Showing posts with label Greece. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Greece. Show all posts

Friday, March 9, 2018

Sonoma Cab Meets Greece

Georgós Zanganas founded Nu Greek Wines of Sonoma after moving to the U.S. and having trouble finding the Greek wines he left behind.  He noticed that California wines gave him a headache, while his Greek faves never did.  His solution is in this bottle.  Zanangas imports bulk wine from Greece to Sonoma County, where a blend is put together at Deerfield Ranch Winery in Kenwood under the direction of winemaker Robert Rex

Zanangas says it's a pretty nifty trick to make wine this way.  "It comes by boat in 1,000-liter and 24,000-liter bladders from Greece," he says.  "Once the wine is harvested in Greece, we get it into a stable form (so it does not get spoiled during its 45-day voyage from the ancient port of Piraeus in Athens,) to Oakland and then by truck to the winery in Sonoma."

"We blend and age our red wines in Sonoma," he continues.  "Once they are bottled, we wait four to six months before we release them to market.  We bottle the white and rosé right away, which is 100% wine from our Greek vineyards."

The publicity team claims the Georgós wines are healthier because of the lower alcohol, sulfites and histamines.  Those qualities are said to eliminate the headache often caused by wine.  They also promise softer tannins and high antioxidants.

Georgós Ithaka Penelope’s Spell Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

The wine was named after the ancient Greek isle of Ithaka, ruled by Odysseus.  Pretty brainy stuff, there, referencing Homer's "The Odyssey" and all.

They say on the website that the grapes are hand-picked and triple hand sorted.  Oak treatment is done in 35% new oak - 55% from France, 20% from Hungary and 25% from Pennsylvania forests.  Alcohol checks in at 13.5% abv and it sells for $31.  The "Greek-style Cab" is made with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from both Sonoma County and Greece.

This wine is quite dark both in view and on the nose.  That nose, oh boy.  It's much more rustic than Cabs usually are, with deep roots in tar, leather, earth and smoke.  Truly incredible.  The palate shows rustic notes, too, and is likely the Greek grapes making themselves heard.  Deep, dark fruit reminds me of a Sangiovese crossed with a Cab.  The acidity is youthful, while the tannins are smooth. Pair it with lamb and be happy.


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Monday, December 18, 2017

Greek Rosé Via Sonoma County

Georgós Zanganas founded Nu Greek Wines of Sonoma after moving to the U.S. and having trouble finding the Greek wines he left behind. He noticed that California wines gave him a headache, while his Greek faves never did.  His solution is in this bottle, and I'm told it sells at Northern California Whole Foods Markets and on restaurant wine lists in San Francisco and Los Angeles.  For the Georgós "Farmer" Ios Aphrodite's Kiss Rosé, Zanangas imports the bulk wine from Greece to Sonoma County, where it is bottled at Deerfield Ranch Winery in Kenwood under the direction of winemaker Robert Rex.

Zanangas says in a publicity Q&A that it's a pretty nifty trick to make wine this way.  "It comes by boat in 1,000-liter and 24,000-liter bladders from Greece," he says.  "Once the wine is harvested in Greece, we get it into a stable form so it does not get spoiled during its 45-day voyage from the ancient port of Piraeus in Athens to Oakland and then by truck to the winery in Sonoma.

"We blend and age our red wines in Sonoma," he continues.  "Once they are bottled, we wait four to six months before we release them to market.  We bottle the white and rosé right away, which is 100% wine from our Greek vineyards."

Of course, this wine is straight up Agiorgitiko, or Saint George, grapes.  It's reportedly one of the most widely planted grapes in Greece, but one top wine expert says most of the vines in the country are virused. 

The publicity team claims the Georgós wines are healthier because of the lower alcohol, sulfites and histamines.  Those qualities are said to eliminate the headache often caused by wine.  They also promise softer tannins and high antioxidants.

The wine is is billed as a sort of halfway point between Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.  If that sounds a little odd to you, you're not alone.  I've often wanted one or the other, but never have I wished to be somewhere in between.  It's unoaked and retails for $23.

The color of this rosé is almost like bourbon, a nearly burnt orange that tends more to brown than pink.  It doesn't look much like rosé, and it doesn't smell that way, either.  First whiff, I get an earthiness that borders on foxiness, as in wines made from North American grape varieties.  Strawberry with an intense mineral overlay then takes over.  The palate offers plenty of cheerful fruit and earthy minerals but little acidity, which is reportedly an issue with Agiorgitiko grown in lower altitudes.  Ios is not what most American consumers would expect in a rosé, but more adventurous souls won't be disappointed. 


