Lirac from Domaine Boudinaud

Saturday, May 25, 2019 4:17 PM

Thierry Boudinaud

What wine to pair with BBQ?

In my view it needs to have plentyof fruit, no assertive oaky notes, and soft, supple tannins. To take it a step further, I would propose the wine shouldn't be all that too complicated or nuanced. What you need is a big, loud, fruit bomb just like the 2016 Lirac from Domaine Boudinaud. 

This brand new wine from our long time partner in the southern Rhone, Domaine Boudinaud, hails from Lirac. Lirac is just a short distance northwest of Avignon and is very similar in terms of climate and terroir to Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which sits just a mile away on the east bank of the Rhone River. The appellation, created in 1947, seems to be plagued by a reputation of not having lived up to its potential. Not having personally visited this part of the Rhone, I can not say for certain why that is, though from a consumer's point of view this scenario can translate into a very good opportunity for finding satisfying wine at a reasonable price.

Birdhouse in a Garden

On my first trip to France with The Wine House, I met Thierry Boudinaud and spent an afternoon with him and other fellow wine travelers walking through the village of Chateauneuf-du-Pape on a rare "free" afternoon. I've since spent decades drinking his wines. 

The 2016 Lirac is without question a boisterous, berrylicious, kirsch-soaked red. The breakdown of varietals is 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 20% Cinsault. It is its fruit happy character that makes it, in my opinion, such a great match-up for authentic, smoky barbecue. Thierry hand-picked the grapes, aged the wine in neutral oak barrels and bottled it unfiltered. What it might lack in sophistication, it makes up for in pure, ripe fruit joy. 

Lazy Russian River Day

My family will be heading north this long weekend. Coincidentally, we will be holding a memorial for a dear, beloved friend and neighbor who I spent many, many hours on the banks of the Russian River talking about grape growing, native wildlife and life in general. He taught me a great many things. There will be occasion to express gratitude to those whose memories we honor on Memorial Day. And along the way there will moments for sharing stories, breaking bread and drinking wine. I'll better be sure to bring along a bottle of the 2016 Lirac or else my brother just might assign double duty yard work to me. Yikes!

- Anya Balistreri

Vignobles Boudinaud Lirac La Saumiere

2018 Bordeaux Futures - The Hits Keep a'Coming

Friday, May 17, 2019 10:59 AM

2018 Bordeaux Futures - The Hits Keep a'Coming

Back in early April ...

The Bordelais opened their doors and unveiled their respective barrel samples to the international wine trade. The week, known as En Primeur week, is usually accompanied by praise and hype that would make Madison Avenue proud. Like it or not, that's what happens, it's just how it goes. More on that later. By now, those of you who are interested in such things know a thing or two about the 2018 vintage in Bordeaux, but just to be thorough, here's a brief overview. Please keep in mind that this is a general summary, conditions varied greatly from place to place. Though not as consistent as 2005, 2009, 2010, or 2016, there were some absolutely stunning samples presented.

The 2018 growing season started out cold and wet. This delayed things in the vineyards a bit, though the rain persisted through May and especially June. Toss in a hailstorm or two, and you get the picture. It was a challenging start to be sure. Another rainstorm hit, coincidentally on the day France won the World Cup (in July), and the weather warmed up. All the moisture combined with the heat made conditions quite tropical, and unfortunately ideal for the outbreak of downy mildew. Vineyards farmed biodynamically were pretty much wiped out, and they weren't the only ones. This was where a little luck (and wherewithal) made the difference.

Read More

Our Longtime Pals In The Loire - The Barbous

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 4:31 PM

Our Longtime Pals In The Loire - The Barbous

A lot has changed since 1995,

but one thing hasn't changed: TWH continues to offer the wines from Véronique and Dominique Barbou's Domaine des Corbillières. That's a long time, though there are several good reasons this relationship has lasted as long as it has - good people, good growers, fine wines, and sensible pricing. They make several cuvées, including a sparkler; though we traditionally carry their Touraine Sauvignon (Blanc), Touraine Les Demoiselles (Rouge), and Rosé.

The domaine was purchased by Dominique's great-grandfather Fabel in 1923, and the current duo in charge represent the fourth generation making the wines in Touraine, right in the heart of the Loire Valley. Rumor has it that is was Fabel who first planted Sauvignon Blanc in Touraine by planting one vine and noticing how well it took to the terroir! The rest, as they say, is history.

Read More
Another Great Bordeaux Bargain:  2015 Chateau Haut-Plaisance, Montagne St-Emilion

At a Bordeaux negociant's office last spring, 

I ditched my eyeglasses for this tasting glass, opened up my tasting book, and proceeded to sample 30 wines they thought would be appealing. Every negociant has a different way of presenting their wines; there's no right or wrong way to do so, just different. Tasting samples one on one with suppliers in a quiet, relaxed atmosphere is definitely my preference, but when one is in Bordeaux for Primeurs week, you've got to roll with the punches. Fortunately for me, this appointment was quiet and relaxed. I tasted through the lineup, made some notes, went back and re-tasted some of them, made some more notes, which led to a handful of decisions.  

I have to say this particular negoce has a pretty good sense as to what I look for, because there are usually a high percentage of favorable wines each year I taste with them. The record stayed intact, as of the 30 wines, I disliked only 2, while making a strong case for 12 of them. That's a very high percentage compared to some of the tastings I attend!  Though we could have purchased all dozen of them, I had to whittle down the list to the wines that I felt strongest about; wines to focus on.

Read More

Otherworldly From Lebanon - A Merlot/Cab Blend

Sunday, February 17, 2019 2:44 PM

Otherworldly From Lebanon - A Merlot/Cab Blend

I am an open-minded taster. My motto is to try all types of wine. However, I am also mindful of wasting time, mine and other people's, so if I get a request for an appointment to taste wine that I know won't fit in at The Wine House, I'll decline the offer. A vendor who I like to do business with because he is a one-man operation who has the same enthusiasm for wine as I do, sent me a appointment request for a winery from Lebanon. I was intrigued, but it was a busy time, and for what ever reason, I forgot to respond. This vendor did not take "no", or more like a non-response, as an answer and called me on the phone to persuade me to taste the wine. I said "yes" as I had time in the day to do so.

That is how I met Naji Boutros of Chateau Belle-Vue and was introduced to his wines. The tasting portion of our meeting was short, as he only had two wines to present, but the conversation quickly went from wine to deeper, more philosophical musings. I was impressed by the wines at first taste. I have had wine from Lebanon before, I even had the privilege of tasting through several flights of wine from Chateau Musar with the legendary Serge Hochar. The wines of Chateau Belle-Vue are very different from Musar, as they should be, for the varietals they use are different as is the terroir. Chateau Belle-Vue is located less than 20 miles east of Beirut on Mount Lebanon at elevations ranging from 3,000 to nearly 4,000 feet.

Read More
Chateau Coutet Grand Cru Classe 1855



In The World Of Sauternes,

The common perception is that Château d'Yquem stands alone at the top of the pyramid when it comes to quality. While this may be true in general, there is a wine, only made in the best vintages, which challenges that perception:  Château Coutet's Cuvée Madame.

