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

Sunday, January 20, 2019 1:51 PM

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

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. 

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

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

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

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.

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. 
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!!"

Debut Cru Beaujolais – Le Nid

Tuesday, March 14, 2017 12:11 PM

Debut Cru Beaujolais – Le Nid


Moulin-à-Vent is considered by most to be the king of Cru Beaujolais. Keeping this in mind, you can imagine our excitement when a recent container brought with it a brand new producer, Le Nid, to our warehouse from this region. But for some strange reason we didn’t taste it as a staff right away. David was playing it cool, down-playing his recent acquisition. He obviously forgot how jazzed we get over Cru Beaujolais. He was probably just waiting for the right time to pull the cork. This week was finally the time and the response from the staff was unanimous – Le Nid’s 2013 Moulin-à-Vent La Rochelle is a delight! For a Moulin-à-Vent, which is noted for its structure and fullness, the Le Nid is perfectly polished and rounded despite its underlying structure.

The Lardet family purchased an existing domaine and its six hectares of vines in 2012, renaming it Le Nid. Le Nid, or nest en français, not only reflects their raison d’être approach to farming but also to the notion of bringing family back home to the nest. Paul and Danielle Lardet are joined by their three children in this endeavor. Moulin-à-Vent’s mostly east-facing slopes are made up of a soil called gore or grès which has deposits of crumbly pink granite with seams of manganese in it, giving the wine its distinctive characteristic. The 2013 Moulin-à-Vent La Rochelle comes from a single one hectare parcel, producing less than 200 cases. The average age of the vines are fifty years old. They partially de-stem the fruit and age the wine in neutral barrel for at least 12 months. The wine has the wild strawberry fruit, notes of undergrowth and mineral typical of quality Beaujolais, but has none of those tank-y, tutti-frutti aromas or flavors. It has a whole lot of black fruit on the palate with a delicious thread of vanilla on the finish. I enjoyed how rounded the flavors sat on the palate, but clearly has the structure that begs for food.


The Lardets were fortunate to debut their wine with the 2013 vintage. The 2013 growing season in Beaujolais was blessed with a sunny July and August. The favorable weather continued on through a late harvest. This slow, long growing season produced small berries, allowing for a high skin-to-juice ratio. They submitted the 2013 Moulin-à-Vent La Rochelle to the Concours des Grands Vins de France, receiving a gold medal. Not a bad way to start out! This is positive validation that they are on the right path to making noteworthy Moulin-à-Vent. Right now, Le Nid, is way under the radar, but I think fans of Cru Beaujolais are going to quickly change that fact.

So I’ve been sitting on pins and needles while writing this newsletter. I am missing my daughter’s play-off basketball game and haven’t heard any news. The game has added drama to it because it was scheduled at the same time my daughter was to perform in a production of Beauty and the Beast. It was a tough decision to make. She chose to miss this one performance (with the blessing of the director) to join her teammates, despite knowing the coach wouldn’t play her much, but felt she was needed there to emotionally support the team. Got to admire her for that! Finally got the call…they won by a point! Bringing home a bottle of Le Nid to celebrate, as it too is a winner in my book! – Anya Balistreri

2006 Apremont: Speaking of Purity

Tuesday, March 4, 2008 5:22 PM

2006 Le Cellier du Palais Vin de Savoie Apremont $10.98

This week I’m combining two themes from recent emails: purity/focus and high quality/price ratio. The Meursault from last week was a refreshing wake up call for me. It reinvigorated my relationship with white Burgundy and reminded me of the joys of transparency and minerality in wine. That said, the fact that it is over $50 is a deal breaker for many. I can understand that. I can’t remember the last time I bought myself clothes. If it wasn’t for my wife, I’d be wearing rags … but drinking really nice wine. Since my wine budget has become our wine budget, I’m always looking for what I desire in a glass at more humane prices. And this Apremont does just that.

