30 September 2015

Turkish Wine of the Week - Chamlija 2014 Albarino

You wouldn't really know it based on the weather here in Istanbul but summer is over. I'd sad face if it weren't for the fact that Autumn is my favorite season. Unfortunately that leaves me with a few bottles of white still in the fridge! While I'll get around to those at some point, this makes the last wine of the Summer White Wines Chamlija's 2014 Albarino.

I was in La Cave a little white ago hoping to find another bottle of the Chamlija Viognier (I really liked that one!). I did not find the Viognier but I did find a treasure trove of other Chamlija wines, both white and red. I deeply love Spanish wines, almost without exception, so finding out that Chamlija makes an Albarino (traditionally a Spanish and Portuguese grape) was pretty exciting.

Dark golden color, the nose is very fragrant. For a dry wine, the nose is quite sweet and full of apricot and apples.

It's a bit on the edgy side with noticeable acid. I'm pretty sure this was oaked but, unlike the Mirkwood Suvla, I did not find the resultant flavors of the Chamlija to be so overwhelming. In fact it added a nuttiness that I thought was a nit touch. It has a pretty big body for a white wine with a palate filled with citrus, maybe a hint of orange blossom?, apricot, apple, and white flowers.

I really think I might like this one. I don't think there is yet a Spanish grape I've met and haven't liked and considering Albarino is similar to Gewurztraminer, Muscat and Riesling (all grapes I generally enjoy) I think I was set up to like this from Go!

The 95TL sticker price is a little dear but with the current exchange rate I'm more than willing to shore up the local economy by putting money into expanding my wine collection with some higher quality wines!

23 September 2015

Turkish Wine of the Week - Yanık Ülke 2014 Muscat

I've been shopping a lot recently at Senus which is home to the largest collection of Yanık Ülke wines I've soon. 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 wine 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 one 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.

21 September 2015

Hungarian Guest Wine - Gelleri 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

I've been really lax about posting the Hungarian guest wines! I still have something like four to go! So on that note, next up is the Gelleri 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon.

I quite liked this one. If I recall correctly we may have gone through the Gelleri stall's stock of this one evening. We started out as four people and by the fourth or fifth bottle we'd collected a few more disgruntled colleagues. Each new person joining us went to get another bottle. The drinks stalls had a 500 Fiorent deposit on glasses and you could return them to any of the wine vendors to get back the deposit. Or do what we did that night. At five to 11 (closing) our group (which had swelled to 12-ish people) descended on the stall and, instead of asking for our money back, we asked that they give us the Fiorent equivalent in wine. So after drinking at least ten bottles at the table we turned in 12 500 Fiorent glasses which bought us a fair few more bottles of 2200 Fiorent wine. Which we then drank by the lake until we got rousted by Hungarian security guards and returned to the hotel.

I really quite liked this one. I believe it was my favorite at this point in my tour of Hungarian wine. For one thing, there's my theory about how if I like the color I will like the wine. The Gelleri Cabernet Sauvignon was a really lovely raspberry red, not at all opaque. The nose, full of red fruits, was a little jammy. On the palate the berries, cassis, and pepper were complimented by light but well-integrated tannins and acid. This is certainly not a steak eating Cabernet, rather a nice easy drink.
Not a big wine but the well-balanced flavors filled my mouth and lingered for a smooth finish.

All in all, a winner. And only about $8.

18 September 2015

Beauty Is Pain

For a year and a half now I've been searching for the perfect next tattoo. I wanted something that was Turkish but that was still me. I've played with some tulip designs I found on ceramics that while tulips, also looked a little like a feather. Nothing worked. Then, on the Blue Cruise tour in July, I saw it. The perfect design. On a bloody bookmark of all things.

Thanks Alison!

Having finally found the design I decided to do it as a birthday present to myself. I knew it was going to be pricey but to me price wasn't the most important issue...language was. I was not about to trust my middling Turkish to ink and needle. So started looking for tattoo artists; which was really easy in the end since I just walked three doors up the hill from my apartment. Between his art and his excellent English I was pretty well sold on Shape Tattoo...but his decor was the final deciding factor.