As the story goes, the cuvée was named after Madame Rolland-Guy, who owned the estate until 1977. The vineyard workers would dedicate a day's work to her, without pay, while picking the most concentrated Sémillon grapes from the two oldest parcels of the Premier Cru vineyard. 

Production for the Cuvée Madame has typically been around 1200 bottles. It is not made in every vintage. In fact the 2009 Cuvée Madame represents only the 15th vintage of this wine first made in 1943. The wine is bottled and aged at the chateau for around a decade and then released. The next installment of Cuvée Madame will be the 2014 vintage, slated to be released in 2026!

Read More

Tags:

All Critics Have Spoken - 2016 Bordeaux Is Worth Stocking Up On

2016 Pauillac Tasting at Batailley

2016 Bordeaux

The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux recently passed through the US on their annual whirlwind tour, coinciding with the release of the ratings from all major players in the Bordeaux world. It's as close to unanimous as these things get: this is a vintage for the ages. You get the picture. If you haven't bought into it, now would be a pretty good time. Since all of the updated ratings have been released, we've seen an increase in demand, and have sold out of a few of the wines. We tried to reload on some of these wines, and guess what? The prices are higher. Currently, our 2016 Bordeaux pricing reflects our having purchased the wines upon release, and with their impending arrival throughout 2019, these prices will be the lowest that we can offer. If you want in, we would advise pulling the trigger sooner than later.

2016 is the first great homogenous vintage of the post-Robert Parker era. There are great wines at every price point - the First Growths are unbelievable, the Super Seconds are extraordinary, and even the petits chateaux made some outstanding wines. We have a few 2016 petit chateau wines in stock now, though I will focus on finding more when I'm in Bordeaux this coming March/April.

We could go on and on, and quote every taster who has had the opportunity to comment, but Neal Martin hits the nail smack on the head when he says, "Let’s cut to the chase: 2016 is a fantastic, sublime and at times entrancing vintage. For once, the frothing hype that presaged en primeur was justified. The 2016 vintage already feels haloed. The promise that was so palpable in barrel remains, and many of these wines are destined to give immense pleasure, not only at the top of the hierarchy but on the lower rungs too – always the litmus test of a truly great growing season."



I couldn't agree more, after all, I've tasted the wines too ;) - Peter Zavialoff



Should you have any questions about or need further information about any 2016 Bordeaux, please feel free to contact me and I will do my best to assist you. 1.415.355.9463 or peter@winesf.com




***PLEASE NOTE: Prices may change without notice. Prices can be confirmed either by placing an order online or by a member of our staff only.  All wines expected to arrive by late fall 2019.

Introducing Villamagna - The finest terroir of d'Abruzzo

Saturday, February 2, 2019 12:36 PM

Introducing Villamagna - The finest terroir of d'Abruzzo

Torre Zambra Display

The Torre Zambra winery

was established in 1961, and continues to be a family run estate with its third generation at the helm. We took the leap last year to begin importing their wines after an introduction by Tiziana Settimo of Barolo's Aurelio Settimo, whose wines we also import. People often ask how we source our wines from abroad, and in this instance, it was a respected winemaker (Tiziana) that connected us to Torre Zambra. Our relationships with the producers we import are vital to the strength of our business. We are in this together. So when someone like Tiziana suggests checking out another winery, we listen. 

So many of you have delighted in Torre Zambra's vibrant rosato, Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo, their classic, zippy Pecorino and their many styles of Montepulciano. Well, we have one more wine from Torre Zambra that arrived last month during the frenzy of the holiday rush, the 2015 Villamagna DOC. A recent DOC, created in 2011, Villamagna is considered the finest terroir of the Abruzzo, limited to a total of 85 hectares among three municipal districts, Vacri, Bucchianico, and Villamagna. Torre Zambra's hillside estate vines grow at the 500-1000 foot level with an ideal south-east facing exposure within the village of Villamagna.

Read More

A Tasty Margaux For Under $40 - 2012 Château Siran

Saturday, January 26, 2019 4:13 PM

A Tasty Margaux For Under $40 - 2012 Château Siran
Chateau Siran Label

The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux

Were in town yesterday, this year pouring the fairly recently bottled 2016 vintage. It was a vintage of superlatives. There were sensational wines from every appellation. Briefly, some of the 2016 wines that made impressions on me were (in no particular order) Clos Fourtet, Les Carmes Haut Brion, Smith Haut Lafitte, and Leoville Barton. Impressive they were, but these wines are mere infants.  They're going to need time. In fact, believe it or not, there were a few wines which I felt were already entering the period of "shutting down."  Meaning that their structure was particularly dense, denying the inherent fruit to fully express itself. As I've written before, I consider 2016 to be the first great homogenous Bordeaux vintage of the post-Robert Parker era. The wines, at least the Cru Classé wines, are going to need time in the cellar before they really strut their stuff.

Back in the spring of 2013, members of the international wine trade gathered once again in Bordeaux, this time to taste the 2012 vintage. The vintage received little fanfare, certainly not praised as were the back to back blockbusters of 2009 and 2010. Though not receiving much praise from the wine press, I found the vintage charming, and in some locales, fantastic. I remember my first day of tasting that year in the warehouse of a negociant tasting barrel samples for hours. The firm's General Manager walked over to check on me and asked what I was liking and I sent him to the Château d'Issan sample. He took a taste and made the "big eyes" face, as he was impressed. d'Issan was not the only Margaux which was impressive. When I returned, I sat down with David to discuss the vintage. Pomerol, St. Emilion, Pessac-Léognan, and Margaux were the winners, I told him. The consensus among critics included the former 3 appellations, but David was quick to point out, "Margaux? Didn't hear much about that. I think you're on your own there." When Robert Parker's assessment of the vintage out of barrel was released, the aforementioned d'Issan received a modest (87-89) point rating from him. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don't. I thought it was fantastic and continued to recommend it to our customers. Once the wines were bottled, Parker re-tasted it and gave it 95 points. After that, it seemed that wine writers began to recognize that Margaux had its set of great 2012's also. We had a good run with the 2012 La Gurgue, a petit chateau from Margaux, a couple of years ago. I continue to look for 2012 Margaux's on price lists when we receive them, and found a solid deal not too long ago. The 2012 Château Siran, Margaux is not only a solid deal, it can be enjoyed now (decant, please) or will gain in complexity if cellared over the next two decades.

Château Siran is located in Labarde, the southern-most commune in the Margaux appellation. After La Lagune, Cantemerle, and Giscours, it's the fourth recognizable chateau one passes when driving north from the city of Bordeaux. The vineyard is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot primarily, though it is also comprised of 13% Petit Verdot, which can add spiciness and concentration to the wines. Siran is one of very few chateaux to have had the same family in charge for more than 150 years. In 1859, the renowned Miailhe has been in charge, and currently, Édouard Miailhe represents the fifth generation in control, a position he took over in 2007.

Out of barrel, the 2012 Château Siran showed classic structure with spicy and herbal aromas. On the palate, the wine showed an earthy mineral core with dark fruit, pencil lead and truffle notes. I thought enough of the barrel sample to keep a look out for the wine once it was bottled. We found some a while back and they landed here recently. Out of bottle, tasted over the holidays, I found the wine to be in a good place with the fruit expressive, rising about the earthy structure. The herbal and truffle notes are present, but that black cherry and cassis fruit make for a pleasant tasting experience. At least it was a hit with the group I shared it with. I took my eye off the bottle for a couple of minutes, and when I went back for a second glass, all I got were the lucky drops!

