Posts Tagged ‘wine’

Years ago, before Alex & Ani founder Carolyn Rafaelian bought Sakonnet Vineyards in Little Compton, its success at creating quality wine was mediocre at best.
I heard stories that the grapevines on the property were there just for show. The story goes that the land was contaminated, and they couldn’t use it for winemaking. So despite having this magnificent piece of property, just about all of their grape juice was imported from South America.
To me, that defeated the purpose of going to a local vineyard. You expect them to grow the grapes and then use those grapes to make their wine.
Fast forward years later, the property is now called Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards, and their website claims that they make their wines from the grapes they grow on their land. Is this truly the case? Or is this a bunch of BS? It’s hard to really know for sure.

The tasting room is full, especially on rainy days!

That issue aside, the vineyard seems to attract a lot of tourists, especially on rainy days when there isn’t a whole heck of a lot to do in Little Compton. Sampling a variety of wines, even if they’re not really that great, is better than sitting at home and watching television.
The property also has an outdoor stage for mellow concerts when the weather is cooperating. (They were denied a permit to have a larger concert venue established on their property, because of the traffic and noise it would create. The town of Little Compton has had a bug up its ass lately…just ask the folks trying to get the historic Stone House open again.)
And there is a café, which is open seven days a week through Columbus Day…and weekends through the winter months.
That’s good to know, because there isn’t a huge choice of places to dine nearby. There’s a luncheonette and pizza joint in Little Compton Commons, and there’s a grill and sandwich place at Tiverton Four Corners. But that’s about it.
The café at Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards serves up a tasty menu of freshly prepared sandwiches, flatbreads, salads and more. At a recent lunch, my daughter and I enjoyed their steamed pork dumplings as a starter. My daughter chose the Sakonnet Club, a turkey and ham sandwich on sourdough. I went with the Grilled Tuscan, which featured Genoa salami, capicola and soppressata and mozzarella on sourdough, all freshly made and grilled to melt the cheese. The table next to us had a bachelorette party, and all the gals there had different flatbreads, which looked really delicious…something to keep in mind for our next visit. Our sandwiches came with a light salad and a bag of chips on the side.
I had a glass of mediocre Albariño with my lunch, but it served its purpose.
All in all, a really nice lunch, and other things on the menu that I am looking forward to trying in the future.
I didn’t taste more than one wine at the vineyard that day, so in all fairness, I need to make a return visit for that purpose. But for me, the best wines in the area are located down the road at Westport Rivers. Although they don’t have the beautiful room and property that Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard has, they more than make up for it in the quality of their wine.
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Greek food is some of the most delicious I’ve ever eaten. It rivals Italian and French cuisine, yet has nowhere near the fan base. It’s the same with Greek spirits. The island of Santorini offers many wonderful choices, and it would be a sin not to taste them all!

santorini3

Santorini is magical. It’s why we keep coming back. But just as wonderful as the white buildings stacked on the cliffsides of this island are the people, and the native food and drink they offer. One such place is the Hatzidakis winery in the town of Pirgos.

hatz al

They don’t have a fancy tasting room. They don’t do tours. They don’t have an amazing view of the water or the island. They don’t even hold regular visiting hours. They simply have the best wine on the island.

hatz tools

And that’s exactly why we go. Haridimos “George” Hatzidakis is all about his grapes. Ask anyone on Santorini what the best wine is, and you will get “Hatzidakis” as the answer every time.

hatz kelly

Sure, there are huge wineries with tasting rooms that overlook the water. That’s where the tour buses take the cattle that arrive in Fira on cruise ships. And that’s the last place we want to be.

Hatzidakis wine is about the soil, the grapes, the climate. It’s also about the passion of the handful of people who work hard to make it.

hatz grapes

It’s hard to find Hatzidakis in the United states (unless you look in my wine cellar, because we bring home as much as we can!!) Much of it is scooped up and exported to France…and much to our happy surprise, we’ve had a bottle of the Hatzidakis Assyrtyko in Paris at Le Baratin.

hatz cave

For the most part, you’ll have to go to Santorini to experience the magic of this incredible wine. And that’s not a bad thing. Because the wine is much like the people of Santorini: beautiful and worth every bit of time it takes to get there.

Aside from wine in Santorini, our most recent visit a few years ago introduced us to a local drink called Raki. Kind of like grappa on steroids, it’s the national drink of Turkey, popular here as well, and often served as a digestif before dinner. It’s a drink that can definitely get you in trouble.

image

 

Also new (to us) in Santorini was Red Donkey, a locally brewed beer. It was a welcome treat on those very hot and dry summer days. Unfiltered and delicious.

image

 

As for local foods, nothing is better than a salad featuring the sharp tang of Santorini tomatoes. Much like the grapes of this island, the tomatoes grow in volcanic soil. Rain is scarce, and so the tomatoes, like the grapes, stay small but intense, bursting with flavor.

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Capers and caper berries, stuffed into empty plastic water bottles, are sold on the side of the road by local farmers.

