The Magic of the Good TeamDespite January’s unfriendliness and instead of skiing, we shoulder our curiosity, a 100-pound camera, various other wonders of modern technology and head of the Rila mountain and more precisely the village of Smochévo (yes, the emphasis is on the "e"), where Medi Valley Winery awaits us.
While driving down the infamous and undeservedly accused of being "international" E79 road, we are wondering what to expect from the people behind the A Good Year and Incanto wine series, the location of Medi Valley and the course the winery has decided to take. Besides their A Good Year label, the work of Jordan Jelev, The Labelmaker, he winery has also modernized its logo, which is a good sign of growth.
In normal traffic conditions, we cover the distance from Sofia to Smochevo for a about an hour, minus the mandatory coffee-and-something-else breaks. Note to the constantly distracted: pay close attention after getting off the junction over the main road. A sign to Medi Valley will make you turn right (if you continue straight you will get back on the E79, and in this particular case your goal is not the journey but the destination).
The January fog proved a challenge for the sights along the road to Smochevo, taking us up at the foot of Rila. Pine forests are not something that we necessarily associate with wine, but they do reinforce the sense of uniqueness.
Medi Valley is located in the Struma river valley, at an altitude of 550 m above sea level (although the mountainous landscape creates a feeling of a more serious height). Perhaps this is the right moment to give you some background information. The winery owes its name to the ancient Thracian tribe of the Medis, who lived in the region long before the first reader of Enosiasti was born. Some time later Medi Valley shocked us with the news that none other but Spartacus himself was one of the Medis. Now that's a powerful story!
We pass along the ghostly outlines of the vineyards in the fog. Medi Valley has its own vineyards with Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Traminer. The remaining varieties used in the production of the A Good Year and Incanto wines are personally selected by oenologist Stoycho Stoev, Director of Medi Valley and the winery's chief technologist. They are the people that turn this... from here to plus infinity.
A sharp turn later we can see Medi Valley. The winery is built at the entrance of the village of Smochevo, so you can't miss it.
The winery consists of an administrative building and a separate production facility. The first floor of the administrative building has a big wine bar, showcasing Medi Valley's award winning wines.
So far, Medi Valley boasts five gold and three silver medals from Vinaria 2011. Apart from the dry figures we believe that this is only the beginning for the winery. We wholeheartedly wish them good luck and maintain a secret hope that their main focus will remain on wine for its own sake.
We are welcomed by Stoycho Stoev, chief enologist, manager and main culprit for the content in Medi Valley's bottles. After a short and polite conversation we head off on a tour around the production facility witnessing first-handedly the encapsulation and packaging of bottles for distribution. From there on we continue to fermenters. Medi Valley has different fermenters corresponding to the needs of every wine series.
The "bird's eye" photo was a success for both our photographer and the accompanying team.
The tour would’ve not been complete without a visit to "home" of the barrels.
We are pleasantly surprised by the tasting prepared.
We tried most of the A Good Year wines and three wines from the Incanto series while having an interesting conversation about the concepts behind them. Tasting these wines in the company of their creators and their stories is a completely different experience. The mood and atmosphere affect both wine-making and its tasting.
We learn that Incanto Chardonnay Barrel Fermented (one of our favorites) is the brainchild of the young and talent work partner of Stoycho Stoev: Ms. Ivona Georgieva, whose signature on the back of the bottle guarantees her full commitment to the quality of the wine. She is modest enough and accepts the introduction by Stoycho Stoev with a Mona Lisa smile.
These results require much of her time, but when you work with love and devotion, you success is doomed to be noticed.
We also tasted Incanto Merlot 2010, gold medalist at Vinaria 2011, which Stoycho Stoev defined as the face of the winery.
The fog has lifted and we manage to see the beautiful snowy Rila directly behind the winery. The wonderful location brings to mind wine tourism and immediately ask what are the plans of Medi Valley in this regard. The winery has plans to expand the complex hoping to add a restaurant and a tasting hall. Medi Valley is located close to the new road to the Rila Monastery: a prerequisite for additional interest by the tour agencies. We recommend that you stop by Medi Valley if you want learn about the Struma Valley wine region or if are simply headed south.
Despite the January chill Medi Valley and its people leave us with the warm feeling of a great team, unadulterated love of wine, passion for work and continuous improvement. We head back with the promise to visit soon and enjoy another good year in the charming company of Medi Valley's wines.