Category Archives: V

Selendi Sarnıç Viognier Chardonnay 2015

In November I attended another wine tasting lead by Şarap Atölyesi’s Murat Mumcuoğlu at the Historic Pano Wine House in Istanbul. We tasted eight wines all by winemakers Paşaeli and Selendi; one of which was the 2015 Sarnıç Viognier Chardonnay by Selendi.

Selendi is one of Turkey’s Aegean wineries located in the Akhisar district of Manisa (outside Izmir). The name of this wine, Sarnıç, is actually the name of the specific vineyard. It is not uncommon for winemakers here to name wines after the villages where the vineyards are.

Selendi has three vineyards in Sarnıç (Sarnıç  I – III). It’s in Sarnıç III where they have grown their Viognier and Chardonnay grapes since 2009. While located very near the sea, Sarnıç is not as hot as the surrounding areas. At 850 meters above sea level it is home to a microclimate that makes it cooler than its surrounds thereby providing a longer growing season and more time for the grapes to ripen.

Sarnıç Viognier Chardonnay

Photo by: Vivino

Tasting notes 2015 Sarnıç Viognier Chardonnay:

The Sarnıç Viognier Chardonnay is a blend of 60% Viognier and 40% Chardonnay. The paleness of color speaks to the only small amount of time the wine was oaked leaving the fruit to largely speak for itself. True to its Viognier (better) half it was very aromatic with a lot of fruity and floral notes like citrus, pineapple, and vanilla.

On the palate it’s clean and round with zesty acid and bursting with citrus and vanilla. There’s also a hint of creaminess in the mouthfeel which keeps the higher acid from being too overwhelming.

Kastro Tireli Narince Viognier 2014

Kastro Tireli is something I discovered only recently. During a stop-in at Comedus I bought this Kastro Tireli Narince Viognier 2014 (67 TL). I have come to realize that Kastro Tireli, an Aegean-based winery, is a much bigger deal than I suspected!

Since I first bought this white, I have seen Kastro Tireli wines pop up everywhere. I had also the pleasure of being able to try several others and speak to them at the Sommerlier’s Selection Turkey event. Located in Akhisar, in Manisa, the winery is influenced by the history of its location and by French and Italian viti and viniculture practices.

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 where Kastro Tireli has a storefront.

Kastro Tireli Narince Viognier

Kastro Tireli Narince Viognier 2014 Tasting Notes:

As a first impression to a new (to me) vineyard, the Kastro Tireli Narince Viognier made an excellent impression. This was a beautiful and harmonious blending of the Turkish Narince grape and the French Viognier. The great balance Kastro Tireli achieved highlighted the strengths of both grapes without letting one overpower the other.

The nose was very aromatic. I detected both ripe tropical and stone fruits as well as flowers. A creamy mouth feel full of rich apricots, honey, and flowers was saved from being sweet by a lively acid. Overall this was a well-balanced wine and a true expression of the grapes and terroir.

Nif Aegean White 2015

Nif has quickly become one of my favorite wineries in Turkey and I’m always seeking out more of their wines. At the Sommeliers’ Selection Turkey I had the opportunity to try several which I picked up later from La Cave. Among them was the Nif Aegean White blend.

With the tag line “Bottled Happiness” they rather boldly guarantee the quality of their wine. Are the wrong? Not that I have so far found. The critics seem to agree. Nif wines have been winning awards since 2012.

Located in Izmir in the heart of Turkey’s Aegean region, Nif cultivates both domestic grapes such as Bornova Muscat, Narince, and Sultaniye as well as a vast array of international grapes. French grapes are the most popular here in Turkey but Nif is one of the few wineries tackling also Italian grapes. I’ve had both the Sangiovese and the Montepulciano Reserve and will post about those soon!

Nif Aegean White

Nif Aegean White 2015 Tasting Notes:

The Nif Aegean white is a blend of Viognier and Narince.  In the glass it is a pale, lemony yellow that doesn’t really hint at the wine’s power. With 13.5% abv it’s a fairly big white. The nose is really aromatic with citrus and tropical fruits, lychee syrup, honeysuckle, and something spicy like nutmeg. It has a silky mouthfeel with a solid acid spine. Flavors were very citrus driven with lemon peel and rich lychee.

I drank this with some brie I had on hand and it was gorgeous. The acid of the wine really cut through the creamy cheese. They were beautiful together.

