Afshin is not only my husband, but he is also our in-house sommelier. After studying Somelierie at Grythyttan Restaurant University in his native country of Sweden, Afshin moved to Athens to start his internship at 48 The Restaurant. He stayed on in Athens after his internship and worked with the acclaimed chef Christoforos Peskias for a couple of years. During this time, I was travelling back and forth to Athens, selling our wines to the various wine focused places in town. A friend of mine knew Afshin and told me that I had to meet him. Our first encounter was pretty funny, especially since as soon as we shook hands, Afshin claimed that our wines ‘are the most pretentious wines in all of Greece!’. Needless to say, I never thought I would be marrying him! Today, Afshin is involved in all of the blending of our wine- to keep us as unpretentious as possible- as well as the back end business of the winery. Afshin also co-owns and operates his restaurant, Salis, located in the old harbor of Chania.
In early 1998, my father met Kostis. Disappointed at the winemaking scene in Crete, he had given up his career as winemaker at the local co-op and had decided to pursue a government position as chemist. My dad listened to his nostalgia for practicing his passion and the dream of making quality wine in Crete. He heard his disappointment at not being able to practice the trade for which he had spent so many years studying at Montpellier. His eyes brightened with excitement when he first heard of our philosophy, goals and mission for making a top quality wine on the island, wine that can be appreciated and can stand up to the very best wines of the world. At that magic moment, my dad knew they would be together for a very long journey. Over that long journey Kostis has come to be the soul of Nostos. Far into the future, Kostis will always be the heart of Nostos, as Nostos will have a place deep in the heart of Kostis Galanis. He is a student of wine, always thirsty to learn more and always willing to try something new and different.
Ioannis is the "everywhere guy" of the winery and was the first person I shared an office with when he joined our team in 2010. Like his father Kostis, he received his education as a viticulturist and winemaker but from Montpellier SupAgro. After all, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree! His practical training was at Château de Pibarnon in Bandol and at Joseph Phelps in California. He brings a very important element to our viticulture and winemaking - the combination of the French traditional ways and the New World methodology of grape farming. He is everywhere in the vineyard and knows each of our roughly 60,000 vines intimately. Fresh out of university and practical training in the U.S., Ioannis brought to us his progressive, forward thinking ways that can be seen and felt everywhere in the vineyard and the winery, hence, the"everywhere guy"! He is always looking for new ways to improve the methods and, therefore, the quality of the first ingredient, the grape.
Many years ago when Laurence first came to Vatolakkos, she fell in love with the village and the village adopted her as one of their own. On a cold February day, the fog covered the hills around Vatolakkos. The excited Laurence arrived from France and, instead of chit-chatting with everyone, she immediately took to the hills and up to the vineyards. With the vineyard workers around her, she proceeded to show how the Grenache vines are best pruned. Her knowledge of the vine, the soil and the terroir have inspired our workers ever since as she comes every couple of years to share more knowledge with us. One of the world's top wine makers and viticulturists in Châteuneuf-du-Pape at Domaine du Pegau, Laurence brings to Manousakis Winery her expertise not only in the farming of grapes, but also in the winemaking process of the Rhône varietals.
Dr. Bruce Zoecklin might be the nicest guy you’ll ever meet...and for over 25 years, a friend of the Manousakis Winery. Until his recent retirement, he headed Virginia Tech's Food and Science Department where he was the chief coordinator of the viticulture and winemaking practices in the state of Virginia wine industry. A well accomplished theorist and writer of many university texts on the subject of wine and viticulture, Bruce is one of the most unassuming experts in the field. But when he speaks on the subject of wine, his vast knowledge of viticulture and oenology simply captivate and humble his listeners. He comes to Crete every year because, as he admits, he has fallen in love, not only with the effort and dedication of the Manousakis Winery family, but also with the island of Crete.
In 1994 in the vineyards of Pommard, on a bike tour, my father stopped at the side of a vineyard where a young man was working the fields on a tractor. As my dad approached, he jumped off and welcomed the group with a bottle of wine, a loaf of bread and some Brie. That's how he met Pascal. Since then, he has been a close friend and adviser to our winery. During our first harvest in September of 1997, young Pascal Marchand, French Canadian and already on his way to fame as a winemaker in Burgundy, was consulting in the fermentation of our Syrah and Grenache grape varieties. A portable mercury thermometer fell into the 2-ton stainless steel fermentation tank and everyone was in a panic for fear that the thermometer would break and the mercury would spill into the wine. Calmly but quickly, Pascal undressed to his birthday suite and entered the tank to his neck. He felt around the mash with feet and hands for a few minutes until he finally recovered the thermometer, completely intact. Pascal is recognized as one of the top winemakers in the world, and most remarkably, in Burgandy, where foreigners do not get high praise in the industry.
The first adviser to our winery, Lucie was instrumental in the selection of our four international grape varieties, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Roussanne. After studying soils, weather pattern, sun light abundance and terroir, she suggested that we plant the Rhône varieties, and we did. Although Roussanne was a preferred grape, she cautioned that the yield of this variety is very low and thus, extremely difficult, economically. We planted anyway and, to our astonishment, the problem we encountered during the first harvest was that the Roussanne was producing too much yield in Crete. Lucy was pleasantly surprised and commented that "grape vines do not recognize national borders, they just grow wherever they are comfortable". Lucy has her doctorate from the university of Montpellier, France and specializes in the adaptability of noble varieties (vitis vinifera) to the different rootstocks. In 1979, she translated Pierre Galet's bible of Ampelography, "A Practical Ampelography: Grapevine Identification" into the English language. Lucie has been a great mentor to the Manousakis Winery.
When he comes to Crete from his home in Jura, full length beard that has never met a blade, hammer in hand, Yves heads straight for the vineyard. For 3-4 days Yves simply collects and breaks rocks, "mother rock", as he refers to them, rocks that typify the characteristics of the soil. His analysis results to a five-year cultivation plan that the team follows. This is revised every two years with new updated analysis of the soil and rocks. Yves is an integral member of our winery’s advisers, and a special individual with much joie de vivre! A pure scientist in the field of viticulture, Yves is world famous in his field. He has published many books and essays on the subject. Most important is the love and passion for better ways to grow grapes.