known Slovenian hiking destination.
When getting to the top, you are awarded the view to the incredible landscape including the entire Vipava Valley, the Adriatic Sea, Ljubljana Basin, and even the peaks in the Triglav National Park with the Mt Triglav, Slovenia's highest peak.
At some point after walking the well-trodden path, you can decide to take the easier one, which has no pins and metal cables like the steep one, which at few points renders itself adventurous with some of the parts hanging above the precipices.
The way up will take you from an hour and a half taking the steeper one, to about two hours the easier one.
The way down about the same, if you don't want to hurt your knees as experienced hikers say.
There are some other stupefying trails around Vipava Valley.
The one taking to the Otlica Natural Window will amaze you with the breathtaking rock formation at the top.
Looking at the valley through a large nature-made window from above, you can admire the view down to the Slovenian Coast and Karst Plateau in case of a clear sky.
The Gradiška Tura hike boasts the most exciting, and at the same time demanding ascent, with some parts marked as 'extremely demanding hiking trail', protected by pegs and steel cable.
An easy, but amazingly picturesque hiking trail is the one leading along the edge of the Gora Plateau, above the town of Ajdovščina, including the traditional dispersed farming settlements, providing wonderful views to even the gulfs of Trieste and Piran.
The hiking trail is winding over the forests, grassy meadows, and pastures.
The landowners kindly allow crossing their lands through the gates, made into the fence.
The only favor in return is to close back the gates so the animals stay on the pasture.
You can go visit also a peculiar natural site, the Big Ice Cave of Paradana at the edge of Trnovski Gozd Plateau.
In the past, the blocks of ice coming from this always-full-of-ice abyss were exported as far as even to Egypt.
The hiking trail 'In the footsteps of Matija Vertovec' is dedicated to a remarkable personality from the Vipava Valley.
Matija Vertovec was a priest and viticulturist, who wrote the book Vinoreja, meaning 'The Art of Winemaking'.
The hike is easy as the hiking trail crosses the historic villages down in the heavenly green valley, where they improved the wine production also using Vrtovec's methods.
If you don't cycle and meet an enthusiast cyclist on your ways likely she or he will almost snobbishly inform you, that you are missing the best.
There are innumerable cycling trails of all difficulty levels, suitable for either beginners or extreme mountain bikers, leading across the scenic mountain ridges as well as along the crystal clear waters of Hubelj and Vipava rivers.
Parts of the valley were even included in the famous Giro d'Italia race due to the breathtaking landscape.
Why not discover the beauties of Vipava Valley from another perspective, from the horse's back?
There are quite some equestrian clubs, providing professionally assisted cross-country horseriding as well as the carriage rides.
The latter option is better if you consider your low resistance to heart-warming invitations of the welcoming locals, that can easily make the night out of a day if you pop down into a random wine cellar and let yourself be pampered by your host pouring you a glass of wine directly from its source.
Popular horseriding areas are up on the Trnovski Gozd Plateau, where there are not many wine cellars.
The diversity in options of climbing the rocks of Gradiška Tura and Vipavska Bela can't let down even the most demanding climbers.
On the range of difficulty about 400 different climbing routes grade up to the level of 8c+, including some over 350m (985ft) high Alpine routes.
The views from the top are astonishing, making Vipava Valley one of the most popular climbing sites in Slovenia.
Vipava Valley is amidst the most known paragliding spots of Europe, a delight for thrill-seekers from the heights far up above the ground.
It is one of the very few spots with the perfect flying conditions all year round.
From up the sky, you'll be stunned how close you are to the Adriatic Sea, as well as to Ljubljana, the Julian Alps, Triglav National Park, and even the Dolomites in Italy.
There are two registered sites if you are a beginner and would like to do a tandem flight with an experienced, licensed instructor.
Lijak is nestled in the lower Vipava Valley, close to Nova Gorica.
It enables flying also in the time of strong Bora wind.
