On today’s quad adventure, we’re in search of local produce; beer, wine and delicious morsels. We’ve seen ‘Donkey Beer‘ in a few bars and we’re told the brewery is on the way to Kamari Beach. Perfect!
First we need to relocate. There’s a wedding at Nautilus Dome so they’re fully booked. Ifestos Villa, closer to Fira and nestled back off the road, extends the usual Greek hospitality. Maria welcomes us, ensures we have all we need and in no time we are on the road.
Heading east toward the airport we take the Kamari Beach turn off and ride straight to Santorini Brewing Company. Inside, tastings are offered and immediately accepted. Beginning with Yellow Donkey; the mix of hops from Slovenia, Oregon and New Zealand give this beer a crisp citrus edge. Next, Red Donkey; a darker fruitier beer from a blend of hops, malt and Belgian yeast. An elegant beer in an elegant bottle. Last is Crazy Donkey, the only IPA brewed in Greece. Opening with tropical fruits and finishing with a pleasant sharpness, Crazy comes in the same elegant Champagne-like bottle as Red Donkey.
There are no additional sugars in Donkey Beer, only those produced naturally through the brewing process. Unpasteurised and preservative free these beers have to be good for you! 😉 On completion of processing the spent grain is recycled as compost for nearby vineyards. The small range and relatively low yield limits distribution so if there’s Donkey Beer near you, grab some, you won’t be disappointed.
On the Kamari Beach Road, we spot a sign for Gaia Wines. Santorini has a dozen or so operating wineries, found by following the ‘Wine Road‘ tourist signs. Located on the beach between Kamari and Monolithos, Gaia offer tours with tasting for €5. If you’d rather buy a glass and admire the view that’s fine too. Thalia explains the process: chilling, crushing and pressing; clarification, fermentation and maturation; stabilising, bottling and finally tasting!
Gaia are famous for their Thalassitis; a dry white wine using Greek grapes and a typically French technique. Assyrtiko grapes thrive in the volcanic earth with only the caldera’s rising mist for moisture. Pumice layers deep in the earth absorb this moisture. The vines’ roots then tunnel down for a drink. Yields aren’t high, but the fruit has intense flavour. This grape married with the fermentation and aging in new oak casks produces a rich, velvety wine with hints of smoke and citrus. While we enjoy the Thalassitis Thalia explains why many vines we’ve seen appear slightly disheveled.
Unlike trellised vines, the Santorini vines are free range and hug the earth. When the vines are young, runners are pruned leaving a single stem to be trained around the base of the vine. By the time the vines reach yield maturity, a basket has naturally formed to protect the grapes from the harsh Santorini winds. The salt and mineral content from the earth is evident in the flavour of the wines. Add Gaia Wines to your Santorini Winery list.
We’re starving, and thankfully Kamari Beach is but minutes away. The Boathouse‘s menu grabs our attention and before long we’re in another stunning beachside location ready to eat. The fresh taramasalata, warm Dolmades, tzatziki, grilled halloumi and whitebait are all scrumptious! Although we could continue, we stop there, knowing what’s in store for us later at Santo Wines.
Truth be told this is our second visit to Santo Wines; it really is good. Last time we had the 6 Wine flight selected for us, so today we’ll make our own selection. Wine flights come in 6, 12 or 18 tastes across the range. Pours are generous, accompanied by Santorini specialities; the famous fava (yellow split pea dip), cherry tomato and caper dip, a generous portion of olives, the unique Santorini white cheese and crunchy, moreish rusks. Sliced cured meat platters are available accompanied by olives, dip and cherry tomatoes stuffed with caper leaves. The cherry tomatoes on Santorini are grown similarly to the vines, close to the ground and watered only by the pumice. The fruit is small but the flavour huge! Everything you eat and drink at Santo Wines can be purchased along with additional Santorini produce; preserved figs, sundried cherry tomatoes, capers and alternate vintages of the wines tried on the wine flights.
Santo Wines are the only producer of sparkling on the island so we start there; it’s crisp acidity comes from 100% Assyrtiko. A couple of aged Assyrtiko, 1 for a year the other for 2, begin to develop vanilla and honey notes. Nykteri is a white blend; 75% Assyrtiko, 15% Athiri and 10% Aidani aged in oak for 3 (or the reserve for 12) months; citrus with a strong sense of vanilla. The first red is a blend of 40% Movrotragano 40% Voudomato 20% Mandilaria branded Crescendo. Perfect for summer with crisp acidity and red fruits. There are 2 full bodied reds; 100% Movrotragano, dense red fruit, wood and tobacco and the other, 100% Mandilaria (branded Kameni) heady with spice and vanilla. Vinsanto and Kratiras are both naturally sweet wines made from sun-dried grapes. Vinsanto is a white blend aged in oak barrels, rich with the essence of honey and spices. Kratiras is the red, produced the same way, but 100% Mandilaria deepening the tones for a richer spiced dried fruit flavour.
Linger at Santo Wines for sunset, it’s stunning! You may need to take another wine flight and why not, you’re on vacation! Santorini sunshine and sustenance: more of the things we love….