Archived entries for Sauvignon Blanc

A Conversation with Chris Hanna: President of HANNA Winery

On my way out of town (literally), I had the chance to meet Chris Hanna, president of HANNA Winery, and another Renaissance woman extraordinaire.  Like me, she juggles a C-level job and works to raise a family – in a world that is often male dominated. 

She’s smart, funny, direct and has a vision for the past, present and future of the wine business.  We talked about her perspective on the most interesting folks in the world of wine. “The most fascinating people in the wine business start with careers outside the business,” she said.  “They intersect expertise in art and science making them more creative in how they think.” 

She is a walking example of just that.  Her original vision was to become an English professor and academic.  When her dad called her in to help interview sales and marketing candidates, she had an epiphany.  “I wasn’t sure how we could claim to be a family business when we had no family members running the business.”  Her dad, Dr. Elias Hanna, a world-renowned cardiac surgeon, was trying to manage the business working primarily from an ER. Three days later she found herself on a flight to a distributor in Chicago as “green as green can be.”

Fast forward 20 plus years and she’s built HANNA into one of Sonoma’s most successful family wineries.  HANNA encompasses more than 600 acres of land in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and the Mayacamas Mountains.   Chris talked about her journey from when Merry Edwards came in as the first consultant.  “She taught me how to exist in a man’s world and important things like barrel cleaning protocol.”  She asked a million questions and collaborated with other family run wineries in the region and day by day learned the business.

She made some risky judgment calls – from changing the entire Cabernet program to putting screw tops on HANNA’s best selling Sauvignon Blanc (both have paid off).  Chris has written a cookbook, “The Winemaker Cooks,” which celebrates wine and food.

I had the chance to taste through several wines from HANNA.  We started with the 2012 HANNA Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc.  It had great acidity with tropical fruit, citrus and floral notes.  It was a great expression of sauvignon blanc.

Our second wine was the 2012 HANNA Russian River Valley Chardonnay.  I was really impressed with this wine.  I tasted tropical fruit, almond and vanilla.  I am a big fan of this wine – especially for under $20.

We moved to the 2010 HANNA Red Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley.  I loved the black cherry, licorice, tobacco, plum and big berry taste that I got from this wine.  Five years ago, Chris decided to totally revamp this program and replace the Merlot that was originally blended with Malbec.  It was smooth, easy drinking and a great wine.

We ended our conversation with a discussion about how the industry has changed and how HANNA works with Terlato Wines to gain additional exposure as well as having a robust direct to consumer business through its tasting rooms and wine clubs.  Considering the winery has grown from 1,000 cases to 50,000 cases, it looks like Chris’ strategy is working well.  


What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been: A Conversation with David Ready Jr.

It’s rare you sit down with an individual that saw 175 Grateful Dead concerts, went on tour with them and lived to tell the tale.  Then you find out he’s an esteemed winemaker for Murphy Goode, a newly converted runner (lost 50 pounds since he started), believes in giving back to the community to bring his dad’s legacy to life and is just an all-around cool person. 

David Ready started his career in winemaking in 1985 when his dad strongly suggested getting a job would be a good idea.  He grew up in Minnesota, played in rock band for a time and is a huge Vikings fan.  He worked harvests in Australia and Sonoma.  David moved back to California approximately 20 years ago and it’s been home since.  He worked his way up from cellar master to assistant winemaker and then served as the winemaker for Zinfandel in 1997.  Today he supervises 18 wines.  

David came through town last month to talk about his Homefront Red release, which raised 300K for Operation Homefront, a 501c (3) organization developed to support the families of deployed service members immediately following 9/11.  The organization provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors.  And the cool thing is that the distributors and sales people for the winery have chipped in to support the effort as well.

Ready wanted to do this to honor his father who passed away during the fall of 2010.  He pondered what it meant to “do good” with the current owners of the winery.  His father served in Vietnam and his family has a long history of military service.  In his words, “Everyone knows someone who has served.  These kids go off in search of a better life, service our country, get hurt and then they and their families suffer.  No family should ever be left behind.”

