19 October 2016

Turkish Wine of the Week - Papazın Şarabı 2012 Sauvignon Blanc Sauvignon Gris

I don't actually know where the Papazın Şarabı/Palivor Çiftliği crossover happens. I did some light Googling and couldn't find the connection but it was the Palivor Çiftliği logo that got me to buy this so whatever the partnership is Papazın Şarabı owes at least one sale to them. Truly I bought this bottle because there's a buck on the label and I thought it would amuse my Daddy who is a hunter.

This was not a light decision to pick up. Sure I got a giggle over the buck on the label but at 80TL from Carrefour this wasn't a small investment, especially considering that the last time I tangled with a Sauvignon Gris I was utterly unimpressed.

In the glass it's a clear, pale gold with a lot of citrus, white flowers, and a little oaky something in the nose. This one could definitely use a little breathing time as initially the acid was quite high, giving a bit of a fizz on the tongue like a Lambrusco. Once it opened up and the fizz died down it was actually rather creamy in the mouth but no finish to speak of. The aromas carried through to the palate with white flowers and a lemon/lime citrus but also with a little bit of orange at the tail end.

In the end what this was was a porch wine. It's an easily sipable wine for the afternoon you're out enjoying your garden in the sun and don't want a super challenging beverage. I won't say that it was worth 80TL, but I did not regret the money spent.

12 October 2016

Turkish Wine of the Week - Visiting Edirne and the Arda Winery

Happily day two in Edirne was only about 35-36 C and not 38 because we had to bundle up several times to visit some more mosques.We started the day at the Eski Camii (Old Mosque) located just down the street from the Selimiye Mosque.

This is possibly the most uniquely decorated mosque I've ever visited. Rather than tiles or frescoes, the Old Mosque, completed in 1414, is almost stark of decoration except for the giant Arabic calligraphy inscriptions that dominate the walls and pillars.

After a morning wandering around the Old Mosque and the arasta (bazaar) we headed back to our hotel to check out. We stayed at the Ottoman Palace Hotel which is situated pretty centrally in Edirne. A perfectly decent hotel for the ridiculously low price (about $30/night for a large single) and the owners were very friendly. I'd stored a couple bottles of wine in their refrigerator which sparked a conversation with the owner about Turkish wines. As we were leaving he gave me a bottle of wine that his family makes for themselves!

From our hotel we headed down the street to the Üç Şerefeli Camii (Mosque of the Three Balconies). This stunning mosque, completed in 1447, was impressive even before we got into the courtyard. From outside the wall we could see that not only were the minarets decorated, they were all done in different styles.

Inside was equally lovely with soaring domes and lots of light and space. What I particularly liked was how no space was too small to decorate. Even the inside of the small domes are beautifully decorated. As sad as it is to see the country so devoid of tourists the selfish side of me enjoys it when I can walk into a mosque, museum, church, etc and not have a ton of people in my photos!

In an effort to cover all the major religions in one day, we left this mosque in search of Edirne's Great Synagogue-of which I have no pictures because we got there to find the tall gates closed and locked. I spoke to the group of guards and we discovered that the synagogue was closed only that day. Argh! E&M tried to convince them to let us take a sneak peek but they weren't falling for it. So if you visit Edirne and want to see the Great Synagogue, don't go on a Monday!

We tried out luck next with the Christians of Edirne and drove through some narrow, tricky streets to try to find the Bulgarian church of Sveti Georgi (and don't think there weren't jokes around a mispronunciation of sveti). We got there, after successfully parallel parking no less, only to discover another closed gate-this one topped with razor wire. This was apparently not to be our day of being inclusively religious.


After our disappointments at the synagogue and church we were ready for some good luck which we found at one of my favorite wineries, the Edirne-based boutique winery Arda. Easily spotted from the road, the Arda winery-recognizable from the labels-sits on a vine covered hill that rises above the road. We drove through the vineyard and were slightly taken aback to find a large backhoe digging out the earth along the back wall of the winery. Sadly Arda was having a problem with damp and while the naturally well-irrigated soils are great for the vines, they weren't doing so much for the winery and its contents.

We had a great visit there, fully making up for the day's earlier failures. We met Yavuz who told us how his family got started in the wine business and about the wins they are currently producing. While I asked all my usual wine questions (root stock, irrigation, harvest, barrel ageing etc) we sampled a wide range of the wines. Arda produces three levels of wine: 
  • Sekiz Dokuz: This, their low-end wine is named after the 8/9 rhythm of Gypsy music and is usually sold in bulk for banquets and large events
  • Kuşlar: This mid-priced wines cover a large number of varietals including: Narince, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, and Cabernet-Merlot blend and are among the best mid-priced wines you can get. The Cabernet is one of my go-to wines and even for a non Syrah fan like me, the Shiraz isn't bad. 
  • Reserve: These higher priced wines are well worth the buck (or TL I suppose), especially if you can buy them at the winery where they're far more reasonably priced. The reserve line includes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet-Merlot blend, and Shiraz

Of course I wasn't going to waste the opportunity to buy wine at the winery price; especially since there were several wines there that I haven't seen in Istanbul. I also snagged two of their last four bottles of Narince! Arda is not widely available even in Istanbul but you can find them at Solera (Beyoglu-Yeni Carsi Cd.) and at the wine/whiskey store in Karakoy I can never remember the name of. Helpful I know but it's somewhere near the iskele and offers significantly lower prices.