Here's Neal Martin's synopsis of the 2012 Château Siran after he tasted it in 2016:

"Tasted at the vertical held at the property, the 2012 Château Siran, a blend of 55% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot, has a very composed and delineated bouquet with scents of red plum, raspberry, mineral, cedar and a touch of graphite. The palate is medium-bodied with fine, gently grippy tannin, and graphite-tinged black fruit that turns spicier towards the finish, which displays commendable substance and persistence - a 2012 Margaux with ambitions. This is a very fine Siran, much better than many of the wines produced in the 1990s and it comes recommended."

You, most likely, will be hearing more and more about the 2016 vintage in Bordeaux, and my two cents are that it is not over-hyped; the wines are legit! They're just going to need time, but they are certainly worth owning. In the mean time, while our 2016's are aging in our respective cellars, it's a darned good idea to have some 2012 Margaux at our disposal. One doesn't often see a recognizable Margaux château available for less than $35, but here it is. Come and get it! - Peter Zavialoff

Rock~n~Rolle Baby! A Provençal White - Yum!

Sunday, January 20, 2019 1:51 PM

Rock~n~Rolle Baby! A Provençal White - Yum!
Domaine-Aspras-Horse-Ploughing

Les Trois Frères 

Less attention is paid to the white wines of Provence than to the rosés, and that's a shame. Rosé from this region casts a long shadow, so it's easy to forget that there are other "flavors" worth seeking out. David, our multi-hat wearing GM, returned to the store with a line-up of whites and a rosé he was presenting to a local restaurant. "The samples showed great," David informed us. "The restaurant wants to pour them all!" Chris, Pete and I tasted the samples at the end of the day and concurred. All were delicious. But, as is often the case, there was a stand-out and it was the 2017 Les Trois Frères blanc from Domaine des Aspras. The citrus notes scream of Satsuma mandarin, that sweet juicy fruit intensified by daggers of acid. 

The Trois Frères blanc is made of 100% Rolle, a grape with many different regional names. Crossing the border into Italy, the grape is most commonly known as Vermentino. Rolle is well suited to warm summer climates because it retains acidity during ripening. The Trois Frères is made with organically farmed grapes and fermented in stainless steel. The absence of oak allows the fruit to shine forth with captivating flavors of citrus, a touch of rhubarb and exotic fruit aromas. Its sunny disposition brings in a bit of Provençal flair to these grey, wet winter days. A cool glass while preparing dinner in a warm, food-scented kitchen makes for a happy scenario. 

Trois-Freres-Tasting-Table
I did something this week I have not done for far too long - I went to the Napa Valley. I accepted an invitation from a winery to taste through their most recent releases. The skies were cloudy and grey. A storm was expected to come through later that evening. Driving north on Highway 29 towards St. Helena, I greeted the historic and the new. After the tasting, I grabbed some lunch with a colleague who represents the winery in the market. I have known her for twenty years, but this was the first time I was on her turf and having lunch together, so there was lots to talk about. At about 3pm, my chariot was about to turn into a pumpkin, so it was back on the road heading home. By this time the clouds made way to rain and though heavy, it was fine. That all changed when I was diverted off Highway 121 at a road closure and was led down some unfamiliar country roads that were rapidly becoming flooded. I made it home just in time for the brunt of the storm to hit. A blissful afternoon followed by a stressful, white-knuckle drive home. The good with the bad. Grateful to be home - daughter doing homework on the dining room table, husband warming up dinner - I poured a couple of glasses from the sample bottle of 2017 Trois Frères blanc I took home the night before. Ahhh, it was good all over again. 

- Anya Balistreri

New Year - New Container - New Budget Bordeaux

Saturday, January 12, 2019 6:09 PM

New Year - New Container - New Budget Bordeaux
Chateau Calvimont bottle, corkscrew, and glass

Happy New Year!

Just to add frenzy to the already boisterous holiday period, we were blessed with the landing of a container of new French wines. Much of it originated in Bordeaux, with the bulk of our purchases from the 2015 vintage. In addition to the famous wines we offered as futures, came the arrival of a dozen or so petits chateaux wines. I mentioned a sensational deal in the world of dry white Bordeaux two weeks ago, the 2016 Château Boisson blanc. Several cases disappeared quickly, snapped up by savvy shoppers and TWH staff alike. The subject from tonight's email is a red wine from a village that's not well known for their red wines. Introducing the 2016 Château Calvimont, Graves from the town of Cérons.

The famous wines from Bordeaux represent a mere 5% of the overall production, which means that few have ever heard of the other 95%, myself included. Each year while in Bordeaux for the annual barrel tastings, I make time to taste wines from suppliers which have already been bottled and I must say that each year I taste wines from chateaux I've never heard of, let alone tasted before. Talk about zero label bias! It's all about quality and price in those tasting rooms, and as I re-taste this year's crop of petits chateaux wines, I must say I'm happy with the results! Early last week the stars aligned and we were all here, so I pulled a handful of these wines and brought them to the tasting room to pour for David and our staff. The wines all showed well (Phew! As the pressure was on), though one particular wine won the honors as the hit of the tasting, the 2016 Château Calvimont, Graves.

A little background:  Calvimont is a label owned by Château de Cérons, and the production is red and dry white wines. Dry wines coming from within appellations that produce sweet wines from this area are legally allowed to use the Graves appellation on their labels. Cérons sits right beside the Garonne River just across from Cadillac. Cérons is just south of Podensac and just north of Barsac. If you know me, you know I spend a lot of time in this neck of the woods each year. The Château de Cérons is a grand manor house built in the early 18th century situated on a terrace overlooking the Garonne. It is listed as a historical monument. It was the Marquises of Calvimont who initiated the construction of the chateau in the 18th century. The vineyards which produce Château Calvimont have always been part of the Cérons estate. The soil is gravel and sand upon limestone. The winery is gravity fed, designed for the gentlest possible handling of the grapes. For the red wine, the blend is 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot. Fermentation is done in cement vats and the wine is aged in barrels, 20% new.  The current management team of Xavier and Caroline Perromat took over in 2012, and things are looking up, up, up. At least I'm keeping my eye on them!

So as we were tasting the wines the other day, this one stood out for its quality and modest price tag. The aromas are complex and nuanced with hints of bright red fruit, crushed leaves, geranium, some chalky mineral and that brambly, plump Merlot fruit. On the palate, it exhibits a medium-bodied entry with that 2016 freshness, the hallmark of the vintage. Its bright acidity keeps the nuanced wine alive, allowing for the complex layers to pop out to say hello.  The finish is well balanced and long. All in all, for less than $20, the Château Calvimont is class act!