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Perhaps the most unlikely food item we bring home from Santorini is what they call “fava,” but it’s not the bean we usually associate with that name. Originally, broad beans were used in this dish, but quickly it changed to a type of yellow shelled lentil that is much smaller and flavorful than its American counterpart. The lentil is smaller and the art of turning this simple gem into a sublime porridge is worth learning.

As common in Santorini as pasta is in Italy, grains of fava have been found in archaeological sites in the ancient city of Akrotiri (on the southern side of Santorini) dating as far back as 3500 years ago. Every taverna on the island offers their own version of fava, and though the differences are subtle, they can be significant.

Proud of his fava.

Proud of his fava.

 

Most recipes start with the dried lentils, which are washed thoroughly. They are added to a pot of fresh water and then boiled until the water reduces and the lentils slowly absorb the liquid and soften into a porridge. Often chopped onion is added to the pot of water in the very beginning, so that it completely dissolves and flavors the fava. Some recipes call for a subtle mixture of local dried herbs, similar to oregano and thyme, to be wrapped in cheesecloth and added to the pot to infuse flavor.

Like making a great Italian tomato sauce, cooking fava is a labor love. It requires low heat and constant stirring to make it perfectly smooth. Often it is pureed in a blender at the end.

When the fava is ready to serve, the toppings can vary. Thin slices of red onion and a liberal drizzle of Greek olive oil are common. Sometimes it is topped with locally harvested and brined caper berries or caper berry leaves, or a few kalamata olives.

On our last trip to Santorini, our most memorable fava dishes were a simple and rustic, with onion, capers, olive oil and a side of lemon. One of our favorite restaurants, Dimitris in Amoudi, serves it this way.

The fava at Dimitri's, on the water in Ammoudi.

The fava at Dimitri’s, on the water in Ammoudi.

We bought our fava from several people, including this beautiful ageless woman, who remembered us from our previous visit. image

We’re hoping still be here on this magical island when we visit in a couple of weeks!

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Greek cuisine is some of the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten. It rivals Italian and French cuisine, yet has nowhere near the fan base. It’s the same with Greek spirits. The island of Santorini offers many wonderful choices, and it would be a sin not to taste them all!

santorini3

The island of Santorini is magical. But just as wonderful as the white buildings stacked on the cliffsides of this island are the people, and the native food and drink they offer. One such place is the Hatzidakis winery in the town of Pirgos.

hatz al

They don’t have a fancy tasting room. They don’t do tours. They don’t have an amazing view of the water or the island. They don’t even hold regular visiting hours. They simply have the best wine on the island.

hatz tools

And that’s exactly why you need to go. Haridimos “George” Hatzidakis is all about his grapes. Ask anyone on Santorini what the best wine is, and you will get “Hatzidakis” as the answer every time.

hatz kelly

Sure, there are huge wineries with tasting rooms that overlook the water. That’s where the tour buses take the cattle that arrive in Fira on cruise ships. Why would you want to hang with them?

Hatzidakis wine is about the soil, the grapes, the climate. It’s also about the passion of the handful people who work hard to make it.

hatz grapes

You can’t find Hatzidakis in the United states (unless you look in my wine cellar, because we bring home as much as we can!!) Much of it is scooped up and exported to France…and much to our happy surprise, we’ve had a bottle of the Hatzidakis Assyrtyko in Paris at Le Baratin.

hatz cave

But for the most part, you’ll have to go to Santorini to experience the magic of this incredible wine. And that’s not a bad thing. Because the wine is much like the people of Santorini: beautiful and worth every bit of travel hassles to get there.

Aside from wine in Santorini, our most recent visit a few years ago introduced us to a local drink called Raki. Kind of like grappa on steroids, it’s the national drink of Turkey, popular here as well, and often served as a digestif before dinner. It’s a drink that can definitely get you in trouble.

image

 

Also new (to us) in Santorini was Red Donkey, a locally brewed beer. It was a welcome treat on those very hot and dry summer days on this beautiful island. Unfiltered and delicious.

image

 

As for local foods, nothing is better than a salad featuring the sharp tang of Santorini tomatoes. Much like the grapes of this island, the tomatoes grow in volcanic soil. Rain is scarce, and so the tomatoes, like the grapes, stay small but intense, bursting with flavor.

image

 

image

Capers and caper berries, stuffed into empty plastic water bottles, are sold on the side of the road by local farmers.

image

Perhaps the most unlikely food item we have to bring home from Santorini is what they call “fava,” but it’s not the bean we usually associate with that name. Originally, broad beans were used in this dish, but quickly it changed to a type of yellow shelled lentil that is much smaller and flavorful than its American counterpart. The lentil is smaller and the art of turning this simple gem into a sublime porridge is worth learning.

As common in Santorini as pasta is in Italy, grains of fava have been found in archaeological sites in the ancient city of Akrotiri (on the southern side of Santorini) dating as far back as 3500 years ago. Every taverna on the island offers their own version of fava, and though the differences are subtle, they can be significant.

