Monday, July 15, 2013

Warm Wine Country Charm

My wine and culinary adventures through Greece continue, next stop is Domaine Spiropoulos (organically certified) in Mantineia in the Peloponnese (a large peninsula in Southern Greece).

As my companions and I approached the winery we were warmly greeted by Mr. and Mrs. Spiropoulos and invited in to explore and taste. Inside a tasting of wines from producers all over Mantineia was set up (further mention of other wineries in upcoming posts) . Although wines from the Moschofilero grape are grown all over Greece, it really shines here in Mantineia as we discovered throughout the tasting. Wines made from Moschofilero are most often perfumed and floral on the nose with hints of rose petals and rose water and crisp acidity with notes of spice on the palate.

I am always on the hunt for sparkling wine when/where ever I travel so I was quite pleased when I discovered that Domaine Spiropoulos does indeed make sparkling wine. First to try was their Ode Panos Brut, a 100% Moschofilero dry sparkling wine that had the beautiful notes of rose petals, green apples and ended with a creamy finish. Their Ode Panos Brut Rose sparkling that is made with 90% Moschofilero and 10% Agiorgitiko was next to try. The Rose also had the aromas of rose petals but with addition of red apple and on the palate there was a lovely touch of blood orange as well. I was quite pleased, both lovely sparkling wines!

As we finished the tasting Mrs. Spiropoulos invited us downstairs where she had prepared an authentically local lunch for us. She was so excited to share the dishes with us and the history and details of the recipes. Of all the dishes we had I was very excited to learn about Kagiana (pronounced Kayana). Kagiana is an egg dish and Mrs. Spiropoulos' version was with a simple tomato sauce made first by cooking down tomatoes. onion, a little garlic and oregano. Then fold in a few whisked eggs, after a minute or so some feta and finish with salt and pepper. It was so warm and comforting and was delicious with the Ode Panos Brut!

My other favorite dish was just what I had been waiting for...simply done...grilled lamb chops with just salt, pepper, oregano and a squeeze of lemon. I poured myself some Ode Panos Brut Rose to try with it and for the next 5-10 minutes had a beautiful symphony of flavors...sip, lamb chop bite, sip, lamb get the idea!
Upon the meal's conclusion we gratefully, but sadly departed. All thinking the same thing, how lucky we were to share the day with such a proud, passionate and warm family that sincerely loves to share their wine and culture with others! 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Santorini; Assyrtiko's Heavenly Home

View from the Esperas Hotel, Oia

Recently I was fortunate enough to be awarded a trip to Greece (thanks to the Court of Master Sommeliers). Our first stop was two days on the island of Santorini. We stayed in the small town of Oia at the Esperas Hotel,  perched on a cliff with unrivaled views of the Agean Sea. I am still dreaming of this heavenly, breathtaking island!

While on Santorini I explored the unique wine making techniques for Assyrtiko, the island's darling white wine varietal. Due to the island's severe Meltimi winds the Assyrtiko vines are trained into a "bird's nest" or "basket shape" known as Stefani training. This technique protects the grapes not only from the scorching sun, the wind but also from the chance of being pelted with the native volcanic rock and sandy soil.

Mr. Paris Sigalas of Domaine Sigalas exposing the underbelly of Stefani trained Assyrtiko vines

Although grown in other areas in Greece, Assyrtiko from Santorini is my favorite. Especially in Santorini... it's a racy, brisk white wine brimming with mineralty with just a hint of salinity. Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, founder and winemaker for Gaia Wines has said about Assyrtiko; " It's a white wine you should propose as a red." After many meals in Santorini myself I agree with Yiannis, Assyrtiko from Santorini has the body and acidity to stand up to red meats (lamb!) just as well as it's ability to pair magically with white and shell fish. Cheers to that or as they say in Greece...Yamas!

Freshly caught Seabring at the Sunset Taverna in Oia

Although many of these wines are not available in the States yet...hold tight! I foresee Greek wines, especially Assyrtiko from Santorini as a rising star in the American market for it's beauty, versatility and honest tariff.

From my travels here are my favorite Assyrtikos/Producers from Santorini. Should you see them, do yourself a favor and give them a try:

Domaine Sigalas: A classic and mouthwatering Assyrtiko, bring on the oysters!
Gaia: Yiannis' Wild Ferment Assyrtiko was one of my absolute favorite wines of the trip...complexity astounds!
Hatzidakis : Masterful wines with impressive age-ability!