Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko-Athiri

A little early for our dinner reservations - and our dining companions - at Cleo in Hollywood's Redbury Hotel, we decided to perch ourselves at the bar and have a nibble and a sip while waiting.  The parade of dressed-to-the-nines twenty-somethings provided quite a fashion show as a background to our snack of wood-fired olives and almonds.

It was a warm early evening in Tinseltown, so I opted for a Greek white wine I spied on the menu.  Greek wines being a bit of a rarity on Los Angeles wine lists, this is an opportunity which doesn't present itself often enough.

From the volcanic Greek island of Santorini, Domaine Sigalas - established in 1991 - is a relative newcomer to a wine culture which has been around for well over 3,000 years.  The island's vineyards are planted primarily to white grape varieties, among them Assyrtiko and Athiri.

This big, dry white wine is made from 75% Assyrtiko and 25% Athiri.  The Assyrtiko grape is notable for maintaining its high acidity level even when quite ripe, possibly due to the Santorini soil, which is full of volcanic ash and pumice.  The Athiri grape contributes a citrus quality.  It's also grown on the island of Rhodes.  The vines from which these grapes come are about 50 years old.

The blend carries an alcohol level of 13.5% by volume and sells for $8 by the glass at Cleo.

Pale yellow in the glass, the nose comes on strong, with a gorgeous whiff of the ocean.  Salinity and citrus mingle for a refreshing aroma profile.  In the mouth the wine is of medium weight and has a crisp and bracing acidity coming out of it's ears.  A strong herbal flavor comes through on the palate which is dominated by tart green apple and lemon zest.

Denise said, "I'm loving the trend of having wood fired olives in Los Angeles restaurants," an observation with which I wholeheartedly agree.  The wine pairs beautifully with the snack, and I can only imagine that it is similarly brilliant with a seafood dish. 

During dinner we had Cambria's Julia's Vineyard Pinot Noir, which seemed to be made especially for the wood-fired lamb Merguez at Cleo.

Learn more about Santorini's history in this captivating and beautifully written piece from 
Vinography: A Wine Blog,  by Alder Yarrow.

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