Kovk is located at the edge of Gora Plateau at some 860m (2820ft) above sea level.
It is a popular spot also for the hang-gliders, enabling flying straight from the edge which is quite rare in this sport.
A popular spot among the professionals and well-experienced ones is Čaven with its magical scenery and entire Vipava Valley beneath.
I'd suggest getting in touch with Polet Paragliding Association for the flights from Lijak, while the Kovk Paragliding Association for the flights from the Kovk launch site.
Which places to visit in Vipava Valley?
Time has been writing intriguing stories to the endless book of history in the dreamy villages tending towards Karst Plateau, remote hamlets under the ridges of Mt Nanos, lonely farms up on the Trnovski Gozd Plateau, and the towns of Vipava and Ajdovščina.
Vipava Valley was covered by the sea in the Tertiary period, so the bedrock is sedimentary, from flysch to sandstone and limestone.
Hence, you can marvel plenty of natural phenomena besides experiencing culinary delights and sipping on the excellent local wines.
Some call it Slovenia's Venice.
The capital of the homonymous valley is home to the natural phenomena you can't see anywhere else in Europe.
Vipava River's multiple springs are the only delta-shaped river head in Europe.
Over the centuries, a fascinating number of 25 bridges had been built over the babbling streams so this is where the Venice comparison derives from.
Water is the reason people settled the Vipava Valley already in prehistoric times.
In medieval times, Vipava developed into an important trading hub on the way between Vienna and Trieste, especially in terms of wine, fruits, vegetables, dried meat, wood.
The town has a long aristocratic legacy which is expressed in the form of mansions and castles all around the town area.
The importance of wine and viticulture is shown in the fact the Lanthieri Mansion on the main square houses one of the two faculties for viticulture and enology in Slovenia, the other is in Maribor on the northeast of the country, second-largest Slovenia's city.
If you are not in the years of studying anymore, you can learn more about the local varietals and blends in some of the wine tasting rooms that usually are anything else than someone's underground cellar of the local wine producer.
How to get in one of them, you may ask.
One option is going for a walk around the charming old town and ask for some direction in English.
Sooner or later, you will be invited to try by their words the best wine in Vipava Valley.
Just for your information, there is no best wine in the valley.
There are just great, merry hospitable people proud of what they make.
The second-largest town in Vipava Valley is not as sleepy as it may seem at first sight.
Once a Roman fort developed into an important industrial site due to its location by the water.
Not far from the center, in the time after heavy rain, the source of Hubelj River impresses with its majestic appearance in the form of rumbling waterfalls coming out of the depths under the steep slopes under the Trnovski Gozd Plateau.
First iron foundries were established already in the 16th century.
Since the early 20th century the electricity is provided by the plant run by the water of Hubelj River.
The industrial legacy is still strong and knotted into the everyday life of the locals.
Today in Ajdovščina the headquarters of remarkable Slovenian companies are situated, such as Pipistrel (a pioneer in electric aviation), Grum (local traditional soft drinks), Mlinostest (baking products), BIA Separations (innovative technologies in medicine).
In the cute little old town, you can indulge your taste buds with superb wines of Vipava Valley, locally produced craft beers, and distinctive dishes prepared in the foodie temples such as Faladur, located in one of the turrets of the old Roman Wall.
Besides gastronomy, you can dive back into history by visiting the Ajdovščina Museum, where you will be able to see storytelling artifacts, including the priceless fossil collection compiled by a local collector Stanislav Bačar.
In the middle of exuberant vineyards, the mesmerizing tiny village is inviting you to have a closer look.
Entirely built of stone and perfectly preserved, it expresses the Vipava Valley's vernacular architecture.
Goče village is a monument of Slovenian cultural heritage.
From the nearby Church of St Mary's platform, you can take a timeless photo of the compressed village below.
Due to the Bora wind, the houses are stuck together.
Except for the two main lanes, all other alleyways don't get more than 1m (3,2ft) wide.
