By Jim Campanini
Unless you are a Trojan warrior, there's nothing to beware about Greeks bearing gifts -- especially if it is wine.
Greek winemakers have come into their own over the past decade, producing quality products from native grape varietals and gaining the respect they deserve. The September issue of Wine Spectator has a flattering article on the ancient land and features some outstanding wines making their way to the U.S. market.
One of the best comes from Costa Lazaridi and his vineyard located in Drama, Greece. One of the top "actors" on Lazaridi's play bill is the Amethystos Red Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Agiorgitiko (called St. George). Years of refinement, dating back to 1996, have produced a lush, texturally exquisite dry red wine.
Recently, the Wine Goddess and I enjoyed a bottle over a homemade Mediterranean dinner of caprese salad, roasted chicken, wild rice and grilled summer squash.
The Amethystos is a velvety wine, full and expressive on the palate with dark berry and herbal flavors. The finish is mildly spicy and enduring, a sign of the winemaker's triumph. (This bottling won a gold medal at Germany's prestigious 2009 Mundus Vini winetasting event.)
Amethystos red is best paired with roasted meats, like lamb, and yet it was surprisingly delicious with the roasted chicken. Once again, the Wine Goddess was correct in keeping me out of the kitchen.
Locally, you can discover this wonderful Greek "gift" at the Athenian Corner in downtown Lowell where restaurateur Teddy Panos features it as his premium selection ($34). For the price, it is truly a bargain for a night out on the town compared to Cabernet blends selling at much higher prices. The CellarTracker.com community, of which I am a paying member, rates Amesthysos a solid 89 points.
It's rare that high-cost wines go on sale at a deep discount, but when they do you should act with urgency.
Three weeks ago, the Wine Bunker in Reading put out a Friday night email blast announcing a 30 percent discount on its remaining stock of Brunellos, Barolos, Amarones and other high-end Italian wines. I couldn't sleep. I arrived soon after the opening to learn the Wine Bunker was moving to a new location and was cleaning out the shelves. I was overjoyed to find several gems, including a bottle of 2000 Fanti (Tenuta San Fillipo) Brunello di Montalcino, plus a bottle of the 2004 vintage. My eyes welled up when I saw the 2005 Sesta di Sopra Brunello, a 93-point rated wine that I can drink now or wait until 2025, when I turn 72. I snapped up two bottles.
I wound up purchasing 12 bottles. The others were the 2004 Cascina Ballarrin Bricco Rocco Barolo; 2006 Colle Cristi Classic Amarone; 2004 La Poderina Brunello; 2006 Poggio Antico Brunello; and the 2004 Banfi Poggio Alle Mura Brunello.
These are all age-worthy and several will hit their peak maturity between 2018-2035.
While I knew this dozen would set me back a bit on my budget, I also realized it would cost me close to $770 to purchase them individually over time at the regular store price. With the closeout discount, however, I saved $210. In addition, I received another 10 percent off for purchasing a case, bringing my total savings to $266. My final tally was $504 -- or an average cost of $42 a bottle.
The Wine Goddess was mildly upset by my Brunello binge, but that night we enjoyed the 2000 Fanti Brunello with a pasta Bolognese and she warmed up to the roasted aromas, concentrated layers of sour cherry and espresso and the beguiling finish.
"OK. I'll pay for half," she said to my delight, as I poured her a second glass.
"Molto bene," I replied, content that my treasures were hers -- and vice versa -- for all time.