Dude has a Michigan license plate on his wall!!

Sherlock bites harder than this.

Taking it like pro!

It's been three years since my last tattoo. That one I got in DC one sunny November day I played hooky from work. I did not like that job and the pain of getting a tattoo was preferable to being in the office. I remember how much that one hurt though. The ubiquitous "they" say some of the most painful places to get tattooed are the spine (my last one) and the inside of the arm (this new one). Between the remembered pain and the double anticipation of it for this one-this would be my very first multiple sitting tattoo-I was a ball excitement and nerves.


Filling in

Half-way done!

There were certainly a few wince-worthy moments. We took a few short breaks but in about 90 minutes we were done with the first half! Unfortunately those few painful moments will be multiplied for the next sitting because he only just started on the inside of my arm. I'm not really looking forward to the next appointment!

A week later I went back for my second sitting. This time sans photographer sadly and my selfie taking ability isn't awesome. I had a shameful moment during which I wished for one of those ridiculous selfie sticks.

And yeah, the inside of the arm really is a painful spot. For the first few minutes, until my arm dulled a little to the pain, I could actually feel my skin trying to shrink away from the needle. This sitting seemed to go a lot faster than the first one did so that was a blessing. However between the yoga breathing and being so tired I truly almost fell asleep on the table a few times I am happy to say that the pain wasn't really all that bad. Actually it hurts more now. Burns like fire actually.

Almost finished!

During this last week the first half graduated from fiery pain to intense itching, which is actually almost worse than the pain. Now though I'm half insane itching and half burning pain. My nerves are super confused. I also have to go through those first few days of bleeding ink again. The bleeding and flaking of ink always creeps me out a little.

Really hard to get a selfie of this. 


I went out a few hours later for dinner with E&M and felt (and must have looked) like a pretentious model. I had to walk with my left hand on my hip so I could hold my inner arm away from body! And then of course, after dinner, I fell. Because, well, me. So the walk home I was walking (limping) like a spastic, reject, pretentious model! Now my leg hurts more than my arm does. Which only proves that the magic of evil eyes (nazar boncuğu) doesn't actually work. For one thing, blue-eyed people are supposed to be naturally immune from the evil eye; for another, I now have 52 (FIFTY-TWO) evil eyes tattooed on my arm. And I still fell. On the tram tracks no less.

Evil eye magic disillusionment aside, if you're in Istanbul and thinking of getting a tattoo I highly recommend Shape Tattoo on Yeni Carsi! If I'm still in Istanbul when I'm ready for my next tattoo I'll definitely go back there; and since we're neighbors and all I'll probably drop in from time to time to share a neighborly coffee!

16 September 2015

Turkish Wine of the Week - Smyrna Sauvignon Blanc-Trebbiano 2014

The Smyrna Sauvignon Blanc-Trebbiano I picked up a Carrefour not too long ago. I've never tried any of Smyrna's wines and since summer is still on and I needed more whites I figured why not. This was a good decision.

I always hesitate a little over Sauvignon Blancs never knowing if I'm going to get something that's on the herby and green pepper end of the scale (which I do not like) or the riper peachy and fruity end of the scale (which I do like). Because wine roulette is not my favorite game, despite how often I seem to play it here, I was thrilled when I detected lost of fruit in the nose including: peach, pear,  and citrus. It was also a little floral versus the herbaceous nose early harvested Sauvignon Blancs display.

On the palate it was soft but with a zesty spark of acid. I didn't get any of the green herbal flavors often found in Sauvignon Blanc. It's a nice accessible wine with lingering flavors of tropical fruits, peach, and white flowers. Sure it's not winning any gold medals any time soon but I don't always need or want something that I feel like I have to mull over every sip. For 30-something TL at Carrefour I am happy to have a wine every once in a while that I can just drink and enjoy with my dried fruits and apples/goat cheese/honey and not worry about having deep thoughts while I'm drinking it.

