Go Greek: Marathon Wine and Grilled Eggplant with Pomegranate #WinePW

Marathon Wines from Greece paired with Greek dishes: “It is not About the Sprint but the Marathon”

For this month’s Wine Pairing Weekend focus on Greek wines hosted by Cindy Rynning at Grape Experiences, we decided we’d check out something new: Marathon’s first two wines, “Athena’s Vineyard” and “Nike’s Vineyard,” paired with a few favorite Greek dishes. 

 “Wine loosens the muscles and invigorates the spirit,” says ultra marathoner Dean Karnazes who enjoys wine after a long run and claims it works much better than ibuprofen.

The wines are the result of a new partnership between NU-Greek Wines and Greek-American ultramarathoner, Dean Karnazes, author of Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner, and one of Time Magazine’s “Top 100 Most Influential People in the World.” As an ultra marathoner, he’s ran in the extreme heat of Death Valley and the freezing cold of the South Pole.  


Greek-American ultramarathoner, Dean Karnazes

“Running can be painful,” Karnazes says, and as part of his recovery process he follows the same practice of ancient Greek athletes by enjoying wine for rest and relaxation after exercise. According to a press release, Karnazes is committed to the NU-Greek technique of handcrafting a Greek wine: “As a proud Greek and a marathon runner, these wines speak to me. They are lively and filled with vigor, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy them as much as I do.”

 “Wine is an appropriate article for (hu)mankind, both for the healthy body and for the ailing (hu)man,” says Greek philosopher and physician Hippocrates.  

While the grapes come from the hillsides of Greece, the wine is made and bottled at Deerfield in Sonoma by master vintner, Robert Rex, who has been making wine since 1972 and received the award for 2018 Winemaker of the Year from the American Fine Wine Competition (AFWC).

Winemaker Robert Rex says, “The passion that Dean has for running marathons we mirrored in Marathon Wines.”

MArathon’s white wine “Athena’s Vineyard” (after the Goddess of Wisdom) is composed of 100% from Greece’s indigenous grape, Assyrtiko (ah-SEER-tee-koe).

They say that the 2017 vintage is similar to a dry Sauvignon blanc, but to us, it is very distinct, refreshing, unusual, fun — and it pairs really well with Greek food (even better than a sauvignon blanc from Touraine which I also tried with this meal!)

The other Marathon varietal is a dry rose dubbed  “Nike’s Vineyard” after the Goddess of Victory. The 2017  is made entirely from indigenous, sustainably grown premium Greek grapes– I asked which ones but have yet to hear back.

“It has a much bounce as Dean’s racing strides,” Winemaker Robert Rex says, “His athleticism inspired this exquisite rosé.”

Both follow NU-Greek’s mission to create healthy wines by using 100% non-GMO, hand-picked and triple hand sorted in Greece. The wine is then transported in sealed containers to the Sonoma valley to be bottled at Deerfield Ranch Winery.

When I was in England last month staying with my college friend Nancy Callero Boyle who lives near Wales and Liverpool, she made a Greek dinner that knocked my socks off it was SOOOO good. So I asked Nancy to send us the recipes and Sue prepared the shrimp dish and this one of eggplant which is substantial enough that it can be served as a main course for two, with fresh crusty bread..


  • Greek mezes
  • dolmas – stuffed grape leaves– with a lemon butter sauce
  • Spanakopita – spinach and cheese
  • Hummus
  • greek olives
  • cucumber garlic yogurt dip
  • Eggplant salad
  • Greek Shrimp dish

Neither one of these wines can be compared to any grape more commonly known in the US: they are unique in every way. Not everyone makes Greek food, but if you’re going to do carry out from your favorite middle eastern restaurant, these wines would be a great choice. Think lemon, seafood, capers, white fish with lemon butter.

2017 – Marathon – Athena’s Vineyard – 12% alcohol

Color: Very golden for such a young wine, and full of light.

