Category Archives: B

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!


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!

Barbare Libra 2012

Barbare is perhaps one of my favorite Turkish wineries. Their wines range from perfectly lovely to truly special and the Libra is no exception.

Sitting between the villages of Barbaros and Yazır in Tekirdağ, Barbare grapes are cultivated with organic and biodynamic farming methods. Founder Can Topsakal focuses on international, red variety grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre.

Barbare’s most important ideology and conviction is “to give back to the soil what it has taken” and as a result, is dedicated to cultivating the choicest grapes and organic farming. To endorse this commitment, Barbare received the hard-won Ecocert certification. Ecocert was established in France in 1991 and is an independent inspection and certification body recognizing and certifying organic farming and has been a benchmark in organic certification worldwide ever since.


Recently I hosted a wine and chocolate pairing tasting. I needed a Bordeaux blend to pair with the bitter chocolate so I took myself off to La Cave in Cihangir to find one. I had a few ideas in mind but as soon as I saw the Libra label all those ideas flew right out of my head. A Barbare wine I hadn’t yet tried?! How could this be??

It’s rare that I offer a wine at a tasting I haven’t already drunk myself. What if it’s bad? Or worse-what if I’m stumped and can’t provide accurate tasting notes to my group?! With a Barbare though I knew I wouldn’t have to even remotely worry about the first possibility. As for the second…it’s Barbare. I could tell people it smells of unicorns and they’d believe it because it’s that good.

(Because it’s that good. Not because I’m that convincing of a talker).


Barbare Libra 2012 Tasting Notes:

To begin, the Libra is not a shy wine. At 15% abv it is a big, powerful velvety fist. The nose changes and evolves a lot. Each time I went in for a sniff the Libra revealed new layers. Aromas of blueberries and herbs gave way to earthy tones of leather and tar which softened to reveal the wine’s oak influence. If deep, purple red could be a sensation then that’s how this would feel in the mouth. Luxuriant, velvety tannins wrap themselves around the tongue and linger for a long, rich finish.

This is a limited addition from Barbare with only 20,000 bottles produced.  I really hope that the Libra is part of a planned Zodiac series of wines. If it is; please you beautiful people at Barbare, make the Leo amazing!!

Chateau Kalpak BBK 2011

Even before our trip to Chateau Kalpak with Em and AJ I’d had a few of their wines. One of them being the AWC Gold Medal winner BBK 2011.

Chateau Kalpak is the love child of Bülent Kalpaklıoğlu who began developing the vineyard in 2003. It was not until 2010 that he released his first vintage. His goal for Chateau Kalpak is to create a single chateau-style wine from a single vineyard. In order to achieve this, he picked the best root-stocks and clones of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot to match the vineyard terrior.

Only two blends are released annually: Chateau Kalpak and BBK. They harvest, ferment, and age (30-36 months) each parcel (about 1 hectar) separately. At Chateau Kalpak they use Hungarian oak barriques made out of wood selected for their balance, bouquet, and character. This establishes the basis of their “Chateau Wine”. From their they spend months conducting extensive blend studies for the Chateau Kalpak label. The remaining wines are re-blended to create the BBK label.

BBK 2011

Chateau Kalpak’s story and process are absolutely worth a deeper look and I suggest checking out the website (link above). Bülent Bey elevates wine making to a form of fine art with his thoughtfulness and attention to detail. All of which has paid off for him. Not only does he make beautiful wine but he has the gold medals to prove it. Chateau Kalpak is the only vineyard in Turkey to win a three star rating (2014) from the International Wine Challenge (AWC) in Vienna. Additionally they received six gold and three silver medals from the AWC and three gold medals from the Concours Mondial Bruxelles.

Chateau Kalpak BBK 2011 Tasting Notes:

The BBK might be Chateau Kalpak’s second wine but that in no way means it’s an inferior wine. In fact personally I liked the BBK 2011 more than I did the same vintage Chateau Kalpak. A bold blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot with a 14.7% abv, the BBK 2011 is a wine to be taken seriously.

The nose is a dark, romantic mystery. Aromas of black fruit, baking spices, dark chocolate, and mocha wrap your senses like a silken cocoon. Beautifully balanced with velvety tannins, the BBK held us in thrall and continued to develop and open as we sank into its spell. In addition to the black fruits and dark chocolate from the nose; clove, vanilla, and caramel each vied for their turn to take center stage. The long finish lingered with flavors of smoke and a hint of meat.