The mountain wines of the Savoie region are some of the most distinctly interesting yet bafflingly well-priced wines produced today. This Apremont is made from Jacquere, a variety grown mainly in these alpine towns near the Swiss border in France. As far as known Apremont, there is basically one producer who has any sort of American presence due to his large production. You might know it, and that wine is fine, but there are a few boutique minded folk making Apremont in small numbers. Le Cellier du Palais is one (3,750 cases total!), and for circa $10 wine this is the good stuff. I can only assume that the cost of living is much lower out there. If you liked what you heard about the Meursault in terms of precision and clarity and the way it cures the doldrums of overwrought, palate-bruising wines, but balked at the price, then this is the answer. Take a moment and consider the average white wine that you can get for $10. I wouldn’t be surprised if soft drink companies start cornering this part of the market. It wouldn’t be such a stretch since most wines at this price point already have too much sugar and too many ingredients. Lucky for us there are devoted people in different corners of the world sticking to their guns.

If ever a wine were to capture the essence of high altitude exhilaration, this is it. At $10.98 a bottle it’s a wine to keep on hand. To those who prize tautness in wine, who want a wine to refresh, who love the acid/mineral play of Loire whites or Champagne: you will all find pleasure in this wine. In fact Champagne is a good comparison for the fruit character of this wine. Obviously there is no yeast autolysis here, no mousse, and there is certainly no barrel aging, but the elegant presentation of the fruit is similar. Nothing is blatant, it’s all about poise. It’s the quiet member of the conversation who waits until everyone is done and in two sentences makes the most interesting remarks of the evening versus the one who shuns any sort of self-regulating and speaks continuously, seemingly without breathing, it can be too much, but you’re glad they’re there to avoid any awkward silences. Both have a place in a social setting, and some people prefer one or the other. I like a conversation with all sorts of people, but I must say I prefer restraint in wine. – Ben Jordan

Tasting Notes
This wine is a theoretical hybrid between Roussanne and Muscadet tending towards the Loire with Chablis as a distant cousin. It has the floral, Rhone-like quality to the aromatics, while the fruit is pristine and stony and cleaner than almost any wine anywhere. The floral quality is hinting. This is the opposite of the spectrum from Viognier in terms of florality. Where Viognier’s perfume can be loose and overwhelming, this is slight and teasing. Kind of like the way you’re supposed to wear perfume: just enough so that your lover can smell it during an embrace. On the palate, it is deliciously mineral. If you could translate into flavor white stones from a mountain river, that might describe it. The wine is lively, similar in cut to a classic vintage of Muscadet, Sancerre, or Chablis. It is bottled with a slight (slight) touch of its natural CO2, giving it an extra dimension of freshness. Many of my notes on this wine may venture into whimsy, because I am trying to capture the spirit of the experience. While other wines seek strength of palate impression and delineated, sanctioned flavors, this dashes about leaving the cinnamon, butter, and chocolate for the candies. It’s March now, and as we’re anticipating spring, a case of wine like this is needed to wake from the red wine hibernation of winter. As the days get longer, this is perfect way to set the sun and settle into your evening meal.

2005 Cabernet Franc: Bel Air Bourgueil

Tuesday, February 19, 2008 3:24 PM

2005 Domaine du Bel Air Bourgueil les Vingt lieux dits $15.98

NOTE: Peter and I will be talking wine at a Subculture Dining Event in March. For details, see the link and explanation at the end of this email. Another hot ticket here, but you’re in luck, because this wine is difficult to pronounce. I won’t go on about a wine with a funny name, but it does merit mentioning that both this appellation and Saumur Champigny (and plenty more) suffer from difficult pronunciations and therefore do not have the same exposure as Chinon. This makes them harder to find, and it makes for lower prices. Like Peter always says, Sancerre is easier to say than Pouilly Fume, and it sells twice as fast. Let’s take advantage of that. This is $15.98, a great price for the quality set forth, and it is yet another example of how this region was blessed by the 2005 vintage. By now the secret is out that I have a thing for Loire Valley Cabernet Franc. I haven’t told my wife yet, but I think she suspects. She hasn’t confronted me, but I suspect that might have something to do with her thing with peanut butter. Loire Franc has the ability to offer what I like about both Bordeaux and Burgundy while also remaining quintessentially Loire. Especially in 2005, I find the flavors that I like in Bordeaux and the softer texture and seductive aromatics reminiscent of the Burgundy experience. Not that Bourgueil is anything like St. Emilion or Volnay, I’m not selling rugs, but there is a sort of best of both worlds thing going on here. Plus I have to respect a wine that can age so well in the absolute absence of oak. Patrick and I were wondering whether Pinot Noir could ever achieve greatness without the spice of wood, and I posed the same question to Bob Varner who said he has contemplated bottling a case or so of some Pinot he is raising in a stainless steel tank. We’ll have to wait for those results, but I can speak to the Loire wine right now. I have drunk outstanding examples of Loire Francs more than 10 years old whose only exposure to a tree was the cork that enclosed them. They were wonderfully complex, aromatic and pure. I can only imagine that wood would have muddled the experience. The amazing thing to me is that if you adjusted for inflation, they would have cost somewhere around $15. That’s pretty good for a 15+ year old wine.

