“Here we are,” says the taxi driver.
I look outside my window and see a run-down trailer, various parts and pieces of winemaking equipment, a picnic table strewn with empty bottles and a plastic shower curtain covering what seemed to be the entrance to a grotto hewn out of the lava of a hillside.
“You sure?” I asked, staring incredulously at the plastic shower curtain.
“Hatzidakis Winery you said? Here it is.”
As I get out of the taxi, a dog comes running up to me, barking, but easily ignored. He wasn’t menacing. The shower curtain parts, and Haridimos appears, all smiles.
“Yia sou Theo! Welcome!”
We enter the winery, which was a restored cellar used by monks on the island to make wine over many centuries. The walls are black with the legacy of god knows how may vintages. The place feels quite spooky, but in an endearing way. It is also not the tidiest of places I have seen.
In the many nooks of the cellar, I see one tank on its own, propped up in a corner, one leg missing but stabilized with rocks. Cuvée 15 is written on it in black marker.
“Hey, that’s the crazy wine I tried in Athens. Why is that tank by itself in that corner?” I ask.
“Ah, because that corner of the cellar is very different from the others. Over the centuries, the yeasts have come to act differently over there, and it makes a different wine. So I want to bottle it separately. Oddly enough, few people ferment with wild yeasts here anymore, opting for selected ones. Most people filter, I am very adamantly against that. And don’t start me on S02, too much is used, and I like to add only very little at the bottling. I want my wine to make you feel healthy, happy."
That was the beginning of an amazing relationship. Hatzidakis became synonymous with some of the greatest white wines of the Mediterranean. I remember the look on Loire winemaker Pierre Breton’s face when he tasted Mylos for the first time at a show in Montreal where the two were pouring side-by-side. He looked at Hari, smiled and said “Putain. On parle de minéralité, mais ça, c’est autre chose!” Hari just nodded with that grin of his.
That was one of countless times his wines brought smiles to people’s faces. He was a truly brilliant winemaker. He was a friend. A mentor. I will miss him deeply. Many others will too. His legacy will continue with his children, especially with Stella, who will take over the winery. We wish them luck, and wherever Hari is now, he is certainly smiling at them.
Farewell my friend, safe travels.