Et Cetera Winery

The day before school started, we had an official day off of both school and Peace Corps duties, so it seemed like a perfect time to take a mini-vacation and do something fun and relaxing before getting back into the swing of school.  My sister was also visiting and I knew we’d be spending most of the week in my village, so it sounded like a good time to get a bit of a break and do something different.  I’d heard really good things from other volunteers about a winery located less than an hour from my village in my raion (district) called Et Cetera Winery and we decided to give it a try, even though no Moldovans in my area seemed to have heard of it.

After walking through the fields to get from my village to the main road, we waited with my host mom, host sister, and host niece (they accompanied us on our walk) along the side of the road for the bus to come which would take us to the end of the road the winery was on.  We didn’t know exactly what time it would reach us and we weren’t at a set station, so we kept an eye out so we could wave it down when it passed.  Unfortunately for us, our location wasn’t ideal, as we were looking directly into a lowering sun while trying to make out small signs on rutieras and buses in order to know which one to signal to stop.  So, after a long walk and waiting for nearly an hour, we were pretty disappointed (upset?) when we waved the rutiera down too late (we didn’t see the sign quickly enough) and it slowed down but didn’t stop for us.  At that point, we were already half way there, we’d made reservations, it was too late in the evening to catch a different rutiera, and we were pretty dead set on actually going to the winery, so we shelled out some extra lei (Moldova’s currency) and called the taxi driver from my village to take us the rest of the way.

The restaurant on the left and the guest house on the right

I’m so glad we did!  The winery was beautiful and peaceful and mostly empty.  We arrived pretty late and had eaten with my host family, so we had some tea and a glass of wine in the restaurant before turning in to our rooms in the gorgeous guest house.  The rooms were super nice with good bathrooms.  When living in Moldova and bucket bathing or taking showers in teeny-tiny showers with water that cuts from freezing cold to burning hot, a nice bathroom with a spacious, hot shower is pretty heavenly.  We took long, wonderful showers (the best I’ve had in a year!) and went to bed pretty early, tired from our evening’s escapades.

The following morning, we ate a delicious breakfast outside on the restaurant’s porch that overlooks the rows of grapes.  The food was delicious and the porch is so pretty!  After, the owner showed us a bit of the manufacturing and processing rooms and then encouraged us to explore the vineyards on our own.  Finally, before heading out, we did a tasting and tried five or six of the wines they make on the property, ranging from whites to roses to reds.  Then we headed out and successfully (this time!) flagged down a rutiera to take us back to our respective homes.

Some of the things we especially liked about our visit:

  • The guest house is really quite stunning.  The beds are very comfortable, the decorations are gorgeous, and each room has huge floor-to-ceiling windows looking out.  The bathrooms were very nice as well and I am serious when I say it was the best shower I’ve had in a year.
  • The owners speak excellent English and were very friendly.  Alex spoke to us over our tea when we arrived and we found out he lived in America for many years and fairly recently came back to live in Moldova.  The winery is on the edge of the village he grew up in as a child.
  • The winery would love volunteers who want to learn more about grapes and the wine-making process!  Anyone is welcome to volunteer to harvest the grapes in the fall, help care for the grapes the rest of the year, and help with making the wines.
  • Everything was really gorgeous.
  • The food was excellent!  We only ate breakfast there and had crepes with grape jam, but another volunteer told me their claim of having the best placinta is true!

Note: I’ve been told my sister and I look a lot a like, so for clarification, all the photos above are her!  I didn’t getting any pictures on my camera with me in them.  

Travel in Moldova: Cricova Winery

On the last full day my parents were in Moldova, we visited Cricova Winery.  Moldova is known for its wine because it’s good wine, but it’s also known for being the country in which the top two largest underground wine cellars in the world are found.  Milesti Mici is the largest at 200 kilometers of tunnels and almost 200 million bottles of wine, while Cricova is the second largest at 120 kilometers of tunnels and 1.2 million bottles of wine.  Cricova was founded in 1952 and around that time also began to house the wine collection of various famous and rich individuals.

We joined a tour of the underground tunnels, which was on a trolley-like bus.  The tunnels are colder than we expected, though we had been warned!  Our guide told us about the various processes they use.  We also watched a movie in a small cinema, where we got our first taste of Cricova sparkling wine (champagne).  After our tour ended, we had a tasting with the large group we had toured with.  We got to try several different kinds of wine and sparkling wines.

Notes and tips about visiting Cricova Winery:

  • The tour and tasting takes about an hour and a half total.
  • It is cold in the tunnels!! I wish I had dressed a bit more warmly.
  • Our tour was in English, but we had a very hard time understanding the guide.
  • Although the tasting was good, with some food, it felt very, very rushed.  I really would have preferred more time in the tasting room, as it was a large amount of wine to consume in a very short amount of time.