About Wine Forté
WHY JOIN OUR EVENTS AND TAKE WINE CLASSES WITH US?
Wine Forté offers an independent wine education without a behind-the-scenes agenda of selling any particular wines. We will work hard to help you find wines that you like. If you aren’t able to find something you like during the courses, we will make sure to dive deeper into your palate and find something that you do!
My name is Maja Roy. I am a wine professional, sommelier, special events organizer, educator, self-taught-cook, nourishing food enthusiast, traveler, and perpetual researcher of new, inspiring flavors and culinary traditions from around the world.
Growing up among the vineyards and farms in a rural village in Slovenia, wine and food preparation have always been a big part of my life. Passion for artisanal grape growing and winemaking led me to move to Knoxville and earning a Master’s degree in Wine Geography at University of Tennessee. Shortly after graduate school I learned that my real strength lies in hospitality and education so I pursued a further study of wine and received a certification at The Court of Master Sommeliers in Atlanta. Working with numerous restaurants, importers and winemakers in America and Europe helped me to launch my wine consultation and education business and focus my work in training and development of wine programs in many prestigious restaurants around the world. Most recent work experience took place in my home country of Slovenia where I worked as a sommelier and wine consultant at Hiša Franko - one of The World’s 50th Best Restaurants in the World in cooperation with chef Ana Roš who was awarded as The World’s Best Female Chef for 2017. It was there where I helped to develop a strong wine program with the focus on natural, organic and biodynamic wines which remain my biggest passion and expertise. Recently, upon some great opportunities abroad, I made a move back to Knoxville, Tennessee where I am now creating a new home base with my husband. I am continuing teaching and connecting people with a passion for high quality wine and food and I work as a freelance sommelier, running my blog and wine consulting business Wine Forté through which she I am organizing special wine and culinary retreats, teaching wine classes and representing work of artisans from across the world.
Why Wine Forté?
Wine Forté was originally born from my passion for wines that I have been cultivating for more than a decade. Forté is a powerful word that translates into strength, specialty, strong point, to something that lifts you and pushes you forward. And this is what wine perhaps in an unusual way has presented in my life.
Despite the fact that I grew up in Slovenia where wine culture is deeply woven into our daily lives, it wasn’t until the end of college that I first started to develop an understanding and appreciation of wine. The story of how this love-affair started is painful and tragic but also beautiful and inspiring. It’s a story of finding strength and positivity in the midst of tragedy and hardship. And at the end it is a story about the celebration of life; of moments that we create and get to spend with loved ones and the good food and wine that enable us to elevate this experience.
Ten years ago my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Like many other families, this diagnosis hit ours so unexpectedly and shook us all to the depths of our beings. In the hope of finding a solution and cure, myself and the whole family embarked on a journey to follow a different lifestyle: introducing healthier habits and making high-nutrition diets part of our daily life. In order to prepare meals that followed the rigid diets my mom was pursuing, I was on the quest to find the highest quality and nutrition-rich ingredients. My grandmother has been practicing organic farming ever since I remember, so we were really fortunate to receive most of the ingredients from her. However, this wasn't enough. In order for me to find some more hard-to-find ingredients like organic cottage cheese, cold pressed grape seed oil and all kinds of healing herbs, I had to reach out to some organic and biodynamic farmers in the vicinity of our village.
I would never expect this to happen, but while I was visiting farmers and learning about their approaches to farming I began to develop a deep interest in the ways they were growing their food and most importantly, the way of slow and mindful living they were applying to their daily lives. Most of the farmers were also wine producers who, while I was visiting their farms, took me on the tour of their vineyards and wine cellars. Just by listening to their stories and observing the ways they interacted with nature, an awakening began to take place somewhere deep inside of me. I realized that the hardships of my mother’s disease that I experienced were offset by the therapeutic effects of the visits to the farms and the conversations I had with the farmers and winemakers.
On an unassuming day after months of chemo my mother unexpectedly had the strength to join me at Aci Urbajs winery. It was a gloomy and cold winter afternoon when we arrived to the winery. The fog was slowly creeping out of the forest covering the fields and gnarly hibernating vines covered in snow that were surrounding the house. Behind the wooden fence, horses were grazing, and there was Aci – the owner – petting them and waiting for us with a big smile on his face. After a short walk around the vineyards, he took us to his wine cellar; a dark, dimly lit place build under his old stone house. I felt so much excitement being surrounded by all these bottles and barrels, and I had so many questions that Aci wasn’t able to answer all of them.
We took a bottle of wine with us and went to the old house, thoughtfully preserved and renovated but still carrying the spirits of his ancestors. As we walked, Aci carried a basket with him. He set it on the table and – to our great surprise – pulled out a large wheel of cheese and home-baked bread, still warm from the oven. He opened the wine and poured my mom and I a glass. This wine was different. It felt so pure and spoke of the place where we were. It carried the soul of Aci and the character of the farm. I have never tasted anything like it before; the wine had deep substance, refreshing dimensions, and a unique texture. Nature’s vitality transformed itself seamlessly into the wine, and all seemed ethereal. It was a moment I will never forget: the moment when I realized that these kinds of wines exist, and that we have the privilege to taste and drink them. This moment was when my entire life snapped into focus and I became truly alive.
We spoke of wine and life long into the night. I was observing my mother’s face, how beautiful she was, tired of chemo and radiation but still incredibly beautiful and pure, just like the wine we were drinking. That evening I made the decision to learn more about these kinds of wines, how they are farmed and tended to, and what the farmers’ philosophies were.
I spent the next few months researching natural wineries in Slovenia and its surrounding countries. One by one, I visited them. My mother recognized my passion and encouraged me to switch the topic of my university thesis and instead write about organic winemaking in Slovenia. I knew immediately that she was right. When I started with the research she was my constant support as I was hers. She encouraged me and pushed me, while I took care of her dietary needs and gave her every bit of comfort that I could. Those months were the months of struggle and pain; they were also months of clarity, learning, beautiful conversations, and special moments that we shared with each other. Those were the months when I finally realized what I wanted to do with my life: work alongside incredibly talented winemakers to share their stories through their wines. I became a sommelier and pursed my graduate degree in wine geography.
My mami left us in September of 2015. No matter how much time passes I still feel the presence of her so strongly. Her courageous battle with cancer was an inspiration for me and so many others, but on a day-to-day basis it was a hard experience full of fear and despair. My sister and I poured all of our love and faith into her recovery. When she passed, I felt hollow, like there was nothing left of me. No strength, no courage, no hope, and no future. But in the process of grieving and healing I discovered a priceless gift that she bestowed upon me: an incredible reserve of strength and vigor. At those crucial moments when I wanted to give up on everything, I was able to reach within and access that reserve. It is that strength, that Forté, that is keeping me going, creating, and sharing my love of food, wine, and life with others.
Wine Forté is not only about wine, but wine represents that powerful force that continues to drive me. All of this started with wine. Through wine I rediscovered my passion for food, cooking, exploring, and finding new and exciting ingredients.
Cooking and sharing delicious wines with people that love each other is the reason why I do what I do. It’s magic, happiness, home, sharing conversations, ideas, dreams, love, and laughter. It’s the appreciation of food, wine, and each other. I cherish these moments and live for them!