He makes wines that he wants to drink and wants to match them with different foods and settings.  “I love a big cab, but not every day,” he said.  We tried a few and I want to continue to drink them too.  Clearly he has found his calling and you can tell he’s passionate about food, wine and socializing. We tried the following:

  • Murphy Goode The Fume Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – citrus, tropical fruit and melon.  A really nice $14 poolside or Texas patio wine.
  • Murphy Goode Dealer’s Choice Alexander Valley Cabernet 2010 – blackberry, herbs, bay leaves and thyme.  A very well balanced and drinkable wine that could age well or be opened today. 
  • Murphy Goode All In Claret Alexander Valley 2011 – a blend of Alexander Valley merlot, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot is full of dark cherry, blackberry, herbs and raspberries.  It was a really great blend.
  • Murphy Goode Liar’s Dice Zinfandel 2010 – raspberry, Asian spice, black cherry with balance.  This wine called for BBQ but didn’t need it to be appreciated.

Duckhorn Winemaker Tour Rolls Through Dallas

Renee Ary, Duckhorn Winemaker

The Duckhorn Winemaker tour rolled through town this month and featured the launch of the inaugural Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Chardonnay as well as new releases from Duckhorn Vineyards, Goldeneye, Paraduxx, Migration, and Decoy.

First the chardonnay, Duckhorn started making this wine in 2011, but they didn’t feel like they fulfilled the vision until the release of the 2012 vintage.  It was made in an old world style, had lots of citrus flavor but with the beautiful notes that aging in French oak brings. I was impressed.

I also had the chance to sit down with Duckhorn Vineyards Winemaker Renee Ary, who became Duckhorn’s fourth winemaker in four decades.  She has worked at Duckhorn for 11 years first overseeing quality control, then as associate winemaker, then as assistant winemaker before being named to her recent position.  She was in the Texas market on the tour to debut Duckhorn’s new chardonnay and allow industry folks to taste the latest offerings.

Renee started as a chemistry and art major and then parlayed her passion of wine into a profession when she worked at Robert Mondavi Winery as a chemist.  She combines the creative genius and technical expertise to make some great juice while respecting the craft of winemaking.  And, she’s one of the nicest and most unassuming folks that you’d ever met.

You can tell Renee loves her job and the Duckhorn vineyards.  For her, it’s about making great wine and continuing the legacy of Duckhorn. 

I tried the entire line-up of Duckhorn including the 2012 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, the 2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay, the 2011 Napa Valley Merlot, the 2011 Napa Valley Merlot Three Palm Vineyard, 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2012 The Discussion Estate Napa Valley Red Wine.  We also got to try the 2008 Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot out of a double magnum, which was exquisite.  Like always, the wines were amazing and I’m excited to see Renee’s continued stamp on the future.

Michael Fay, Winemaker Goldeneye Winery

I also had the chance to talk to Michael Fay, the Winemaker for Goldeneye Winery.  I wasn’t familiar with Goldeneye’s small production Pinot Noirs, but am very glad for the discovery.  I tried the 2011 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, the 2011 Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard, the 2011 Ten Degrees Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir and the 2009 Goldeneye Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard in a magnum.  You could taste the ruggedness of Anderson Valley Pinot and the Gowan Creek had more structure and texture.  These wines were also great.


California, French and Italian Quarterly Wine Update

I had fallen behind on the work #ThirstyThursday events so it was imperative that I grab some co-workers and taste some wines.  This time, we had 14 wines from California, France and Italy.  I’m featuring the nine that made the list which did not, for the record, include the wine marketed to the “inner diva” in me.  If that what my inner diva looks like, I would say that she should stay bottled up.

White Value Wines

California

2012 Jekel Vineyard Riesling – notes of white peaches, apricot and citrus.  I fell in love with this wine last Summer.  It still is great, but something about drinking it on a cold January day vs. pool or porch-side was different. It made me yearn for warm weather.

2012 Bonterra Chardonnay – tropical fruit, almonds, lemon with a touch of oak, but had balance.  A nice chardonnay for those who don’t like chardonnays.

Italy

Bolla Prosecco NV – always a totally quaffable sparkler with notes of green apple and toast.  Drink with OJ or without.

Red Value Wines

California

2012 Artesa Pinot Noir – strawberry, black cherry, oak with floral notes.  Hands down, this was one of the top wines tasted.

2011 Bonterra Zinfandel – was what a zinfandel should be – smoky, spicy and big.

2012 Five Rivers Pinot Noir – smoky, dark cherry, earth and good balance. 

France

2012 Domaine Constant-Duquesnoy Vinsobres — a classic Rhone blend with notes of cherry, spice, herbs, earth and flowers.  This was one of my new value favorites that I will be looking to buy at my first opportunity.

