Archive for May 2010

Archeology and wine tasting on the island of Santorini (as seen from Austin, Texas)

May 26, 2010

Above: Tandem-blogging, wife-and-husband food bloggers, authors of Boots in the Oven, were kind enough to share this post on their visit to the island of Santorini and the Boutari tasting room there. Photo courtesy Vino Vino (Austin, Texas).

Santorini isn’t just stunning views and beautiful vistas.  It’s also an island of import to archaeologists and the site of an eons-old wine tradition.

It was time for us to take a day to learn all we could about these two pursuits.

So that’s not a very long time to become an expert on ancient history, or wine – that didn’t stop us from getting back on our little leggies and setting off to perhaps one of the most important archaeological sites anywhere, ancient Akrotiri.

Akrotiri is known as the "Minoan Pompeii," because it was buried by a volcano (same as Pompeii) – the same one that blew out the center of the island circa 1650 BCE.

We were really excited to see the buildings, which from all accounts are remarkably preserved.  When we showed up, though, we were told admission would be free because of the construction going on on the giant UV-protecting roof/cover.

So, this is what the ancient site of Akrotiri looked like to us:

Akrotiri under construction

We couldn’t see anything.  I tried matching up the little bits of what we could see with the descriptions in my book, but nothing doing.

Akrotiri

(sadly, in September of 2005, the roof – which had been under construction since 1999 – collapsed, killing a British tourist and injuring several tourists and workers.)

So, unfortunately, we weren’t able to get too much out of our visit to Akrotiri.  But – it was free!

Leaving the site, we hailed a cab.  "Take us to Boutari!" we cried. 

And he did.

And we ordered two tasting flights of Boutari’s wine.

Boutari Wine Tasting - the good stuff

Which came with olives and cheese and tomatoes and dry crackery bread for palate-cleansing.

It was a little surprising, how much wine they put in front of us.  Some we liked more than others, and we hadn’t heard of the grapes most of them were made of.  I enjoyed them all.

After Boutari set the bar, we thought we’d walk back into town to try Santo Wines.  Of course, this ended up being a longer walk than we were expecting, but we were used to that by now…

Donkey living by Boutari

Hi, donkey!

We passed a vineyard, which was very different from those we saw in Italy.

Grape vines protected from the Santorini elements

On Santorini, they twist all the vines around each other and grow the grapes in the basket created by the leaves and vines.  This protects the grapes from the relentless sun and winds.

Though tour buses passed us every, oh, thirty seconds or so, the area where we were actually walking seemed to be inhabited by the people who honest-and-for-real live on the island.

Greek sign we saw along the walk to Santo Wines

(Note that, by this time, I had wisened up and bought a hat.)

This is apparently a car repair shop.  (Thanks, Leda, for the translation!)

We did finally make it to Santo Wines, our buzz from Boutari having quite worn off.

The tasting building and shop run by Santo Wines is set in a building with a beautiful view north towards Fira.  I really wanted to like these guys – it’s apparently a collective run by some of the grape-growers on the island.  I always do like supporting the little guy!

Again, we ordered too much wine.  We were definitely not expecting each glass to be so full!

Santo Wines Wine tasting - the not-so-good stuff

We struck up a conversation with the guy at the table next to us, who happened to be from Fort Lauderdale Florida – the same town my grandparents live in.

He offered to take our picture as we sat with our wine.

Some Floridian tries to be artsy

As he took our picture, he said "You have plenty of shots of the two of you – you need one of the view!"

Well – O.K… this pic does show you the lovely view from Santo Wines, though.

Our reaction to Santo Wines was a little different than our reaction to Boutari.  While a couple of the wines were nice, for the most part they were really unbalanced – sweet yet sharp, not a good combination.

Disappointed, we left to catch a cab to Art Space, in the small town of Exo Gonia.  We heard that this place was a gallery which had a nice selection of wines you could try while looking at perhaps a few pieces of art.

