Category Archives: Wine Reviews

Gordias Kalecik Karası-Cabernet Franc 2014

It feels like it’s been neigh on forever since I’ve had a wine by Gordias. So this winter when I saw a new bottle at Solera I couldn’t resist buying the Gordias Kalecik Karası-Cabernet Franc. Not only have I not had a Gordias in a while but I’d not even seen this blend anywhere before.

Gordias Kalecik Karası-Cabernet Franc

Gordias is a boutique winery near Turkey’s capitol Ankara. It is unfortunately one of the lesser known boutique wineries and the wines are not always easy to find in shops. The Solera wine bar is my go-to place to source these wines. It is not however unknown abroad! Last year the Gordias Kalecik Karası-Cabernet Franc won a silver medal from the International Wine Challenge in Vienna.

Gordias Kalecik Karası-Cabernet Franc

Gordias Kalecik Karası-Cabernet Franc 2014 Tasting Notes:

As soon as I poured the wine I knew it was going to be lovely. How could a wine with that beautiful of color not be? Far more purple than ruby, the color is a brilliant, almost amethyst purple. The nose was very fruity with black currant, black raspberry, and bright strawberry with the slight bite of green bell pepper.

I think the Cabernet Franc provided some of the tannins that Kalecik Karası usually lacks for me. Smooth and round with a fairly long finish the palate was more involved than my impression of the nose led me to believe it would be. Greener and more complex with slightly jammy fruits, green bell pepper, and cocoa.

I thought it went really well with roasted tomato carrot soup.

Another lovely and inexpensive wine from Gordias.

Likya Malbec 2015

I feel like I say a lot that such-and-such winery is one of my favorite wineries in Turkey. Does the expression lose gravitas for saying it so often? Or is it a reflection on how good Turkish wine really is? Whatever the answer; I’m going to say it again. Likya is one of my favorite wineries in Turkey.

One of the things I like so much about Likya is that they put equal effort into both domestic and international varietals. For example, Likya resurrected a nearly distinct Turkish grape varietal and is now making complex and interesting wines from the Acıkara grape. The list of international varieties they tackle is varied and interesting. Beyond the typical Chardonay and Pinot Noir they also make a varietal Pinot Meunier and several Malbec options.

The first Likya Malbec I tried was the Kadyanda Malbec and I was blown away. Less expensive than the wine we’re discussing here, the Kadyanda was fully expressive of the varietal. Given my enthusiastic response to that wine I was eager to try the eponymous Likya Malbec.

Likya Malbec

Likya Malbec 2015 Tasting Notes:

The drama of this wine is apparent as soon as you pour it and see the deep, opaque purple red color reminiscent of black mulberries. The nose here is everything. It displays aromas of black fruits (black raspberry, plum), coffee, vanilla, bay leaf, chocolate, and baking spices.

Medium-bodied with round, succulent tannins, the fruit on the palate is rich. It was far more fruit-forward than I expected after the dynamic aromas in the nose.

By no means a mundane wine; but I think a little longer in the bottle would be beneficial. However if you want to drink it now you won’t be disappointed. Just make sure to decant or otherwise aerate this one well first to let the flavors settle properly.

Saranta Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Saranta is one of the new kinds on the block of the Turkish wine industry. While established in 2007 and with a debut vintage in 2010 we’ve only really seen Saranta wines in Istanbul over the past year.  Happily for wine lovers Saranta is hiding no longer. They exploded on the main stage at the Sommeliers’ Selection Turkey 2017. A few months later Saranta wines were popping up in Istanbul bottle shops.

Located in Turkey’s Thrace, just a stone’s throw from another Thracian jewel, Vino Dessera, Saranta is producing quality wines under two labels: Saranta and Chateau Murou.

Saranta

Saranta sources grapes from its own vineyards in Kırklareli as well as from other growers in the Thracian region. After processing in its state of the art facilities wines are aged and stored in the beautiful cellar. Wines with the Saranta label are aged entirely in stainless steel. Wines labeled Chateau Murou age in French oak barriques.

Saranta

Saranta will soon offer not only tours and tastings in its beautiful tasting room but also a place to stay. Right next door to the winery’s facilities stands a lovely, nearly complete boutique hotel.

Saranta Sauvignon Blanc

Saranta Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Tasting Notes:

The Saranta Sauvignon Blanc has a flinty nose with undertones of citrus. The acid is rather on the high side but the overall wine is nicely balanced. On the palate there’s lots of citrus (lemon peel and grapefruit) with a slightly warm, lemon curd finish. The Kırklareli terroir makes itself known in the wine and you can taste the distinctive minerals from the quartz-laden soils.

