25 August 2014

Turkish Wine of the Week - Suvla Kirte

Despite my resolve to review whites for the summer I'm moving back to reds. I just really don't like dry whites under the best of circumstances and I think I've finally run out of Miskets. So now it's back to tannins and red wine hangovers.

Suvla wines break my rule about buying "reasonably-priced" wine. The Sur (which I'm trying to find another bottle of so I may properly review it) sets you back about 80TL which is more than I generally pay for wine regardless of which country produces it. However-they're worth it. They're so very much worth it.

Not being able to locate the Sur, I picked up another Suvla wine I've been wanting to try: the Kirte. At Carrefour no less. My Carrefour seems to have revamped not just the shelves in its wine section but also the selection it carries. And while 52TL/bottle is still more than I'd like to spending on a Turkish wine (and frankly still more than what I'd normally pay for any wine under other circumstances), at least it wasn't the 80TL for which I'd steeled myself.

The Kirte is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah with just that tiny amount of Petit Verdot added both for color and to give the Cab Sauv that lift it needs out of its general mediocrity. While you may chance across a Petit Verdot varietal wine in the US (I miss you VA wineries!), it is more often added to red blends (usually Bordeaux styles) for color. Turkey is apparently taking a leaf from neighboring Old World producers and doing the same here; and not without a nice effect. Suvla Kirta is a beautiful, deep ruby color that glows a bit in the light.

Sherlock's new favorite perch - preferable to climbing up my leg
Price is not always an indicator of whether or not a wine is good but sometimes you really do get what you pay for. While it's not a knock-you-on-your-ass, big, bold Italian, the Kirte it is a lovely medium bodied red that kicks the crap out of a lot of the other Turkey-produced reds (ahem, I'm looking at you Diren Okuzgozu/Bogazkere and pretty much the entire Diren Collection lineup).

It's not jammy as Syrahs can be, but the cherry and red fruits balance nicely with the pepper that I usually taste in a Cab Sauv. And for all its greater percentage of Cab Sauv, it did not give me that dry, overly spicy, I need meat stat feeling I often get. If semi-dense is a thing that's what I'd say the Kirte is; semi-dense, smooth, and silky*.

It also paired very well with my usual eat-in dinner of sauteed garlic, shallots, and cherry tomatoes over linguine topped with a semi-hard goat cheese. As a testing ground for red wine pairings it's a pretty easy route to take. I also generally prefer simple to make meals both because I'm lazy and usually because Sherlock is attempting to climb up my leg. Which is not a good pairing for chopping things with a big knife. Speaking of cheese, the Kirte also paired nicely with the Manchego (spoils of London) that I've been hoarding.

All in all-Suvla Kirte is a very satisfying red that's entirely worth the sticker price. We will become good friends, the Kirte and I.

*I looked these up, aside from the questionable 'semi-dense' the rest are legit wine descriptors and I may even be using them correctly.

22 August 2014

It's Been a Long Time, Michigan

Since moving to Turkey I have been back to the States, once briefly last summer for a baptism. I have not, however, been back to Michigan to see my family. As a visit seemed due, I was again being given the privileged of being a Godmother, and my Mom's family was having a very belated Christmas party, I was able to kill birds with this visit.

Knowing that ticket prices would soon get even more ridiculous with summer upon us, I bought my ticket back in May. In order to get something not horribly expensive I had to give up the dream of taking the direct flight to Chicago, Newark, or Baltimore on Turkish Airlines and instead bit the bullet with a United flight that included not one but two layovers. However for the $500 price difference I was willing to put up with United.

For reasons beyond my ken, the guy who checked me in at Ataturk only checked my bag to Frankfurt (layover numero uno) and couldn't be bothered to tell me why; in English or in Turkish. Two hours is enough time to transit normally through Frankfurt but to go through immigration, pick up my bag, re check in, go back through immigration and security, AND get to the gate the hour before the flight stupid American airlines insist on? Naturally I had to wait ages for my bag. I haven't actually checked into a flight in Frankfurt for some 14 years-and the airport has changed a bit since. After 10 minutes of trying to find the United counter (counter 501 fyi) I finally found someone who worked there and asked. At least my German got a pretty decent workout that day. With just over an hour to go at this point I wasn't sure they'd even let me check in but everything seemed to be smooth sailing once I found the counter. Immigration and security were a breeze. I love German efficiency. Smooth sailing until I was in my seat that is! It was a full flight of course so when someone came by saying that my seat was his (econ plus, bulkhead, aisle for which I paid extra) I was ready to throw down to keep it. Until the flight attendant, after taking our tickets and doing whatever it is they do, beckoned me forward. Forward. I was in the first row of econ so there was nothing ahead of us except for business class. No one, especially on United, ever actually gets bumped to business. But it happened to me! It really was smooth sailing after that!