Well – it was emphatically NOT that, in that it was much, much more interesting.

Adonis, the owner, welcomed us enthusiastically to the cave-like gallery.  We were only able to take one picture before he asked us to stop, and we respected his wishes.  (there are a bunch of pictures if you follow the art space link above, though.)

Our one picture of the inside of artspace

As it turned out, Adonis ran a gallery in an extremely old building that used to be a winery.  He had some old wine-making equipment, along with what he called the oldest remaining traditional tomato paste maker in all of Greece.  The gallery was full of the art of up-and-coming Greek artists, and Adonis was very knowledgeable about these artists, along with the history of Santorini and Greece in general.

He was a very interesting guy, who we were lucky to meet.

Then – he offered us some of his homemade vin santo to taste (the Santorini kind, not the Tuscan kind), just bottled and without a label yet.  It was wonderful!  So… we bought a bottle.  We are waiting for a special occasion to open it up- perhaps a second anniversary?  Hmmmm….

Next time – the archaeological museum of Santorini, and perhaps the worst meal we had in Greece.

Greek wine in New York: Taverna Kyclades, Astoria, Queens

May 24, 2010

Above: Grilled calamari at Taverna Kyclades, Astoria, Queens, wilted Swiss chard, and a “peasant” (village) salad served with toasty, crusty bread, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. The food is fresh and delicious, the prices more than reasonable, and the long wait for a table is worth it.

Even Eric Asimov, wine writer for The New York Times, had to wait 45 minutes to get a table at the popular Taverny Kyclades in Astoria, Queens. “And I couldn’t have been happier with our wine,” he wrote of the Boutari Santorini, made from 100% Assyrtiko grapes grown on the island of Santorini. “Light, minerally and inexpensive. It went beautifully with the seafood, and was the sort of light white that is absolutely refreshing but still offers something to think about.”

There was an hour and a half wait for a table of four when we visited yesterday evening but well worth the anticipation, especially considering the reasonably priced food and the super friendly waitstaff.

From its sidewalk outdoor dining to the bustling dining room where Greek and English are spoken, this family-friendly restaurant is THE place to be on a beautiful spring evening in the heart of one of the most vibrant Greek communities in the U.S.

Entrées and even the small “peasant” salad were enough for 2 persons, making our tab even more reasonably priced. Boutari Moschofilero and Santorini are served by the bottle.

Tasting old Naoussa with Boutari enologist Dr. Yannis Voyatzis

May 21, 2010

Boutari Social Media 2010 webmaster Jeremy Parzen (left) and Boutari enologist Dr. Yannis Voyatzis tasting 1993 and 1990 Boutari Naoussa at Bar Boulud in Manhattan today. (Photo by Tracie P.)

Greek wines in New York: New Wines of Greece grand tasting

May 20, 2010

Here are some scenes from today’s “New Wines of Greece” standing-room only seminar and grand tasting this morning in New York City.

Konstantinos Lazarakis Master of Wine, Mary Ewing-Mulligan Master of Wine, and Ed McCarthy took time out to pose for our camera after the seminar.

Master of Wine AND Master Sommelier (one of only 3 people in the world to attain both titles) Doug Frost.

Celebrity chef Michael Psilakis was on hand for the grand tasting, where he created all of the pairings especially for the occasion.

“Greeks love refreshing wines,” said Konstantinos Lazarakis, “wines that go well with food.” Hungry yet?

Greek wine blogger Markus Stolz interviews Greek wine legend Geourge Skouras

May 20, 2010

German-born wine blogger Markus Stolz (left) is without a doubt the blogosphere’s leading authority on Greek wine today. Author of the widely followed blog Elloinos, Markus began writing professionally about Greek wine in 2009.

