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
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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

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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
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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.

Two-Alexandras-Map
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. 
Gloria-Ferrer-Barrels
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
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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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