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One of my favorite things about wine is how it so often interacts with culture, art, politics, history. In addition to the beautiful spread of mezze and interesting wines, these topics were at the forefront of a wine dinner at Agora I attended with Vinkara wines.
Wine consumption in Turkey is small, averaging just one liter per person a year. In fact, 80 percent of Turks do not drink alcohol at all and advertising within the country is currently forbidden, making the export business critically important to the success of wineries. However, the grapes are often ancient indigenous varieties which can be difficult for foreigners to pronounce. To say that winemakers are up against some particularly tough odds is an understatement.
It is a tumultuous time in Turkey, particularly for the nation’s wine industry. Current laws and custom stand in stark contrast to an ancient history of viticulture. Anatolia is said to be the birthplace of winemaking- scientific studies note the existence of winemaking in the region for 15,000 years. The vines have remained through millennia of turmoil and good fortune, war and peace.
It is often said that the best wines come from vines that struggle. In many parts of the world vines are partially deprived of water so that they seek deeper soil, adding strength and character to the plant and its prodigy. Just as vines that have grown more complex and resilient through struggle, the wines produced in Turkey are wonderfully complex, in spite of, and perhaps because of, the very struggles that they face.
The good news is, Vinkara has an incredibly passionate winemaker, Ardiç Gürsel, who is focused on revitalizing many of Turkey’s indigenous grapes with an eye on producing quality wines. She makes beautiful and complex wines at accessible price points- just $18 to $40.
Below, a few of my favorite wines from the beautiful mezze dinner with pairing suggestions. The overall quality was outstanding for the price, and while the names of these wines don’t exactly roll off the tongue, they are a pleasure to consume.
If you’re new to Turkish wine, here’s where I recommend you start! Kalecik Karasi is an ancient variety that is related to pinot noir. It’s all gorgeous red fruit, herbes de provence, and earthy minerality. Light bodied, immensely approachable, and a great pairing with a variety of foods. Average Price: $21.
This wine has a slightly more intense body style. I got a lot of raspberry, cherry notes, coffee, and baking spices. Medium tannin, medium acidity. Pair with meat or heavier pasta dishes. Average Price: $18.
This reserve wine was the most full bodied of the night, with brooding tannins. Chocolate, dark fruit, and licorice on the palate. It deserved some time to decant and open properly to reveal beautifully integrated fruit and a voluptuous body. Pair with rich stews and red meat. Average Price: $24
Have you ever tried Turkish Wine?
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The storm clouds in DC have finally given us a break and many people are planning outdoor entertaining for Memorial Day Weekend. What you may not know is that today is also #LanguedocDay.
Wine “days” seem to be a dime a dozen these days, but what I love about this particular one is that it breaks people out of wine ruts and raises awareness about an unsung region in the Southwest of France that offers incredible quality at affordable prices.
When Wines of Languedoc approached me about reviewing some of their wines, I was excited- mainly because I happen to love them, but also because they were focused on quality, with only AOP (Appelation d’origine contrôlée) designated wines. Though the region is often known for its bulk wine production, only 10% of wine from the region receives AOP designation, meaning stricter sourcing and production guidelines, but also higher quality wines.
It also gave me an opportunity to invite some friends over to chime in with their own opinions! We took advantage of a gorgeous DC day and threw a garden party.
Wines from the Languedoc lend themselves exceptionally well to entertaining. They’re accessible wines in both flavor profile and price- 2 things that make them prime candidates for any party wine!
The bar was set up for guests to easily serve themselves and sample all of the wines. Sparkling water and a carafe of cucumber lemon water kept guests hydrated!
On the menu:
- Homemade pimento cheese with ritz crackers- a must for any southern garden party!
- Crudité platter with hummus
- Orzo pasta salad
- Fruit platter
- Assorted olives, nuts, charcuterie and artisanal cheeses
- To hydrate: I like to serve cucumber lemon water and sparkling water.
- The bugs: These pretty citronella candles give off a gorgeous glow while keeping the bugs at bay.
These citronella candles not only give off a gorgeous glow, they keep pesky bugs at bay!
All of these, with the exception of the Crémant, are available at Weygandt Wines
. They’ve been kind enough to offer readers 15% off if you mention this post! Stop by to stock up for any weekend entertaining you might be planning.
Montfin Corbieres $13.99
This wine offers lovely red fruit with some earthy undertones. I noticed plum, red pepper and leather notes with medium tannin and acidity.
Montfin Rosé $13.99
This easy going rosé was a crowd favorite on such a gorgeous day! Dry, with notes of white peach and raspberrry.
Arbalète Coquelicots $17.99
This wine showed best after it cooled off a bit. Red fruit, a hint of baking spice and lovely earthy qualities.
Picpoul de Pinet $11.99
Crisp and light with notes of apple, pear and citrus. This is a warm weather no brainer!
Saint-Hilaire Crémant de Limoux $15
This crémant was both festive and accessible at a fraction of the cost of champagne! Crisp with notes of pear and soft floral notes.
