Greek Wine Girl Nicole Andersen is back with news from the Greek wine world. Read on to learn about the Cava Spiliadis Odyssey road show.
Greek Wine Girl is back!
It’s been a while. Great to be back with you!
The new year arrived with all the typical craziness of life in 2018, and time is again racing. So are the Greek wineries, and the wine bottles from Hellenic soil are arriving in force. Over the years of sales and collaboration with many wineries, my true love for these fantastic Hellenic nectars is a pure passion for my motherland — the place I seriously can’t believe my mother ever left — and also for these winemakers and storytellers — the pioneers — and the history behind it all. My quest is set and Greek wines forever win my heart. With all that said, let me tell you what I’ve been up to.
Cava Spiliadis came to town on March 19, with 9 family run wineries and a jam-packed agenda to spread the Greek Wine gospel in the U.S. Their Odyssey road show, with Greek wine master classes including a sommelier, and tastings, was a very unique experience.
Cava Spiliadis was founded by George Spiliadis in 2007. This dapper gentleman has picked some of the best Greek wine offerings for his portfolio. His vision and goal is to show a finer side of Greece. I have great respect for this, because for so long, we were only exposed to many lower quality Greek wines that gave us bad street cred. I expect no less from him, considering that his father is Costas Spiliadis of the Milos Restaurant Group. George and his team work very hard to increase the understanding and awareness of fine Greek wines.
Come along and l’ll share my experiences.
Odyssey Road Show
On that March morning, I attended the Chicago Road Show at Bad Hunter on Randolph Street. Sommelier Rachael Lowe, of the Michelin -starred restaurant Spiaggia, moderated the panel.
I’m familiar with the entire Cava Spiliadis portfolio and have had the pleasure to taste them several times. This time, I immediately thought, “impressive from start-to-finish”. The entire book was shining and a true sign that this is yet another good year for Greek wines.
The master class was informative. As these things, go, it was top shelf all the way. Attendees of this master class were truly impressed with Cava Spiliadis’ offerings, as the chatter in the room was buzzing. It was amazing to hear all the comments and see the range of people’s love for some of these wines. My day was complete, tasting the wines and enjoying the event with WindyCity Greek Founder & Editor Maria A. Karamitsos, Louie Alexakis of Avi Estiatorio in Winnetka, IL; and Perry Fotopoulos of Pure Wine Company — a consummate oenofilo.
The Cava Spiliadis team offered an awesome approach and great way to present the wines. Each attendee received a special notebook, including a pronunciation guide for the varietals. For example:
Malagousia – ma-la-gou-SEE-ah or ma-la-gou-siA
Sinderitis – see-there-EAT-es
Xinomavro – ksee-NO-mav-roh
This was great, and I wonder how many people went home and practiced! The notebook also contained information on the approach of the Cava Spiliadis team, plus bios of all nine wineries, and a photo and description of the wines of each winery. There was also plenty of room to write your notes. I appreciated it and thought it was a fantastic addition.
So let’s get to the wines! I truly enjoyed them all, but let me tell you about my personal standouts.
But before we go there, I should tell you… anyone who knows me or who has read my articles, knows of the love and bond I have for Ktima Tselepos, who is currently under national representation by Cava Spiliadis. Let’s start there.
Tselepos is at it again, pioneering the Assyrtiko (as-SYR-tiko) grape, this time in amphora. The wine, Laoudia — which translated it means hare’s nest or holes, hence the hare on the label — was my “Golden Star” of the entire experience.
The grapes come from vines over 100 years old and are planted and trained in terraces near the area of Pyrgos, Santorini. Harvesting happens when the grapes are over-ripened and per usual practice of Greece, picked by hand. Fermentation and maturing is done in amphorae and the wine remains on the fine lees for eight months, then bottled and left for about another 10 months before release.
If I had tasted this blindly I would have guessed oak presence but obviously not the case so its apparent that the amphora adds a twist to the wine in brilliant way. I actually enjoyed a bit more on the warmer side. This wine well-paced the funky acid and fresh citrus bite that I love.
My personal favorite grape is Malagousia. I love it because it keeps me curious. This brings me to my next favorite, Vangelis Gerovassiliou, who’s one of those to thank for not letting this grape go extinct. The former winemaker of Porto Carras, another pioneer of the Greek wine world, Vangelis has a stunning winery and I’ve had the pleasure to visit more than once. It’s really a sight to see. The gorgeous property has the coolest glass moon in the midst of the vineyards and chandeliers made of Champagne bottles inside. They also have what’s probably one of the largest collection of corkscrews, from the beginning to now, stretching through decades and styles. It’s really super cool. You should visit if you get the chance.
The Late Harvest Malagousia, with only a 4,000 bottle production, is amazing. It’s 100% Malagousia. Left to over-ripen on the vine, the must of the grapes is vinified in French oak, then aged for three years in the same barrels. Alcohol is induced very slowly and finishes months later. This lovely sweet wine is a must have.
And while I would love to write about them all, the final one I’ll tell you about is from Crete, which I think is about to have a battle of the fittest with Santorini. This island is rising with “guns loaded”, and Rhous Winery Estate Red was AWESOME.
The Estate Red is 90% Kostifali and 10% Syrah. There’s less than 10,000 bottles in production. This wine was so beautiful all around. I tasted olives (which I love), peppers, and cherries. The sensations and flavors were well-integrated and intrigued my palate. It’s truly a great wine.
OK, before I go, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that the entire line up of Domaine Katsaros wines were fantastic. Unfortunately, there is never enough time and or space to fit it all in. Since Greece has more than 300 varietals mostly all indigenous, I don’t doubt there are others yet to be discovered.
Cava Spiliadis took their road show to several cities in the U.S., and up to Canada. They’re making great strides, and hopefully you will soon start to see these wines available in your area. So if you come across any of them, do take the opportunity to try and expand your Greek wine palate. You won’t be disappointed.