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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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

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

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

Adventures In Brut Rosé

Saturday, October 13, 2018 7:27 PM

Adventures In Brut Rosé

An occasion to celebrate...

20 years of marriage! Where did the time go, my love? My husband and I enjoy sparkling Rosé, especially from Champagne. In the early days of our courtship, my husband wooed me with it. That was the right strategy to take with me as I not only loved the stuff, but also appreciated a man who was sure of his own tastes. So when the day came that marked our nuptials, there was no question that we'd be drinking Champagne Rosé. We drank the 2012 Labruyère Anthologie Brut Rosé, a blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, all Grand Cru fruit. I was inspired to try it because a customer of ours, whose palate I respect, recently went ga-ga over the Anthologiedescribing it as being "unlike anything else I've tasted". I wanted a unique experience, and I got one. The Anthologie spends an extended time on the lees which creates depth and a rich, vinous structure. It is loaded with cherry fruit; so well-suited for main dishes, not just a ceremonial toast. Because our Anniversary fell mid-week and work/school schedules don't change just because you've shared a life over the past twenty years with the same person, we did not go out to a restaurant nor did we had time to prepare a fancy meal. Instead dinner was generously provided by my in-laws who made eggplant Parmesan using eggplant from my garden. The pairing worked beautifully. Needless to say, one glass quickly turned into two. We drained the bottle.

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Alexandra-Presentation
Our Anniversary weekend, as it were, coincided with a visit from Alexandra Lièbart of Champagne Liébart-Régnier (she and my daughter share the same name!). It was a delight to meet her and taste through the wines her family makes from their 10 hectares of vineyard. Alexandra, now finished with her studies, is taking on a more prominent role at the winery. Some of our customers got the chance to meet her and learn more about this small, grower-producer Champagne house. After an impromtu tasting, the remaining bottles were divvied up between TWH staff. I didn't hesitate to ask for the Brut Rosé. Made from a blend of Pinot Meunier (50%), Pinot Noir (35%) and Chardonnay (15%), it has delicious aromas of Sterling roses and flavor notes of blood orange and raspberries. It has formidable fruit impact yet remains elegant on the palate. That evening saw another end to a busy day, so I stopped at our favorite local taqueria on the way home for carnitas tacos. And now a new tradition has been born! Liébart-Régnier Brut Rosé and carnitas tacos (move over fried chicken!).  What a super match-up. The fat, acid and salt quotient hit on all cylinders, thereby making the pleasure points in my brain explode. Just yum. 
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Gloria-Ferrer-Riddle-Rack
View-Gloria-Ferrer
Our Anniversary weekend concluded with a quick overnight trip to Sonoma. It is rare that I head that way, but I never miss an opportunity to stop by at Gloria Ferrer Winery. I made arrangements in advance for a visit and was well taken care of thanks to someone who will remain nameless (but you know who you are!). The view is unparalleled, the hospitality is top-notch, and the wines are absolutely terrific. I have been a fan of Gloria Ferrer's bubbles for decades, really. We tasted through a flight with nibbles and for once, in a very long time, I felt relaxed and far away from it all. At the winery I tasted their vintage Brut Rosé, but here at The Wine House we carry their non-vintage Brut Rosé. It is made up of hand-harvested, estate grown, Carneros fruit. A blend of Pinot Noir (60%) and Chardonnay (40%) it remains on the lees for at least 2 years before bottling. It is a real stand-out for California sparkling wine. 

All in all, my 20th Anniversary celebration was as joyous and full of surprises and warm moments as the last twenty years have been with my husband (love you, Koshka). This and plenty of Brut Rosé.

-Anya Balistreri
Domaine Fondrèche and TWH, 25 years in business together!
Sebastien Vincenti and Mont Ventoux circa 2005

Twenty five years is a long time ...

But, believe it or not, that's how long we've been selling the wines made by Domaine Fondrèche. Nanou Barthélemy bought the domaine in 1991, and asked her young son, Sébastien Vincenti to help her out, and by 1993, Sébastien was a winemaker. With just vineyard land, Barthélemy and her son had no winery in which to make any wine in those early days, but family friend André Brunel (some of you may have tasted this Rhône giant's wines) rented out part of his cellar for the budding winemaker. Though he later graduated from oenology school, Vincenti still claims Brunel essentially taught him everything he knows about making wine.  

As longtime agent for importer Robert Kacher Selections, TWH was already stocking Brunel's wines, and my, they were delicious and popular! André must have convinced Kacher to take a shot at representing Fondrèche in the states, and Bobby recommended we get on board as well. The rest, as they say, is history; only that RKS was later sold, and we are now Sébastien's importer.A snowy Mont Ventoux behind Domaine de Fondrèche

One has to be impressed by the evolution of this relatively young man. Beginning at 21, he wowed critics early with his expressive, pure fruit-focused wines. He continued learning and evolving, tinkering in the vineyard, and began to experiment with organic and biodynamic practices. By 2009, Fondrèche was certified organic by French body Ecocert. 

As Robert Parker was nearing retirement, the market was changing. Wine drinkers were seeking out elegance and freshness over heft and power. Sébastien was ahead of the curve, as he himself preferred wines that were in this style. Constantly evolving, Vincenti changed some labels, began using different vineyards for different bottlings, and eased up on the extraction with some of his wines. After organic certification, Sébastien seemed to be headed down the natural path of experimenting with biodynamic techniques.  We noticed the uptick in quality vintage after vintage, and were proud to represent such a rising star! Then Vincenti made a surprise announcement. In early 2016, he withdrew his wine from organic certification over concerns about the long term vineyard sustainability of organic farming, namely the build up of copper in the vineyard.
 He believes certain synthesized products may offer better environmental protectionthan some organic alternatives, but they're not recognized by the governing body. We're excited to continue representing this visionary who is not afraid to stand up for what he believes in.

That's why we were so happy to see a link on Twitter earlier this week to
 a blog post from Wine Spectator featuring Sébastien, and recounting his story.

Brand new, from our latest container are Sébastien's 2016 Ventoux Rouge and 2017 Ventoux Blanc. If you haven't had any of his wines lately, these two gems are proof that someday, when talking about an up and coming winemaker, we're likely to say, "They learned from Vincenti!!"

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