The Great Greek Wine Experience
09.09.2018 - 07.09.2018
We wanted to visit the peninsula on the western portion of Kefalonia and knew that would make a long day, so we agreed to get up early-ish and have a quick breakfast and hit the road.
I made pressed cheese sandwiches that we wolfed down so that we could be on the road by 8:30 a.m.
Our original plan was to rent a boat and visit the hard to reach beaches, but halfway there, the boat guy called. He spoke almost no English. We spoke no Greek. We couldn’t understand one another AT ALL. After a very frustrating and awkward conversation he finally said, “No boat. Sea no good. No calm.”
Ah….we were not renting a boat.
On to Plan B: we decided to pick one beach we could reach by car and head there instead.
It took an hour to reach Petani Beach, and we savored every beautiful moment of it. Sweeping vistas, goat filled hillsides, and amazing sea views met us at every turn.
When Petani Beach came into view, we were mesmerized.
Petani Beach was an expansive horseshoe shaped cove with limestone cliffs surrounding it. There were a few small beach bars and some loungers set up on one end. A steep road led down to the magnificent beach.
After we walked around for a bit, admiring the beauty of the beach and had ourselves settled on a couple of sunbeds, it was about 10:30 a.m. Matt went in search of liquid sustenance.
In the Bahamas or the Caribbean, this is a perfectly acceptable time to start day drinking. One starts early with a little mimosa, champagne, maybe a bloody Mary…transitioning as appropriate as the day progresses.
Apparently, ordering an alcoholic beverage at this early hour is as uncouth in Greece as throwing toilet paper in the actual toilet or refusing the obligatory plate of watermelon at the end of a meal.
Matt returned with two cocktails, but a sheepish and puzzled expression on his face.
“When I went up to the bar and ordered two drinks, the bartender looked at me funny, shrugged, and said, ‘Whatever you want.’ I thought that was weird until I looked around and EVERYONE else was sipping a coffee. We are now the boorish drunkard Americans.”
We enjoyed being the tacky Americans on the beach for a couple of hours before we finally became hungry enough to pry ourselves off our loungers and go in search of food.
We had to stop at look at the view from above one more time. It was stupid beautiful. Ridiculous.
In anticipation of a boat day, I had packed a picnic. We decided we’d drive and see if we could find a quiet, shady spot to eat. We saw some beautiful vistas on that drive.
But we never saw a quiet shady place to eat. Every beautiful spot we found was in the blaring sun and it was HOT.
We decided to save the picnic and stop at the famed “fisherman’s hut” on Agia Kyriaki. I remembered reading about a simple shack where there was no menu, homemade wine, and you simply got what they had: fried fish, bread, salad, and potatoes.
You didn't even order. You simply sat down and, eventually, someone brought you food.
I was certain the wine was not FDA approved.
Frankly, I’m still not sure what it was.
The food was simple, fresh, and delicious.
That evening, I had booked something that had the potential to be cheesy and horrific or one of the most amazing experiences of our life. I was giddy with anticipation.
I had booked “The Greek Wine Experience,” a private wine tour. All I knew was that it would last several hours and would include several locations and tastings. The rest was a mystery.
It would turn out to be the single most amazing and memorable experience of our entire Greek vacation.
Dimitris Lolos picked us in in a shining black SUV promptly at 6:00 p.m. He drove us to the Robolo wine making region of the island. Kefalonia is the only place in the world where the Robolo grape variety is produced. On the way there, the conversation was easy and comfortable, as he educated us on Kefalonian wine making. His passion for it shone through.
After a drive that was a feast for the eyes, we found ourselves nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains where the Robola Wine Cooperative has a beautiful wine making facility. It sits at 1345 feet above sea level, below the verdant slopes of Mount Ainos and beside the beautiful monastery of St. Gerassimo, patron saint of Kefalonia.
He toured us through the facility, explaining each part of the process. It wasn’t stiff or uncomfortable, the way I had imagined. It was like being with an old friend.
After the tour, we entered the tasting room and sampled 4 wines – each one a heavier pour than the last.
At this point, Dimitri told us he was taking us to his private vineyard for a sunset wine tasting.
When we stepped out of the SUV, we found ourselves in the middle of a large vineyard high atop a mountain, looking down at the sea. The entire world was bathed in golden light from the setting sun. A small stone farmhouse with a large veranda was nestled intimately in the vines, and the only sound other than our feet in the rich soil was the tinkling of the bells on the goats’ collars far off in the neighboring fields.
It was so beautiful I wanted to weep.
Dimitri seated us on the patio, with an old wine barrel for a table. We faced the sunset as he brought out 4 different food/wine pairings over the next couple of hours. Each wine was thoughtfully selected to accompany a platter of fruits, meats, cheeses, nuts, breads, fresh tomatoes, and olive oil. He would set the food and the bottle of wine before us and retreat to the interior, leaving us in privacy.
He didn’t pour a tasting. Each time, he poured a glass. And then refilled the glass. Again and again. We went through bottles. Many, many bottles.
As the sun died in the horizon, leaving nothing but a thin line of orange stretched across the mountains and the sea, he brought out a 5th bottle, a bonus wine, which the 3 of us proceeded to drink together in the beautiful darkness.
At the risk of sounding cliché, it was magical. Truly magical. Every note was simply perfection.
Matt and I agreed later that it was one of our favorite travel experiences of all time.
Dimitri has created something unique and special on his little mountain and we felt blessed to have been lucky enough to experience it.
Greek Wine Experience, indeed.
We had so much wine, I don’t even remember the drive back. The only thing I remember is that I nearly peed my pants. I had consumed an inordinate amount of wine over a 4 hour period without a single bathroom break.
Old ladies drinking wine need bathroom breaks.
Other than that, the night was perfection.