As we continue to see what 2019 has in store for us, I must say that it's exciting to have all of this new wine to taste. A great majority of our 2015 Bordeaux is now in, as are some new vintages from some of our friends in Burgundy. It has been quiet on the music front lately, though The Noise Pop festival is coming soon. The English Football scene has been quite interesting, though I fear The Blues are a few key pieces away from winning any silverware this spring, but it's still fun. Speaking of sports, I just read a newspaper article this morning that mentioned Phil Smith, Kevin Restani, and Eric Fernsten, among others. These former collegiate athletes were childhood heroes of mine. I never thought those names would make their way back to relevance, but there's excitement once again on the Hilltop. TWH has been well represented at USF's Memorial Gym this season in the form of both Tom and myself in the stands for several basketball games. We'll be there again tonight to see how they match up vs. #5 Gonzaga. Win or lose, it should be an entertaining evening. Happy New Year - and be sure to check out the 2016 Château de Calvimont! - Peter Zavialoff

Les Arroucats Cuvée Virginie: Bordeaux's Other Sweet Wine

Sainte-Croix-du-Mont

is a small appellation along the Garonne River opposite from Barsac. In Sainte-Croix-du-Mont they grow Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and a tiny bit of Muscadelle, making dessert wine not entirely unlike Sauternes, but then again quite different. Sainte-Croix-du-Monts are lighter, less botrytised and unctous sweet wines. To compare them solely to Sauternes is a mistake and can lead one to overlook a very good opportunity to enjoy another style of sweet wine. The Chateau Les Arroucats Cuveé Virginie is a favorite one here at The Wine House. And as anyone who walks through our doors discovers - we love sweet wines! Context is everything when it comes to appreciating non-dry whites and keeping an open mouth and palate will derive oodles of tasting pleasure. Over the last two weeks, I've opened several bottles of the Arroucats to serve with, and instead of, dessert. Because it is lighter in body and less heady, it's perfect to open up on a whim and not fuss whether or not your guests are giving it the proper attention. I can attest that is goes well with Sicilian Cannolis, panettone and quality cheeses. Last night I poured a glass with a couple of shards of peanut brittle. A great combination. The nutty, buttery candy was uplifted by the sweet cream and citrus notes of the Arroucats.

oyster-soil-sainte-croix-du-monts
Chateau Les Arroucats was established by Christian Labat after WWII. The estate was taken over by his daughter, Annie Lapouge, who was credited for modernizing the winery. Today the winery is managed by Mme. Lapouge's daughter, Virginie. They hand-harvest the grapes over several passages then ferment them in concrete and stainless steel vats. The wine ages for one to two years in vats before bottling. The wine is not aged in any wood, hence the fresh, fruity flavors. The grapes at the estate average over forty years and grow on clay-calcareous soils that sit above on a plateau of an ancient seabed as evidenced by the thick layer of oyster shells (see picture above). It is no secret that demand for these lighter-styled dessert wines has waned, so it's no small miracle that such a terrific one like Les Arroucats is still being produced AND at such an affordable price! At $14.99 it is a steal and it gets better...it discounts 15% by the case! Happy New Year! 
a-girl-and-her-dog
I have stumbled over the finish line into 2019, only to realize that on the Twelfth Day of Christmas my darling daughter turns 15! Impossible you say? Impossible I say! Early in December, a customer came to pick up a large order for his annual work Christmas Party. After some chit chat, he asked me how old my daughter was. I told him she was soon to be 15. He looked at me and said, "Does she hate you yet?". I laughed, answering "only some of the time". She is a good person with a big kind heart and curious mind. What a blessing. Her birthday dinner will be a traditional Russian Christmas Eve lenten meal. Luckily she inherited her mother's love for all types of foods and cuisine. We'll have cake, but there will also be Kutya and Zvar, so the simple, honeyed flavors of the Les Arroucats Cuvée Virginie should pair beautifully. Wishing all of you a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year! - Anya Balistreri

The January 2019 Dirty Dozen

Thursday, January 3, 2019 1:23 PM

The January 2019 Dirty Dozen

Happy New Year! 

Here we are again, it’s January, and the slate has been wiped clean.

2019 has arrived, and here in northern California, the chill is setting in (by our standards). We looked at today’s forecast, and it says that the next week will be a wet one. 

So, while we stay dry indoors, we’re thinking it’s time to make a hearty dish to pair with a wine from our January Dirty Dozen!

January 2019 Dirty Dozen - The Chillables

The Chillables


2015 Blanco, Vilerma  $19.98 net price, $17.98 reorder    

Traveling east from Rias Baixas in Spain, next up is Ribeiro. Here the influence of the Atlantic is still felt, but the rainfall is slightly lower and the temperatures slightly warmer. This blend of mostly Treixadura combines sunny, citrusy fruit with a solid backbone of acidity. Golden green color in the glass, pair with deep fried veggies or crustaceans. 



2017 Chardonnay, Fableist $16.98 net price, $15.28 reorder

This Central Coast Chardonnay has been our bestselling white from California under $25 for several vintages. Rich and creamy with just the right amount of oak, it appeals to a wide range of palates that appreciate rich fruit, oaky notes and balance. The label attracts the eye, the wine keeps customers buying it over and over. Nosh with lemon roasted chicken. 



2017 Gemischter Satz DAC, Bernreiter $15.98 net price, $14.38 reorder    

Vienna is the only world capital with a significant wine production. It has its own appellation and hundreds of years of wine history. Gemischter Satz is a single wine from a multiple varietal vineyard. Paul Bernreiter makes Gemischter Satz for his heuriger (wine bar/restaurant), but some makes it here. Lively, try with fried meat, cabbage or mushroom tarts. 



2016 Chateau Boisson Blanc, Bordeaux $9.98 net price, $8.98 reorder

This estate owns nearly 30 acres of vines grown along the Garonne River. The vineyard sits atop a hill that overlooks ancient stone quarries. A 50/50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris, this tank-fermented white offers plenty of orange blossom and perky citrus notes. Ideal with ingredients like goat cheese, smoked salmon or trout and raw oysters.



2017 Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo Colle Maggio, Torre Zambra $16.99, $13.59 reorder

Limited contact between the grape skins and fermented juice creates the vibrant magenta color of Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo. Torre Zambra’s is made exclusively from the varietal, Montepulciano. Cherry on the nose, cherry on the palate and cherry on the finish is the name of the game. Delicious with seafood stews, spicy sausage pizzas and cheesesteaks.



2017 Lugana, Ca’Lojera $16.99, $13.59 reorder

Lugana is a viticultural appellation that straddles the regional border of Lombardy in the west with Veneto in the east. Ca’Lojera’s vineyards are located near Brescia along the flatlands of Lake Garda. It is here that the grape Turbiana flourishes, producing wines of complexity and minerality. Lush and structured, pair up with pan-roasted halibut.

January 2019 Dirty Dozen - The Reds

The Reds


2017 Pinot Noir, Wonderwall $17.98 net price, $16.18 reorder

This is the 3rd vintage we’ve stocked from winemaker Andrew Jones. His Wonderwall Pinot Noir offers great value, using fruit from well-placed vineyards along the Pacific Coast. Telltale flavors of red cherry, black tea and cola permeate the palate. Jammy, yet light on its feet, food pairing possibilities are endless. Coq Au Vin or Chicken Marbella would be nice!

2015 Rioja, Palacio del Burgo $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder

This simple, delicious Tempranillo is yet another example of why Spain is where one should look first for well-made, affordable reds. Nothing fancy, the grapes are fermented in steel and aged in concrete vats. The flavors are redolent of black berry and tangy raspberry with gentle tannins and a plush mouthfeel. Serve with tagines, tahdiq or paella. 

