Greek Wine Tasting and Luncheon with the Embassy of Greece

I joined the Embassy of Greece, diplomats, and an elite selection of wine professionals last week for an exclusive tasting of Greek wines at Zaytinya.

The lunchtime event was set up in a thorough manner, with guests trickling in starting at 11:30 for a formal wine tasting in the upstairs area of the inventive Chinatown restaurant. Packed with its usual clientele power lunching over sweetbreads and other signature dishes, I joined DC’s most knowledgeable foodies to sample around 60 Greek wines, artfully arranged across seven tables, and grouped meticulously for their tastes, bodies, and notes.

I grabbed a glass and tried the first wine on table 1, which seemed like a fitting place to start. I was told by my more knowledgeable colleagues, however, that there was no need to go in strict numerical order.

Even after I’d tried the better half of the offerings, that first wine, the Amalia Brut NV from Tselepos Winery, was still one of my faves. Could be my Western palette, but that sparkling wine, which is made from the Moschofilero grape, would be something I grabbed on a light summer day, much like that one, that could be drunk easily and casually. I also had the pleasure of sitting with Yannis of Dionysus Imports, the distributor of the Amalia Brut NV, later during the formal lunch.

We were ushered out of the tasting area around 12:30, after which we were seated downstairs in the main dining room of Zaytinya’s vast space. Because I’d managed to shut down the reception, I had to be added onto the end of a booth. Given the options between a staid group of properly dressed women, four diplomats chatting away in Greek, and a group of four bachelors enjoying the wine, I think it’s obvious which booth I shimmied up to for an afternoon of delicious food and drink.

We enjoyed course after course of delicious traditional Greek food, including olives, cheeses, and mushrooms to start. We then moved on to heartier items, including a lobster tail salad, and finished off the best lamb I’d ever eaten. I had to duck out before dessert, unfortunately, though I was quite reluctant to leave the Bacchus scene of delights unfolding before my eyes to return back to a full day of work (I do have a book coming out tomorrow, after all).

All this, an education from Steve Olson, a self-proclaimed wine geek, who presented about wines from all the major wine producing regions of Greece. The Embassy is determined to put Greek wines on the map, and there’s no doubt that events like this one, which tell the full story of the traditions, heritage, and rich culture of wine producing of the country, are the way to do it. We’re excited to see Greek wines popping up on menus around DC, and look forward to enjoying them all summer long.

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