Thursday, March 8, 2018

Tasting the wines of Dougos Winery (Larissa, Greece) with Yiannis Karakasis MW and Thanos Dougos at Ammos (NYC)

I have visited, and written about, a fair number of North Greece wineries so when Yiannis Karakasis MW invited me to join him at a Dougos Winery wine-tasting dinner in New York City, I jumped at the opportunity to support him, as well as to add to my knowledge base of the region and its wines.

The dinner was held on Monday night of this week at Ammos, a Greek restaurant located at 52 Vanderbilt Avenue in New York City. The restaurant has a cozy bar oppsite the entrance, a main dining area to the left of the bar, and a small banquet/meeting room one level up. The banquet room has a U-shaped seating configuration and a large-screen TV to support video presentations if required. The dinner was held in this room.

I arrived a little early so I sat at the bar and renewed my acquaintance with the Wine Art Estate Malagouisa. Yiannis arrived a little while later and we had a joyous reunion. At this time he introduced me to Thanos, the owner of Dougos Winery.

After a while we were summoned upstairs for the dinner and tasting. Before I describe the event, some background on the region and the winery.

The Region
The wines featured in the tasting are primarily associated with the Rapsani PDO appellation. Rapsani is a protected designation of origin (PDO) in the Greek appellation schema. Its physical and legal characteristics are elaborated in the chart below.

The vineyards proper are located on the southern slopes of Mount Olympus and its "mainland mediterranean" climate is modified by the surrounding mountains and forests as well as by the Thermaic Gulf of the Aegean Sea. One of the heralded aspects of the environment is the 10 - 15 ℃ temperature variation between day and night, a condition which, it is held, "enhances phenolic ripeness and aromatic concentration of the grapes."

The Estate
Dougos Winery was founded in 1991 and is currently managed by Thanos (agriculturalist) and Louiza (chemist and oenologist) Dougos. It is located in the Tempi Valley at the foot of Mt Olympus while its 30 ha of vineyards are situated in Prosilia and Tourtoura (on the mountain's northeast slope) at elevations ranging between 550 and 700m. The vineyard soils are a iron-rich sand-clay mix over a schist subsoil.

The vineyards are farmed organically and sports yields of between 5 and 8 tons/ha from a mix of Greek (Xinomavro, Krasato, Stavroto, Limniona, Roditis, Assyrtiko) and international (Syrah, Grenache rouge, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc) varieties.

The Tasting
We were called to order and Yiannis and Thanos introduced to the group (They began smiling shortly after the picture below was snapped).

Yiannis Karakasis MW and Thanos Dougos

After a short video on the winery, and prior to the first dishes being brought out, Yiannis conducted a Masterclass on some old Dougos vintages.

The first wine tasted was the Rapsani PDO 2014. This wine is a blend of Xinomavro (40%), Krasato (40%), and Stavroto (20%). The grapes are fermented in stainless steel tanks and then transferred to barrels for malolactic fermentation and aging. The wine is aged for 12 months in French and American oak and an additional 12 months in bottle.

The wine showed tomato, red fruit, spices, meat, and leather. Red fruit on the palate. Late-arriving tannins. According to Yiannis, the wine can be drunk early but is best after 3 years. He mentioned that this had been a challenging vintage with unripe tannins. He referred to it as "a classic vintage."

Next up was the 2010 Rapsani PDO Old Vines, a mix of 65% Xinomavro, 25% Krasato, and 10% Stavroto. The vines here are 65 years old. Fermentation same as for the Rapsani PDO but aging is 16 months in 25% new French oak. Bottle aging for 1 year. Yiannins identified this as a ripe vintage. Black fruit, leather, and baking spices on the nose. Lean and complete on the palate. Ripe tannins. Understated power.

The 2011 Rapsani PDO Old Vines showed tomato paste, tomato leaf, leather, and earth on the nose. Fully developed. Licorice, dark fruit, tomato, and iron on the palate.

The 2012 Old Vines exhibited complexity on the nose: brown shoe polish, spice, licorice, and baking spices. Granny's attic on nose and palate. Lengthy finish.

The wine of the night was the 2008 Meth'Imon Opsimo. This is a blend of equal parts Limniona, Syrah, and Grenache rouge. This wine was advertised as being made in an Amarone style. But it was much more balanced with no overt sweetness or alcohol. Complex. Salinity and savoriness on both the nose and palate. Lengthy finish. A pleasure to drink.

At the conclusion of the Masterclass the dinner service began. The meal reminded me of my trip through North Greece where I was always told that we would be having a light lunch, or  pre-lunch, and I would come away feeling as though I had eaten a dinosaur. The food was excellent but it was too much. We had what I considered as three appetizers and two main courses plus dessert. I quit halfway through the first of the main courses. By the way, I normally eat at Milos whenever I am in NYC; going forward Ammos is going to get a lot of my time. High-quality food and service.

Crispy zucchini fritters, graviera and feta cheese,
mint evoo, tzatziki

Crispy calamari with lemon caper aioli

Maryland lump crab cake with lemon caper aioli

Slowly cooked lamb shank in a homemade tomato
sauce over Greek orzo casserole

Grilled rack of lamb over traditional Greek

Wonderful tasting. Yiannis and Thanos deserve combat pay for managing through a couple of attendees who wanted to evaluate each wine (loudly) on its by-the-glass potential.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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