Sabile and Abavas river valley it's located in are famous for their wine-making tradition. So, if you're going to set up a winery, you might just as well do it here, reasoned Mārtinš Barkāns. And so, about five years ago, that's what he did and Abavas Winery was born.
And that's where things get interesting. His plan, you see, is nothing short of ambitious. He wants to make quality sparkling wine. Out of Latvian grapes. No mean feat considering vitis vinifera, practically the only vine that produces grapes for wine-making doesn't survive in under -20°c.
Apparently his neighbour has attempted growing Riesling, but failed. Mārtinš himself has tried his luck with notoriously fussy Pinot Noir, with similar results. He is, however, feeling cautiously optimistic about its relative, Austrian Zweigelt.
A variety of hybrids have been bred in Latvia, using vitis lambrusca and vitis amurensis- vines, better suited for cold climates. Wine Hill is Sabile is a showroom for these, but Mārtinš doesn't think too much of them. Zilga for instance, is only good for table wine. At best. Skujins 675- variety, however, is something he too has dabbled with.
"Terroir doesn't account for much this North", he retorts. "Ability to tolerate freezing temperatures, that's what matters".