Vino Dessera 190 2014

The Vino Dessera 190 has a special place in my heart. It, along with one of the Prodom blends, was one of the first wines I tried here that made me believe Turkish wine could be really good. I do not now remember if it was specifically the 190 2014 … but I enjoy all the 190 blends equally.

Vino Dessera was established in 2012, but to understand the full story of these fields we need to jump a little further back. When the owner’s first grandchild was born, abiding by a very thoughtful Anatolian tradition, he planted approximately 600 walnut trees along the green slopes of Thrace. And, as it turns out, he never stopped. Motivated partially by self-competition, when his second grandchild was born, he planted wine grapes in 2000. And, so too Vino Dessera was born. Today, the vineyard is a family-run operation growing both international and local grapes and producing approximately 100,000 bottles every year.

190 2014

I got to visit Vino Dessera in September where I met Doğan Dönmez; the man responsible for the 190. I learned that each vintage of the 190 is a different blend. This is not a chateau-style winery aiming for a steady blend year after year. While that certainly has its merit there’s also something exciting about the flip side. Challenging yourself year after year to make a new blend. The same invariable quality but different grapes and different blends.

The Vino Dessera 190 2014 is a blend of Shiraz and Merlot sourced from their vineyards in both Kırklareli (Thrace) and Kilis (Anatolia). Matured for 12 months in oak before bottling it blends the flavors of the grapes, their terroir, and oak. My friend M said that the wine’s flavor is that of a kiss. Not a kiss of passion but one of romance.

Who doesn’t want to drink a wine described like that?!

190 2014

Vino Dessera 190 2014 Tasting Notes:

The Vino Dessera 190 2014 is a big blend with 15% abv and an opaque, inky purple-ruby color. The nose is full of intense forest fruits, dark chocolate, and cloves. Generally well-balanced with a nice tannic structure the palate is a little jammy with the added depth of sweet, baking spices.

Vino Dessera wines are always excellent quality but it’s the 190 blends that I like the most. In fact it might be fun to gather a number of vintages and do a comparison tasting. I might just do that!

Leelanau Cellars Select Harvest Riesling

In August I went back to the States for the first time in two years. While I was there I gave a wine tasting for some family and friends. It was a strange mixed bag of wines from the US and abroad. It included two wines from Michigan; one from Leelanau Cellars.

Yes. We make wine in Michigan. Every. Single. State. In America makes wine. Even Hawaii and Alaska. California may have the biggest reputation but personally I don’t think they’re even the best. For me the best American wines are coming out of Oregon, Washington, and New York.  But back to Michigan.

MI tasting

Michigan wines are steadily, if somewhat slowly, improving. My experience with them is that they are still largely what one might call a ‘porch wine’. Decent quality but without any real depth of character. They are easy drinking and and usually a little on the sweet side. Even the “dry” wines. But they are gaining recognition and winning awards so we can’t be doing too badly really.

To learn more about Michigan wines, wineries, and wine tourism I suggest checking out Michigan Wines official webpage and Michigan By the Bottle .

Leelanau Cellars

Leelanau Cellars Select Harvest Riesling Tasting Notes:

Leelanau Cellars is one of our more northerly wineries. Located north of Michigan’s famous Traverse City, the Jacobson family has been making wine here for 35 years. Leelanau Cellers’ wines cover a wide range from dry to fruit (we’re big on fruit wine in Michigan), sweet, and even a white port.

The Select Harvest Riesling is part of Leelanau Cellars’ Tall Ships series. As the name implies, it is a non vintage blend. At only 11% abv it’s fairly low in alcohol. That combined with a semi-sweet nature makes it a dangerously easy wine to quaff.

Michigan does Riesling well and Leelanau Cellars Select Harvest Riesling is no exception. It shows distinctive characteristics of the grape from the clear, pale lemon color to the floral and stone fruits on the nose. The residual sugar lends a slightly thick, honey-like texture to the wine. However rather than being cloying-the fear of those who don’t love a sweet wine-the nose and palate are delicate. Honeysuckle, fresh peaches, and the richness of dried apricots form a beautiful marriage of aromas and flavors. 

So yes, we make wine in Michigan. You should check it out sometime.

Ergenekon Bona Dea Rouge 2013

The Sommeliers Selection Turkey 2017 is the gift that keeps on giving. Seriously. I discovered so many wines and wineries there that I hadn’t heard of before. It’s taking a little time but they are slowly trickling into retail shops in Istanbul now.