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Friday, February 19, 2016

Greek Wine: Mylonas Savatiano

Mylonas Winery is in Attica, near Greece’s southeastern coast. Founded nearly a hundred years ago, they are still a small, family-owned winery. The soils of their vineyards are mostly sandy clay over limestone with some schist and some gravelly sites, as well.  The area is virtually surrounded by sea, with mild winters and cool summers. The Meltemi wind - persistent and dry from the north - and the sea breeze dominate their part of Greece in the summer, keeping temperatures moderate.

Their Savatiano 2013  was $10 by the glass at Terroni. The wine list recommended trying it to help out the Greek economy, but it’s more than a charity case. As a side note, if you want to learn more about different wine grapes, check the wine list in restaurants for anything you don’t recognize and order it. I've never been disappointed in the results.

I have a scant familiarity with Greek grapes, so I was eager to try the Savatiano. It is reportedly the most widely planted Greek variety and has been used in the traditional production of Retsina. They also blend it often with the Assyrtiko and Roditis grapes.

The nose sports fennel and seashore, with citrus notes. It smells a little like Vermentino. On the palate, minerals and lemon lead the way. The acidity is somewhat muted but there’s a great, lengthy finish.


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Monday, July 27, 2015

When At The Greek Festival... Retsina

At the recent annual South Bay Greek Festival, held at St. Katherine’s Church in Redondo Beach, I was dismayed when I inquired at the beverage station about Greek wines. I was told their red and white selections were from California, and that they just had "some of this." The gentleman described it as Retsina, and told me it was "kinda pitchy." Not exactly a great sales pitch, but since I had read about Retsina and never tasted it, I was intrigued enough to buy a cup. "Good by the glass, better by the bottle," the server told me. I knew the sales training would kick in eventually. I thanked him for the offer and stayed with the cup.

Retsina is wine which is resinated, or flavored with pine resin. It originated, so says Wikipedia, around 100 AD. Ceramic vessels for wine were sealed with a pine resin to prevent leakage. The resin, of course, imparts its own set of aromas and flavors to the wine. While this may have initially been just a necessary evil, the effect of the resin was appreciated by many - like, the Greeks - and they continued to dose their wine with resin even after it was no longer needed. Technological advances - wood barrels - made the resin passé but the style lives on today.

The word Retsina, by the way, is a protected wine type in Greece. Anywhere else it’s made - I hear that Australia makes some - it must be labelled as "resinated wine."

The Retsina I tried was by Kourtaki of Attica, Everywhere I look I see the Savatiano grape listed as the main ingredient for this Retsina, but the label indicates a selection of “the finest grape varieties grown in Attica.” The alcohol is quite restrained, at just 11.5%. It sells for less than $10 per bottle.

The Retsina’s nose is laced heavily with the scent of petroleum. That "pitchy" flavor dominates the palate, with some citrus notes buried beneath. There is a nice acidity, though, and it pairs wonderfully with roasted chicken. A backbeat of eucalyptus makes for a pleasant finish. It’s not a wine for everybody. The server at the beverage table actually tried to warn me off of it. When I persisted, that's when he notified me it was "good by the glass, better by the bottle." As the wine grew on me throughout the glass, I thought he might actually be right.


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Friday, December 13, 2013

The Top Ten (12) Holiday Wines At Whole Foods Market: The Second Four

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for the Whole Foods Market Top Ten (12) list of holiday wines. If you have stopped in to Whole Foods recently, you have probably noticed the display in the wine department and you may have even been tempted to pick up a bottle or two.  Each wine on the list is priced below $25 and each is hand selected by the WFM wine folks as a winner for holiday parties, gift-giving and feasting.  There were so many good wines to choose from, the top ten list became a Top 12 list this year.

WFM also sponsored a pair of Twitter tasting events featuring their holiday wines, which were fun, interesting and informative.  The first one was back before Thanksgiving while the other just happened, just in time for Christmas.  The December lineup featured singer/songwriter/musician Mat Kearney chatting about his Napa red blend, Verse and Chorus.  You can check out the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #WFMWine.



Here is a list of the twelve wines.  My thoughts on the first eight wines are given, and I’m including the WFM descriptions on the other four to help steer you in the direction you want to go. “*” indicates a wine available only at Whole Foods Markets.


Here are the four wines were covered in December 2013

*Roger d’Anoia Cava, Spain $9.99
This Cava - the Spanish term for sparkling wine - is produced by Freixenet, who have made more bubbles than Lawrence Welk.  The grapes used for it are exotic for most American eyes: 60% Xarel-lo, 30% Macabeo, 10% Parellada.

