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Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving & Greek Wines - a perfect match

Every year people ask me what I'm drinking on Thanksgiving.  Being a Greek - centric importer, the majority of our wines are Greek that grace our table.  Here are my thoughts on the best grape varieties & wines that pair well with the Thanksgiving meal.

While waiting for all of our guests to arrive, I usually have a bottle of bubbly or two open.  This year, I will be pouring Domaine Spiropoulos' Ode Panos Rose.  This is the winery's second release of sparkling wine.  It is made from a blend of 80% Moschofilero & 20% Agiorgitiko.  It is a bright pink color with aromas of rosewater and strawberry - perfect for smoked salmon & prosciutto.

White Wine

With the vast mount of side dishes and appetizers typically found on a Thanksgiving table, you need a wine that has a bit of body and acidity to it in order to stand up to the food.  Look towards Gentilini Robola, known for its weight and body, as a good pairing option.  Additionally, I like Ktima Pavlidis' Thema White and Assyrtiko from the North as well.  The Assyrtiko in the north is a bit more aromatic than those from Santorini.  Pavlidis' Assyrtiko 100% sees some time on the lees, therefore making it a bit rounder and adding some weight to it.

Red & Rose Wine

For me, there is nothing better to pair with the turkey than unoaked or lightly oaked red wines.  Agiorgitiko, Xinomavro & Limnio easily fit the bill here.  The acidity and red fruit notes of these grape varieties pair extremely well with turkey.  Since turkey is a leaner cut of meat, you do not need a big, powerful oaky red - it will just overpower the meal.  Stick to lighter reds and your palate will thank you for it.  Good options include Thymiopoulos Young Vines, GAIA Agiorgitiko, Vassiliou Nemea and Domaine Porto Carras Limnio.  Also, rose wines with high acidity and subtle tannin also are great matches as well.  For me, my go to Rose is GAIA 14-18 - it has the red fruit that pairs well with the cranberry sauce and the acidity and flavor to pair well with stuffing.


With the ever present pumpkin pie, UWC Samos aged Muscats such as the Nectar & Anthemis are amazing options.  Their cinnamon and nutty characters are the perfect match with dessert.

To all, have a happy Thanksgiving and enjoy some great food & wine with family and friends!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Harvest Report 2013 - Mercouri Estate

Below are the thoughts from the Mercouri Estate on the 2013 vintage:

Mercouri Estate 2013 Harvest Report


The 2013 harvest began on August 12th – a full 10 days earlier than the preceding year with the white varieties of Viognier, Albarino and Malvazia Aromatica first to be hand picked.

Very good weather conditions, including acceptably high temperatures after mid-July, contributed to this early start date.

The combination of excellent growing conditions (ideal temperatures during winter, total absence of grape diseases, zero rainfall after June) with the pre-harvest grape characteristics (high acidities, phenolic richness) lead us to believe that the 2013 vintage will be a classic!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Harvest Report 2013 - Harlaftis Winery

The Harlaftis winery has two locations - one in Attica (near Athens) and their newest facility in Nemea.  Here are Nicos Harlaftis' thoughts on the 2013 vintage:

About the harvest in Attica region:

Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc , Savatiano and Assyrtico and Roditis  Harvest

It was an early harvest because we had no rain during summer, stable temperatures , with north winds mainly  . The grapes were very good and healthy . Harvest began on August 8th (normally it starts after August 15th) and finished September 20th.

About the harvest in Nemea region :

 Agiorgitiko, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Malbec  Harvest

 It was an early harvest for the agiorgitico, syrah  and the cabernet sauvignon, because the climate conditions were the same with the ones in Attica. Harvest started on August 22nd and finished on September 15th. The merlot and the malbec were on time and the harvest started on August 30th.

Generally, we are very satisfied with both harvests in Attica and Nemea, with good results.

Harvest report 2013 - Ktima Pavlidis

Here are the thoughts and views from Ktima Pavlidis, from the region of Drama in Northern Greece:

Harvest 2013

2013 seems to be a great year and one of the best in recent years , due to the fact that this year we had a very good growth cycle , with mild winters , normal temperatures , satisfactory rainfall and warm spring while there were no heat waves in during the ripening of the grapes.

