One aspect that I am certainly going to miss about living in Philadelphia is its proximity to New York City. Much like Paris, the first few times I visited New York, I hated the city. I attributed it to the throngs of people, always in a hurry, always seemingly angry.
But that wasn’t it.
After reflecting on it a bit, I realized that the actual reason I despised both Paris and New York was how insignificant both cities made me feel. I would spend my days surrounded by people, but I never felt so very alone in all my life.
Once I realized it, though, it was quite liberating. In fact, as odd as it may sound, I soon embraced my trips to New York as a way to “get away from it all.” Yes, for me, a trip to the city that always seems to have so much going on was a way for me to find solitude.
And I like it.
This past Spring, I travelled up to New York about once a week for various tastings, usually heading up in the morning, and making my way back to Philly shortly after dinner. One particular week, however, I was invited to an evening tasting, requiring an overnight stay.
My day had started in Soho, at another tasting, but by mid-afternoon, I was making my way uptown as I usually do in New York: on foot. By the time I approached the Marmara Hotel, it was hovering right at 70 degrees with a gentle breeze coming up 32nd Street–a beautiful spring day in Manhattan. I checked into my room, which was, to paraphrase a famous New Yorker, “incredible” with more space than most Manhattan apartments.
After lingering a bit in my luscious accommodations for the night, I headed back to the elevator, this time going up, getting off on the top floor. Within seconds I had a glass of the only traditional method sparkling wine made in Turkey. The NV Vinkara Yaşasın Blanc de Noirs (Retail $45) is made with 100% Kalecik Karasi, which is an indigenous black grape (that Vinkara also makes into two still wines, see below). The wine has a shy, understated nose which is out of place in Midtown Manhattan. On the palate though? Impressive. Vibrant sparkle and abundant citrus, the wine is a complete surprise as it is one of the better sparklers I have tried this year. In fact, it may be the single best sparkler I’ve tried outside of France and the US (and OK, Italy). Bright, inviting, with more than a hint of baked bread, this is the West Village in the morning, before the traffic takes over. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
I then moved on to the still white wines as I fluttered about the expansive penthouse, weaving in and out of rooms, eventually ending up on the south-facing terrace, with a view of lower Manhattan. I chatted with the PR person who had arranged the evening, and then with the owner of the winery whose family also owned the hotel, but after that I was virtually on my own to taste the wines and take in the atmosphere.
And I liked it.
I was not alone in the traditional sense as there were people everywhere, but there were several groups of people who clearly knew one another, and, well, I didn’t really know any of them. Usually at such events there are at least a few other “media types” but as far as I could tell, I was the only one, which enabled me to really focus on the wines and people watch a bit–two of my favorite New York activities.
2014 Vinkara Narince: (Nah-rin-djeh) I have written about this wine before, and the first time I had it I was impressed. That has not changed. Bright and fruity on the nose, the wine has plenty of acidity but also a roundness that encourages more exploration. As I took my first sip, I noticed a woman on the balcony with a pirate-like eye patch and a bolero style hat. Like the wine, I am intrigued, wanting to know more of the story. Very Good. 88-90 Points.
2013 Vinkara Reserve Narince: According to the notes from the winery, this sees 14 months in mostly neutral French oak. On the nose, this is certainly more expressive. As I tried to warm the wine in my hand a group of 20-somethings came out to the balcony, and I saw they were bejeweled with tattoos and countless bracelets. While this wine certainly benefitted from the oak and age, I wondered if the same would be true for the chatty quintet before me. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
As I moved to the reds, I switched balconies, now with an incredible view of both the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings.
2013 Vinkara Kalecik Karasi: (Kah-le-djic Kar-uh-sahw) Like the first Narince, a bit shy on the nose, but imbued with tart cherry and raspberry. This wine comes from relatively young vines, but as those vines mature, this wine will likely excel. A bit like a seven-year old’s first trip to the City–a bit too young to appreciate all the city offers, but once fresh out of college, that “kid” will try to conquer the city that once overwhelmed. Very Good. 88-90 Points.
2012 Vinkara Kalecik Karasi Reserve: After filling my glass at the bar I had to go back out to the balcony to gaze at the New York night line. Seeing that this was a Turkish party there were quite a few out there already, smoking away. Well, the wine could handle it. Smoky and fruity on the nose, this is that 7-year-old with quite a bit of experience. Rich and full but still exuberant, this really is a nice wine. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
The evening was breaking up, but I still had a couple of wines to go. Ardica, the quiet yet seemingly full of boundless energy owner of the winery, insisted she’d stay as I tasted the last two wines, but it was late, and it was clear we were both tired. Instead, I ended up with these two wines in my bag to try at home. Which was fine by me–the wines thus far were delicious and the last two merited an unfettered review.
2011 Vinkara Boğazkere Reserve: (Bow-aahz-keh-reh) This is the type of wine that you do not want to drink alone, for once you taste it, you want to turn to someone, anyone, and say “Wow!” Quite dark and viscous and the aromas are reminiscent of a California Cabernet. Big notes of Cassis, blackberry, and tobacco. Fruity on the palate as well, but a meaty component that you don’t see all that often in the world’s most popular red. This really is a fantastic wine, which is also rather light in the tannin department, suggesting short-term consumption. I’m not complaining. Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2013 Vinkara Öküzgözü Winehouse: (Oh-cooz-goe-zue which means “Bull’s Eye” in Turkish) Since I really did not have time to try this that night in Manhattan, I opened this a couple of months later in the comfort of my home while we were packing up the house as the movers were coming the next day. Initially, I have to say I was disappointed. I had remembered this being rather bold and lush, but upon opening it was rather, well, blah. I put the wine down and headed into the basement to pack some more, forgetting about the wine. A few hours and dozens of boxes later, I returned to the bottle. Wow, what a transformation! The ruby colored wine had completed a 180–it was rich and multi-layered with cherry and spice, a bit of rhubarb, and plenty of spunk, falling just short of an official “Whoa.” Outstanding. 91-93 Points.