Thursday, November 20, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Vertically Sipping Bolla Chianti

Please note that the above reference to vertical sipping does not mean you must be standing up to drink this wine. I mean, you could, if you wanted. But it's not a deal breaker. What I mean by a vertical tasting is that we are going to compare two of the same wine - same vineyard and winemaker, but different vintages, or years.

Thanks to my amazing friends at Banfi wines, I have the perfect chance to do this. About a year ago, they sent me a 2011 bottle of Bolla Chianti. And then last month, they sent me a bottle of the 2013 to sample. So we get to see what a difference two years makes in a vineyard.

bottle of Bolla Chianti
The year you see on the bottle refers to the year that the grapes were grown, by the way, and not the year the wine was released so the grapes of the bottles I tasted were grown in 2011 and 2013. And lots of things can happen in a vineyard from year to year. One year could be really, really rainy and the next year, bone dry. One year could see a killer winter and the next year could be a nice, normal winter (if there is such a thing as a normal winter). All this can affect the soil, which affects the roots and the vines and thus the grapes. It's like one big circle of (winey) life. As well, the 2011 vintage got a bit more time to age in its bottle.

front label of Bolla ChiantiEach of these wines' grapes were grown in the hillsides of the Chianti zone of Italy, right in Tuscany. The Banfi website tells us that the soil there is composed of "sand, clay...limestone [and] often very rich in marine fossils".  They were both 13% ABV and primarily made with Sangiovese grapes.

Looking back on what I wrote in my review of the 2011 vintage, I said that, "It started out with sour cherry and oak on the nose." With the 2013 vintage, I found the nose to be mostly cherry aromas with a hint of anise. So the oak was gone from the nose, replaced with a bit of a licorice scent.

In the mouth, the 2011 "was tart cherry, oak, some dark green herbs (Chianti is known for its herbs) and a touch of raspberry in the middle. The 2013 taste was of cherry cordial and raspberry, with a thin line of something mineral and lemony above it all.  So gone were the herb tastes, to be replaced by a sharper citrus flavor.

As for the finish, in 2011, "My initial reaction was, "Finally, a Chianti that doesn't leave me with my lips in a pucker! The fruits are there for sure, but the wine ends with some nice lingering tannins. They are more round and full though - not thin and sharp and drying as with some other Chiantis I have had." But in 2013, that round feeling led to a line of tannins that were a bit puckery. The whole feel of it thinned out to a fruity, tannic taste. So the 2013 vintage was less round and fruity but a bit brighter and livelier.

If I had to pick, I liked the older vintage better, but I have learned that I love a round, full feeling with my red wines. I also like my fruit to be at least on par with the tannins, because apparently, I hate to pucker.

To keep you from being bored to death, I won't go into all the meteorological details, but in August of 2011, a massive heatwave settled over Tuscany and most winemakers had to harvest the grapes about three weeks early. Winemakers were a bit disappointed that they didn't get as many grapes as usual, and that the ones they did get came from very dry soil. 1 2013 started out with a very rainy, mildew inducing spring, but in the end, the winemakers thought it would be a great year for the wine. 2

All this amuses me, because I liked the Chianti from the "bad" weather year better. I don't do it to be contrary, really. In the end though, can you see how two different years can give us two very different tastes from the same vineyard?

Now that we are done vertically sipping, if you'd like to have some fun with Chianti, and learn a little more about it, head over to Crazy For Chianti - it's a fun winey website and those are always a good vintage!


1 Sanderson, Bruce. "2011 Vintage Report: Italy." Wine Spectator. N.p., 15 Nov. 2011. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.2 Sanderson,  
 2 Bruce. "2013 Vintage Report: Italy." Wine Spectator. N.p., 25 Nov. 2013. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.

I was given these wines for review purposes. The opinions are all my own.

Pin It

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Olé! Today is 2014 Tempranillo Day!

logo of Lodi Californai Winegrape AssociationHappy 2014 Tempranillo Day! I know, I know, and you without a present. Well don't worry, there is still time to celebrate..and thanks to the Lodi Winegrape Commission I recently got to sample some of that California appellation's Tempranillos.   

A little background, courtesy of my very entertaining on-line tasting with the Commission. Tempranillo means "early" in Spanish, and thus this grape is known as "early ripener". You'll find that the wine is usually low in acid and high in tannins. That being said, you can roughly group Tempranillo into two taste groups: the savory and the more fruity. It is the 4th most planted grape in the world, which surprised me. I mean, it's not a varietal that leaps off the shelves at you - possibly because it's often blended with other wines. But in Lodi, California, 25 wineries produce a Tempranillo, and that's going to be my focus for International Tempranillo Day 2014. No bridesmaid today, this time Tempranillo is the bride and gets all the attention.

The wines I sipped fit somewhat into the above two taste groups, so I'm going to talk about them within those groups. (Please note, the wines are grouped according to my Winey taste buds. And with Tempranillo, fruitier does not mean "fruity". 'Nuff said.) Here we go:

bottle shot of Harney Lane TempranilloMy favorite of the group hails from Harney Lane Winery and falls into the more fruity category. It's a 2010 Tempranillo, 15% ABV.  A bright red wine, the first aroma to hit your nose is plum that gives way to earth and leather. You'll taste that leather right away, along with some warm cherry compote and bitter chocolate. The tannins were strong, but not overwhelming in the finish. The Winey Hubby and I had this with a rack of lamb and it was wonderful.

