All photos in this article by Dániel Ercsey

The Slovenian Lendava is the place you drive past on the motorway, unless you had planned to go there in the first place. Of course, many people plan to go there, and I hope more will after this one, because God is it worth it! Last spring, I was in Ljubljana at the invitation of Robert Gorjak, at a tasting of DWWA medal-winning wines, when my friend Bruno Gaberšek pointed out a small cellar where I not only tasted a silver medal-winning Italian Riesling, but was even spoken to in Hungarian from behind the bar. It turned out that the Kulčar winery was based in Lendava, just a few kilometers from the Hungarian border. They immediately caught my attention, but it was almost a year before I finally visited the winery.

The vineyard in Lendava is almost impossible to find without local knowledge, and it was only after Bojan Kulčar's help over the phone that I found the micro-estate, which processes only 1.18ha of grapes. In a literal garage winery, he makes brilliant Italian Riesling and Riesling. By the way Bojan, who speaks good Hungarian, is a chemist by profession, has a PhD in the selection of optimal cooling fluids, and his doctoral dissertation was awarded the title of the best doctoral dissertation in the region in 2011.

The winery, which started in 2016, started with planting, Bojan inherited his grandfather Stefan Kulcsár's (or as his friends called him, Pista) vines and small press house, so he cut down the old plantation and replanted it, of course, before consulting the legendary winemaker of the Lendava vineyard, Lajos Cuk, about what to plant.

"I was thinking about the usual international varieties," says Bojan, "I thought Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, in front of the cellar. Then Lajos said that Italian Riesling would be best here. At first I was surprised, maybe even discouraged. Italian Riesling? What for? But as I dug deeper, it turned out that Lajos Cuk was right. Italian Riesling here is always capable of great quality. It's like it was made here!"

He only works with the two varieties mentioned (Italian Riesling and Riesling), and the Italian Riesling has already won two bronze and two silver medals at the Decanter World Wine Awards, so much so that it was actually 2019 that was its first vintage! (Secret hint: the 2023 vintage Riesling is still resting in tank, due to be released by the end of 2024, at a planned price of €12/ bottle. It's worth watching and stocking up, it's going to be big, elegant, floral-pear character, and I've given it 92 points in my mind!)

Penina Ana 2020 (Italian Riesling traditional sparkling wine, 1000 bottles, 15Euro) I 89 points

Intense but with a short head. Deep lemon color with greenish reflections. Small well-distributed bubbles. Nice ripeness, white fleshy fruits on the nose, with a tiny biscuit on the side. Medium body, vibrant acidity, shows elegant sweet fruit with apple, pear with peach, flowers. Long finish. Very drinkable, fruity sparkling wine. Wow!

Named after Ana Bojan's mother, who to this day helps out a lot in the vineyard, cooking for Bojan and his friends those who mow the vineyards, because they mow the vineyard, no herbicides. For the wine competition sceptics, the Decaner medal has helped him a lot, it has sold his wines, he has hardly had to spend on marketing. There was a time when a German motorhome team saw the bottle in the Vinarium lookout tower with the DWWA silver medal on it, called him up, came and left with several cases of wine.

Laški Rizling 2021 (DWWA silver) 13,5% (10Euros) I 91 points

Medium lemon color. Intense nose with lots of ripe apples with pears, melon, peaches, a little minerality. Tasting more than medium body, round acidity, tiny pollen, peach, apple, pear. Round, sweetish, very drinkable. Medium finish.

Laški Rizling 2022 14,5% (10 Euro) I 89 points

Medium lemon color. Restrained nose, tiny minerality, white flowers. Medium body, nice acidity, mineral character, tiny lemon zest, green apple on the palate with finish medium and salty lemon flavors. (opens after 2-3 minutes, with cantaloupe and sweet notes)

Laški Rizling 2020 (7days maceration, 4 months in 500l new wood, 6 months in steel) 12% I 89 points

Medium golden color. Nose of vanilla, pollen, tiny orange peel, candied orange. Full bodied, brisk acidity, tiny petrol, light pollen, orange peel and orange blossom. The finish is longer than medium. Exciting!

Renski Rizling 2021 13% 7,8g acid, 6 months in second 500l barrels I 87 points

Medium lemon color. Wood shavings, tiny petrol, pear, white flowers on the nose. Tasting more than medium body, lively acidity, tiny petrol, orange peel, green apple, flowers, pollen. The finish is long, rather citrusy.

For the time being, the estate's wines are selling out in the area (at the Lovski dom restaurant, the central Bella Venezia, the Vinarium lookout tower and the tourist association, and mostly at the cellar), which is no wonder, only 4-5,000 bottles are made each year, but in the worse vintages, such as 2022, when hail hit the Lendava hill, a total of 1,100 bottles were bottled.

And as for Lendava, the Capital of billycan is not only interesting during the Billycan Festival, but for example the castle attic has a European level sculpture (bronze, small sculptures) exhibition, and the Vinarium lookout offers a breathtaking panorama, so it's definitely worth a stop if you're in the area, for the town, the lookout and the winemakers! And if you are in the mood for a tasting of Kulčar wines, call Bojan!