Showing posts with label Greek wine country. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Greek wine country. Show all posts

Monday, September 4, 2017

Off the Beaten Path ~ Peloponnese 'Krasi' Country

Krasi – ‘wine’ in Greek

Those who travel from Athens to Kalamata cross the famous Corinthian Canal on a route that slices through Nemea, one of the Peloponnese peninsula’s, wine producing regions. We like to think of it as, ‘Krasi Country’.

Nemea Wine Country - Greek Peloponnese
Yet, most  – unless they have a tour guide pointing them out – will likely miss both.  They are unremarkably shy when competing for attention with Greece’s ‘hyped-up’ tourist destinations like Santorini or Mykonos. 

Image result for map of nemean wine country peloponnese
"Our" wine country is in the upper right hand corner
It took several trips through the area, as we traveled between Athens and our home just south of Kalamata, for us to give the area more than a passing glance. As we zoomed along the divided freeway one or the other would comment, "Those look like grape vines don't they?" And I must confess that we still have yet to view the Corinthian Canal up close and personal.

But all it took was one visit to Nemea, the Krasi Country that carpets the northeast corner of the Peloponesse, to keep us coming back to it.

We are used to the ‘glitz’ of wine promotion in the U.S. where magnificent tasting rooms and wineries reign over vineyards and ‘tastings’ can cost $10 or more. It is not like that here. We’ve yet to visit a winery with a tasting room, let alone one that is open!

In fact it is difficult to buy a bottle of Nemean wine at a restaurant or taverna here! That’s because they usually produce their own and serve it in a pitcher at a far lower price than the bottle would cost. (Say three-euros vs. 15 euros -- both still a deal in our book!)

Main Street in Nemea town
The area has charmed us to the point of making an over-night stop there a ‘tradition’ when flying out of the Athens’ airport. That way we give ourselves a trip within a trip and it breaks up the near four-hour journey between our home and the airport quite nicely.

Had wine roads to ourselves in June
Our visit last fall was on a dreary, rainy day when the area was shrouded with clouds and mist (yes, it can happen even in Greece) so the area’s sheer beauty wasn’t really revealed until we returned in June.

Vineyards as far as the eye can see carpet Nemea region

The history of vine cultivation in the Peloponnese is fascinating. It dates back to antiquity and experienced one of its finest moments in the Middle Ages, when Monemvasia put the region on the map with its trade in Malvasia (or Malmsey) wine. Its modern wine history can be traced to 1861 with the establishment of Achaia Clauss by Bavarian trailblazer Gustav Clauss. He developed the sweet Mavrodaphne (also Mavrodafni), now known around the world.

PicMonkey Collage
Wineries dot the landscape in Nemea

Wine Tasting

While there aren’t the ‘tasting rooms’ that exist in wine producing regions of the U.S., we still managed to have some great experiences tasting some wine! (Maybe even better than lining up at a tasting bar in some fancy tasting room. . .)

Had this place to ourselves to in wine country
P1040163We created our own wine tasting on a warm June afternoon at a small kafenion we happened upon along our route.

While the young Greek woman running the place spoke about as much English as we did Greek, we managed to order ‘ena portiria krasi leftko; and ‘ena portiria krasi rose’ (glasses of white and rose wine).  Those phrases are among our 'survival' phrases we learned early on!

And as is still the delightful tradition in Greece, the wine came with a plate of food, at no extra charge.

Later that evening in the village in which we were staying, we’d decided to enjoy the warm evening a bit longer with a stop at the town’s kafenion for a nightcap.  As we were sipping our ‘miso kilo of rose’ (as the half-liter pitcher is called here), a Greek man pulled up in his pickup, nodded and spoke in greeting as he walked past and went inside.

Minutes later a second pitcher of wine was served to us, sent by Mr. Nikos, the man who had just walked past. Turns out he is the winemaker of the rose wine served at the kafenion and he was so pleased we were drinking it, that he sent us more.

Mr. Nikos, the winemaker, and our private tasting with him
So pleased in fact that he went to his truck and brought back a bottle of red wine for us to sample. (We were unable to consume it all, btw). And then he sat and in our broken English/Greek we discussed wine with him as dusk became dark.

Wine tasting at its best - Peloponnese, Greece
Eat your heart out, those of you who pay hundreds of dollars for a chance to eat or drink with the winemakers!  We had a most memorable tasting with the winemaker himself and for less than 5 euros!

Kefalari Village – Off the beaten path

One of the reasons we return to this wine region is to visit Kefalari, a tiny mountain village that sits at an elevation of 2,650, high above the region's vineyards. We’ve stayed at the town’s Guesthouse Arhontiko, and its sister property, the Armonia Boutique Hotel.

Our room in June - en suite bathroom and a deck
Both offer exquisitely furnished rooms and breakfast is included in the rate. The mid-September rate respectively is about $42US and $71 US a night. They are tucked away in the heart of the village, footsteps from each other.

PicMonkey Collage
Breakfast is a favorite at the guesthouse and hotel
We’ll be heading back to our ‘Krasi Country’ as soon as we get settled into the new lifestyle in Greece. And our travel tip is: If your travels take you to Greece, you’ll want to visit all those well-known oft-written about tourist destinations, but remember there are travel treasures out there to be found just a bit off the beaten path. 

Kalo Mina, (Happy New Month) and Happy September to you and yours.  We have arrived at our ‘countdown to Greece’. Suitcases are packed and being repacked. The ‘for sale’ sign goes up this week on our U.S. home.  A new adventure is about to begin. . .

As always, thanks for the time you spend with us. . .safe travels to you and yours~ hope to see you back here next week!

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

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. 

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.

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.

Map picture
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.

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).

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).

PicMonkey Collage
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.

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

PicMonkey Collage

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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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:  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


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