While Assyrtiko from Santorini is currently the darling of the New York wine scene, Xinomavro is quietly taking over the hearts of California’s wine connoisseurs.
Promotional activities for Xinomavro wines in the US are rather limited. This might be related to the fact that Greece has not one, but two appellation zones where only 100% Xinomavro wines are allowed under the appellation laws: Amyndeon in eastern Florina (rosé and red), and Naoussa in Imathia (red). While both regions produce their own, distinctive styles of Xinomavro, there has not yet been an effort to promote both regions together. However, a number of the Naoussa wineries have come together as a team in order to showcase the wines from their region abroad.
Last week, I joined a few winemakers/representatives for a trip to Los Angeles, CA. Family members from Estate Chrisohoou, Diamantakos, and Domaine Foundi, as well as the vice president and the export manager of VAENI were there in person.
We presented up to fifteen 100% Xinomavro wines, all from the appellation of Naoussa, covering ten different estates and a total of six vintages. This was the first time that such a depth of Naoussa offerings were shown in Los Angeles. It would even be highly unusual to be able to taste so many different Naoussa wines in Athens. There was one event taking place on three consecutive days:
A number of wine professionals were invited for an informal tasting event at the hip Superba Snack Bar in Venice on Tuesday. The event was very well visited, and we were all busy for nearly four hours. The attendees were all extremely engaging and I am very grateful for their time and support. We actually had to close down the affair in the afternoon; else things might have well lasted for some more hours.
On Wednesday night a consumer dinner took place at a private dining room at the Wine House in West LA, one of the largest wine retailers in the area. We had the immense pleasure of interacting one on one with the diners during a breathtaking four course tasting dinner, prepared by Executive Chef Todd Barrie. This was the perfect occasion to show just how well Xinomavro pairs with food. The pairing of a Chrisohoou Naoussa 2009 with crispy sweetbreads was a personal highlight for me.
Everyone showed a remarkable interest in the wines and the people behind the labels. It was here that our group connected with a serious wine collector who met us again later in the week in order to share some of the finest Californian wines with us. Thank you so much, Perry!
Finally on Thursday afternoon, a consumer event took place at the fabulous Woodland Hills Wine Co, another very important wine retailer. This was the busiest event, with a large and very enthusiastic crowd of wine lovers eager to learn more about Xinomavro. It is always a thrill for me to engage with people who are open minded towards wines they are not yet familiar with, and time simply flew by.
As for the wines, one thing stood out: Every single wine that was presented started off with a fairly high quality level. There are of course many contrasts in style that result from the terroir and also the winemaking techniques. The differences in the Naoussa terroir are comparable to those in Burgundy, where a hundred feet divergence even within the same vineyard site can have a profound impact on the resulting wine. All the Naoussa wineries that were included in this line-up are located roughly within a radius of 5 miles. Yet the resulting wines could not be more different, ranging from finesse and elegance to muscle and full body. Any preference comes down to one’s personal palate. At the same time, all wines exhibit the truly unique ‘umami’ hallmark of Xinomavro.
Disclosure: The initiative was co-financed by the EU and Greece and I teamed up with Novacert on this occasion, planning, organizing and executing the three events. Many thanks go out to my partner WineWise, who went out of their way to help me putting this together. Amanda, I could not have done this without you!