Proud of his fava.

Proud of his fava.

 

Most recipes start with the dried lentils, which are washed thoroughly. They are added to a pot of fresh water and then boiled until the water reduces and the lentils slowly absorb the liquid and soften into a porridge. Often chopped onion is added to the pot of water in the very beginning, so that it completely dissolves and flavors the fava. Some recipes call for a subtle mixture of local dried herbs, similar to oregano and thyme, to be wrapped in cheesecloth and added to the pot to infuse flavor.

Like making a great Italian tomato sauce, cooking fava is a labor love. It requires low heat and constant stirring to make it perfectly smooth. Often it is pureed in a blender at the end.

When the fava is ready to serve, the toppings can vary. Thin slices of red onion and a liberal drizzle of Greek olive oil are common. Sometimes it is topped with locally harvested and brined caper berries or caper berry leaves, or a few kalamata olives.

On our recent trip to Santorini, our most memorable fava dishes were a simple, rustic version with onion, capers, olive oil and a side of lemon at Dimitris in Amoudi, and a light-as-a-cloud creamy fava topped with caper berry leaves and olive oil at Roka in Oia.

The fava at Dimitri's, on the water in Ammoudi.

The fava at Dimitri’s, on the water in Ammoudi.

We bought our fava from several people, including this beautiful ageless woman, who remembered us from our previous visit.image

I have no doubt that she’ll still be here on this magical island on our next visit as well!

image

We have friends on their honeymoon in Santorini right now, visiting many of the places we’ve suggested, including the Hatzidakis winery. Here are photos from our adventure in 2013…

hatz al

They don’t have a fancy tasting room. They don’t do tours. They don’t have an amazing view of the water or the island. They don’t even hold regular visiting hours. They simply have the best wine on the island.

hatz tools

And that’s exactly why you need to go. Have your hotel call ahead and make an appointment.

Haridimos “George” Hatzidakis is all about his grapes. Ask anyone on Santorini what the best wine is, and you will get “Hatzidakis” as the answer every time.

hatz kelly

Sure, there are huge wineries with tasting rooms that overlook the water. That’s where the tour buses take the cattle that arrive in Fira on cruise ships. Why would you want to hang with them?

Hatzidakis wine is about the soil, the grapes, the climate. It’s also about the passion of the handful people who work hard to make it.

hatz grapes

You can’t find Hatzidakis in the United states (unless you look in my wine cellar, because we bring home as much as we can!!) Much of it is scooped up and exported to France…and much to our happy surprise, we’ve had a bottle of the Hatzidakis Assyrtyko in Paris at Le Baratin.

hatz cave

But for the most part, you’ll have to go to Santorini to experience the magic of this incredible wine. And that’s not a bad thing. Because the wine is much like the people of Santorini: beautiful and worth every bit of travel hassles to get there.

 

Cheers!

Paris has a special place in the hearts of my wife, myself, and even my 5-year-old daughter. It’s where my wife and I got engaged back in 2002. It’s where we celebrated my wife’s 40th birthday with family and friends in 2005. And it’s where my daughter has ridden on seven—count ‘em—seven—carousels…a record I’m sure she’ll want to break on her next trip.

One of the reasons why Paris is so special to us is a small, unpretentious wine bar called Juvenile’s, at 47 Rue de Richelieu. The owner is Tim Johnston, a sharp-tongued wise-cracking Scotsman who happens to know a helluva lot about wine and spirits, and is in fact a consulting editor to Saveur magazine. Tim takes no BS from his clients, and that adds to the entertainment value of every visit.

Hangin’ with Tim.

My wife met Tim back in 2001, just a few months before she had met me, when she and her Mom took a trip to France. The friendship with Tim was forged, and it has been going strong ever since. Tim, in typical fashion, tolerates me because he enjoys the company of my lovely wife…and I can’t say that I blame him!

The food at Juvenile’s is rustic…nothing fancy here. But it is all very good and satisfying. We’ve found what we consider the best foie gras in Paris here. The potatoes with raclette and bacon are fantastic. Sausage dishes, duck dishes…all the favorites, all wonderfully prepared in a very, very small kitchen in this wine bar that holds, perhaps, 30 people.

Paolo, Tim’s right-hand man, working the tiny kitchen at Juvenile’s.

Juvenile’s is one of Paris’ original wine bars, serving wine by the glass way before everyone else thought it was cool to do so. And even the locals will come in on a regular basis to ask Tim what the latest great wines are. The man has earned the respect of those who know.

We make Juvenile’s a mandatory stop with every visit to Paris we make, lingering sometimes for an entire day…eating, chatting, and sampling wine and even fine cognacs that Tim is willing to share with us. Often, we come back for a second and even third visit during the same trip. It’s a great place to unwind and get away from the hectic pace of the day, whether you’re a tourist or a local.

Yes, that says 1962!

The next time you’re in Paris, stop by Juvenile’s and tell Tim I sent you. He will promptly throw you out!

Tim and me. Great t-shirt!