Arda 2013 Narince: A brilliant, pale yellow in the glass with a very floral, plumeria, and pineapple nose. On the palate it was creamy giving evidence to time spent in oak with bursting flavors of white pineapple, citrus, and white flowers. I'm so sorry that I only bought two bottle of the Narince because it was gorgeous-easily the nicest Narince I've had. And to the sadness of everyone at my Arda tasting, the second bottle was corked. There were tears.

The Cabernet I have reviewed before (see the link referenced above) so I won't rehash that here other than to say it's a lovely medium-bodied Cabernet with a lot of red berry, particularly raspberry flavors.

Arda 2013 Reserve Cabernet-Merlot blend: This has only recently been released and, at the time of our visit, wasn't yet available in Istanbul. You should be on the look out for it though because even for a Merlot naysayer like myself this 50/50 blend was beautiful. Eighteen months in oak (and three in the bottle) and limited filtration gives this blend a beautiful dark garnet color and adds some fascinating oak characteristics without stripping the berry flavors. The nose is redolent with pine forest, forest fruits, chocolate, and clove. In the mouth the tannins are soft and silky and with the black fruit, vanilla, and mocha flavors give a luscious drinking experience.


Arda 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: This one is so beautiful it gets its own picture which I took ages ago when M grilled steaks the size of our heads. Cabernet Sauvignon is often a wine that wants meat and Arda's reserve is no different.

Arda took the Mondus Vini Silver with this wine in the 16th Grand International Wine Awards, and it was well deserved. In the glass it's an intense, beautiful, purple red. The 18 months it spent in oak was obvious right from nose as the tart, dark fruit aromas were accompanied by chocolate and cinnamon. In the mouth the tannins are velvety and long like the finish. A really long finish that just kept going carrying with it the flavors from the nose: bilberry, chocolate, and cinnamon.

Side note: I had to Google bilberry because I've never had one. I was tasting blueberry but not really blueberry and it turns out that the bilberry is a wild, European cousin of the blueberry more similar in flavor to the American huckleberry (which I've also never had so that wasn't all that helpful).

So Arda; beautiful wines made with care and dedication and absolutely worth the effort to track down if you're not near Edirne.

05 October 2016

Turkish Wine of the Week - Visiting Edirne and Chamlija's Blanc de Noirs

A few weeks ago E&M, R, and I headed out of Istanbul. None of us had ever been to Edirne, the old second capitol of the Empire, and on a roll after Bozcaada, I wanted to visit a few area wineries. So we rented a car and headed out to adventure.

Adventure that was made both hilarious and painful long before we ever got to our destination thanks to Google Maps' incredibly bad Turkish pronunciation. I realize it's just a computer but come on. I mean think goodness I wasn't the navigator because I truly had no idea what she was saying.

View of the Mosque of Three Balconies from our hotel

Monument to Mimar Sinan by his greatest mosque

Once we got into Edirne it took several wrong turns, arguing with Google Maps' bad Turkish, and asking directions twice to find our hotel. But once we got there and checked in we set off on a short walk to the Selimiye Mosque. Our first priority was the museums as our guidebooks said they were closed on Monday. The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts is in the mosque's courtyard which oddly enough made it even more difficult for us to find! We were not having good luck with Google Maps that day. Eventually find it we did and we went in to wander the air conditioned, glassed in corridors that wrap around a courtyard holding old marbles. Several of the displays included tableau of old Ottoman and Turkish life. My favorite being the section on the traditional oil wrestling where there was even a holograph showing a wrestling ceremony.

They're supposed to be wrestling but it looks cannibalistic to me!

From here we wandered across the street to the Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum where we discovered more tableau, examples of traditional painting on wood, marbles, statues, and religious bits and bobs from the various cultures that passed through Edirne (once Greek Adrianopole).

It was then time to visit the Selimiye Mosque-once of the greatest of all the Ottoman mosque complexes and a triumph for the leading Ottoman architect: Mimar Sinan. Completed in 1575, a year after his death, the dome of the mosque is six cubits wider and four deeper than that of the Haghia Sofia.

It's a truly stunning creation both architecturally and in its decoration. This is probably my second favorite mosque in Turkey after the Rustem Pasa Mosque in Istanbul. I know, I know...the Blue Mosque blah blah blah-it's nice but there are others that are better and this is definitely one of them.

