Thursday, April 11, 2013

Pelendri's Comedy Hour

Tsiakkas Winery might be The Rock's best club for a wine-themed comedy hour. Owner Costas Tsiakkas is one funny dude. Jokes and amusing tidbits on the wine industry, dropped like bras during Victoria's Secret's Annual Sale, marked our two-hour visit to his secluded winery a few bends away from the Pitsilia village of Pelendri. By the end of the session, some of us wished he'd run a wine class and become our garrulous, charismatic sensei.

Wine shop at Tsiakkas Winery
The winery is a large oldish house ensconced between the hills and surrounded by tall trees. The entrance, somewhat inconvenient for those lugging around a sleeping three-month old on her second official winery visit, is around the back, down a short road leading away from the parking lot. A wooden bar and a well-lit and organized wine shop stocked with Tsiakkas' wines and mementos like cooking aprons emblazoned with the winery's logo greet visitors once they make it up a narrow flight of stairs. Mr. Tsiakkas received us in the winery's tasting area—a long wooden table for twelve shielded by a wall that clumsily attempts to spell out the family name with green and clear bottle bottoms—and dragged us back to the ground floor to explore its premises.

The Tsiakkas tour was an excellent complement to the one we had experienced at Zambartas Winery. Instead of focusing on the technical aspects of wine-making, Mr. Tsiakkas told us stories of yore, recounting how our Cypriot forefathers distilled village wines and playing show-and-tell with antique contraptions used to store and transport wine and zivania eons ago. He then went on long oenology-themed rants—how soon should Cypriot wines be consumed (whites within six months of release, rosés less), food and wine pairings (Tsiakkas rosé with lobster pasta), the advantages of vineyards at higher elevations, and the variety of aromas found in wine (petrol in aged German Riesling as an example). His tale on how he chanced upon his amber-toned zivania by "forgetting" a batch of the clear liquor in an oak-barrel was quite comedic. A bit later, he dropped his best joke, sticking the landing like a well-oiled Olympic gymnast: "Cyprus rosés are deep and vibrant in color...unlike those from France, which look like lukewarm water left over from soaking a bright red panty."

Yes, I am funny.
We tasted six wines—two white, one rose, two reds and Commandaria—and his barrel-aged zivania. His rosé, the 2012 Rodinos, emits aromas of cranberries, pomegranate and strawberries, and, while bright, lacks the punch to the jaw of other Cypriot rosés. The 2011 Porfyros blend is medium-bodied, jammy, chewy and straightforward, a pleasant and affordable (about 6 Euros) match to meze and a red that can be slightly chilled for consumption during our scorching summers. The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, a gold winner in the 2011 Cyprus Wine Competition, has lovely notes of dark forest fruits, coffee and dark chocolate, but is quite tannic from the get-go and needs time to smooth out. The Commandaria, a bit pricey for local standards at about 25 Euros, showed the sweet wine's world-class potential, while the zivania, which mimicked a cognac or armagnac, was somewhat rough around the edges for my taste. Later that night, we drank the wonderful 2012 Sauvignon Blanc (made from grapes cultivated in high elevations above the town of Agros) with its sun-kissed tropical (passion fruit!) aroma and brimming with citrus flavors on the finish. In my opinion, this is, along with Domaine Vlassides's, the best of its variety on the island.

So, if you need a respite from these dark days sponsored by Destroika®, give Mr. Tsiakkas a call and book a seat for you and your fancy friends to Pelendri's most happening LOL session with quality wine to boot.

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