We all have food memories, the way flavors transport you within a moment to a place and time of your past. Sunday suppers at Grandma's or leisurely lunches on an exotic vacation, tapping into the deep rooted emotions of our memories is one of the magical abilities of food. But what about the drinks that accompany those meals? A table full of meze is never quite the same without the customary glass of ouzo or a local Greek wine. Unquestionably a vintage from California or some other region is perfectly well suited for pairing with moussaka or dolmades, but there is something special about a glass of Peloponnesian wine and the way it takes me back to those late summer nights.
Food memories provided the initial inspiration for learning and documenting our family recipes. In the case of Greek wine, however, fascination didn't strike until two years ago, when my mother-in-law served a local rosé with dinner. It was unlike any other wine I had tasted. Full bodied with notes of cassis and spices. Yes, spices - tumeric, coriander, cumin, and fenugreek. Well, that may not be the way a professional wine taster would describe it but I'm sticking with it. And as odd as it may sound, it was lovely. Upon returning to the US, I found myself longing for that wine. Not knowing where to find it, I began scrutinizing wine lists and inquiring with wine shops. This is when I learned that for the most part, the only Greek wine found in restaurants and shops, if any, is Assyrtiko from the island of Santorini, a white that has received high praise in recent years. While it most certainly deserves its accolades, my interest and memories are in the Peloponnese.
After a year of fruitless searching, I determined that our next best approach might be to stuff our suitcases full of bottles acquired during our annual trip. So, last summer, we did just that. Thank goodness for my husband's packing abilities, without which it's quite possible many of our belongings would have been left behind for the sake of those bottles. Of course reality set in when, wanting to share our wine with friends, we consumed all of our loot within a few weeks. With my illusions of easy imports dispelled, I abandoned my pursuit of Peloponnesian wines.
That is, until serendipitously, my friend LeAndra, the writer behind "Love & Flour", organized a wine pairing dinner for our blogger group at Corkbuzz, a recently opened restaurant and wine bar in Charlotte (read about our fabulous five course pairing here). During our dinner, I learned to my great delight, that the restaurant's wine cellar included two Peloponnesian wines: a Moschofilero from Domaine Skouras in Nemea and an Agiorgitiko from Monemvasia Winery in Monemvasia. Better yet, I could buy them! Timing and luck most definitely played a role in this discovery, although I might also mention that Corkbuzz is co-owned by Master Sommelier Laura Maniec, a title and level of wine knowledge possessed by fewer than 250 worldwide.
Although I may never manage to get my hands on that special rosé when not in Greece, my Corkbuzz discovery reinvigorated my desire to pursue Peloponnesian wines. With our annual trip just a few weeks away comes another opportunity to explore the region's vineyards. Armed with my newly found optimism, I have begun planning several winery visits. This time though, I will hopefully manage to turn my Greek wine crushes into longterm relationships as opposed to fleeting summer flings.
Mercouri Estate vineyards in the Peloponnesian district of Ilia