2016 Rosso, Paolo Scavino $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder

The Scavino family have been making world-famous Barolo since 1921. What a thrill to discover their Vino Rosso, a blend of Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Barbera and Merlot. A delightful table wine that affords everyday enjoyment from a super star producer. Light to medium-bodied, tangy red fruit with lots of freshness. Pair with red-sauced pasta and/or meatballs.

2016 Chateau des Judes, Bordeaux $9.98 net price, $8.98 reorder

70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, aged and fermented in steel tank.  Bright red berry and black currant aromas, palate is more focused and less whimsical, the fruit is part of the overall balanced structure. The finish is substantial with sticky tannins that linger.  Fans of The Beatles know what to hum when sipping this wine.

2013 Ventoux Rouge, Domaine de Fondreche $16.99, $13.59 reorder

A recent featured article in Wine Spectator described Fondreche’s Sebastien Vincenti as “an obsessively fastidious grower and winemaker”. His entry-level Ventoux (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre) captures the essence of the region, making a red that combines mature fruit with a thread of freshness and minerality. Pair with Mediterranean cuisine.

2016 À Lisa Rouge, Domaine des Aspras $13.49, $10.79 reorder

Domaine des Aspras was established by the Lutz family in the early 1960’s. Mostly Merlot, the À Lisa is a funky, quirky Provençal red that highlights the impeccable organic farming of this estate. Unoaked with plenty of red berry fruit that couples harmoniously with the tame and mild tannins. Serve with Beef Daube, Stroganoff, Goulash or Bourguignon.

0 Comment Posted in Wine Clubs

New Year - Wine Labels - 2016 Chateau Boisson Blanc

Saturday, December 29, 2018 10:45 AM

New Year - Wine Labels - 2016 Chateau Boisson Blanc

Let's Say Goodbye To 2018!

All good things must come to an end ...

And certainly there were high points and low points throughout 2018 for all of us, but it's not out of the norm to be reflective about them as we look forward to the coming New Year. Doubtless, we all enjoyed some special bottles during the year, with several of them being enjoyed within the past month or so. This is neither the time nor the forum for name-dropping, or label-dropping as it might be called. What is most important is that we share our wine and our time, with friends, colleagues, and loved ones. As long as the wine is being shared, what's on the label isn't as important.

My favorite wine writer, Andrew Jefford, penned an article in Decanter Magazine yesterday titled, 
"Are you a wine label drinker?" Not to parrot too much from said article, though I was moved by this analogy, "You don’t have to be standing in the Grand Canyon to experience the wonder of nature." In this case meaning that one doesn't require tasting the finest of the finest to enjoy their wine tasting experience. The article makes several other points that struck chords with me, but that was the biggie.

Case in point, last Tuesday I enjoyed a mellow Christmas lunch with my brother and our Mother, who is in her 90's. Mom insists on paying for the wine that I bring her, and also believes that anything over $10 is overpriced. I think you get the idea as to what kind of wine we shared. What are you going to do? To stew over not drinking something fancy would ruin the occasion. I happily poured her a glass of French Merlot in her price range, and get this, when I finished she looked at me and said, "You can pour some more, you know." It was a light-hearted moment enjoyed by the three of us.

After lunch, I headed back in to the city to the home of some good friends and a group of around 15. We all were treated to some amazing dishes with Dungeness Crab and Prime Rib being the two headliners. Some of my fellow party goers brought some very nice bottles, and I brought some also, though the ones that I brought weren't quite up to the stature of a mature Bordeaux in magnum! It mattered not. The Trebbiano d'Abruzzo was great with the crab, though I fear our tapping into it during cocktail hour perpetuated its exhaustion midway through the crab dish. The rustic Cabernet Sauvignon from Lake Garda in Italy was terrific with the Prime Rib, and was the topic of some interesting conversation. The dinner was a smashing success for all involved and the sentiments around the table were positive and loving. Looking back, after returning home, it was the best Christmas I've spent in years. By the way, to my friend, P.S., thank you very much for bringing that magnum. It was stunningly good!

Sticking with the topic of modest wine doing the trick, one of my favorite deals in dry White Bordeaux is now here, having just arrived on our most recent container:  It's the 2016 Château Boisson Blanc, Bordeaux. It's modestly priced alright! I'm sure I will be eventually pouring a glass for my Mom sometime in the near future. The aromas are pretty complex for a $10 wine. There's something there on the nose which reminds me of those tart, powdery candies of yore. Along with mineral and floral notes, the gooseberry fruit is in proper balance with the rest of the components. The palate entry is easy and light, the fruit gaining slightly on the palate, braced by some light acidity, and the finish is harmonious with a yellow/gold fruity core. It's $10 per bottle so you can pop it for any occasion. To borrow a sentence from Andrew Jefford, I wouldn't turn down a glass of Domaine de Chevalier Blanc, but I can think of plenty of occasions where a glass of the 2016 Château Boisson Blanc would be perfect. Happy New Year, everybody! - Peter Zavialoff

Sometimes, you just want some comfort wine ...

Saturday, December 15, 2018 12:10 PM

Sometimes, you just want some comfort wine ...
The Gates At Domaine St. Remy

Sometimes, you just want some comfort wine ...

It's true that some pretty fancy, special wines are gifted and consumed during the holidays. I have helped many customers find some special bottles for gifts and for themselves. I probably don't need to mention that I am one of those customers! I've been lucky enough to receive some special wines as gifts as well, and for that, I am very grateful.

As a friend of mine regularly says, "There are traditions, but there are no rules." For me, when it comes to special wines, fancy or not, there is one rule:  It must be shared. This is a must. As independent as I tend to be, I do not waver from this rule. I have a handful of wine loving friends with which I share the fancy stuff, but you won't ever see me reach into one of my boxes here and take home a Leoville Las Cases to enjoy with some takeout on a Tuesday. Of course, these friends also have been very generous with me.

There are a couple of occasions on the horizon for which I have an inkling to bring something special, but when the madness of December at TWH simmers at the end of a weekday, I just want to get home and relax, cook up some dinner and have a glass of wine or two. A wine that really does the trick for me is the 2016 Domaine St. Rémy Rosenberg Pinot Noir. It's a special wine in its own right. It's complex, delicious, doesn't cost a lot, and it's pretty versatile.

Coming in just under $20 (mixed case price), I don't feel like I need to share the experience each time I have a glass of it, but hey, I'm in the industry and like to drink complex, delicious wines ... even if I'm going home alone on a Wednesday night. The aromatics are proper - red berries, strawberries even, crushed autumn leaves, forest floor, and a hint of the sauvage. The palate is lightweight and lively, the fruit expressive and the complexity abundant. And though the fruit is a ripe, signature Pinot Noir fruit, there is something unmistakably Old World about this wine. It's dry, there is no perceptible sweetness to it at all. Its versatility is where it really hits home. Though it wouldn't be my first choice with a rib-eye, it is my first choice with a Neapolitan Pizza. In fact, it will work with almost all red sauce based Mediterranean cuisine. It goes great with burgers and pork chops, heck one can even enjoy it with salmon!
Founded in 1725, Domaine St. Rémy is in the Alsatian town of Wettolsheim, just southwest of the region's picturesque showpiece, Colmar. Corinne and Philippe Ehrhart have several holdings in the vicinity, including Grand Crus Brand, Hengst, Schlossberg, and Goldert. Certified organic in 2010, they are now farming biodynamically, and have been certified since 2012. They produce Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Auxerrois, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, and they make a sparkling Crémant using Chardonnay. We've been working with the Ehrharts for over 15 years and are happy to be their California importer.

