Who says that a vineyard’s crown season should only be during autumn, when the vines yield their rich harvest? So far, our runner up summer vineyard comes close as serious competition.
There must be something truly special about the deep silence up in the Vineyards Hill that we had been patiently waiting all winter and spring to return to the Olt River Valley for the flowering vines. This fine moment had our eyes glued to the calendar as it is entirely conditioned by the weather, but this year, the vineyard was rather lazy, with all the sudden changes of the moody spring.
The first month of summer welcomed us 3 km north of Dragasani on a drizzling, yet warm morning, driving the winding road to the four out of seven award winning wineries. I personally cannot find a more peaceful and beautiful place, perfectly indulging all 5 senses, at such a convenient distance from Bucharest. Due to the continuous rainfalls, the lush leaves and coiling tendrils, appearing emerald green under the rain droplets, uncovered small bunches with flowers slowly withering away, others already having their tiny buds timidly developing the grapes.
We visited once again the domains, which were all looking fresh this time, asking to be caught on camera, procrastinating over tasting the previous year finest bouquets. As we had embarked on a single day quest, we went back on our way north, approaching the foot of the Eastern Capatanii Mountains, to the village of Pausesti-Maglasi.
Its name meaning “salt miner” (“maglas”) in the local dialect, Pausesti is little known even to fellow Romanians, but comfortably located between various points of interest. Buila-Vanturarita and Cozia National Parks are perfect for hiking, trekking, mountain biking, paragliding and of course, wildlife watching. Valcea County has a tradition for monastic tourism, with its 17th and 18th century monasteries built in the unique Brancovenesc architectural style, and also a very long history when it comes to ceramic and pottery craftsmanship.
Nearby balneary resorts, such as Baile Olanesti, Calimanesti and Caciulata, are popular due to their natural mineral waters therapy, while Ocnele Mari salt mine is well worth a visit for the halotherapy (dry salt aerosol inhalations).
We spent the rest of the day at the Saracinesti Monastery, an architectural gem built in 1688, still exhibiting the well preserved massive bell tower and fortified wall (in pictures), where we enjoyed a tasty vegetarian meal cooked by the nuns. The monastery is currently part of the final stage of a restoration project and it is available upon previous request to accommodate small groups of tourists.
A trip along the Oltenia Wine Route is equally suitable for those interested in a full weekend stay, as well as for those who prefer a single day tour. Whether it’s the first visit to the Vineyards Hill or not, the wine tasting guided tour lasts at least 2 hours and it’s always accompanied by home cooked lunch. Extensive 7 hour wine tasting tours require an overnight stop and our best recommendation goes towards the accommodation in a chic boutique hotel – breakfast included – located on a quiet alley right in Dragasani city centre. Bicycle tours can also be organized, regardless the group size.
As for the options to reach the city of Dragasani by car, all of them starting with the A1 Highway to Pitesti, described in a former article about Prundeni’s Vineyards Hill, the shortest one, via DN67B zigzagging Arges and Olt Counties is no longer available. The heavy rain severely damaged one of the access bridges, but the options via Ramnicu Valcea to the north and Slatina to the south still are in best condition.
Pausesti-Maglasi is located 11 km (6 mi) away from Ramnicu Valcea on the road to Baile Olanesti.
By Alexandra Duta, guest writer