Monday, May 15, 2017

Chamlija & Arcadia: Vineyards in Kırklareli in the Thrace Region

Dear readers,

The weather was absolutely gorgeous the weekend of April 29th so I'm so happy that I had signed up to attend an event on this weekend organized by the Chaine des Rotisseurs. I have been a member of the France based International Association of Gastronomy's Turkey chapter since 2009. Basically, the purpose of the association is to organize dinners at fine dining restaurants where members can get together to socialize and enjoy good food & wine. As members, we are invited to functions & events not only in our own country, but we can also attend events in other countries (80) with Chaine des Rotisseurs chapters. 

This time, the Chaine des Rotisseurs in Istanbul organized a weekend getaway to the Thrace or Trakya region where we would visit two vineyards to develop our knowledge of viniculture and taste some great wines & local delights in the process!

Our group was about 30 people and we hopped on our private bus at 8:45am in Levent and arrived at our first stop - the Chamlija Vineyards in the Kırklareli province at around 11:15am to begin our tour.
Chamlija Vineyards @Kırklareli, Thrace Region - Turkey
We were greeted by Mustafa Çamlıca (the Turkish spelling of the brand), the 3rd generation of the family that has been farming in the region since 1936 after immigrating here from the town of Kubadin, Razgrad in northeastern Bulgaria. 
Mustafa Çamlıca, owner of Chamlija Vineyards
Chamlija has a total of 85 hectares of vineyards throughout the Kırklareli province and their plantings range from 5,000 to 6,666 vines per hectare. In fact, some vineyards have around 10,000 vines and are some of the most dense vineyards in the Balkans and Turkey.Mr. Çamlıca explained that the reason for the high-density plantings was to enhance the quality of the wines and to encourage deep root systems to define the full potential of the terroir. We only had a chance to visit 3 of Chamlija's vineyards, but this was more than sufficient to give us an idea of the land, soil, etc. 

We had built up quite an appetite at this point, so we headed to our next stop: lunch at Çamlıca Restaurant (not owned by the vineyard) in Büyükkarıştıran, Lüleburgaz.
Çamlıca Restaurant during @Chamlija Vineyards tour 
As we ate our modest lunch consisting of salad, absolutely delicious buffalo milk yogurt and grilled köfte, Mr. Çamlıca and his staff gave us more information about the wines produced at Chamlija Vineyards.
Chamlija Wines
Chamlija Vineyards produces 7 white wines: Narince (Turkish), Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Viognier, Albarino and Narince-Chardonnay grapes. We had an opportunity to taste a few of the choices available and although not a major white wine lover, I was very impressed!

Red wine lovers are familiar with the majority of the common grapes used like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir but I had never before heard of or tasted Caladoc (French grape) or Papazkarası (indigenous to the region). While some of the reds were blends, more than a few were not. Once again, the wines we tasted were more than impressive! Not surprisingly, Chamlija Vineyards has won many local and international awards for their wines! Moreover, I love the labels which were designed by Mr. Çamlıca's daughter Irem.

Fully fed in more ways than one, we took a group photo and departed the restaurant to head to our next stop...
Chaine des Rottiseurs Chamlija Vineyards tour
Also in the Kırklareli province, our next and final stop was Arcadia Vineyard & Bakucha Hotel & Spa around 25 km from where we were, but because of the final dirt road we had to pass to reach the vineyards, it took us over an hour to get there, but it was definitely worth it!
Bakucha Hotel & Spa @Arcadia Vineyards 
We arrived in time to check into our rooms and relax for an hour or so before the fine dining dinner that awaited us with a view of a portion of the sprawling vineyards from our rooms & hotel restaurant!

Overlooking the Istranca mountains, Arcadia with its vineyards, production facility and hotel (26 junior suites with balcony or terrace) is a total of 200 hectares and so so inviting!  

Like I said earlier, a lovely dinner awaited us with a full moon and a crackling fire in the garden as the nights are definitely chilly here although it was in the high 20's (centigrade) during the day.
Bakucha Hotel & Spa Restaurant @Arcadia Vineyards
The food was definitely topnotch! We started with chicken liver paté; "loznik" caramelized leek slices in cornbread wrapped in vine leaf; deep fried grated squash patties with strained yogurt. Then, we were served handmade spaghetti with porcini mushrooms. Our main course was "Lamb Mutancana" Edirne Palace style with a side of arugula salad with roasted pine nuts and dried blueberry & honey dressing. Dessert was baba au rhum (small yeast cake saturated with syrup) and flaked pastry with Anatolian blue cheese cream. All our our meals were paired with the appropriate Arcadia wine. So, we definitely ended our day on a high note!

I woke up early Sunday morning to a sunny day with the "silence" of chirping birds and crystal clear skies! I had a light breakfast (ate too much the night before) although the open buffet selections were very tempting and included a variety of Turkish cheeses, homemade jams, mini pancakes, grain breads, savory and sweet pastries, greens from their garden, cereals, eggs, etc.! 

After breakfast and some time for soaking up some rays, we were given a presentation about Arcadia Vineyards by owner Zeynep Arca...
Zeynep Arca, owner Arcadia Vineyards 
Arcadia Vineyards was established 10 years ago by father-daughter team Özcan and Zeynep Arca. They were both amateurs to viticulture and viniculture but knew they wanted to get into the wine-making business and did their homework: from deciding where to buy land to the wine specialists they worked with! They wanted to produce wines that were natural and unique with a minimum amount of intervention to reflect the unique terroir of the region. 

I must admit I was not familiar with Arcadia wines. but I'm so happy I had the chance to meet Ms. Arca and listen to her story while tasting her wines. 

Afterwards, we were taken for a tour of Arcadia's production facilities, cellar and surroundings. 
Arcadia Vineyards, Lüleburgaz - Turkey
Arcadia Vineyards, Lüleburgaz - Turkey
Arcadia's vineyards are a total of 35 hectares and produce approximately 100,000 bottle of wine annually. The grapes harvested are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Sangiovese, Pinot Gris and Turkish grapes Öküzgözü (red) and Narince (white). Arcadia's wines are very good - especially their white selections.

So, why the name Arcadia? Simply, Ms. Arca told us that Lüleburgaz used to be called Arcadapolis which means "heaven on earth", so it made perfect sense!

It was an absolutely wonderful action packed two days! We visited a couple of the Kırklareli province's vineyards, had fantastic wines and food and I made some new friends!

Our bus trip back home took about 3,5 hours due to heavy traffic, but every minute was worth it and I would like to thank the Chaine des Rotisseurs team for organizing this trip!

If you too would like to visit the vineyards in this region, I suggest you contact them directly and they can assist you with individual or group visits. 

Cheers... şefere... a votre santé

Stay well,

Bakucha Hotel & Spa, Lüleburgaz -Turkey



No comments:

Post a Comment