Italy

2010 Bolla Creso Rosso Verona – lots of fruit, cassis, spice and leather.  A good Tuesday night pizza or pasta wine.

Red Date Night (with someone you like a lot)

2012 J Vineyards Misterra Pinot Noir ($50) – a new J Vineyards wine combining Pinot Noir, Pinotage and Pinot Meunier was earthy with notes of herbs, flowers and fig.  I really enjoyed the unique taste and blend of this offering.


Fine Wine On Tap Changes Dallas Wine By the Glass Landscape at Savor (and Beyond)

As I am in technology marketing for my paying gig, I am all about watching innovation and disruption change industries and I love watching transformations.  Google.  Apple.  Twitter. Uber.  All companies that pushed the envelope and changed the way we search, compute, live and ride. 

But let’s face it.  The wine industry has not been known for innovation and there has been a “what’s old is right mentality.” So anytime that I’m pitched a chance to talk to someone in the wine industry that is doing something different beyond a new app, you can sign me up almost immediately.

John Coleman and Dan Donahoe

I had the chance to sit down with Savor’s Executive Chef John Coleman and Free Flow Wines Co-Founder and Chairman Dan Donahoe to talk about their partnership in bringing the first premium wines on tap to Dallas.  It all started with a phone call.  John self-described himself as someone who finds it a challenge to find people who may or may not want to be found.  And, he wanted to bring innovation and “out of the box thinking” to Dallas in the form of premium wine on tap to his restaurant. A long-term friendship and business partnership was formed.

These guys are passionate about their business. And, the business benefits are impressive.  Savor is now the number one stand-alone top volume restaurant for wines on tap in the country.  Yes, Dallas – home of Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay playdates and big steakhouse upcharged “premiere brands” – wins in wine innovation. 

Let’s talk about the benefits.  The keg packaging removes hundreds of tons of packaging waste from the environment.  I was there when Republic showed up to deliver the barrels.  At 58 pounds apiece, they seemed as easy as bringing in a few cases of wine.  If you’ve been to Savor, you know they don’t have a lot of space.  What they do with some many diners in such a small kitchen is pretty amazing.  And, the consistency is the real kicker.  Every glass of wine is guaranteed fresh – every single time.  I just had a great glass of one of my French favorites during a business trip to Houston.  It had turned and I sent it back.  That gets expensive for restaurants. 

I had the chance to tap my personal glass of wine.  It was lightning fast and the J Vineyards Pinot Gris tasted exactly like it did when I hung out with Winemaker Melissa Stackhouse from J Vineyards.

Now the brands.  There are some big boys embracing this technology – Arietta, Frog’s Leap, J Vineyards, MINER, Paul Dolan Vineyards, Robert Craig, Trefethen Family Vineyards – even Va Piano, one of my great winery finds in Walla Walla. Right now, 140 wine brands are shipping their juice to Free Flow Wines where they ship to 43 states.  It is pumped into ten staging tanks in a 22,000 square foot facility based in Napa and put into over 7,000 kegs where it is shipped across country.  It gives restaurants and consumers the opportunity to feature more “off the beaten path” wines at little risk.  And, wine geeks like me respond with open arms.

Savor offers eight whites by the glass, half carafe and carafe ranging from $9 for the glass to $44 for the carafe.  The whites include Simi Sauvignon Blanc, Trefethen Dry Riesling, Franciscan Chardonnay and Duchman Vermentino.  There are eight reds including Saintsbury Pinot Noir, Qupe Syrah and Paul Dolan Cabernet offered in the same format from $9 for a glass to $50 for a carafe.  They also feature a list of wines by the bottle. 

This barrel to bar approach is incredibly innovative.  The great thing is that chef and sommelier driven restaurants like Savor are embracing and encouraging this innovation.  Dan talked about several hotel and restaurant chains that are embracing the technology. If you’ve followed my “can you get a decent glass of wine at a chain” postings, you know I’m truly happy to see this as I’d rather not have to go taste chain food to make my point.

The only downside that was proactively brought up by Dan is that this technology is not for aging wine.  So, the tradition of an aged bottle and the ceremony around that will continue at Savor as well, but 80 percent of the wines today are sold by tap. 

Being guaranteed a fresh glass of wine with no cork taint (John has never had a corked wine since opening), giving restaurants the opportunity to expand their selections without the risk.  Having the ability to buy a good glass of wine at a fair price and the environmental benefits make this an innovation that is worthy of note.  The future quality, selection and value of the wines you drink by the glass depend on it. 