Şeyla Ergenekon, one of the founders of Ergenekon winery, has written some of the first and only books available on Turkish wine including: Şarapla Tanışma and Türk Şarapları. I’ve had the pleasure of reading both of these. The second, Türk Şarapları is also available in English as Wines of Turkey and can be found online or, if you’re in Istanbul, at Vinus Wine & Spirits.

Bona Dea Rouge 2013

Luckily for wine lovers, Şeyla established her own, eponymous vineyard in Çanakkale. Initially this boutique vineyard sold its grapes to licensed producers but now Ergenekon wines are available commercially. 

In their organic and biodynamic vineyard Ergenekon cultivates Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Grenache, Cabernet Franc,  and Sauvignon Blanc.

Bona Dea Rouge 2013

Ergenekon Bona Dea Rouge 2013 Tasting Notes:

The Bona Dea Rouge 2013 is a blend of Ergenekon’s red grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, and Cabernet Franc. Whatever they’re doing at Ergenekon they’re doing it right because this wine is beautiful.

The wine appears a deep, dark ruby in the glass. The nose is complex and displays black fruits, vanilla, sweet spices, sweet tobacco, earth, and mint. The tannins were initially like slightly rough silk but they, and the flavors, rounded out after the wine had a chance to breathe. On the palate the attack was heavy ripe fruits (blackberry) and creme de cassis moving to clove and coffee and ending in a long herbal finish of licorice.

On a final note; I was so surprised when I unwrapped the foil and discovered a glass stopper instead of the expected cork. After a little research I discovered that these new glass corks have been around for a couple years now. These elegant stoppers are one of the ways to attack the problem of cork taint, which is caused by the chemical compound 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, or TCA. TCA can develop in corks because corks are from trees, and plants have phenols, which are one of the ingredients of TCA. But glass doesn’t carry this risk. They don’t seem to have caught on a whole lot yet but I hope to see more of them!

Chateau Nuzun 2011

In September I had the opportunity to visit Chateau Nuzun where I tasted the Chateau Nuzun 2011. The tour, through Piano Piano and lead by expert Turkish sommelier Murat Mumcuoglu took us to five vineyards in Turkey’s Thrace.

Our first stop was at Chateau Nuzun where we were greeted by one of the winery’s founders, Nazan Uzun. Nazan showed us around the vineyards where the Cabernet Sauvignon and Öküzgözü grapes were still ripening.

Chateau Nuzun 2011

Chateau Nuzun is a boutique winery where they believe that good wines can only be made from excellent grapes. Hence, they concentrate on good viticulture practices. All their grapes are certified organic. They practice minimal intervention in their vineyards and let nature do its thing. Gravel and sandstone soil over clay allows them to dry farm. The majority of the vineyards sit at an altitude of 110m to 140m, all facing south with a slope of 18%. The Pinot Noir parcel is the exception; it which faces north with an 8% slope.

Nazan and Necdet first planted their vines in 2004 and four years later made their first wine with the 2008 vintage. They’ve been going strong every since.

Chateau Nuzun 2011

I’ve tried Chateau Nuzun wines in the past but it’s been a few years. Honestly I was not entirely sure why people made such a fuss. However since my first encounter with Chateau Nuzun I’ve learned a lot about wine. My palate has developed and I’ve learned how to enjoy wines that are more complicated. I am now a Chateau Nuzun convert.

Chateau Nuzun 2011

Luckily Chateau Nuzun wines are pretty widely available in Istanbul. Comedus, La Cave, Rind, MacroCenter, İncirli Şaraphane… I bought three bottles, including the Chateau Nuzun 2011 blend when I visited the vineyard. Soon I’ll be heading to these shops to buy more!

Chateau Nuzun 2011

Chateau Nuzun 2011 Tasting Notes:

The Chateau Nuzun 2011 is a big blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Pinot Noir. And when I say big…14.3% abv. The nose is complicated with layers of fruit, herb, spice, and earth. On the palate it’s well-balanced with round, velvety tannins. Beautiful fruit expressions on the attack with intriguing underlying tones of earth and cinnamon on the finish.

There are so many reasons to love Chateau Nuzun wines. Nazan and Necdet’s enthusiasm for what they do is reflected in their wines and contagious! Furthermore by drinking their wines you get to support a small business that emphasizes sustainable practices. And most of all…the wines are amazing.

