Since ancient times, Dragasani has been a center of wine-making excellence in Romania and that tradition continues unabated in quality vineyards such as Domeniul Dragasi, which also hosts upscale, traditional-style cazare, or guest house.
On a hillside overlooking the broad Olt River in Calina, with a patchwork of arable fields alongside and panoramic views in all directions, the 7-hectare vineyard, mixed with lavender, rose and hawthorn, was established by the Podiuc family 13 years ago, and offers a wide selection of grape varieties including cabernet franc, merlot, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc.
To attract even more visitors, the entrepreneurial family have also built an attractive guest-house designed in traditional Romanian style, primarily of wood, as well as a fine-dining restaurant, with an alfresco option on a terrace with panoramic views over the vineyard, the river and the countryside beyond.
This undulating wine region lies in the hills of Muntenia and Oltenia between the Getic SubCarpathians in the north and Campia Romana in the south and south-east, with altitudes between 200-500 meters.
Upon arrival, my companion and I enjoyed a delicious lunch of velvety smooth leak soup (leak being a celebrated vegetable in the region) and magret du canard accompanied by a dry 2016 cabernet franc limited edition Don Pelerin, boasting intense ruby color with purple glints and a complex bouquet of black fruits, wild cherries and cranberries, with subtly notes of vanilla. Some other culinary highlights were a starter of fresh tomatoes, a local variety called ‘bull’s heart,’ served simply with some cheese foam and pesto drops, which highlighted their sweetness; a local wild mushroom dish of porcini and chanterelle, with hazelnuts, celery puree, poached egg and mushroom reduction.
Alexandru Pop and Razvan Paliu were the starring chefs during our stay, creating a set of dishes for lunch and dinner both tempting in their presentation, and flavors.
As for our accommodation, a re-creation of a cosy 19th century home would be the best description. With all the mod-cons, of course.
The guesthouse overlooks the vineyard that slopes down towards the fertile valley and Olt River below. Glass-topped wooden wine barrels as tables out front with seating mean visitors can enjoy the wonderful views at their leisure. Step inside to a spacious living room with a wood and tile terracotta floor, leather couch and armchairs with fluffy cushions, a brick fireside and an intricately carved oak cabinet.
Other fixtures reflecting a bygone era include a record player, brass incense burners, a stylish hour-glass and candle-stick holders. Even the wooden coat stand at the entrance door wouldn’t be out of place in a 19th century setting. Wooden lamp stands are charmingly designed to resemble the ‘Infinite Column,’ a famous sculpture by Romania’s most famous artist, Constantin Brancusi.
Our bedroom had a parquet floor and comprised of a classic wooden writing desk (bureau) with folding top and a brass bedstead with vintage bedside lamps. An old-style radio stood on a corner shelf. Our marble-floored bathroom featured a stone wash basin, mirror lights designed as candleholders and L’Occitane toiletries.
There are five rooms in the guesthouse, four on the ground floor and one above, all named after grape varieties – merlot, rose, pinot, sauvignon and cabernet. A set of windows at head height affords plenty of natural light but also excellent views along the vineyard. There are other guest rooms across the courtyard.
Aside from the fine wine and food, tranquility is another characteristic of Domeniul Dragasi, a quality my companion and I basked in during our short time here seated outside, glasses of homemade wild cherry and green walnut apéritifs in hand, seated on comfortable armchairs listening to the musical rhythms of the cicadas and the soft balmy breezes easing their way up the slopes.
With such a delightful rural ambience, the area is perfect for outdoor pursuits such as cycling and hiking.
Stay at Domeniul Dragasi and you’ll feel you’ve stepped back in time.
Not just fine wines from cabernet franc, merlot, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc grapes but also homemade aperitifs from green walnuts, plums and sour cherries. Not to mention delicious, well-presented dishes including duck magret, lamb shank and entrecôte. Plus panoramic views over the Olt River. Move over Tuscany, you’ve just been ousted.
What’s not to like about Domeniul Dragasi in Dragasani, Romania.