Beth’s Smart Sips 20 December 2015

The past two weeks have honestly been terrible. I have had some sort of crud that started out as a sinus infection and ended up being bronchitis. After two rounds of antibiotics, I was finally prescribed an inhaler, which has been a breakthrough for me, but I am still in the recovery process. I have not felt like writing since the beginning of the month, which is why many of my recent posts have been to redirect you to my winery reviews at American Winery Guide that were written in September and October. I hope that you will read those, as I am excited to share with you some of the best winery visits available in the United States. I will also continue to post these reviews via my blog so that you do not miss them.

Finally I feel well enough to share some wines from the last few weeks. I am designating these wines as Beth’s Smart Sips because they range in price from $12 to $24 and are great QPR (quality-to-price ratio) wines to see you through the holidays and beyond, especially if you have a tight budget like me. Enjoy!

2012 Le Petit Coquerel Sauvignon Blanc
2012 Le Petit Coquerel Sauvignon Blanc

2012 Le Petit Coquerel Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, $22
The fruit for Le Petit Coquerel Sauvignon Blanc comes from the estate vineyard in Calistoga and an organic vineyard in Yountville. The grapes are fermented and aged in stainless steel, sur lie, for seven months. This is definitely a warm-climate sauvignon blanc, with dominant flavors of sweet tropical fruits like melon and papaya. The sur lie aging adds richness and weight to the palate.
(sample provided by Big Bang Wine and Coquerel Wines)

2013 Bodega Garnacha Alto Alberche 7 Navas Garnacha
2013 Bodega Garnacha Alto Alberche 7 Navas Garnacha

2013 Bodega Garnacha Alto Alberche 7 Navas Garnacha Joven, Castilla y León, $15
A holiday wine need not break the bank. A good, inexpensive pinot noir is hard to find, so why not go garnacha/grenache? The 7 Navas Joven from the Alto Aberche Valley in Spain is $15 and packs a lot of punch with its combination of cranberry and raspberry fruitiness, herbs, cinnamon, and spice. It is everything nice. I paired this with leftover Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing. Never underestimate garnacha.
(sample provided by importer Magnum Wines International and New Spain Wines)

Hope Family Wines Troublemaker 9
Hope Family Wines Troublemaker 9

Hope Family Wines Troublemaker 9, $20
This is my second time tasting an edition of this wine, Austin Hope’s tribute to his mischievous youth. Troublemaker is fun and delicious, amping up the wow factor as a proprietary red blend of 71% syrah, 16% grenache, 8% zinfandel, 3% petite sirah, and 2% mourvèdre. It is a lot of bang for the buck with its rich color, floral nose, bold red and black fruits on the palate, and peppery spice on the finish. Look out, here comes trouble.
(sample provided by Hope Family Wines as part of a pre-Boston Wine Expo Twitter tasting on December 9, 2015)

2014 Passaggio New Generation Passion Blend
2014 Passaggio New Generation Passion Blend

2014 Passaggio Wines New Generation Passion Blend, California, $24
One of the most distinctive blends I have discovered, the Passaggio Wines 2014 Passion Blend is 40% chardonnay, 40% pinot grigio, and 20% roussanne, fermented and aged in stainless steel. While the roussanne is the smallest percentage of the blend, it dominates the nose and palate with its pronounced floral aromatics, textured mouthfeel, and tropical fruit flavors. This wine is lush, plush, and fruit forward.
(sample provided by Passaggio Wines tasting room in Sonoma)

2013 Banfi Wines Centine Rosso
2013 Banfi Wines Centine Rosso

2013 Banfi Wines Centine Rosso, Toscana IGT, $12 (average)
At this price point, you can’t go wrong with the Centine Rosso which brings together the tangy, spicy, red berry flavors of sangiovese, the black fruits and tannins of cabernet sauvignon, and the softer roundness of merlot. Drink this with spicy, meat dishes, including pasta and pizza with pepperoni, sausage, and salumi.
(sample provided by Banfi Wines)

Happy Holidays!
Beth

Wine and a Movie: Under the Tuscan Sun Paired With Wines of Tuscany

Under The Tuscan Sun
Under The Tuscan Sun. Source: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/16395986118151053/

You know when you come across one of those empty shell people, and you think “What the hell happened to you?” Well, there came a time in each one of those lives where they are standing at a crossroads…someplace where they had to decide whether to turn left or right. This is no time to be a chicken-shit, Frances. ~ Patti, Under the Tuscan Sun

How I missed watching Under the Tuscan Sun, I’ll never know. Well, I do know. I’ve never been much of a movie person. Combine that with an all-consuming relationship that I thought would last forever, there just wasn’t time. In retrospect, this movie would not have meant to me then what it means to me now.