At only about 35TL (La Cave in Cihangir), the Nif Aegean white blend is a nice wine for a fantastic price. I highly recommend this one.

Chateau Kefraya Roussalka

It’s been years since I went to Lebanon but the more Lebanese wines I taste the more I want to visit again! This 2016 Chateau Kefraya Blanc de Blancs (la cuvee de Roussalka) is just one example of why we should be paying more attention to Lebanese wines.

Chateau Kefraya is the lifetime achievement of founder Michel de Bustros (1929-2016). He planted his first vines in 1951 and Chateau Kefraya as been making award-winning wines ever since. The Chateau’s wines even won medals in the early 80s when, despite the Lebanese civil war, de Bustros continued to produce wine.

Kefraya Roussalka

Located in the Bekaa Valley at the foot of Mount Barouk, Chateau Kefraya is home to a variety of soil types. Excellent sun exposure and sharp diurnal temperature changes provide lots of time for grapes to fully ripen before harvest. De Bustros believed that good wine was the result of terroir and blending.

For this line, the Blanc de Blancs, each cuvee since 2000 has been named after an opera bearing the name of a woman. The wine that began it all was ‘La Cuvee d’Aida’. This 2016 vintage is the ‘La Cuvee de Roussalka’. So while the proper name of the wine is ‘Chateau Kefraya Blanc de Blancs La Cuvee de Roussalka’ I’ve simplified it for the purposes of the post. We’ll refer to it simply as ‘Chateau Kefraya Roussalka’.

Kefraya Roussalka

Chateau Kefraya Roussalka Tasting Notes:

I’ll start out with a spoiler and say that I really liked this. The nose was both tropical (mango) and floral. On the palate it was fresh, lively, and full of flavor. I got again the tropical fruits and flowers (jasmine) but also honey and the finish was long and slightly sweet.

We drank this with a bunch of left over Turkish mezes I had in the refrigerator and it paired rather well with them. Even with the spicier mezes. It also paired well with the ever tricky asparagus!

I got this from a friend who went to Lebanon but Chateau Kefraya wines are available in several countries. I’d check out their website to see if yours is one!

The 2012 Plantaže Vranac

It’s been years and years since I’ve been to the Balkans but in that time the quality of the wine there has improved by leaps and bounds. E&M were in Montenegro this summer and brought back several bottles including this 2012 Plantaže Vranac which was a lot nicer than I remember Montenegrin wine being.

Plantaže Vranac

Vranac is the red wine grape in Montenegro and the Plantaže Vranac is a lovely example of it. It is medium bodied with a bright garnet color and a strong backbone of 14% abv. The acid was quite high though and I think this 2012 would be better in a few more years after it has had a chance to round out a little more.

In the nose there were a lot of fruits like blueberry and cherry along with dark chocolate, cinnamon, and liquorice. However complex was the nose though, to me the palate of the Plantaže Vranac needed more time to find itself. Not at all objectionable, on the contrary it was a very easy to drink wine but to me it was very fruit forward and juicy and did not display some of the more alluring characteristics from the nose.

I really hope to get my hands on more Balkan wines in the preferably near future!

Sommeliers’ Selection Turkey 2017

February 25 and 26 Istanbul hosted the 2017 Sommeliers’ Selection Turkey at the St. Regis hotel. Organized by Gustobar, the event brought together 179 wines from 34 Turkish wineries and about eight international wineries.

Sommeliers' Selection

It was, as one might expect, rather a mad house.

Sommeliers' Selection

That’s not down to the organizers of course. Big tasting affairs like the Sommeliers’ Selection are always a little bit of a mad house as one jostles for position at the tables to get a sample. And what samples! Wines from across Turkey, Italy, France, and Chile were available. I was impressed with the selection of Turkish wines although I was sorry to not see wine from producers like Arda, Melen, Umurbey, Kutman, or Gülor. I was surprised to not see anything from Paşaeli, Corvus, Turasan, or Prodom but somehow not surprised to not see anything from Chateau Kalpak.

Sommeliers' Selection

To my delight (and frankly a little surprise) there were several wineries there I didn’t know at all. One, the Izmir-based Öküzgözü Winery really impressed with its Öküzgözü Foça Karası. Definitely young, this was a bright purple-red wine with strong acid, and the flavors of red berries, cloves, and herbs. I don’t usually like wines made from Öküzgözü grapes but this one I would really love to find again.

