Tag Archives: sweet wine

Leelanau Cellars Select Harvest Riesling

In August I went back to the States for the first time in two years. While I was there I gave a wine tasting for some family and friends. It was a strange mixed bag of wines from the US and abroad. It included two wines from Michigan; one from Leelanau Cellars.

Yes. We make wine in Michigan. Every. Single. State. In America makes wine. Even Hawaii and Alaska. California may have the biggest reputation but personally I don’t think they’re even the best. For me the best American wines are coming out of Oregon, Washington, and New York.  But back to Michigan.

MI tasting

Michigan wines are steadily, if somewhat slowly, improving. My experience with them is that they are still largely what one might call a ‘porch wine’. Decent quality but without any real depth of character. They are easy drinking and and usually a little on the sweet side. Even the “dry” wines. But they are gaining recognition and winning awards so we can’t be doing too badly really.

To learn more about Michigan wines, wineries, and wine tourism I suggest checking out Michigan Wines official webpage and Michigan By the Bottle .

Leelanau Cellars

Leelanau Cellars Select Harvest Riesling Tasting Notes:

Leelanau Cellars is one of our more northerly wineries. Located north of Michigan’s famous Traverse City, the Jacobson family has been making wine here for 35 years. Leelanau Cellers’ wines cover a wide range from dry to fruit (we’re big on fruit wine in Michigan), sweet, and even a white port.

The Select Harvest Riesling is part of Leelanau Cellars’ Tall Ships series. As the name implies, it is a non vintage blend. At only 11% abv it’s fairly low in alcohol. That combined with a semi-sweet nature makes it a dangerously easy wine to quaff.

Michigan does Riesling well and Leelanau Cellars Select Harvest Riesling is no exception. It shows distinctive characteristics of the grape from the clear, pale lemon color to the floral and stone fruits on the nose. The residual sugar lends a slightly thick, honey-like texture to the wine. However rather than being cloying-the fear of those who don’t love a sweet wine-the nose and palate are delicate. Honeysuckle, fresh peaches, and the richness of dried apricots form a beautiful marriage of aromas and flavors. 

So yes, we make wine in Michigan. You should check it out sometime.

Late Harvest Urla Symposium 2015

Many people I know are turned off by the term: late harvest. “I don’t like dessert wine.” “It’s too sweet.” For many ‘late harvest’ means a wine that is syrupy sweet; but it doesn’t have to mean that at all. Late harvest wines can be super sweet, dry, and everything in between.

The late harvest Misket Urla Symposium is an excellent example. It is not a dessert wine but a lovely, light, semi-sweet. So if late harvest doesn’t automatically mean sweet wine; what does it mean?

Late harvest grapes are just that. They are grapes that have been left on the vine longer than a typical harvest (an additional one to two months). When grapes are left to hang like this they slowly begin to raisin. A concentrated “raisined” grape contains lower amounts of water and higher amounts of sugar. The resulting juices are therefore super concentrated in both sugar and flavor.

The must from late harvest grapes is then vinified. While this usually results in sweet wines, notably German Riesling and French Sauternes; it doesn’t have to be. Late harvest wines can be vinified completely dry. Wines made in this style will often be fuller in body and more intensely flavored than they would be had grapes been picked at the usual harvest time.

Now that the lesson in late harvest wines is over that leaves the question: where does the Urla Symposium fit? Somewhere in the middle but definitely on the sweet side of the fence.

Urla Symposium

Late Harvest Urla Symposium 2015 Tasting Notes:

The Urla Symposium is a late harvest Borovina Misket. Its pale color and relatively low alcohol (11.5% abv) provide the first indication of the wine’s overall elegance. The nose was what I’ve come to expect from Misket; but more so.  Intense honey and orange blossom saved from being overly sweet by an underlying zing of lively citrus.

The palate was restrained; like fragile, perfumed gossamer. Orange blossom, honey, and lemon curd gracefully twine just enough acid to keep the wine from tipping over the syrupy saccharine line. Sweet for certain and slightly thicker than standard Misket. A perfect sweet wine for those who like

Tzora Vineyards Or

Have you ever done something that you later really deeply regret? There have really been rather a lot of things I’ve regretted doing. However I feel that none were so deeply as felt as the mistake I made to share my half bottle of Tzora Vineyards Or.