Earlier this month, he posted this excellent interview with Greek wine legend George Skouras at the popular online wine magaine and blog PalatePress. In the piece, Skouras shares his insights into the state of Greek wine today in the light of the current economic crisis. A must read for anyone following the world of Greek wine and Greek wine in the world today…

Greek wine in San Diego: Apollonia and Athena

May 18, 2010

Above: Classic Greek dishes, family-friendly service, affordable prices, and Boutari Noussa by the glass at Apollonia Bistro in San Diego (University Town Center area).

“People always ask for Greek wines,” said Apollonio Bistro manager Matt Eker when we visited the restaurant the other night for dinner in San Diego. Matt oversees the wine list there and so he should know. The night we visited, he was recommending Boutari Naoussa by the glass with the “Aphrodite Lamb Chops” special: “New Zealand lamb grilled and served with our Cabernet Demi-Glace sauce, roasted rosemary potatoes and our Greek ratatouille.” Sounds good to us!

We also had a chance to pop into Apollonia’s sister restaurant, Cafè Athena, in Pacific Beach.

Above: The atmosphere at Athena is inviting, the staff super friendly, the food delicious. Both Cafè Athena and Apollonia Bistro feature Boutari wines by the glass and by the bottle.

San Diego Magazine has named Cafè Athena the “best Greek restaurant in San Diego” for four years running.

What’s not to love? Highly recommended.

Sommelier Rick Bakas pairs Moschofilero with Greek mahi mahi

May 15, 2010

During the day wine blogger and social media expert Rick Bakas is the Director of Social Media for St. Supéry winery in Napa Valley and a Certified Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers. At night he’s “obsessed with finding the perfect wine and food pairing.” We were thrilled to find out that Rick enjoys Moschofilero by Boutari. See his recipe and pairing below.

“Boutari produces a white wine called Moschofilero that would pair beautifully with this dish,” writes Rick. “The wine comes from the Mantinia regoin of Peloponnese from 2100 feet above sea level. That provides a climate for a fresh, crisp wine with the acidity to stand up to the sauciness. Look for honey, citrus and melon notes that will intermingle with the Oregeno and Mint on your tongue.”

And be sure to check out Rick’s blog, Back to Bakas.

rick bakas

Above: Greek Mahi Mahi (photo by TbonesandTofu).

INGREDIENTS

1-1/4 LB mahi mahi fillets
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice from a lemon
3 TBSP fresh oregano, chopped
4 TBSP fresh mint, chopped
2 garlic clove, minced
1 TSP lemon zest
1/4 salt

Rinse mahi mahi and pat dry. Cut fish into bite-sized pieces. In a small bowl stir together olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, garlic, mint, lemon zest and salt. Marinate fish in mixture for at least 1 hour.

Pour marinade in a separate bowl. Prehat grill to medium heat. Spray grill with grill spray and grill fish for about 5-6 minutes each side. Brush with marinade while grilling. Serve with diced tomato and mixed vegetables.

Wine Pairing

Picture the ingredients and how they’ll register on your palate. Start to imagine how they’ll be perceived by your sweet, sour, bitter and salt combined with umami receptors. The lemon will provide some sour while the garlic will lend some of the bitterness. Umami will be perceived by the cut of fish, try to get the mahi mahi as fresh as possible by going to a market other than a massive chain grocery store.

There’s not much sweetness going on here. You can either match flavors by getting a wine that compliments the lemon flavor like a Sauvignon Blanc or you could contrast that and go for something that isn’t lemon, and is sweeter like a Riesling. Personal preference.

Personally, I’d go with a wine that’s more closely aligned with the region the dish originated from. Since this is a dish that comes from the Greek/Mediterranean part of the world, I’d seek out a wine that is also from that region. Greek producer, Boutari produces a white wine called Moschofilero that would pair beautifully with this dish. The wine comes from the Mantinia regoin of Peloponnese from 2100 feet above sea level. That provides a climate for a fresh, crisp wine with the acidity to stand up to the sauciness. Look for honey, citrus and melon notes that will intermingle with the Oregeno and Mint on your tongue. Enjoy!


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