If you’ve seen the movie and you know me, you will understand the uncanny parallels of a female professor and writer unexpectedly betrayed by her life partner. After living for a while as a shell of the person she once was, she takes a leap of faith and does something crazy, she travels to Tuscany and buys a villa, Bramasole, in Cortona. Or in my case, she takes a leap of faith and does something crazy, she moves across the country to Napa, California to start a new career in the wine business. Once there, she throws herself into restoring her life, but it is slow going at first. She does not immediately find a romantic relationship, but she does have a cat and begins to connect with the people around her. Unbeknownst to her, everything she wishes for comes true, just not exactly how she planned.

Of course, there are differences. One finds the relationship she desires, the other still awaits that moment. One of us is an amazing cook; the other is a budding oenophile.

2011 Tuscan Sun Wines Tondo Tondo
2011 Frances Mayes’s Tuscan Sun Wines Tondo Tondo, Toscana IGT

The recurrent themes of the movie – rebirth, renewal, growth, love, family, friends, food, and wine – are essential to living a fulfilled life. It’s in that spirit that Frances Mayes developed her Tuscan Sun brand to include these elements, most recently, Tuscan Sun Wines.  The movie and wine were not my first exposure to the Tuscan Sun line of products. Fewer than two years ago, I reviewed the olive oil.

One of the two wines provided to me by Banner Media Group was the 2011 Frances Mayes’s Tuscan Sun Wines Tondo Tondo, Toscana IGT, which means Just perfect. This Sangiovese is delightful, especially at the price point of around $14. It’s feminine, floral, and fruity, with loads of bright cherry, raspberry, and strawberry flavors. It finishes with soft tannins, spice, and a bit of acidity. It’s aged in stainless steel, so the berry flavors have a starring role.

One of the Tuscan Sun Wines is still available at wine.com. The others can be found through retail locations or by contacting Tuscan Sun Wines.

2008 Baracchi Smeriglio Merlot Cortona
2008 Baracchi Smeriglio Merlot, Cortona DOC

The other wine that paired well with the movie was produced by Baracchi Winery, located just east of Cortona overlooking Valdichiana Valley. The estate villa once belonged to 17th century poet Antonio Guadagnoli. The Baracchi family restored the property and today 22 hectares of the 60-hectare property are vineyards. Also located on the estate is Relais Il Falconiere, a luxury hotel, spa, and restaurant.

The 2008 Baracchi Smeriglio Merlot, Cortona DOC ($35.99) is aged 12 months in small French oak barrels. It’s deep garnet-red in color, with a medium body and mouthfeel. The dominant aromas and flavors are cedar and cherry and still has high tannins and a peppery, minty finish. I suggest decanting this and drinking it now.

After watching the movie and tasting the wines, my next step is to finally read the book that brought life in Tuscany to the forefront (I just purchased it!) and to always remember this,

Unthinkably good things can happen even late in the game. It’s such a surprise. ~ Frances, Under the Tuscan Sun

Cortona is now on my bucket list. And maybe, just maybe, I will learn to cook, too.

2014 Wine Bloggers’ Conference: Live Red Wine Blogging

Live Wine Blogging (pic by George Rose with permission, http://www.georgerose.com/)
Live Wine Blogging (pic by George Rose with permission, http://www.georgerose.com/)

In my previous post, I shared a bit about the live wine blogging experience. There’s also a part two every year, live red wine blogging. This year, I tasted 11 wines in an hour, almost 12, but I ran out of time. I am not sure if a few of the producers shared some extra wines or what happened, but below is my wrap-up of this very intense tasting. What was really cool about this tasting is that there was more variety, including wines from Arizona, California, Georgia (the country), and Italy. In this post, the wines are ordered in reverse, from the last wine tasted to the first wine tasted. What can I say? It was easier to organize. Lesson learned from the last post.

