The world of wine is a magical place for me. I’m far from the most knowledgeable wine enthusiast, but I have a constant yearning to learn more about my favorite beverage and love meeting like-minded people to talk passionately with about wine. I got to do both last week at a festive wine dinner with Vinkara Wines at Agora in Dupont.
I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Ms. Ardic Gursel, owner of Vinkara Wines and a pioneer in the Turkish wine industry, to taste her current lineup of wines, paired with delicious small plates from Agora. Ardic was born in Ankara, Turkey and after a successful career in hospitality began to develop a desire to promote the indigenous grapes of Anatolia (known as the country of Turkey today).
Some experts actually believe that Anatolia was the birthplace of wine, and Ardic set out to create wines that live up to that pedigree. If you’re anything like me, you might not have that much experience with Turkish wine and might shy away from trying to pronounce the names of the varietals. But I quickly learned that these wines are worth the tongue twisting. We started out with a glass of sparkling, made from one of the most notable Turkish grapes, Kalecik Karasi (pronounced kah-le-jic-car-ah-ser).
The 2014 Yasasin (pronounced yasha-sihn), which loosely translates to “yippee”, is a lovely dry sparkling and the first natural sparkling wine produced in Turkey using the traditional method. We enjoyed it with a delicious trio of spreads and pita bread.
Up next, we tasted a 2014 Narince and 2013 Narince Reserve. Narince (pronounced nah-rin-jay) means “delicate”, an apt name for this elegant wine. I am normally not overly fond of oaked white wines, but the Reserve, aged in new French oak was one of my favorites of the night. It would be an excellent alternative to Chardonnay for those wanting to switch things up a bit.
It has been a long time since I’ve eaten at Agora, and I had forgotten how delicious and fresh the food is. We enjoyed our Narince with beet and orange salad and a chopped Kasik salad.
We moved onto red with the 2013 Kalecik Karasi and 2013 Kalecik Karasi Reserve, paired with grilled sea bass, grilled marinated chicken breast and lamb and beef kebab. If you want a crash course on Turkish wine, but can only buy one bottle I’d suggest hunting down a bottle of Vinkara Kalecik Karasi. This beautiful wine won me over with a light/medium body, lush berry notes and a nice tannic structure. You could certainly liken it to Pinot Noir, but that would be selling it short. At around $18 retail, I can see this becoming my new go-to red wine.
Vinkara does big, bold reds well too. We soon moved on to a 2013 Okuzgozu (pronounced ookooz-goo-zoo), which loosely translates to bullseye, because the wine’s color is as dark as a bullseye. This wine was very approachable with nice cherry and herbal flavors and paired beautifully with the lamb and beef kebab.
Last, but not least, we sampled the 2011 Bogazkere Reserve. We took our time tasting the previous wines, so we ended up pairing it with a beautiful duo of desserts – pistachio baklava and walnut stuffed apricots over vanilla bean and mascarpone. The Bogazkere (pronounced bow-aahz-keh-reh) is luscious and bold with notes of smoke and leather on the nose. If you’re looking for a less predictable wine to pair with a steak dinner, this is a great bet. Surprisingly, it was lovely with our dessert course as well.
It was such a pleasure to taste these wines and learn more about the Turkish wine industry. Turkey is going through a turbulent time right now, which trickles down to every facet of life for its citizens. A little extra support can go a long way toward making sure these special wines continue to flourish.
Thank you to Ardic, Vinkara Wines and my delightful dining companions for a night to remember, and a couple of new favorite wines.
If you’d like to try Vinkara’s wines for yourself, they can be found MacArthur Beverages (they carry the whole portfolio), Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, Connecticut Ave Wine & Liquor, Cleveland Park Wines, Potomac Wines and Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits. Look for Vinkara also at Agora, Zaytinya and Roofer’s Union.