Paris Sigalas makes significant gestures with his eyes, as well as with his fingers.
It is a tidily kept, pleasant tasting room, one that feels homey and lived in, although the winery has only existed since 1991.
Sigalas is one of the few people on the island experimenting with vertically trained vines. Most everyone else has all of their vines wrapped in the traditional basket fashion. The island is so windy that the general assumption regarding vertical training is that it does not work. Paris, however, has decided that it might.
Sigalas owns 20 hectares of vines trained this way, and 5 hectares of basket trained vines. He also buys in a significant amount of grapes from small growers located all over the island.
These vines are just outside the tasting room. They are laid out in the rows, which also isn't typical of the island. The young vines have been irrigated, something which Paris tells us is not necessary if you take up the old root system of an existing vine by layering it to create a new vine.
A walkway decked with flowers leads to the driveway, with the stones marking the boundary of the tasting room and the straight rows of vineyards.
Paris has decided to take us on a tour.
Here are the vines planted in the more traditional manner.
They look like they might be simple bushes, but these are indeed vines.
Paris took a moment to lift up this basket for us, to show us the underbelly. He was clearly proud of what he had in his hand. The root system of this vine may well be hundreds of years old.
The hill in the background also had terraced vineyards along its height.
And you could see the cuts.
Back where we were at the bottom of the hill, I took a closer look at the soil.
There is little vegetation left anywhere on the island. A few wind bent trees. Tomatos. Some olive branches higher up, but little else here besides the vines.
The sun started to give in to the inevitable pull of the evening as we walked in this place.
Golden reds splashed out onto the hill.
But Paris wanted to show us a bit more.
And my camera eye followed. The basket weave can protect the grapes within from too much sunlight.
Surveying this beauty of the setting sun...
...maybe it was time for a quick group photo...
...before we piled into the car.
It was tight quarters with all of those people in one vehicle, but nobody seemed to mind.
And then Paris was out again to show us something else.
Here along the road.
Which turned out to be the subsoil, rock you could break off easily here with your hand, and crumble with your fingers.
Back at the winery, it was time to taste.
A local bread, drizzled with oil.
A side by side comparison, the oak aged Santorini on the left, the steel on the right. Paris said that he selects grapes in the vineyards and lots in the winery that are destined for each upbringing, either 4 to 5 months in stainless steel, or 6 to 8 months in barrel. He said he looks for aroma from the lots used in the steel cuvee, while he prefers that the full, tannic lots of Assyrtiko go into the barrels for ageing. The oaked wine was still quite young in its evolution, but the steel was more approachable. I awhile back at another opportunity had a 2003 oaked cuvee, and it was tremendous. Paris, I should note, mentioned 2011, 2009, 2003, 2001, and 2000 as some of his best vintages for Santorini. He also said 2006 was interesting, but not tremendous.
The Nychteri harvest begins a month later than for the other Assyrtiko lots. This was fermented in old oak, with some skin contact, and there was also battonage. The finished wine has RS. It had stayed in barrel for three years, and in fact the 2009 was the first Nychteri that Sigalas released. This had some verve, and honeyed/linden notes abounded, but this was not my thing at all. Still it was nice to try it. It sort of put the other white wine production of Sigalas into relief for me.
Sigalas, like Hatzidakis, keeps back vintages to sell later, which is actually not that common on the island. Here we had a side by side of the 2008 and 2007 stainless steel vintages. On this day I preferred the vibrant 2008, although I suspect our bottle of 2007 had been open for awhile.
Sigalas does make red wines, and in particular he makes around 9,000 bottles a year of this Mavrotragano. It is vinified in small barrique. Paris has 3 additional hectares of Mavrotragano that he will be able to use soon as well. When that occurs, he may, he said, make 3 different single vineyard Mavrotragano bottlings. This particular 2011, which had been opened earlier in the day, showed scrub brush holding firm to a core of purple fruit. A 2011 blend of Mavrotragano and Mandilaria was, I thought, less successful.
And then the sweet wines were poured. A 2004 Vinsanto and a 2008 sweet Mandilaria called Apiliotis. Here was an apricot-orange next to a sticky rose.
The Apiliotis is bottled in 500ml. If you like sweet Brachetto you might also like this.
Dinner was by and mostly from the sea, at a restaurant on the water's edge.
The traditional Greek medley was present, of course.
And the crushed fava, which is actually more like yellow split pea.
There was a whole fish.
It was Santorini appropriate food.
And maybe there was room left for a little brandy as the night got long.
Before that which might have guided us there, also guided us home.