You know you’re in a great neighborhood when what’s supposed to be a five minute stop-and-say-hello visit at a neighbor’s house while dog walking turns into a multi-hour, home-cooked dinner (with several wines imbibed, naturally).
Another blessing to count, and another reason why we love where we live (yeah, even if it’s in the North Korea of U.S. alcohol control states, and more or less the new ground zero for Lyme disease; whatever). The neighbors in this case were the Voutsakis clan, a Greek family whose hospitality know few boundaries when it comes to helping – and feeding – their family and friends. So after a few glasses of ouzo, extended playtime among the kids of both families became an invitation to dinner.
The last time this happened, I was totally unprepared in terms of having zero Greek wines on hand in the sample pool (not that we suffered by any measure, but it would’ve been nice to pair the ethnic cuisine with its spiritual wine accompaniment, right?).
But this time… this time the sample pool was ready. This time, we had a bit of vinous Greek love to spread around…
2011 Karamolegos Nykteri Santorini White (Santorini, $18)
I still have a soft spot for Santorini. I had an amazing jaunt there a few years ago, and have thought about returning ever since, and that immersion instilled a sense of concern that Santorini’s best wines – arguably among the very best produced in all of Greece – are doomed for Stegosaurus-like extinction; if they don’t curb the tide of tourism construction, these wines are going to be the pangolins of the wine world. This example, from Karamolegos family that has been making wine there since the early 1950s, is a bit on the rich side for the region and the grape, and offers a softer example of Assyrtiko. It’s nutty and expressive now, with citrus fruits and enough zing to hang with Summer salads. ‘Cause you need Summer salad hangers, right?
2004 Marchesi Antinori La Braccesca Santa Pia Riserva, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Montepulciano, $45)
Wait a minute, WTF is this doing here? Well, the day we had dinner with the Greek neighbors, I had a very pleasant media lunch in downtown Philly with some very nice members of the Consorzio for Montepulciano. I’m not going to say that a seafood lunch matched up well with older Montepulciano reds, but we had a good time and it was an intriguing enough meeting that it kicked off a bit of research on my part, culminating in a short feature about that Tuscan spot for my Answers.com gig. Anyway, this little number was left over from our lunch, and it seemed stupid to waste something this tasty (even if we had 2000 other samples to choose from taking up an ever-increasing amount of my basement storage space). This red has softened up now, and entered a downright elegant stage: earth, truffles, forest floor, cigar box, the works. It’s a good showing of how lovely and refined these tough customers can be when they’re given enough time to chill out, and why Montepulciano can be among the more feminine of the bigger Italian reds.
2001 Union of Winemaking Cooperatives of Samos Muscat Nectar (Samos, $30)
While only 27×8 miles, Samos was once once a rather powerful (and rich) island (its 6th century BC Eupalinian aqueduct being one example of its former stature). Today, few outside of Greece know its wines, but this long-lived, sweet example is a nice introduction. Sultanas, caramel, flowers, and… well, crazy, crazy, tooth-achingly sweet. Not flabby, and so not cloying per se, but you’d better get the Gel Kam ready. Not profound, but very well executed and honest in its presentation.