Celler del Roure Vermell 2014

This bottle of Celler del Roure from Valencia’s Vermell DO came to me by way of my friend K. She spent the new year in Valencia and this was her favorite find there.

My experience with Spanish wines is largely limited to Tempranillos from Rioja. I’d fall all over myself to get a good Garnacha from Priorat. Unfortunately in Turkey it’s largely Rioja or nothing. So I jumped at the opportunity to share this Celler del Roure with K. With a blend of Garnacha Tintorera with 15% Monastrell and 10% Mandó; it is quite outside what we usually have access to here.

Celler del Roure

Celler del Roure 2014 Tasting Notes:

Right from the off think the Celler del Roure is an interesting wine. Initially fermented in stainless steel – with indigenous yeasts no less! Then, rather than tank, oak, or extended bottle ageing it is matured in 2,600-liter amphorae for six months.

The nose is fruit-driven with slightly black fruit, some red berries, liquorice, and a hint of sweet tobacco. Slightly jammy on the palate with a smooth, medium body and hints of clove under a lot of fruit.

The Celler del Roure does not display any particular depth or complexity but it is a wine of subtle elegance that is easy to drink and can be enjoyed upon release.

Adnan Kutman Öküzgözü Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

I don’t drink Kutman wines often. Every time I do though I am reminded that it’s something I should do more often. Like the Adnan Kutman Öküzgözü Cabernet Sauvignon, Kutman wines are a balance of both the fruit and the winemaker’s expression. While not every one will knock your socks off; they are dependable options.

Kutman is one of Turkey’s many wineries with vineyards located in the prolific Thracian region. However those aren’t Kutman’s only vineyards. They also grow in the Ege district of Turkey’s Aegean region. They grapes for this particular wine come from both vineyards.

Öküzgözü is a native Turkish varietal. Originally from the country’s east (Anatolia), it is a delicate and fussy grape that has managed to do fairly well in other parts of the country. Öküzgözü generally creates easy to drink wines that are medium-bodied, high in acid, and have delicate fruity-floral aromas. Blending it with the much bigger personality inherent in Cabernet Sauvignon gives Öküzgözü a bit more depth of character.

Kutman Öküzgözü Cabernet Sauvignon

Adnan Kutman Öküzgözü Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Tasting Notes:

I do not know the blend percentages but the high acid and lower alcohol (12.5% abv) lead me to suspect that it is majority Öküzgözü. However that does not mean that the Cabernet Sauvignon has not made its presence felt.

The nose was rather aromatic with both red and black fruits, green bell pepper, mint, chocolate, and some baking spices. The latter likely a result of the wine’s 12 months in oak. Medium-bodied with smooth, light tannins, the palate displayed the delicacy of the Öküzgözü with light fruits giving way to subtle green flavors.

Georgian Wine Tasting in Istanbul

Georgian wine has been gaining in popularity for several years now. Not even Istanbul can resist the charms of neighboring Georgia’s wine and cuisine. While we don’t get a huge variety of Georgian wine here we at least have a steady supply.

While the wine tastings I lead are usually Turkish wine-focused, several months ago we shelved the Turkish wine in favor of some of the Georgian wines available here. Apparently not even sharing a border with a country makes it easier to import alcohol. The selection here is limited to a few basic table wines from a couple of Georgia’s large, commercial producers; particularly Chateau Mukhrani and Telavi Wine Cellar.

Georgian wine

Chateau Mukrani is one of the largest wineries in Georgia. The winery was originally established towards the end of the nineteenth century by Prince Ivane Mukhranbatoni on the family’s Mukhrani estate. By 1896 winery production peaked with twelve wines and international awards and popularity. Unfortunately the chateau and vineyards suffered during the twentieth century. In 2002 an investment group formed to restore the chateau to its former glory. By 2007 they were producing wines from newly invigorated vineyards in the eastern Georgian village of Mukhrani.

In the middle of Alazani Valley, lies Kakheti’s largest city, Telavi. It is just outside the city where, in 1915, Telavi Wine Cellar was founded. Telavi Wien Cellar belnds innovation with a sense of history, keeping faithful to the noble traditions of Kakhetian winemaking, while adapting to modern methods to produce wines that would please the most refined, and discerning global palate.

Georgian food

Of course no Georgian wine tasting would be complete without some traditional Georgian food. I made several dishes including both Imeretian and Megruli khachapuri, a chicken salad, and my favorite Georgian starter: eggplant rolls with garlic walnut paste.

