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Moscho no-show

Monemvasia 2009 Peloponnese Moschofilero (Greece) – Light and insubstantial, offering a wan gesture in the direction of flowers and white sand. Is this a contextual effect from drinking it amidst a bevy of blowsy California wines? Perhaps in part, but there’s still just not much to it. (11/11)

Petered out

santa barbara mission baptismal fontPetros – Silence. Dark, anything-but-decrepit silence. Such a change from the Lazy Ox

I’d assumed that lunch in the midst of heavy-duty wine tasting would be some sort of California cuisine accompanied by a glass or two of local wine. I didn’t expect ambitious Greek food in an elegant setting. And I certainly didn’t expect to be dining in what I now find, poking about the internet, is a Fess Parker establishment. Will I ever live it down?

But what’s more baffling is the utter lack of patronage. I mean, sure, it’s neither cheap, quick, nor casual, and I suspect all three are what many wine country tourists are after. But there is only one other table occupied during my lunch, and its occupants…well, let’s just say that as they sit in utter silence, gnawing the decaying threads of a meal, it’s possible that after ninety-plus years (each) they’ve run out of things to say.

I hope, at least, that they enjoyed lunch. Because the food here is really very good. Greek cuisine has not, as a rule, scaled well in the…pardon me…pantheon of borrowed European cuisines. It does not take to fancifying or airs, and while I don’t know if that’s the fault of the practitioners or the cuisine itself, I rather suspect the bulk of the blame lies with the source material. As with certain regional Italian cuisines (though not all of them), Greek dishes really seem to prefer to be left to their own relatively simple devices. At which point the entirety of one’s success with the cuisine comes down to shopping and basic cooking techniques. Both are done well here.

I’ve no complaints about the service either, though I suppose it’s not hard to manage a nearly-empty dining room. As for the wine list, it’s neatly balanced between the local and the non-formulaic Grecian. Someone has put some work into this list, some curation to help ease these unfamiliar wines onto diners’ tables. Of course, I can’t quite resist either temptation…

Brander 2009 Sauvignon Blanc “au Naturel” (Santa Ynez Valley) – Green, biting sauvignon blanc with some razors thrown in for structural intensity. Yet surprisingly expansive, for all that cutting and slashing. Good? Hmmm… (11/11)

Monemvasia 2009 Peloponnese Moschofilero (Greece) – Light and insubstantial, offering a wan gesture in the direction of flowers and white sand. Is this a contextual effect from drinking it amidst a bevy of blowsy California wines? Perhaps in part, but there’s still just not much to it. (11/11)

It’s Greek to me

Creta Olympias 2007 Vin de Crete “ΚΡΗΤΙΚΟΣ” (Crete) – Wedge bucket of ice in sand. Shove bottle into bucket Wait a few minutes. Uncork, pour. Let the condensation bead and run down the glass, bringing a momentary pinprick of coolness to your thigh. Drink, staring out at sea and sky. Stick a small umbrella in it, if you want. It’s that sort of wine. (7/10)

Emery High

[bottle & label]Emery Muscat “Efreni” (Rhodes) – Pure muscat, with all the perfumed sweetness that entails, but with a sort of mirrorball minerality shining from within, which lightens what would otherwise be a fairly thick wine. Extremely tasty. (5/08)

Archanes knowledge

Lidakis 2000 Archanes (Crete) – 75% kotsifali, 25% mandilaria. A little bit sweet, with the basic aromatic and structural profile of a good, but mass-market, California merlot. The fruit’s a little more advanced than that, which shows as a warming, brown-toned background hum, but while this is fair enough, I’m not sure it says anything useful. (1/08)

Arkadia Darell

Boutari “Cambas” 2004 Arkadia (Greece) – A blend of moschofilero and roditis. Crisp, green, fruity and fun, with sea breeze-ruffled leaves and a simple honeydew underbelly. Hints of a floral nature are present on the finish, though they’re not apparent in the initial aroma. A good, clean wine. (1/08)

TN: The great Santorini

[bottle]Sigalas 2004 Santorini (Greece) – Sea-swept kelp and post-fizz melon balls, with an insistent but slightly insubstantial citrus foam. There’s a lot of good here, but it’s all a bit haphazard. Still, points for effort. Greece is new to winemaking, you know. (6/07)

TN: Epanomi, by any other name

[vineyard]Gerovassiliou 2004 Malagousia (Epanomi) – Fruit-forward (green melon, grapefruit, some ripe lemon) with floral squeezings and a dominant post-malolactic note. Simultaneously heavy and obvious, it would be a much better wine with a little supporting acidity. (5/07)

TN: Hima stat

Flerianos “Hima” 2003 Agiorgitiko (Peloponnesos) – Diluted, overroasted juice with some wan black fruit and very slight oxidation. With about 48 hours of air, the corners fill out a bit, bringing more black fruit into play…but the overroasting remains dominant. It almost tastes like oak, though the wine is unoaked. Avoid. (1/07)

Flerianos “Hima” 2005 Savatiano/Roditis (Central Greece) – Mild fun. A fresh fruit basket, heavy with green apples and green plums (but not forgetting riper tropical fruit), but lacking more than a modicum of acid. Thus, it just sort of sits there, waiting for something. It’s certainly not unappealing, but it won’t hold said appeal once it has it. At least, not for long. As I said: mild fun. (1/07)

The rediscovered country (New Zealand, pt. 1)

How do you go back to the place where everything changed…the place where the lens of your world reshaped itself and an unspoiled wilderness of perspectives was revealed in dramatic new light? And if you can point to the place, the day, the hour when all was renewed and reborn, can you ever really return?

The answer to the first question seems as easy as it is pragmatic: by plane, by boat, by car, and by foot.

Then again, perhaps that’s a foolishly glib response. Life – so the philosophers and the poets tell us – is about the journey rather than the destination, and any journey is a process through which one moves. Is the answer, then, in the process? Eleven tiring months of detailed and sometimes overwhelming planning are certainly one sort of process, but the notion that sparks and fuels the journey ignites long before that. In a very real sense, a new journey begins the moment an old one ends. Yet notions are no more than dreams, and it is we who fashion the ephemeral into our reality. So perhaps the key is what we do to enable the journey…and perhaps changes can only come from within. The place, the day, and the hour become mere spectators to our acts of will.

And yet…and yet…one place, at one time, in one life, can become the unquestionable arena for change, and that place, day, and hour branded on the conscious mind like a moment of rebirth. If it be mere will, why there? Why then? How to reconcile that truth? Maybe the answer is more complicated than any of these musings. Maybe it is the person and the place, in a blessed symbiosis elusive to the philosopher and the poet but understood in the blood of the voyager. If so, there’s only one path to this particular truth: bringing the person and the place together once more.

So it is that, two years, two months, and two days after returning to the familiar pathways of home with new lenses, perspectives, shapes and lights, we’re going back to where everything changed. Back through the lens, to a place and a time and a feeling that it might well be folly to try and recapture. Back to New Zealand.

Oh…and as for the answer to the second question? That is a matter for more deliberation and consideration. For while the answer is both known and undoubtedly contains a metaphor of revelatory metaphysical significance, I’m not sure I’m yet up to the decryptive task. In any case, here it is: no, you can’t, because it’s raining so hard that the road is closed to traffic.

Ah, but that’s a much longer story