So everyone has been buzzing about a new Greek restaurant in town, Helen Greek Food & Wine, which ONLY serves Greek wine. Lots of Greek wine to be had – in Houston? Well, that piqued my interest for sure. While I don’t ever recall partaking of Greek wine, Greece has been on my vacation list since I was a teenager and was first introduced to the naughtiness of the Greek Gods. I have no idea why, but something about Greek mythology appealed to me (and this is from a person that leans towards math rather than history) and I’ve been wanting to go ever since. Still haven’t made it there, but it is definitely on my short list of vacations. So when this restaurant started appearing on all the “top” lists, I knew I had to get over there. And while everyone was gushing about the food, I was zeroed in on the wine.
I found my opportunity to visit when Thing 1 and Thing 2 were away for an afternoon of grandparent fun. And I wasn’t disappointed. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was a beautiful wine wall.
If you’ve read some of my previous posts or follow me on Instagram (you do, don’t you?) then you know I have a thing for wine walls. Opening up the wine list, I was quite amused at the statement telling me “don’t panic” and that “the wine list is entirely Greek. The. Whole. Freaking. Thing.”
Yeah, no worry on my part. Umm, I’m going to need someone to translate as I couldn’t even pronounce most of the wines and none were familiar to me. And I loved the quote at the bottom of the first page of the wine list from Aristophanes:
“When men drink, then they are rich and successful and win lawsuits and are happy and help their friends. Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever.”
Appealing to both the lawyer and the Ancient Greece scholar in me. I see what they did there! So after lengthy discussions with the waiter about the various characteristics of the wines and the types of wines I typically like as well as their best sellers, I took the plunge. And I must say that it was quite a lengthy wine list. In fact, they have the second largest Greek wine selection in the U.S.
First up was the Tselepos “Amalia” Sparkling Moschofilero PGI Arcadia, Peloponnesos NV.
This very much reminded me of a Prosecco. It’s made with the Moschofilero grape, which is grown primarily in the Peloponnese. The wine was a pale straw yellow and was very light and refreshing. The thing the struck me the most were the very large bubbles unlike the small fine bubbles you see in champagne. I don’t recall previously seeing such large bubbles in any sparkling wine. On the nose was some citrus and floral notes. Tasting it, I found it to be very creamy, almost buttery with some notes of apple, pear, apricot, and a bit of orange. Yes, I know I am breaking my own “I’m not a fan of tasting notes” rule but as I’ve said before, occasionally I find it necessary. This was great with the dips we had (I talk about the food below). But it’s a versatile wine that could pair with a number of dishes.
Next up was the Gavalas Nykteri Assyrtiko PDO Nykteri Santorini 2014
The menu caption next to this wine read as follows: “If I could only have one glass of wine from this list, it would be this wine. Simply not to be missed.” OK, so how was I NOT going to try it?! This wine was a very dark yellow, almost gold in color. On the palate it tasted of honey and orange and was tart with some nice acidity. Patio sipper for sure but it would sing with some shellfish. Assyrtiko is a white Greek wine grape that is indigenous to Santorini. In fact, it is the oldest known Greek grape variety. Perhaps I can start firming up my vacation plans? Maybe drink some Assyrtiko while taking in the fantastic views of Santorini?
The last wine I tried was the Protopapas “Agioritikos” Red Blend PGI Aghio Oros, Macedonia 2008.
According to the menu it’s “A mystery blend made by Greek Monks. As sacred as it is delicious.” Well, I’m down with a bit of mystery! This wine was a brick red color with some brownish hues (I know you can’t tell from the picture). It was very dry with notes of licorice, dried fig, some tart dark cherries and lots of acidity. Definitely a food wine. Perfect for the meatballs and pretty much all of the meat dishes we had. Well done Greek Monks. Well done. And just to clear up any confusion, Macedonia refers to the Balkan region of Macedonia which is comprised of six countries (Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, and the Republic of Macedonia) as opposed to just the country/Republic of Macedonia which is just north of Greece.
So goal accomplished! I got to try a few different Greek wines and can’t wait to go back for more. My only complaint was that they don’t offer wine flights which would be perfect as most of us don’t know much about Greek wines and flights would give folks the opportunity to discover more of the wines.
OK, so now that I’ve talked about my favorite part – the Greek wine – it’s time to give some love to the cuisine. With the exception of the dips, the portions were small and according to our waiter, they contemplate that all of the dishes will be shared family-style.
Trio of Dips
We started with the trio of hummus dips, each with a different flavor (traditional, feta, and eggplant with anchovy). I’m not a fan of anchovies but you couldn’t even taste them! The restaurant changes the flavor of the dips on a daily basis. It’s served with warm pita bread (but you will need more) as it’s a lot of food.
Greek Charcuterie & Cheese
I can’t remember what everything was called (I asked twice and then forgot) but the blood sausage on the far right was phenomenal! Really!
We had a half order of the yumminess comprised of a beef and lamb meatball mixture served with mint, potato, and chickpea salad.
Rice Stuffed Quail
The quail, which was so tender and juicy, was served with currants, pine nuts, grapes, and red wine sauce. I was a little skeptical about the grapes, but as usual, the chef knows way more than I do and it just melded so nicely with all of the other flavors.
Grilled Feta-Brined Chicken
For the chicken, you had the option of a whole or half and our waiter recommended the whole. And good thing as the photo above represents the whole chicken! The chicken had flavorful, crispy skin and was very moist. It was accompanied by lemon potatoes and pepperoncini. Delicious!
So if you’re in Houston and want to have some great wine, but with a non-traditional twist, head on over to Helen Greek.