And now, the wines!

Chateau Mukhrani Goruli Mtsvane

Chateau Mukhrani Goruli Mtsvane 2014 Tasting Notes:

There are some dozen different grapes with the word Mtsvane in their names because in Georgian, Mtsvane just means “green.”  Many grapes are called Mtsvane Something, and typically the Something part of the name has to do with where the grape is from (or thought to be from).  Mtsvane Goruli (or Goruli Mtsvane) means “green from Gori,” which is a town in the Kartli region in the Caucasus mountains of south-central Georgia.  This and Mtsvane Kakhuri, which means “green from Kakheti” are the two most common varieties found.

We tasted the Chateau Mukhrani Goruli Mtsvane. Bright and fruity with white and yellow plums and citrus on the nose, the sur lie ageing add some depth of flavor while keeping the wine’s freshness and easy to drink nature.

Chateau Mukhrani Rkatsiteli

Chateau Mukhrani Rkatsiteli 2014 Tasting Notes:

Rkatsiteli is probably the most common white wine grape variety in Georgia; particularly in Kakheti. It is used to make everything from table wine to European-style wines, qvevri amber wines, and even fortified wines.

Like the Goruli Mtsvane above, the Chateau Mukhrani Rkatsiteli was also aged sur lie. Flavors of yellow and white plums, white mulberry, and citrus are highlighted by refreshing acidity. A warm finish hints at both the sur lie ageing and the depth of character of which this grape is capable.

Kondoli Rkatsiteli

Telavi Wine Cellar Kondoli Rkatsiteli 2011 Tasting Notes:

This Rkatsiteli from Telavi Wine Cellar was much more complex than the young and fresh version by Chateau Mukhrani. The wine was aged 70% in French barriques (35% new oak, 35% old oak) and 30% in stainless steel.  Fruity and aromatic, the nose is warm with the scents of apricots, white peach, melon, and toasted nut. Minerality balances the fruit on the palate keeping them fresh instead of saccharine and hints of hazelnuts and slight buttery finish from the oak give this Rkatsiteli some very interesting layers.

Telavuri Saperavi

Telavi Wine Cellar Telavuri Red Tasting Notes:

Unlike the other wines from the tasting, this wine from Telavi Wine Cellar is a non vintage blend from the winery’s Kakheti vineyards. Part of the winery’s table wine line, this dry red is a Saperavi-lead blend of local Georgian grape varieties. While not particularly complex its fruity aromas (largely black fruits like blackcurrants) and velvety texture make it perfectly quaffable.

Chateau Mukhrani Saperavi

Chateau Mukhrani Saperavi 2012 Tasting Notes:

The final wine of our tasting was the Chateau Mukhrani Saperavi 2012. More complex than the non vintage from Telavi Wine Celler, this Saperavi was aged 20% in French, American and Caucasian oak barrels after undergoing malolactic fermentation. A beguiling bouquet of black mulberry, blackberry and cherry tempt you to explore further while light florals, balsamic, and echoes of soft oak on the palate complete this wine’s seduction.

Kayra Cameo Sparkling Wine

Turkish sparkling wine is fairly new to the market. While previously there may have been one or two, it feels like the industry exploded with them over this spring and summer. Now you can find sparkling wine offered by a variety of producers including Vinkara, Pamukkale, Suvla, Kayra, and others.

Previously I posted about Leona Bubble, one of the two sparkling wines made by Kayra. The Kayra Cameo is a blend of the same grapes but is a higher-end version of the Bubble.

Cameo

The winery’s name is taken from the Turkish word “kayra” which means benevolence, grace, and kindness. A family endeavor, Kayra has two main bases in Turkey, one in Elazığ and one in Şarköy. The Elazığ winery in Eastern Anatolia was established in 1942, and the Şarköy winery in Thrace was established in 1996. With assistance from lead winemaker Daniel O’Donnell, Kayra produces an impressive 10 labels each with its own unique characteristics.

Leona Bubble

Part of the Kayra series, the Cameo is a well produced sparkling wine made in the tank, or charmat method. Unlike the traditional method (think Champagne), whereby wine goes through a second fermentation in the bottle to create bubbles; in the tank method the second fermentation happens in a large pressurized tank. The sparkling wine is then bottled and sealed.

I’ve had the pleasure of drinking Kayra’s Cameo several times now. In fact it formed the basis of a yacht-board wine tasting I hosted this summer! It doesn’t get much better than drinking sparkling wine while on a private Bosphorus cruise!

