Category Archives: Syrah (Shiraz)

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.

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.

Psagot Peak Blend 2014

My first night in Jerusalem I was too tired to do more than stumble to the Mahane Yehuda to grab provisions. Luckily the mahane had several wine stores! So with a list of wine recommendations in hand I made friends at a wine shop and picked up a bottle of Psagot Peak.

Mahane Yehude

While Psagot Peak was not on my friend’s list of recommendations I was enticed by the label and the gold medallion stuck on the bottle. I’m a total magpie so my eyes went straight to the Psagot bottles and really never left.

Psagot Winery is located very near Jerusalem. Yaakov Berg founded the winery in 2003 and since then it has grown rapidly from 3,000 bottles in its first vintage to over 200,000 now. All the wines they make are kosher and many are award winners.

Mahane Yehude

From there I found the Basher Fromagerie. Also known as the greatest place on earth. They were closing up so I just grabbed a couple cheeses and headed back to my AirBnB. However two days later I was back. I must have spent three or four hours in there during which time I bought about four very nice bottles of wine and about four kilos of cheese. Everyone was so lovely. They put a glass of wine in my hand and I tasted and bought cheese like I’d never had any before. Then they made me the best sandwich I’ve ever had, set me up in their little balcony, and brought me more wine. At the end I just handed over my credit card and told them I didn’t want to know what the damage was.

Sadly a few weeks later I saw it on my credit card statement. Eesh. Totally worth it though.

All that to say that my first night in Jerusalem I spent relaxing with beautiful wine and cheese. Really a pretty great first night!

Psagot Peak

Psagot Peak 2014 Tasting Notes:

The Psagot Peak is a fairly high alcohol wine at 14% abv a blend of 42% Syrah, 16% Mourvedre, and 42% Petite Sirah. Drinking this back in my AirBnB definitely made me rethink future packing strategy, I always travel with a corkscrew but now I think I’ll start also packing an aerator. Without proper breathing the first sip of the Psagot Peak was a little bitter and harsh. After it had a chance to open up though: lovely.

The nose was very fruity; lots of black fruits like berries and currants. On the palate the tannins were velvety and long. The flavors were again of fruit but with some spice, and smoked meat/game.

Add to the wine some of the double cream brie I bought at STORE and it was a good first night in Jerusalem!

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!

Visiting Edrine Winery

In February at the Sommelier’s Selection Turkey event I discovered several wineries of which I was previously unaware. One of those was the Edrine Winery. I was lucky enough to meet one of the family, Demir, and their brand ambassador Ali who invited me and my friend K to visit.

Edirne wines

Located in the village of Havsa outside Edirne, Edrine (not to be confused with Edirne!) is a family run winery. Founded in 2007 their first vintage came out in 2010. What started as a boutique winery has expanded rapidly and Edrine now produces some 2 million liters of wine annually. The owners, the Öktem family, concentrate on creating quality and affordable wines. Affordable they are! The average price per bottle is 20 TL. Quality? We shall see.

Unfortunately it was raining heavily the day we visited so we weren’t able to visit the vineyards. Instead we were treated to an amazing paired tasting at the Edrine restaurant. They have their own butcher and raise their own animals. They make the best sucuk (Turkish sausage) I have ever had. Ever.

Edirne wines

Edrine produces several lines. The main label is the vineyard name: Edrine. Under this label they make two whites: Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc and four reds: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Papazkarası. It was the latter, a native Turkish varietal, that originally caught my attention at the Sommelier’s Selection. Very few producers bother with this ancient Thracian grape. Chamlija makes four (two blanc de noirs, a Papazkarası, and a reserve) and Melen and Paşaeli also make a Papazkarası.

Edrine wines

Very BIG tanks!

When we finished tasting our way through their main six wines (notes below!) it was time for the winery tour. Because at Edrine they believe strongly in the flavor of the “naked” grape they use very little oak. In fact they have one oak barrique but it sits sadly in the corner. There is no Patrick Swayze here to dance with Baby. At most they add oak chips for a few days. Otherwise everything is aged in steel.

