Tasting Notes: Da Vinci Chianti

Happy "Favorite Friday"! July went by quickly, but I am super excited to see the arrival of August. What's happening in August you may ask? Kevin and I are headed to the wonderful country of Italy to celebrate our first anniversary! We've been looking forward to this trip since our honeymoon, so we're glad it's finally (almost) here! 

The summer is over, which means the majority of my traveling for work is behind me. It's a relief to be home for more than two or three days at a time and to actually get to spend quality time with my husband and pup. I travel to small towns typically, so the wine choices are usually what I can find at a Kroger or even Walmart. It's not the best situation, but I've tried to find a wine or two that I like that I can buy even in the smallest of towns. One is the Gnarly Head Zinfandel that I reviewed previously, but this Da Vinci Chianti is another solid choice. Both are affordable and very drinkable... important when you're away for work!

The Facts

  • Producer: Da Vinci Wines
  • Region: Chianti region in Tuscany, Italy
  • Vintage: 2014
  • Variety: 90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot
  • Where I purchased: Total Wine*
  • Price: $11.29*

*Note: I was able to find this at Whole Foods and our local Harris Teeter for $12.99. That seems to be the typical price in stores other than Total Wine.

  • Eyes: This wine was a medium purpleish-red color. I've been drinking so much white wine recently, that it was nice to get back to wines that are my favorite color! The wine was also almost translucent and did not have an haziness.
     
  • Nose: The wine smelled of ripe raspberries and spice. According to my Wine Folly guide, clove is a popular aroma for Sangiovese grapes. I actually happened to have some dried cloves on hand from making bread-and-butter pickles, so I got up and smelled them. I was finally able to put it together that the "spice" smell I was picking up on was clove!

    As a side note, if you're looking to improve your aroma identification skills, start smelling things! I like to smell my spices when cooking, and I also am that crazy person who walks around the grocery store smelling everything. I've even started smelling the can of tennis balls when I open them to make sure I've got down the "freshly opened can of tennis ball" smell down from Somm (only sort of joking). It's the best way to learn!
     
  • Mouth: This wine is a bit jammy, but not overwhelmingly so. There are flavors of cherry and plum, and those fruits just taste very ripe. There is also a hint of pepper, which helps balance out the ripeness of the fruit. I think the wine has good body to it and also a decent amount of tannin. It's got a medium finish, so it doesn't linger too long. Overall, it's easy drinking, but has more complexity than some of the other inexpensive wines out there.
     
  • Thoughts: Well, it's a Favorite Friday post, so you know I'm a fan. Do I need it to be part of my stash all the time? I wouldn't say so, but I think it's best described as my "safe bet" when at a restaurant with a less than stellar wine list or in a town with very limited choices for wine. It's a good value at $12.99 in grocery stores, so I plan to keep this name in my back pocket for future business trips.

What are your favorite "safe bet" wines? 

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Tasting Notes: Wild Oats Shiraz

The recovery process from a cold and bronchitis has been long, but I am back at it! I've had a good return to wine with this Australian Shiraz.

The Facts

  • Producer: Wild Oats by Oatley Family Wines
  • Region: Central Ranges of New South Wales (NSW), Australia
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Variety: Shiraz
  • Where I purchased: Harris Teeter. I hear it can be found at World Market, too.
  • Price: $13.99
  • Eyes: This wine was a very pretty color! It was a very deep red with some hint of purple. The wine was opaque, so paired with the fact that this is a Shiraz, I expect this wine to be full bodied and fruit forward.
     
  • Nose: This wine's aroma was very fruity, but not sweet smelling. I picked up on some blackberry and cassis (liqueur made from black currant berries). It also reminded me of chambord, the liqueur made from red and black raspberries. I also picked up on some spice notes, which is typical for the Syrah grape. The spices reminded me of what is referenced in the wine world as "baking spices", so think cinnamon, allspice, etc.  The aroma was very pleasant and definitely made me want to try it, which is always good!
     
  • Mouth: The wine had great flavor of ripe berries (blackberry, blueberry, raspberry) with notes of pepper. It had a great texture where it was smooth and easy to drink but had a little "bite" to it. I enjoy tannins, so this was a great addition. I didn't detect anything herbacious or earthy, which speaks to it being an Australian Shiraz as opposed to a Syrah from the Old World.
     
  • Thoughts: I really enjoyed this wine. It was a great bottle to open after being sick and will definitely be purchased again in our household! We had steak with some roasted vegetables and potatoes, and I thought it went wonderfully with that meal. It's fun to have something that can give depth and flavor without a huge price tag, so this was definitely a win! It's a screw top, which I am coming to love more and more for the convenience factor. I actually opened it, poured a glass, and let it sit for a few minutes by chance, and I think it really developed good flavor after opening up for a bit. However, if you don't like spicy wines, I would skip over this one.

    Wondering what the difference is between Syrah and Shiraz? There is none! It's the same grape variety that came from Europe and Australians simply call it Shiraz. If you'd like to learn more about New World Shiraz vs. Old World Syrah, check out this article by Wine Folly! 

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Tasting Notes: Black Cabra Malbec

This is the first in my new "Favorite Friday" series. On the last Friday of every month, I will do tasting notes on some of my existing favorite wines. I have a stash in my pantry of my favorites and I very rarely open them because I'm so concentrated on trying new things! This will be a great way to showcase them. 

Since I had a Malbec earlier in the week, I thought it'd be interesting to compare two from the same region, so the first one up is the Black Cabra Malbec.