On our way to Edirne we made a slight detour to visit one of my favorite wineries in Turkey-Chamlija. Not only do I rarely have a bad word to say about Chamlija wines, I almost hands down love (barring Chardonnay which I don't like in general and to be fair have never tried Chamlija's). We were greeted by owner, the charming Mustafa Camlica who runs the vineyards that are dotted around Kirklareli. We sat down to do a tasting and he brought out four wines saying with a grin that we would be "starting with your favorite" as he brandished a bottle of their Albarino. It's true, it is (at least one of!) my favorite. So much so that I've blogged about it twice. However this wasn't just the Albarino-we were treated to a tasting of Chamlija's new 2015 Alvarinho Reserve. This was followed by the 2015 Papaskarasi (I've previously reviewed the 2014), the 2015 Mavrud, and the 2015 Öküzgözü-Boğazkere. Be on the lookout for tasting notes on these at a later date!

Before leaving Chamlija we made plans to order (they deliver to Istanbul if you buy a case!) and also bought a few bottles to go. One of which was the Karıştıran Bağları. You won't find this wine on the order list as it's one of two made really just for the local market but since we were there and being locals for the afternoon we bought a bottle. After a long day of driving and exploring we retired early to our hotel with some pide and Chamlija wines.

The Karıştıran Bağları is a 2015 blend of Pinot Noirs. In the nose there were a lot of black fruits like plum and blueberry as well as nail polish and maybe some gun smoke. It was slightly effervescent when we first took out the cork but as the wine opened and warmed up (we'd put in the fridge since "room temperature" that day was 38!) it smoothed out and the fizziness dissipated. No tannins or finish to speak of this was definitely the local wine-but it was fun to try!

Several cuts above the local wine was the 2015 Blanc de Noirs. A white wine made with Papaskarası (i.e. red) grapes, this was truly gorgeous. Go out and buy this now. Like right now.

Pale clear yellow in the glass it had a delicate citrus and tropical nose with possibly some floral elements. On the palate it was clean with some lively acid, an excellent finish, and flavors of peaches, tropical fruits, and lemon. Too easy to drink; this Blanc De Noirs by Chamlija definitely gets tagged as being #dangerouslydrinkable.

Day one in Edirne was a success! During day two we'll visit more mosques, attempt to round out our religious experience with a church and a synagogue, and visit a boutique winery!

28 September 2016

Turkish Wine of the Week - Arcadia 2012 Gri

I bought this a little hesitantly since I had bad luck with Arcadia's Sauvignon Gris but my friends at Solera promised me it would be good and they have yet to steer me wrong. And I'll give another chance to anyone who uses peacocks on all its labels. At I think only 75 TL (minus the 25% take away discount) this one isn't cheap, but it won't break the bank.

Brilliant pale gold in the glass at least this Arcadia was starting off on a pretty foot. The nose was also quite lovely with white flowers, melon, and tropical notes with an underlying sweetness (probably the flowers). On the palate it was all zesty acid and citrus with tropical notes and more flowers.

The guys at Solera are rarely wrong, I did indeed like this one. This could pair very well with food but was also quite enjoyable on its own. I'm not waxing poetic as I often do for the red wines, but more white wines like this and the Kayra Viognier and I might stop drinking white wines only in the summer.

21 September 2016

Turkish Wine of the Week - Amadeus MMX 2015 Gelber Muskateller

What is Gelber Muskateller? you ask. It's Muscat, or technically yellow Muscat. How is that different from any of the other Muscats I've reviewed? It's not really, it's the same grape. It just happens to be one of the German names (there are unbelievably almost 300 variations on the grape name!).

German white wines like Riesling and Gewürztramiener often get a bad rap as being syrupy sweet dessert wines when really that's not the case. German and Alsace Riesling, Gewürztramiener, and Muscat wines are usually produced as dry wines, not sweet. While Austrians tend to grow more of their native Grüner Veltliner, they also produce dry Riesling, Gewürztramiene, and Muscat. I assume that Amadeus chose to name the wine after the German name for the grape since they produced it in much the same manner as would the Germans and Austrians.

To be honest I was more than a little hesitant to buy this even though it was only 45 TL. I've had a bad Amadeus experience before which made me a little gun shy and the guys at the Cave are pushing this one hard. They do annoy me a bit sometimes. If I ask for a recommendation please give me one, but if I go in an tell you that I know exactly what I'm looking for and I want only those specific wines, stop trying fob other wines off on me.

Rant aside, honestly this wasn't too bad. At 14.5% it has a rather high alcohol content for a white wine but made for some beautiful legs in the glass as I swirled the bright gold wine. The nose was very tropical with floral, possibly honeycomb tones. It also felt really good in the mouth with a nice mouthwatering acid to balance the sweetness coming from the high alcohol and a smooth, clean, medium finish that carried through the aromas from the nose.

Honestly this was a lot nicer than I was expecting considering my reluctance to purchase Amadeus wines in general and the less than suave, beat you over the head with the wine bottle sales tactic from the guys at the Cave. I think I need to give Amadeus wines another try.