At the crossroads between stories and natural gifts, we discovered Zornitza, a little bit of Tuscany in the southeastern part of Europe. Located in Bulgaria, between beautiful hills blessed with mild Mediterranean climate and sandy soils, this young family estate has it all.
They say Spartacus was sold at a market just few miles away. And that an old Roman road crossed the land we trod in front of our villa. And that the ancient volcano we’re dying to visit brings the most amazing energy to the area. We don’t know if it’s the old tales or the amazing nature, but this place feels special, with all the serenity we could have hoped for.
Zornitza, a family story
It all started with the decision of Kancho Stoychev – a pioneer in the field of social and political research, market and media research, and transition political analysis in the Balkans – to take a break from his hectic business life. He was looking for a peaceful place, so he bought a piece of untouched land in the southern hills of his country. There, he built a holiday house next to a lake where he could relax fishing. Not only did his plan work out wonderfully, but he so fell in love with the area that he managed to buy all the land he could see in the space of a few years. Meaning 740 acres from about 2,000 individual owners.
Today, everything has been transformed into a property committed to sustainability by any and all means. It has an eco-friendly produce farm, a truffle plantation swiftly approaching the first harvest, beekeeping, an animal farm, a trout lake, and vineyards facing the sun on every hill.
The entire property is home to only 15 lodgings. They all borrow the style of the initial “holiday house,” dressed in stone, timber beams, and red brick, all with an artistic design reminiscent of the Tuscan approach.
In the kitchen of aEstivum
Ninety-five percent of the ingredients coming through the kitchen doors are local. The eco-farm at Zornitza provides fruit and vegetables, meat and milk, eggs and honey. Whatever else needs to be supplied is easily sourced. The lack of heavy industry in the area, coupled with the generosity soil, provided fertile ground for the rise of certified organic farms. What’s more, Greece is just around the corner. This means the property can buy amazingly fresh fish every morning from the biggest markets across the border in the Balkans, just one hour away.
Their cuisine centers on traditional Bulgarian recipes reshaped using modern techniques and local ingredients. Casual by day, more elaborate for dinner.
Under the label of “Contemporary Bulgarian Cuisine,” 25-year-old Head Chef Vasil Spasov channels all his enthusiasm and impressive experience into the cuisine served by aEstivum (meaning “summer truffle”), the main restaurant at Zornitza.
We gladly experienced Vasil’s take on bobsnadenitza with parlenki, a classic Bulgarian bean stew with sausage and flat bread, trahana, typical local pasta, and Bulgarian cheesecake with octopus and tarama caviar.
Discovering the estate’s 60,000-square-yard vineyards, and tasting their top wines guided by Chief Sommelier Alexander Skorchev, was one of the highlights of our visit. Syrah is dominant, as it is the owner’s favorite variety, but it is accompanied by 17 other local and classic varieties on the hills and in the cellar. Our favorite wine pick: Zornitza Family Estate Fifty Fifty.
Explore the surroundings
Zornitza offers a unique combination of natural beauties, cultural heritage, and winemaking, turning the Melnik region into an attractive and diverse destination. The endless vineyards, the charm of the town of Melnik, the beauty of the Rozhen Monastery, and the splash and chatter of the Skoka waterfall added the final touches to our delightful trip to southeast Europe.