M2 Wines, Lodi CA logoNext up in the more fruity category is M2's Tempranillo (2012, 14.5%, Lodi, CA). This was my second tasting of M2's Tempranillo, as I had their 2010 vintage before. This very dark red wine has a nose of mocha and coffee, which normally wouldn't make me think it was fruitier. But the taste opened up with mocha and cherry and ended with lots of dark stone fruit. No leather or earth here. It had a wonderful mouth feel too - satiny smooth. For the record, less cherry but more mocha than 2 years ago.

bottle shot of Bokisch Vineyards 2013 TempranilloNow let's move on to the more savory group with Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo (2012, 14.5%, Lodi, CA), which is actually 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano. This one is more of a purple color with a nose of blackberries and dark green spices. The flavors were strawberry and smoky pepper and sour greens with almost a mineral taste hanging above them all. It finished of new oak with lots of chewy tannins. There were tasters in our session that loved this wine! I am iffy on it, but that's me and chewy tannins.

McCay Cellars logoMcCay Cellars also offers up a Tempranillo "Lot 13 Vineyard" (2012, 14.2%, Lodi, CA), and the grapes actually come from the same vineyard as the M2 grapes. The nose has aromas of nutty oak and plum followed by flavors of blueberry, cherry and dark green spices like sage, thyme and oregano. The tannins were not as biting as Bokisch's were, but there was still that high mineral taste hanging above it all.

bottle shot of Riaza Wines 2013 TempranilloThe last Tempranillo (and winner of the cool wine label award) hails from Riaza Wines (2102, 14.6%, Lodi, CA) and is harvested from some of the younger vines in Lodi (12 years old, which makes them pre-teens). The nose has lots of leather on it, with a ribbon of dark berry running through it. This is a  savory Tempranillo, with flavors of leather and earth and a teeny bit of cherry. I think this one would be great with food, as opposed to solo sipping. Red meat comes to mind right away, especially with all that big red flavor going on.

So my take on Tempranillo is this: if you love a big red with lots of earthy, tannic tastes, this is a great varietal to try. You don't have to go to Spain for it either - you'll find some great ones from Lodi, right here in the good old USA. Taste a bunch and find out if you like them fruitier or more savory, with meat or cheese (or both!). But if you shy away from red, you might not appreciate this "early" grape.

In either case, enjoy the day....because any day devoted to wine is a good one, right?


I was provided with these wines for review purposes. The opinions are all my own. 

Pin It

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Winey Tasting Notes: Round Hill Chardonnay From a Friend

You know you've reached a certain milestone as a Winey Mom when Winey Friends start giving you their leftover wine. I have reached that milestone. And I'm proud of it.

Bottle of Round Hill Chardonnay wineA few weeks ago, one of my Winey Besties (and by Bestie I mean someone who has sat by my side through countless high school basketball games on butt numbing bleachers, worked till the wee hours of the morning with me at After Prom and logged countless walking and talking miles with me on the path around our town's lake...we actually weren't walking around the lake as much as we were being walked around the lake by her dog, but that's just a detail) announced that she had a bunch of leftover wine from a work party, and had brought some of it home. She likes her wine, but like me, is the only one who really drinks it at home. So of course, she thought of me to hand the leftovers to. And it's funny, because I had actually seen this wine recently and made a note that it was one I'd like to try. I was very glad it was a Chardonnay, too, because it seems like all I'd been sipping lately was big juicy reds. And I mean no offense to the reds, it's just that after tasting so many of them, I was in the mood for a white wine. And then my girlfriend shows up on my front porch with one. Wine karma at its best.

The wine in question is Round Hill Chardonnay (2012, 13%, California). One of the main reasons it had caught my eye was that it was on sale - and we all know how I love a Winey sale. And I hadn't had a Chardonnay in a while. So I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in possession of a bottle, courtesy of said Winey Friend.

Little did I know that I was about to sip a gorgeous fall day in a bottle. Because that's exactly what the bouquet and tastes of this Chardonnay brought to mind. The nose starts with aromas of ripe, mellow pears, Macintosh apples and vanilla - the scents of autumn! The taste followed up on this nose perfectly with prickly pear, toasty vanilla and sour red apple. It finished with light vanilla and oak. The mouth feel was round and smooth.

The perfect wine for Autumn, evoking thoughts of gold and orange tinged leaves, cold, crisp air, bonfires, fall fruits and of course, those awesome chunky fall sweaters. (I am a sucker for a big old comfy sweater.)

Buy this wine if you like your Chardonnay with a touch of oak and full of fruit pie flavor - not sweet, but toasty and warm and smooth. I can see it pairing so nicely with a roast chicken, or a cheese plate appetizer (perhaps before you serve the turkey in a few weeks). An added plus is that it retails for around $8 a bottle - and as I said, it was on special for less when I sipped it.

Cheers to Winey Friends! Cheers to us all!

Pin It