Category Archives: Merlot

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!

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.

Libra

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).

Libra

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 Nuzun 2009

Established in 2004, Chateau Nuzun is one of Turkey’s boutique wineries. Only an hour drive away (depending on the insanity level of traffic!) it is possibly the closest one to Istanbul. I’ve had a few of their wines over the years but the Chateau Nuzun 2009 blend was by far my favorite.

Chateau Nuzun is an organic vineyard located in Tekirdağ. The vineyards (in Çeşmeli) enjoy a terroir made up of gravel and sand stone soils over layers of compacted clay and breezes from the Marmara Sea (5 km away). Half of the estate is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon; one third with Merlot, and the remaining plots are Syrah and Pinot Noir. The Chateau Nuzun 2009 is a blend of the varietals planted there.

Chateau Nuzun 2009

Chateau Nuzun 2009 Tasting Notes:

Like its other wines the Chateau Nuzun 2009 blend is organic. The wine spent about 13 months in French oak and then another year in the bottle before being released. So no wonder this vintage will set you back about 100 TL give or take. It’s also unfiltered so I recommend decanting over a candle. I didn’t get a lot of sediment at all but better safe than sorry! Because if you’ve ever accidentally swallowed a mouthful of sediment you know that is not pleasant.

In the glass this super blend is a dark, opaque ruby. The nose was super involved. We got black pepper, jam, blackberry, black currant leaf, violets, cinnamon, and vanilla. You can tell that I broke out the Aromaster kit with this one! The palate was all velvety tannins, well-balanced, with a nice, somewhat jammy finish. The flavors followed from the nose especially the fruit, vanilla, and baking spices.

This was a really nice wine, absolutely worth the price tag.

Saranta Chateau Murou Merlot 2014

Saranta is one of those wineries in Turkey that I vaguely knew existed. However I had never seen any of their wines in Istanbul until the Sommelier’s Selection Turkey in February. That is when I finally encountered not only Saranta wines, but their brilliant Chateau Murou collection. And to my deep surprise, that’s where I decided the Chateau Murou Merlot was worth breaking my Merlot ban.

Since February I have been on tenterhooks trying to find some Chateau Murou for my very own. Finally in May I was browsing the shelves of La Cave inn Cihangir when I spotted, sitting on the floor in a corner all on their own, a few bottles of Chateau Murou. They had one each of the Merlot, the Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Shiraz. And they all became mine. I suspect I provide great amusement to the gentlemen who work at La Cave when I go into excited raptures over finding new and long-awaited wines.

Chateau Murou Merlot

I hosted a chocolate paired wine tasting in June and knew that the Chateau Murou Merlot would be a perfect match for dark chocolate. I picked up two bottles (100 TL each from La Cave) and paired it with a dark-bitter (72% cocoa) chocolate and a dark chocolate goat cheese truffle. Fantastic.

Given my general attitude towards Merlot it was unsurprising that people were shocked that I put a Merlot on our list. However once they all tried the Chateau Murou Merlot they were willing to follow me to the dark side.

Chateau Murou Merlot

Saranta Chateau Murou Merlot 2014 Tasting Notes:

At only 13% abv this is a medium bodied wine; but don’t let that fool you! It might be medium in body but it delivers in a big way.

In the nose the fruit is secondary for me. I was almost overwhelmed by the earthy aromas of clay and gunpowder supported by green/herbal scents and pepper. Lurking underneath all of that were wisps of dark, black fruits like sugarplum and berry jam. Succulent tannins wrap themselves around the tongue and carry the fruit flavors to a nice, lingering finish.

Has this changed my mind about Merlot in general? No. However the Chateau Murou Merlot is not just another Merlot; it’s a Merlot with attitude.

A Visit to Flam Winery

Some time ago I posted a review of Flam’s Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. Since I was able to visit the Flam Winery, located outside Jerusalem. While there I tasted wines, bought wines, and got to meet the charming founder and owner, Israel Flam.

Flam Winery

Flam Winery is a family business. Israel’s wife, two sons, and daughter are all involved in the business. They planted their vineyards in the Upper Galilee and Judean Hills. Like many Israeli wineries Flam shares a dedication to creating terroir-driven, quality wines.

They insist on low-yield harvests that are then hand harvested and sorted. Established in 1998 Flam emphasizes quality over quantity. This is especially evident in the winery’s annual production numbers. Flam continues to produce a limited amount every year; averaging 150,000 bottles.

Flam Winery

Flam makes two main lines: a classic blend and a reserve. There is also the Flam Noble however production is so limited I wasn’t able to get my hands on any. I did get to taste two of the classic blends and the three reserves. Also not on offer for the tasting was the Flam Rose (Cabernet Franc and Syrah) but since I don’t particularly like rose I was okay about that.