This is my white wine comfort zone: fruity (particularly those peach and tropical favors), no noticeable oak, medium-low acid. I want to like some of those heftier, oakier whites*, like last week's Son of Mirkwood; I just...don't.
*Except Chardonnay. Why someone wants to ruin a perfectly nice wine like Chardonnay by aging it in oak instead of steel is beyond me. But to each his own.

14 September 2015

Under the Sea...A Trip to the Aquarium

We had a dreadful August here in Istanbul. Between the heat and the humidity it's taken every ounce of will power to drag myself out of my apartment to go to school and run necessary errands; I've had no energy left over to go out to do anything. And let's not even talk about what my hair has been doing. Recently though I was able to drum up enough motivation to drag myself somewhere air conditioned-the aquarium at the Forum Mall.

M going down into the "submarine"

The Forum aquarium, which is apparently the smaller of the two in Istanbul, was pretty impressive.  Especially considering the last aquarium I visited was DC's. Bet you didn't know DC even had an aquarium...there's a reason you don't know. Ticket's are a fortune, it's in the basement of some building, and the tanks look like they've been filled straight from the Potomac.

Forum's aquarium is pretty great though and I love the way it's been set up. The beginning resembles a submarine and all the signage tells you that 'your dive' continues this way or that. As you move through the aquarium the decorations change to resemble deep sea diving, forests, and more!


My pictures don't do the various tanks any justice. They were beautiful but made in such a way that distorted your vision if you weren't looking straight on. I got a bit of a headache to be honest. What was cool was that a lot of the tanks had small (child-sized) underpasses or bubbles in the middle so you could get under and see from "inside" as it were.

Tree hugger!

Shudder. As ugly as they are yummy.

I lost count after a while of the various tanks. Every time we thought we might be near the end there was yet another section. I can't believe this is the smaller of the two!  Almost every tank was accompanied by an electronic display with descriptions of the fish in both Turkish and English. Although the descriptions did not always match which fish were actually in the tank...so bonus points for having a dual language information system but I'm taking away points for lack of accuracy.

One of the best perks about a part-time, work from home job are that you can take off on a Thursday afternoon and go to the aquarium; where I get to hang out with one of the sea's weirdest creatures-the jellyfish. I wonder if it bothers them that the lights in their tank change colors every few seconds or if they enjoy the trip?

As we made our way through the aquarium we graduated from smallish tanks filled with the pretty tropical fish and sea-life to giant tanks full of larger fish (that looked like good eating), sting rays, and small sharks. I've been seeing ads all over the city for months now crying that the aquarium has köpek balık (dog fish) and as we went through I kept looking out for them because I needed to see what the heck a dog fish was. Apparently dog fish is too literal a translation as köpek balık is a shark. Sharks are cool and all but I wanted to see some dog fish.

When we finally got to the huge section housing the sharks we were greeted by the most dramatic music ever created! After about 15 minutes admiring the various fish, sting rays, and sharks M and I had to leave. The music was just so incredibly dramatic we felt like we were in the middle of a movie building up to a denouement that NEVER HAPPENS! We were at denouement edge going no where and it was driving me insane. So we escaped to the turtle hospital which houses a turtle so strange looking I think it crawled out of one of the something-ic eras.

The absolute best part of the aquarium was yet to come. On the back side of the very, very large shark tank with the overly dramatic music and imitation Mount Nemrut statues was a tunnel. We probably spent the same amount of time in the tunnel as we did the rest of the aquarium. It was so peaceful watching the sharks and stingrays glide about...while at the same time a little ishy looking at the creepy grinning "faces" on the stingrays' bellies as they swam against the sides of the tunnels.


All in all, the largely calming Forum aquarium is definitely worth the trip.  If for no other reason than to pick up an incredibly adorable pirate turtle in the gift shop!