McGah Family: Football, Family and Fabulous Wine

I originally planned to do a wine and National Football League oriented column, but I find myself writing this over a week after the Big Yawn (Big Game).  And I guess you already lived through that with me with my column around the BCS Championship Game.

I’ve tasted wine from a lot of athletes and as a trend I’ve found that those affiliated with the NFL seem to make pretty good juice by affiliating themselves with great winemakers.  McGah Family Cellars keeps that tradition going with Winemaker Mike Smith.  The McGah family’s Northern California heritage began a century ago when the patriarch, E.W. McGah, came to San Francisco.  McGah co-founded the Oakland Raiders football franchise in 1960 and it stayed in the family until 2005.  Several generations of family members were involved in the winery and today, Sherratt Reicher, E.W.’s great grandson, manages Hudson Companies, a wine portfolio company. 

McGah Family Vineyards, which were purchased by the McGah’s in 1990, is located in Rutherford in Napa Valley.  The philosophy is to create natural wines that are expressive of the terroir and fruit.   They talk about harmony from the soil to the glass.

I had the chance to try two review wines:

2012 McGah Family Cellars 1070 Green Sauvignon Blanc – this was a wonderful white wine with complexity, minerality, lemon grass, green apple and floral notes.  It was acidic and balanced. 

2011 McGah Family Cellars Scarlett Cabernet Sauvignon – blackberry, chocolate, earth, tobacco currants and spice make this a lush, complex and perfectly balanced wine. 

Both of these wines were delicious and I knew that football may be over for the season, but wine drinking is a year long hobby.


Can You Get a Decent Glass of Wine at a Chain: Not at Outback Steakhouse

It was my dad’s birthday this last Saturday and it’s a tradition in my family that the birthday person gets to pick the restaurant for their birthday dinner.  That has translated over the years to me dragging my sushi hating parents to sushi; my brothers dragging me to a pizza place while I was on a Weight Watchers diet and other family members sucking it up because the birthday boy or girl should always go where they want.

Let’s just say that I love to eat.  I love finding the new hot restaurant or hole-in-the-wall before any of my friends have tried them.  My husband loves to cook and we both love food/wine. 

So on to his selection.  My dad, who is on a gluten free diet after going to the Jerusalem over the holidays on a dream trip with my mom, choose Outback Steakhouse.  Outback has one of the largest gluten free menus that would give him a wider net of choices for his dinner.

I choose to use this as an opportunity.  It has been a while since I did my column on “can you get a decent glass of wine at a chain.”  My stipulation is that it has to be a wine by the glass that is interesting and unique.  Overall I’ve been pleasantly surprised.  On Saturday it was Outback’s turn.  I went to the website and found lots of information about the “Bloomin’ Onion” and the “Bloomin’ Sirloin,” but it took me three trips back to Google to find a drink list.  And what I found was clearly a list purchased from a distributor full of uninspired, middle shelf grocery selection grog – with no vintages.  That trend continued when I picked up the restaurant wine list.

If you HAD to choose a wine because you found yourself in the restaurant, I found two that were acceptable – Alamos Malbec or Clos du Bois Sauvignon Blanc.  I actually ordered a cocktail.  There is no reason with the buying power of Outback that they wouldn’t put something off the beaten path on the list.  Olive Garden does.  It prides itself on its wide selection of by the glass wines to give consumers a choice.

After looking down at the menu, I chuckled a bit to myself.  The Outback company tagline, “No Rules.  Just Right.”  Except for the chain’s approach to wine selection. 

 


Round Pond Wines: A Great Match for the Holidays

Sometimes it’s crazy how serendipity works.  A few months ago I was in Punta Mita, Mexico, at a resort with my husband and some friends where I happened to run into a group of girls celebrating a milestone birthday.  Literally – in an intertube on the lazy river at the Four Season’s Resort.  One of the girls began chatting with my friend about wine.  Turns out she has a sales position for Round Pond Winery, a winery that came across my radar recently because other bloggers have been talking about their wines with my accolades.  I logged on later that day and received an introductory email probably around the time I was drinking cava in the lazy river with my new friend.  Serendipity.

The winery has been operated by the second generation of the MacDonnell family for the past 25 years and with a focus on Napa Valley wines that are sustainably farmed as well as an olive mill and citrus syrups.   The family started as growers 30 years ago and still sell Cabernet grapes as well as produce their own wines. 

I received three samples from Round Pond and decided to bring them to my husband’s family Christmas dinner in Huntsville, AL.  Note that it is rare that I bring sample wines to holiday dinners, but I took a guess that these wines would pair well with my brother in law’s steak grilling abilities.  It was a wise choice.