The winter was mild, avoiding the danger of frost. There was no particular rainfall during April and May and the rains of June restored the water stocks of the soil . During maturation and harvest there was no particular rain and the daily temperatures were high, but not extreme over 37 ° C. Especially in the period of summer , the cool evenings in combination with the light breeze, helped smooth ripening in cooler temperatures than usual. No illnesses were observed which is the key element for the success of a wine. Compared to previous years the fruit setting increased with the result that yields were 20 % higher. The production of 2013 is expected to be very high quality as a result of weather conditions that permitted a smooth maturation. The optimal aromatic ripening was achieved and the excellent summer conditions ensured the high quality . The white wines this year are expected to be very aromatic with pleasantly high acidity and a good alcohol degree, while red wines seems to also have very good phenolic ripeness, rich flavor, color maturity structure and are capable of aging .
The 2013  wine harvest will consolidate the superiority of Drama region and of Greece in wine production internationaly.

Harvest Report 2013 - Domaine Spiropoulos

Here are thought from Domain Spiropoulos' winemaker, Apostolos Spiropoulos on the 2013 vintage:

The Harvest in Mantinia was very good. It began the last week of September which is about 10 days earlier than usual. Although there were problems from hailstorms and frost, the grapes ripened well and evenly. We have high alcohol levels like the harvest of 2012 with intense aromas and nice typical acidity. The fermentations are still going.

In Nemea we started the same time with Mantinia, maybe a week earlier, which is a usual harvest time for the area and our vineyards. The production was better and the grapes were fantastic. Healthy, with good acidity, aromas and color. The fermentations are all done and we are extremely happy with the outcome.

Harvest report - Domaine Vassiliou

With the white wines from the 2013 vintage set to release soon, I have asked our winery partners for their thoughts on harvest and what we can expect from their wines.

Below are the thoughts on harvest 2013 from Domaine Vassiliou:

This year’s harvest was very good without any particular problems. It was earlier by 15 days , started on September 1st and fermentations completed successfully. The grapes were healthy and properly cured. The wines have been produced with high concentration of aromatic potential , full bodied with long aftertaste. The maturation and stabilization continues , and with the new year we will be able to enjoy accompanying them with Greek and International cuisine.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Introducing Delphi - Greece's newest beer

Established in September 2013, Elixi SA opened its doors in Halkida (an area north of Athens).  From its ultra modern facility, Delphi Beer was released in Greece.  Delphi Beer is a pilsner and is meant to be light and refreshing with great citrus notes.

Delphi Beer will make its US debut in late November 2013 in NY and will increase in distribution over the next year.  Delphi will be available only in 750ml glass bottles and will have an approximate retail price of $17.99 a bottle. 

Delphi's parent brewery has plans to offer Delphi in kegs and then increase their product line over the next 2-3 years to include other styles of beer. Stay tuned for updates!
A picture of Delphi Beer

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Modern Mavrodaphne - its not all sweet

Mavrodaphne is a red grape variety that is commonly grown in the northern Peloponnese around the area of Achaia and is seen as far west as the mountainous island of Cephalonia.  While most Mavrodaphne imported into the US is of the sweet, fortified persuasion, there are two producers in our portfolio currently working with the variety to produce dry red wines - Mercouri Estate and Gentilini

Mercouri Estate


The Mercouri Estate has been cultivating and using Mavrodaphne for decades in its Estate & Cava Red.  For me, Mavrodaphne in the Estate's blends gives aromatics of violets, or "purple" notes, as the wine develops.  It's pretty cool to see how these wines age and how their varietal characters develop.

Just a few years ago, the Estate released a single varietal Mavrodaphne, Daphne Nera.   This is 100% Mavrodaphne that is funky, earthy, spicy and moderately tannic.  It needs time to breathe and pairs well with fattier cuts of meat.  Since it's a relatively small production, we typically import about 50 cases a year of this wine.  As a small side note, the faces you see on the label are the current owner's mother, sister and brother.  The picture is from the 1920s or 30s and really captures the beauty and charm of the winery and its surroundings.

The Gentilini Winery is located on the island of Cephalonia, in the Ionian Sea.  It is a large and beautiful island that was under the Venetian rule until the mid 1800s.  In 2002, Marianna Kosmetatos & her husband Petros Markantonatos, assumed control from her father.  In the past 10+ years, the couple have succeeded in creating food friendly, modern wines from local varieties.  While the white grape Robola is the most famous on the island, there is a small appellation zone for dry Mavrodaphne.  It is from this high elevation zone that the grapes are harvested and used to produce Gentilini Eclipse. Eclipse got its name from the lunar eclipse that occurred during the harvest for the grapes that would make the first vintage of this wine.  Eclipse is dark and inky black in color with aromas of spice, wild berry and anise.  Like the Daphne Nera, Eclipse is best drunk with fattier meats & cheeses.
While dry expressions of Mavrodaphne are not going to become a staple Greek variety produced by dozens of wineries, it is a grape variety that is worth seeking out.  They offer you something different than Agiorgitiko These wines retail on shelves anywhere from $27 - $55 for the Mercouri Cava Red.  If you are lucky enough to find a bottle on a shelf or a wine list, try it!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bubbles Bubbles everywhere! Ode Panos & Ode Panos Rose

Located in the high altitude appellation of Mantinia, Domaine Spiropoulos has been in existence for over two decades.  Aside from producing their USDA organic certified still wines, the winery also produces two sparkling wines - Ode Panos & Ode Panos Rose. 