Flam Winery

Flam Classico Tasting Notes:

Flam Classico is a single vineyard blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Syrah. Aged 30% in American oak and 70% French oak this is a drink it soon wine. By which I mean it is not ageable.

The nose is fruity with some soft spices. It’s a medium-bodied wine with 13.5% abv. The palate is again fruity with green pepper, spice, good tannin structure, and fairly high acid. This is a food wine and would probably pair well with meat, tomato-based, and rustic dishes.

Flam Winery

Flam Merlot Reserve 2015 Tasting Notes:

One interesting thing I learned at Flam is that Israeli wine laws require that single-varietal wines have to be 85% that wine to be labeled as such. So Flam’s Merlot is not 100% Merlot, it’s at least 85% Merlot. I was naturally prepared to not like this, because Merlot.

After 12 months in French oak, the Flam Merlot Reserve had a nose of spices, violets, and red fruits. The tannins were slightly sharp but some bottle time would make this really elegant. The wine was fruit-driven with soft spices and a slightly sweet finish. All in all not bad for a Merlot. But not exciting enough to get me to buy any.

I did walk away from the visit with a few bottles: another Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, the Syrah Reserve (which surprised me), and the Flam Blanc. Reviews on the latter two soon!

Kybele 2011 from Şen Vineyards

One of the best, medium-priced Turkish wines I’ve had in a while was the Kybele 2011 from Şen Vineyards.

I picked up the Kybele for 42 TL at Comedus on Meşrutiyet (it might be less at La Cave in Cihangir). Honestly it was the label that caught my eye. I think it’s fantastic. Much like the art on Chamilja’s wine bottles I’d love to hang a print of this in my apartment. The other reason I bought it is because I’d never heard of Şen Vineyards and I am always on the look out for new Turkish wine.

Located in Balıkesir, in Turkey’s Marmara region, Şen Vineyards plants Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Semillion. The Kybele is a Merlot-lead blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz. The vineyard has kind of an interesting website. It includes a page with a list of wine terms. So if you’re interested in talking about wine in Turkish this will help kick off your practice!

Kybele

Kybele 2011 Tasting Notes:

The Kybele is a very dark, opaque ruby in the glass. The nose was not particularly layered but the red fruits (berries especially), vanilla, and nutty aromas were pleasant. On the palate it was balanced with light, silky tannins and a medium, nutty-vanilla finish.

Overall the Şen Vineyards 2011 Kybele is not a particularly complex blend but it was a very enjoyable drink and held its own against some of the higher quality wines we drank that night.

Yedi Bilgeler 2013 Phytagoras Reserve

The Yedi Bilgeler 2013 Phytagoras Reserve is why I fell in love with this winery. The first time I had it was at Solera where it caught my eye both because it was new and because I really liked the label. I have enjoyed it several times since and included it in one of my wine tasting events.

Phytagoras 2013

Yedi Bilgeler is based near the village of Selçuk; home to the ruined city of Ephesus. Due to Turkish alcohol laws wine tourism next to impossible.  As a result the native wine industry has suffered. Possibly the best way to stay in concert with current law and yet still attract people to a winery is to build a concept winery. Yedi Bilgeler has done this. By building a boutique hotel and restaurant on site people can visit the winery, try wines in the restaurant, and have a beautiful place to stay away from the more touristy areas in Selçuk.

Yedi Bilgeler has several wines on the market. To my sadness I have only been able to get my hands on a couple. The 2013 Phytagoras Reserve has been my favorite so far. It seems that it’s other people’s favorite too. in 2013 the 2013 Phytagoras Reserve won a silver medal at the Consours Mondial wine competition in Brussels.

Phytagoras 2013

This is a big blend wine: Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Merlot. At 14.8% abv it’s not a shy wine either. Nor is it terribly expensive running about 75 TL at Cihangir’s La Cave.

Yedi Bilgeler 2013 Phytagoras Reserve Tasting Notes:

The nose on the 2013 Phytagoras is beautiful. There are black fruits, a little jam, spice, leather, and a little smoke. Soft, medium tannins on the palate open up to a balanced wine. Dark flavors featuring black raspberry, cinnamon, smoke, and leather lead to a long finish.

The 2013 Phytagoras is easy and enjoyable to drink. I’ve joked in the past that I seem to be aiming to set a world record for most visits to Selçuk (eight at last count). However after getting to know some of Yedi Bilgeler’s wines I am looking forward to visit nine!