There is a strange tendency in the wine industry to move on to the next vintage as quickly as possible. Actually it is not so strange if you remember that it is an industry. We all do it, maybe because we’re afraid we’ll be beat to the punch. Though it’s a little silly, because with the exception of those chasing hyper-allocated wines, I think the consumer would prefer not to buy immediately following bottling and would rather purchase a wine that is drinkable. I say this because I saw 2006 Loire Franc on the market six months ago! If 2005 was a dud and people were trying to move on, that would be one thing, but as long as wines like this are still around, I’m going to give preference to them. I’m sure 2006 is fine (haven’t tasted many), but soon that’ll be all there is, so I see this as a limited and golden opportunity. I’m betting that 2005 Loire will beget many a proud “I bought this for nothing back when gas was only $3 a gallon” moment.

Looking back, I’ve written about at least 8 wines from the 2005 vintage in the Loire. This is because I am convinced that it offers an unusual combination of depth and quality as well us unparalleled value. I am taken with the wines, and this is especially true of the reds. Many of them have an edge on Bordeaux and Burgundy in that they are delicious now, while also having the depth and (hidden) structure to age well. You can take this home now and drink it. You don’t have to extrapolate or keep it open for five days to see its virtues. Yet you’ll kick yourself if you don’t put a portion of your purchase away for the years to come. It’s one of those ‘yes’ wines, and I love stumbling onto them. – Ben Jordan


Tasting Notes from Stephen George
Sometimes my tasting notes veer away from actual tasting notes toward whatever I’m thinking, and I don’t beat myself up about that, but when the opportunity arises to give you real descriptions of the wine, I take advantage. A customer who enjoys Loire Cabernet Franc tried this bottle last week, and informed me he thought it was delicious. I know he always keeps good notes, so I asked him if we could borrow them. He said ‘yes’, his name is Stephen George, and I’ve posted them below. Mine follow. “Recommended by Ben. Deep garnet color. Bouquet of dusty cherries, earth, bright spice, and deep red fruit flavors. Sexy nose. Palate is smooth, layered, and rich all at once. Starts with brooding fruit, followed by waves of black pepper mingled with brambleberry, with tannic grip on finish. Mouth-filling velvety texture. Good amount of zippy acid, coupled with nice structure, medium tight tannins, and rich fruit suggest a wine to lay down or drink happily now. Delicious, seductive wine. A delight.” – Stephen George

Tasting Notes
It was difficult to drink this wine in the 2nd day, because we almost drank it all on the 1st. What little was left was great, and better than the first day. It’s always nice to have an improvement on delicious. This has that added layer of richness that caresses the palate much in the way a good Pinot does. The silkiness hides the tannins. The all important (to me anyway) Loire acidity sits at that perfect point that you can acknowledge if you like, but otherwise will simply harmonize and act as a piece of the greater whole. This is a wine to smell (especially on the 2nd day) which prompts another comparison to Burgundy. The flavors are darker berry and earth prompting the thoughts of Bordeaux. I am very happy with the price of this, by the way. $15.98 is a steal. In case alcohol matters, this is actually 13%. I suspect the jpeg of the label was taken from the 2004.

