Discover the Chianti Wine Regions

When I first started really getting into wine, I remember always being very intrigued by Chianti. And with that bulbous bottle and straw basket it traditionally comes in, it’s hard not to be intrigued. When I finally decided to pick up a bottle of my own, I quickly came to really love the varietal.

Where Does Chianti Come From?

Chianti really is a special wine quite unlike any other. The region of Chianti is a tiny area in the heart of Tuscany between Siena and Florence and overlooks the Elsa Valley. The land is fertile with olive groves, green forests, and those delicious grapes just waiting to be picked off the vine and smashed into Chianti wine.

For many years, Italians have enjoyed the prestige of being recognized for having the largest harvest of grapes and the finest vintages of wine in the Mediterranean. Present day farmers have the Phoenicians to thank for bringing vines to the area. They named the area, ‘Oenotria’, the ‘land of wine.’ The ripe fields, combined with the sun and Tuscan air led many others to this area to cultivate the grapes including, the Greeks, Etruscans, and Roman. In many cases, these cultures brought their own vines to mingle with the originals.

Chianti’s Rise in Popularity

While the earliest known record of Chianti wine dates back to the 13th century, it wasn’t until in the late 1960’s that Chianti started its journey to global popularity. The land of the Chianti area was in a down cycle. Visionaries, seeing the obvious advantages of such beautiful countryside and fertile soil, bought the land rebuilt the vineyards to become some of the most credited vines in the world.

What makes the land unique in the area is the climate of the region. The warmth which is constant, lasts much of the year with little rain fall. The soil is dry and full of stones infused with limestone providing many nutrients and minerals for the grapes. In addition, the clever vintners of the area only allow a limited amount of irrigation through the fields; therefore the vines have to delve deep into the ground to acquire water and nutrients.

The Italian government has its own classification for wine making with specific requirements for growing and making the wine. DOCG, which stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, and is similar to the French AOC. These government standards control the techniques from each of the eight regions of Chianti, keeping the regions wine making unique. The regions of Chianti are Chianti Classico, Colli Arentini, Colli Fiorentini, Coli Senesi, Colli Pisane, Montalbano, Rufina, and Montispertoli.

Chianti Classico is the most widely known wine of the region, not only for its name, but also for the superb quality. This wine comes from the vines species called vitis vinifera, which is the starting point for 99% of the wines in the world. Of this vine, Italy grows more than 100 official varieties.

The Grapes of Chianti Wine

In the Chianti region, which makes up roughly 25,000 acres, two thirds of the land is given to the production of the Chianti Classico, and uses at least 80% of the Sangiovese grape. In the other 20% of the region other wines are made using Sangiovese blended with Canaiolo and Colorino. For the white wines a Trebbiano or Malvasia are used. Again, the government controls the yields to nine tons in order to maintain a premium wine.

The lush red wine of the Chianti that pours into a glass like pooling velvet grows darker when aged. The flavors that wash across the tongue are dry, slightly tannic, with an intense aroma, sometimes hinting of violet. The vintners have no requirements mandated by the government regarding the aging process, but most use aged oak casks for their most savory bottles of wine called Riserva wines.

Like the Romans, the dry red has stormed the land, and today is well known all around the world. Yet it is the humble vintner creating this amazing wine that has the wine world at their feet. Today, when I’m drinking wine on any special occasion, you can usually find me enjoying a glass of my favorite dry Italian red, Chianti.


How to Age Wine

The idea of wine improving with age is fairly well known. But the reality is that few of us take the time to actually age our wine. Even with the best of intentions to age wine, it’s easy to end up cracking open that bottle when a special occasion or particular meal comes around. But taking the time to age wine can be worthwhile in the long run.

Why Age Wine?

When time is taken to age wine, the components of the wine will mellow out and bring a harmonious balance to the flavor. The tannins, present in red wine bring its bitter and astringent flavor. As wine ages, the tannins precipitates out of the wine, thus leaving a smoother and more mellow flavor. The acids as well will lose a bit of their bite and allow to fruits to come out more. Put more simply, age gives wine a more complex and balanced flavor.

What wines should be aged?

Indeed not every wine should be aged, but there are a few simple guidelines to help you determine whether or not a particular wine is a good one to age. Wines that can be aged contain sulfates which allow the wine to age without turning into vinegar. Since white wines have lower tannis and sulfates than red wine, they are generally not meant to be aged. A bold red wine like a Cabernet is usually a good candidate. But it’s important to remember that eventually, all wines will turn to vinegar. The trick to aging wine is to age it enough to find the perfect balance in the flavor. In general, most California wines were meant to be consumed right away while a number of French wines are meant to be matured over several years. Any wine under $25 probably do not need to be aged. There are certainly many exceptions to these rules and your local wine shop can help you find a wine that is good to age.