We did not try the Or during our visit to Tzora. Had we I think I would have bought more than just the one half bottle! I knew I would like it because I love both Gewürztraminer in all its forms and dessert wine. I only bought one of the half bottles (they were not available in full bottle) because even with a 30 kilo weight limit I knew I had to moderate my wine purchases. Especially since Tzora was our first winery of the day.

When I got back to Istanbul I had over two of my best girlfriends to help me drink the Israeli wine and eat the cheese (4 kilos!) I bought. I broke out the Or at the end. After the first sip I was mentally smacking myself. Why did I share this?! Drinking the Tzora Vineyards Or is like holding spicy liquid gold on your tongue. I had only one tiny half bottle and I shared it.

Lesson learned. Be selfish.

Tzora Vineyards Or

Despite being somewhat significantly closer to the equator than are Germany and Austrian (home to Gewürztraminer) the grape seems to flourish in Israel. The Or is part of Tzora Vineyards‘ Shoresh line. The Gewürztraminer grapes used for this wine are grown in the Judean Hills at the highest point of the winery’s Shoresh vineyard; 700 meters. Perhaps it’s the elevation that allows the Gewürztraminer to develop so well here.

Although winemaker skill is not to be ignored here either. One key to producing excellent dessert wines is to balance the sweetness level with acid. Winemaker Eran Pick MW has done that brilliantly with the Or. And if you’re wondering how anyone manages to make ice wine in a warm country like Israel… The grapes are harvested late but are then artificially frozen before crushing.

Tzora Vineyards Or

Tzora Vineyards Or 2015 Tasting Notes:

‘Or’ is French for gold and there could not be a more appropriate name for Tzora’s sweet Gewürztraminer. For one thing the color! It’s a deep, brilliant gold. The nose is full of honey, apricots, and white peaches with a slight nuttiness. On the palate…wow. The Or is thick without being cloying and again flavors of honey and apricot that are joined by Gewürztraminer’s characteristic spiciness. Ginger I think.

Tzora Vineyards Or is everything a dessert Gewürztraminer should be. It’s simultaneously sweet and spicy and familiar and exotic. Truly a treat to drink. If you can get your hands on a bottle (limited production of 1,800 bottles!) don’t share like I did. Be selfish!

Telavi Marani Tvishi 2013

This Telavi Wine Cellar Marani Tvishi was another great find at Rind. And worth every penny of the 70ish TL that I paid. Telavi Wine Cellar’s wine are the most available Georgian wines available in Istanbul. Except right now. As I write this I am impatiently waiting for Rind’s order to arrive. The order they put in over a month ago.

But back to the Marani Tvishi!

Marani Tvishi

Under the Telavi Wine Cellar company, Marani is one of the largest wineries in Georgia. It’s also one of the most helpful websites. Not only does it list all the Marani wines being produced but provides tasting notes. Which, coming from Turkey where there are laws against that (which seem to be followed only sometimes?) is really refreshing.

One of the things I find interesting about Georgian wine is their labeling. Old World wines are labeled by appellation; New World by grape type. Georgia seems to use a mix of the two. The Marani Tvishi falls under the Old World labeling example. Tvishi is not a grape but a Specific Viticulture Area (SVA). Specifically one located in Racha-Lechkhumi, Svaneti. The Marani Tvishi which is in fact made from 100% Tsolikauri, is part of the winery’s Appellation Range. It differs greatly from the Marani Tsolikauri that is part of the Regional Range.

It’s enough to make your head spin! Marani’s website lists 55 wines; including two icewines, four chachas, and five brandies. The next time I do more than just run over to Tbilisi for a weekend I am making an appointment with Marani and tasting everything.

Marani Tvishi

Telavi Marani Tvishi 2013 Tasting Notes:

Probably not all that much of a spoiler but I really liked this one. I am kind of a sucker for semi-sweet wines. I actually didn’t know when I opened this that it was a semi-sweet. Because it was though it was an accidentally excellent pairing with the Thai green curry dish E and I drank it with!

One of the things I love so much about semi-sweet whites is how refreshing they are. They’re not the cloying, saccharine dessert wines many assume them to be. They’re lightly sweet and usually low in alcohol (11% in this case) making them excellent quaffing wines. The Marani Tvishi was no different!

