Archive for August 2010

The Life of a Flying Winemaker, Part Two

August 31, 2010

Via Contributing writers Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen take us on five-day journey through Greece’s finest vineyards with winemaker extraordinaire, Yannis Voyatzis.

Above, from left: Boutari viticulturist Demetris Taskos and chief enologist and winemaker Yannis Voyatzis.

Leaving Thessaloniki and the coast under an overcast sky, we drove an hour north to the original Boutari winery in Goumenissa. Soft classical music was constantly interrupted by the hum of Voyatzis’ phone; he spoke with vineyard managers and winemakers in Crete, Santorini, Nemea, and Naoussa in rapid succession. The landscape eventually gave way to a rolling checkerboard of fruit orchards, cotton fields, and vineyards. Stopping quickly at the small, rustic winery to pick up head viticulturist Demetris Taskos, we continued to a vineyard block about 20 minutes south of the F.Y.R. Macedonia border. Goumenissa is a P.D.O., or Protected Denomination of Origin. The main grapes grown here are Xinomavro and Negoska, both of which will be ready to pick in about a month. We tasted the grapes together, and all agreed they need some time before they can be harvested.

Driving on to Naoussa, we were met by winemaker Vassily Georgiou, who showed us the tanks and barrel room while Voyatzis attended to emails and met with contract growers. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Malagouzia are currently under fermentation, and Voyatzis joined us to taste the musts and determine their progress. We then tasted 36 Boutari wines, including Naoussa Reserve vintages 1969, 1974, 1982, 1990, 1997, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2006n and 2007. Unlike Odysseus, who drank ruddy wine from a wooden bowl, we drank from crystal glasses and found each vintage better than the last.

Needless to say, we almost missed our flight to Crete, and are pleasantly surprised to discover that we and Voyatzis are sharing the original winemaker’s cottage among the vines. A simple dinner of grilled seafood and Cretan whites was the perfect end to a busy day. Tomorrow, we’ll tour the vineyards and winery, and even have some time to visit a local archeological excavation.

The Life of a Flying Winemaker, Part One

August 30, 2010

Via Contributing writers Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen take us on five-day journey through Greece’s finest vineyards with winemaker extraordinaire, Yannis Voyatzis.

Dionysus—the Greek god of wine and agriculture—has a new incarnation, and his name is Dr. Yannis Voyatzis. As chief enologist at Greece’s Boutari Wineries, Voyatzis is the force behind more than 40 different labels produced at Boutari’s six facilities. From early August to late October, this soft-spoken winemaker follows the harvest through Greece, from the volcanic, windswept islands of the Aegean, through the mythical Peloponnese, and into the mountainous, Balkan north. And this week, he invites us to travel with (and work alongside) him from island to mainland, from vineyard to winery, as grapes are picked and wine is made.

The journey began this morning, when we arrived to Athens, well-rested after a trans-Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Aegean journey, not of epic proportions, but rather of great comfort. We were not forced to slaughter our own cattle or steal food from the Cyclops, yet we enjoyed a feast of meat and wine fit for a demigod. A leisurely meal on Delta, accompanied by wines chosen by Andrea Robinson, set the scene as we settled into our cocoon-like seats, Kindles in hand. We should mention that in preparation for our five-day voyage across Greece, we downloaded books to set the mood; Between the two of us, we’re reading Homer’s Odyssey and The Iliad—obviously.

The Odyssey’s opening line, “Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course,” came to mind when winemaker extraordinaire Yannis Voyatzis (who comes off as more rock star than scientist,) greeted us. Wasting no time, he described to us a season of high temperature, minimal rain, and low yields, a season that is currently in harvest. Despite Boutari’s size, we’re extremely impressed with both their indigenous varietals—Xinomavro, Malagouzia, Agiorgitiko, Moschofilero, and Assyrtiko among them—and their better-known international grapes. But more than that, we are charmed and amazed by the winemaker in the funky glasses and gold sneakers who flies countless miles every year, bringing the latest enological technology to some of the oldest vineyards in the world.

After finishing his studies at the University of Bordeaux, Dr. Voyatzis returned to Greece, where he has spent twenty-five years working with Boutari. He is a treasure-trove of information on grape varietals, soil types, and winemaking techniques. And over the next five days, we’ll observe him as he meticulously manages his twenty-sixth harvest, capturing the day-to-day triumphs and frustrations of the man who leaves his mark on every bottle of Boutari. And if our first dinner at Ayoli in Thessaloniki is any indication of the week ahead, both our bodies and minds will be well-fed.

Traditional Greek octopus by Chef Kostas Anyfantis

August 27, 2010

When heard about the “classic Greek cuisine with a modern touch” by Chef Kostas Anyfantis (left) of Tasso’s Greek Cuisine in Naperville (Chicago), we were intrigued. So, earlier this week, we picked up the phone and spoke to Chef Anyfantis and manager Prokopis Zenardos about what sets their Naperville Greek restaurant apart from the rest.

The answer, we found, lies in a return to the roots of Greek cooking. “All of our fish is flown in fresh, on blue ice three times a week from Greece,” said Zenardos. “We ONLY order what we need and when we run out of fresh fish,” he told us, “we just have to tell the clients were out. But that’s a GOOD thing. We only use cheeses and yogurt flown in directly from Greece. And you won’t find any ‘lemon sauce’ here: we use only Greek extra-virgin olive oil and real lemon juice.”

Chef Anyfantis was kind enough to take a photo of his octopus and share his secret with us.