The three wines that we tried were two reds and one white:

  • We began with the 2012 Round Pond Rutherford ($24) which matched perfectly with the appetizers.  Lots of notes of tropical fruit, peach, apricot, citrus, melon and lemon grass made this wine a perfect aperitif wine to start a fabulous holiday meal.
  • Our second wine was the 2011 Round Pond Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon ($50) which had notes of blackberry, black cherry, chocolate, currant and spice.  It was balanced and matched perfectly with the steak.  Absolutely a fantastic special occasion wine.
  • The last wine was the 2011 Round Pond Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($30), which has lots of red ripe fruit, plum, cassis, flowers and herbs.

These are three highly recommended wines in the $24 to $50 range that will remain on my list of wines to seek out in the future.


Another Wine Round Up: Great Entertaining Wines

It’s time for another round of wines from around the world and this week focuses on Chile, Spain, Portugal and Italy.  Most of these wines are under $25 and the majority under $15.  A good showcase of values and “off the beaten path” wines make these regions ones to try.

Chilean

  • 2012 William Cole Albamar Sauvignon Blanc – grapefruit, citrus, flowers and orange blossom.  This was the favorite white of the tasting.
  • 2012 Como Sur Sauvignon Blanc – herbaceous with lots of grapefruit and green apple.
  • 2012 William Cole Columbine Special Reserve – citrus, floral, grassy and a nice balance of minerality
  • 2012 Garcia and Schwaderer Sauvignon Blanc — grapefruit and notes of honey.

Spain

  • Campo Viejo Garnacha – very drinkable with notes of cherry, flowers, spice, vanilla and oak.  A great easy drinking Tuesday night pizza wine.

French

  • Joseph Drouhin 2011 Bourgogne Pinot Noir – red cherry, black cherry, earthiness, red raspberry, balanced fruit.  A very nice pinot noir for a value price.
  • Joseph Drouhin 2012 Bourgogne Chardonnay – a nice Old world style with notes of lemon, vanilla, honey with a nice balance and in the style that I prefer in a chardonnay.  I really enjoyed this wine.

Portugal

  •  Herdade Do Esporao 2012 Monte Velho White – tropical, vanilla, peach and lemon peel.  Had some depth and layers to the wine.
  •  Herdade Do Esporao 2012 Monte Velho Red – bramble, berry, bramble and cedar.  Very drinkable but would benefit with food.

Italy

  •  2012 San Pietro Lagrein – plum, cherries, spice, floral and oak
  • 2011 Elena Walch Lagrein – blackberry, cherry, chocolate, floral with a nice balance.  This was one of my favorite reds with that tasted much more expensive than $20.  This was the crowd pleasing red for our group.

 


A Few of My Favorite Things: Another Wine Review Column

I had a chance to taste wines from nine wineries from regions ranging from Italy, Spain and California. Of the wines sampled, I’m going to profile seven of them.

Italy

2011 Tenuta Costa Lahnhod Sauvignon Doos – This 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc wine from the Alto Adige DOC was my first Italian version of this varietal. It was full bodied with notes of herbs, white stone fruit and minerality. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I liked the balance of the fruit and steeliness.

NV Piccini Memoro Bianco – lots of green apple, apricot and floral notes to this wine along with honeysuckle and herbs. This is a blend of viognier, chardonnay, vermentino and marche. A bargain for $9.99.

Spain

2009 Rupestre de Alpera – This was the hands down favorite of the Spanish wines sampled. There was a complexity to the wine from the notes of balsamic, oak, smoked meat and dark berries. For $19, this is a great weekday option.

Argentina

2011 Kaiken Ultra Malbec – black cherry, dark berries, tobacco and vanilla notes round out this well-made Malbec. I loved the finish of this wine.

2012 Kaiken Terroir Series Torrontes – talk about flowers in a glass. Combine that with tropical fruit and orange blossoms and you have pegged this wine.

California

 

2012 Clos LaChance Dry Rose – this was another group favorite that took us all by surprise. Lots of raspberry, cherry and ruby red grapefruit with notes of flowers and a very dry finish.

2007 Mustache Mentors Naked Rebel – In all honesty, the Naked Rebel wine is a perfectly good pizza wine with an attitude that makes me chuckle. It was very jammy with notes of spice and tobacco. If you look closely at the back of the bottle you can find my favorite lines mentioning a Zombie apocalypse, a Prius and White Zinfandel.




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