Have you tried Languedoc wines? If not, this weekend is a great opportunity to do so. To learn even more check out L’Aventure Languedoc, a celebration of Languedoc AOP wines throughout June, coming to Seattle and Washington DC. Click here for more information!
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After spending an amazing summer studying in Greece and returning there for travel over the years, I’ve developed quite an affinity for Greek wines. The food and wine are such a tremendous part of the rich culture. I adore cooking and serving Greek food and wine for clients and friends alike!
Many are skeptics, having had a bad bout with the notorious pine resin-y retsina, but most leave converts.
I was so pleased to be invited to a blind tasting recently by two Greek brothers who run a wine import and distribution business here in DC. We blind tasted 22 Xinomavros and enjoyed a generous spread of authentic Greek food at Mourayo in DuPont Circle.
Jason and Nasos Papanikolao. “You captured us perfectly! He is always out front and I am always in the background drinking wine!” – Jason
The hard to pronounce varietal is an oft over-looked, but a delicious and bold red wine perfect for pairing with lamb and summertime grilling season! It has deep, dark fruit flavor profiles and a nice earthy balance. This wine is often best decanted before service. If you like big, tannic, full bodied red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah, give this Greek stand out a try for a fraction of the cost!
One of my favorite things about Greek wine- and Xinomavro in particular- is the outstanding value. Below is one of my favorite wines for the money. It showed well at the tasting against pricier bottles, but is delicious at around $20/bottle! For a big, bold wine to pair with red meats, that’s a steal!
This bottle is a go to when enjoying lamb and delicious homemade tzaziki.
Do you ever enjoy Greek Wines?
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I recently chatted with Rob Mondavi IV, 4th Generation winemaker, from his beautiful waterfront home in Beaufort, South Carolina. He had some great tips for outdoor entertaining as we come into the summertime entertaining season.
Mondavi pulls inspiration from California wine country, Europe, South America and Southern Coastal traditions, but his tips work well no matter where you live!
Check out some of his outdoor entertaining tips below and click here to see the full interview!
- Green & Eco-friendly are trends that are easy to incorporate. Mondavi recommends recycled materials with longevity like Trex decking materials.
- Make sure your guests have a place to set their drinks- you can even incorporate a cocktail rail into decking! Alternatively, set out cocktail tables or garden stools.
- Plan intimate events, bigger isn’t always better.
- Serve Bubbly! “It can mark a moment at the party.”
- When it comes to food, focus on farm to table and sourcing local, fresh products. I love visiting Eastern Market and Union Market in DC to pick up local, fresh ingredients.
- Mondavi’s go to porch wine: Chardonnay! Aromatic whites and dry Rosés are also great options that are trending.
What are some of your favorite outdoor entertaining tips?
Although Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and I expect many will be gorging themselves on wine and chocolate (for pairing tips, check out this post from last year!), I thought I’d return from my writing sabbatical with a bit about where I’ve been and what I’ve been tasting lately!
I recently visited one of my oldest and dearest friends in Dallas, Texas to meet her new baby. And because I haven’t had much Texas juice before I knew we had to visit a winery while I was there! At the suggestion of Dallas Wine Chick and Texas Wineaux we headed to nearby Grapevine, TX to check out Messina Hof‘s urban winery- one of the oldest and most award winning wineries in Texas.
One thing I was shocked by in Texas was how much of the juice wasn’t actually from Texas. It was disappointing to see so many grapes being sourced from Lodi, California. Not so with Messina Hof. They grow their own grapes on their property in Texas Hill Country a few hours away, and so I was able to get an authentic taste of what Texas wine is all about.
Besides the cozy, western feel of the urban winery, they offer wine on tap, which is fermented on site in the small production facility! Customers can even fill up growlers of their favorite wines!
We were given a tour of the property by Manager, Nathan DeWitt, and Sommelier, Mark Rettig, before going through a tasting of their wines.
I was particular impressed with the Blanc de Bois- a new to me wine that was cultivated in the 1970s at the University of Florida. It had incredible aromatics with a bit of petrol and slate on the nose, mouthwatering acid, and notes of key lime and grapefruit on the palate. In some ways it reminded me of a dry riesling and was extremely food friendly. Several of us left the winery with a bottle to enjoy later!
The GSM was another stand out. This Rhone blend (50% Syrah, 41% Mourvedre and 9% Grenache) was easy drinking with plenty of nuance. The medium bodied wine boasted notes of cigar box, blackberry and spicy floral notes- I was reminded of the nasturtiums growing in my childhood home’s garden.
Tasting Barrel samples in the production room
After visiting another (disappointing) winery down the street, we decided to head back to Messina Hof to finish the day on a high note relaxing in their lounge with a glass of wine. This southerner appreciated the sense of warmth and hospitality, along with the distinct focus on wine education during the tasting.
If you find yourself near Dallas, I highly recommend a stop by Messina Hof in Grapevine. Tastings are $10 for 5 wine tokens (a few of the reserve wines take 2 tokens.)
The huge variety available will give you a great idea of what’s possible in Texas wine with something sure to please most any palate. If you’re not sure what to taste just ask the friendly staff for their favorites!
Have you tried Texas wine?