Nose: One of the most interesting noses we’ve experienced: camphor, mint, chamomile, resin such as pine or pine nuts, there is also a mead quality on the nose. The nose is quite dominant and leaves you thinking that this is going to be a heavy wine.

Palate: After the heavy, intense and complex nose, we were surprised that there is such lightness to this wine. Such an interesting mouth feel: it is viscous and coats the mouth pleasantly. Tasting this wine made the both of us curious and longing to learn more about Greek wines, and about the soils and the indigenous grapes. There is a nice tang at the end citrus water or orange blossoms.

Pairing: By itself this wine is interesting and drinkable however with Greek food this wine is wonderful. It handles tart lemon so well.  Beautiful with the dolma and lemon butter sauce. Greek foods have a tart richness that go so well with this wine.

As we have learned over and over again, wines of the land go so well with the foods of the land.

We were in heaven as we experienced the diversity in flavors of the Greek food. The food is elevated with the wine and the wine is elevated with the food. I liked the Eggplant salad better with this wine so if you were doing a  wine pairing dinner with this menu and these two wines, we would recommend pairing the white with the salad and the rose with the shrimp course.

2017 – Marathon – Nike’s Vineyard

Color: Copper, pale copper

Nose: This wine also has some of the same qualities the the Athena’s Vineyard had, the turponiods hit you first, mixed in with orange blossom, mead, and maybe some cherry. Fresh cherry juice as opposed to cooked cherries.

Palate: Juicy, nice mouth feel, not quite as round as the Athena’s vineyards, clean, sweet tart at the back of the palate with a long lingering finish of citrus. It reminded me of a cherry phosphate.

Pairing:  I liked this wine with the spanakopita. It was great with the dolmas, just like the Athena’s vineyard, it worked with the tart lemon butter. We imagined it would go well with a curried chicken salad. While Rasika was drinking this wine with the eggplant, it brought her back to her Indian roots and Indian flavors that she was craving. The shrimp and the rose were just so good. It was over the top, and I look forward to doing this combo again. The wine likes spices and plays with them.

Roasted baby aubergine salad with spiced yoghurt dressing recipe

Recipe Type: Salad Difficulty: Easy Preparation Time: 15 mins Cooking Time: 20 mins Serves: 4

For the salad

  • 8 baby aubergines, halved lengthways (we used regular eggplant sliced)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

For the dressing

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp grated fresh root ginger
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 150 g low-fat Greek yoghurt
  • 1 pinch sea salt, adjust to taste
  • 1 handful pomegranate seeds
  • 1 tbsp coarsely chopped pistachio nuts
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
  1. Preheat the oven to 240C/gas mark 9.
  2. Brush the cut side of the baby aubergines with the olive oil and place them on a baking tray. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the aubergines are light brown in colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  3. Now make the dressing. Pour the olive oil into a non-stick pan, add the cumin seeds and heat on a high heat until the seeds start to sizzle – this should take no longer than 2-3 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and quickly mix in the turmeric while the oil is still hot. Allow the oil-and-spice mixture to cool down.
  5. In a mixing bowl, combine the garlic, ginger and chilli flakes with the yoghurt. Pour in the cooled oil-and-spice mixture and combine. Add salt to taste. It is a very thick dressing. May want to add some milk or olive oil.
  6. To assemble the salad, place the roasted aubergine halves on a serving plate and pour over the prepared dressing.
  7. Scatter the pomegranate seeds, pistachio nuts and coriander over the top.

Join us on Saturday morning on twitter at 8am Pacific to learn about other pairings– or check these out:


14 thoughts on “Go Greek: Marathon Wine and Grilled Eggplant with Pomegranate #WinePW

  1. Ok…….that explains it….you and Sue must be runners as well otherwise you would be as big as a house feasting like this each and every month. Your menus and photos always knock my socks off. Seriously, thanks for a very interesting article. My nephew is a runner and has participated in the Western 100 several times.

    Liked by 1 person

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