Leros is a small island in the Greek Dodecanese island chain off the coast of Turkey. When you drive around the island, you see terraces that suggest the island was once filled with vines, but only one winery operates there today.
Domaine Hatzidakis makes only a few thousand bottles of Iokallis wine each year from its steep hillside vines, but its equipment is modern and Giorgos (“George”) Hatzidakis and his son Leonidas are serious about their craft.
They picked the name Iokallis, the nickname of the goddess Artemis (Diana), the patron goddess of Leros, who had a temple nearby in the village of Partheni.
They make only a few wines, all from their own 12 acres of vines.
They grow red merlot and cabernet sauvignon as well as white malagouzia and assyrtiko, the latter two Greek varieties.
The vineyard is surrounded by slopes with herbs such as thyme, oregano, sage and savory that they feel give their wine a distinctive flavor and aroma.
Malagouzia is a full-bodied, aromatic wine whose aromas can survive even in hot climates, and Assyrtiko is also suited for hot climates as it can retain acidity and remains fruity, full bodied and fresh.
The cabernet sauvignon plantings have a northwestern orientation and the merlot faces southeast.
A new 6-acre site is being planted with the two white varieties.
The winery is small but equipped with modern presses and stainless steel tanks with controlled temperature for fermentation and stabilization (tartrate precipitation) and in-place pump over.
They age the red wines in standard Berthomieu Ermitage French oak barrels that are used for three or four years. Bottles are stored in a cellar that maintains a stable temperature throughout the year.
The merlot has about 12.5 percent alcohol. It undergoes a classic red vinification for 10-15 days, then is aged for 12 months in new French oak barrels and remains in bottles six months.
The cabernet sauvignon has a deep purple color with rich aromas of black wild fruits and spices, rich velvet body and long finish.
It has similar alcohol percentage and winemaking.
The white wine is a blend of 60 percent malagouzia and 40 percent assyrtiko.
Assyrtiko is from Santorini and is well known, but malagousia was almost extinct until it was revived fairly recently.
They also made a nice rosé last year from the red grapes.
All the wines are well made and excellent.
The wines are available at some local restaurants and stores on the island as well as the winery, but Hatzidakis laments that the locals won’t buy wines that cost that much – about eight euros, or $9.
Even most tourists buy carafes at seven or eight euros per liter in local tavernas. I suspect better promotion would encourage visitors to try local wines, however.
They’re friendly if you visit.