Greek speak: Vino with history
Beaver Creek – When a mother lode of snow kept Bon Appetit’s wine and spirits consultant grounded on the East Coast, local master sommelier Sean Razee swooped in with his own notes, Grecian experiences and a bit of humor to save Thursday’s Mediterranean wine seminar at the Beaver Creek Chophouse.
Despite being the “American fine wine specialist” for Southern Wine and Spirits, there is no winemaking region in the world with which Razee is unfamiliar. He joked that because he was able to pronounce the grape varietals (moschofilero, assyrtiko, xynomavro and the like) he was a natural candidate to lead the group. Though truth be told, few in the room would have known if he had mispronounced the grapes or the vineyards. Greek wine isn’t exactly mainstream in the U.S., though “vacationing college students” often imbibe the pine-resin-infused retsina that’s been made in Greece since the first century.
There was no retisina to be had at the seminar. Instead, attendees migrated around the country, leaping from crisp whites to earthy reds, and finishing with the only varietal produced outside of France with a French designation of origin: a Samos moschato called simply Samos Nectar.
Greek grapes are a varied lot. Scientifically speaking, they are unique unto themselves.
“None of the Greek grapes (that have been tested) have DNA linkage to the European grapes we’re used to,” Razee said.
Which is an astonishing state of affairs, considering how commonplace it is to take clones from one place and grow them in another. But what the Greeks have imported from global winemaking areas is winemaking know-how.
“They’ve discovered that great wines aren’t made at the winery, but in the fields – in the vineyards,” Razee said.
From the single-vineyard efforts of Ktima Kir-Yannis (a leathery red that tasted of campfires and cowboys) to Domaine Tselepos’ aromatic, citrusy moschofilero, the seminar became a mini-history lesson that showed the scope of Greek terroir and vinos.
Wines are all well and good, but stories make them even better. Santorini’s gusty winds have necessitated vines to be planted in baskets that protect them, a romantic image, while Agiorgitiko grapes – found in some of the red wines produced by the country – come with a myth attached: Hercules slayed a lion on Mount Olympus and doused the grapes with the blood.
“Greece is the place where wine and food (pairing) first really came together,” Razee said.
As it did during the seminar. Executive Chef Jay McCarthy presented three courses that, despite the diversity of the wines, were winningly paired with the flights. His grilled salmon salad was particularly succulent, while the individual peach tarts with ginger chantilly creme were demure. And not to be outdone by Razee’s storytelling, McCarthy didn’t just describe the food – he introduced ranchers Felix and Sarah Tornare of Colorado’s Milagro Ranch who just happened to be the ones responsible for the grass-fed beef tenderloin served in the second course.
All in all, the seminar was a great introduction to the wines of Greece, as well as the romance they can inspire. And as all food and wine events eventually do, it evolved into a party. The Beaver Creek Master Chef Classic concludes today with the Grand Tasting at the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $150. For more information visit http://www.beavercreek.com/masterchefclassic.