Saturday, October 26, 2013

Turkish Delight IV – Wines of Turkey: Vinkara Winery

The next stop on our tour of Turkish wine country is Kalecik, northeast of Ankara in the province of Anatolia – home of Vinkara Winery.

Vinkara launched in 2003. They state that their mission is to “acquaint and present unique wines…produced with Anatolian grapes from the birthplace of winemaking…to an international audience of wine aficionados.” In 2008, Vinkara hired Marco Monchiero, an Italian oenologist, to improve their winemaking techniques in order to bring out the particular character of the native Turkish grapes. “Turkish wines clearly have their own personality,” said Monchiero. “Our job is to identify and expose it, understand it, and elevate & promote it.”

[Follow the series: Turkish Delight I -- Background and Kavaklidere Wine ; Turkish Delight II -- Arcadia Vineyards ; Turkish Delight III -- Sevilen Winery; Turkish Delight IV -- Vinkara Winery]

The Kalecik growing region has a very dry climate with hot days and cool nights – a classic Mediterranean climate. This province, Anatolia, is the birthplace of winemaking on our fine planet, as we’ve mentioned before. Vinkara, taking advantage of its natural terroir advantage, has chosen to focus largely on growing indigenous varietals -- Kalecik Karasi, Öküzgözü, Bogazkere, Emir, and Narince – although they do produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling from juice sourced elsewhere. About 60% of Vinkara’s vineyards are planted in Kalecik Karasi, unsurprisingly and obviously a grape with origins in the surrounding region.

The good folks at Vinkara sent me samples of their Kalecik Karasi and Narince – both a “standard” version and a reserve. As with most of my previous experiences with Turkish wine, I was impressed – especially considering the price points. Also, as with most Turkish wine – all of these need a little extra decant time for best results:

Vinkara Winery 2011 Kalecik Karasi – As I’ve mentioned in some of the other Turkish reviews, Kalecik Karasi (pronounced KAH-le-djic car-AH-suh) is probably my favorite indigenous Turkish red varietal. I’ll liken it to a solid, quality Burgundy. The nose and palate both have an interesting “fresh cut wood” flavor, along with a fair amount of cherry-ish fruit. It looks very light, but the weight of this wine belies the eye. It’s got a well-balanced structure with enough tannin to hold up under most circumstances. The finish is long and smoky with a good fruit backbone. In short, this is one dangerously drinkable wine. When we had this alongside a dinner of roast pork tenderloin with carrots, chickpeas, and dried cranberries in an orange sauce, we powered through the bottle before we knew what hit us. It’s a wonderful food wine.  When I looked up the price point, I did a double take. This is a $15 wine. Get it.

Vinkara Winery 2012 Narince – The “grape leaf” wine returns to the Vine. If you’ve ever had Mediterranean stuffed grape leaves, Narince (pronounced NAH-rin-djeh) grapes commonly come from vines that produce those particular leaves. As I mentioned, this is a white that definitely needs decanting. We didn’t finish the bottle the first evening, and the flavor was much more balanced and less astringent the second day. You don’t need to wait a day, but open and decant half an hour before you try it, and you’ll be rewarded with a rich, tropical bouquet that leads to flavors of apricots and pears. It’s medium to full-weighted with a fairly creamy flavor, and the finish reminded me a little of lemon pie. I wouldn’t have recommended it the first night, but the extra air makes a big difference. It’s a pretty solid choice for a $15 bottle.

Vinkara Winery 2010 Kalecik Kasari Reserve – The Reserve differs from the standard bottle here by way of 14 months of aging in French oak, followed by an extra year of aging in the Vinkara wine caves. Boy howdy, is this a tasty wine. Like its counterpart, it looks light in the glass but packs a flavorful punch. The nose is a complex mixture of cherry, blackberry, some more of that fresh cut wood, and some floral aromas. It’s medium bodied with plenty of cherry and wood flavors. The finish is long, gentle, and softly tannic – with a little bit of a minerally chalky flavor. We opened it a couple of hours before dinner – which this particular night was one of my red sauce pastas with Italian sausage, mushrooms, and garden herbs. A delightful accompaniment. Think of this along the lines of a high-end Chianti Classico. Worth every penny of the $25 price point.

Vinkara Winery 2010 Narince Reserve – The reserve is a markedly different wine than its younger cousin above. It’s a fascinating wine, aged similarly to the Kalecik. Do a thought experiment with me. Imagine a good quality California chardonnay with a good butter/oak balance along with good apple and apricot flavors. Got it? Now dial back the weight a bit so the body is in the range of a sauvignon blanc. That’s what you’ve got here – a complex, nicely balanced, not overly heavy white that could probably stand up next to just about any food short of beef or heavy red sauces. The Sweet Partner in Crime had a work at home day (which just happened to align with a St. Louis Cardinals’ victory in the NLDS, so she was happy) and she took the opportunity to make chicken noodle soup from scratch. While you don’t typically think of chicken noodle soup as a food to be paired with wine, we pair all our food with wine for the sake of science. And, believe it or not, I would be hard pressed to find a better pairing for this wine than that delicious soup. I’m impressed with the “range” of Narince, and I look forward to trying more of these. The reserve, as with its Kalecik counterpart, is around $25.

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