Subculture Dining Event
On March 14th and 15th, Peter and I will be dining and presenting wine at an “underground” evening with the Dissident Chef and Subculture Dining. In addition to dinner and wine, the folks at Recchuiti will be on hand to discuss and present their chocolate and confections. While I can’t say much about the specifics, I can tell you that it sounds like a whole of fun. Anyone with an adventurous spirit looking to add some true spice to the dining out experience is encouraged to make a reservation. Peter will present one evening, and I will present the other. Note: We are appearing on a volunteer basis, and all donations given will go to Subculture Dining.

Questions about any of the many things mentioned in this email? Email me at our main email: info@wineSF.com

Wedding Reenactment Wine

Wednesday, January 16, 2008 11:20 PM

Did I promise, around a month ago, that I wouldn’t write any more about my wedding/bachelor party/honeymoon? If I did, it looks like I’m a liar, but I think it was one of my New Year’s resolutions to stop looking like I’m lying, so that should be fixed soon. My wife and I told everyone at our reception that next year we were going to have a wedding reenactment. It would be exactly the same, except bigger with more people. It was one of those things we said when we didn’t know what to say, and it was really funny. Though not everyone laughed. Like my aunt who did the reception flowers.

Why in the world am I telling you this? We just got our second (and final) shipment of the 2005 Touraine Rouge from Domaine des Corbillières which, as you may remember, was my wedding red. I must say it worked quite well. Everyone loved it, and it was flexible across the meal, just like I’d hoped. I’ve posted my original write-up below, but I have a few new things to say about this Cabernet Franc from that beautiful vintage. One of my proud wedding planning moments was that I purposefully and successfully over-ordered the wines. We had a budget, and since this was so well-priced, I was able to order more than anyone could possibly drink at the wedding. Especially with the open bar. I even asked my co-workers to try to focus their imbibing on the liquor and beer, so that there would be wine left over. And there was. Excellent. I’m happy to report that for the past two months this has been our house red. We’ve done a lot of entertaining lately, and it has come in very handy. Plus we used some as gifts, took it to Christmas in Dallas, and have enjoyed it whenever we so pleased. Which is good, because I don’t think I got more than a sip at the wedding. I put down and lost track of more drinks that night than I probably have in my life. The wine has been everything I thought and wanted it to be. It smells great, it has that soft warm-fruited charm that makes friends wherever it goes, and it has acidity and structure to keep it lively. I’m glad we (The Wine House) ordered more, because we (the Jordans) sprinted through those cases this holiday season.

One warning. Because we had such a good response on the first shipment from our retail customers, we didn’t really present it to restaurants or retailers. Part of the reasoning for the second shipment was to give our wholesale folks a crack at it. If a buyer runs with this, it will be as good as gone.

It is not my practice to repeat wines in these emails, but this one is a little treasure of a find, and now that I have spent so much time with it, I feel I need to remind everyone how good/versatile this wine is. Plus I have to note towards the end of my last batch, the wine was starting to show promising bottle development. It’s still too young to claim significant bottle age, but my extrapolations tell me to put some of this away. Not forever, but long enough to have a little fun. Those of you who have had this and enjoyed it, I recommend you get seconds (or thirds, fourths) while you can, and those who missed it last time should see what this vintage does for our “everyday” wines. $11.46 a bottle? The Euro hasn’t bested us yet. – Ben Jordan

Original Email From Last Year

As I’ve mentioned in previous emails, I’m getting married soon. I’m lucky to be engaged to a woman who is very much on top of things and has allowed me to take on relatively few responsibilities. Which is important because if I don’t practice my banjo every day, Chris and Peter are never going to want to play with me. It’s also in her best interest as I can be a klutz at planning beautiful ceremonies. Intelligent woman that she is, she has been very careful in her delegation.You know where this is going, don’t you? I am in charge of the booze. High Five! At first I was excited, daydreaming: I’ll serve amazing wine at the wedding and people will whisper, “This is delightful. You can tell he’s in the wine business. How romantic!” People will remember this as the wedding where the wine was wonderful. They’ll say, “Remember that wedding with the wine? That was delightful.” Then I started getting nervous. How can I possibly please everyone? So many tastes, and we’re serving 3 different entrees, and my reputation depends on this. Don’t panic. I’ll just have 10 different wines to choose from. Then I started getting real. You can’t have a wine list at your wedding. One red. One white. That’s it. But make sure they’re great. Then I remembered money. Weddings in San Francisco are expensive, and since I’d like to avoid looking for a cheaper apartment on our honeymoon, I can’t spend all of our money on wine. I can’t spend all of our money on wine. I can’t spend all of our money on wine. I ran this by my fiancée, and she confirmed: I can’t spend all of our money on wine. For months I was pre-occupied by finding the magical, mystical wine that everyone will love, that will pair with our menu, that will fit our budget, and most importantly that will make us famous as the wedding that served the most delicious wine ever.