Ode Panos 2012

Ode Panos 2012
Made from 100% Moschofilero in the Charmat method, Ode Panos is a lively and floral expression of the grape variety.  Slightly blush in color (Moschofilero is a pink skinned grape), Ode Panos has aromatics of rose petals and stone fruits.  Crisp acidity and a pleasant mouth feel complete this wine. Think of it as a wine that's in between Prosecco & Spanish Cava in style.  In 2012, the appellation laws changed to include Ode Panos in the Mantinia appellation.  As a result, the wine that once was a table wine is now PDO Mantinia and vintage dated. Approximately 800 cases are imported into the US annually. With the release of the 2012 Ode Panos, the winery decided on a package change and went from the black label to the one you see above.  

Ode Panos Rose NV
Ode Panos Rose NV
Ode Panos Rose is the newest addition to the winery's portfolio.  Released for the first time earlier this year, Ode Panos Rose is made from 80% Moschofilero and 20% Agiorgitiko.  Also made in the charmat method, this wine is a vibrant rose color with intense aromatics of rose water and cherry.  This wine was an experiment for the winery, with only 500 cases being made.  90% of the stock has been imported into the US.  Since the appellation of Mantinia only include white sparkling wine, Ode Panos Rose is classified as a table wine, and is therefore non vintage.  However, since this is the inaugural release, all of the wine is from the 2012 vintage.
Both of these wines are available across the United States and retail at approximately $25 per bottle.  They are great options as we enter into the holiday season. 


Crazy Donkey IPA - Greece's first IPA to reach US shores October 2013!

Santorini’s only microbrewery releases its first beer in the US


Santorini is known for its natural beauty, deep blue seas, progressive food & wine scene and now beer.  Beer? Each year tourists make the ascent from the port up to the main town of Fira on the back of a donkey.  As a result, the donkey has become the beloved & ubiquitous symbol of the island. In 2011, Santorini Brewing CO opened its doors on the road from the airport to the quaint beachside town of Kamari and created the Donkey beers.  The brewery has an annual production capacity of 75,000 liters.

Santorini Brewing Co is a made up of four partners – Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, winemaker for GAIA Wines, Majda Anderson, an ex-pat Californian now living on Santorini year-round, Steven Daniels of the UK and formerly a wine buyer of Odd Bins, and lastly, Boban Krunic, the Serbian born brewer.  There are three styles of beer currently in production – Yellow, Red & Crazy Donkey.  Only Crazy Donkey IPA is available for export.

Crazy Donkey is Greece’s first IPA and is produced with five kinds of hops, including Motueka from New Zealand and Carcade from Oregon.  The beer has 6.5% ABV and an IBU of 50.  Crazy Donkey is sold in 750ml glass bottles and retails for approximately $35-$40 a bottle on a beverage list.  Crazy Donkey will be available in the United States in small quantities (less than 100 cases per shipment) throughout the winter months.  Due to high local demand, the brewery will not export beer during the tourist season. 

Athenee Importers is Santorini Brewing Company's exclusive US representative.  The first shipment of Crazy Donkey IPA will arrive in the US in late October.

Crazy Donkey will be available in select markets across the United States as supply permits.  You can find more information on the brewery at: www.santorinibrewingcompany.gr. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Thalassitis Submerge 2013 - The Interview

Labor Day Weekend 2013 found me on the beautiful island of Santorini in Greece to continue the project of submerging Thalassitis from GAIA Wines.  It was a great experience and there are now 4 vintages of Thalassitis resting peacefully under the sea, waiting for their turn to arise and see if wine ages underwater.

This year's adventure has been recorded and the video released in two parts.  Here you will find part 1 of Thalassitis Submerge 2013 - the interview with Yiannis Paraskevopoulos of GAIA Wines.

Part 2 which chronicles the entire adventure of getting the wine to the dive spot will follow.

For now, sit back, relax & enjoy the show!