A Day in the Golden Valley (part 2: Enjingi)

A Day in the Golden Valley (part 2: Enjingi)
Gently sloped vineyards in Venje near Kutjevo.

(continued from part 1)

We have been told that Ivan Enjingi is a mercurial soul, but perhaps we’ve been immunized by our native habitat of New York — we find a generous, even gregarious man with twinkling eyes and a smooth cap of silvery hair waiting in his private cellar with a feast of cheeses and meats arranged on a barrel top. We sip Enjingi Zweigelt, a red with lovely aromatic herb, bayleaf, and red currant aromas until half of his pair of young enologists, Josipa Andrijanic, arrives. The other, Milan Budinski joins us as we wander through the fermentation rooms taking samples from the taps. It’s difficult to take notes on the hoof like this, but we taste Enjingi’s dry, late-harvest grasevina, a beautiful late-harvest Rhine riesling, about a dozen experiments and wines in development, and two real stand-outs:

Enologists Milan Budinski and Josipa Andrijanic next to Ivan Enjingi.

VENJE 2002 Named after the town where Enjingi is based, this is a blend of riesling, pinot gris, welschriesling, sauvignon blanc, and traminac that is made only in favorable years and is matured in barrique. It has medium body and an Old World flavor: slightly oxidized from barrique maturation, very subtle oak, minerals, plus dried pear and white peach. A red version of Venje is in the making, too, a blend of zweigelt, pinot noir, cabernet, merlot, and frankovka.

PINOT CRNI 2000 This curious pinot noir has a heavy spritz in the bottle, and uncharacteristically high alcohol at over 15%, but it is an impressive wine. It is barrique matured and bottled unfiltered, with beetroot, violets, and sweet oak on the nose, plus vanilla, ripe black plums, and blackberries on the palate—medium-bodied with medium length. It’s been seven years since harvest, but I’d be interested to see this in another eight.

After tasting, we drive up the hillside to see the new event space and guest house Ivan has built, which has a lovely view of the town of Venje, the Enjingi vineyards, and the Golden Valley beyond. The building next door is where Enjingi’s barrels are made—he has a team who craft his Slavonian oak barrels in the workshop here. We also examine a machine harvester that Ivan has adapted to suit his particular requirements. Here is a man who makes no apology for doing things his own way, and the results are a startling success. We linger, talking and sipping Enjingi grappa, into the early evening, when we are forced to sadly begin our two-and-a-half-hour drive back to Zagreb and, early tomorrow, our flight to New York.

(We are happy to announce that we now carry our first wines made by Ivan Enjingi, see our wine shop.)

Text and photos by Katherine Camargo, DWS / kcamargo@verizon.net