We made a pilgrimage in that bottle and found the light. It might have been a brilliant ruby light, but we found it.

The Suvla Sur 2012

I have been lucky enough to try three different vintages of Suvla’s Sur: the 2010, 2011, and 2012. A few years ago I wrote about the 2010 and 2011 side by side so it’s time to tackle the Sur 2012. They’re all beautiful wines. I wish I could get one of each for a vertical tasting but I believe the 2010 is sold out. It hurts no one’s feelings though to drink the Sur 2012!

Suvla is a family owned wine producer. In 2003 Pınar Ellialtı and Selim Zafer Ellialtı established the winery in Eceabat. Because of their location along the Çanakkale Strait (also known as Dardanelles); they named the winery after a bay in the north coast of the Aegean Sea. In 2006 after the first harvest they named the main vineyard ‘Bozokbağ’ after their newborn son ‘Bozok’.

Sur 2012

The Suvla vineyards are nestled in the historical Peninsula of Gallipoli, between the North Aegean coast and the Sea of Marmara. They produce a wide variety of grapes. The whites include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Roussanne, and Marsanne. The reds include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Grenache Noir, Petit Verdot, and Pinot Noir. In addition they also produce indigenous grape varieties, including Kınalı Yapıncak and Karasakız. In 2013 Suvla switched to organic viticulture and as a result received a certification of ‘Good Agriculture Practice – GAP’.

Sur 2012

Suvla Sur 2012 Tasting Notes:

The Sur 2012 is a Bordeaux blend of Merlot (73%), Cabernet Sauvignon (15%), Cabernet Franc (7%), and Petit Verdot (5%). After fermentation it spent 12 months in oak barriques before being bottled and released.

The Sur is a balance of power and elegance regardless of which vintage you get. At% abv there’s no denying the power certainly! Blackberry, spices, jalepeño, and mocha mingle in the nose. The palate is perfectly balanced with smooth, elegant tannins and mouthwatering acid, Sweet, ripe blackberries, black pepper, and mocha invite you on a romantic journey.

This is one of those wines you could drink in one sitting without noticing what you’ve done. The Suvla Pied Piper beckons you deeper into the bottle until you’ve drowned in it. Happy way to go!

Chateau Kalpak 2011 Bordeaux Blend

The Chateau Kalpak 2011 is a classic Bordeaux blend made by one of Turkey’s premiere winemakers; Chateau Kalpak. Made in a chateau-style this 2011 blend took a well-deserved gold medal at the 2014 Austrian Wine Challenge.

What is a “chateau-style” wine? The word came into use originally to describe wine in France where winemakers used grapes all grown on one “terroir” (a specific patch of land) to achieve a house-style wine with a consistent character across vintages.

Chateau Kalpak wines are made in this style. The Chateau Kalpak 2011 is a classic Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. All the grapes are grown in one vineyard in Gellibolu. After fermentation and blending they are barrel aged for an impressive 32 months in Hungarian oak barrels.

These wines won’t set you back the same amount as France’s Chateau Margaux.  Rather they are reasonably priced and in fact are not even the most expensive Turkish wines on the market at roughly 115TL. They are however among the most special wines available in Turkey.

Chateau Kalpak 2011

Chateau Kalpak 2011 Tasting Notes:

In the glass the Chateau Kalpak 2011 is a brilliant ruby and the nose is redolent with sour cherry, bright red fruits, eucalyptus, and mint. The palate is balanced and round with medium, smooth tannins and a long finish. While reflective of the nose, the flavors on the palate expand to include baking spices and an even deeper expression of the red fruits.

Barel Cabernet Merlot 2013

My friend AJ introduced me to Barel Vineyards with this Barel Cabernet Merlot blend from 2013. At 30-something a bottle this was a really pretty decent every day kind of wine. It’s not special but neither will it melt your insides the way some Turkish köpek gülderen (dog killer) wine will.

Okay, so that really isn’t the most ringing endorsement I could provide.

Located in the Trakya region of Thrace, Barel is vineyard owned by the Akin family. The name comes from a combination of the Akin children’s names: Elif and Barkin. Founded in 1997, Barel cultivates Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, and Sauvignon Blanc. With these grapes Barel produces a full range of wines: red, white, rose, and reserve.