Frothy big bubbles dissipate quickly.  A lovely nose shows a fruit spread of apples, nectarines and tangerines.  On the palate, things are fresh and refreshing.  The sparkler is fruity without getting too sweet and there is not a trace of funk in it.  It is a pleasant wine - maybe even a little simple for some - but it should be a hit as a holiday aperitif or with a cheese plate.  With only 11.5% abv, the alcohol won't wear anyone out.

*Skouras Anassa 2012, Greece $11.99
From the large peninsula of Peloponnesos comes a white wine that is breathtaking.  Peloponnesos is connected to the northern part of Greece by only a narrow isthmus and a bridge, so it is very nearly an island.  George Skouras established his winery in Argos in the 1980s and uses grapes grown in his vineyards as well as fruit from neighboring growers.

Anassa is made from 70% Moscofilero and 30% Viognier grapes and is bottled under a screw cap.  Alcohol is quite moderate at only 12.5%.

This straw-yellow wine smells outrageous.  Huge salinity, great citrus, minerals galore - white wines from Greece are simply amazing, this one particularly so.  Some floral notes add complexity to a noise that needs no help in that area.  On the palate, more savory saltiness joins a wide swath of Meyer lemon and a mid-tempo acidity.  It can't miss with fish - the fishier the better - and it turned a handful of roasted, unsalted cashews into a banquet.  Since Kalamata is over on the other side of Peloponnesos from Argos, you might serve it with a olive plate.


*Santa Julia Innovacion Bonarda Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Argentina $9.99 (1 liter)
This wine is a big ol' bargain.  This one liter bottle gives you an extra glass of wine - two if you are a restaurant.  Three if you are the really cheap, lousy restaurant down the street with the tiny pours.

Bonarda is a great grape.  It should probably be the national grape of Argentina instead of Malbec.  The grapes for this wine come from Mendoza and are sustainable farmed.  The wine is labeled as "vegan friendly."

Dark in color and rather brooding on the nose, this wine shows plummy aromas over a layer of tobacco.  The palate is rich and smooth, with a tart raspberry edge.  It's a great wine to sip, with soft tannins and only 13% abv.

*Mat Kearney Verse & Chorus Napa Valley Red 2012, California $24.99
This rich Bordeaux-style wine is the product of a collaboration of musician Mat Kearney, Peju Winery and the John Anthony family.  It’s a blend of 87% Merlot and 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, all grown in the Napa Valley.  The 15.1% alcohol number sounds high, but doesn't play that way.  Billed on the "record label" which adorns the bottle as "Long Playing, High Fidelity," you'll want two glasses so you can enjoy it in stereo.

The wine shows a nice, dark ruby in the glass and displays great aromas of plums and cherries enveloped in vanilla.  The palate has gorgeous red fruit unfolding into layers of pencil lead, eucalyptus, mocha, cinnamon and nutmeg.  It opens up beautifully and shows wonderful hints of tar with a bit of time.  If this wine doesn’t bring the holidays home to you, be ready for a visitation from three ghosts on Christmas Eve.


These four wines were covered in November 2013

*Grace Lane Yakima Valley Riesling 2011, Washington $9.99
Washington state is known for, among other grapes, Riesling, and here is one from Yakima Valley that registers "medium-dry" on the Riesling scale and barely hits 12.1% abv in alcohol.  Yakima Valley was Washington's first American Viticultural Area, and is part of the larger Columbia Valley AVA.  Nearly half the wine grapes in Wahington come from this beautiful region in the southern part of the state and the grow a lot of other fruit there, too.  Not to mention hops - 80% of America's supply of that crucial beer ingredient are grown there.

The Grace Lane Riesling is a very light, clear golden color and features great aromas of Granny Smith apples and peaches with a fairly healthy dose of minerals.  It smells crisp and fresh, and it tastes the same way.  The acidity is nice, but not really razor sharp.  On the finish, the minerals linger long and the "medium" part of that "medium-dry" kicks in.  Riesling is a great wine to put on the Thanksgiving table - or Chistmas, for that matter - due to its versatility.  You can pair Riesling with just about anything successfully, even when it's not bone dry.

*Tablao Navarra 2012, Spain $7.99
Navarra is in the northern part of Spain, between Rioja and France.  In the Navarra region, a tablao is a cafe where they play flamenco music.  Now flamenco is energetic and vibrant enough to grab me all by itself.  Tablao, the wine, brings similar fire and spice.  It is based in 81% Tempranillo grapes with support from 9% Garnacha, 8% Merlot and a 2% splash of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Produced by Bodegas Pagos Dearaiz, Tablao is influenced by French wine, to be sure, but its boots are made of Spanish leather.

