This is a tale about a wine tasting focused on five wines, all of them Greek, all of them from the island of Santorini, and all of them excellent. It’s a story that begins thousands of years ago, when the area that’s now modern Greece began shipping wine to the countries bordering both the Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea.
It’s not known for certain where wine was first produced, but there’s sufficient evidence to conclude that wine production in Greece was a reality as long as 6,500 years ago. In the beginning, production was limited in scope, geared either to the needs of a single household or a small community.
Fast forward thousands of years to the twenty-first century. Much of Greece’s wine production is currently sold to distributors in Europe and Asia. The American market, in contrast, remains relatively small. Media events, such as the the one held to promote wines from Santorini, are designed to increase the media’s familiarity with Greek wines in the hope that they’ll like them and then spread the word.
Santorini Volcanic Terroir, which works only with wine and other products grown and produced on Santorini, sponsored the event. Wines are unique to to the area where the grapes are produced, the result of differences in the terroir. In wine speak, terroir is shorthand for the combination of terrain, climate and soil that determines the kind of grape grown in a particular area.
Different grapes produce different kinds of wine. On the island of Crete, for example, the elevation range is 1,150-2,560 feet, while in West Macedonia, near the border with Albania, the range is 950 feet. The difference in elevation impacts the climate, and the climate determines the kind of grapes that will thrive in a specific area. Greece is home to 200-plus varieties of indigenous grapes.
The island of Santorini is a tiny speck of land in the South Aegean Sea covered with a mix of lava, pumice stone, and volcanic ash. Rain is a rarity, so crops derive the moisture they need from a mix of humidity and sea mist. The terrain is rocky, which further limits the kind of grapes that can be grown on the island.
Reds account for only 17% of the wines produced in Greek. Production is trending upwards, but the vast majority of Greek wines are whites. Even so, the range of Greek wines is broad enough to pair well with most dishes, since some of the whites pair as well with lamb and beef as a pinot noir or a cabernet
Wine flights are an especially good way to learn about wine, because you can sample them repeatedly. In a larger tasting, you swirl the wine in your mouth and then make notes before spitting it out in the designated container. You can always go back and taste the wine again, but a flight makes it easier to understand the differences between the various wines. And-as a bonus- you can actually swallow the wine, and a swallow is better than a swirl.
The first wine sampled was a sparkling white, followed by two dry whites, the first made exclusively with Assyrtiko grapes, the second with a mix of Assyrtiko, Athiri, and Aidani grapes. Next up was a Santorini Assyrtiko Grande Reserve 2016. The grapes used to make it were from 100 year old vines. The wine was aged in oak barrels for twelve months, followed by twelve months in the bottle. Sample it, and the Assyrtiko grape will become a staple on your wine list.
Wine is at its best when it’s sampled with food. That’s not surprising, given that wine is, for the most part, meant to be enjoyed with food. This particular tasting was at GT Prime (707 N. Wells), a multi-starred restaurant known for its excellent food and service. Happily, the wines were up to the challenge.
Dessert was an excellent chocolate layer cake partnered with chocolate mousse, vanilla Chantilly, malt ice cream, brick tuile, and a warm chocolate sauce. A Santorini Vinsanto 2011was served with it, a wine described as a “classic dessert wine made with grapes that are spread on terraces for six to eight days before pressing.”
The tasting notes that accompany wines are very personal. A wine one taster describes as “floral” can elicit a description from another taster that focuses on dried fruit and various spices. This time ‘round, the tasting notes for the Vinsanto were all about “sweet spices like cinnamon and cloves” and dried fruit “such as apricots and raisins.” I’ll second the descriptives, and at the same time, make a vow to search out wines from the volcanic island of Santorini, preferably wines made with Assyrtiko grapes.
Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya
Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya opens its second Chicago venue today in Lincoln Park in the NEWCITY plaza. The restaurant will be giving away 100 free bowls of Tokyo Shoyu Ramen starting at 11:30 am. The restaurant is open seven days a week for lunch/brunch and dinner.
Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya, 1457 N. Halsted Street, 312.631.3165.
The 2019 Fried Chicken & Champagne, Kendall College's annual fundraiser, is scheduled for Saturday, February 2 from 11:30-3pm. Chefs from multi-starred restaurants will be on hand to provide guests with their version of fried chicken. Expect chefs like Ryan Caskey (Acadia), Beverly Kim (Parachute), Matt Troost (Good Measure), and be sure to come hungry.
The event benefits the Kendall College Trust, which awards scholarships to help students complete their education.
Tickets begin at $90.
Kendall College, 900 N. North Branch St. 312.752.2352
Chinese New Year
The Chinese New Year (Year of the Pig) starts at the beginning of February and so does the Peninsula Hotel Chicago's celebration.A special Chinese New Year Afternoon Tea will be available throughout the holiday.Two special, eight-course holiday menus will be available in the hotel's Shanghai Terrace restaurant from February 1-8. The Fortune menu ($188 per person) includes traditional Peking duck, while the Happiness ($158)menu features five spices duck, steamed Tiger prawn, Australian red abalone and tiger prawn. The special menus are offered in addition to the restaurant's regular a la carte menu. Shanghai Terrace will be open for dinner February 1-8 and lunch February 1-5.
The Peninsula Hotel, 108 E. Superior Street,312.337.2888.
Artango Bar & Steakhouse is launching a new wine promotion that's available only on Wednesdays from 5-11pm. Each week, seven different bottles of wine will be available for $20 each.
Artango Steakhouse and Bar, 4767 N. Lincoln Avenue, 872.208.7441
Filed under: Chicago restaurants