I’m sure everyone has a few restaurants where life’s special moments are celebrated. If you think back to those times, how many of the places have remained relevant? Nostalgia aside, I’m lucky enough that a few of these pillars of OC dining are still shining bright to this day.
One such place happens to be Christakis Greek Cuisine, which was named Best Greek Restaurant by OC Weekly last year. We’ve stuffed our faces with mousaka and pastitsio on my wife’s 30th and succumbed to her odd pregnancy cravings for taramosalata (a.k.a. “pink stuff”) there. It’s where I ate a heaping lamb gyro plate after getting a new job about 15 years ago. And recently, a date night called us there to reconnect after months of being too busy to just chill—and to be honest, hitting a familiar, intimate spot to rekindle, especially in the warm Greek atmosphere, is oh-so-choice.
Of all the nights we both happened to be free, it was the one when Christakis was hosting a special wine-pairing dinner. “Terrific,” I said. “I love Greek wine with their meat-popsicle-like lamb chops, lemony potatoes, and warm and slightly charred pita.” As it turned out, though, the pairing reins were held by local chef/author Katherine Boucher, who was spotlighting varieties from the California estate winery Melville from Sta. Rita Hills, near Santa Barbara.
Not much has changed at the family-run eatery. Beyond the chalet-like exterior, a soft blue interior mimics a warm Mediterranean breeze. And dining al fresco next to the trickling fountain is about as Greek as it gets—minus the cigarettes, of course.
The volume inside and out amplifies as Melville’s Kurt Ammann guides us through the pairings with a chardonnay, two pinot noirs, a shiraz and a sparkling brut. The winery grows and produces 100 percent of its wines, each vintage coming from a specific microclimate. The estate is located roughly 20 miles from the ocean, with a marine layer that’s great for cooler-climate wine grapes such as pinot noir and chardonnay. It also helps guide the wine’s character into the soft and sublime zone.
My favorite pairing was the heirloom beet and strawberry salad with Melville’s Estate Pinot. The salad was like pinot on a plate, with the ripe, juicy strawberries mimicking the bright-red fruit character of a great pinot noir, the beets offering a bit of earthy soil, and the pistachio vinaigrette stepping in as the tannin and acid. Both dish and wine were truly memorable—even if I was craving lamb souvlaki and dolmades.
Call now to sign up for Christakis’ next wine dinner on Oct. 18, featuring Austin Hope Winery from Paso Robles.
Christakis Greek Cuisine, 13011 Newport Ave., Tustin, (714) 731-6600; christakisgreekcuisine.com.
Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, level 1 WSET in Wine, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest happening on June 29th in Anaheim!