Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Greece: A taste of wine country

About half way between the Athens airport and our Stone House on the Hill, the freeway slices through the northwest corner of the Peloponnese and its wine country. It’s an area so large that its  Greece’s largest geographical wine appellation. As we have zipped through it on a four-lane divided highway at 120 kilometers an hour we’ve caught glimpses of some of the vineyards that have made this area famous but really had no idea of the beauty to be found just a few kilometers beyond this speedway. 

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Nemea wine country
Wine country really needs more than a passing glance from a speeding car, we've said time and time again. Just like the wine produced here, it should be savored, siga, siga, as the Greeks would say. Slowly, slowly.

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Following Greek wine roads
We decided a couple weeks ago to do just that and spend a night in wine country en route to the Athens airport. We wanted at least a taste of the area that produces some of our favorite wines from Moschofilero (mos-koe-FEE-le-row) white wine grapes and Agiogitik (ah-your-YEE-ti-ko) red wine grapes. Agiogitiko means St. George’s grape and is named for the small St. George’s Church located somewhere within the appellation.

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Wine country is an easy two hours from Athens
We weren’t headed to any specific winery, although there are more than 40 within the Nemea appellation. We were off to a village named Kefalari, (not to be confused with another village to the south in this same region of the same name, I might add). The population of our destination, Kefalari, was 380 residents back in 1991 and probably a few less than that now. We had a reservation at the Arhontiko Kefalari Guesthouse.

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Arhontiki Guesthouse Kafelonia
While we’ve had a glorious sunny autumn in the Peloponnese we timed our outing for a cloudy misty weekend. The colors weren’t as vibrant as they would have been under a bright blue sky but the weather muted and softened the landscape and darkened the village adding a bit of a mysterious feel to this short sojourn of ours.

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Vineyards near Nemea town
The appellation has three sub-zones and traveling from the flat lands surrounding the town of Nemea where we'd left the freeway, we took the local road that wound its way through tiny villages named Dafni, Kastraki and Asprokampos as we climbed in elevation toward our destination. The growing zones stretch from an elevation of 800 feet above sea level to 2,600 feet (250 – 800 meters).

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Winding roads loop through Nemea wine region
Past wineries and vineyards we went. At one village we passed a group of hunters congregated in the church parking lot. Dressed in camouflage gear and armed with rifles they were either preparing to set forth or had just gathered after their hunt.  Aside from that group we saw few humans on that early Sunday afternoon.

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Directional signs are easily understood - both in English and Greek
Wine grape growing in the Nemea region dates back to at least the 5th Century B.C.
Greek mythology tell of the half god Heracles who was sent to Nemea to slay the Nemean lion.  The ancient Greek wine made here, Fliasion, was known as ‘the blood of Heracles’ after that tale. It is a nick-name still used for Nemean red wines.

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Roadways through the wine country
The village of Kefalari, sits  at an elevation of 770 meters, at the foot of a mountain named Ziria. The mountain is said to be the birthplace of Hermes. Its location is near the Killini Mountain range and Lake Stymphalia; both areas offer outdoor recreational activities. Winter mountain snow activities like snow-shoeing are also popular in the village's alpine-feeling surroundings.

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The ever-present herd of sheep

Entertainment here was provided by a herd of sheep crossing the road as we entered the village and an enormous mountain dog watching them.

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Mountain dog in Kefalari
The village appeared deserted when we arrived. . .as did our guesthouse, which is located just off the main square under the village’s 150-year-old plane tree.

The guesthouse’s front door was locked  but we roused a maid who was cleaning one of its eight rooms.  She summoned the owners daughter, Elena, who spoke English and greeted us warmly.  Our room, for 60-euros a night this season, had a small balcony overlooking the square and an in room fireplace, the wood had been set for us. (It also had modern heating and air conditioning units, an en suite, and wi-fi).