Tablao is the kind of red that could make me feel festive any time of year.  Practically black in the glass, the nose is a big rig full of raspberry and black cherry, with a compact car of leathery cigar tobacco anise and nutmeg on its tail.  Lively on the palate, the dark side of cherries is displayed prominently.  There is a spicy element running through it with great tannins structure and lip-smacking acidity.  I'd put this on the table next to the holiday rib roast.  It's pretty awesome with a handful of pistachios, too.  At 13.5% abv, it keeps alcohol in check for what could be a day of over-imbibing.

*H & G Priorat 2008, Spain $13.99
The Spanish wine region of Priorat is in the northeastern part of the country and joins Rioja in the DOCa classification, the highest level of quality in Spanish wine.  Priorat is known for its black slate and quartz soils, a rich terroir of volcanic origin.  Garnacha is the main grape there, and Grenache - as we call it in other parts of the globe - is always a great choice for pairing with food.  Alcohol is fairly high, at 14.2% abv.  H & G is a California-based winery which produces wine from various parts of the world.

The wine is colored very dark purple/black.  The nose shows blackberry, raspberry, licorice and lots of minerals.  The palate is full of spicy cherry and blueberry with a leathery note.  Nice acidity and good tannic structure round out what is a great tasting experience.  A lovely floral aspect on the finish makes for a good memory to take from the sip.

*Les Hauts de Bel Air Bordeaux 2011, France $10.99
The Sichel family bottles this bold red six months after harvest on the right bank of the Garonne River.  The grapes used are two Bordeaux favorites, 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Alcohol is quite reasonable at 13% abv.

The winery says, "Maison Sichel has a longstanding partnership with a number of Grands Crus Classés (classed growths) and takes an active role in the marketing of more than 150 of the most prestigious Bordeaux châteaux."

Les Hauts de Bel Air shows a pure, fruity nose of red berries.  The palate is all fruit, too, youthful and vibrant.  Nice tannic structure and ripping acidity beg for a standing rib roast.  The mouthfeel is light and juicy and it won't weigh down an already full table.  The wine displays the power of a Bordeaux with the freshness of a Beaujolais.  I can taste the turkey already.


Here are the other four wines, to be covered here separately.  The notes are by Whole Foods.

Simonnet-Febvre St. Bris Sauvignon Blanc, France $12.99
“The micro-climate in the Saint-Bris appellation allows for the sauvignon blanc grapes to express their full aromatic character as well as the minerality of the terroir. The exuberant nose is characterized by freshly cut herbs and delicate fruits with a hint of red bell pepper, and the elegant finish has a lovely minerality.”

Novellum Chardonnay, France $10.99
“This zesty white has honeysuckle and white peach aromas, and anise, fennel and a hint of oak show in the lengthy finish.”

Allan Scott Marlborough Pinot Noir, New Zealand $14.99
“This wine is rich and dark with black cherries, violets and a pleasant earthiness on the nose. It has a velvety, harmonious finish with smoky oak, subtle spice and raspberry flavors.”

Cercius Côtes du Rhône, France $14.99
“This blend of 85 percent grenache and 15 percent syrah is beautifully textured, lush and decadent with an aroma of smoky eucalyptus and berry and deep notes of kirsch, plum and stewed fruits and plum and a hint of leather in the long finish.”


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Friday, November 15, 2013

Top Ten (12) Holiday Wines At Whole Foods Market

The Whole Foods Market wine department is crazy about lists.  They come up with lists of Top Ten wines for every occasion, holiday and season - which sounds like a pretty good job to me.

This is the time of year, of course, for the WFM Top Ten list of holiday wines.  Each wine on the list is priced below $25 and each is hand selected by the WFM wine folks as a winner for holiday parties, gift-giving and feasting.  There were so many good wines to choose from, the top ten list became a Top 12 list this year.  The more, the merrier.

WFM is sponsoring a pair of Twitter tasting events you may find interesting - and informative.  The first one comes in time for Thanksgiving, on Thursday November 21, 2013.  The second will give you inspiration for the Christmas party season, on Thursday December 12.  Both of these virtual tasting events will happen from 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. CT.  The December lineup will feature singer/songwriter/musician Mat Kearney chatting about his Napa red blend, Verse and Chorus.

It’s easy to participate.  Just pick up a bottle or two of the top holiday wines at Whole Foods and open them for the Twitter Tasting event.  Follow along on Twitter, using the hashtag #WFMWine.



Here is a list of the twelve wines. I have not tasted them yet, so I’m including the WFM descriptions to help steer you in the direction you want to go. “*” indicates a wine available only at Whole Foods Markets.


For Nov. 21,2013  7:00 - 8:00 p.m. CT

*Grace Lane Yakima Valley Riesling, Washington $9.99
“This medium-dry riesling has delicate notes of fresh green apple and crisp white peach. Its delicate yet complex flavors lead to a long, full finish.”

