The unexpected highlights of travel are almost always related to people we meet along the way. From paying $75 for a pot of tea in China to being saved from starvation on a Russian train, these are the encounters that give us the stories to tell.
Our trip to the Kalogris vineyard in Kapsia, Greece provided one such encounter. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the best part of a vineyard visit would be the wine tasting part. That’s what we assumed too. That is until we met Christina, with her beaming smile and warm exuberance, we couldn’t help but love her the minute we said hello.
“Welcome, come in, come in”. She ushered us into the family kitchen of their ancestral home, a beautifully restored 19th century stone farmhouse. Her two daughters were also waiting for us, ready to show us around.
We were surprised to see a row of hanging puppets in the first room we entered, we looked quizzically as Christina explained in a thick greek accent “we have a theatre here and we let people use it for free so they can communicate their ideas and entertain. We pass our time drinking wine and discussing.” Her words created an image of a group of creative, boisterous Greeks, deep in discussion, their animated body language belaying their passion for the subject.
We sat down on the home theatre chairs as Christina shared the family’s philosophy behind the organic wines they produce.
“We want to give a message through our wines. To return to the past for our produce.” They make their wines following the same process used hundreds of years ago. Nothing artificial is added to the vines resulting in a crop that has less than a third of the grapes a non-organic field would produce. The Kalagris family are fine with that, preferring to create a product they are deeply proud of, over profits. “What you taste, is what the earth gives”. Although they do one thing that was definitely not used hundreds of years ago. They play Mozart to their vines, believing that this makes the vines happier which results in better grapes.
“We came here to create a simple life. We will not be rich but we don’t need many things.” Looking at Christina and her family it seemed like they had made the right choice. All of them radiated happiness, laughed easily and seemed to take real joy from sharing their family business with us. We couldn’t wait to try their extended family, their precious wines.
Before we got to do that we had another surprise in store. We were going to make a ‘lazy pie’, traditionally made by people who spent their days working outdoors. An hour of cooking fun followed in the kitchen where we all had a go at making this quick pie.
As we mixed the eggs with the flour Christina told us how the wheat we now use was originally used to feed animals a century ago. The wheat that humans used at the time contained no gluten and was far easier to digest but much harder to grow. Over time profits dictated that the animal feed became our wheat too. I was gobsmacked to hear this. The thought that we had healthy bread in the past and we got rid of it makes me want to cry a little.
Healthy or not healthy, the pie we made looked great and went down perfectly with the delicious wines we went on to taste to end a very special visit to a magical place.
We left the Kalagris vineyard inspired to create a simpler life and with a deeper understanding of what life could be like if we just focused a little more on the important stuff in life.