Growing Together: Moldova’s Family-Run Et Cetera Winery

Et Cetera Winery Moldova

For years, we had our sights set on participating in a grape harvest. As the golden months of the summer of 2014 dwindled, and Europe’s grapes grew plumper and riper, we decided to meander to Moldova to meet the newest vintage. It’s said that a whopping 25% of Moldova’s working population is involved in winemaking, and we instantly sensed this upon our arrival in the Eastern European country. Much of the autumnal landscape was dotted with vineyards, grape motifs favored heavily on the village architecture, and winemakers of the amateur and professional sort abounded. One of our first nights in the country, locals spotted us strolling the streets of a quiet village, and asked us if we wanted to try a glass of wine at their home. (Of course we said yes!) This warm extension of hospitality would continue for nearly one month, even as we hopped from locale to locale. Sometimes we were offered golden bunches of grapes, while at other moments we were given a generous glass of homemade wine.

Family, Innovation & Tradition

Moldova has a history of winemaking that spans nearly five millennia. Upon arriving here, we yearned to discover the perfect blend of familial tradition and modern winemaking techniques. My husband, Shawn and I found this ideal combination at the Et Cetera Winery in the southeastern part of the country. We spent three days with a winemaking family, the Luchianovs – a Moldovan bunch who have built their business from scratch. Spanning several generations, the visit reminded us why we’re so fond of family-run enterprises. From the grandparents cooking delicious, hearty fare and constructing new structures, to their children making magic with the grapes and entertaining their domestic and international guests, the family exuded passion, an attention to detail, and a desire to help their country flourish, despite its economic challenges. The Luchianovs also exhibited another trait that I’ve come to respect greatly – they are mostly autodidactic. I never would have guessed that they were largely self-taught, because what they produce is exemplary.

As we entered the Et Cetera Winery grounds in Crocmaz, not far from the Ukrainian border, I had flashbacks of Napa, Italy, and even Burgundy. We’d already seen some of Moldova’s most celebrated monasteries, toured two of the country’s well-known wineries, and mingled with locals in a tiny village, but now we were ready to slow down a bit. Here, we would focus on nature and the behind-the-scenes activities that make a winery tick.

Our Et Cetera Experience

One afternoon, Shawn and I stared out into the vast vineyards, with garnet-hued, first-rate glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon in our hands. During another sun-drenched hour, we harvested grapes alongside Luchianov family friends. We also watched the Luchianov matriarchs whip up Moldova’s beloved Plăcintă, a multi-layered Phyllo-dough pastry, like pros. The ladies gently mentored young staff members from the neighboring village, and mischievously called us over to capture the blanket-like layers being placed into the iron pans.

Other moments found us shadowing with winemaker Alexandru and his brother, Igor, as they checked in with the grapes and the guests. We mingled with their wives, Daniela and Olga, who are skilled in the culinary arts and public relations. Daniela whipped up all types of memorable dishes using locally-sourced ingredients: an elegant parmesan soup, grilled chicken and vegetables, a range of savory and sweetened brie appetizers, pumpkin-cream soup, homemade cookies, bread, honey and preserves. All the while, the third generation of Luchianov girls – perhaps Et Cetera’s next group of winemakers – tinkered about outside. They rode a scooter, created chalk masterpieces, hugged the family kitten, Tom, and napped as their grandparents looked on. As Daniela so aptly said one night over dinner, “This isn’t our job; it’s a lifestyle.”

Since Et Cetera is one of a few wineries in the developing southeast of Moldova, we felt lucky to have seen the winery in its early days, before the region booms. Over the course of three days, we’d chat with the Luchianovs to get a feel for what inspired them to open a winery. Those were the kind of conversations that would inspire most anyone to open a winery or start a small business. However, lest I make it all sound too romantic and carefree, let me say that I’ve rarely seen a more hard-working team. Though the operation looks picturesque to guests, behind the scenes the family works like a colony of bees. Their motivational words follow, in interview format, lending our dinnertime and vineyard-side conversations a more authentic air.

***

Tricia: How did your family decide to open a winery?

Alex: For me, opening a winery was a hobby and a dream. The idea was born for me when I was working in the United States, where I started taking an even greater liking to wine, thanks to some friends from the UK. At one point, I thought to myself, “Moldova is a wine country… I’ll come back home!” I then practiced for seven years before we opened the winery.

Igor: I also fell in love with wine when I was working in the United States. In Moldova’s villages, everyone makes home-style wine. We planted the vineyards in 2003 using grape plants from Italy, Romania and Georgia, and had our first harvest in 2005. We produced 3,000 bottles, even without the technology we have now. We only had one pump and one tank. We then built the winery in 2009. Next year, we’re planning to build a hotel on the grounds, since right now, there’s only one hotel situated between the capital of Chisinau and the city of Stefan Voda.