Okay, T minus 10 days until Christmas! For this occasion, we will be open the next two Sundays from 12 noon until 4:00 pm. The weather looks a bit gloomy outside with rain expected tomorrow. I'll be in the shop tomorrow, but after that, it will be back home for dinner and a glass of that delicious, complex, comfort wine:  the 2016 Domaine St. Rémy Rosenberg Pinot Noir! - Peter Zavialoff

Perle de Roche Crémant de Bourgogne from Jean-Marie Chaland
Perle-de-Roche-with-glasses

If it isn't Champagne, what do you call it?

In France, the term used to denote a sparkling wine other than Champagne is Crémant. The Perle de Roche Brut Nature from Domaine Sainte Barbe is a Crémant de Bourgogne and therefore technically not a Champagne, but you’d be hard pressed to guess otherwise if given a glass to taste blind. An absolute dead ringer for authentic Champagne.

And, just like it's done in Champagne, Domaine Sainte Barbe has the wine go through secondary fermentation in bottle. This is called Méthode Traditionnelle. The legendary monk, Dom Perignon, is erroneously credited for discovering this technique of making still wine into sparkling wine. The transformation of still into sparkling wine was less of a sudden discovery and more like a drawn-out process that evolved over a long time period. At any rate, Domaine Sainte Barbe’s winemaker, Jean-Marie Chaland, uses 100% Chardonnay, a blanc de blancs as it were, from the lieux-dits La Verchère, a parcel of 50 year old vines in Viré, just north of Mâcon. The Chardonnay grapes are grown on clay and limestone soils, lending a pronounced mineral quality to the wine.

jean-marie-chaland
Jean-Marie leaves his Perle de Roche en tirage for a good long time; it sits on the lees for 30 months before disgorgement. Perle de Roche is a Brut Nature, which means it has zero dosage and less than 3 grams of sugar per litre. As a comparison, a Brut can have up to 12 grams of sugar per litre. In other words, it is a sparkling wine for Rock Heads – an affectionate term used for wine drinkers who have an affinity for mineral-driven, steely wines. At the store, we call the Perle de Roche, the Poor Man’s Les Mesnil because of that distinctive, crisp, sleek finish.

Perle de Roche is not made in every vintage and production is tiny, less than 300 hundred cases produced. The bottling we have in stock is entirely from the 2014 vintage. A truly artisanal effort. And here is the real kicker - it's only $28.98 per bottle! 

No need to twist my arm, I gladly embrace the tradition of drinking a glass – or two- of bubbly this time of year. Of course, I don’t usually need any encouragement to drink it as I adhere to the Lily Bollinger way of thinking (“I only drink Champagne when I’m happy, and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I am alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when am. Otherwise, I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.” LB)

This holiday season, I’ll be stocking up with bottles of Perle de Roche to take to parties, give out as gifts and have at the ready in case people pop by the house. The price makes it doable. It doesn’t hurt either that the package is elegant, but ultimately it is the quality in the bottle that will impress and so no one will be the wiser that I did not have to overpay for mediocre Champagne. 

Cheers! - Anya Balistreri

The December 2018 Dirty Dozen

Monday, December 3, 2018 3:55 PM

The December 2018 Dirty Dozen

11 down, one to go! It’s December, and there’s no mistaking that chill in the air. The days have grown short, with the winter solstice coming up in a few weeks. We’ve already lit a few candles on the menorah, and we’ll be ready to trim the tree in time for Xmas. That makes this a super important time of year to be well stocked in the wine dept. 

The December Dirty Dozen has something for everyone; stop by and get your DD today!

Chillables Bottle Lineup

The Chillables


2016 Albariño, La Milla    $18.98 net price, $17.08 reorder        

Enthusiasts of crisp, mineral-driven whites are flocking to Albariño, especially those from Spain’s Rias Baxias region. La Milla is made from biodynamic and organically farmed vines, 40-80 years old, grown on shallow sandy soil in proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. Sleek peach and apple flavors meet with a note of anisette. Keep it raw, pair with sushi or ceviche.



2016 Rueda, Vevi   $13.98 net price, $12.58 reorder

The wine region of Rueda is located in the heart of Spain where the elevation is high and the climate continental. Rueda is the ancestral home of the Verdejo grape. Vevi’s Verdejo highlights its distinctive character, embracing vivid flavors of ripe pears. The wine sits on its lees for 4-6 months giving the wine its lush texture. Pair up with the catch of the day.



2017 Fiction White, Field Recordings   $16.98 net price, $15.28 reorder      

Winemaker Andrew Jones claims to have stood in about every vineyard on CA’s Central Coast. This vast knowledge of the region helps him access the finest grapes. His Fiction White is a multivineyard blend of Chardonnay (80%) with Chenin Blanc and Verdelho. A combo of oak and stainless steel fermentation makes for a fleshy and lively wine. 



2017 Côtes du Rhône Blanc, Tour de l’Isle   $15.99, $12.79 reorder

Rhône scholar, Robert Rocchi, acts as a négociant to a handful of growers in the southern Rhône, making decisions on final blends. Made from Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, and Clairette, it’s another great value from one of France’s value-centric regions. It shows aromas of pears and peaches and finishes soft and balanced. Happy crab season!



2014 Montagny Les Guignottes, Domaine Les Guignottes   $12.95 sale price, $12.30 reorder

White Burgundy in the Dirty Dozen. White Burgundy which is on-sale, no less! Montagny is an appellation in the Côte Chalonnaise, which is just south of Burgundy’s vaunted Côte d’Or. Only white wines are allowed to adorn the AOC on their bottles, and the grape is Chardonnay, of course.  This is an expressive, fruit driven white, pair it with scallops.



2017 Rosé À Lisa, Domaine Aspras   $13.99, $11.19 reorder

It’s one thing to ask any of us which Rosé is our favorite; answering that question would be subject to the mood we’re in.  Take a look at staff invoices and you’ll see that it’s this Rosé. Why not? It’s dry, crisp, and it has wonderful fruity aromas which lay in fine balance throughout the tasting experience. Pair it with a bowl of mussels and you’ll be set.

The Reds


2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, CaliPaso   $17.98 net price, $16.18 reorder

CaliPaso is a small, boutique winery that is attached to a private inn. We’ve been fond of their wines for some years as they offer both quality and value. The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon is big, bold and redolent of black plums and red currant fruit. The oak presence matches beautifully to the fruit. Impactful on the palate, serve with premium cuts of roast beast.



2015 Zweigelt 1L, Zum Martin Sepp   $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder

Switching gears here with a light-bodied, soft tannin red made from Zweigelt. Zum Martin Sepp is a small restaurant and inn located in the northern outskirts of Vienna. Winemaker Michi Martin adheres to organic practices, hand picks the grapes and ferments in stainless steel. Simple and delicious, try it with lighter fare like mushroom risotto or gnocchi.



