A Visit to Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

A couple weeks ago I drank two of Chateau Kalpak wines with some friends and it turns out that my friend AJ knows the owner of the vineyard! Immediately Operation Wine began and we coordinated our schedules to find a weekend we might all be available to go visit Chateau Kalpak.

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

The drive to the chateau

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

Chateau Kalpak

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

Unfortunately, no one told Bulent Bey, the owner, our plans! When AJ contacted him and we discovered that he would not in fact be at the chateau during our planned visit we had half a day of scrambling and constant back and forth WhatsApp messaging while we figured out if we were all available to make the several hour drive to Şarköy the very next day.

Sadly not all of us were free so it was a smaller group to pile into AJ’s car on a bright and perfect autum Sunday; namely just me, AJ, and my friend Em from Istanbites.

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

In the foreground are the Chateau Kalpak vineyards; in the background is the Marmara Sea

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

Conical tanks allow the must cap to break up when punched down manually rather than staying solid and moving up & down like a piston, agitating the wine.

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

Much of Chateau Kalpak wine is made from free run juice; what is pressed is done slowly with a basket press.

Bulent Bey is not only one of the most perfectionist personalities I’ve ever met; he’s also probably the most patient. He started Chateau Kalpak 25 years ago; but his first vintage was not released until 2010. He’s not been idle during those years. In addition to cultivating his vines for years before pressing the 2010 harvest, he has been creating the best environment for his wines to develop.

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

These bad boys are so expensive & easily destroyed that most vintners eschew their use

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

Bulent Bey selecting grapes seeds from the must for us to sample. They impart toasted nut flavors to the wine.

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

We had the privilege of having Bulent Bey himself lead out tasting.

All the oak used at Chateau Kalpak is Hungarian. It comes from two different forests which he has visited so he can find the perfect match for his grapes. Once felled and planed, the oak boards he chooses have the smallest grain and are left to age, not for 24 months which is the standard, but for 48 months before the cooper shapes them into barrels. Even the cooperage has its own special feature-it is more normal than not to bend the wood by burning oak chips under it, charring the wood and adding those toasty flavors to wines. Bulten Bey’s barrels are bent with steam.

While it may seem eccentric at first all of this has a purpose: it neutralizes the oak thereby allowing the wine the benefit of oak aging but keeping the qualities of the fruit in the forefront.

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

The wine spends a whopping 32 to 36 months in these barrels. It is tested every month and every six months, each and every one of the barrels are emptied, thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, and refilled. These barrels are used for only one vintage before begin retired.

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

Chateau Kalpak produces only red wines; all Bordeaux blends so the vineyards are full of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. In order to get the most out of the soil, the grape varieties are not planted all in one place (i.e. not all Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are planted together). Rather they are broken up among different plots. Each section of grapes is kept separate during harvest and then separately fermented, macerated, aged, and considered when blending the wine three years later. It’s no small wonder it takes them eight months to complete the blending process!

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

Chateau Kalpak Vineyard

This is a major commitment they’ve undertaken at Chateau Kalpak: special order barrels, using mostly free run juice with a smaller amount of basket pressed, blending for eight months, ageing for 36 months…all to make only two wines each vintage?! That’s crazy, right? Crazy like a fox is what it is.

While I have posted only the review of the Chateau Kalpak Twin (spoiler: it’s my favorite!) I have had the pleasure of drinking several different vintages of all three Chateau Kalpak wines. They are all, without question, stunning. And I don’t just mean stunning “for a Turkish wine”, I mean stunning. My personal opinion-this is one of the best, if not full out the best, wineries in Turkey.

Bravo, Chateau Kalpak, bravo.

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