Staying at a hotel as the first group of guests while it was still closed to the public has a surreal effect. Porta Caeli was at its opening phase when our press group was welcomed to indulge in all the facilities the hotel has to offer, including tasting the wines that were aging and the menu proposals that the restaurant was going to offer when their restaurant opens.
Arriving at Porta Caeli Winery from a 4-hour road trip from Istanbul, the hotel and the well-maintained rows of grape vines welcomed our group with a clamoring sight of beautiful modernity that blended with its surroundings. Leaving a very urbanized setting to go through the countryside gave me a different perspective of the country. Turkish countryside is a stark contrast from the vibrancy of Istanbul. It’s like going back in time – pleasant, relaxed and simple.
Owned by the Toksoz family, the Vinero project started in 2002 and in 2007, finally, they found the perfect vinegrowing soil coupled with the ideal microclimate with the influence of the sea, forest, winds for growing their grapes. Precisely located in the Gallipoli region, the cooler climate also plays an integral role in the growth of the grapes. The vineyards are situated in 160 hectares of land, 80% of which are dedicated to four red grape varieties which are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The rest of the area is dedicated to the white grape varieties of Viognier, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
With the consultancy of Bordeaux-based oenologist Michel Rolland in 2011 with more than 40 years of experience in vitiviniculture and along with the mastery of Porta Caeli’s oenologist Asli Bayhan, an alumna of the University of Bordeaux, Porta Caeli Winery focuses to improve the quality of its wines through their expertise. Traditional wine producing methods are used with the help of modern winemaking technologies to make the quality of wines at its best.
Meaning port to heaven in Latin, the name Porta Caeli was inspired by Seckin Pirim’s sculpture. After spending a full day in the vineyard and the winery, he declared, I feel like I am in heaven. Then with this inspiration, he created his sculpture which has two sides and depending on the sunlight’s angle, it creates a shadow shaped like a wine glass.
The dining room at the time when the restaurant was still in its finishing phase was the lounge where a beautiful long wooden table was positioned at the center of the room. Around it are sofas, armchairs and a bar. It was a room made for comfort and relaxing with some drinks.
The rooms, twenty one in all, are unique from each other. Each room is named after a grape variety, equipped with modern technology, elegantly furnished and quite spacious. As I look around the room, you get the impression that every single detail has been thought of even before you need it. There is a coffee machine, tea facilities, hair dryer, weighing scale, toiletries, fluffy bathrobes and slippers.
With the elegance and superior quality of the rooms, modernity wasn’t lost in the hotel rooms too because every single light, TV, music and internet were all controlled with iPads that are provided in each room.
The lower ground level of the hotel is dedicated to the spa and baths. It’s a big area connected with a long, lighted corridor that stems to each room. After a day out, it was the place to be and you are even luckier if you get an hour with the masseuse.
The food. Complete luxury doesn’t end with the elegance and comfort of the rooms, the wines and the spas. Our Vinero experience came with another grand highlight. Chef Ali Ronay, the Consultant Chef of Vinero, came up with multiple-course meals during our 2-night stay there. We were a group of 13 coming from different countries, with diverse palates, opinions and expectations but whenever we converge on that long wooden dining table, our taste buds speak in one united language. It was an incredible dining experience, more and more each single meal. Using seasonal, fresh and top quality ingredients, Chef Ali created innovative dishes with Turkish roots.
One thing I especially love about his cooking is that you can taste the ingredients that he cooked together because each flavor did not outdo each other, rather, there was a complementary blend to every single one of them. It makes me think of Mediterranean cooking hand in hand with the subtle flavors of Turkey and rejoicing the concepts of Slow Food and Kilometer Zero (in Italy, using the produce from the same area to promote freshness, support of the local farmers and no transport time and expense).
The wines, as I’m sure are already out in the market now, showed a lot of character and were destined to be excellent wines.
Porta Caeli carries three wine labels: Ament, Pacem, and Felici.
Ament is a Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Still not finished in aging, we tried the 2013 vintage with minimum 18 months of aging in oak. It had a deep, dark and impenetrable ruby red color with a beautiful complex nose of dark fruits, caramel, spices, and tobacco. The mouth was persistent and smooth. As for the Pacem, we tried the 2014 vintage with a blend of Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. The wine was fermented in stainless steel vats for 4 months, and gives off very nice floral and fruity aromas or pears and peaches. It also shows off a good minerality and freshness. The Felici instead is a rosè made with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.