How to Age Wine Properly

In order for wine to age well, it must be stored properly. Cooler temperatures will slow down the aging process and allow the complex flavors in the wine to develop. The wine should be stored at a constant temperature of around 50-60 degrees F. Fluctuating temperatures will cause the wine and the cork to expand and contract and cause the wine to be oxidized. The wine should be stored on its side in order to keep the cork from drying out and should be stored in a dark place. If you don’t have a dedicated cellar in your home, you can always buy a wine cooler online or find one at a local wine shop. Check out our wine aging chart as a guideline for how long to age a wine.

Once you have a place to store your wine, visit your local wine shop and get some recommendations on a good aging wine. Once you’ve chosen a wine, pick up a case of it to age. Try one of the bottles right away and store the rest to age. After a couple of years, start opening them up and see how the flavors have changed. A new bottle of wine may be good, but a properly aged wine can be even better.


6 Completely Free Adventures in Sonoma Wine Country

Get ready to discover all the exciting tourist attractions the beautiful Sonoma Wine Country in Northern California has to offer you… and they’re totally free.. yes FREE!

1. Drive Down America’s Most Beautiful Road

California’s state route, called Highway 1, drives past one of the world’s longest and most beautiful coastlines. On a sunny day, the water reflects the sun and the cool breeze greets you. All around you, you see clear, blue sky—calm, serene, and beautiful.

No wonder it’s called the “All American Road.” Take a long drive, or stop at one of the many golden beaches for hours of sun, sea and surf. Get a tan, dive into the water, or settle with a book under the shade. Truly, some of the best things in life are free.

2. Go on a Pt Reyes Hiking Adventure

Over 140 miles of trails, yours for the exploring for the mere price of…your time. You’ll get a free map where you can follow any of the many biking or hiking trails through one of America’s most famous wilderness reserves. Some of the trees in this area are thousands of years old and their leaves and branches form a cool natural canopy.

It’s a great way of getting in touch with nature, or even yourself. We’re so used to the hustle and bustle of daily life, that we’ve forgotten how to be still, and listen to our own thoughts.

This marvelous hiking adventure can take you through different terrains of pasture lands, forests and meadowlands—and right into the center of your soul.

3. Run Free at Armstrong Woods

Most of us are cooped up in small office cubicles or condos for most of our days. At Armstrong Woods, you can run free—in over 805 meters of ancient tree groves, nature trails, and numerous picnic facilities. You’ll find the oldest and tallest redwoods in the country, some towering to over 300 feet, and nearly 1,500 years old.

Bond with your family. Play with your kids, chat with your husband (when was the last time you really talked?) or take a long walk alone to meditate in the stillness of the woods. In ancient times, knights and other adventure seekers would go on a retreat before embarking on an important quest. Take this time out and center yourself—and let tomorrow be the beginning of the rest of your life.

4. Go Animal Watching at Bodega Bay

Bodega Bay is Sonoma County’s most popular spot for bird watching. People have spotted some very rare birds here, and more times than in any other area in the county. It’s a favorite destination for members of the Audubon Society—and many of them cite Owl Canyon, Hole in the Head, and the bushes near Diekmann’s Store as their favorite “places of vigil.”

The waters of Bodega Bay are also homes to a thriving community of whales and seals. With just a boat, and a good pair of binoculars, people can see these beautiful animals frolicking in their natural habitat. Better than a zoo, and as close to being in a National Geographic video as you can get—and it’s all for free.

5. Discover Interesting New Art

Maybe it’s the beautiful view, or the convergence of different cultures. California has a bustling art scene, thanks to young and talented individuals. Their visions and expressions are not only beautiful, but inspire everyone to get in touch with their own creative side.

Take an “art trip” at the Arts Council of Sonoma Country Gallery, conveniently located at Santa Rosa’s Downtown Area (right on 529 Fifth Street). It’s open on Wednesday to Friday from 12 – 5 pm, and Saturdays from 12 – 4 pm. For more information, call 707-579-ARTS or visit

6. Rediscover Rustic Americana

Tired of the urban rush? Dreaming of a quieter, simpler life? Be a farmer for one day with the free Farm Trails map. It’ll take you through the abundant fields of Sonoma Country. Go berry picking, feed the sheep and llamas, chase after butterflies, and buy freshly picked fruit straight from the farmer.

You can also visit wineries, breweries and cheese factories. Don’t think of it as an extended grocery trip—it’s a chance to enjoy rustic Americana and (for at least a few hours) know how it feels like to retire to the countryside.

If you schedule your trip during August 11 and 12, you can also participate in the annual Gravenstein Apple Fair at Ragle Ranch Park, Sebastopol. Read more at


5 Keys to Hosting a Memorable Wine Tasting

As a wine educator, people often ask me, “What’s the focus of your business?” I typically answer by stating, “In-home, private wine tasting events.” As the conversation progresses, I’m usually asked, “What types of things do I need to plan for if I wanted to put on my own wine tasting event? Do you have any recommendations?” In fact I do!Continue Reading..


