Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Santorini, Greece: Wine Tour

Actual date of this event: 13 June

For our last day in Santorini, we decided to do a wine tour. The southern half of the island is actually full of vineyards which make some really nice wine. I have learned when doing research for our travels that so many countries make their own wine, some better than others obviously, but I have never heard or seen some of these bottles even though they are supposed to be "world famous". Santorini has a few different options for wine tasting. One can go to each winery on their own to taste, one can go to the Wine Museum, or one can go with a tour. We went with the tour group option and chose Santorini Wine Adventures Tour because it also made a stop at the Yellow Donkey Brewery, which was a must do on Eric's list. Our guide picked everyone up from their hotels starting around 9:30am before we made our way to each winery. Our small group consisted of Australians, Canadians, and the four Americans (us). I can't remember all that we learned or even my favorite of the bunch, but we had a great time! In the end, we tasted around 15 different bottles and also 3 beers. As we went to each place, I tried to take notes, but it got a little bit difficult toward the end... you'll see why...
I feel it is necessary to point out that some of these pictures are just absolutely awful - our tour guide apparently can't work a camera properly and neither can someone who has had a bit too much wine. Ooops! For example:
{I mean, really, what is this picture?!?! All right, they aren't all this bad...}
The Boutari Winery was more commercial than the others we visited. It was very nice, and set up for visitors. We visited a small theater where presentations and performances are done, then walked out to the vineyard where we learned about the wine-making process in Santorini. We learned that the grapes are grown in bushels on the ground rather than on vines, and 80% of the island's wines are white. The main grape of Santorini is the Assyrtiko, a white grape grown in volcanic-soil. Since Santorini doesn't receive much rain, the plants get their water from the humidity off of the sea. Then, we went inside for the fun part! We tasted five wines at Boutari: Kallisti (white with a dry citrusy flavor), Kallisti Reserve (white with a smokey flavor - my favorite), Grand Reserve (red with a tomato flavor), VinSanto (dessert wine), and Ampeliastos (dark dessert wine made from red grapes). We also received some meats, cheese, olives and bread to go with our tasting.

{Eric Goins' photo}

The Gavalas Winery was a totally different experience than Boutari. It was a very small family-run winery. They still have all of their old methods of wine-making set up, and even still occasionally stomp grapes. We tasted four wines at Gavalas - Santorini (white with a chardonnay flavor), Nikteri (made from the white Nykteri "night grape", the strongest in Santorini), Xenoloo (dry red made from two red grapes and one white grape - my favorite), and VinSanto (sweeter than Boutari's, it was the last VinSanto made from stomping). With this tasting, we were given some bread to munch on.

{Eric Goins' photo}

The Yellow Donkey Brewery was such a refreshing stop for us. After having tried nine wines already. our taste buds really appreciated the beer! We had already tried two of the YDB beers in Athens, but we were not going to pass up another taste! The YDB opened in 2011, so it fairly new and still very small. Our group did not receive a tour of the brewing process as we had all done that before, so we went straight into the tasting. At the Yellow Donkey Brewery, we tasted three beers - Yellow Donkey (a blonde, ~5.1%), Red Donkey (more malted, ~5.6%), and Crazy Donkey (the first and only IPA brewed in Greece, ~5.9% - my favorite).

When we got to the Gaia Winery, things started to get a little hazy, haha! I took ZERO notes at Gaia. While I could blame it on all of the wine, I can't. This place was out of this world amazing! The Gaia Winery is located right on the beach. We were taken to their processing room and given a short lesson, but let's be honest, no one could focus at this point. We were then led to a table in the shade with a view of the water. I felt like I had died and gone to heaven! The setting was perfect - wine, sea breeze, sea view, more wine, good company. It was so difficult to get us to leave, and it didn't help that the Gaia hostess kept bring out more and more wines to try. We tried six wines and a vinaigrette - Thalassitis (dry white), Assyrtiko Wild Ferment (dry white), Thalassitis Oak Ferment (dry white), Agiorgitiko 14-18h (dry rosé, the only rosé we tried), Assyrtiko 2012 (dry red), VinSanto (dessert wine), Assyrtiko Aged Vinegar (the vinaigrette). We were given some bread to munch on and to go with our vinaigrette.

All four stops were so different which I really enjoyed. The wines starts to blend together toward the end, but we could still taste the difference. It was a great tour, but we really didn't get much to eat at all, which is pretty rough when wine is involved. The tour ended up being just over five hours long (it was supposed to be four hours). I thought it was a great tour despite the lack of food, and I really enjoyed the wines we tried. I just wish I could remember which was my favorite... I guess I need more wine drinking practice!
{Eric Goins' photo}

Other posts from Greece: IntroCorfuThe Acropolis in AthensPanathenaic Stadium in AthensGeneral AthensIsland of Milos (Day 1)Sarakino in MilosIsland of Milos (Day 2)Santorini SailingSantorini Wine TourTHE Santorini SunsetGeneral SantoriniWrap-Up

The Assyrtiko grape of Santorini is naturally immune to phylloxera, a small insect that feeds off of grape vines and destroys them.

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