Pulling Corks, Old Friends, New Connections

Panos laughs as we explore Greek rosés and whites at Vintage Wine Bar & Bistro in Athens.

I last walked into Vintage Wine Bar & Bistro in Athens in late September 2016, some 21 months ago. So with time to kill, and a thirst for a cold Assyrtiko I stepped into Vintage once again. I waded past the window front tables and dining area to the quaint bar in the back. A few moments later, the owner Panos stepped out of the cellar. He handed a bottle to Efi, the sommelier, and as he headed toward a tableful of customers, I sensed he felt something familiar. Then, he stopped in mid tracks and said, “Wait!”

Nothing better than feeling at home, back at Vintage Wine Bar & Bistro with Panos after almost two years.

I nodded, and before I could ask if he remembered me, he said, “You are the writer,” his eyes grew wider, “FORKS, yes, right. You sat right here.” I reminded him that even after I returned to California that we spoke via WhatsApp courtesy of my Aussie friend, Sandy.

“Of course, I remember you,” he blurted without me asking.

It was 9:30 pm. I didn’t leave that night until 3 AM. Panos, and his wife Iza and I and, Maria another Vintage customer spent hours talking, tasting, and treating ourselves to conversation from wine to philosophy to business.

Vintage sommelier Efi, pours one of more than several hundred wines available by the glass, thanks to the commercial Coravin system at Vintage.

There’s nothing better than returning to old stomping grounds, even two years later to feel like a local. Though I rarely travel the same road twice, there’s something special about Vintage—and that warm feeling of special comes from Panos and his wife, who both share an intense passion for Greek wine—and for Greece.

 

Lamb prosciutto, raw Greek cheese from Naxos, and more—perfect pairing.

At Vintage Wine Bar & Bistro in Athens, you can taste over 200 wines by the glass. Hell, it could be 500. I know Panos boasts it’s the largest selection of wines by the glass he knows of, I believe him. He offers not just current vintages, but the rare treat to taste well-aged and scarce wines. He can do all of this thanks to his commercial-grade Coravin system.

Panos fines another rare treat we should taste before starting our Podcast.

Panos knows his Greek wine—and if you step into Vintage asking for a Barolo, Bordeaux, or Burgundy, be prepared for questioning. Why not taste Greek wine? This is Greece after all.

The lovely Iza pulls a cold bottle of Assyrtico for us to taste.

Sadly, in the United States, most of the great Greek wines aren’t exported. So for understanding the wines of Greece, of which there are over 300 indigenous varietals, you need to come to Greece.

Panos passion goes well beyond wine and into food made with local and artisanal ingredients. He’s got cheese made from goats grazing in Naxos, Fava bean puree from Santorini, and grilled lamb from the Peloponnese—not to mention mushrooms and more savory ingredients from Northern Greece.

I was so inspired by my latest visit to Vintage I’ve convinced Panos to allow me to interview for a WorldRider podcast. He has provided me with a wealth of information and made connections to wineries, winemakers, and farmers around Greece that will help me understand more the food and wine from Greece and more material for my new book.

Stay tuned for the Panos & Vintage Wine Bar & Bistro Podcast.

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