Tucked away on West 11th Street, stands Turks & Frogs, a wine bar named for its offerings–a number of Turkish varietals on a French-centric list. Cathy and I were curious. Great wines come from Bulgaria, Greece isn’t far, and Georgia turns a curious eye. Turkey, with an ancient history of making wine, has in recent history, produced mostly table grapes. From travels years ago, I know the likes of Efes Pilsen and raki, but nothing of the wineries along the sea of Marmara.
Lit like a den with towering ceilings that absorb all surrounding chatter, Turks & Frogs is both a neighborhood hang and a destination wine bar that is well worth some city travel. The tables do not totter on top of each other, and there is plenty of room to breathe. The room in the back is painted crimson and dark, while the front has tables for 14 and a small bar. The bartender that Tuesday night, though steady with work, was happy to engage and knowledgeable about their wines.
When I asked about the Kalecik Karasi, Ancyra Turkey, 2007 ($12/$48), which appeared beneath the heading “Light to Medium Bodied, Smooth Texture Supple” alongside a couple of Pinot Noirs, I was told it would be similar to a red from Burgundy. Pale ruby in candle-light, the Turkish varietal–Kalecik Karasi–showed me dark red fruit, and spearmint. It has bright acidity with round but lingering tannins. Not bad!
Cathy wanted a white, but they were out of the recommended Emir Cankaya, Turkey, 2007 ($8/$32), which the bartender had just enough of so that we could try a sip. Yum. Minerality and a bit of quince. The finish is like the stone of a fruit, and bone dry. Quite refreshing!
I opted for another Turkish red next–Okuzgozu, Selection Kavaklidere, Turkey, 2006 ($9/36). With it’s cherry cola essence and cinnamon, we liked it better than what Cathy was drinking–the Dolcetto D’Alba, Perinace, Italy, 2005 (a great surprise to us both!). The Dolcetto, of which I am normally a fan, showed salinity on the nose, a lightness that did not prepare me for the punch on the palate–full of dark fruits and oak.
For the novelty, we ordered a glass of Pinotage Rosé, Ernst & Co., South Africa, 2008. This is something I will never do again. Nothing but tar and compost on the nose; the cherry on the palate is not enough to revive.
But the Tinta de Toro, known at Tempranillo elsewhere, a rosé from Piedra, Spain 2008 ($9/36) is divine. Intensely aromatic with citrus, passionfruit, and strawberry on the nose, it’s mouthwatering and somewhat similar on the palate to a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc–with citrus and grass. Enough pink to put a sh*t-eating grin on anyone’s face at the end of the night.
[Where: Turks & Frogs, 323 W. 11th Street, New York, NY 10013)