*Tablao Navarra, Spain $7.99
“This juicy red, made up of mainly tempranillo grapes, has an aromatic nose of raspberry with complex hints of licorice and cherry, which round out its sublime, lingering finish.”

*H & G Priorat, Spain $13.99
“Silky and robust, this spicy, well-balanced red is rich with aromas of red ripe stone fruits and finishes with a touch of oak and earthy minerals.”

*Les Hauts de Bel Air Bordeaux, France $10.99
“The powerful but elegant nose is redolent of red and black fruits, especially cherry and blackberry, with black pepper. This rich and supple red has smooth tannins and is superbly balanced on the palate with a lengthy finish.”


For December  12, 2013  7:00 - 8:00 p.m. CT

*Roger d’Anoia Cava, Spain $9.99
“Lively effervescence with bright notes of green apple and pear, this sparkler is ripe and round with a touch of sweetness in the well-balanced finish.”

*Skouras Anassa, Greece $11.99
“Made with 70 percent moschofilero and 30 percent viognier, this medium-bodied white has aromas of ripe apricot and orange peel and a clean, crisp finish.”

*Santa Julia Innovacion Bonarda Cabernet Sauvignon, Argentina $9.99 (1 liter)
“Deeply complex and full-bodied, this red created by the Zuccardi family has forward notes of plum and cigar box with jammy flavors of dark ripe berries. The luxurious finish has smoky, savory notes.”

*Mat Kearney Verse and Chorus Napa Valley Red, California $24.99
“This bold claret is made through a partnership between famed musician Mat Kearney, Peju and the John Anthony family who, combined, have more than 60 years of Napa Valley wine making experience. This luscious red is 87 percent Napa Valley merlot and 13 percent Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon and has soft aromatics of black currant, plum, and notes of cedar. The bold but well-balanced flavors of vanilla, black cherry and chocolate give way to juicy dark cherry and wild blackberry. And, the long finish has nuances of roasted coffee and toasted hazelnut.”


The other four:

Simonnet-Febvre St. Bris Sauvignon Blanc, France $12.99
“The micro-climate in the Saint-Bris appellation allows for the sauvignon blanc grapes to express their full aromatic character as well as the minerality of the terroir. The exuberant nose is characterized by freshly cut herbs and delicate fruits with a hint of red bell pepper, and the elegant finish has a lovely minerality.”

Novellum Chardonnay, France $10.99
“This zesty white has honeysuckle and white peach aromas, and anise, fennel and a hint of oak show in the lengthy finish.”

Allan Scott Marlborough Pinot Noir, New Zealand $14.99
“This wine is rich and dark with black cherries, violets and a pleasant earthiness on the nose. It has a velvety, harmonious finish with smoky oak, subtle spice and raspberry flavors.”

Cercius Côtes du Rhône, France $14.99
“This blend of 85 percent grenache and 15 percent syrah is beautifully textured, lush and decadent with an aroma of smoky eucalyptus and berry and deep notes of kirsch, plum and stewed fruits and plum and a hint of leather in the long finish.”


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Monday, March 4, 2013

Greek Wines From Santorini



Santorini is a Greek island of incredible beauty and rich history.  Located in the Aegean Sea, about 120 miles southeast of the Greek mainland, it is the largest island in an archipelago.  Santorini’s winemaking history is said to date back to 3,500 B.C. although a cataclysmic event interrupted that history.

An incredible volcanic eruption around 1600 B.C. is responsible for the island’s terroir, not to mention the black sand beaches.  It took over 200 years for life to begin again on Santorini after the cataclysmic event.


The volcanic soil - known as aspa - has almost no organic matter, but it’s loaded with minerals, which shapes the island’s wine.  The lack of clay in the soil makes the vines immune from Phylloxera, so the vines of Santorini are likely the world’s oldest ungrafted vines.

The vines (above) grow in the volcanic soil and are trained in the shape of baskets, to protect them from the wind.  They don’t get a lot of rain, but the rain that does fall is taken in by the porous, rocky soil and held until it’s needed in summer.  Abundant fog also helps out, and the salty spray of the ocean delivers its own special salinity to the grapes.  Cooling winds from the north cover the island in summer, helping the grapes to retain their naturally high acidity.

There are only about half the number of vines on Santorini than there were in the 1960s, due to the  the difficulty of growing them and the popularity of the island as a tourist destination - the land is more valuable when developed.  The younger residents seem to be losing interest in grape growing and winemaking.  Every 75 years or so, the yield of the vines becomes so low that they are cut off at the root to allow new vines to grow.  It takes several years for a new vine to develop.