A brilliant pale yellow with green highlights in the glass, the Marani Tvishi is beautiful from the off. The nose is slightly sweet with tropical, apricot, and honeysuckle notes. In the mouth it’s light with lively and zesty acid and flavors of quince, apricot, and honeysuckle.

A truly enjoyable wine. The Marani Tvishi has, if you’ll forgive the paraphrase, ‘wet’ my appetite for more wines by Marani!

Bordeaux Tasting with Şarap Atölyesi

Naturally it took me four years here to find the wine tasting scene and now that I’m in it I’m sorry I’ll have to abandon it so soon. Most of the tastings I attend are run by Murat, founder of Şarap Atölyesi.

I love going to Murat’s tastings. Not only do I get to try new wines, often pulled from his private collection but it’s a double learning experience for me. I’m usually one of only few (if not the only!) non-native Turkish speaker so his lecture and materials are naturally all in Turkish. I generally take away 75-80% of what’s going on so it’s bot challenging and rewarding.

Bordeaux Tasting

Murat put together an excellent and informative presentation on Bordeaux. While I’ve read a fair amount about the region in various wine books, Murat had some interesting facts I hadn’t pulled out of the books:

  • 90% of wine production is red; 7% is white; and 3% sweet wines
  • Merlot is the most-widely planted grape red at 62%. Then it’s Cabernet Sauvignon at 25%, Cabernet Franc at 12%, and Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carmenere together make up a mere 1%.
  • For white wine grapes Semillon is top at 52%, followed by Sauvignon Blanc at 36%, and Muscadelle at 7%. The remaining 5% is a combination of less popular white wine grapes.
  • There are roughly 8,500 chateau producing wine in Bordeaux accounting for 15% of France’s wine production and 1.5% of global production.

For this tasting he put together eight wines from his personal collection including one white, six reds, and a sweet, dessert wine.

Bordeaux Tasting

Bordeaux Tasting Notes:

I have extremely limited exposure to white Bordeaux so the Chateau Sainte Marie Vieilles Vignes 2015 (from Entre Deaux Mers in Bordeaux) was a real pleasure. A blend of 64% Sauvingon Blanc, 28% Semillon, and 8% Muscadelle this wine was aged in stainless steel tanks sur lie. Very pale yellow in color with no green, the nose was full of citrus, tropical fruits, and a little grass. It was a lot softer on the palate than I expected but still with lively acid, delicate tropical fruit flavors, and a mineral finish. Lovely.

From the AOC area of Bordeaux Superieur we tasted a Merlot-lead blend from Chateau Bel Air. This 2014 wine is 65% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignong, and 10% Cabernet Franc. The nose was fruity and a little floral with hints of violets, baking spices, and vanilla. Nice tannins, smooth, and fruity with a decent finish it was a good, standard example of wine from Bordeaux Superieur.

Next up in our Bordeaux tasting was a 2009 from Clos Rene in Pomerol. With a blend of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Malbec I was pretty sure I was not going to like this. So much Merlot! I don’t know what it is though about Merlot that I find so objectionable as a single varietal because blend it with even a small amount of other wines and it’s magic. The Clos Rene, which spend 18 months in oak, had a fairly deep nose, slightly perfumey, with dark fruits. Smooth, with a long finish and lovely tannins, this one had a lot of cloves and earthiness to it that gave it beautiful depth.

We were next introduced to the stunning Chateau Bardoulet 2012 from St. Emilion (Grand Cru Classe). This was a very rich blend of a whopping 85% Merlot with 9% Cabernet Franc, and a mere 6% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose on this was gorgeous: strawberries, raspberries, a little floral, sweet spices, vanilla, and a little nutty. Holy wow the tannins on this! I love me some tannins and this one had them in spades. This was really powerful with a finish for days and a velvety rich, slightly smokey palate.

Bordeaux Tasting

Moving on to a Left Bank blend we tasted a Chateau Carbonnieux 2009 from Pessac-Leognan (Grand Cru Classe de Graves). This blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc spent 18 months in oak to create a dark garnet wine with a nose full of red fruits, vanilla, baking spices, and dark chocolate. Gorgeous tannins, smooth, and with a long finish the palate was plummy with tobacco and leather.