I’m really looking forward to more of Saranta’s wines!

Fabre Montmayou Gran Reservado Malbec

When I lived in the US I never really understood the point of Duty Free shops; I never saw deals that were any better than the US retail prices. Then I moved to Turkey and I got it. Now I make liberal use of duty free whenever I’m abroad including picking up a bottle of the gorgeous 2012 Fabre Montmayou Gran Reservado Malbec.

While it wouldn’t have been my first instinct to pair it this way; it turns out that the Fabre Montmayou Gran Reservado Malbec goes beautifully with roasted tomato soup. This was a case of pairing based more on what I wanted to eat and drink vs what made pairing sense. And yet it worked amazing well.

Fabre Montmayou Gran Reservado Malbec

Fabre Montmayou Gran Reservado Malbec Tasting Notes:

I’ve had one or two pretty decent Turkish Malbecs recently but the Fabre Montmayou Gran Reservado Malbec…this is what Malbec is supposed to taste like. The nose is deep and dark dark, mostly black pepper, tobacco, and cocoa. After it opened we caught also some of the big, black fruits for which Malbec is so famous.

So, so beautiful, the tannins envelope you like a velveteen hug and lead to a finish that is long and smooth. It tastes like jam made with black plums and black cherries that has been liberally spiced with black pepper.

This is a Malbec that takes some time to get know and it’s worth every moment of the journey!

Vinkara Hasandede 2015

Perhaps my biggest beef with the Turkish wine industry (well aside from active government oppression) is that I feel that many of the best wineries here put too little effort into cultivating and vinifying native Turkish grapes. Quite possibly five to 10 years ago this is what they had to do to attract consumers both domestically and abroad. But the last years have demonstrated that wine drinkers are drawn more and more to native grape varieties and winemaking methods.

Turkey is home to dozens of grape varieties. Certainly not all of them are cultivated for wine but many are. They are capable of creating wines with perfumed elegance and wines of power and structure. And by no means are all winemakers ignoring them. Many like Kayra, Suvla, Chamlija, Tempus, Likya, and more are not only vinifying native grapes but in some cases even rescuing them. However one winery has dedicated itself to making wine with native grapes: Vinkara.

Vinkara Hasandede

Founded by Ardıç Gürsel in 2003, the mission of Vinkara is to introduce and build awareness of native Anatolian grapes. Red varieties like Kalecik Karası, Öküzgözü and Boğazkere are made in their house, Reserve, and Winehouse styles as is the white grape Narince. Vinkara even produces blanc de noirs and rose sparkling wines called Yaşasın out of Kalecik Karası.

Located in special mesoclimate in the Kızılırmak River Basin outside the village of Kalecik; Vinkara’s vineyards could not be more perfectly located to take advantage of the Anatolian soils. Planted 2000 feet above sea level in sand, clay, and limestone with high mineral content the soils have excellent natural drainage. Cold, snowy winters and hot, dry summers with sharp diurnal temp fluctuations all provide excellent growing conditions for these native grapes.

Vinkara Hasandede

The newest Vinkara wine to cross my path also introduced me to a new Turkish varietal: Hasandede. Part of the winery’s Winehouse style, the Hasandede is a thin-skinned, medium sized grape. Jancis Robinson’s Wine Grapes describes this grape as “humdrum”. All respect to Ms. Robinson (who really is the master of all wine knowledge) but Hasandede is anything but humdrum. Or at least it is in the hands of Vinkara’s winemakers.

I first encountered the Vinkara Hasandede at Demeti, one of the best meyhane restaurants in Cihangir (Istanbul). My friend K and I were treated to a beautiful meal and wine tasting of both Turkish and international wines by our friend Ali. I’m a big believer in the “if it grows together it goes together” wine and food pairing philosophy and it is certainly true in the case of Turkish foods. The Hasandede paired beautifully with the

Vinkara Hasandede

Vinkara Hasandede 2015 Tasting Notes:

The Vinkara Hasandede has a surprising amount of alcohol (13% abv) for how relatively light it is. In the glass it shows a brilliant, clear, pale lemon color. Distinctive tears suggest the hint of residual sugar for which I think the Vinkara Winehouse wines are known.

The nose is initially reminiscent of a Misket; delicately perfumed with florals and citrus aromas. The development on the palate shows so much more than the nose. And edge of zippy acid balances beautifully with the slight sweetness while flavors of smokey minerality, cream, and gooseberry delight the tongue.

An absolutely delightful wine from Vinkara! Excellent for either pairing with food or enjoying on its own.

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.