Garden Party with Greek Wines

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Reported by Rod Story

On a warm summer-like evening in early September, 37 members joined Gay Cook and her sister Grete Hale to dine al fresco at their lovely stone house in the Civic Hospital area. Built in 1837, the Bayne-Morrison house is the oldest house in Ottawa. It has been several years since the Guild has held an event with Gay Cook and it was great to be back.

The food for the event was catered by Tulips and Maple and started with stand-up canapés (Ahi Tuna Tartare and House Cured Quebec Duck Breast Fried Bocconcini Pearl and Crispy Prawn Lollipop) followed by five small plates: Mini Frisee Salad, Alberta Beef Tartar, Mac & Cheese Arancini, Seared Scallop, Peppercorn Crusted Lamb Loin Chop and ended with a selection of petit fours. Each course was accompanied by a unique Greek wine. There were a total of eight wines which were all consignment wines sold by the Kolonaki Group. Check out http://www.shopgreekwine.com if you would like to purchase any of these wines.

The first wine of the evening was the sparkling white wine Santo Brut from the island of Santorini. As is typical with Santorini whites, it was made from 100% Assyrtiko and it had great minerality which comes from the volcanic soils of the island. The wine was served with the canapés and was a perfect match. The wine was crisp with a solid, understated fruit core that comes with low yield production.

The first plate of the evening was a frisee salad with bacon. The bacon gave the salad weight and as an experiment it was paired with Skalani, a red blend of Syrah and Kotsifali from the island of Crete. The wine had the acidity and low tannin to work with the acid in the dressing, but was still a bit too much for the salad, but was lovely with bacon chunks likely because of the toast and bacon notes in the palate. The wine would have worked very well with planked salmon.

The second plate of the evening was beef tartar which was matched with the red wine Rapsani Reserve which is an equal blend of the three Greek grapes Xinomavro, Stavroto, and Krassato. Though there were numerous good wine and food matches throughout the evening, this one was the home run. The beef tartar was lightly seasoned with garlic and herbs which matched the dried herb flavours in the wine. Also, the light tannins and fresh acidity of the wine was a great contrast to the richness of the tartar. The wine would also be a great match with veal or chicken dishes with tomato sauces.

The third plate of the evening was arancini made with macaroni and cheese rather than the usual risotto. It was wonderful comfort food. It was served with the red wine Driopi Reserve, a 100% Agiorgitiko wine. The wine had earthy, smokey notes, with leather and black fruit on palate. Many folks liked the wine and the dish separately, but not necessarily together unless there was some of the tomato sauce on the fork, which then turned it into a nice match. The wine was definitely one of the favourites for many.

The fourth plate of the evening was a seared scallop served with Argyros Estate which is a Santorini white wine made from 100% Assyrtiko. This was the same grape that was in the sparkling wine that started the evening. Consistent with the sparkling wine, this one had great minerality, dry fruit core and fresh acidity that was a great match for the scallop. It is not a surprise that Santorini white wines go well with seafood considering it is an island in the Mediterranean.

The fifth plate of the evening was lamb loin chops that were paired with a white and a red. The white was Gerovassiliou Malgousia which is 100% Malgousia. The Gerovassiliou winery has taken it upon itself to reintroduce indigenous Greek grape varietals that were disappearing, one of which is Malgousia. The wine was quite complex. It was simultaneously rich and unctuous, but this was all focused in very tight fruit core that was held together with zippy acidity and structure. It was a wine that could easily last 10 years and would mellow and broaden with age. The flavours were in the herbaceous vein: think the richest and thickest Sauvignon Blanc. Though the wine had the heft and weight to stand up to the lamb chops, the flavour of the lamb dominated the flavour of the wine. Maybe with more age the flavours would broaden to match the lamb. The second wine with the lamb was Two Olives by Kir Yianni which is a blend of Syrah, Merlot, and Xinomavro. This wine worked quite well with the lamb by taking the pepper of the Syrah, the suppleness of the Merlot and the dried herbs of the Xinomavro to match the flavour and texture of the rare loin chop. This was the second best match of the evening after the Rapsani Reserve with beef tartar.

 

The final course of the evening was petit fours served with Vin Santo, which was the third wine of the evening from the island of Santorini. Most people, when they hear Vin Santo, they think of the dessert wine from Tuscany made from white grapes that are dried for a period of time before being pressed. It is said that Vin Santo from Santorini was the original which was copied by the Tuscans. With this interpretation, Vin Santo represents wine of Santorini rather than wine of saints. The Greek Vin Santo is closer in flavour to that of a sweet Olorosso Sherry, except with less alcohol and a great acid/sweetness balance. The petit fours were a mixture of different flavours: white chocolate, dark chocolate, caramel and lemon to name just a few. It would be a challenge for any dessert wine to match all the various flavours of the petit fours but the Vin Santo worked well with caramel flavours some of the chocolate petit fours that had sweet liquid filling. Overall, the Vin Santo was a great finish to the meal. It would also work with cheese and nuts as well as spice cakes and even banana bread.

Appetizers

  • Santo Brut by Santo Wines, Santorini (Assyrtiko), $33.50

Mini Frisee Salad

  • 2011 Skalani by Boutari, Crete (blend of Syrah & Kotsifali), $38.20

Alberta Beef Tartar

  • 2010 Rapsani Reserve, Tsantali, Rapsani & Thessaly (blend of Xinomavro, Stavroto & Krassato, $18.95

Mac & Cheese Arancini

  • 2012 Driiopi Reserve, Tselepos, Nemea (Agiorgitiko), $26.95

Seared Scallop

  • 2013 Argyros Estate, Argyros, Santroini (Assyrtiko), $25.95

Peppercorn Crusted Lamb Loin Chop

  • 2014 Gerovassiliou Malgousia, Gerovassiliou from Epanomi (Malagousia), $23.95
  • 2010 Two Olives, Kir Yianni from Imathis (blend of Syrah, Merlot, Xinomavro), $36.95

Dessert

  • 2006 VinSanto, Santo Wines from Santorini (blend of Assyrtiko, Aidani), $27.95