Roadtriping Crete (7) | ALEXAKIS, DOULOUFAKIS, IDAIA - April 22nd, 2012
posted on 31/08/2012

The plan for the day was to visit the area around the village of Dafnes, to the west, near the foot of Mt. Psiloritis. Before that, however, we visited the Alexakis Winery, the network’s winery closest to Heraklion!

4th route – Sunday 22 April 2012:


  • Heraklion - Phinikia (Alexakis Winery)
  • Phinikia - Dafnes (Douloufakis Winery)
  • Dafnes - Venerato (Idaia Winery)



At the Alexakis Winery, production seemed to be endless; there were tanks going as far as the eye could see! We really wanted to see who was behind all this!



We went up the stairs in one of the many buildings and looked around. Finally, we located Mr Stelios Alexakis, who was sitting comfortably in his office. Mr Alexakis won us over straight away. Even though his sons Lazaros and Apostolis - with studies in Florence and California respectively - are now in charge of production, he was giving off a youthful energy; a highly intelligent man, an ingenious businessman!

The list of Mr Alexakis’ studies is almost too long for him to remember it all by heart! Hellenic Military Academy, Chemical Engineering at the NTUA, Oenology, Computer Programming and Analysis and more! Since 1982, he has managed to include some of the leading Greek wine makers in his client list and supply them with large quantities of wine. At some point Lazaros Alexakis entered the office. Lazaros, who is an oenologist and vine-grower, is closer to our age and we hit if off, as if we had known each other for years. He offered to take us on a tour of the winery and we followed him right away.



Lazaros talked about the varieties they work with, “We almost exclusively work with indigenous Cretan varieties: white Vidiano, Athiri, Malvasia Aromatica, Spina Muscat, Assyrtiko, and red Kotsifali and Syrah.” Visitors are more than welcome in the winery. There is a special tasting room, a projection room and a gift shop. Wine tourists can try the wines of the winery, such as the multi-awarded Vidiano, the rising Cretan diva in which the Alexakis family has invested so much!



It was both an honor and a pleasure to have met Stelios and Lazaros. They proved beyond any doubt that a giant can have the heart of a child. After that visit we headed southwest, to the village of Dafnes and the Douloufakis Winery!


This family winery is located within the village of Dafnes. We were received by Nikos Douloufakis, who suggested that we join him around a small table in the beautiful courtyard. There he talked about how his personal wine adventure started…

Nikos studied oenology and viniculture in Alba, in Piemonte, Italy. The influence of his studies started from the very first year, as in 1988 he called his father from Italy and gave him instructions about shorter planting distances. New cultivations followed throughout the 90s! The result of Nikos’ studies and work at the vineyard and winery are 14 labels and 200,000 bottles.

Nikos suggested a tour of the vineyards. We got into the 4x4, took a dirt road and went on a fascinating drive! At some points, it felt like we were on a helicopter, like the road was going to be detached from the hillside and the car was going to fly! We finally arrived at a very beautiful vineyard with white and slightly alkaline soil, where Nikos demonstrated some pruning techniques.






Finally, we returned to the village and the winery for the wine tasting, in a very beautiful room, where they also keep records of past harvests. We tried the ENOTRIA series, the white Dafnios (Vidiano from the tank), the white Aspros Lagos (Vidiano from the barrel), the very peculiar red Dafnios (PDO Dafnes, dry liatiko) and some alltime classic reds from foreign varieties, such as the red Aspros Lagos (Cabernet Sauvignon). The two sweet sun-dried wines of the winery, the white Malvasia di Candia Aromatica and the red Helios (Liatiko), added a very nice last touch to an exceptional wine collection, which is driving Cretan wine into the future.



Our tour was more than complete. We thanked Nikos Douloufakis for everything and we departed so as to explore the next winery at Venerato.


This winery is also located within a village, this time in the village of Venerato. We were welcomed by Vassilis Laderos, an energetic man who showed us around a small winery, which is at the final stages of construction.

Vassilis Laderos is an oenologist originating from the island of Evia. Married to Cretan oenologist Kalliopi Voulitaki, he has moved permanently to Crete! Vassilis has been making wine in the area since 1998, working as head oenologist in various wineries, providing advice and having the general oversight.



In 2011, along with his activity as consultant oenologist, he decided to create their own winery with his wife, the Idaia Winery. They cultivate 5 acres, mainly with local varieties (Vilana, Thrapsathiri, Kotsifali, Mandilari, Liatiko) and the international varieties Syrah and Grenache Rouge, with a total production of 40 tons and 40,000 bottles. They also produce a sweet sun-dried Liatiko with the indication PDO Dafnes, as it falls within the specific zone.

This last piece of information prompted us to ask more about Liatiko, the dominant variety in this part of the prefecture of Heraklion. “It is an early, high-grade and oxidable variety, with low colour and acidity. All that, combined with the character of dried fruit, render this wine very interesting and particular,” he explained.


The small and functional building stands out. If and when it is completed, I am sure it will be very charming. The few stainless tanks and crushers are on the ground floor, while the few oak barrels and the stock are kept in the cellar. As the building is still under construction, there is no space available for tasting yet. This is why Vassilis prepared a wine box for us, so that we could try them at home.

We had a very nice experience with Vassilis Laderos, a very pleasant, active and ambitious winemaker! We wish him all the best!


Gregory Kontos, DipWSET

Wine writer and taster, sommelier graduate and WSET Diploma holder, with an appreciation for food, traveling, music, friends and bon vivant things in general. Founder of Aegean Wine Selections, a Company focused in Greek wine exports. He is married to Stavroula Mariamou and they have a son. 



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