Category Archives: K

Trajan Rezerv Kalecik Karası 2011

I was unaware of the existence of Trajan wines until I saw the Trajan Rezerv Kalecik Karası at the Cihangir Suvla shop and bought it on recommendation. Now I am a Trajan fan. And who could not be with its background?

Before we get to Trajan wines though we have to start with the Kalecik Karası grape. Kalecik Karası is a native Turkish varietal. Originally from the Central Anatolian district of Kalecik (Kalecik Karası literally means ‘black from Kalecik) it is now one of three most common native varieties found in Turkish wine (along with Boğazkere and Öküzgözü). However even as early as the 1950s this grape was nearly extinct due to an influx of phylloxera.  

Enter Professor Dr. Y. Sabit Ağaoğlu. After completing his doctoral studies on Kalecik Karası; he consulted with the Ankara University Agriculture Faculty in the early 1970s. With his assistance and with the corporation of Prof. Nail Orman’s ‘Clone Selection Project’; new studies were conducted and clones developed that would literally sew the seeds of the grape’s return. In 1992, Dr. Ağaoğlu helped found Kalecik Viticulture Research Station (KALEBAĞ) as a branch of Ankara University’s Agriculture Faculty to focus on enhancing Kalecik Karası viticulture.

Trajan Rezerv

In addition to his academic work, Dr. Ağaoğlu and his wife Gülcihan founded a small vineyard of their own. Christened Tomurcukbağ after their daughter Tomurcuk, the vineyard consists of 10 acres in Kalecik in the micro climatic region of Kızılırmak River.

All the wines they produce under their Trajan label are vinified using traditional techniques including spontaneous fermentation with wild yeasts and without any enzymes or other additives. The Trajan Rezerv wines are vinified entirely from run off juice leaving the pressed juice for the standard Trajan wines.

Tomurcukbağ Trajan Rezerv Kalecik Karası 2011 Tasting Notes:

Pale, medium intense brick-garnet in the glass. The nose is fantastic. Lots of red fruits, raspberry, smoke, a little dried meat, and earthy mushrooms. On the palate it is ever so slightly effervescent. Tannins are low as I would expect from this varietal and the acid is a bit of a smack in the mouth. And I mean that in the best way possible. The flavors are intense and full of meat, smoke, and cedar with the juicy tang of fruit.

This is possibly the most interesting Kalecik Karası wine I have had. I’m not sure if it’s good that I started with the reserve wine and will now work my way “down” so to speak; but I look forward to trying more wines by Tomurcukbağ.  

Badagoni Pirosmani White 2014

I don’t know why but there’s a fever among the expat population in Istanbul for all things Georgian. Both Pop-Up Istanbul and Popist Supper Club have held Georgian nights. I served as the tamada at the latter (but that’s a different story). I, like several friends, have two kilos of khinkhali in my freezer. And we’re mad for Georgian wine (although really who can blame us?). So when my friend K came home from London with a couple bottles of wine from Badagoni I was thrilled to share the Pirosmani White with her.

Badagoni is a fairly new winery in Georgia all things considered. While established in only 2002 it has quickly become one of Georgia’s largest wine producers. With help and support from well-respected enologist Donato Lanati, Badagoni wines have won awards both domestically and abroad.

Located in the Zemo Khodasheni village in Kakheti, the most famous of Georgian wine  regions, Badagoni produces wine in both the traditional Georgian and European styles. Their product line up is extensive. If you have time to visit Kakheti you can book a tour at Badagoni. However if you’re just breezing through Tbilisi their wines are widely available. I believe there’s even a Badagoni office/shop on Freedom Square.

Pirosmani White

Badagoni Pirosmani White 2014 Tasting Notes:

Named after arguably one of the greatest Georgian artists, Niko Pirosmani, the Pirosmani White (there’s also a red) is a semi-dry wine. It is a blend of Rkatsiteli, Kakhetian Mtsvane, and Kisi. In the glass it’s almost perfectly clear with barely a hint of discernible color. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was expecting from this wine. It was not however this lovely, light and delicate but still flavorful wine. Which despite its delicacy was still a rather surprising 12% abv.

The nose here was full of vanilla, cream, and white peaches. These were reflected on the palate with the addition of tropical/mango flavors. As a semi-dry wine K and I agreed that it was best served quite cold (around 5C) but the presence of strong acidic backbone kept the wine from sliding too far into the sweet category.

I would definitely go back to this one and can only hope to lay my hands on more wines from Badgoni in the future!

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.