2016 Gene, Gen Del Alma   $16.98 net price, $15.28 reorder

Hailing from Argentina’s Gualtarry, a sub-region of Uco Valley, this is some wine. The vines are planted at the foot of the Andes at altitudes of 4600 feet! Gene is a blend of Bordeaux varietals, dominated by Malbec. Dark, crushed red cherries, forest floor and graphite flavors abound. Complex, give a decant if time permits. Grilled meats are a natural pairing.



2015 Bergerac, Château Calabre   $10.99, $8.79 reorder

Not far from Bordeaux, you’ll find the Dordogne River Valley and Bergerac. His winery may be in nearby Montravel, but Daniel Hecquet sources fruit from vineyards all around the area including Bergerac. Being so close to Bordeaux, it’s not surprising that this is made from Cab Sauvignon, Franc, and Merlot. It’s a lively number with good fruit. Burgers anyone?



2013 Syrah Agrippa, Grange des Rouquette   $17.59, $14.07 reorder

He doesn’t make it every year, but Thierry Boudinaud crafts this 100% southern Rhône Syrah when he feels he gets the proper ripeness, and names it after the Roman Governor who oversaw the building of the famous bridge, the Pont du Garde. It’s dark and savory with notes of spice, herbs, and earth. This is a great wine for a rainy night and a pot of stew.



2015 Château de Lagorce   $9.98 net price, $8.98 reorder


From vineyards in Bordeaux’s Entre Deux Mers region, the 2015 de Lagorce is an outstanding value! It has floral and herbal notes in the aromas, a medium body, great balance, and a touch of class one doesn’t usually find at this price point. It’s a versatile red Bordeaux, thanks to that medium body, and pairs nicely with chops, meatloaf, pizza, and pasta.





0 Comment Posted in Wine Clubs

Trassegum, Occitan for "Love Potion."

Saturday, November 3, 2018 4:19 PM

Trassegum, Occitan for
Diane & Husband, Mathieu Outside TWH

Talk about an exciting week,

Halloween was a hoot and so was the next day. You know what November 1st is?  It's our Anniversary. This past Thursday TWH celebrated our 41st Anniversary! It's a long time to be in business and we have all of you to thank for it. As a way of saying thanks, we are currently putting the finishing touches on an Anniversary Sale to be unveiled shortly!  Stay tuned.

While sitting at my workstation putting the finishing touches on the November Dirty Dozen write-up, I heard Anya answer the phone. She put the party on hold, called David's attention, and told him, "Diane's on the line."  It was the way she said it.  Not dye-ANNE, like we say here in the states, but "dee-AHN" was how she pronounced it. I knew immediately who it was on the line. David couldn't quite make out what Anya had said over the din in the shop, but he got it eventually and picked up the line. Made me think of how cool it is to work here. Diane Puymorin has been one of our most well-respected winemakers for decades, churning out great wines vintage after vintage. It's been a long standing fact that her Les Cimels Rouge has been my go-to house red for over 10 years, and I'm not alone in my adoration of this wine. I've put many a bottle into satisfied customers' hands over this time, and I just thought it was cool that we bridge the gap between her vineyard, all the way in southern France, to you all, our customers in the good ole USA.

You may have heard the story. In 1998, Diane purchased a property once known as Domaine de la Petite Cassagne and re-named it Château d'Or et de Gueules, Occitan for "Gold and Red," the colors of her family crest. My favorite facet of this story has to be the fact that some of her advisors strongly advised Diane to rip her Carignan vines out, as the variety had a reputation for over-producing, resulting in uninteresting wines. She scoffed at this advice, citing the vines' age at over 60 years at the time. She said that the complexity derived from such a gift in the vineyard would enable her to make great wine. I'm a big fan of pragmatism in the face of peer pressure. I am also grateful, because a tiny bit of that Carignan makes its way into that Les Cimels Rouge, and that is perhaps the reason I love it so much.

Diane uses the fruit from her Carignan vines, now over 80 years old, in another blend known as Trassegum, Occitan for "Love Potion." You may remember Trassegum from the past, but probably not from any recent vintages. That's because a local French restaurant had pretty much swept up the past 3 vintages for their by the glass program. But just like a good comfortable sweatshirt, things have to be changed out every now and then. So when the 2015 Trassegum arrived, we were delighted to know that it's back on our shelves, and that we, the staff are able to purchase the wine for our own enjoyment.

Video Of Chateau With Drone Footage
Currently in stock is the 2015 vintage of Trassegum.  The blend is 50% Syrah, 25% old vine Mourvèdre (80+ years old), and 25% old vine Carignan. Production is a stingy 25 hl/ha. The wine is full-bodied, focused, and concentrated. The fruit is savory in character, more in the way of black olives than plummy fruit and/or berry notes. It's the perfect red for the season and a great wine to pair with the hearty fare we tend to enjoy once the nights grow long and a chill hits the air. It has a distinct forest floor aromatic, which is a byproduct of the old vine Carignan, and a hint of black tea-like tannin on the finish, two particular components I enjoy in red wines. It's not exactly priced at the Tuesday night, happy-go-lucky level, but for the quality one finds in bottle of Trassegumthis is a great value!

Another rite of passage, changing our clocks back to Standard Time, takes place this evening. It's 2018, so there's no need to remind anybody to physically do so, except for maybe on your microwave or inside your car. And being November, as written above, look out for that 41st Anniversary Sale coming soon. With Halloween in our rear view mirror, the most festive time of year lies straight ahead. There will be many opportunities to get together with friends and loved ones to feast and share some delicious wine. In the red department, the 2015 Château d'Or et de Gueules Trassegum will take care of those palates craving fuller-bodied, complex blends, while simultaneously saving you at the register. Special occasion wines tend to cost much more than $25, but we won't tell if you don't! - Peter Zavialoff
Twins Bob and Jim Varner Grow and Make Some Of California's Most Compelling Pinot Noir
three-bottles-and-a-glass-Varner

Singular Pinot Noir...

Twin brothers, Jim and Bob Varner are responsible for planting, growing and making some of California's most compelling Pinot Noir. They had been growing Chardonnay on Spring Ridge Vineyard since the 80's, but in 1995 they embarked on planting Pinot Noir. Their approach was similar to planting Pinot Noir as it was to Chardonnay, in small block parcels. The Spring Ridge Vineyard is a unique site. It is situated next to an open space preserve and sits on a property that spans elevations from 500 ft to 1800 ft. in the Santa Cruz Mountains. One ridge away from the Pacific Ocean only 10 miles away as the crow flies. This protected area experiences typical Bay Area maritime weather but at the altitude which the vineyard sits, the nights are even cooler and daytime highs are less sizzling, making it ideal for grape growing. The Varners make three single-block Pinot Noirs: Picnic, Hidden, and Upper Picnic. The blocks are small; combined, they total 6.5 acres. 