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Our room
Built back in the 1880’s as a private home for a man who made his fortune selling agricultural products, it was, according to Elena, burned twice by the Germans during the war and then fell into disrepair.  Her family purchased it and after a two-year renovation opened it as a guesthouse in 2007.

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Flowers were still blooming in early November
We explored the village and had cappuccinos at the nearby Kafenion. It was one of two businesses open, the other was a taverna/cafe a block from the square. Later we returned to the kafenion for a glass of wine. After sunset it seemed to become the gathering place for the village’s men who were watching a soccer game on its small television. They paid little mind to having me, the sole female, among them.

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Village at night
We’d found the village to be charming in the misty afternoon and it turned downright enchanting at night!

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The next morning we stuffed ourselves at the buffet breakfast that included a hot omelet and homemade jams and preserves. The buffet was served in the main lobby/sitting room (included in the room rate). Then it was off to Athens but we will be returning to wine country again and maybe next time we’ll even visit a winery!

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Kefalari 
Note: Wine tourism in Nemea isn’t what one finds in California, Oregon, and Washington in the United States.  Here the area still has a very country, agricultural feel to it. Many wineries are open by appointment only. But the countryside is beautiful and worth including if you are planning a trip to the Peloponnese.  Consider staying in a small village as we did or Corinth, a larger city only 20 miles/35 kilometers to the northeast; Nafplio is about an hour’s drive to the south.

The owners of the guesthouse we stayed at also have the Armonia Boutique Hotel, a couple blocks from the guesthouse. Information can be found at: www.xenonasarmonia.gr  Room rates there were 106-euros a night.

That’s it from The Stone House on the Hill this week.  We’ve been in a rush to finish some major projects before it is time to pack up and do the ‘Schengen Shuffle’ again – our 90 days tourist visa limit is soon approaching. Again our thanks for the time you spend with us and thanks much for sharing our posts with others! Look forward to being back next week so until then, safe travels to you and yours!

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

28 comments:

  1. It looks like an amazing time...your photos are gorgeous! Thank you so much for sharing, and warm greetings from Montreal, Canada. :)

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  2. Hello Linda in Montreal! So glad you enjoyed the photos. Please come back often and leave a comment when you do! Hope to see you among our followers as well!

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  3. Looks like you went off the beaten path a bit and discovered a gem complete with grazing sheep! Loved your photos of the mountains and valleys, wineries and vineyards but my favorite was the photo of the vines and flowers growing around the staircase of the guesthouse. A heavy dose of picturesque! And now it's almost time for the Schengen-shuffle once again. I'll bet working your way through the hoops of obtaining a resident visa gets a little more tempting each time you have to leave the stone house on the hill! Happy Thanksgiving!

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    1. We are meeting with our Greek attorney and accountant before leaving to discuss that resident visa and yes, it does get more tempting with each passing day. Thanks for stopping by - and hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

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  4. It's incredible Jackie,isn't it how many times we drive past a
    place, and never visit?
    I was the same, drove past Nemea etc, many times, but never stopped to investigate, even though it's on our doorstep, until, through work, I had to go there, since then, been back many times, beautiful!
    Wonderful pictures you have here, the guest house looks extremely inviting, Hope you took it easy with the delicious wine!
    Susan. x

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    1. We couldn't find any of that delicious wine. The restaurant we ate at didn't carry any of the wines produced locally so we were served their rather sherry-tasting homemade stuff. They said it is too expensive and they fear guests won't pay the price so they don't stock it (we heard the same from restaurants in Joel's hometown of Chelan, Washington where it has been difficult to find locally produced wines because of that same price/sale reasoning). Thanks for commenting Susan. Hope we meet up sometime -- maybe in Nemea!

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  5. I loved the Arhontiki Guesthouse and the price seems very reasonable. I'd feel safe with that Mountain dog looking after me! The countryside looks wonderful. Thanks for the look at wine country. By the way the greek words for red and white wine seem quite difficult to pronounce!