My little brother has been my airport pick up since I left Michigan 12 years ago. We laughed this time as I think it was the first time I've ever landed in daylight. My DC/Baltimore flights never got me in earlier than 11PM. On our way to the 'ole homestead we continued our tradition of a stop in at Meijer. Meijer is the greatest store ever and I feel sorry for all the states that don't have them. Think Super Target/Walmart but BETTER. And doing it long before those stores ever got the idea. I had been compiling a shopping list of American foods I wanted to bring back to Turkey and picked them all up there: Mac & Cheese (7 boxes), Twinkies, fajita mix, Cabot Seriously Sharp white cheddar (2), asiago, bacon (2 lbs), smokey link breakfast sausages (2 pkgs), Crystal Light lemonade, oatmeal, chocolate chips, and lemon bar mix (2). Before leaving I also added orange slices, Double Stuff Oreos (thanks Jenn!), and four bottles of wine from my collection to the mix.

In preparation for the (belated) family Christmas party my mom baked and frosted a bunch of sugar cookies that she wanted to decorate with food markers. I was razzing her for making them all heart-shaped and thought it limited the decorating possibilities. She told me that if I wanted to decorate them I could do anything I wanted with them. I could write "Go to Hell" on all of them if I wanted. So when she left to pick up my sister from the airport I tool her at her word.

She was less than pleased to see it when my brother texted her a picture and said she hoped I were hungry because I would have to eat all the cookies I did that to. I don't like sugar cookies. So with some brilliant ideas from my brother and dad I turned them all into heart-related puns and illustrations.

You give me heart burn

Heart beat
It was nice getting to see my family but within an hour of the party I remembered how exhausting it is to be around them all! Both my parents have pretty typically poor Catholic huge families and my mom's are all creative types with equally huge personalities. And because I'm as bad at mingling with my own family as I am with anyone else I didn't get to spend as much time with some of them as I'd have liked but it was still nice to see everyone. I did get a fair amount of time with a couple of my favorite younger cousins. Amanda and David made me dinner one night: flat bread with pulled pork in a red wine, blackberry jam, blackberry balsamic sauce with roasted fennel and prosciutto wrapped asparagus on the side. Homemade (because with Amanda everything is always homemade) brownies and coffee ice cream for dessert. Amazing. Thanks to Amanda's cheese plate, my mom who came with me (as I cannot be trusted to drive) is now a convert to the religion that is Cheese.

Heart attack


Speaking of food...I don't think I stopped eating the whole week. And honestly my clothes felt a little tight when I got home! My brother made chicken fajitas for me. His are so good. He cooks the meat, onions, and peppers all together and puts cheese right in the mix to make it gooey goodness. My mom mixed up a big batch of chicken and cheese for sandwiches-a family thing we've been eating since as long as I can remember. My dad roasted two big pork shoulders for the family party so there was pork then and lots of leftovers. I also put away some Hudsonville ice cream; a local product you can really only find in West MI which is a huge shame because they make THE best ice cream. Truly. It's not that Turkish food isn't good because it is! But all Turkish all the time gets a little boring.

Beheading of Saint Valentine


Sick at heart/Purple Heart
My bff since the second grade had the most beautiful twins a few months ago and asked me to be Godmother to her son. She kindly arranged the baptism for the weekend I was in MI so I could actually be there for it. The baptism was lovely and the twins were really well behaved. What I most enjoyed though was being able to catch up with my girlfriend's family! I GChat on the occasion with her brother but haven't seen her parents in years. She combined the baptism with a belated birthday party for her 3 year old so Auntie Andrea  got to watch my honorary niece (who associates me with Merida from Disney's Brave so, I'm cool) open her presents. Which consisted of a bizarre combination of princessy things and dinosaurs. Both interests courtesy of her uncle. I can't wait to see what he introduces her to next! Ballroom dancing and monster trucks?

