What’s the first thing you think of when you hear Greek wine? Retsina? That’s what I would have thought until recently. On a sunny spring afternoon I joined my friend Patricia at Kafe Neo in Long Beach for lunch with Yliana Stengou, one of the owners of Domaine Porto Carras Winery. This was my first visit to Kafe Neo and it certainly won’t be my last. Yliana and winery cohort Stefanos Kavaliotis brought several wines and started us off with the 2012 Mellisanthi. Mellisanthi is a blend of two Greek varietals, Assyrtiko and Athiri, fermented in stainless after just a few hours of skin contact. This is a perfect summer wine and it paired wonderfully with Kafe Neo’s hand cut calamari and baked shrimp with feta. It sells for around $20.
Next we tasted the 2012 Assyrtiko. 100% Assyrtiko, it was also fermented in stainless. This is one of the world’s oldest recorded white varietals. It has bright acids and a nice creaminess and is also very food friendly and sells for about $20.
Malgouzia is an ancient Greek varietal and we tasted the 2012 vintage. The nose hints at sweetness, but it’s a bone-dry wine with lots of fruit on the palate. Its crispness also makes it very food-friendly. Price tag is about $23.
Our first red of the afternoon was the 2011 Limnio, Another ancient Greek varietal, some say it’s the oldest recorded wine grape varietal on earth. A dry red aged in French oak, it’s unique with notes of dark berries and spice. I loved it with Kafe Neo’s blackened salmon. It’s a steal at around $15.
We moved on to a Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend, the 2010 Magnus Baccata. Aged in new and neutral French oak for 12 months, this wine showed complexity that should develop nicely over the next few years. I loved it with the Athenian chicken stuffed with spinach and feta. SRP is $28.
Our last wine of the afternoon was the 2005 vintage Chateau Porto Carras. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Limnio and Merlot, it’s a serious wine with smoky overtones and sells for a little more than $30.
I left impressed with all the wines we tasted and a longing to visit the winery about six and a half hours northeast of Athens. Overlooking the sea, the photos I saw were spectacular. Should you wish to visit, you could stay at the Porto Carras Resort.
If you love Greek food, check out Kafe Neo in Long Beach at 2800 E. 4th Street. The food is exceptional as is the hospitality.