Meandering through the lush Karaova valley, past Mumcular and the Mumcular dam, abundance and fertility strikes the visitor at every turn. Fields of ripe, early summer oats and wheat wait for the combine harvesters, which sit poised, parked and ready to work. Gardens of vegetables spring from the rich, tilled earth and small villages nestle between emerald-colored hilltops, overlooking verdant fields and orchards.
Orderly rows of bright green grapevines announce the far corner of Selia, located on the aptly-named Bağlar Yolu (orchard road). Once through the gates, the estate road rises towards an impressive brick structure built into the side of the hill, and set amidst olive trees.
A beautiful, west-facing patio out front with table and chairs bids visitors welcome. Through the large wooden doors, you’ll find the heart of this farming operation. On one side of the alcove lies an elegant table set with glasses and plates, waiting and ready for farm product tastings. This is surrounded by shelves of shining wine bottles, carefully and artistically labeled by year and product.
Deeper in the heart of the building, tucked into the coolest, gloomy corners, shining stainless steel tanks hold the pressings of the previous year’s harvests, while in another corner oak barrels hold the 2014 harvest, nearly ready for bottling. Nearby upstairs stands a state-of-the art grape press, proudly displayed in a glass-enclosed building next to an old wooden example. The first grape harvest was in 2013 and it was a very good year, says Haluk İşmen, one half of the hard-working engineering couple who have built their dream farm estate in the valley, though he defers to his wife Selva Subaşı İşmen as the dynamo of the enterprise.
They began 15 years ago, planting the first olives and grapes while they started with the core of the herd of special high milk-producing breed of Saanen goats, a white Swiss breed of goats renowned for producing up to two to four liters of milk a day. Here, the goats graze free-range, and Selia farm produces up to 1,000 kilograms of their special goat cheese, sold only at the cellar door. Haluk is the cheesemaker, having traveled first to Switzerland to buy equipment and take cheesemaking courses from the experts, before returning to hone his skills.
Gnarled old olive trees dot the estate. These are the 50-100 year old remains of the original Dılmık olive groves that used to reside on the land – but they are past producing sufficient or tasty olives. The farm mostly uses younger groves, where you’ll find Mehmetcik olive trees for their much sought-after Selia Olive Oil, and a Gemlik varieties for their table olives. Some trees are just coming up to peak production age at eight to nine years old, though Haluk states the best years for olive trees are between 10-50 years old. His fruit orchards, which he casually waves to, thrive on the hillsides, boast more than 40 pomegranate trees, plus even more mandarins, figs and apricots. The fruits yield jams that are wildly popular for visitors to the farm estate. In between the fruit and olive trees are well kept rows of different grape varietals such as Syrah, Shiraz and Cabernet which fuel the couple’s Karnas wine label. Most notable is the black-skinned Zinfandel, the only known planting in Turkey. Its cultivation was inspired by Haluk and Selva’s time in the USA, when they visited California’s famous Napa Valley frequently. When they searched for land in Turkey for their agricultural project, Haluk and Selva’s engineering experience in hydrology stood them in good stead, leading them to the Mumcular Karaova valley.
Haluk waves his hand towards the view of rolling hills and the valley, describing it as another Tuscany, with respect for the four other nearby estates also growing into established production. He extols the value of long rainless summers in this corner of the country, ideal for growing fruits to their highest sugar-level peak for harvest before the autumn rains hit, as may often happen too early in the northern coastal production centers of Tekirdağ and Bozcaada, and the inland Denizli and other Anatolian areas. As the cuttings must grow for five years at least before production, the first harvest bottled was 2013, and was well received. Tourists at luxury hotels around the Bodrum peninsula are able to enjoy the fruits of the Selia estate labors and try Karnas wine for themselves.
Selia is located at Bağlaryolu No.400, Çölekçi, Bodrum.
To arrange a visit call
(0212) 262 40 87 or 0533 352 7670.
BY CHRIS DRUM BERKAYA, PHOTOS BY ÖMER DOĞAN