After the very positive experience we had with the wine tasting procedure in Toplou monastery, we decided to enrich our knowledge about Cretan wine. Thus we moved inland heading to Peza, the main wine-producing region of Crete. We thought…what’s better than to visit the oldest winery of the island? It turned out to be not that good idea. Fortunately, our visit to a nearby family run olive oil mill was highly rewarding. There is no bad without the good!
We arrived in Archanes, a pleasant, rural town 15 km south Heraklion, having big plans. We were going to visit friends! Instead of strolling, photographing, visiting the archaeological site or the museum of the town, taking notes etc (in short, our travel routine) we spent the rest of the day hanging around at their home talking and eating! Our friends decided few years ago to flee the capital and to return to their family town starting a new life. They were not the only ones and certainly they didn’t regret.
According to the last censuses, Cretan population has constantly increased over the last decades. Tourism boom and agriculture expansion are the key factors in explaining this growth. The next step was to create linkages between tourism market and agri-food sector; as expected, Crete fully seized the opportunity to play a pivotal role in the agri/eco-tourism field. Visitable wineries and olive-oil mills are the new trend. Obviously we were pretty curious about the quality of this new ‘product’ which is mostly experience-based.
Following our friends’ advice, we spent the night in the parking lot of the Agriculture Cooperative [35.24835,25.16750] which is open during the night, well-lit and quiet. The next morning after a scenic drive through the vineyards of the Peza region, we arrived at the parking lot of Minos-Miliarakis winery (photo on the left [35.21616,25.19463]). We didn’t choose to visit this particular one by chance. It is the oldest winery of Crete and although its wines are probably not of top quality, they have a good reputation on the island. The spacious parking lot and the sizable premises dedicated to the wine tasting process could be a good sign. I changed my mind as soon as I set foot inside. Unfortunately, the reception was so poor and the attitude so snobby that I personally would not recommend anyone to go. I didn’t try the wines because I didn’t feel comfortable to do it. Apart the wine tasting area, there are a ‘museum’ and a mini market selling local products at touristy prices! Later, I discovered that the same wines were sold at prices much cheaper too in cellars of Rethymnon…
Fortunately, our next stop was much more fulfilling if not exciting. We visited the organic olive oil factory of the Koutoulakis family which distributes its products under the Koronekes label.
Let’s start with the fact that it’s not an easy place to find without GPS [35.27497,25.17222] and that the road to get there is quite narrow for large vehicles so if your motor home is big enough and you carry bikes on it, it might be wiser to use them. Is it worthwhile? If you want to taste delicious olive oils and to learn about their production, yes!
The owners are a young couple who welcome us with warm heart. Michalis guided us to the factory premises introducing us to the world of organic olive oil. He explained everything in detail and with great passion. It’s not by coincidence that Koronekes olive oils have gained international fame and recognition.
As you may notice some olive oil packages remind perfume bottles! Speaking of perfume, their flavored oil with lemon and orange zest was a great discovery. Its peculiarity lies in the fact that they add the zest at the time of pressing.
And then the best moment of the tour came. We started tasting different types of olive oil with the help of fresh bread and cheese for those who think they need them. As I learned, the tasting procedure consists of taking a small sip, let it rest to your palate enjoying all the characteristics and the flavors and then ‘cleanse’ the palate eating some bread before moving on the the next one.
Another great discovery for me was the “olive juice” or “Fleur d’Huile run-off” as they call it. It is olive oil collected before the cold pressing procedure. In addition to their products, Michalis offered us wild artichokes prepared by a women’s cooperative and packaging by them … a dream!
On the road to Axos we decided not to stop at Knossos as it was too crowded this time of the year. Instead we made a short stop to admire the Aqueduct Morosini and his noisy “inhabitants” [35.28469,25.16541]