Tasting Notes: Tesoro della Regina Chianti Classico Riserva

Ever since our trip to Italy, we have loved Italian wine. Oddly enough, though, we tend to not buy it. No idea why! So the last time we did a Total Wine bulk buy, I made sure at least one Italian bottle made it into the cart. This Chianti Classico Riserva was a top-selling bottle, so why not?

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The Facts

  • Producer: Tesoro della Regina
  • Region: Chianti, Tuscany, Italy
  • Vintage: 2014
  • Variety: Sangiovese
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine 
  • Price: $16.99

First, I want to talk a little about what Chianti Classico Riserva means. Chianti, as you likely know, is a region within Tuscany that makes a particular type of wine per Italian law from the Sangiovese grape. The term "classico" indicates it's from an even smaller sub-region of Chianti, and it also indicates that the wine is a step above wines just labeled as Chianti due to additional restrictions and laws. Finally, "riserva" is even one more step above, and it is largely due to additonal time required to age in barrel. So theoretically, if you want the "best of the best" from Chianti, Chianti Classico Riserva is that wine. Again, theoretically.

Now on to this specific bottle! I got this bottle because the description on the little paper at Total Wine sounded right up my alley... "intense, spice, cherry, medium-body". I like all of those things. I got black cherry and raspberry notes with a little bit of tobacco and cooked tomato. What I mean by cooked tomato is it smells similar to the start of a homemade marinara. This is very common for Sangiovese! Fruit, however, was definitely the more prominent aroma. I did not get any spice. Maybe I missed it, but I was definitely sad about that. I got a mouthful of acid, which again, is common for Italian wines, and I thought it lacked depth. I found this wine not great on its own, but very good with our spaghetti dinner. Chianti was made for tomato sauce! I think I may give this one another whirl because it's well-liked elsewhere, but for now, I'd give it two bunches.

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Tasting Notes: Trader Joe's Reserve Brut Sparkling

I'm back, everyone! It was nice to take a break, especially since it was my first "busy season" at my new job. There were some long nights in there, but I pulled through! To celebrate the return, I thought what better than to have a sparkling wine. Plus, in case you haven't noticed, they're my favorite.

While we were on the Whole30 (which if I'm being honest, I didn't finish), we did a bit of shopping at Trader Joe's. I've always been a little intimidated by their wine section because I just don't know where to start. I know there are some gems in there, but I'm more worried about the bad apples I may have to try (ex: their canned wine) to get to the gems. Anyway, the last time I was there, I decided to risk it and put this inexpensive bubbly into my basket.

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The Facts

  • Producer: Trader Joe's (I guess?)
  • Region: California's North Coast
  • Vintage: NV
  • Variety: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
  • Where I purchased: Trader Joe's
  • Price: $9.99

After looking at the bottle more, I had high hopes for this wine. It said "Methode Champenoise" on the label which means the wine goes through secondary fermentation in the bottle... same as Champagne. Plus, it is the same grapes as Champagne, so that combined with the "methode champenoise", I was hoping for that hidden gem I mentioned earlier! When I opened the bottle, I did not get any hint of breadiness (often described as yeasty, brioche, toast, etc.). This comes from the wine being on the lees, or dead yeast cells. It's my new favorite flavor and aroma in a sparkling wine, so I was a little disappointed. But for $9.99, my expectations were way too high, and I could move past it. The wine was definitely fresh and zingy. Lots of citrus and tart apple notes. It was almost a little too zingy... definitely no shortage of acid in there. I'd say at first, it made my eyes go wide, but then I got used to it and found it to be refreshing. I think it'd be great for mimosas or with fried foods because that acidity would be perfect to cleanse the palate. I think I'll try their rosé next time! 

Do you have any favorites at Trader Joes? Leave a comment, if so. I'd love to try them!

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Tasting Notes: Starborough Sauvignon Blanc

Guys, it's almost JUNE. Where did the year go?! How is it already (almost) summer time? Some of you may be excited for the new season and others are likely in mild shock like I am. While I can't believe it, the weather outside is forcing me to come to terms. We've been lucky enough to get some beautiful days recently, but I've already felt the heat and the summer storms have been around all week. What's a plus side to the warmer days? Getting to enjoy some chilled white wines! 

The Facts

  • Producer: Starborough
  • Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
  • Vintage: 2016
  • Variety: Sauvignon Blanc
  • Where I purchased: Grocery Store -  Harris Teeter. You can also find it at Total Wine. 
  • Price: $10.99
Starborough Sauv Blanc
  • Eyes: First off, I thought the label was pretty cool. I try not to choose a wine based on the label because I think they can be very deceptive, but I do like this one. Sauvignon Blancs have some of the best labels in my opinion because they're usually bright and fun. Anyway, I digress. You can kind of tell from the picture above, but once I poured a glass, this wine is so pale that it's almost white or clear. 
     
  • Nose: Smells just like what you would expect from a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc! It smells citrusy, and I specifically think it smells like grapefruit. There's a hint of that herbal, grassy smell that often accompany wines from this area. I also got a slight whiff of peach, but citrus was front and center. Bottom line is it smelled good! 
     
