Cappadocia: Excellent Food and Turkish Wine
We found the style of food in Cappadocia to be a little different to the rest of Turkey. As we were staying in Goreme we ate dinners in town. We found the dining to be somewhat unique and while we don’t really review restaurants, the dining here is worthy of mention in terms of experiencing the unique culture and food of Cappadocia, it is also an excellent place to talk about Turkish wine as the region has some varietals unique to Cappadocia.
Dinner in a Cave
Top Deck Cave Restaurant is brilliant. It is located inside a beautifully lit cave. The night we ate here it was cold and raining outside, the warm inviting fire created a fantastic atmosphere in the entire restaurant. It is a small place and very popular. Reservations are recommended. Be aware some of the seating was at “normal” table and chairs and other more traditional Turkish style seating was sitting on floor cushions with low tables.
When we arrived, the chef brought a small sample of the soup of the day; mushroom soup. It was delicious and it did result in us ordering it. We split one order between the two of us (they served it this way, which was very accommodating.) Wine here was very reasonable, and they served several from the Turkish wines from the region.
The mezes were all homemade and while traditional Turkish cuisine, they were all well executed and most enjoyable. You can order the meze in small, medium or large size to suit your hunger or share amongst the table.
For a main course we both had slow-cooked (all day) casseroles. One was lamb and the other chicken. The meat was so tender, it was melt in your mouth stuff. While we are very fond of lamb and especially slow cooked lamb, the spice in the chicken dish made it really special. The depth of flavor and the slow cooking- it seriously may be one of the best chicken dishes of all time.
For dessert we tried a traditional Turkish dessert called aside. A dough combination made from grape syrup, flour and butter. Definitely worth trying. This was all accompanied by local wine and sparkling water with coffee at the end. The cost was approximately $60 USD for both of us including Turkish wine, coffee and sparkling water.
This is a family affair, the husband and wife are in the kitchen and the two daughters provide the table service. The menu changes daily and the girls will explain to you the dinner for the evening.
They offer cooking lessons so if you are interested in learning more about Turkish cuisine, I recommend the food here and it is a great place to try Turkish wine.
Pumpkin Restaurant and Art Gallery
Another brilliant restaurant in Goreme is Pumpkin Restaurant and Art Gallery. It is only open for dinner. Reservations are highly recommended +90 542 808 5050.
The atmosphere is very inviting, with terrific paintings and many fantastic light fittings made out of gourds.
The menu here is set and varies each day. There are four courses, soup, meze, a main course and dessert, followed by your choice of coffee or tea. You only need to choose one of the two main courses and whatever you would like to drink. Turkish wine here was very reasonable. It is a rather large meal. We had been out hiking all day so were well prepared.
We began with a yogurt soup, followed by a plate of meze. Service here was good and the meal was well spaced with regards to timing (as was Top Deck).
It is probably as good a place as any to mention service in Turkish restaurants is not usually well spaced or timed and generally no attention is paid to courses or to serving both parties at the same time even. If you want your first course to come as a first course you should order the first course only, when you are done with it order the second. If not you risk everything arriving whenever it arrives, sometimes all at once, sometimes just for one. Thankfully, neither Top Deck nor Pumpkin suffered from this lack of attention to service. Both provided excellent service.
As it is a set menu and there are two sittings an evening, an early and a later one. The owner (also the chef) has time to come out and talk to everyone. He shared his stories and his recipes, and is a great host. You can tell he enjoys his restaurant and guests.
Our mains were a grilled chicken and grilled beef. That description doesn’t do it justice it was just sensational.
Dessert was a rich cake. We also had wine, sparkling water and Turkish Coffee at the end. Again the cost was approximately $60 USD for both of us, the four course dinner and coffee is set at 50TL, or about $20 USD
One of the food specialties of Cappadocia is a slow-cooked stew within a sealed clay pot, with the pot being broken at your table for serving purposes. This is surely better than throwing your used glasses into the fireplace! The dish is called Testi Kebap. The meat may be lamb, beef or chicken or a combination. On the recommendation of our hotel we went to the Orient Restaurant to try this. Our hotel also recommended that we try Sac Tava, basically a Turkish stir fry served on a sizzle plate.
No caves for this restaurant, it was a normal style restaurant and it was very good. The lamb and beef Testi Kebap was excellent, as was the Sac Tava. And if you are craving a big steak then this is the place. The American couple next to us heartily recommended it.
The cost for both of us was about $30 USD.
Turkish Wines from Cappadocia
Cappadocia is recognized as one of the oldest wine growing regions in the world, with a history that may date back as far as 9000 BC. You will find vines squeezed in amongst the rocks wherever there is arable soil. We had read good reviews about the wine tastings, we had been drinking Turkish wine throughout our visit and we were keen to learn more and experience a wine tasting in Turkey.
First a bit about the grapes, then we will proceed to the wineries themselves.
The most common white wine grape is Emir, (pronounced Eh-mere). The wine is light in taste and has fruity tones. The tasting notes refer to apple, pear and citrus. It is a pleasant wine and we drank it quite a bit. The grape ripens slowly at the altitude and cool nights of Cappadocia.
If you find Turkish white wine outside of Turkey it is likely to be emir.
The wine is usually not aged, with wine being drunk 1-2 years. It is good with fish or chicken.
Some sparkling is also made with this varietal.
(pronounced Kah-le-djic Car-ah-ser) Yes it’s name is a mouthful! This is a fruity, light red varietal, grown in the Cappadocian region and near Ankara. Kalecik Karasi means “from the small black castle”, and originally grew in the village of Kalecik.
It is a good match to pizza or meat dishes with tomato sauce, stuffed eggplants for instance would be a good match. If you would drink a merlot or other lighter red, you could substitute this instead.
Bogazkere (pronounced: Bow-aahz-keh-reh) apparently means “throat burner” (yes, you can’t make this stuff up), and it is a heavy tannin wine, similar to a Tannat (common in Uruguay).
It is a good wine for red meat or spicy food. It would be great with a nice steak from the BBQ.
Okuzgozu (pronounced: Oh-cooz-goe-zue) produces a red wine with a lighter color similar to a Pinot Noir, and can have a lower alcohol content (12-13%).
It is well matched to meat and vegetable dishes.
Turkish Wines and Wineries
Ok, now that we know the varietals, what about the wineries themselves? This is a list of the bigger producers, those with enough production to export and therefore you might find them where you live.
As far as visiting these wineries while we were in Cappadocia, we went to them all, but the whole experience was most disappointing. You were given whatever bottle was open in a small glass, and that was the extent of it. There was no information, no attempt to sell you anything, no information about the winery, nothing! So there is an opportunity for an enterprising person!
- Kocabag Winery, Uchisar
- Turasan Winery, Urgup
- Kavaklidere, Ankara
Where to find out more about Turkish Wine:
Where to buy Turkish Wines:
- VinoRai – importer of Turkish wine to the USA
- World Wines at Home– large online seller of imported wines throughout the USA, includes Turkish wines from Turasan and several other producers
There are several Turkish wines sold on Amazon as well, shipping may be restricted to some areas for legal reasons