We were giddy with glee as we climbed into the taxi to take us to the Turasan winery in Ürgüp last week. We'd just had a fabulous lunch of beans and meat cooked in a clay pot and were ready to spend the sunny afternoon sipping red wine and enjoying each other's company, something we felt we hadn't been able to do in a long while. We'd read that huge numbers of tourists flock to Turasan every year to sample the local company's öküzgözü and boğazkere wines – two of our favorite kinds of Turkish reds – and we totally planned to follow in their footsteps and check it out for ourselves.
When we got to the winery after a 5 lira cab ride – really, the hill we'd been advised not to walk up would not have been that difficult – the tasting area was empty. The first thing I noticed was that most of the lights were off and the corners were dark and seemed far away.
"Alo? Kimse yok mu?" I called out.
A sour looking man stepped from behind a tall stack of boxes. He nodded in our direction and put his hands on his hips.
"Merhaba," I said, smiling, an invitation for him to do his "Welcome to Turasan, yadda yadda..." spiel.
Instead, he turned around and began moving boxes around. Jeff and I wandered through the tasting area, which happened to be a large square room lined by a counter, one small section of which was used as a bar. In the middle of the room were four tall, round tables but no chairs.
After a few minutes of aimlessly wandering around I approached the man working behind the counter and asked if we could taste the wine. Of course, he said. He produced a teeny wine glass. The first one is free, he said. All others after that are 1 euro.
My Turkish is pretty good and what he said was relatively simple, but I was sure I didn't understand. One euro? For a sip of wine? That didn't make any sense. I turned to Jeff.
"He says we have to pay for the wine," I said.
"What kind of winery makes you pay to taste the wine?" he asked me.
I hesitated, not sure what to do. Paying for tastings at a winery is not something I'm used to in the US. At the few wineries I have gone to on the northeast coast, all have offered unlimited free wine tastings while someone spoke knowledgeably about their product and answered any questions you had. I had fully expected the same thing at Turasan.
A few minutes later, an Asian-American couple came in with what appeared to be their Turkish tour guide. The guide led them to the bar, where the old man poured them each a droplet of red wine into the dollhouse-size glasses. "Hmmm....," the man of the couple said. "Do you have any good wine?"
When told he'd have to pay for more tastings, the man and his wife, unlike me, nodded politely, said thank you, and left. I, on the other hand, couldn't get over it. A woman appeared from some back room and I thought she might be able to explain to me how the Turasan system works.
"Yes," she said, "You can have nine tastings for 10 lira or four glasses of wine for 17 lira, or you can just do as many tastings as you want for 1 euro (or 1.5 lira) each."
I considered this. I might be willing to pay 10 lira to taste nine different types of wine, I told Jeff.
"Is there any place to sit?" I asked the woman, gesturing to the open, empty room.
"Maalesef," she said. Unfortunately, not.
At this, I threw my hands up. No place to sit? Paying for tastings? A surly welcome? Surely, this is not how Turasan runs its business?
Jeff and I stood outside the winery for a few minutes, dejected and astounded that our hopes had fallen so far so fast. Due to the presence of a nagging teze (an old woman I would refer to as 'auntie') quite intent to sell me some kind of stringy ... thing, we consulted out Lonely Plant book and began the long walk down the hill back to the center of town. Surely, we'd find something along the way.
We set out for the Duyurgan Şarap Evi, recommended in the 10th edition of the Lonely Planet Turkey guide (now woefully out of date by the way) as a nice place for local wine and live music. Sadly, the place no longer exists. Instead, we found ourselves at Ziggy's Cafe, a beautifully decorated cafe in the Victorian style. Although the owner was very sweet and commiserated with us about Turasan's business tactics, she then tried to sell us a 60 lira bottle of Kocabağ wine. This wine sells for 25 lira in a bakkal (convenience store), less in the grocery store. We declined and left. The markup was just too much.
What was going on here? we wondered. Had Kapadokya gone bonkers? Did they really think foreigners were going to pay that much for a bottle of mediocre wine? Did tourists really pay that much? Were were just being stingy?
I refused to give up. I had read that Kapadokya had a burgeoning wine industry! I had read that the quality of wine had greatly improved in the last decade! I had read that most of this had come about because of tourism! (Hmmm....maybe that should've told me something?) Damn it, the Internet can't be wrong, can it?! THE INTERNET IS NEVER WRONG!!
On our way into Ürgüp I remembered seeing a wine house somewhere close to our hotel. I was confident I could find it again so we set out for it.
Jackpot. We had struck gold.
Since 1974, the Sarıkaya family has been making their own wine, cultivated from grapes they grow not too far outside of the town. It is truly a family affair. Both the owners and their two children, plus their spouses, all pitch in. You can't miss the place on your way into town.
With all the bottles of wine lined up outside, how could you?
The family makes their own öküzgözü and boğazkere (both reds) and narince and emir (both whites). They also make sweet wines like ahududu (raspberry) and karadut (black mulberry), both of which we bought a bottle of.
While there you can also chill with the cat, Pamuk:
The owners will happily pour you a small glass of whatever you'd like, whether it's kalecik karası or their own cabernet sauvignon. And all the tastings are FREE.
Take that Turasan!
So while you're in Kapadokya, check it out.
Istiklal Caddesi No. 20 (next to the hamam), Ürgüp
Tel: 0384 341 4991/8991/8040 or 0532 626 4275
Most bottles run between 20 and 30 lira