  • Mouth: Crisp, light, refreshing. Exactly what we were looking for! The citrus notes came through, but wasn't overpoweringly acidic. It was super easy to drink and perfect for those who want that zing of an acidic white. I desperately want to say "gooseberry" because everyone always uses that descriptor for Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, but I have no idea what that tastes like. I might as well be this guy. Gooseberries, you elude me for now, but I'll find you some day.
     
  • Thoughts: If you like Sauvignon Blancs, this one is a great choice because it is a classic example of the wine from Marlborough. It's affordable, tasty, and would be perfect for a drink on the patio during a warm summer's evening or paired with a light afternoon picnic (hello, screwtop!). Kevin and I actually bought it to make this chicken piccata recipe, and it paired very well with the lemon and parsley in the dish (don't judge my amount of pasta). This type of Sauvignon Blanc would go well with any poultry (avoid the cream sauce, though) and would go especially well with veggies. Also, just a random thing to note, 2016 was apparently a very good vintage for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, so keep that in mind while shopping!

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Tasting Notes: Ramey Chardonnay

Kevin bought this bottle one day after we had one of our favorite Chardonnays from a pricier winery. We love a good, crisp Chardonnay, but don't always want to spend top dollar. Now the Ramey isn't "every day" either, but it's at least significantly less and can be found easily! We had also tried out some other Ramey wines and enjoyed them, so choosing this label wasn't a total gamble.

The Facts

  • Producer: Ramey Wine Cellars
  • Region: Russian River Valley, CA
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Variety: Chardonnay
  • Where I purchased: Unknown, but it is sold at Total Wine.
  • Price: $33.99
Ramey Chardonnay 2
  • Eyes: The wine is a light, yellow-golden color. The picture above actually does a good job of accurately showing the color we saw in person. It was very pretty, and it definitely made me think it'd have a little more body than some of the other whites we've been having recently. It wasn't as dark as I expected it to be which made me hope it wouldn't be overly oaked.
     
  • Nose: This wine smells lovely! The main aroma that I caught was apple, which I love in wines, but there was also some other stone fruit -- pear, specifically. 
     
  • Mouth: The wine tasted of apple, but I actually got some tropical fruit in there like pineapple. I also found this wine to be tart, acidic, and have some mineral notes to it. I was a little surprised given this wine is oak aged and has gone through malolactic fermentation ("MLF"), but it was a good surprise since I tend to shy away from buttery and creamy Chardonnay. I suppose I shouldn't have been that thrown off given the fruit flavors present... green apples are tart and pineapple is acidic! 
     
  • Thoughts: I was actually really pleased with this Chardonnay! I was a little worried given the MLF, but I really didn't pick up on much vanilla/oak characteristics as I would have expected. I don't know if that was a vintage thing or if it that will hold true if we give other years a try. The flavors and acidity were overall very pleasant to drink, especially on a warmer evening. It also paired very well with our dinner, which was a recipe called Halibut Olympia. You can find variations of that recipe online, but here's the one we make from my dad. Since it's so easy and it paired wonderfully with this Chardonnay, I thought I'd go ahead and share with you all!

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Tasting Notes: Honoro Vera Garnacha

I probably say this at the end of every month, but I can't believe another month is over! How is it almost JUNE?! That just blows my mind. For this "Favorite Friday", I went with one of our favorite values. We had asked for good "every day" choices one time when we were in Total Wine and the girl pointed us toward this Spanish grenache. Since it's part of the series, it's no surprise that we enjoy it, but read on to find out more about its flavor profile!

The Facts

  • Producer: Bodegas ATECA
  • Region: Calatayud, Spain
  • Vintage: 2014
  • Variety: Garnacha (Grenache)
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine
  • Price: $7.99
  • Eyes: This wine is a nice garnet color and was "medium clear", so not quite translucent or opaque. The bottle indicates it is 14.5% ABV which shows through the legs of the wine.
     
  • Nose: This wine smells of red berries and jam. Think raspberry compote or cherry pie. There is also a tinge of alcohol which is not surprising given the ABV mentioned above. Beyond the initial aromas, I also picked up on hints of vanilla. This plays in nicely with the fruit aromas. 
     
  • Mouth: The first thing I notice on this wine is the acid. There's a tartness to the first sip, but not in an unpleasant way. There were also notes of cherry and raspberry jam, as mentioned above. I would not say that it has a lot of spice to it like some Grenache I've had, but there's some and the acidity helps give it some oomph. 
     
  • Thoughts: At $8 a bottle, this is a GREAT find! It's got enough pizzazz to appeal to drinkers of the heavier and bolder stuff, but isn't so heavy that it can't appeal to those who like lighter wines too. It's easy to drink and doesn't linger too much, so I think it'd pair nicely with meals. Plus, beyond the random model's face, the bottle has a colorful label (you can't see it all in the photo above) and who doesn't love a nice label?! We like to pick up a bottle or two to have on hand if we want something drinkable and good. I highly recommend you give it a whirl the next time you're at your local Total Wine!

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