His name is Rocky

09 September 2015

Turkish Wine of the Week - Suvla Reserve 2014 Roussanne-Marsanne

I'm always leery of white wines but I got talked into this one against my better judgement. When I see "aged for 8 months in oak barrels" usually I run the other way. Sigh, there's a reason we pay attention to our instincts. But with the way the TL is going these days (sorry about that, Turkey) a 97TL bottle isn't as horribly expensive as it used to be.

Out of the bottle it was a lot paler than I expected, a very soft yellow. The softness of the tint belied the strength of the nose which was very perfumey and full of citrus and oak. Right there my concern over those eight months in oak barrels doubled but I gamely pressed on.

The first sip was very thick on the tongue and cloying, like honey. Then...I got hit in the mouth with an oak 2x4. A shudder ran through my body as it registered the extreme oakiness. I truly could not taste any other flavors for the oak.

I needed to recover from that first sip so I set the wine down and steeled myself for another round in which I could hopefully taste more than the barrel. This time, it was soft but with a bit of an acid backbone, buttery...and oaky. Oaky, oaky, oaky. It was like Suvla managed to fit the entirety of the Mirkwood Forest into the wine which, one must admit, is quite a feat.

I don't want to hate on this but ack, not for me. However if you like oaky as $@!% wines you'll like this. In fact I poured a glass a day later for a friend who not only laughed when I warned him he'd be drinking the Mirkwood Forest (#bless) but who also really liked it. In the end regardless of what experts (or amateurs like me) say, wine is a matter of taste and you should drink what you like. For me what I like does not include probably 90% of dry white wines whereas my friend obviously does like dry whites. If your palate is like my friend's then I think you'd really like this one.

04 September 2015

Hungarian Guest Wine - Dorgicsei Juhfark 2009

Aside form a late harvest white I have yet to open, the vast majority of wines I brought home from Hungary were reds. However a talkative young man at the Dorgicesi hut convinced me that I should try a wine made from a traditional Hungarian grape and got me to give their Juhfark a try.  For 1200 HUF (just over $4) what could it hurt?


Absolutely nothing, that's what it could hurt. Or couldn't hurt more accurately.

If scents are colors then the color of the Juhfark and the nose match perfectly. The wine is a beautiful golden color that seemed almost reflected in the hints of honey in the nose. Actually, it smelled a great deal like a cider-full of apples with those undercurrents of honey.

It did more than smell like a cider; it rather tasted like one too; a non-carbonated (which is not to say flat) cider. The Juhfark is medium dry with a nice level of acid just shy of being crisp. It's a little buttery on the tongue with apples, honey, and possibly orange blossoms. Unsurprisingly it went very well with dried apricots, dates, and apples and honey.

I'm very glad I got talked into buying this! If you're going to be in Hungary any time soon I fully recommend this one.

02 September 2015

Turkish Wine of the Week - Suvla 2014 Blush

Continuing my forays into pink wine I agreed to a bottle of Suvla's 2014 Blush (Cabernet Sauvignon). I generally like a Cab so I didn't figure I go terribly wrong getting one that just didn't sit as long with the grape skins.

I didn't go terribly wrong...nor did it exactly blow me way either.

To start with, it's a very attractive looking wine with it's peachy, salmon-like color. The nose was also quite nice: fruity with maybe some hints of oak and a scent that was very familiar but frustratingly elusive. On the palate it was low in tannins (odd for a Cab but likely the nature of it being a blush), medium acid, and a long finish. The majority of the flavor on the palate seems to have been lost on me but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. The Suvla 2014 Blush is a definitely dry, clean wine that drinks pretty easily.

I can always tell when a wine did or did not impress me. If I wasn't blown away by it then my notes are few and very basic. However if I loved a wine then my notes read like a bloody romance novel. Written in collaboration by Victor Hugo and Orhan Pamuk-two of the most overly wordy writers I have ever had the (mis)fortune to read. As much as I hate to not gush over a Suvla wine...my notes here were pretty basic.