The final red in our Bordeaux tasting was the Chateau Labegorce “Zede de Labegorce 2012 from Margaux (Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel) with 55% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot. I must not have thought a lot about this one as my notes are really scarce. It was very fruity in the nose with hints of spice from the 15 months it spent in oak. On the palate the wine was balanced and elegant with soft tannins and a long finish.

We finished the tasting with a Chateau Doisey Daene 2011 from the Barsac area of Bordeaux. I might have been guilty of hyperbole here but my notes say: “OMG I haven’t lived before now.” In all fairness to my tendency to exaggerate though, this blend of 92% Semillon and 8% Sauvignon Blanc (10 months oak and an additional 9+ in the bottle before release) was like liquid gold. Honeycomb, dried apricot and pineapple, a little nutmeg was thick and sweet without being cloying or saccharine. A stunning way to end our Bordeaux tasting.

If you’re in Istanbul, look up Şarap Atölyesi and get on Murat’s mailing list for events!

Szabó Pince Turán Sweet Red

I bought this Szabó Pince Turán about a year and a half ago when I spent a miserable week in Balat, Hungary. The only thing that made that trip bearable was the Hungarian Festival with all its food and wine booths.

Szabó Pince

While I do like a sweet wine, I don’t normally lean towards sweet reds. Even though I quite liked this Szabó Pince Turán when I tried it at the festival (although to be fair I was likely rather in my cups at the time) I’ve hesitated to open it since bringing it home. However when my girlfriend over at Multiculturally Wed sent me a recipe for red wine brownies I knew I’d found the perfect excuse to open it.

Using a sweeter red wine for the brownies and the red wine glaze gave great balance to the darker chocolate I used in the recipe and the left over wine paired really well with the finished brownies!

Szabó Pince Turán

Tasting notes Szabó Pince Turán:

In the nose the Szabó Pince Turán is largely raspberry and sweet candy aromas. With only 12% abv it’s not a thick, cloying sweet wine; more of a semi sweet and not a dessert wine. There was a bit of tannin on the palate with a fair amount of acid. In addition to the raspberries which were the dominate flavor I also got some baking spices.

I still have no idea what grape this was so this isn’t the most informative review as reviews go. I don’t read Hungarian and if I was told what grape was used for the Szabó Pince Turán I have no memory of it. I can tell you that it goes very well with chocolate though!

Christmas Time and Mulled Wine

Christmas is almost here! You know what that means? It’s mulled wine season.  My former roommate and I used to make mulled wine together regularly in the run up to Christmas and I continue that tradition even here in Istanbul where Christmas is sadly not so much a thing,

There are so many recipes and traditions out there for mulled wine but we’ve always preferred the German Glühwein. On our shared blog, ParMieux Adventures she explains the tradition of Glühwein and what the name means.I’m going to let you wander over there and check it out while I stay here and drink it.

mulled wine

There’s something about a pomander that I just love. They’re kind of a pain to make, literally, because pushing the cloves into the orange can be difficult with the cloves trying to poke their way through my thumb while I’m doing it. Despite that I always make them for my mulled wine. If the cloves are stuck in the orange you don’t have to strain the wine later. They also just smell fantastic and make a pretty Christmas centerpiece!

mulled wine

I love Christmas and every year I’m in Turkey for it I get just that much more homesick. It’s probably the only time of the year that I am homesick. I’ve never even decorated here-partially because the owner of my last apartment had stuffed so much furniture into the shoe box-sized apartment there was barely room for me let alone a tree and partially because I’m pretty sure Sherlock would view a tree as her own personal playground.

mulled wine

This year I’m helping my friend with her Christmas Eve pop-up dinner by making the desserts. I’ve been in the kitchen every day this week. I used to make candy and baked goods as Christmas presents back in the States so my apartment may not look Christmassy but I’m feeling the spirit! My feet, legs, and back feel like they’ll never work again but I love it. Throw in some mulled wine and I don’t even feel the aches and pains.

mulled wine

Mulled wine is a very personal thing. Some people don’t like it at all sweet, others want a lot of sugar. I fall into the latter category so if you follow my recipe keep that in mind. However you make it though: Cheers and Merry Christmas!

I’m not a big believer in precise measurements; mostly I just add glugs and skoches of things so feel free to play around with this!