Bob-Varner
Bob-opening-wine
Earlier in the month, not long after ten o'clock when we unlock our front door and begin the business day, in walked a man who apologetically asked if we were open. If I am sitting at my work station and look towards the door, people entering the store are back lit, so recognizing someone can be a challenge at first glance. I stood up and quickly knew who it was. Bob Varner. Well, that's not entirely true. Bob and his twin brother, Jim, look awfully alike, so it was considerate of him to stretch out his hand and greet us with "Bob Varner". At TWH, we've been lucky to have these unexpected visits from the Varner brothers. Sometimes it is Jim and sometimes it is Bob. Their visits are always a highlight to working here, but this last visit was particularly meaningful and memorable. The last couple years have found the Varners facing many challenges, not the least of which, they will no longer be making wine from Spring Ridge Vineyard. The 2014 vintage is their last. 



Bob lead me through the newly released 2014 Pinot Noirs. He started with a refresher course about the site, how the sedimentary rock is a combination of clay and loam and is almost sponge-like, explaining that when it rains, the water drains away in minutes. He went on to tell me that they dry farm, use no fertilizers and grow natural cover crops. The first wine we tasted was the 2014 Hidden Block. It was very open-armed and generous right out of the bottle. Hidden Block is planted to a clone of Pinot Noir called Dijon 115 and is north-facing. Bright, red cherry fruit rushes out of glass and lingers on the palate. Aged in French barrel, about 20-30% new (as do the other blocks), it is remarkable how well integrated the wood is with the fruit. A seamless structure. Next came the 2014 Picnic Block. It is the lowest vineyard, sitting at 600 feet and has the shallowest soil. A darker fruit profile than the Hidden Block, the acid perception is also more intense. The wine has real energy. They chose to go with an "elegant" barrel, one that has no heavy char. Next up was the 2014 Upper Picnic. Here, the Pinot Noir was grafted on to Gewurztraminer that was originally planted in 1981. Bob described the energy of the plants as old-vine. Upper Picnic is separated by only ten feet from the Picnic Block, but it has a bit more soil. It is always the last block to be harvested. The flavors are denser with red cherries galore, but the wine remains elegant throughout. One vineyard, three blocks of Pinot Noir: all three subtly different, but all three amazing. 
Close-Up-Bob-Varner-Bottle
Varner wines are the result of thirty-five years of hard work. Self-financed, they sold grapes long before making it commercially. They took on a long cycle of planting, as they didn't want to make any mistakes. Bob explained to me that "over time, site will dominate". All their decisions, all their attention to detail in the winery (i.e. they designed their own tanks) was an effort to take all that they learned along the way to carefully choreograph the outcome. Bob told me that his passion for making wine rests in the interplay of Science and Art. After Bob left the store, I was overwhelmed by emotion. I was thankful for this industry that gives me an opportunity to meet people like Bob (and his brother). Making wine is not a vanity project but a way of life for the Varners. Great people, great wine. Do not miss out on the 2014 Pinot Noirs from Varner. Just don't. 

- Anya Balistreri
2014-Varner-Hidden-Block

"The 2014 Pinot Noir Hidden Block is the most immediate and dense of the four Pinots in the Varner range. A core of sweet red cherry and plum fruit fills out the wine's mid-weight frame effortlessly. Round, pliant and totally seductive, the 2014 has a lot to offer, including tons of near and medium-term appeal."

93 points from Galloni for Vinous.

"The 2014 Pinot Noir Picnic Block is bold, powerful and beautifully resonant on the palate. Succulent red cherry and plum fruit is nicely pushed forward, with pretty floral and savory notes that add striking aromatic complexity. There is lovely depth and texture to this pungent, racy Pinot Noir from Bob and Jim Varner. Beams of tannin underpin the subtle yet persistent, structured finish."

93 points from Galloni for Vinous.



2014-Varner-Upper-Picnic
"The 2014 Pinot Noir Upper Picnic is all class. Silky tannins and expressive, perfumed aromatics give the wine unreal finesse. Just as compelling on the palate, the 2014 is absolutely exquisite in its understated, nuanced expression of the Santa Cruz Mountains. What a gorgeous wine it is. The Upper Picnic is the most elegant of these four Pinots."

95 points from Galloni for Vinous.


Torre Zambra Pecorino, The Wine That Sealed The Deal

Saturday, October 20, 2018 9:15 PM

Torre Zambra Pecorino, The Wine That Sealed The Deal

What a beautiful day in SF's Dogpatch ...

While walking the streets of our neighborhood this afternoon, I couldn't help noticing the general good vibe of throngs of folks out enjoying the warm weather, sitting in parklets and outdoor tables, sharing the weekend with those of us who work and live here. We had more than a couple of first timers poke their heads in our shop today, asking what we're all about. As many of you know, we are always happy to share our stories, answer questions, and put quality juice in your hands. Now that we're moving deeper into autumn, days like today will be fewer, but the vibe this afternoon has me longing for something chilled and delicious. What's this week's Saturday night wine and how did it come to us? It's the 2017 Torre Zambra Colle Maggio Pecorino and to answer the second part, good connections.

41 years is a long time to be in business, and we will turn 41 in less than two weeks! (Pssst - Yes, there will be an Anniversary Sale - stay tuned!) And when you're in business that long, you're bound to make connections. It hadn't been that long after we signed up Tiziana Settimo and her line of wines from Aurelio Settimo:  Dolcetto, Langhe Nebbiolo, and those amazing Baroli, that a package arrived with a range of samples from a producer in d'Abruzzo. Tiziana highly recommended that we try them and let her know what we thought. Shortly thereafter, we found ourselves in the tasting room with the samples. There were the usual suspects one finds in d'Abruzzo, Trebbiano and Montepulciano, but there were a couple of other wines including a Pecorino.

Pecorino was not named from the sheep's cheese, its name actually was derived from sheepherders who ate these grapes while tending to their flocks in search of food. Italian wine grape maven, Ian d'Agata wrote in his tome Native Wine Grapes of Italy"Pecorino is not just a grape variety; it is also one of Italy's biggest wine success stories of the twenty-first century."

Wine Glass, Bottle of Pecorino, and Ian d'Agata Book
I have been on a Pecorino kick ever since Anya brought one in for The Dirty Dozen back in 2010. It's gotten to a point where I just have to have it when I see it on a wine list in a restaurant. So when we were tasting the Torre Zambra wines, my inner wine enthusiast was giddy for a taste of the Pecorino. It did not disappoint. That's an understatement. It was remarkably delicious! The aromas are of stone fruit, orchard fruit, and citrus blossoms. Its aromas alone are captivating. On the palate, it has a medium body and bright acidity which sweeps the aromatic complexity into harmony. I still can't get enough of this wine. Another reason I can't lay off in a restaurant, is its ability to pair with food. Often times, when one chooses the wine before the food, your dining options diminish if looking to dial in a perfect pairing. Not so much with Pecorino. This wine works with most seafood entrees and appetizers, and lighter land meats such as porchetta or turkey breast. I was over the moon for the Colle Maggio Pecorino! Heck, I didn't even have to taste any of the other wines to know we would be bringing them in, but for the record, all of the wines were outstanding, and they all represented excellent value at their respective price points. David and our staff were all in agreement. Any guesses who now imports Torre Zambra into California?  TWH, of course.

Things are getting interesting, we've got Halloween coming right up, and our 41st Anniversary the very next day! The rest of 2018 is looking like a rip-roaring good time. Oh yeah, Dungeness Crab season begins November 3. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Pecorino for the win. - Peter Zavialoff

1 - 20 of 48

Page:
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3