Planning a Perfect Napa Wine Tour

For several years now, my cousin and I have been thinking about taking a trip up to Napa. When I flew out to visit just a few weeks ago, found ourselves talking about it once again and finally decided we just needed to pick a date and do it. So late this summer, we’ll be headed up to Napa to try out some new wines and have a good time. Naturally, our upcoming trip got me thinking of what we can do to really make the most of our trip. Here are a few things I came up with to help you have a great time in Napa if you’re headed up there this summer.

1. Plan on Visiting 3-5 Wineries at Most.

The most important thing to remember is that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re idea of a Napa vacation is to visit as many winery’s as possible, you may want to rethink that. Napa is the perfect place to relax and enjoy yourself. My advice is not to spoil that and choose about 3-5 wineries to visit. Many are in walking distance of each other so choose a few near each other and you can’t go wrong. In the event you do want to visit a winery a little ways away and you don’t have a designated driver, Uber and Lyft both operate in Napa and Sonoma.

2. Make Reservations.

Napa gets more than 3 million visitors a year, so make sure you make hotel reservations before-hand. The last think you want to do is end up staying an hour away and trying to commute to and from after wine tasting. Plan smart and get a room before hand. If you know want to tour a specific winery, it’s a good idea to make reservations ahead of time. Making sure you’ve got your plans set can help you avoid unnecessary hassles during your trip. Keep in mind that traffic in Napa can be a nightmare too and plan accordingly.

3. Pack a Lunch and plenty of water!

When I last went to Napa, I took a long road-trip up from Arizona. So we already had a cooler full of water and food in the car. But in the event that you’re flying in, it’s a good idea to have a plan to eat. Many wineries will have beautiful picnic areas. Going to the grocery store before hand and buying some bread and cheese will not only ensure you don’t go hungry but it will probably save you money on food too. Yes many wineries may have food with the wine tastings but it may not always be much and having some of your own will ensure you are prepared.

4. Pick Wineries Near Your Hotel.

When it comes to choosing wineries, it’s a good idea not to stray too far from your hotel. This will make your life so much easer and help you avoid either having to drive too far, or paying too much for an Uber or Lyft. With that in mind, take a look at wineries when you’re booking your room. If there are any that you know you want to visit, try to get a hotel nearby.

Good luck on your trip to Napa! I will definitely be writing plenty about my trip this summer with my cousin (perhaps a follow up on how well I followed my own advice). If you are visiting wine country or even a winery close to your home-town, consider writing about your experience and contributing to our wine blog. Click here for more details.




The Widow’s Wine: A Short Story

It had been an extremely long couple of months, and in the end, it was as much a relief as a sadness to bury Richard, my husband of 42 years. Being the surviving spouse of one who dies after a long and drawn-out illness isn’t easy. I missed Richard terribly, but in my mind, he had been gone for quite some time. When the terms of his living will had been reached and the doctors shut off the life support that had been sustaining him, I wept, but they were tears of inevitability.

How does one go one without a part of themselves? I wasn’t sure, to be honest. When I walked back into the house we had shared for 37 of those 42 years, it was like walking into a stranger’s place. It was too dark, too quiet, and too lifeless to be mine. The air became stifling and I needed to get outside. I fetched a bottle of wine from Richard’s cellar, a glass, and made my way to the fire pit down by the edge of the lake.

I had resisted the wine cellar to begin with. It seemed like a foolish luxury that was reserved for the exceedingly wealthy, or the downright pretentious. “If you have wine, you’re never alone,” Richard had said, trying to convince me. Of course, he meant that we’d have all sorts of parties and friends over to help us drink. And there were, at first. But as life goes on, the grandest of plans often dwindle to ashes of their former flame. It wasn’t more than a few years before our spectacular parties became the two of us, nestled in front of the fire at the water’s edge, enjoying a bottle of something he was immensely proud of and that I couldn’t pronounce.

That night I hoped to recapture the feeling of relaxation, and maybe even evoke the spirit of my late husband. I kindled a fire and threw a few larger logs on top before settling into one of the white Adirondack chairs to watch the sun set behind the mountains on the other side of the lake. Richard and I had certainly chosen a beautiful spot. The sun burned through the changing fall leaves and set fire to the surface of the water as I poured my first glass. I had chosen a bottle of Cabernet, mostly because I knew how to say it and I prefer red wine to begin with.

A few sips into my glass, I heard footsteps approaching over the dry leaves that had fallen on the yard. I turned, somewhat startled to see the neighbor approaching down the lawn.

“Hello, Warren,” I said, “You startled me.”

“I’m sorry, Cynthia. Didn’t mean to. I saw the smoke and wanted to make sure that everything was okay over here.”