Sommeliers' Selection

A HUGE surprise was Saranta’s Chateau Murou line. I tried, and liked, several of these but what shocked me the most was the fact that I like their Merlot. I know, right?! Surprisingly herbal with big red fruits this was, as my friend said, Merlot with a little evil in it. Definitely something I would drink.

Sommeliers' Selection

Of all the wines I tried I was the most pleased with the selection of white wines. I don’t often have good luck finding white wine that I like so I’m looking forward to picking up some of these, such as Nif’s Aegean blend of Narince, Viognier, and Solaris.

The 2015 Narince by Vinoluş, featured at the Sommeliers’ Selection master class, was amazing. Highly mineral with orange blossom, honeysuckle, stone fruits, and maybe some banana, this was a killer wine. Sadly Vinoluş made only 600 bottles of this so I’m thinking that I don’t have a fantastic chance of getting one for my very own.

Sommeliers' Selection

One of my favorites of the day was the Bona Dea line from Ergenekon-another new winery to me. I liked the red on offer as well but the cloudy, unflitered Sauvignon Blanc was light with crisp acidity and full of peaches was the star for me.

In addition to the general tasting I signed up for the master class with sommeliers Ronan Sayburn MS and Isa Bal MS. A complete departure from the tastings I’ve been attending, this was in English in deference to Sayburn who is British.

Sommeliers' Selection

With the two sommeliers participants tasted through a series of 13 wines selected by them [the sommeliers] during a blind tasting. All but one of the selected wines were Turkish. Of these for me the most remarkable were Likya’s Acıkara and Edrine’s Papazkarası. The most surprising? Mon Reve Marselan by Domaine Lucien Arkas. I have openly hated on Mon Reve wines before but this minty, slightly meaty, smokey red wine full of tart blackberries has me thinking again. Yet another wine that I need to find.

Sommeliers' Selection

I was surprised to discover how many people there I already knew from vineyard visits, other tasting events, or social media. It was very nice to see and meet so many people. I will definitely make good on the promises I made to visit wineries, especially Edrine and Vino Dessera as well as to stop in at the Kastro Tireli storefront near Bebek.

Not wanting to ruin a great event by getting drunk I did a fairly decent job of taking only small sips of wine and pouring out the remainder of the glass. As much as it hurts my feelings to spit and/or pour out wine there’s no way I could have tasted even the fraction of wines on offer I did and lived to tell about it had I drunk everything. By the time I got to the master class late in the afternoon though all bets were off and I no longer left wine in the glass. It probably would have been fine if we’d stopped there but there was still a little time after the class before everyone was herded out and most of the wines were left unattended!

Even though today I feel like I won’t even be able to look at wine for at least a week this was a fantastic event. I am so glad I had the opportunity to go and would definitely come back from Italy for the 2018 event!!

Kayra 2013 Versus Syrah Viognier

I have only recently started exploring Kayra wines so they’re not wines that jump out at me when I’m shopping but when I saw this Kayra Versus Syrah Viognier blend I had to have it. A red-white grape blend? What?!

I did some Googling and discovered that this particular blend is not all that unusual. It’s not all that usual either so I suppose it’s more accurate to say that this blend is not unheard of. The tradition of blending Viognier into Syrah has its roots (haha, see what I did there?) in France where the grapes are grown side-by-side in the  Côte-Rôtie region of the Northern Rhône Valley. French law allows winemakers to blend up to 20% of Viognier into their Syrahs and still label it as Syrah. The same holds true for Australian Shiraz (although I believe they’re capped at 15%).

So that gives us the history lesson but doesn’t answer the why. Short answer is that Viognier is awesome. The longer answer is that these two grapes are not just grown side-by-side, they’re fermented together. This process will then (theoretically) imbue the Syrah with some of the Viognier’s characteristic aromatic, perfumey nature while also, oddly enough, giving the Syrah a deeper color.

Whatever the reasoning I am entirely behind the theory. I don’t usually care for Syrah but this Versus Syrah Viognier by Kayra blew me away and I’m now on a mission to find and try all available vintages. It will set you back roughly 80 TL a bottle but the Kayra Versus line is quality wine and I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

Kayra Syrah Viognier 2013 Tasting Notes:

To me this was a fascinating wine. In the glass it was a dark, inky purple. The most prominent aromas in the nose were red fruits, leather, and tobacco backed by green peppercorn and maybe some camphor.