Few wealthier houses got enriched by the courtyard and masterfully carved stone portals, most of the humbler houses have more room underground than above it.
The underground wine cellars are the jealously kept rooms where the famous Goče wine is slowly getting matured.
Besides being invited by the random locals, one of the best options for a wine tasting is the Cejkotova Domačija.
Let me mention at this point that stone architecture dates back to the days of yore when people had been figuring out how to turn the rocky region into fertile land with pleasant conditions for living.
They came to a simple conclusion.
They dug out the rock so they got the land.
The stone they got by digging, they used for constructions, from houses to walls between the neighboring wine estates.
Walking around once the smallest city within Habsburg Monarchy is a step back into the vivid history, bouncing into you on every corner and expressed in every stone each house is made of.
The stone of different colors was used even to highlight the paths and streets of the ruling class and influential people, separated from the ones of the working class.
Vipavski Križ is situated on a hill with a nice panoramic view over Vipava Valley.
Hidden within majestic walls, built in the times of Ottoman invasions, it boasts a treasure of local stone architecture and wine cellars, where is quite hard to get our due to the tempting local wine you can try there next to the yummy dried ham or 'Pršut', as we call it.
In the almost 400 years old Capucine Monastery you can admire a rich cultural heritage of the region, including paintings and books originating back to the 15th century.
An interesting fact about the religious background is the eclecticism the village lived in times of national awakening, which has begun in the time of Reformation.
Vipavski Križ is known about the visit and pritching of a Reformation priest Primož Trubar, a Slovenian national hero and awakener mentioned in the previous blog, as well as of Janez Svetokriški, a famous Catholic preacher, known for his written sermon 'Na noviga lejta dan', a very rare example of Slovenian written documents from the time of Baroque.
One of the oldest villages in the Vipava Valley is composed of five tiny authentic hamlets, scattered around the hill on some 300m (985ft) above sea level.
It was mentioned by the first Slovenian historian Janez Vajkard Valvasor back in the 17th century for the white wines, known widely around the Habsburg Monarchy.
The main reason the village was never demographically endangered is the water springs providing fresh water all year round.
It is one of the rare living areas on such a height with this phenomenon in Vipava Valley.
The wines of Vipava Valley
If we skip the brandies such as the juniper one, wine is undisputedly a national drink in Slovenia.
Beer is not far behind.
Recently Slovenian craft beers are getting the highest marks on the beer contests around the globe.
Well, I will add the mindblowing fresh fruit juices and herbal teas, but to be honest, the locals drank the wine before start planting the apple trees.
Except for the Alps, the Ljubljana area, and some of the smaller provinces, viticulture has been the tradition at least since the Celtic and Illyrian times, so far before the Romans spread the knowledge of winemaking around Europe, including present-day Italy and France.
One of the reasons Slovenia is a rising star on the European wine horizon is the revival of old, indigenous varieties.
There is no wine-growing district with more indigenous varieties in Slovenia.
In the past, every region had its own wines regarding the climate and terroirs.
Vine diseases and pests caused the progress in viticulture, causing mass changes in terms of the introduction of new varieties.
With the industrialization and commercialization, the old varieties were forgotten and brought almost to extinct.
Recently, winemakers realized sustainability should not be just a buzz-word.
Sustainability is essential to keep the land healthy and fertile, which leads to more self-sufficiency.
Centuries-old written documents about the Vipava Valley's wines are the testimonials of excellence.
Already mentioned Matija Vertovec whose wine paths we can walk today, was the first to describe all the varieties of the sunny wine-growing district in an expert book of viticulture 'Vinoreja'.
In the grapevine nursery in Vrhpolje village, they have been preserving the old indigenous vines since 1905, which is showing the devotion to winemaking tradition and heritage.
Let's take a peek into the world of indigenous whites, today the wine stars of the Vipava Valley.
Semi-aromatic wine of greenish color.
Fruity, harmonic taste.
Yellow to green, it provides a distinctive, full taste.