Warren had divorced some five years earlier. He and Richard had been friendly, occasionally playing cards together, or enjoying cigars on the porch. The sparkle of the setting sun on the water was reflected in his smiling blue eyes and his gray hair wafted softly along with the gentle breeze off the water.

“Yes, fine,” I said finding my voice. “I was just having a glass of Richard’s wine in front of the fire and watching the sun set.”

“He was a good man,” Warren said, as an offer of condolence.

“Yes, he was. But I’m being rude, would you like to join me?” I asked, motioning towards the second Adirondack.

“That’s very kind of you, Cynthia,” he said. “But I’m sure you’d rather be alone tonight.

“Actually, the company might be nice.”

“Well, alright. I’d love to then,” Warren said, sitting down in the chair beside me.

“Can I offer you some wine? Richard said this was an excellent bottle. It’s a cabernet.”

“I’d love some, but to tell you the truth, I don’t know much about wine.”

“Neither do I,” I said, smiling. “Wait here, I’ll go get you a glass.”

I rose and started back towards the house, with Richard’s words echoing in my ears. “If you have wine, you’re never alone.” He was right, as always.

Pick up Thomas’ debut novel, “Evergreen” in paperback and e-book on Amazon!


Your Favorite Cab is from Arizona!?

When you think of wine, Arizona is far from the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, unless you’ve traveled to visit an Arizona winery there is a good chance you’ve never even tasted any. Even at grocery stores in the area, it’s not all that easy to find unless you know where to look. I’ve lived here for over 20 years and only just had my first taste of Arizona wine quite recently. 

My family was in town from Japan and we ended up taking a road trip up to Sedona so they could see the sites. After hiking up Cathedral Rock and visiting Slide Rock State Park, we took to the city to spend our last few hours before heading back to the valley. Since we were all hungry after our day of hiking, we found the perfect restaurant that set the mood of Sedona, the Cowboy ClubI’m always looking to try new foods and so we ordered rattlesnake as an appetizer and for my main course, I had buffalo with mashed sweet potatoes and what may have been the best asparagus I’ve ever had. By now you’re probably wondering, “What about the wine?” Well. . .I was very tempted to order wine with dinner, but I opted not to. As it turns out, that was a decision I would not end up regretting.

After we finished dinner, we started moseying around Sedona. The first place we ended up was the shop right next door to the Cowboy Club, Made in Arizona. As soon as I walked in and saw the wine tasting counter, I was immediately glad I hadn’t decided to order wine with my dinner.  Not knowing what to expect, I stepped up to the counter and started my first experience with Arizona wine. I tried several wines and there were two in particular that really stuck out to me. The first was the Kokopelli Chardonnay. But the one that really blew me away was the cabernet sauvignon from Freitas Vineyards.

Now when it comes to a good cab, I’m accustomed to the big bold cabs out of Napa. I do enjoy them, especially with steak, but at times I think the boldness can be a little much. When I took a taste of the Freitas cab, I was expecting that familiar bold cab flavor. But what I got was a complete surprise. It was still very much a cab, but without being so in-your-face. For me, it is the perfect balance.

Now the bad news is that there are only a few select places you can buy this wine, even here in the valley where select stores stock local wine I’ve found it impossible to find. While writing this article, I naturally had to find out and it turns out it is available at a few select stores in Sedona, AZ (a great place for a nice weekend getaway) or you can order it from Vino Di Sedona, their official tasting room. When you do get your hands on a bottle, you will definitely be glad you did.


Contribute to Our Wine Blog

Do you love wine? Talking about wine? Writing about wine? Then why not consider contributing to our wine blog!? We are always looking for new articles about wine to share. You don’t have to have some specific knowledge or be an expert Sommelier to contribute, (although that’s great if you are) you just have to have a great story that involves wine. Whether you just got back from Napa or have a great unknown winery in your home town, we would love to hear about it. Don’t think you’re really the best writer? No worries. I will be more than happy to edit your work to make sure you come across like a pro. It’s a great way to get a link back to your own site to help improve your SEO.

If you would like to contribute to our blog, just shoot me an email at with your submission or any questions you may have. I look forward to hearing from you.


Wineries to Visit in Northern Arizona

Those of us living in the Phoenix area are always looking for ways to escape the heat over the summer. Why not take a weekend and head up North to enjoy great wine. You don’t have to go all the way to Napa to have a great wine tasting experience. Here are a few wineries to visit up North, out of the heat.Continue Reading..


My First Wine Tasting in Napa

A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to head up North to go wine tasting for the very first time. I was eager to try different wines and broaden my palate. Getting a few recommendations before hand, I had an idea of which wineries I would visit. I enjoyed all of the wineries I visited, but there was one in particular that stuck out to me and was really something special. That winery was V Sattui.Continue Reading..