I really liked the mouth feel of the Versus Syrah Viognier. It ticked all my tannin boxes with nice round, velvety tannins and a fair amount of acid behind them. On the palate of the Versus Syrah Viognier I got a little more black fruits than I did in the nose, specifically blackberries and while the tobacco was still there, like a cigar box actually, the leather was more prominent.

I’ve had this one twice now and have enjoyed it both times. I’m still a little stunned by the red-white wine mix but if this wine is an example of what that kind of blending produces I am on board!

Kayra Versus Viognier

Kayra Versus Viognier

I found the Kayra Versus Viognier, a real gem, originally at Eleos on Istiklal. Aside from a truly respectable wine list, Eleos is worth a visit if you’re a fan of fish, awesome views, and ridiculous amounts of free mezzes and desserts. Not paying for those leaves you free to pay the rather high ticket price of the Kayra Versus Viognier. Luckily if you buy it in a shop it’s significantly less expensive (76 at Macro Center and 67 at La Cave-seriously). Regardless of what you pay though this wine is totally worth it, it’s one of the most gorgeous wines I’ve had in a while.

In the glass the 2012 Kayra Versus Viognier is a pale, clear yellow with no hints of green. The nose is white pepper, honeysuckle, orange flower, and vanilla bean. The latter two aromas I didn’t pick up right away, I found them to be more subtle than the pepper and honeysuckle, but they are there and they are delightful.

In the mouth there’s a nice amount of acidity balancing the flavors and a long finish of honeysuckle and vanilla. I think I may have also detected some melon and/or tropical notes and some citrus in the flavor.

It’s lighter than Chamlija’s Viognier which has more oak characteristics and while they’re both gorgeous in their own ways, the Kayra Versus Viognier is the far more easily drinkable. In fact it’s dangerously drinkable as I proved by killing the bottle in one sitting. Go buy this. Like, right now.

Chamlija Viognier Narince

Chamlija Viognier Narince 2012

I’m still excited over having found Turkish Viognier. There are truly very few dry white wines I can even tolerate let alone like and I thought Viognier was lost to me when I left the DC metro area. I won’t give Virginia props for much but they grow an outstanding Viognier.

So, it seems, does Chamlija which creates a bottle worth 90-something TL (from Sensus).  We’ve already swooned over the straight up Viognier so now it’s time to talk about the Chamlija Viognier Narince blend.

Pale yellow in color, the Chamlija Viognier Narince nose is a little on the flat side (often typical with Viognier) but there are soft notes of floral, citrus, and maybe a little grass?

A lingering finish full of flavor including peaches, citrus, white flowers, and maybe a little tropical something make this a very nice wine for sipping on its own or pairing with food (both Viognier and Narince pair well with spicy food). This is a medium bodied wine without a lot of pronounced acid but the textures and flavors all combine to create a very even and enjoyable drinking experience.

Between this blend and the earlier-reviewed Viognier I prefer the Viognier…but this Chamlija Viognier Narince is winning awards for a reason and you should check it out.

Chamlija Viognier

Turkish Viognier! The 2012 Chamlija Viognier

I went to Sensus wine bar a number of weeks ago and had a little bit of a shopping spree. Among the spoils of my trip was a Turkish Viognier. A Turkish Viognier!! I did not know that Turkey made Viognier and I was so freaking excited to see it I didn’t even flinch at the 95TL price tag on the Chamlija Viognier.

If you’re going to spend 95TL on a bottle of wine though; this Chamlija Viognier is worth it.

Golden straw colored with an aromatic floral, peach, and apple nose; I must admit that I just sat with the nose for a little while. Sometimes the nose ends up being so much more enjoyable than the actual wine and I was worried that I would be disappointed by the taste after I’d worked myself into such a state of Viognier-having excitement.

Happily the Chamlija Viognier did not disappoint me. My tasting notes read: “Ooooooo”. Buttery with touches of honey, peach, apple, and apricot. Fresh and polished with medium acid, the Chamlija Viognier was a truly enjoyable drinking experience. One of the things I like about Viogniers is I find that, while they are dry wines, they have something of a late harvest flavor but without the cloying sweetness one often finds in late harvests.

Chamlija Viognier, we will meet again!