Aridus Syrah
Aridus Syrah

#AZwine in the house again! @ariduswineco #Rhone-style #Syrah: gorgeous, dark fruit, earth. #wine #wbc14 #willcox pic.twitter.com/Zq24siQo96

Mariani Saperavi
Mariani Saperavi

#wine from @GeorgiaWineUSA (country), Mariani #saperavi: huge fruit and tannins, w/acidity on the finish. #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/ny8fqSV5bA

Centine Toscana
Centine Toscana

From @BanfiWines Centine for every day! #tuscan blend, $12: easy to drink, nice fruit & acid. #wbc14 #wine pic.twitter.com/KKRNl6ckXN

Punch Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
Punch Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

Punch California #springmountain #CabSauv: dark fruit, big tannins. #wine #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/z9AuccvtOQ

White Hart Pinot Noir
White Hart Pinot Noir

Pinot from White Hart, #santaluciahighlands, #sonoma: nice red fruit, good acid, firm tannins. #wine #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/uQsjX8m3xC

Cornerstone The Cornerstone Red Blend
Cornerstone The Cornerstone Red Blend

#napa! @CornerstoneNapa The Cornerstone Red: mouthwatering fruit and acid, integrated tannin. Nice. #wine #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/F3HAxrPmdj

Main & Geary Zinfandel
Main & Geary Zinfandel

Main & Geary, @BevMo‘s own label #zinfandel: jam on! #wine #wbc14 #drycreek #sonoma pic.twitter.com/7OO5P2nneX

Westerly Fletcher's Red
Westerly Fletcher’s Red

#sbcwine @WesterlyWines #happycanyon Fletcher’s Red: a balanced, gorgeous, #Bordeaux-style blend! #wine #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/I0G4RkzO4Y

J Lohr Pinot Noir
J Lohr Pinot Noir

Up next, @JLohrWines 2012 Falcon’s Perch Pinot, #Monterey: floral aromatics, tart cherry & strawberry. #wine #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/obQOs0VSkh

Davis Bynum Pinot Noir
Davis Bynum Pinot Noir

Dijon Clone 155 Pinot from @DavisBynumWines: lots of red berry and my kind of spicy finish. #wine #rrv #sonoma #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/nGE3IO3UNK

Alexander Valley Vineyards Sin Zin
Alexander Valley Vineyards Sin Zin

#Zintastic! Sin Zin from @avvwinery! Nice black fruit, spicy, peppery finish! #alexandervalley #sonoma #wine #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/09kXVN4T9s

Chianti

Disclosure: Earlier this year I was contacted by Binario Immagine e Comunicazione, a public and media relations agency working on behalf of Toscana Promozione, to assist in an international marketing campaign in support of Tuscan wine consortia, companies, and wine brands. The member consortia include Chianti, Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Nobile di Montepulciano and Vernaccia di San Gimignano, and together they created a brand called Tuscany Taste. In exchange for three blog posts and social media posts on Facebook and Twitter, I received five wine samples from these five consortia members. I published two posts earlier this year, Will you be a Best Tuscan Wine Lover Awards 2013 winner? and Tuscany Taste: A Unified Brand and Vision, in support of this initiative. My wine samples arrived this week, so below is my third post about one of the wine consortia members, Chianti.

2010 Podere Dell'anselmo di Forconi Fabrizio Terre di Bracciatica Chianti DOCG
2010 Podere Dell’anselmo di Forconi Fabrizio Terre di Bracciatica Chianti DOCG

Chianti is perhaps one of the most well known wine-producing areas in Tuscany/Italy. When people think of Chianti, they often think of the rounded wine bottle in the basket. However, most Chianti is now sold in traditional Bordeaux-style bottles.

The primary black grapes grown in Chianti are Sangiovese, Canaiolo, and Colorino. Red wines from Chianti must be at least 70% Sangiovese (those from Chianti Classico DOCG must be at least 80% Sangiovese and no white grapes allowed). Chianti may contain up to 10% white grapes and up to 15% international grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. (Source: Chianti: Vast Region Makes Vast Improvements). However, the Chianti percentage requirements seem to be constantly changing.

This week I opened of my samples, the 2010 Podere Dell’anselmo di Forconi Fabrizio Terre di Bracciatica Chianti DOCG, for a dinner with friends. It was more robust at first sip than I expected, as it is a Sangiovese-Cabernet Sauvignon blend. My friends and I decided to let it sit for a while. A couple of hours later it was much more approachable, with both black and red berry aromas and flavors, a toasted oak quality, and a nice balance of acidity and tannins. We also tried it with a Metrokane Rabbit Wine Aerating Pourer, which softened the tannins and brought out more of the bright fruit flavors and acidity.

Recommended pairings include cheeses, braised or grilled red meat, vegetable soup, and fish/fish pasta dishes. Due to the robustness, I would recommend hearty cheeses and red meats rather than a delicate pasta dish. My friends and I paired this wine with spaghetti and meatballs in a red sauce. I think it would have paired better with a steak or burger.