wine fountain vodole maribor
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A congress or business guest to Maribor, the second largest Slovenian city, can visit a special wine retreat – the Wine Fountain. In the town of Vodole, Bogdan Mak at his Sunny Paradise estate (Sončni raj) opened the first Wine Fountain (Fontana vin) in northern Slovenia. At the same time, the fountain is the biggest wine fountain in Europe. Kongres Magazine talked to Bogdan Novak about the Wine Fountain as well as about the Sunny Paradise Estate.

wine fountain vodole maribor
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Q: At your Sunny Paradise estate, you experimentally opened the Wine Fountain in November. How did you come up with the idea of ​​opening the Fountain?

The Sunny Paradise estate is a young farm that has been investing most of its development in developing cannabis products from the beginning. In particular, we have focused on the development of products with cannabidiol CBD, which is one of the safest active substances in nature and can have tremendous potential in human life. As European legislation is turning against producers in this context, we have been forced to think of alternative directions for the development of our farm. In the four years since we have been owning the previously abandoned farm, we have already created the largest park of native honey plants on our property, creating a large outdoor classroom that features “learning” content for each generation. About a year and a half ago, my stepson gave the tentative idea that we needed a wine fountain that would attract more people to our environment. An idea we didn’t think about much, but over time, it began to mature. It took about a year before the project matured to such an extent that we were ready for implementation.

Q: Why just experimentally, just a trial?

The trial run was a test period for us and a search for possible contingencies before it officially opened in March next year. Within this trial time, we have gained invaluable feedback and experience to successfully navigate the new 2020 season.

Q: This was a huge financial investment. Where did you get the courage for it? And when do you expect a return?

Investments mean development and a path in an otherwise deliberate but not quite familiar direction. The projects we undertake are difficult to evaluate in advance. Most of the time we are dealing with new things, it is difficult to see them in a book and to make or carry out a project according to the books. Mostly everything is born within us and we follow that voice. I believe that only development is the right way to expand the market to which we can attract even the most demanding tourist. According to our estimates, we expect that the investment of EUR 200,000 will be repaid to us in five years or seasons of operation.

wine fountain vodole maribor
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Q: What are the features of your Fountain, how does it work and what do you offer guests in addition to wine?

Wine tasting at the Wine Fountain is a special experience in the natural surroundings in the midst of the Styrian hills surrounded by herbs and meadow orchards. The entire tasting is computer controlled and guests can choose from eight varieties of wine, two of which are red. In the context of tasting, we also provide soft drinks, and guests can try two home-made organic herb drinks from two taps. For tasting wine or syrup, you need a glass that comes with a programmed chip that activates the dispensing of the beverage when you place the glass in the dispenser. In addition to beverages, we also offer our guests a tasting of our slightly different honey products, and for a snack, we have partnered with an extremely successful company, which is also based on the tradition and authentic Slovenian food of Kodila from Murska Sobota. Different meat and meatless products are offered in a slightly different form, which once again represents the experience of organizing and preparing a meal when tasting beverages.

Q: What visit did you record during the trial phase?

With regard to the visit, we did not set any goals for what we wanted in the initial trial phase, since observing the market response was more important to us. We certainly were in demand. In these otherwise unstable first days of November, we hosted between 500 and 600 visitors, which is of course a positive way forward. However, the tasting glass has become a sought-after gift for New Year’s presents, as well as a business gift. With this purpose, a few companies asked us to prepare the tasting glasses with chips for them.

Q: What impressed your visitors the most? And what bothered them? Will you change anything before the new opening?

Visitors who were not from the local environment were most impressed by the proximity of the city and, on the other hand, the perfect retreat into nature. In fact, one gets the feeling that time has somewhat stopped here. Of course, there are a few shortcomings that we ourselves know. There are still some construction works around the fountain that need to be finished. We will upgrade them in the winter months and complete them in spring.

Q: How will the Wine Fountain contribute to the city of Maribor or the region?

I believe that the investment will not only have a positive impact on the local environment but on the whole region. In the future, we are particularly interested in foreign markets from which we want to attract as many tourists as possible. The desire is to keep the guests at our farm for at least three to four hours, preferably an hour longer at our neighbors in nearby culinary destinations. In fact, we want to be a hub of information where we can direct our guests to the surrounding area.

firewalking sunny paradise estate maribor
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Q: On your property, you also offer visitors other activities, including firewalking. How can firewalking help business guests?

At the SUNNY PARADISE Estate guests get to know nature from many different aspects, along with the firewalking ritual, with which participants overcome their fears and limiting beliefs, we organize team events where participants take a guided hike, try natural soap making, or they just take an adrenaline ride on the “Bee Flight” zipline, considered the longest zipline in Styria. With these contents, participants gain self-confirmation, overcome established patterns, and become more successful, bolder, more curious, and above all gain confidence in themselves and the company in which they operate.

Q: Your estate is rich in activities from spring to fall, but what can you offer during the winter months?

We will upgrade our offer for the winter months in the coming years. We have already set up a larger facility where we want to arrange the content rooms for the winter months. There will also be the social content in the forefront, but it will be much more related to personal growth and working on oneself.

firesunny paradise estate maribor
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Q: What are your plans for a Sunny Paradise estate in the future? Do you have any special wishes or plans?

Desires and projects are always in our subconscious. We focus more on goals that are short, medium and long term. Most of all, in the short term, they are largely related to the sale of our products, but I cannot get past some of the advantages, such as completing the study path in the winter months, arranging a large plant maze, which we also want to arrange for fun during these “quiet” months. The maze is made with 700 blackberry seedlings and is definitely a great attraction of our estate where the sun never sets. In the long term and in the medium term, our plans are connected to job creation, new investments in the coming years that will only further enhance the experience of nature, which is our basic motto.


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