Wine Wednesdays

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When we packed up to move from Athens, I was unable to bring with me my collection of wines.  As customs did not allow me to pack any alcohol into our container, I was forced to leave them behind.  I could only bring those bottles that would be packed into my luggage.   (I pushed the allowable amount past its limit.)  My collection is well stored, but whenever I visit and fly out of Athens Eleftherios Venizelos airport, I carefully wrap a few bottles like bundled babies and bring them back with me. 

I have decided that it is time to drink the bottles that I smuggled in with me. They are doing no one any good just sitting there in the cellar, and one thing I have always loved about wine is the way it takes you places. Visit the world, without leaving your chair.  I have decided that each Wednesday, through wine, I will travel back to my adopted country and home.   Wine will be my passport and ticket to memories of Greece.

Join me each week for Wine Wednesdays. This week’s bottle…

Alpha Estate’s Xinomavro Reserve Old Vines


Alpha Estate’s Old Vine Xinomavro is 100% Xinomavro.  Xinomavro is grown in the north and is the only grape permitted in the appleations (PDO’s) Goumenissa, Amynteo and Naoussa.

If you are unfamiliar with the grape,  I would compare it most to Nebbiolo, but less tannic.  My husband compared it to a Pinot Noir.  He has got a point as the color is close and there is a bit of red fruit, but as most good wives, I disagreed with him. I will stick to my comparison to Nebbiolo over Pinot  due to the tomato aroma, more body, more pronounced tannins, and flavors of black fruit.

The area of Naoussa is a southern facing slope sheltered from climate extremes. The southern sun allows for natural high acidity. Many feel the best Xinomavros come from this area, but don’t overlook the Amynteo region. The region is higher in altitude, cooler with nearby lakes, has lots of sun with hot summers,  and plenty of rain in the winter.



Alpha Estate is located in Amyndeo, Florina region and was founded by viticulturist Makis Mavridis and oenologist Angelos Iatridis. Angelos Iatridis was nomineed for the 2014 winemaker of the year, but the title was in the end rewarded to  Charles Smith, K Vintners, Charles & Charles, Washington.


Wednesday arrived and all day at work, I salivated in anticipation. I decided to splurge and stopped at the butcher to get lamb chops for dinner. (Of course, they are not even half as tasty as those back in Greece, but I have to make due.)  As my husband grilled the chops, I prepared a traditional salad of feta, tomato and cucumber. We opened the bottle and let it breath while we finished up our preparations. With the lamb chops finished and the table set, we grilled a few pita breads and then sat down to eat and drink.  Before we began to eat, we took a few moments to taste the wine.



Tasting Notes

Wine was clean. Medium to full body. Clear bright ruby color. On the nose: black cherry, dried cherry, tomato vine, herbs and maybe a bit of molasses. On the palate:  first to come to me was the tomato, more cooked or even sun dried in taste. There is some strawberry and a bit of spice and definitely some black fruits like blackberry. There is a hint of tobacco and oak on the back with a long after taste and velvety tannins.

Upon this tasting, I am thinking that stifado (Greek casserole of beef or rabbit in tomato sauce) may have been a better food choice. But, I am not disappointed, as it is delicious with my lamb chops . I would suggest pairing this wine with game meats, beef, rabbit, stews, peppers, sausages and grilled-barbequed meats.  I would also pair it with fuller cheeses.  


Along with the enjoyment of a nice food and wine pairing, I  did also travel in spirit to Greece. My husband and I spoke of our home in Agia Paraskevi. We talked about the lamb chops (paidakia) that we enjoyed so much at Taverna Plantana just a short walk form our home. My husband started visiting the tavern about 40 years ago. He was treated like royalty there.  They got to know me as well, and would allow me to bring along my own bottles of wine, knowing that I was such a devotee.   The only rule was that I had to share a glass with Costa, the owner.  Many a Xinomavro have we drank there.

I can almost smell the night jasmine that entwines around the big oak tree from which the tavern takes it’s name.  I can almost see the bright fushia bougenvilla that covers the entire roof that somehow magically seems to grow out of a beat up metal olive oil can.  I am able to imagine that the laughter from the childen outside riding their bikes here in Pittsburgh, are the sames laughs of the children running around the taverna.  Lastly, although I do not own a cat, I actually believe that I feel one rubbing again my feet waiting for me to throw a scrap onto the floor.  My glass of wine has taken me on a wonderful trip down memory lane. 


Here’s a little more information from Alpha Estate  (

Variety Composition:

Xinomavro 100%.

Region / Location / Vineyard:

Protected Denomination of Origin Amyndeon.   Amyndeon plateau. Amyndeon viticulture zone. North-western Macedonia. 88 y.o., Gobelet 100%. “Turtles” sub-region. 660m altitude, with north-western exposure, facing mount Voras. 69ha of Linear, privately owned vineyard situated at an altitude of 620-710m.

Vinification Method & Ageing:

Destemming, no crushing, cold soak – skin contact, alcoholic fermentation at gradual increasing temperatures, maintenance of wine “sur lies” for eight months with regular stirring. Eighteen to twenty four months in Allier – Bertrange French oak casks medium grain, white toast and eighteen to twenty four months in the bottle.

93 points. Robert Parker. The Wine Advocate

17,5+ points. Jancis Robinson

94 points. James Halliday. The Australian

91 points. Asia Palate. Jeannie Cho Lee MW

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