The wines of Santorini are mainly dry, white wines which have a trademark minerality and a crisp citrus element.  If you are the least bit interested in white wine, you owe it to yourself to try the wines of the island.  Vinsanto - a sweet wine tinted red - is also made there.

I had the opportunity to taste several wines produced on Santorini, provided for review by Wines from Santorini.

Artemis Karamolegos Nykteri 2010 

The Karamolegos Winery was founded in 1952 by Artemis Karamolegos.  He got the passion for winemaking from his grandfather.  Although a new and modern winery was built in 2004 to employ modern winemaking technology, the traditional ways are still their guiding light.

Labeled as Santorini Dry White Wine, the alcohol content is 13.5% abv.  This wine is a blend of 90% Assyrtiko and 10% Aidani.  the estate vineyards grow at an altitude of 150 meters, in the island’s volcanic soil.  The wine is fermented in oak barrels, and is aged on the lees in barrels for two months.  The retail price is $19.

The wine has a golden yellow tint in the glass - it looks rich and beautiful - and there is a lovely savory note on the nose.  Aromas of apricot and wet stones lead to flavors that are also mineral-based, with the taste of apricots just getting through a curtain of salinity.  Citrus on the finish, along with a very nice level of acidity, makes this a great wine to pair with food.  It's great with pepperoni pizza and really livens up a plain old tuna salad most excellently.

Sigalas Assyrtiko 2011

Paris Sigalas started making wine at his family’s home.  His winery is now a modern facility in the same village.  Sigalas was a mathematician, but grapes overtook numbers in his life.  It all adds up, though, because Sigalas is known for his wonderful efforts with the Assyrtiko grape.  He has devoted his life to preserving the winemaking traditions of the island he calls home, and protecting the viticultural practices used there.

His Assyrtiko wine carries an alcohol number of 13.5% abv, and is a blend of 75% Assyrtiko and 25% Athiri grapes, both indigenous varieties on Santorini.  The aromatics of the Athiri are complementary to the mineral driven profile of Assyrtiko.  The grapes are grown in the vineyards of northern Santorini, in the black lava soil.  The wine is fermented in stainless steel to allow the full expression of these amazing grapes to come forward.

In the glass, this wine has a yellow tint, but not quite as golden as the previous selection.  The nose is simply amazing, with the expected minerals, peaches and apricots joined by aromas of salty ocean spray - the salinity is gettin' real, up in here.  On the palate, the salinity stays strong, and a citrus zing makes for a tingly mouthful.


Santowines Vinsanto 2004

In the realm of Santorini’s long winemaking tradition, SantoWines is a relative newcomer - founded in 1947.  Visitors to the tasting room are treated to unmatched views of the Santorini caldera formed by the collapse of land in the destructive volcanic explosion.

Santowines’ Vinsanto is made from 85% Assyrtiko and 15% Aidani grapes.  The fruit is dried in the sun for eight to ten days, then fermented for two or three months before the aging process - the wine spends 36 months in oak barrels.  The alcohol content is only 10.9%, and the oak effect is quite pronounced.

This marvelous dessert wine has a color somewhere between brick red and whiskey brown.  Its nose boasts raisins, molasses and brown sugar.  That sun-dried, raisiny quality comes across on the palate, too, along with a crisp acidity and a bit of lemon zest on the finish.  The mouthfeel is oily and rich.  It is a recommended pairing with a traditional Greek dessert like baklava, but it also fits beautifully with cheese cake, a creamy cheese or even just a handful of nuts.


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Friday, July 13, 2012

Whole Foods Wine: Summer Twitter Tasting #2

Part two of the Whole Foods Summer Wine Twitter tasting event came on July 12, 2012, right when we needed a little something to keep us cool.  In my part of the world, it was not only warm outside, but unusually humid, too.  An opportunity to taste a few nice chillers was welcome.  For an overview of the event, and the wines, check out the earlier article on Whole Foods’ Top Ten Wines for Summer here.  The notes on Twitter Tasting #1 are here.

This time around, we once again have two white wines and a red.  There is once again a good international feel to them as well.  These summer wines hail from Greece, Australia and Spain.

People tweeted their thoughts on these wines from New England, Columbus, Southern California,  New Jersey, Vancouver, BC and Maui, to name just a few locales.  The participants tweeted about each wine in turn, and many lodged a vote for their favorite near the end of the hour.  As is customary, many Whole Foods Markets from across the U.S. were hosting in-store tastings at the time.  All the tweeting occurred in the hashtag #WFMwine.