  • 1 bottle dry red wine
  • 1 pomander, halved (orange studded with cloves)
  • Juice from 2-3 oranges
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  1. In a medium size pot heat the water, sugar, pomander halves, and cinnamon sticks until the sugar has totally dissolved.
  2. Pour in the wine, then the orange juice.
  3. Heat on medium low until hot.
  4. Pour into your favorite mug and enjoy!


Yanık Ülke Muscat

The 2014 Yanık Ülke Muscat

I’ve been shopping a lot recently at Senus which is home to the largest collection of Yanık Ülke wines I’ve seen. In fact for a while it was the only place I saw any wines by this maker (they’ve been popping up now at La Cave as well).

Yanık Ülke, which hasn’t been winning any awards from me yet, has the dubious honor of producing a Muscat that is both the most expensive (50TL) Muscat I’ve had here…and the worst.

If the Yanık Ülke Muscat were just the nose then it would have been a fair (although still not particularly good) wine. The aromas of apple, honey, and flowers were promising. Unfortunately the nose lied. Lied, lied, lied. While the aromas came through on the palate, if faintly, so too did its thinness and astringency. There was none of the beautiful orange blossom that made me fall in love with Turkish Muscats. It was also a great deal drier than I like a Muscat.

I like discovering new wines but this Yanık Ülke Muscat was so not worth the price of admission. From now on when I want a Muscat I will stick to the Ancyra or Leonas.

On the good new side, I decided it was time to finally get a wine rack. In the past I only ever had one or two wines on hand at any one time. However with the support of a regular paycheck and the plummeting Lira I have built a fair collection. A collection which has been hanging out in boxes and bags on my floor. Not cool.

So following our aquarium trip, M and I went to Ikea where I got two of their nine-bottle racks. And then proceeded to swear and yell a lot when assembling them. You know, like you do with everything from Ikea that requires assembly. It was worth it though! Look how much better this is!

Now I just have to figure out an organizational structure for the eight-nine bottles in the refrigerator.

Senfoni Sultaniye Sweet

Pamukkale Senfoni Sultaniye Sweet 2013

I have now had and written about the Pamukkale Senfoni Sek and Domi Sek. I’ve always quite liked the domi sek but I never tried the full-on Senfoni Sultaniye sweet. Until now.

Sweet wines pair beautifully with spicy food which is one of the reasons I find myself eating a lot of çiğ köfte; they go well with the oh-so quaffable Miskets I like to drink in the summer. Assuming that a sweet Sultaniye grape would pair just as nicely I decided to try the Senfoni Sultaniye Sweet when I made blacked salmon a few weeks ago. It was a good choice.

The color of pale hay with green lights, this wine was as pretty as it was quaffable. The nose, full of florals, mango, and pineapple was a promise to be fulfilled by the taste. The tropical fruits and flowers lent themselves to a an easy to drink, not overly sweet wine that was smooth and refreshing on the tongue.

Why don’t I drink this more? I should, especially at 25TL a bottle it, and Pamukkale’s other Senfonis, are a steal. Now that spring has really and finally arrived in Istanbul I will be drinking more white wines. Although considering the backlog of posts I have about red ones one would never know that I’m trying to switch to white now!

Oh sweet white wines, I love you.

Kavaklidere Sultaniye

I took a shot on this one and picked it up at Carrefour a few weeks ago. I’d been avoiding it because it seemed somehow, well frankly it looked like it wasn’t going to be a winner. Was I wrong! Unlike the Pamukkale Sultaniye I reviewed ages ago, the Kavaklidere Sultaniye is not a straight up dry white but a semi sweet; and it was lovely.

The super pale lemony yellow color and floral and hay notes in the nose were promising. Sultaniye is  known for a flavor profile that includes: asparagus, pear, pineapple, mango, floral, lemon, golden and green apples, and hay. In this Kavaklidere Sultaniye, the floral flavors were really pronounced but I was also clearly tasting the pineapple, hay, and green apple. And while this is a semi-sweet; it really is just semi. There was nothing desserty or overwhelmingly saccharine about it at all. The Kavaklidere Sultaniye also went really well with the walnut/grape/dried cranberry chicken salad I made. The pairing really seemed to bring out the mango in the wine which I thought was a bit odd.

The Kavaklidere Sultaniye semi-sweet (yarı tatlı) is definitely going to be a repeat offender in my apartment!