Tricia: What do you most enjoy about running Et Cetera?

Igor: Our guests say they feel so good here – like they’re at home. They say, “You must be the happiest people in the world. It’s like heaven here.” It is absolutely a lot of fun. They have so many questions for us, and it’s fun answering them. Because this business is a hobby for us, it’s a pleasure.

Daniela: This isn’t our job – it’s a lifestyle. It’s our work, but it doesn’t feel like work because we enjoy it! I get to meet lots of interesting people, and share a part of me. There’s always this feeling of adrenaline, because everything is new.

Tricia: Why the name, ‘Et Cetera?’

Daniela: The name describes our journey. We started with just an idea, and step by step, slowly… we’ve grown.

Tricia: What makes Et Cetera special?

Igor: What makes Et Cetera special is our wine’s quality. If it doesn’t meet quality standards, it doesn’t go to market. We’re also one of the only wineries in Moldova that’s situated in the heart of a vineyard. From the winemaking, to the cooking, and constructing, everything’s being family-run too.

Also, the world needs to know about Moldova. We’re something new – something that’s exciting to discover!

Et Cetera Winery Vineyards Moldova

As I stared out into Et Cetera’s 50-hectares (about 120 acres) of vineyards, visions of Napa Valley, even Burgundy came to mind. Interesting enough, Moldova shares the same latitude as Burgundian wine country. The area’s climate is tempered by the Black Sea.

Et Cetera Winery Moldova 6

Autumn Foliage Moldova

Et Cetera Winery Visit 3

Shawn and I pose with Daniela Luchianov, chef extraordinaire, and one of Et Cetera’s visionaries. I wish we lived closer, for I greatly enjoyed shadowing with her in the kitchen as she whipped up elegant soups, tempting baked goods, and pretty appetizers.

Et Cetera Winery Moldova

A septet of Et Cetera wine – everything from Sauvignon Blanc and Traminer, to Merlot and the regional Fetească Neagră varietal.

Et Cetera Winery Corks Moldova

Et Cetera Winery Moldova

Fun and family. On the left, the Luchianov patriarch and two of his granddaughters; on the right, the Et Cetera staff shares a laugh before a wine-tasting group arrives.

Thom the Cat Vineyard

The family’s kitten, Tom, goes on an excursion in his vine-studded backyard.

Et Cetera Winery Moldova

Talking to the grapes.

Shawn Et Cetera Winery Moldova

Shawn with a pretty – and delicious – Rosé.

Et Cetera Winery Grapes Moldova

Et Cetera Winery Moldova

It was fun hearing Daniela’s visions for the Et Cetera grounds. I think this spot is slated to be studded with lavender plants.

Et Cetera Winemaker Alexandru Luchianov

Et Cetera’s winemaker, Alex Luchianov, with his father at his side, checks the status of the grapes to determine when they’ll be harvested.

Et Cetera Winemaker Alexandru Luchianov

Alex and his family: wonderful Olga, who was such a treat to correspond with as we made our plans to visit the winery, and their darling daughter.

Et Cetera Winery Family

Igor, Daniela and their beautiful girls.

Et Cetera Winery Family Moldova

A young Luchianov family member’s chalk masterpieces, and Christa, the winery’s spirited resident dog.

Et Cetera Winery Luchianov Family

Mother and daughter, each having fun with their respective props.

Et Cetera Winery Construction

Family members construct a storage building to house farm equipment. They’re applying stone on the exterior to make it look more traditional. There are plots of vegetables just around the corner. Daniela, Shawn, and I made a wonderful pumpkin creme soup, using a pumpkin from the garden.

Moldovan Folk Art Wall Hanging

While traversing Moldova, we glimpsed several hand-woven wall hangings featuring vibrant floral scenes. This one was made by Igor and Alex’s grandmother. I appreciated how they had it made into upholstery for the wing chairs in the Et Cetera dining room.

Et Cetera Winery Wine Moldova

Et Cetera Winery Moldova

Et Cetera Winery Moldova 2

Et Cetera Winery Moldova 4

In addition to wine, the Et Cetera family makes homemade jam and honey. The cherry and peach varieties were some of our favorites.

Et Cetera Winery Lunch

A Luchianov family member cooks up grilled vegetables and fish stew in the open air.

Eggs Moldova

Moldova Corn

Placinte dough Moldova

Balls of dough soon to be rolled into stretchy sheets that will create Plăcintă, a Moldovan favorite.