While many Greek restaurants use large octopus that they then cut into smaller pieces, said Chef Anyfantis, “we only use small, baby octopus, flown in from Greece.” Instead of boiling the sea creature, “we marinate it in traditional spices and Ouzo and then we slow-roast it, as it is done in Greece. We then finish the dish on the grill when it is ordered by a guest.”

Tasso Greek Cuisine
220 South Washington Street
Naperville, IL 60540
(630) 355-8852

A touch of Basil in Naperville (Chicago)

August 24, 2010

The Boutari Social Media Project recently caught up with one of the nicest and most talented dudes in the Greek restaurant industry, the inimitable Jimmy Petsas (left, with his beautiful wife Taryn) owner of Basil’s Greek Dining in Naperville, Illinois.

Jimmy’s family hails from Tripoli (in the Peloponnese, central Greece, and even though he grew up on the North Shore of Chicago, he spent his summers as a kid every year in his family’s homeland, where he learned to speak Greek and where he mastered authentic Greek cuisine. Here are some highlights from his menu.

The thirty-something Jimmy has worked in the restaurant industry for more than 20 years. “I’ve always loved the pace of the business and the customer contact. There’s a certain energy that the restaurant industry gives you,” said Jimmy.

One of the things that sets Basil’s apart, said Jimmy, is presentation. “We’re very proud of our plate presentation at the restaurant,” he told us. See exhibit’s A and B, above and below….

Even something like the classic Greek Village Salad at Basil’s has that “special flair” that Jimmy looks for.

The name Basil (vasilikos in Greek) was inspired by the herb that “you find in every Greek home,” said Jimmy. “It’s the secret ingredient of Greek cuisine.”

When in Naperville, be sure to try Basil’s housemade Gyros and tell Jimmy that we sent you.

Basil’s currently features 5 Boutari wines by the glass.

Basils Greek Dining
4000 Fox Valley Center Drive
Aurora, IL 60504
(630) 692-1300

Boutari is the SECRET word at Wine Down Miami

August 20, 2010

Above: Two of the most dynamic figures in the world of wine today, Wine Down founder Andrew Levine (left) and wine writer Michael Green will be hosting Wine Down Miami and Wednesday August, 25.

With all the press it’s been getting lately, Wine Down is quickly becoming the hottest wine tasting event in the U.S. today.

To reserve and receive a discount on admission at Wine Down Miami, on Wednesday, August 25 (at the swank Viceroy Hotel, below), use the secret word “Boutari” when you purchase tickets here (click “enter discount code”).

Odyssey 2010: the YEAR of Greek wine

August 17, 2010

Master sommeliers Laura Williamson and Brian Conin led a seminar on Greek wines for nearly 300 wine professionals at TexSom, the sixth-annual Texas Sommelier Conference in Irving (Dallas), Texas on Monday.

This first-ever seminar at the landmark event was just one of a wide ranges of seminars, panels, and tastings that have been held across the country — for the first time.

Nearly half of the attendees gathered for the seminar rose their hands when asked if they’d ever tasted a Moschofilero.

Here’s what Master of Wine and Master Sommelier (one of only three people in the world to hold both titles) Doug Frost told the New Wines of Greece association about Moschofilero:

Moschofilero’s recent surge in popularity might tempt winemakers to toy with oak, but that’s counter-productive, interfering with the spring garden aromas and, perhaps even more importantly, the fascinating disparity between the intensity of the aromas and flavors, and the high acid raciness that typifies its finish.

That juxtaposition has been long in coming but only recently assured; Moschofilero of old was always pink (from those pink-grey skins) and often oxidized. The freshness of current Moschofilero owes much to better vineyard practices and greater confidence in those practices, allowing producers to let the grapes hang out late into the season. And Moschofilero awaited the advent of squeaky-clean wineries and temperature-controlled winemaking.

From Saveur Magazine to master sommeliers and masters of wine, everyone is talking about Greek wine this summer!

The Gulf Coast: where there are Greeks, there is Greek wine

August 12, 2010

Above: Bakkhus Taverna is family-owned Greek restaurant in Kemah, Texas, on the Gulf Coast. In Kemah, you’ll find great Greek food, super friendly people, and great Greek wine. That’s the father of owner Demetrios Kouloumoundras, “Papa Nick” and Chef José Figueroa.

Where there is seafront property, there are Greeks. And where there are Greeks, there is great food and great wine.

Owner Demetrios Kouloumoundras is a second-generation Greek who constructed a little corner of his home country in this Galveston Bay resort town just over two years ago.

Above: Bakkhus Taverna is no cookie-cutter tourist trap. It’s a genuine Greek taverna, owned and run by a Greek family. Here, Greek cuisine (like the Saganaki above) is queen. The bounty of the Gulf of Mexico provides the freshest fish and shellfish daily.

When you visit Bakkhus Taverna, you will find fresh ingredients and traditional Greek cooking, friendly faces, and live Greek music and belly dancing.

Above: Classic gyros is o-so tasty after a day of walking up and down the Kemah 1950s-era boardwalk.

Check out the Bakkhus Taverna Facebook for updates, special offers, and events, like the August 25 2nd Anniversary Bash. Sound like a blast!

Bakkhus Taverna
605 6th Street
Kemah, TX 77565-3089
(281) 538-1800

Exceedingly friendly staff, family-friendly menu and atmosphere, traditional Greek appetizers (moderately priced) and classic Greek entrées (grilled and sautéed fish and shellfish, lamb, etc.), excellent by-the-glass wine program including a number of Greek wines. And don’t miss the playful specialty cocktail menu!

Highly recommended (Kemah is a great place to spend a summer day with the family, with something for everyone).

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