Kantina Enol

Heart of the business
Winery, restaurant

Location
Go to Map

Nearby
Tirana, Kruja, Tirana Airport

Transport

Public transport to Preza (Kala) from Vora, from the centre of the village it’s a 15-minute walk to the restaurant.

By car, driving up the main road to Preza, follow the sign at turnoff on the left shortly before arriving at the village square, then follow the signs.

Take care on the steep driveway to the parking area!

Lodging

4 double rooms, from €30/night

What to do

Wine degustation, walk around the vineyards and farm, hike to nearby reservoir.

What to bring back

Home-made, flavoured “Rukomel” raki.

Information

One finds Kantina Enol just a short 30-minute drive away from Albania’s capital Tirana, not far from the airport, in the village of Preza. The 14th-century Preza Castle overlooks Tirana and the plain framed by the Kruja and Dajti mountains. During battles against the Ottomans in the 15th century, the castle served as a major stronghold and strategic and communication point for the national hero Skenderbeg, linking the castles of Kruja and Petrela. Currently the castle draws numerous tourists for day trips to the village to enjoy a picnic and great views in the fresh air.

In recent years, however, Preza has been frequented by visitors for another reason: Kantina Enol. A short drive from the village square near the castle, and after a steep driveway leading to the property of the winery and farm, the well-kept garden of the restaurant invites you to relax and smell the fresh products from the large outdoor brick oven and grill.

Enol is a portmanteau of Eni and Olsi, the children of the owner and founder of the winery, Qemal Alushi, reflecting the family nature of the farm, restaurant and winery. As the only one of four brothers without higher education, he tried his hand at a number of professions before deciding to follow his long-standing passion for wine and his dream to produce it himself.

From 2002 to 2004 he planted the grape vines you see today, and the family property along the slope of the hill proved to host perfect growing conditions. It took another few years of hard work to establish the business, but in 2007 the winery building was completed and a year later Kantina Enol’s wine was sold officially for the first time.

Some bottles from the early years are still stored in the restaurant’s wine cellar, where bottles are stacked in wooden shelves up to the ceiling. The bottles hold various vintages, while the large stainless steel tanks on the opposite wall contain wine yet to be bottled. The winery produces around 10,000 bottles annually, mainly its house wine blend of cabernet, sangiovese and merlot, but also trebbiano. A long wooden table stands in the centre of the room, where guests can take part in a degustation of the wines to enjoy the aroma and flavour in a complementary atmosphere.

Olsi, Qemal’s son, shares his father’s love for winemaking and can explain the grape varieties grown, how they are processed and different characteristics of their wine. In addition to teaching physical education at a high school in nearby Vora, he completed his Master studies in agriculture with a focus on winemaking. Within the family, he is responsible for experimenting with and creating new products, one of which is a special, and delicious, type of raki (similar to grappa) flavoured with honey, cinnamon and cloves he’s named rukomel.

From the wine cellar, a wooden staircase leads up to the restaurant. Large, family-sized wooden tables with red-checkered tablecloths give the room a homely feel despite its large size, while bouquets of fresh wildflowers on every table add a nice touch – a detail that Qemal devised together with his daughter Eni. She helps Qemal manage the restaurant, and is involved with the accounting, too.

The dishes at the restaurant are not only cooked using local and organic ingredients, but they are presented exceptionally beautifully, featuring yet more fresh flowers. For a good sample of local offerings, try the antipasta e shtepise, a mixed antipasti platter, as well as the highly recommended homemade cheese and byrek selections. Typical dishes and favourites for meat lovers are the tave dheu, spit-roasted lamb or kid. A complementary sweet platter with fruit and typical desserts completes the meal.

The ingredients for the dishes are partly grown on the farm, which comprises a total area of about 5 hectares, half of which are vineyards. The remainder of the land is planted with olive, apple, plum, pomegranate, fig, cherry, chestnut and walnut trees, among others. At the lower end of the slope, a spacious enclosure contains up to 150 chickens which provide fresh eggs for the farm.

Other meat and milk products are sourced from the local villagers, though finding suppliers who could offer the necessary quality was difficult when the

Alushi family started the restaurant in 2014, Qemal notes. By now, their supply chain is well established, and the kitchen staff, headed by Qemals’s wife Shpresa and two other chefs, are experienced in making their own butter, cheese and yoghurt from milk supplied by the villagers, as well as jam, compote and juice from their own produce.

In 2018 the family added yet another scope of activities to their business by adding some guest rooms above the restaurant. While most of their patrons are Albanians from nearby towns and cities, such as Tirana, Durres, Lezha or Shkodra, who visit the restaurant and winery on day trips, some guests are also eager to soak in the tranquil and green surroundings for a few days. Three of the four double rooms feature large balconies that share the beautiful view you can see also from the restaurant below, overlooking the long rows of grapevines. Preza castle towers on top of the hill across from the small stream below the property.

To explore the surroundings on a small hike, visit the nearby reservoir. Furthermore, if you visit at the beginning of September during the harvest, you can participate in the winery’s festival, during which visitors can pick grapes and crush them with their feet in the traditional way. In any case, even those who’ve come for a meal and a drink will leave with a memorable experience of Kantina Enol’s beautiful surroundings, delicious food and great wine.