Kefalonian days: meeting the winemaker and an Octopus Stifado

The sun was fading into the golden glow of early evening, after a hot sunny October day when we visited Gentilini Winery. The winery is perched atop the hills above Argostoli. In between the winery's thick, high rosemary hedges, which are laden with pale lavender-blue flowers, you can catch glimpses of the turquoise bay that is Argostoli Harbour.

The harvest had recently just finished in the last week of September and at the end of his day of work, we were met by the winery's new winemaker, Christopher Carter and his rescued Irish Labrador, the delightfully cheeky Dolly.
Kefalonia is the only Ionian Island to have been granted “appellation of origin” for its wines - and it has not one but three, for Robola, Muscat and Mavrodaphne. Christopher, who is not usually the tour guide for the winery, very kindly spoilt us with a relaxed and informative tasting session, in the open air, surrounded by the winery's beautiful herbs, almond and olive trees. It was the best kind of tasting, friendly and edifying, surrounded by all the beautiful natural elements that make up the stunning Kefalonian landscape. Christopher was a very passionate winemaker who has worked in France, England, Australia, Spain and now Greece. He answered all the questions we could possibly think off!
We started our tasting with the Gentilini Aspro. This distinctive wine is made from a blend of Tsaoussi and Muscat varieties. Tsaoussi is an indigenous Greek grape variety mainly found on Kefalonia. The Aspero had a crisp dry finish and lovely honey and orange blossom aromas. Next we tried the Gentilini Robola. Christopher shared an anecdotal story about how many Kefalonian's who had lived abroad and return to Kefalonia, were very reluctant to try a wine made from this native grape. In years gone by it had been associated with half filled barrels and home-tred wine. The Gentilini Robola was a world away from its old reputation. This wine was very crisp, minerally and citrusy - very much like the style of a Chablis. On tasting this wine, I mentally wandered off with a vision of drinking this beauty with some oysters, on one of the neighbouring beaches. But where to find oysters...???? I digress.

We also tasted the rose, which is made from organically grown, Moschofilero (Μοσχοφίλερο). This varietal originates from the Peloponnese where it is traditionally used to make a dry and bold wine with lots of spice and "rose" like perfume. Christopher mentioned that when picking this grape, you can often come across red, white and pink grapes - all on the same vine. The wine had strong rose aromas. I also thought this wine also had some light strawberry / red berry aromas. It had a dry finish and would make a perfect, chilled aperitif. After also trying the Cellar Selection Robola, the Genilini Red - a blend of Aghiorghitiko, Syrah and Mavrodaphne and the Gentilini Syrah, Christopher kindly took us to visit the winery's cellar. We were able to taste the current harvest straight from the stainless steel tanks and also saw the fermentation of the grapes taking place in oak barrels. The musty, earthy, vanilla aroma of the barrel room was incredible.

Before we left Gentilini, we tried the winery's own olive oil and purchased a few of the wines (baggage and Australian quarantine restrictions prevented taking any more). It was decided that the Gentilini Red would be the perfect accompaniment to our meal that evening - an octopus stifado. We had purchased our deep pinkish octopus in the morning from the fishermen who moored their boats along the Argostoli Harbour side. There was a bit of a debate about whether it should be grilled and dressed with lemon, oil and herbs - or made into a stifado. The juicy, red heirloom tomatoes, long plaits of braided garlic, creamy autumn potatoes and small golden shallots at the market swayed the decision for a stifado.

Octopus Stifado
1 large octopus, cleaned

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

15 golden shallots (skins removed, but leave as much of the base as you can intact)

3 cloves garlic, sliced

3 potatoes, peeled and sliced into thick pieces

3 ripe tomatoes, coarsely grated & skins discarded

1/2 cup dry rose wine

3 bay leaves

6-7 whole allspice berries

1/2 teaspoon orange zest

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3 cinnamon quills

1. Rinse the octopus and place in a large pan and cover. Cook on high heat for 10 minutes then remove from the heat. Take out the octopus and allow to cool. Then cut into 10cm pieces.

2. In the same pan the octopus was in, heat the olive oil and gently brown the shallots. Add the garlic, potatoes and octopus. Stir well. Then add the grated tomato, wine, orange peel, herbs and spices. Stir well again.

3. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and bring to the boil. Then lower the heat and simmer for 1 to 1 & 1/2 hours, or until the octopus is tender and you have a thick, rich sauce.

Gentilini Winery & Vineyard

Gentilini is located on the main Argostoli to Airport road, 2kms past Lassi.

Opening Hours:

May, June & 15 Sept. - 31 Oct.

Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday : 17:30 - 20:30

1July - 15 Sept.: Monday - Saturday

10:30 - 14:30 & 17:30 - 20:30


  1. More gorgeous pics making me yearn for sunshine, wine and lovely food on a Greek island. The winery looks wonderful but so does your octopus dish. I love octopus stew, cooked with lots of red wine and garlic and your version looks yummy.

    1. Thanks Andrea, we've been so lucky to have so much sunshine here in October ; )

  2. Oh what a gorgeous day. I love saffron in recipes... and although it is early I would mind a glass of white wine as well.

    1. It certainly was, as the saying goes, "it's always five o'clock somewhere" ; )


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Maira Gall