Live in a country long enough, and a part of you starts identifying with it. Chisinau may only be a temporary residence for us, but after spending two years here we have developed a soft spot for Moldova. So when friends comes to visit, we endeavor to show off Moldova’s good sides. We haven’t had nearly as many visitors here as we did in Kenya, but that was in line with our expectations. In fact, we have been pleasantly surprised at how many of our friends made arrangements to visit our little corner of Eastern Europe. Last weekend, we hosted the last of our visitors — an Austrian friend from D’s grad school days.
We took our friend for trivia night at our favorite new bar, had dinner at our favorite restaurant, and drove down to Tiraspol to give him a taste of Transnistria. On Saturday, we spent a lazy afternoon tasting wine — the most quintessential of Moldvovan tourist experiences.
Having already toured all of Moldova’s major wine producers, we sought an off-the-beaten-path experience for this outing. Through a work contact, S had heard of the Poiana Winery, and had spent several months trying to arrange a visit to their vineyard.
The hangup is that Poiana does not have a tourist-ready chateau or wine cellar like the bigger names in Moldovan wine (Cricova, Mileștii Mici, Purcari, Chateau Vartely, Etcetera). Their recently-launched Ulmu wine series is actually produced and bottled at Asconi, so there is no facility to visit. Instead, we did the wine tasting at the owner’s lakeside house, not far from the Codru Natural Reserve.
The owner himself was out of town, but the winery’s administrator arranged for us to have a Moldovan-style BBQ and laid-back wine tasting. We even brought a crib for Munchkin, and he took his afternoon nap at the house while we relaxed by the water’s edge. The wines were from the owner’s personal collection, on tap in large tanks in the cellar of his house. They were unfinished — lacking the sulfites they would need to be bottled — but no less tasty for that. The Tamaiosca — a fruity yet dry white wine (above) made from a Romanian grape varietal — was our favorite.
On the drive to Poiana, we had seen signs for a couple of monasteries, and on the way back to Chisinau we stopped by the one in Condrița.
The monastery is unassuming, but clearly still serves its religious purpose. Nearly 90 percent of Moldovans belong at least nominally to the Christian Orthodox faith, and quite a few of them continue to practice.
We ended the weekend with a BBQ at our house, playing cornhole with the Flying Mamaligas and reliving the highlights of the frisbee tournament in Ukraine. Too bad our Austrian friend was on his way to the airport by then and missed out on what has become a staple of our tour in Chisinau.