Placinta Making Moldova

In all, about 8 layers of these sheets will combine to make a savory, flaky pastry.

Making Plăcintă Pastry Step by Step

The ladies brush on butter, and cut off excess dough from the iron pans’ edges.

Plăcintă Pastry Filling Moldova

Next comes a crumbled soft cheese and egg filling.

Placinta pastry Moldova

Judging by the smiles on others’ faces, the Plăcintă was perfect. The dough contained gluten, alas I had to abstain, but I enjoyed a glass of Rosé along with the festive group.

Et Cetera Winery Vineyards Moldova

Shawn poses with the Plăcintă queens, after toasting to a successful batch.

Et Cetera Winery Visit

Et Cetera Winery Grapes

During our three days at Et Cetera, a few groups of domestic and international visitors stopped by. This cluster came from a Chisinau art gallery/framing shop, to participate in a team-building activity that found them bottling Cabernet Sauvignon to celebrate the upcoming anniversary of their business. In keeping with its theme, they had asked an artist – who paints with wine – to make the bottle’s anniversary label. The bottles with the customized labels were to be given to clients as a thank you-gift.

Et Cetera Winery Moldova Cookies Vineyards

Daniela presents more tempting desserts, such as these piping-hot oatmeal raisin cookies. Sometimes my waistline gives thanks that I just can’t touch the gluten-filled stuff! :)

Et Cetera Winery Moldova 8

Off to explore the building where the fermentation and bottling takes place. In the foreground are harvesting baskets. We visited just in between the white-grape harvest and upcoming red one.

Et Cetera Winery Moldova Family

Kitten Tom gets some loving attention, and on the right, fermentation tanks, made in Moldova.

Et Cetera Winemaker Moldova

Winemaking brother Alex chats with the group before they go inside to bottle the wine.

Et Cetera Winery Feteasca Neagra Wine Production

Tools of the trade: fermentation tanks, and grape clippers with wine-colored handles.

Bottling Wine Et Cetera Winery Moldova

The excitement in the air was palpable as we awaited the first droplets of wine. Et Cetera’s wine-bottling equipment hails from Italy.

Et Cetera Winery Label

Et Cetera labels wait to adorn bottles. If you look closely, you’ll see the red dot on the outline of Moldova, signifying where we were.

Bottling Wine Et Cetera Winery Moldova 2

With the bottles now filled with ruby-red goodness, the guests, guided by Mr. Luchianov, heat-seal the foil topper. Next, the team carefully boxed the bottles.

Et Cetera Winery Visit 5

Et Cetera Winery Toast

Celebrating a successful bottling mission, and a glorious autumn afternoon.

Et Cetera Winery Moldova

Our Video of This Experience:

Where in the World?

Planning Pointers:

  • To get to Et Cetera Winery, you have a few options. Contact Et Cetera Winery via their website, or by email { tourism@etcetera.md } and they will organize the visit for you, or coordinate with a tour organizer that works within the country. If you’re feeling more adventurous, it is also possible to access the winery via minibuses headed to Odessa. We made this trip, in reverse, hopping on a bus originating in Odessa and headed to Chisinau. The stop nearest the winery is called Kaplani or каплань. Next year the family anticipates building an on-site hotel, but for the moment, it’s possible to spend a day at the winery. They can recommend other lodging options in the region. Whatever transportation option you choose, the family asks that you please coordinate your visit with Et Cetera in advance. The journey from Chisinau to Et Cetera by car takes about 2 hours.
  • To view bus routes and schedules throughout Moldova, visit the following transportation website (in Romanian-Moldovan).
  • To learn more about Moldova’s wine history, visit the Wine of Moldova brand site.
  • Need more inspiration? This link contains an index of all my posts from Moldova.

Disclosure & Thanks:

Our visit to Et Cetera Winery was supported by the Luchianov family to which we extend thanks.

To Daniela and Igor, Olga and Alexandru, and their parents, we send out an extra special thank you, or mulțumesc, for allowing us to tell such a fun story.

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved. Video footage is courtesy of my husband, Shawn.

30 Comments on “Growing Together: Moldova’s Family-Run Et Cetera Winery

    • Shikha, I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed this peek into a Moldovan winery. You’re right that many people know so little about Moldova. (I fell into that category before our trip too.) It’s a pity that it’s rather unknown because the small country has a lot to offer the intrepid traveler and wine lovers. :) Is it a place you’ve been to?

      • Sadly no…. funnily enough, very recently I came to know that a work colleague is from Moldova… I must shamefully admit that I did not know about this country until then.