Edrine wines

After the generous pours in the formal tasting we tasted all the wines again; this time directly from the tank. Everything we tried was from Edrine’s 2016 vintage; they have nothing left from 2015 or earlier.

Edrine wines

Then it was up to the slightly damp and chilly deck for more wine. This time Ali broke out the good glasses from Zalto. I have never held a glass more perfect and delicate than these. I was terrified that just by holding it would I snap the stem. These need to be in my life. Although at about 45 Euro per glass this is not an investment to make willy nilly.

Edrine wines

Edrine Tasting Notes (the reds):

Edrine 2016 Merlot: Fresh and fruity with slightly rough tannins, elevated acid, and a short finish. This 14% abv wine has seen no oak so the black fruit flavors of blueberry and mulberry are completely grape-driven.

Edrine 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon: The Cabernet was oddly sweet even though the wine has less than 1 gram of sugar per liter. Treated with oak chips for just five days there is a slight influence in the flavor. However the black currant/cassis flavors typical of Cabernet grapes were very much at the forefront with some cedar and cocoa in the back. Tannins were quite grippy. The odd sweetness of this Cabernet makes it an excellent pairing for lamb though.

Edrine 2016 Papazkarası: Loved. Edrine’s Papazkarası is a very special wine. A friend of mine said that you can’t really say what is a “typical” Papazkarası because no one really knows. But of those I’ve had in Turkey Edrine’s is how I’m setting my standard now. It was surprisingly tannic, although not on the same level as the Merlot or Cabernet. Compared however to other Papazkarası wines I’ve had I wasn’t expecting the tannin. It was also very pepper in both the nose and on the palate with a light, juicy finish.

Edrine 2016 Shiraz: The Shiraz had 10 days of oak chip treatment giving it a slightly sweet flavor of baking spices. However like the Merlot and Cabernet it was very fruit driven, particularly blue fruits. The tannins were pretty chewy and therefore right up my alley. This they paired for us with their own sucuk and it was a match made in Heaven.

Final notes: Edrine should be pretty proud of what they’re doing here. Each of the wines we tried (more reviews about those later!) was easy and enjoyable to drink. And if you can get these for the vineyard price they’ll set you back a whole 20-22 TL (+VAT).

Visiting Tzora Vineyards

Thanks to a car-having friend I had the opportunity to visit three wineries during my recent too short trip to Israel. Tzora Vineyards was not only my first winery visit in Israel, it was also my first kibbutz. As we went straight to the winery, I had a pretty limited experience on the kibbutz. Luckily and most importantly I had more time at the winery itself.

Tzora Vineyards

Tzora Vineyards grapes have plots in several places in the Judean Hills on man made terraces. Limestone soils, cold winters, summer mists, and diurnal temperature variations create a perfect environment for growing quality grapes.

Those quality grapes are used in Tzora’s three different wine styles: the flagship Misty Hills, single vineyard Shoresh red, blanc, and Or (dessert), and regional blend Judean Hills red and blanc. All of which are kosher.

Unfortunately the day we visited Tzora Vineyards did not have any of their white wines in stock. We did however get to taste several of the 2014-2015 reds including their flagship Misty Hills.

Tzora Vineyards

Tzora Vineyards 2014 Misty Hills Tasting Notes:

Misty Hills is Tzora’s flagship wine. It is a big (15% abv) and fruity wine made with 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Syrah. The palate had lots of black fruits, predominantly ripe blackberries, some pepper, and spice with firm tannins and a medium finish.

While there were some nice flavors on the palate the 2014 Misty Hills is definitely young. To me it seems like it could use some more time in the bottle to fully develop. More bottle time would soften the tannins and most of all show off more of the oak.

Tzora Vineyards

Much as I wanted to plunk down my card and buy one of everything I had to consider my travel weight allowance. While I bought extra weight there’s still a limit to how many wines you can pack and still be within 30 kilos! (That’s about 10 bottles more or less.)

I did buy a bottle of the 2015 Shoresh (red) and one of the 2015 Or. In addition I picked up a gorgeous book: The Wine Route of Israel. Happily all three items made it back to Istanbul with me. Therefore look for tasting notes on the Shoresh and Or, coming soon!