Barel Cabernet Merlot

Barel Cabernet Merlot 2013 Tasting Notes:

At only 13.5% abv, the Barel Cabernet Merlot is not a big wine. In the glass it’s a medium opaque purple-red. The nose is quite nice: red fruits, pepper, spice, and smoke. On the palate it’s fine, but like I said not special. The wine is balanced with some soft tannins with red fruits, chocolate, and a bit of minerality.

I have to say I went into this with not a lot of expectations but I was pleasantly surprised. Especially since we drank it after killing two bottles of Chateau Kalpak perfection-and it still stood up. I’ve since picked up a bottle of the reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and am looking forward to trying it.

2013 Turasan Öküzgözü Boğazkere

It’s been ages since I’ve had an Öküzgözü Boğazkere blend. As much as I enjoy trying the native grape wines in Turkey drinking the same three reds (Öküzgözü, Boğazkere, and Kalecik Karası) and blends of the same does get old. I was, however, only too happy to take up a friend on her offer of a glass of the Turasan Öküzgözü Boğazkere that she brought to a Thirsty Thursday event.

Turasan OB

In the glass the Turasan Öküzgözü Boğazkere was a ruby red bordering on purple, bright and clear. The nose was dark/black fruits. On the palate it was very tart, no tannin, and little bit of a cliffhanger; something of a surprise for anything involving the powerful Boğazkere grape. It was a predominantly fruit-forward wine with flavors of blackberry and cherry but those dropped off quickly leaving very light hints of spice and possibly pine forest.

There’s nothing technically wrong with the 2013 Turasan Öküzgözü Boğazkere. If your preference is easily drinkable, unchallenging wines then this is right up your alley. For me, I like something more complex and structured.

A Visit to Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

A couple weeks ago I drank two of Chateau Kalpak wines with some friends and it turns out that my friend AJ knows the owner of the vineyard! Immediately Operation Wine began and we coordinated our schedules to find a weekend we might all be available to go visit Chateau Kalpak.

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

The drive to the chateau

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

Chateau Kalpak

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

Unfortunately, no one told Bulent Bey, the owner, our plans! When AJ contacted him and we discovered that he would not in fact be at the chateau during our planned visit we had half a day of scrambling and constant back and forth WhatsApp messaging while we figured out if we were all available to make the several hour drive to Şarköy the very next day.

Sadly not all of us were free so it was a smaller group to pile into AJ’s car on a bright and perfect autum Sunday; namely just me, AJ, and my friend Em from Istanbites.

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

In the foreground are the Chateau Kalpak vineyards; in the background is the Marmara Sea

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

Conical tanks allow the must cap to break up when punched down manually rather than staying solid and moving up & down like a piston, agitating the wine.

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

Much of Chateau Kalpak wine is made from free run juice; what is pressed is done slowly with a basket press.

Bulent Bey is not only one of the most perfectionist personalities I’ve ever met; he’s also probably the most patient. He started Chateau Kalpak 25 years ago; but his first vintage was not released until 2010. He’s not been idle during those years. In addition to cultivating his vines for years before pressing the 2010 harvest, he has been creating the best environment for his wines to develop.

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

These bad boys are so expensive & easily destroyed that most vintners eschew their use

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

Bulent Bey selecting grapes seeds from the must for us to sample. They impart toasted nut flavors to the wine.

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

We had the privilege of having Bulent Bey himself lead out tasting.

All the oak used at Chateau Kalpak is Hungarian. It comes from two different forests which he has visited so he can find the perfect match for his grapes. Once felled and planed, the oak boards he chooses have the smallest grain and are left to age, not for 24 months which is the standard, but for 48 months before the cooper shapes them into barrels. Even the cooperage has its own special feature-it is more normal than not to bend the wood by burning oak chips under it, charring the wood and adding those toasty flavors to wines. Bulten Bey’s barrels are bent with steam.

While it may seem eccentric at first all of this has a purpose: it neutralizes the oak thereby allowing the wine the benefit of oak aging but keeping the qualities of the fruit in the forefront.

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

The wine spends a whopping 32 to 36 months in these barrels. It is tested every month and every six months, each and every one of the barrels are emptied, thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, and refilled. These barrels are used for only one vintage before begin retired.