      • Travel and mingling with others from around the world can be a great teacher, can’t it? :) I wonder if your Moldovan colleague likes the Plăcintă pastry featured here? Even though I couldn’t eat it, the foodie in me appreciated the varied spins different cooks put on the recipe – some sweet, others savory.

        Wish you a wonderful day in NY!

  1. Thanks for sharing this experience – how I would love to try those wines (and food!) It’s wonderful that these people were able to fulfill their dream!

  2. Tricia, your posts are as usual inspiring , educating and filled with beautiful images. Makes me wanting to pack my suitcase and go on travelling. Indeed Moldova is still rather unknown, yet you both have the amazing talent to show it’s hidden beauty. Are you enjoying Christmas time in Oberammergau by now, with the view of snow covered mountains?

    • Hi Cornelia, thank you for the kudos. I do hope that you’ll be able to visit Moldova sometime soon. Do you have any plans to return to Germany?

      At the moment the mountains overlooking Oberammergau are not dusted in snow. To get in the holiday spirit, however, we’re just about to enjoy a mug of hot Glühwein. We’ll toast to you. Thanks, as always, for reading.

  3. What a great experience and life I have found within your photos and stories of Moldova (and other places too I should add)… While I have seen many a vineyard (Napa Valley and the Willamette Valley), this place looks so special. Enjoy your travels and the holiday season!

    • That’s high praise coming from a talented photographer and storyteller such as yourself. Thank you, Randall.

      While I’ve had the chance to see a bit of Napa, I would love to see Oregon’s wine country too. We focused on the photogenic Oregon Coast two summers ago, and I loved the vitality of Portland, but didn’t get to the Willamette Valley.

      I wish you and your family a beautiful holiday season as well. Thanks for reading and always adding to the conversation.

  4. It is intriguing that both Alex and Igor were inspired to start their own winery in Moldova after having experienced the business in the United States. Is this becoming a more popular story among other entrepreneurs returning to their Eastern European homelands?

    • Bespoke Traveler, an interesting question! We did meet a few others who’d spent a significant amount of time in the United States, then returned to Moldova to start a business. Another interesting Moldovan entrepreneur that we met (I coincidentally just penned a tale of goodwill about him today) eventually started a fruit-growing and cold-storage business in Moldova too.

      I do love how spending time in a new place allows me to see life back home in a new light. I suspect that’s the case with some of these entrepreneurs too. :)

      Thanks for reading; I always appreciate your thoughtful comments and questions.

  5. That must have been a wonderful visit. I think I would have liked to be a professional winemaker. Since life didn’t go that way I enjoy winemaking as a hobby. My specialty is mead making. Mead is made by mixing honey and water and fermenting it.

    Thank you for sharing. Your pictures are beautiful.

    • Gerard, professional or hobbyist, it’s lovely that you get to pursue your passion. Thanks to your comment I’ve also learned something new, as I’d never heard of mead making. How long have you been making mead, and how long does the average batch of mead take to make?

      It would be really interesting to read all about it in one of your future stories (hint, hint)!

      • A batch of mead usually takes 7 months to make. I’ve been making mead since the 1980s.

        Thank you for your suggestion.

      • It’s an excellent holiday beverage. There is a wide variety of different meads ranging from dry to sweet, low alcohol to strong, spiced, sparkling or non-sparkling, etc.

        I have some that I made from apple blossom honey and apple juice. It’s 18% or 19% alcohol by volume. It has a big flavor. I also have some that I made from golden rod honey and malt and it’s also 18% or 19% by volume. They’re great for holidays. They go good with food and they’re good by themselves.

      • 18 or 19%? Wow. I’ll have so see if we can find any here in Germany – thanks for the detailed overview, Gerard. :)

        I’m also curious how you got into making mead. Did you take a class, or did you teach yourself?

      • I learned how to make it on my own. When I was a teenager I was interested in winemaking. I made wine with different kinds of fruits. When I heard about mead I was intrigued and made some.

        Mead is also known as honey wine. There is also a mead / beer style called braggot which is a mixture of malt and honey.

      • Gerard, you’ve definitely piqued our curiosity about mead and other types of wine made with fruit. When we were in Laos, we tried mulberry wine for the first time at a silk farm. (The silk worms ate the mulberry leaves, and then the berries could be fermented to make wine.)

        Cheers to you, and all the best this holiday season! It’s been fun learning from you this year, and having you join in the conversation. :)

      • Thank you Tricia. I’ve learned a lot from you the past year too.

        Have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

    • Vonnie, I wish I could say that I tried it, but the gluten-laden pastry meant I couldn’t. More than a year later, my husband still talks about these plăcinte. :)

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