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    1. Rest easier Jan, those are the words for the wine grapes of those two colors. White is 'lefko' and red 'kokane' - quite simple once I remembered them! The first (and only so far) full sentence I can say in Greek is: Two glasses of white wine, please. ;-)

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  6. What a delightful writer you are....I always enjoy every single word and your photos make me green with envy..both for you being in such a beautiful country and also, your great camera and your knowledge on using it...that last photo should be enlarged, framed and hanging in the Stone House on the Hill.
    Will you be back in the states for Christmas..?

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    1. Oh BJ what a nice compliment! Thank you. Glad you enjoy both the writing and photos. Yes, we will be back in the states for Christmas. . .will have to adjust to that idea soon as we've not been around the last couple of years so there's been no decorating or whoopla. . .may well be none this year as well!

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  7. You're just going to have to become a resident because 90 days isn't enough to explore all these little villages and wineries.

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    1. We are working on it! Hopefully will get it accomplished next year!

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  8. Wow! What treasures can be found once the motorways or freeways are left behind. I am intrigued about the flavors of the wine in the area. I tried Hungarian wines when I visited Budapest and they were like nothing else I have tried before. I wonder if it is the same thing with Greek wines. #TPThursday

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    1. Wines from Nemea are great and hard to find back in the Seattle area. What amazes me is that you can buy a really good bottle for 6 or 7 euros, which we've come to think of as 'somewhat expensive' because you can also buy a good wine in a liter-sized plastic bottle for 3 or 4 euros. My favorite Sauvignon Blanc is made in Lebanon and impossible to get in the US. I had it at a restaurant in Washington DC and to this day have it at #1 on the best list! Thanks for the visit Ruth.

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  9. I was there last weeks for a few days. I love that you love my country!

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    1. Maria, it was such an amazing area of the Peloponnese that we will definitely return next spring! Thank you for reading this post and taking the time to comment on it. Hope you will be or are a regular here and will comment often!

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  10. I had been wondering how the Greek wineries compared to the California and PNW ones, so I'm glad you clarified the differences. My husband doesn't drink, and I can't hold my liquor, so we've never been much for visiting wineries. The scenery in Nemea looks worth a visit in and of itself, though.

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    1. Wine country here can be enjoyed without ever tasting a drop of wine. The countryside and the villages are post-card perfect. Thanks for dropping by~

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  11. Love your encounter with the herd of sheep and the hunters. Makes for a more memorable journey. The guesthouse looked lovely (and reasonable!) and the town would be perfect for a stopover on the way to Athens.

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    1. We are hoping to make it a once-a-year stop whether on the way to Athens or just out doing road trips. Thanks for stopping by Janice.

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  12. Don't really think of Greece when we think of wine, but maybe that should change, Love the Arhontiki Guesthouse and the mountain dog.

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    1. They have been making fabulous wine here (Crete and Santorini as well) for centuries, the problem is finding any of the boutique ones in the US. Most we can get it the big winery Boutari and there is nothing wrong with it, but there are so many fabulous ones it is a shame more people won't be able to try them. Thanks for the visit!

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  13. Everything looks rustic and so down to earth, looks like a fun road trip exploring the region and staying at a lovely inn.

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    1. OMG Noel, with your eye and camera, you would be in photographers paradise! You would love it here!!

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  14. After we visited a winery where they were making Boutari, I drank nothing but that when we returned from Greece. It's so much fun tasting local specialties and vintages. Thx for his post.

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  15. How nice to have such an interesting venture so close to "home." I loved the photo of the sheep on the road!!

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  16. There must be so many gorgeous little places like this in your area. That's the beauty of living there. The Schengen visa has been a pain for us too on our extensive travels. It's quite frustrating that you can't stay in Europe for 6 months any longer. Good luck with your residents visa

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  17. I don't typically think of 'wine country' in Greece, maybe only because I'm not a huge fan of retsina. But this looks like a great road trip.

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So happy to see you took the time to comment. We read them all - and each is much appreciated. We hope you will be a regular here and comment often!

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