One of my favorite tweets came from the global wine team at Whole Foods, @WFMWineGuys: “Peloponnese locals bash their octopi on the rocks to tenderize it, then grill & pair it with this snappy sipper.”  They were referring to the first wine in the lineup, which is said to pair spectacularly with calamari, bashed or otherwise.

Kyklos Moschofilero 2011

This white wine is made by Voyatzis, a winery located in the north-central part of Greece, fairly close to Albania and Macedonia and not all that far from Bulgaria. It is fashioned from 100% Moschofilero grapes, aromatic and spicy with generally good acidity.  On the label, this wine is called a “New Generation Moschofilero,” but since this is my first experience with the grape, it’s possible I don’t know what I’m missing.  The alcohol content is very reasonable - 11% abv - so it shouldn’t weigh us down too much. 

The wine gives a pale color in the glass, with a nose that’s made for a summer day.  Tropical fruit and spicy aromas float over a floral base.  In the mouth, the acidity is immediately noticeable.  Flavors of orange peel, cantaloupe and honeydew come forward, and the acidity lasts right through the finish.  There’s a great sense of minerality here, too.  Whole Foods suggests pairing with seafood - Calamari Pasta specifically - or a Mahón cheese.

Yalumba Christobel’s Eden Valley Riesling 2011

Yalumba Winery was founded in Angaston, South Australia in by Samuel Smith in 1849.  Yes, beer lovers, THAT Samuel Smith.  He apparently tired of brewing and went to Australia to make wine.  Its name is taken from Christobel Hill Smith, who was the hostess at the winery for 50 years.  In her memory, the bird-and-flower label is placed with love.  The wine is a low, low 10.5% abv, so it’s even lighter that the Greek entry. 

The acidity is also a little less thrilling than in the Moschofilero, but it’s still nice.  Pale in the glass, this Riesling gives the greek wine a run for its money in the aromatics department.  The nose is bursting with stone fruit, lemon peel and pineapple notes.  I don’t find an awful lot of minerality, but there is a trace of rocks underneath all that fruit.  The wine is off dry, with a nice touch of sweetness on the palate.  I love it when Rieslings employ a “sweetness meter” on the back label, and this one points to “medium sweet.”

Whole Foods recommends a pairing with apple pie and cheddar cheese, which doesn’t sound bad at all.  They also say Sesame-Peanut Noodles  would be good with it, or Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog cheese.

Pallas Tempranillo  2011

From the sandy, rocky soil of La Mancha comes this Jorge Ordoñez selection.  If you're not well-versed in Spanish wine, find one imported by Ordoñez and you'll find a good one.  La Mancha occupies a large portion of Spain’s central plateau.  Any place with windmills, Manchego cheese and Tempranillo gets a star next to it my travel planner. 

This deep red wine smells of plums and cherries and a bit of rosemary.  The palate is fleshy and ripe with dark fruit, and a dusty, rustic characteristic was the buzz of the Twitter tasting.  Whole Foods says pair this with barbecue, shish kabobs, and Spanish chorizo.  They cite  Spanish chickpeas and chorizo as a good choice. The cheese pairing they recommend is Solé Gran Queso.



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Monday, May 28, 2012

Top Ten Summer Wines From Whole Foods Market

The weather is heating up in the hemisphere I call home.  Summer is met with big cheers by sun worshippers, baseball fans and school children - and many of us who like to enjoy a glass of wine are opting for lighter, more refreshing fare that fits in well under the sun.

My friends at Whole Foods Market help out in that last area each year.  They have, once again, revealed their selection of Top Ten Summer Wines available in their stores.  They are also organizing a pair of “Taste and Tweet” sessions in which you can participate.

As an homage to summer, Whole Foods Market wine team has selected ten of their favorite warm-weather wines - from crisp, fragrant whites to earthy, spicy reds - all priced between $7.99 and $14.99.  That pricing will take the heat off buying every day sippers and hearty reds that stand up to grilled foods.

The Whole Foods Top Ten Summer Wines include a one-of-a-kind organic grüner veltliner from Austria as well as the old favorite Bolla Soave Classico, an Italian favorite from the 1970s that has been bottled in classy, retro packaging.

Doug Bell is the global wine buyer for Whole Foods Market.  He says, “We have found some great wines that are like ‘bottled sunshine’ for our shoppers who will also be pleasantly surprised when they see the prices of these gems.  With our selection and diversity of summer wines, shoppers can easily find the perfect bottle or two for the beach, outdoor picnic and/or backyard barbecue.”