Open heart surgery

Heart of Darkness
It was a good trip home. Not the least because they had a cold front so the weather was in the 70s (F)! which was a majorly nice change from the hot and humid we've been having in Istanbul. My sister came from Florida for a few days so this was the first time in four-five years we've all been together. Who knows when the next time might be, but until then; stay Pure, Michigan!

18 August 2014

Turkish Wine of the Week - Kavaklidere Sultaniye

Also it's my birthday!!

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, this 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. Sultaniyes are known for a flavor profile that includes: asparagus, pear, pineapple, mango, floral, lemon, golden and green apples, and hay. The floral was really in my face 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's nothing desserty or overwhelmingly saccharine about it at all. It 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.

Which considering the cake I bought for my birthday was a fail was a bit of a disappointment. I really wanted the 'very chocolate' ice cream cake from Ozsut but both of the Istiklal locations were out. I settled for a Rokoko (layers of vanilla and chocolate) ice cream cake from another cafe but it was not happiness. Not sure if it was too old or just bad but not even home made hot fudge managed to save it.

Anywho, a winning new, reasonably priced, not dry white wine find was enough of a birthday win! The Kavaklidere semi-sweet (yarı tatlı) is defintely going to be a repeat offender in my apartment!

11 August 2014

Turkish Wine of the Week - Diren Karmen

I am actually in Michigan this week visiting my internetless family. However if I've done this correctly then this will have posted itself!

The Diren Karmen was by far, in my opinion, the best of the reds that we tested at the wine tasting I hosted. From the makers of last week's water Okuzgozu/Bogazkere, the Karmen was a nice come back and puts Diren wines back on the map for me. From the deep ruby color to the tanniny and berry finish this one was a winner for me.

The promise of red fruits and spice on the nose did not let me down this time. Medium tannins, nicely but not overly dry, juicy cherries and red berries with spices that went all the way through the flavor. This is going to sound weird...but the wine did that thing red wines do where it kind of burns as it's going down. Like good McDonald's* Coke. I'm sure there's a better way to describe that! I've always rather liked a wine that did though.

A blend of Okuzgozu, Syrah, Cab Sauv, Merlot, and Bogazkere. the Karmen is a nice, upper medium bodied wine for a reasonable price (I think 23-25TL) and I'll definitely circulate it through my collection again!

Side note: you definitely want to drink this within two days of opening the bottle. I opened it a couple days ago and have hit the 'been open too long to still be good' point. Now it tastes like raisins. Shudder.

04 August 2014

Turkish Wine of the Week - Diren Öküzgözü/Boğazkere

A few weeks ago I hosted a Turkish wine tasting for some colleagues. We tried eight different wines, some I've had before myself, some I haven't.The four whites were: Corvus Kavga, Pamukkale Sultaniye dry, Pamukkale Savignon Blanc, and Ancyra Muscat. The reds were: Pamukkale Trio, Ayra Kalecik Karasi/Bogazkere, Diren Karmen, and Diren Öküzgözü/Boğazkere.

 Of the wines I haven't reviewed yet, I probably will not create them for the Corvus Kavga or the Pamukkale Savignon Blanc. They were not winners for me. The Covus was far too dry and the Sav Blanc too far left on the zesty lime-flowery peach scale for me. We will however talk about the two reds. So let's get started with the Diren Öküzgözü/Boğazkere!

The Diren has a nice plummy purple color that only lets a little light through right at the top. The nose was nicely spicy with cherries. That's kind of where it all fell apart for me though. Light to medium tannins, medium dry, it feels nice on the tongue and you get a little hint of the pepper, cherries, and red berries but my number one note: watery. I couldn't get over it; how "watery" it tasted! It was like they filled 1/3 of the bottle with wine then topped off the rest with water. This is definitely not a wine I would drink on its own.

For all its faults, I will say that it went well with my dinner. I had a spicy pasta dish and some strong goat cheese. According to the wine label it's also supposed to go well with meat but I'm not positive it could hold up to all meats. Maybe a kebap, especially something spicy like an Adana...but don't pull this one out if you're going with a good steak.

We'll do the Diren Karmen next week. And spoiler: it was much better!