Barbare Reserve Premier IX XI XII

The Barbare Reserve Premier is the second wine I’ve had by this organic wine maker and the first non vintage blend I’ve not only had, but remember even seeing here in Turkey. It’s a fancy wine with an equally fancy price tag; it will set you back 130 TL give or take depending on where you get it.

With a whopping 15% AVP, the Barbare Reserve Premier is not fooling around. It’s a big wine and it wants you to know that right away. The wine is blend of 2009, 2011, and 2012 vintage Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot which is aged for 36 months in French oak. Thirty-six months-that’s three years! That’s crazy.

This particular Barbare Reserve Premier is also a limited production; I had bottle 1616 or 3600 so if you want it; find it now.

Barbare Reserve Premier

Barbare Reserve Premier IX XI XII Tasting Notes:

In the glass, the wine is a deep, dark, opaque garnet with fabulous legs and equally deep and dark nose. Aromas of both black and dried fruits followed by sweet, baking spices and chocolate seduce you before you even take a sip of this full bodied wine.

On the palate…wow. Tannins; beautiful, velvety tannins you could practically make a meal out of that lead to a long, long finish. Flavors of clove, chocolate, vanilla, black cherries, plums, and dried fruits make the Barbare Reserve Premier a rather remarkable bottle.

Final thoughts on the Barbare Reserve Premier: wow. Really, wow. If you are willing to make the investment you won’t be sorry. In fact I think I need another bottle…

The 2014 Selendi Blend

This 2014 Selendi Blend was another wine I tasted with Şarap Atölyesi at a tasting at the Historic Pano Wine House. I’d had this one before at Solera and was not exactly wowed by it but was game to give it another go.

With a blend of 30% Shiraz, 27% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Cabernet Franc and matured for 24 months in French oak this wine is not messing around. It means business. So does Selendi apparently as they’ve produced only 9,164 bottles of this blend.

Selendi Blend

Image by: Selendi Wines

Tasting notes 2014 Selendi Blend:

The nose of this ruby-red wine displayed some nice clove, black pepper, vanilla, smoke, and red fruits. These followed to the palate where I tasted especially the red fruits and clove along with some vanilla and something woody. The mouth feel was nice but it all seemed very medium: medium-high acid, medium tannins, and a medium finish.

Like several of the other reds I had at this tasting I think that the 2014 Selendi Blend is a good wine but after a few more years in the bottle it could be a great wine.

El Porvenir de Cafayate Amauta Corte Inspiracion

E brought this bottle of Amauta Corte Inspiracion by Bodega El Porvenir de Cafayate back from a trip to Argentina. She them promptly left on another trip to somewhere (who remembers-75% of her time is spent traveling) so one night M and I broke it out and drank it without her.

Oh she was so angry when we couldn’t stop talking about how this was probably the best wine we’d had all year.

Located in Valle de Cafayate-Salta, in northern Argentina, El Porvenir de Cafayate is a family-run vineyard focused on keeping the land and culture of Cafayate intact. They have a lot to protect in Cafayate. It’s a valley with a desert climate, poor soil, and a micro climate with day-night temperature variations. Together that allows grapes to reach peak ripeness. And at El Porvenir de Cafayate they do so organically.

The Amauta Corte Inspiracion is 60% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Syrah all grown at 5,577 feet above sea level on 15 year old vines. After fermentation the wine is aged for six to eight months in French and American oak barrels. It can be aged up to eight years-if you have that kind of patience.

Amauta

Amauta Corte Inspiracion Tasting Notes:

At 14.6% abv this is a big wine. Dense, opaque ruby with purple highlights in the glass, the nose is oh so swoon-worthy. I got a lot of dense, black fruits like black raspberry and blueberry with tobacco, cocoa, baking spices, and some really nice vanilla. Like really rich vanilla, not that awful fake smell that seems to dominate so many perfumes.

The palate…shoot. It’s like they made wines out of Gregory Peck and Humphry Bogart then blended them together. The acid was a little high for me but I suspect some more bottle time would take care of that. The tannins though are lovely, round, and silky carrying into a long finish. The flavor is very fruit-forward, slightly cooked fruit/jam-like with sweet tobacco and chocolate.