Suvla Reserve Petit Verdot Karasakız 2012

As with the Suvla Sur, I’ve tasted multiple vintages of Suvla’s Reserve Petit Verdot Karasakız. Is the Petit Verdot Karasakız 2012 my favorite of the vintages? I honestly do not know since they are all beautiful.

Suvla is a family owned wine producer established by Pınar Ellialtı and Selim Zafer Ellialtı in 2003. The vineyards are nestled in the historical Peninsula of Gallipoli, between the North Aegean coast and the Sea of Marmara where they cultivate 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 Suvla produces several indigenous grape varieties, including Kınalı Yapıncak and Karasakız. In 2013 Suvla switched to organic viticulture. As a result they received a certification of ‘Good Agriculture Practice – GAP’.

Petit Verdot Karasakız 2012

I love Petit Verdot. It is highly prized as a blending grape because it adds color, tannin, and floral aromas. However as part of a Bordeaux blend you never really get to appreciate it since it’s usually only 2-7% of the blend.

Petit Verdot is a late ripening grape. Probably for that reason it has never been used to its full potential in France where it originates. The Bordeaux growing season is too short to allow it to fully ripen. However, lucky me, the grape has made a resurgence and warmer countries are now producing varietal, or blend-led Petit Verdot wines. Including Turkey!

Suvla Petit Verdot Karasakız 2012 Tasting Notes:

The Suvla Reserve Petit Verdot Karasakız 2012 is a medium bodied wine with a full-bodied attitude. While not completely opaque, its dark ruby color hypnotizes as you gaze deeply into the wine; like it holds your future.

Blending the Karasakız with the Petit Verdot brings out some of the Petit Verdot’s brighter fruit and earthy flavors. The nose was ripe with blackberry and black cherry, walnut, cinnamon, earth, and meat. Gorgeous, velvety tannins seduce the palate with black fruit and earthy, meaty flavors linger on the finish.

As long as Suvla continues to produce Petit Verdot I will be there to drink it!

Paşaeli Karalahna Rose 2015

I had this 2015 Paşaeli Karalahna Rose at a tasting with Şarap Atölyesi. Not being a fan of rose wines I wasn’t terribly excited to be tasting this one but it really wasn’t all that bad. For a rose.

Before we get into this one a little about the grape. Karalahna is a native Turkish grape grown largely on Bozcaada and in spots around Tekirdağ. It is a thin skinned, dark purple grape capable of producing dark red wines with pronounced acidity and tannins.

Only recently have a few producers like Paşaeli made varietal wines with Karalahna grapes. It was recently thought that wines made from this grape would be commercial unsuccessful and it was used largely in blends as a coloring agent. Sounds a lot like Petit Verdot’s Cinderella story, no?

Paşaeli grows its Kralahna crop in a single vineyard in Şarköy, Tekirdağ. For this wine, the grapes are fermented in the ‘sur lie’ method for about three months in stainless steel tanks.  What does ‘sur lie’ mean? Simply put: lees are the leftover yeast particles that don’t get eaten up during fermentation. Often these are filtered out of wines but if a wine is left to age ‘sur lie’ or ‘on the lees’ these yeast particles impart a creamy texture/taste. Check out WineFolly’s great article to learn more about this process.

Tasting notes Paşaeli Karalahna Rose 2015:

The 2015 Paşaeli Karalahna Rose is a very pale pink, watermelon color in the glass. The nose was very summery with big red berries and strawberries. On the palate I also tasted a lot of strawberry with a little creaminess (thanks to those lees!) and a light amount of acid.

All in all for a rose-not too bad. I’m still not joining the pink wine bandwagon though.

Turasan Kalecik Karası 2015

This Turasan Kalecik Karası 2015 was part of a shipment of wines I got from Turasan a while back. Kalecik Karası was the first wine made out of native Turkish grapes that I really liked and while I’ve come to love what Turkey does with international grapes more, I still try a new one from time to time.

Turasan is possibly one of the most well known wineries in Turkey. Certainly the most well known in Cappadocia. The winery produces a wide range of styles, grapes, and quality levels. I’ve mostly only had the wines from the low and mid price ranges but would really like to try some of the higher end wines soon. One of the things I love about Turasan is their Emir. Not a lot of wineries in Turkey produce Emir wines which makes Turasan’s extra special.

Turasan Kalecik Karası

On its own, for me, the Turasan Kalecik Karası was a little bit of a disappointing drinking experience. While it might not have been my favorite stand along drinking wine; it was a great food wine. It did go pretty well with our dinner of cold pasta salad with grilled vegetables, Greek pork sausage, and white cheese. Not all bad, and cheap (only about 25 TL directly from Turasan).