Cameo

Kayra Cameo Tasting Notes:

Like many sparkling wines, the Cameo is a non vintage-meaning it is a blend of wines harvested in different years. The blend includes Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Misket. Between the lovely flavor and the relatively low alcohol (11.5% abv) this is definitely a wine that is dangerously delicious!

The Cameo has a lovely aromatic nose filled with delicate fruits and cream. White peach, citrus (grapefruit particularly), and pineapple all vied for attention. Bubbles are fine and tight giving the wine a nice, frothy mouthfeel. It almost feels like the flavors of peach, lemon pith, blood orange, and grapefruit burst out of the bubbles as they dissipate on the tongue.

So far my favorite Turkish sparkling wine is the Cameo! While it seems that sparkling wine is often reserved for a special occasion at an average price of 99 TL the Cameo won’t break the bank if your special occasion is as simple as opening a good bottle of wine!

Büyülübağ Shah 2010

Before we talk about the Büyülübağ Shah, let’s talk about Büyülübağ itself.

Located on Avşa Island, Büyülübağ is one of Turkey’s Marmara region wineries. Alp Törüner founded the winery there in 2003 with a view of continuing the island’s wine making history. Working with an architect and an oenologist, by 2005 he built Turkey’s first (and I believe only) gravity-flow winery.

So new question: what’s a gravity-flow winery? First of all, it’s not a legally defined term which means there’s a lot of room for variation. The idea behind a gravity-flow winery is to cut out all the pumps, conveyors, and other machinery most wineries use to move grapes, must, and wine during the wine making process. Instead gravity moves the wine through the process. Rather than cutting costs by eliminating pumps and conveyor belts, gravity-flow wineries are expensive to build though. Theoretically you would need to put each process on a different level. Which also means workers are scrambling up and down ladders all day, every day.

shah

If it’s potentially more expensive and more work then why do it? According to Wine Spectator, gravity-flow wineries allow wine to be moved around much more gently. Too much force, too much rough-and-tumble handling, and a wine might become overextracted or too tannic, or experience too much oxidation.

Is it worth it? Well my experience with Büyülübağ wines says yes. Törüner produces some really nice wines. However other vintners in Turkey are also producing really nice wines without this system. For now let’s say that it works well for Büyülübağ.

shah

Büyülübağ Shah 2010 Tasting Notes:

The Büyülübağ Shah is a Syrah-lead blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. We all know that I’m not a Syrah fan and often avoid them. I’m not gonna lie here; I bought the Shah because I love the label. Thumbs up to Büyülübağ’s marketing and design team!

Velvety black fruits and black pepper dominate the nose. Twelve months in French oak add an underlying toasty sweetness of clove. Elegant tannins and a strong acidic core lead to a long finish with plump, juicy blackberries.

Kastro Tireli Karkaia 2013

I haven’t yet dived fully into Kastro Tireli’s wines. Outside of the Narince-Viognier I previously reviewed I’ve only also had this Karkaia, a Bordeaux-blend style wine. However I’m so pleased to see that their wines are pretty widely available now. Especially as I’m a fairly lazy individual and still haven’t made it to their storefront in Bebek.

Committed to quality over quantity, Kastro Tireli, which began planting in 2004, does everything by hand. The winery is also dedicated to organic viticulture. If you cannot visit them in Akhisar and want a bigger experience than just picking up something in the bottle shop-head to Bebek. And then mock me with how great your experience was. Maybe then I’ll stop being lazy and finally make a visit!

Karkaia

Kastro Tireli Karkaia 2013 Tasting Notes:

The Kastro Tireli Karkaia is a big, bold blend of traditional Bordeaux grapes. This beautiful, deep ruby wine combines not only Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot but also Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

The alcohol is quite high (14.9%!) so you’ll want to give this some breathing time or otherwise aerate it. Without the benefit of breathing the nose is initially quite tight and alcoholic. However once it does have a chance to settle, the nose is redolent with fruit and spice. Black fruits (black currant, blackberry, and black plums) are mingle with vanilla and sweet, baking spices. It’s saved from being too sweet any syrupy by a zing of green bell pepper. Beautiful, round tannins support rich fruits and spices on the palate.

Overall the Karkaia is a well-balanced and elegant wine that only increases my estimation of Kastro Tireli as a whole. I look forward to trying more of their wines!