The Facts

  • Producer: Black Cabra
  • Region: Mendoza, Argentina
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Variety: Malbec
  • Where I purchased: Mountaintop Wine Shoppe in Western NC
  • Price: Around $10
  • Eyes: This Malbec is a medium red color. It is opaque just like the other Malbec I had this week. I never noticed that before about Malbecs, but I now associate that with fuller bodied wines. There were some defined and slow moving legs, which as I have mentioned before means higher alcohol level. I actually remembered to look this time and noticed that the wine had 14.0% alcohol, so the legs of the wine make sense.
     
  • Nose: The first aroma I smelled was blackberry jam. Not overly sweet, but a little more sweetness than what I associate with the berry alone. The one thing I didn't notice? Any smoke! Since this was already on my favorites list, I guess that could be inferred, but it's been such a long time since I've had this wine, I thought maybe I'd be surprised! There was also some other non-fruit aroma, but I couldn't 100% decide on what it was, but my instinct was vanilla.
     
  • Mouth: There is definitely a blackberry flavor to this wine. I didn't notice any of the bitterness that I picked up on in the wine from earlier in the week, which was relief. There is a hint of pepper, but it's not as spicy as I remember it being or as spicy as some of the other wines that I've had recently.
     
  • Thoughts: This wine will always have a special place in my heart because I had it on one of my first dates with my now husband. Even with the sentimental association, this wine is a great every day choice! It is so easy to drink because it's in the sweet spot of flavor for me to have with whatever we are eating for dinner... not too overpowering to outshine the food or too boring to drink on its own. If you like really full bodied, bold, and spicy wines, this probably won't be on your favorites list, but if you're looking for something a little more mellow, affordable, and "every day", then I think this is a great bottle to have on hand!

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Tasting Notes: Joel Gott California Grenache

The Facts

  • Producer: Joel Gott
  • Region: California
  • Vintage: None listed
  • Variety: Grenache
  • Where I purchased: Whole Foods
  • Price: I lost my receipt, but I believe it was around $14.99.
  • Eyes: This wine was a maroon color, definitely a "purple-y red". It was translucent which always makes me think it will be more subtle in flavor. I'm pretty sure that's not a fair association, but it is there nonetheless. I also noticed the legs on the wine. The legs were very pronounced which indicates a higher alcohol content. This was corroborated by looking at the bottle... it was 14.3% alcohol!
     
  • Nose: The first thing I noticed on the nose was pepper. There was a also a hint of raspberry. The last thing I noted was kind of a weird aroma... I couldn't think of exactly what to call it other than cough syrup. I know that sounds horrible, and it was definitely not my favorite aroma, but it didn't deter me from proceeding on. In fact, it made me more curious to know what it tasted like. Did it also taste like there was a hint of Robitussin?
     
  • Mouth: First, I did not taste any hint of Robitussin, which was a relief. The flavors I tasted first were vanilla and dark red fruit like raspberry and plum. I think the pepper I smelled on the nose was actually more of a smokey flavor on the tongue. There was definitely another non-fruit flavor present other than the smoke. I had to do some research on Grenache to identify what it was, and I think what I would pin it as is leather. Finally, I felt that the wine had a velvety finish despite the higher alcohol content. 
     
  • Thoughts: I enjoyed this wine and so did K. I thought the flavors were tasty and the bottle was on the less expensive end of our collection, although it is on the border of what I would pay for an every day wine. If you like medium bodied reds, I think this would be a great one to try! The medium body of the wine also lends itself to being paired with a variety food dishes, so it's a great choice for a wine with dinner. While I haven't seen this one widely available (although I haven't really looked), if I ever came across another bottle, I would definitely pick up one for a dinner party. I think it would be a crowd pleaser! 

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Tasting Notes: Gnarly Head Zinfandel

The Facts

  • Producer: Gnarly Head
  • Region: Lodi, California
  • Vintage: 2013
  • Variety: Zinfandel
  • Where I purchased: Grocery Store
  • Price: $9.99

When doing some reading about food pairings, I kept coming across references to this wine as a great find for an every day wine that is widely available. People were raving about it! I knew I wanted a new wine to try with dinner, so I stopped into my local grocery store (Harris Teeter for those East Coast folks out there) and picked up a bottle!

  • Eyes: This wine was a very dark red and purple color. I've come to realize that the color of this wine is my favorite color... sounds silly, but it's beautiful. The wine was definitely more opaque than the wines I've been drinking as of late, so I assumed that it would have bolder and fuller flavors.
     
  • Nose: This wine smelled amazing to me! I already love the color and this wine's aroma is quickly becoming my favorite scent. It smelled like dark red fruit... dark red cherry and plum. I noted a hint of spice and pepper. I was very excited to give this wine a taste after the nose!
     
  • Mouth: This wine had a good weight to it, especially considering the price. I tend to find that less expensive wines are lighter in body even if it's a varietal that is typically full-bodied (for light vs. full body think about the weight of skim milk vs. whole milk). I definitely got notes of the dark berry and pepper again which as you probably know by now are my favorite. There was a nice smoothness or vanilla flavor to it as well, which is likely due to oak.
     
  • Thoughts: DEFINITELY a buy if you're looking for a fuller bodied, flavorful red at an affordable price point. I tend to love Cabs, but it can be difficult to find one with this much flavor at this price point (if you know of one, please pass along the name!) so this will definitely be a regular in our home. Plus, who can beat the convenience of finding it in our local grocery store?! I will definitely have to look to see if they carry it at other big box stores like Target or Walmart. If you're making the transition to reds from whites or are new to wine, this may not be your favorite because it is bolder in flavor, but for $9.99, I say give it a try anyway! You never know what flavors may end up loving. We were having some Korean Beef Sirloin, and I thought that the wine paired well with the Asian flavors and spice of the dish.

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