Turasan Kalecik Karası

Turasan Kalecik Karası 2015 Tasting Notes:

This is a pretty standard Kalecik Karası in the nose with aromas of red berries and candy. The palate is berries, licorice, and black pepper. Fairly well balanced but with something of a cliffhanger finish. One minute it’s there but the next it’s gone.

In the end the Turasan Kalecik Karası is a simple wine that isn’t going going your palate. Also nice drinking for the summer if you’re not quite a rose person (like me). This would not be hurt at all by a little chilling before you open it.

Chamlija Kalecik Karası 2015

My visit last year to Chamlija’s tasting restaurant near Kırklareli in Turkey’s Thracian wine region was more of a “flying” visit than anything else. However while there I discovered that Chamlija has a much larger range of wines that I was seeing in Istanbul; including the Chamlija Kalecik Karası. 

Since my visit last summer more and more Chamlija wines are easily available in Istanbul. La Cave in Cihangir has an entire wall section for their stock now. And I believe that the Chamlija Kalecik Karası is one of them.

Chamlija Kalecik Karası

Tasting notes 2015 Chamlija Kalecik Karası:

Chamlija’s Kalecik Karası was treated with French oak for six months and will age well for about 10 years. While the oak treatment was not extensive, it really heightened the inherent aromas of the grape. The nose was really quite lovely-black cherry, forest fruits, and chocolate.

On the palate the Chamlija Kalecik Karası showed a lot of earthiness which I didn’t expect at all. My experience with this grape previously has been more of the light weight and bright fruits variety. At 13.5% abv this had a solid, medium body with light tannins. And while it didn’t have much in the way of a finish, the flavors of mulberry, blackberry, and chocolate were quite lovely.

This would probably go really well with tomato-based foods. For whatever reason that I don’t understand, high acid wines want high acid food so tomato-based sauces and pizza would pair really well this!

Kindzmarauli Marani Kisi 2013

This Kindzmarauli Marani Kisi 2013 was part of the loot I brought home from Georgia in October. It was a duty free purchase I made before boarding. I remember that I had an awful migraine when I left Georgia. I was in pain, nauseated, and miserable. To add insult to injury, there’s a dedicated wine store in the Tbilisi airport and they offer wine tastings. I had to content myself with at least buying a couple wines as I was too ill to taste any.

Georgian loot

Kisi is a native Georgian grape grown largely in the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia. As with many grapes, winemakers in Georgia use both traditional Georgian and European methods when vinifying Kisi.

KMac and I saw a fair amount of Kisi wines during our trip but never got around to trying any. It seemed liked a good idea then to pick one up in duty free. I ended up with some of the heaviest hand luggage I’ve ever hauled around. I had a backpack stuffed with a 3 kilo book (that’s right, a book that weighs 3 kilos) and 3 to 4 kilos of cheese. My hand bag held my camera equipment, various electronic, spices, possibly more cheese, and anything else that wouldn’t fit between the wine bottles in my check bag. To which I managed to shove in the two bottles I bought in duty free.

Kindzmarauli Marani Kisi

Kindzmarauli Marani Kisi 2013 Tasting Notes:

Kindzmarauli Marani makes its Kisi in the traditional Georgian style-in qvevri. The 2013 is a nice, medium-bodied wine with 12.5% abv and would pair well with lighter foods or served as an aperitif.

In the glass the Kisi was a dark, golden straw color. The nose was full of lychee, tropical fruits, citrus, and herbs; possibly also some pine. On the palate it was creamy and slightly thick feeling. The flavor was fainter than the nose but I got some of the citrus flavors and a mineral finish.

The 2010 Paşaeli 6N

I found this post buried in my drafts folder. I think it’s from last winter so color me embarrassed! Regardless of my embarrassment the 2010 Paşaeli 6N is too good to not post. This Karasakız, Merlot, Petit Verdot blend is a gorgeous example of how right a blend of native Turkish and Old World grapes can go.

Paşaeli 6N

Before we get into the notes lets talk about the name. What’s in a name? A political statement in this case! I’ve wondered about the name of this wine since the very first time I tried it and it was only recently that I learned the story behind it. So I guess it was actually fate and not laziness that kept this from getting posted back when I originally wrote it.

