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Wine and Dine

This week: Turkish

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Matching wine to cuisines it isn't traditionally drunk with--Caribbean, Latin American, Asian--is the focus of this periodic feature, in which we pick a BYO restaurant, sample a few dishes, and recommend some wines.

Turkish Cuisine and Bakery

5605 N. Clark

773-878-8930

Zeytinyagli yaprak dolmasi

(grape leaves stuffed with rice, pine nuts, currants, and herbs) 1

$4.50

Piyaz

(white bean salad with tomatoes, peppers, and onions) 1, 2

$4.50

Haydari

(yogurt with garlic and dill) 1

$4.50

Mucver

(zucchini pancakes with a light garlic sauce) 5

$5.75

Arnavut cigeri

(panfried calf's liver with onion salad) 3, 4

$5.50

Sigari boregi

(cigar-shaped crispy phyllo pastries filled with sheep's milk cheese) 1, 2, 3

$7.50

Lamb kebabs 4,5

$10.75

At this family-run Turkish restaurant, you can watch as cooks carve lamb from a spit, grill marinated quails, and skewer tender chunks of lamb in an exposed kitchen. Highlights from the menu include pirzola (grilled lamb chops), cop-sis (a kebab of marinated lamb or chicken), and turlu (a casserole of eggplant, potatoes, green beans, and carrots cooked in a spicy broth). Homemade flatbread arrives at the table warm, perfect for scooping up smoky baba ghanoush, hummus, and tarama (fish roe spread). Several of the dishes are quite salty, calling for a squeeze of citrus or, better, a moderately acidic white. Heartier meat dishes demand a fruity and balanced red wine. Consulting on this visit was Brian Duncan, wine director and partner at Bin 36.

1. 2002 Amberly Estate Chenin Blanc (Margaret River, Australia), $11-$15. The chenin blanc grape, indigenous to France's Loire Valley, has been blended with the two traditional white Bordeaux grapes--sauvignon blanc and semillon--to create this wine. The tropical fruitiness of the chenin blanc gets zest from the sauvignon blanc and softness from the semillon, a grape usually used in dessert wines like Sauternes. Paired with the stuffed grape leaves, this wine brings out the sweetness of the currants, preventing the dish from tasting too salty, while the briny flavor of the leaves accentuates the varietal's apricot notes. It livens up the mild white bean salad by highlighting the tomatoes and helps tone down the acidity of the yogurt spread. This extremely versatile wine also freshens up the savory and slightly oily cheese pastries, whose saltiness in turn amplifies the wine's sweetness. (Que Syrah, Sam's)

2. 2001 Anselmi San Vincenzo (Veneto, Italy), $9-$13. Made mostly from garganega grapes, with small amounts of chardonnay and trebbiano di soave, this pale, light-bodied white wine has hints of honey and citrus along with aromas of dried herbs and lemon blossoms. Mineral flavors combine with the ripe fruit to produce a wine of good depth and intense flavor even without oak aging. This wine works with the white bean salad, though not as well as the chenin blanc: the mineral elements accentuate the earthiness of the beans, while the salad's tomatoes and green peppers bring out the fruitiness of the wine. The cheese pastries also benefit from a sip, which cuts through the fat in the fried phyllo and the sharpness of the cheese. (Galleria, Que Syrah, Sam's)

3. 2001 Beckmen Vineyards Cuvee le Bec (Los Olivos, California), $12.50-$13. This Rhone valley blend of grenache, mourvedre, and syrah is a big, juicy wine with berry, leather, and spice flavors. Its full body and moderate tannins make it suitable for strongly flavored dishes like the panfried calf's liver with onions. The winey ripe-berry highlights temper the heaviness of the liver and make the onions taste smooth and creamy, and the richness of the organ meat softens the tannins tasted on the finish of the wine. The acidity of the cuvee le bec also complements the cheese pastries, mellowing the tang of the cheese and bringing out its milky sweetness. (Binny's, Sam's, Wine Discount Center)

4. 2001 Castell del Remei Gotim Bru (Costers del Segre, Spain), $11. Deep cherry red is the color of this characteristically Spanish wine made primarily from the tempranillo grape (also called ull de llebre or tinta roriz), blended with cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Up to a year of oak aging gives it a vanilla and nutmeg aroma that combines smoothly with its dark cherry and chocolate flavors. This wine could easily overpower a delicate dish, but its depth makes it a nice match with the strong liver and lamb. Costers del Segre is in the Catalan region of northeastern Spain at the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, an area known more for the Spanish sparkling wine cava. (Binny's, Howard's Wine Cellar, Sam's)

5. 2001 Seghesio Zinfandel (Sonoma County), $13-$14. Zinfandel has gotten a bad rap since the introduction of the "white" version--a sweet pink-hued abomination of a jug wine--in the early 80s. The grape --which is, of course, a deep red--may be the only one indigenous to California (some believe it's actually a relative of the Italian primitivo). It fared well in the 2001 vintage, one with agreeable weather and a timely harvest. Sometimes zinfandels can overwhelm food, but the sauce on the zucchini pancakes is the perfect foil: the wine tones down the garlic, which in turn emphasizes the zinfandel's savory and spicy notes, and its moderate tannins and acidity also cut through the cakes' greasiness. This wine is also compatible with the garlicky lamb kebabs. (Binny's, Howard's Wine Cellar, Sam's, Wine Discount Center)

Binny's Beverage Depot 3000 N. Clark, 773-935-9400

Galleria Liqueurs 1559 N. Wells, 312-867-7070

Howard's Wine Cellar 1244 W. Belmont, 773-248-3766

Que Syrah Fine Wines 3726 N. Southport, 773-871-8888

Sam's Wines and Spirits 1720 N. Marcey, 312-664-4394

Wine Discount Center 1826 N. Elston, 773-489-3454

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