Notes From the Road: Turkey – A Wine by Any Other Name
Shakespeare told us that “A rose by any other name should smell as sweet” in Romeo and Juliet, well, by the same token, a wine by any other name, be it grape varietal, region or label should taste as good, or better; that is, if the region is as perfect for growing as Turkey and if the vintners are as adept, skillful and careful as we’ve met on this, our first leg of traveling Turkey for the WINE PORTFOLIO show.
… hmmm, perhaps this is what we should title our Turkey episode of Wine Portfolio. What do you think?
West Turkey is a region vast in stunning coastline and filled with an interesting combination of old-world archeological sites and new-world amenities. Known as the Aegean region, this is one of Turkey’s oldest wine areas, producing 55% of all of Turkey’s wine; and (perhaps by design!) an area that also boasts being home to Dionysos, the Greek God of wine.
Our Wine Portfolio television crew started out in Bodrum, a town renowned for its sexy, over-the–top boating and great night life. This was a chance for the team to relax from the flight, recharge and prepare for the regional filming of wineries soon to come. The Macakizi (or Queen of Spades) resort situated on one of the beautiful bays of Bodrum, is a boutique hotel with a laid back urban vibe that can be described as stylish Miami-chic. A stunning waterside bar, wonderfully comfortable corners to hide away in and a restaurant boasting a jaw-dropping view allowed us to go off and find our own way to rejuvenate. Hours later we met for dinner with Sahir Erozan, renowned Hotelier. He hosted us to an amazing 7-course tasting menu, each course perfectly matched with a Turkish wine. The young wine expert that designed our pairings was exemplary, and we came to learn that he had been designated Turkey’s second best sommelier two years in a row.
The wine we’ve been fortunate to try in the Aegean region has been vast in scope, we started at the Sevilen Winery in Ortaklar, a huge operation producing 900,000 bottles a year. Contrasting sharply, this winery produces one of the best Shiraz’s and Sauvignon Blanc’s in Turkey, which we got to discover during lunch under an ancient, hanging tree at the Winery’s own restaurant in Isabey.
We then spent a quick overnight at 7 Bilgeler (meaning 7 sages, referring to wise ancient philosophers from the region), a boutique hotel resembling a small open style castle. It’s a nice place to stay away from the crowds at the nearby UNESCO world heritage site of Ephesus.
Our next stop was Urla, where we met entrepreneur, arborist and wine maker Can Ortabas, owner of the world’s largest palm tree farm and Urla Winery. An enigmatic personality, we followed him through his farm and vineyard learning of his passion for horticulture, the earth and, of course, his wines. Urla winery is focusing its efforts on revitalizing lost indigenous grape varieties such as Urla Karasi, a delicious, robust red grape once thought to be lost forever. A rare treat is a glass of their Nero D’Avolo and Urla Karasi blend!
We then headed for Manisa, a picturesque three-hour drive inland, to Selendi Winery. Started by Akin Ongor, ex-COO of Turkey’s largest private bank, Selendi is a small winery featuring reds only, and primarily blends, their 2010 blend was our favorite, heavy on its Merlot content this first-rate wine is reminiscent of something you’d find from Bordeaux.
We’re on our way to the Thrace region now, or Trakya region if you’re Turkish. Stay tuned for more during our journey through Turkey, and Turkish wines!
– The Wine Portfolio Crew