Gold was found in the Kas mountains here in Turkey. Of course, with no thought to the environmental impact or the major disruptions it would cause people living there the government handed out contracts to people who quickly got to work destroying the environment. The Turkish word for ‘gold’ is altın. The word for ‘six’ is altı so the numeral 6 followed by an ‘n’ when said together is a word play that sounds like the Turkish word for gold. That combined with the big red slash creates a wine taking a political stance: no gold.

Paşaeli 6N

Tasting notes 2010 Paşaeli 6N:

After only six months in French oak this Paşaeli 6N blend managed to soak up a fair amount of oaky goodness.The nose was deep and intense, full of dark fruits like black cherries and plums, dried herbs, and smoke. On the palate there were velvety tannins with well-balanced acid and a gorgeous, long finish. In the flavors I detected tart, forest fruits and chocolate to balance the smoke and herbs on the nose.

So so beautiful. In general I have liked the Paşaeli wines I’ve tried but for me, the Paşaeli 6N is by far the best. Paşaeli produces quite a few wines and yet they somehow remain rather difficult to get your hands on here in Istanbul but they’re usually worth the effort it takes to hunt them down. And sadly I haven’t seen the 6N recently at all. If anyone knows where I can get another please let me know!

Corvus winery

Bozcaada: Corvus 2012 Vinium

My adventure at Suvla was only a small part of my recent trip. I was invited with my friend T to visit some friends of hers (happily now also of mine) at their beautiful home, Lavender Breeze Farm on the island of Bozcaada where we visited the Corvus and Talay winemakers.

We were invited to stay in The Priest’s House, a beautiful house they’ve rebuilt on their property which they rent out on AirBnB (check out the link!). Look at these rooms! T and I were prepared to stay forever.

Priest's House

Priest's House

Priest's House

I found it a unique house in that the living room/kitchen and both bedrooms were independent from each other. Both bedrooms have their own en suite bathroom and independent entrances out onto the porch.

Priest's House

Priest's House

And did I mention that the porch overlooks some of their vineyards?

With our hosts at Lavender Breeze Farm I had the opportunity to learn about traditional vine growing on Bozcaada. Grapes have been growing on Bozcaada since just about forever. Also known by its Greek name, Tenedos, Bozcaada is in the northeastern part of the Aegean near the entrance to the Dardanelles. Not only does it have a long history, it’s firmly rooted in mythology and classical Greek literature, making an appearance in both Homer’s Iliad and Virgil’s Aeneid.

Bozcaada vineyard

Bozcaada vineyard

Grapes have been growing here for about that long and while none of the vines can lay claim to that much history, if Bozcaada wine makers were to talk about ‘old vine’ wines (which sadly isn’t a trend in Turkish wine making) they would certainly have bragging rights with vines aged 40, 50, even 100+ years old.

Bozcaada vineyard

Bozcaada vineyard

Bozcaada vineyard

Many vines are trellised trained now but some vineyards, like Lavender Breeze Farm and Talay still use the traditional island goblet style in which vines are not attached to trellises but two to three cordons (i.e. branches) are trained to grow out and up from the trunk in such a way as to resemble a goblet.

Corvus winery

Corvus winery

A day spent among the vines wouldn’t be complete without a tasting! While I didn’t have the chance to visit the Corvus vineyard we did stop in at the winery’s restaurant for a tasting. Corvus, which is Latin for ‘crow’, was named for the many crows that make the island their home. They’re more numerous than the people I think. Due to the owner’s clever marketing, Corvus is a very popular wine brand here in Turkey; its never been my favorite but I enjoyed the opportunity to try several of their wines I wouldn’t normally have bought.

Bozcaada beach

Bozcaada beach

And of course we couldn’t go to Bozcaada and not enjoy the beach! We took a break from hiking through vineyards and wine tasting to relax on one of Bozcaada’s beaches. Even though it was about 38C during our entire visit it luckily never felt that hot, not even on the beach, because there are such strong winds on the island. So while I did not take a swim I was able to stay cool and relaxed under the shade with my book.

Corvus wine

As it happens, one of the wines I tasted at Corvus Wine & Bite on Bozcaada I have had on my wine rack since forever. So when I got home from my island getaway I opened it right up.

Vinium is made from Karalahana which is a native Turkish grape and if you can find any information about it online please let me know because I for sure couldn’t. In the glass it’s an opaque cherry red indicating a medium bodied wine. The nose was very fruit forward with red fruits, particularly cherry, and I think some oaky elements. On the palate there were noticeable tannins, unfortunately they didn’t stick around to be appreciated. It has a short, dry finish with lots of juicy, tart cherry flavors.

Not bad, not my favorite.

More on my short Bozcaada adventure and the wines I discovered there coming soon!