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

Chateau Kalpak produces only red wines; all Bordeaux blends so the vineyards are full of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. In order to get the most out of the soil, the grape varieties are not planted all in one place (i.e. not all Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are planted together). Rather they are broken up among different plots. Each section of grapes is kept separate during harvest and then separately fermented, macerated, aged, and considered when blending the wine three years later. It’s no small wonder it takes them eight months to complete the blending process!

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

This is a major commitment they’ve undertaken at Chateau Kalpak: special order barrels, using mostly free run juice with a smaller amount of basket pressed, blending for eight months, ageing for 36 months…all to make only two wines each vintage?! That’s crazy, right? Crazy like a fox is what it is.

While I have posted only the review of the Chateau Kalpak Twin (spoiler: it’s my favorite!) I have had the pleasure of drinking several different vintages of all three Chateau Kalpak wines. They are all, without question, stunning. And I don’t just mean stunning “for a Turkish wine”, I mean stunning. My personal opinion-this is one of the best, if not full out the best, wineries in Turkey.

Bravo, Chateau Kalpak, bravo.

The Chateau Kalpak Twin

I have two favorite Turkish wines-and one is the 2011 Chateau Kalpak Twin.

Chateau Kalpak is a semi newish winery, located in Şarköy on the Marmara Sea. I say semi newish in that I’ve only noticed the wines here in Istanbul for about the last 18 months or so but I believe their vines have been cultivated since the early 2000’s.

Getting a bottle of Chateau Kalpak Twin is not for the faint of heart though. Suvla has the best price at 100 TL, Savoy Tobacco and La Cave are both around 115 TL, and at Solera it will set you back 140 TL (-25% if you buy it to go). Is it worth the price tag? Absolutely yes.

Chateau Kalpak Twin

A lot of love has gone into making the Chateau Kalpak Twin. Proven if nothing else by the silver medal it won at the AWC in Vienna in 2015 and the gold it took in 2016. This careful blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot has spent a whopping 32 months in oak with minimal filtration. It’s a big wine 14.8% alcohol and it really needs to breathe or be run through an aerator; maybe twice. Your patience will be well rewarded though.

I love the story of the Chateau Kalpak Twin. After blending their 2011 Chateau Kalpak and sending it off to VIenna for competition they kept blending the wine because they weren’t happy with it. In the end, the blend they’d sent in won the gold but now they had another blend they liked better; and that’s what became the Chateau Kalpak Twin. While this is a pretty special story it’s also a sad story because it means that the Twin is only available in the 2011 vintage; in limited quantities.

Chateau Kalpak Twin

Chateau Kalpak Twin Tasting Notes:

The Chateau Kalpak Twin is a super complex wine. At first in the nose I got red fruits, spices, oak; but the more I let myself dive into to the aromas the more layers I found: green peppercorn, green bell pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, possibly some ginger, and forest aromas.

On the palate the delights of the wine continued with smooth, round, silky tannins and a long finish; a really long finish. The mouthwatering acid was accompanied by bursts of red berry fruit flavors to complete the picture.

Yes, the Chateau Kalpak Twin is a little expensive but it’s not nearly the most expensive wine I’ve had here in Turkey-and it is so very much worth the investment.

Paşeli K2

The Beautiful Paşaeli K2 2012

I had the Paşaeli K2 last summer at my birthday dinner at Ali Ocakbaşı and it was fantastic. Unfortunately Paşaeli is not really a pocketbook friendly wine although buying at Solera does help. The shelf price for the K2 is 90 TL but if you get it to go at Solera you pay %25 less making it a far more reasonably priced bottle.

I drank this bottle with some friends and colleagues in what I know call the inadvisable night of five bottles. Five bottles shared among four people should not be a problem. Unfortunately it was. I am too old to be having red wine-induced hangovers on a Wednesday. It was totally worth it though.

The Paşaeli K2 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot aged for 12 months in French oak then sitting another six months in the bottles before it hit the market. It’s got a very deep nose of red berries and dark fruits with something sweet/floral at the rim. Purple-red in color this baby has some nice legs showing its moderately high alcohol content (%14.4).

Nice big tannins on this backed up with a medium level of acid. The finish is a little disappointing but the berry and fruit flavors come through well. I liked this bottle (number four of the evening btw) as much as I did the first time. Highly recommended.