Most enjoyable when fresh and young, aging results in the characteristic aromas.
Brought to the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia in present-day Italy, this variety is the most known for the production of the world-famous Prosecco sparkling wine.
Yellowish color wine with gentle, pleasant flavor, and scent recalling the flowers.
A golden yellow color, that can turn to brownish.
Rich in taste, often made as a premium sweet wine.
Following the local tale, the vine tree was named after the beautiful girl Klara, who was hiding from innumerable suitors behind the thick barrier of its leaves.
Rich, full-taste wine with notes of acacia and honey.
Wine of light, simple taste.
Mostly used for quality blends.
Light yellow grape, named after a local winemaker.
Commonly used for crispy blends.
There is a dispute between Vipava Valley and Brda wine region about the Rebula white variety, but for now, it seems Brda is in a better position in terms of proofs of origins.
Both of the regions make included in one of my day trips.
Other white varieties of Vipava Valley are Malvasia, Welchriesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Muscat Blanc a Petit Grains, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignonasse or Tokai, as it is protected in Hungary.
All the above written about the whites doesn't mean there are no reds in Vipava Valley.
I can confirm the reds are at least the same tasteful and great, it's just the varieties are not indigenous.
I speak of superb Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Pinot Noir, and Refosco or Refošk, the indigenous to the coast.
Where to have a wine tasting in Vipava Valley?
It's an impossible task to point out certain wine estates or winemakers as better than the others.
I will mention some of them, which from my experiences I can suggest you to visit besides the ones I mentioned in the blog about the wine tastings in Slovenia.
One of the most known winemakers of Vipava Valley's upper part, in the village of Lože.
Their whites and reds received several prizes.
The production is not big, but top-quality.
Over 250 years old wine estate in the village of Slap.
Winemakers for four generations, with renowned whites and reds.
They can proudly show you the original Matija Verovec's book with an inscription dedicated to the owner that they found in the wine cellar.
A wine estate in the village of Potoče.
A young team with a progressive approach is striving for the best quality.
From their House of Pinots, some of the best varietals in the world are coming from.
One of the biggest winemakers in the Vipava Valley, located in the Vrhpolje village.
The family left a significant mark on the foundation of the village's grapevine nursery.
We had some of the great gigs at this wine estate, celebrating St Martin, the wine saint.
Where to stay?
The same as in the previous article, there are plenty of options to accommodate yourself in a relaxing way, designed to your wishes and desires, possibly enriched with foodie experiences and noble wine tastings.
The ones below are mentioned due to certain features, making them a bit different.
Sinji Vrh farm stay
An accommodation place with an undoubtedly best panoramic view over the Vipava Valley at around 1000m (3281ft) above sea level.
All the food you can eat at the farm is homemade, from their ecological farm.
It makes part of the dispersed settlement of Kovk, where you can start your hiking, cycling, and paragliding adventures from.
The Otlica Natural Window is the most known natural curiosity closeby, besides other karst phenomena such as caves, sinkholes, and other peculiar rock formations.
An intriguing culinary site with unusual good-vibe underground accommodation, in the tranquil environment of Slap village.
A fine-dine Pantheon of Vipava Valley, where the most known local wines com together with recipes, carefully kept by our grandmothers.
How to get to Vipava Valley?
Traveling by bus it's easy to reach from Ljubljana, or even from the coastal towns of Koper, Izola, and Piran with a bus change either in Nova Gorica or Postojna.
You can even combine the trip with the visit of world-famous Postojna Caves and unique Predjama Castle.
Coming from the coast, you can do a stop in the UNESCO site, the Škocjan Caves.
I'm kindly inviting the ones who like a more detailed approach to the destination and have no worries about driving after having a memorable wine tasting.
We can create a perfect mosaic out of the gems you are about to discover in Vipava Valley, feel free to contact me.
Reasons to visit Vipava Valley
The rising star of Slovenia's sustainable tourism
When I think about Vipava Valley I can recall beautiful memories from my childhood on.