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Retsina is the ancient style of resinated white wine native to Greece. Wines have been flavored with the sap or resin of Aleppo Pine for at least 2000 years, and the unique profile is (when well done) very friendly to the spiced seafood and other Mediterranean fare that forms the core of the Greek diet. I like to drink retsina with cured fish, with olives, or with Asian food. This retsina is the most impressive I've tasted, and very reasonable in price: the grapes (from young vines belonging to Kamara Estate near Thessaloniki) are vinified in stainless steel tanks with small bits of Aleppo Pine resin added to the must. The profile is clearly resinated (think of the aromas of pine sap and bark, rather than aggressive menthol notes) but the fresh character of bright Assyrtiko and Roditis grapes certainly comes through (typically, modern retsina is made with neutral, fleshier Savatiano - the use of Assyrtiko and Roditis makes this brighter, fresher, and more interesting to my palate). Retsina sometimes gets dismissed but I hope you'll try this as either a fun apéritif or a great pairing for well-flavored seafood, garlicky dips, or charcuterie. Ben Fletcher
(Wines arrive Tuesday 1/21) Naiads (in ancient Greek mythology, the nymphs of the freshwater springs) is the new wine in the series of Nymph-named bottlings from Papras Bio Wines. Made from the indigenous Greek grape Badiki, this is fermented in the same method as the Oreads and the Pleiades: indigenous yeast fermentation, ten days of maceration on the skins, and then bottling unfined and unfiltered with a small addition of SO2 (10mg). Of the three wines, this was the lightest. Naiads showed higher toned aromatics with notes of lime blossom, chamomile, and quince on the nose and a more delicate palate with lighter tannins than Oreads or Pleiades. A beautiful, gentle new addition to the trio of Nymphs! Ben Fletcher
Oreads, named for the nymphs of the mountains, is the rosé wine of the nymph-named trio from Papras Bio Wines, made from Black Muscat of Tyrnavos, which has been planted in Tyrnavos (near Mt. Olympus) for more than one hundred years. Like the Pleiades and Naiads, the organically farmed grapes are fermented with indigenous yeasts, macerated on their skins for ten days, then bottled without fining or filtering and with only a small addition of sulfur (10mg). This year's Oreads is slightly darker in color than last year's, and shows beautiful pink flower, dried rose, and orange blossom aromatics. The palate is dry, crisp, and salty with lots of floral and citrus character: pansies, lilacs, the juice of blood oranges, salted pink grapefruit, and lemon zest. A great expression of this unique aromatic grape, and an instant reminder of spring time. Ben Fletcher
The Pleiades are the nymphs of the stars, and this bottling is made from the rosy-hued Roditis grape. Of the three nymph-wines from Papras this is the spiciest and perhaps the most clearly an "orange wine". It is made in the same method as the Oreads and the Naiads: the grapes are pressed, fermented with indigenous yeasts, macerate on their skins for ten days and finally bottled without fining or filtering and with only a small (10mg) addition of SO2. Pleiades is aromatically spicy, with melon, white pepper, yellow flower, and ripe orange on the nose. The palate is dry and surprisingly structured, with elegant tannins and plenty of citrus-driven acidity that complement flavors of quince, pineapple, Bergamot, and green tea. This is my favorite version of Pleiades that I've tasted. Ben Fletcher
This wine comes from the nearly unknown Santameriana grape, found only in the village of Santomeri, where the Sant'Or Winery is based. Sant'Or produces the only varietal wine from this grape, which Panos Dimitropoulos has worked to recover from obscurity. For the skin contact wine, the grapes are macerated on the skins for 20 days, before maturing it for six months in clay eggs. The resulting wine is medium to full bodied, with some delicate tannic structure and notes of apricot, bitter herbs, and honey. Ben Fletcher
Sclavos is a long-time organic winery on the island of Cephalonia in the Ionian sea, off the West coast of Greece. This wine is made from the local Tsaousi grape, from an old, biodynamically farmed vineyard on the slopes of Mount Ainos, the mountainous island's tallest peak. The wine has an intense aromatic character, with notes of yellow flowers, sea and mountain air, and chalk. The palate is bright and clear, with abundant, mouth-watering acidity and notes of yellow apple, chalk, crushed clam shells, and a delicately savory finish. Drinking this makes me want shrimp, mussels, or octopus. Ben Fletcher
Located in Slovakia, the Majer Zemianske Sady winery is in it's fifth generation, and committed to producing wines with wild yeast fermentation, and minimal or no addition of SO2. Traja Boxeri is a Sauvignon Blanc that is fresh, dry and subtly textured, and not citrusy or overwhelmingly tropical as many Sauvignon Blancs can be. We welcome the style - chiseled and mineral-driven. -EL
Giannis Stilianou and his son tend 3 hectares of indigenous Cretan grapes near Heraklion, the capital of the dry, sun-beaten, Greek island of Crete. The Great Mother Red is a wine made with Mandilaria, an intensely dark and tannic grape native to the Aegean Isles. In order to produce a more lightly colored and delicate wine Giannis macerates the juice on the skins for only one day - yielding an aromatic and intensely flavored wine that is eminently drinkable. With aromatic notes of forest herbs, salt, and red fruit, the palate is bright, clean and fresh with red cherry and salted plum notes. This was great with lamb burgers. Ben Fletcher
Hoof & Lur is a fascinating Moschofiliero from Troupis Winery in Mantinia, in the Peloponnese. Created in response to the growing interest in natural wines, this is Moschofilero in a very raw form: fermented with indigenous yeasts, macerated briefly on its skins, and bottled unfiltered with very little sulfur. The result is a wine with expressive floral aromatics and a crisp and clean palate. A great introduction to a new grape variety for fans of dry muscat or more unique rosé wines. Ben Fletcher