If you’d like to join the discussion of these summery wines, do so on Twitter, during two different Taste & Tweet online chats.  Go to wholefoodsmarket.com/wine for more information about the Twitter Tastings and use the hashtag #WFMwine to follow the conversation.  Here are the dates, and the wines about which we’ll be tasting and tweeting:

Summer Wines Twitter Tasting 1 – Thursday, May 31, 7-8 p.m. CT
·     Mionetto Prosecco
·     Pratsch Grüner Veltliner
·     Tormaresca Neprica

Summer Wines Twitter Tasting 2 – Thursday, July 12, 7-8 p.m. CT
·     Kyklos Moschofilero
·     Yalumba Christobel’s Eden Valley Riesling
·     Pallas Tempranillo by Jorge Ordonez

Here’s the whole list - Whole Foods Market’s Top 10 Summer Wines: (descriptions, recipes and pairings are provided by Whole Foods Market.)

Mionetto Prosecco (Italy)
With golden apple and elderflower flavors, this lively and delicate sparkling wine has a clean, lingering finish – perfect to sip or pair with seafood.  Made with organically-grown grapes.

Recipe pairing: Mussels Vinaigrette
Cheese pairing: Fromager d’Affinois

Kyklos Moschofilero (Greece)
This light straw-colored white has melon, white rose, and citrus flavors with some fresh vegetable notes, providing a zingy, pleasant finish.  A great pairing with seafood, this is a fun substitute for Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio.

Recipe pairing: Calamari Pasta
Cheese pairing: Mahón

Bolla Soave Classico (Italy)
What is old is new again with this classic Italian white with aromas of flowers and fresh stone fruit and a clean, fresh finish.  This is an easy-drinking white that pairs well with fish.  With a new vintage label created for Whole Foods Market, this is the perfect summer porch wine.

Recipe pairing: Shrimp and Mango Ceviche
Cheese pairing: Wellspring Creamery Cranberry Orange Goat Cheese

Louis Latour Ardèche Chardonnay (France)
With a toasty bouquet, this white has delicious apple notes and a crisp acidity and round finish.  This is a bargain for a French chardonnay from one of the most innovative producers in Burgundy.

Recipe pairing: Waldorf Salad with Honey-Yogurt Dressing and Fresh Mint
Cheese pairing: Mons Camembert

Pratsch Grüner Veltliner (Austria)
Made with organically grown grapes, this fruit-forward fragrant white offers apple, citrus and white pepper notes paired with great acidity for a crisp finish.

Recipe pairing: Lemony Angel Hair with Crème Fraîche, Parmesan and Artichoke Hearts
Cheese pairing: Morbier

Yalumba Christobel’s Eden Valley Riesling (Australia)
With aromas of nectarine and white peach, citrus zest, tropical fruits, and some minerality, this white offers a touch of sweetness.  This riesling would be perfect paired with apple pie and cheddar cheese.

Recipe Pairing: Sesame-Peanut Noodles
Cheese Pairing: Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog

Hogue Late Harvest Riesling (Washington)
This dessert wine offers zesty aromas of sweet tangerine, honeysuckle and apricot flavors, with hints of mint on the finish.

Recipe pairing: Grilled Fruit with Caramelized Orange Sauce
Cheese pairing: Rogue Creamery Oregon Blue Cheese

Vinum Cellars Pinot Noir (California)
With classic earthy, cola and ripe cherry flavors, this full-bodied red has soft tannins and drinks like a gem.  It is a perfect pairing with grilled salmon and pork loin with fruit.

Recipe pairing: Firecracker Grilled Salmon
Cheese pairing: Borough Market Cheddar

Pallas Tempranillo by Jorge Ordonez (Spain)
This lush, ripe red has aromas of red and dark berries, smoky herbs and spices – the perfect pairing with barbecue, shish kabobs, and Spanish chorizo.

Recipe pairing: Spanish Chickpeas and Chorizohttp://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/119
Cheese pairing: Solé Gran Queso

Tormaresca Neprica (Italy)
A blend of negroamaro, primitivo and cabernet sauvignon, this lean red has dusty aromas, black raspberry and pepper flavors, and silky tannins.  This is a top-notch pick for pepper steak.

Recipe pairing: Skillet Fajitas with Jicama Salsa
Cheese pairing: Drunken Goat

Columbia Winery Merlot (Washington)
With black cherry and plum flavors, and mint and smoky undertones, this merlot is the perfect “go to” wine for burgers and eggplant parmesan.

Recipe pairing: Eggplant Bolognese
Cheese pairing: Parrano

Bubo Cabernet Sauvignon (California)
Rich layers of black cherry, blackberry, spice and cedar create a jammy red for pizza, barbecue and sangria with berries.

Recipe pairing: Grilled Vegetable Pizza
Cheese pairing: Grafton Classic Reserve Cheddar Aged Two Years


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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

DOMAINE SIGALAS ASSYRTIKO ATHIRI 2009


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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