More evocative of an evil genius’ hidden lair than agriturismo, Edi Kante’s winery is almost as notable for its own construction as for the stunning wines produced therein. We’ve always enjoyed the fruits of his labor, having poured his Vitovska by the glass previously. But earlier this year, we had the opportunity to visit Kante — and to witness firsthand the thought and energy that this mad genius has put into his facility is breathtaking.
Open fire, his own colorful artwork, and hundreds of visitors’ messages scrawled across the walls brighten the tasting room he has constructed in his single-story ranch in the woods. It isn’t the house that’s so remarkable though. It’s what lies underneath.
Walk down the stairs toward what is ostensibly a basement cellar, and a wave of cool, damp air presents itself like a wall. No ordinary winery, Kante’s is sculpted from the bedrock, forming three circular bunkers stacked atop one another, each with its own purpose. First, his steel tanks where he ferments his Vitovska, Malvasia, Sauvignon Blanc, et al. Then, after another descent, his barrel room, laid out in perfect symmetry like some sort of Wight Walker shrine from Game of Thrones, where he ages each of his wines. Finally, the third level down serves as a bottle cellar where wines are stored until release — though it might be more accurate to call it a stasis chamber. We had the pleasure to taste a sparkling rose from 2010 that was impossibly fresh.
Only a kilometer from the Slovenian border, Kante’s limestone chambers are indicative of the ubiquitous grey limestone of the Carso district of Friuli. Near Trieste, it’s bordered by Adriatic Sea to the south, the Alps to the north, the hills of Collio to the west, and the Balkan peninsula to the east. Another winemaker described Carso to us as “another planet.” It’s quite cool at night, let alone 50 feet beneath the ground in his man made caverns. The wines are likewise taught, fresh, and minerally.
Being able to taste them all side-by-side for the first time was eye-opening, even for a producer we’ve known and admired. More of his wines will be coming to Selden Standard over the coming year, but for now, we’re delighted to be serving his Sauvignon Blanc.
French grapes might seem like an odd choice for northeastern Italy, but Sauvignon Blanc has been grown here for well over a century. Some legends claiming it was smuggled over in bouquets of flowers destined for a lord’s lover. Regardless, it turns out to be a natural fit for not only Carso but elsewhere in Friuli.
As with his other wines, this spends a year in old barrels and 6 months in a stainless tank before bottling. Whether it’s the limestone and clay in which it grows or the cool temperatures in which it ages, this is an uncommonly elegant, lithe Sauvignon Blanc with a crisp, restrained saline profile. With a little time, it seems to gain texture and soft, pretty citrus flower aromatics. There’s none of the aggressive grapefruit or vegetal notes of many Sauvignon Blancs – but it certainly retains the freshness. Grab a glass and a half dozen sweet-salty oysters and life may feel complete.