I found it, and would you believe it’s Loire Valley Cabernet Franc? Yes, because it’s 2005. They simply put “Cabernet” on the label as Franc is the only Cabernet of any significance in the Loire. We offered a wine from this region/vintage/variety last month, and while both show the success of the vintage, this one is cut from different cloth. The Filliatreau Saumur-Champigny is good now, but really wants more time in the bottle. This Touraine, the wedding wine, will certainly age, but it’s delicious now (see my tasting notes below), and avoiding a wine, when it is drinking so well is self-restraint I rarely practice.

So back to important life decisions. I said to myself, “Ben, this is an important life decision, this is your wedding wine, what do you know about this Touraine Rouge?” “Well,” I responded. “You tasted it in France, and you loved it. We ordered quite a bit of it because David and John liked it a lot. You tasted it when it landed in California, and you loved it again. That lady bought a case for a dinner party, and the next day the guests came back and bought five more. That guy with the underground restaurant poured it, and the diners tracked us down to buy it by the case. You recommend it and people always come back for more. What more do you want for your wedding? People love it, and it’s a fraction of the price of other options. And another thing. You’ve been drinking quite a lot of it. ”

And that was it, I had my wine. It’s perfect. It smells nice: Ripe yet still floral as it should be. The fruit is rich, but not heavy, no oak, and it is incredibly easy to drink. It’ll do chicken, it’ll do lamb, and it’ll do just fine by itself. It’s one of those wines you look for to purchase in quantity, as it works with just about anything, and it pleases just about everybody. It’s one of those wines that cost $10.70 per bottle if you buy a case, and therefore it’s one of those wines that is hard to come by in this day and age. Anybody ahead of the game enough to stock up for the holidays? If not, I’d recommend you stock up for now. And later. Do you own 2005 Couronneau? This’ll help you stay away from that. Personally, I hope that my wedding guests get into a tequila shooting contest, thereby distracting them from the wine so we have some of this left over. My fiancée does not agree about the tequila, but she would love to have some left over. Tasting notes follow. – Ben Jordan

Tasting Notes

Tasted 3 ways. In my effort to always be professional and objective, I tasted this under many different circumstances. Here are three.

1. Apartment temperature: There’s so much fruit here, it’s just plain delicious. There’s that violet, floral quality in the nose, but once I get it in my mouth all I can think about is the plush red fruit. Just a touch of herbs in the finish adds complexity. No wonder I drink this so often.

2. Slightly chilled. Wow. Also delicious. This tempers the fruit a bit and allows more nuance to show through. The floral, Loire character shows itself a little more now. The fact that you can change the temperature just makes the wine more flexible. I’m taking some of this to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in GG Park. When are they going to announce the lineup, anyway?

3. Cold, like white wine. This was an accident. I meant to chill it just a touch so I could write the previous tasting notes, but I forgot about it and left it overnight. I don’t usually recommend drinking red wine at this temperature as it can bury the fruit and accentuate the tannin. But you know what? It has so much fruit, those tannins don’t stand a chance. This wine is good cold! You might find it a little weird to taste red wine this cold, so you’re probably best served at room temp or slightly chilled, but if you accidentally over-chill, and you’re impatient, your first glass will be just fine.

P.S. To my soon to be wife who wishes to remain unnamed: I know that wine is not the most important part of our wedding. I’m trying to be funny, while also representing my excitement for the wine. I also know that you already know this, but I thought it might also be fun to send a postscript to you. I’ll drink anything as long as you are there to drink it with me. Even that grocery store swill they were trying to sell us with the catering package. It’s cool though, we don’t have to drink that swill, because I found this great wine from the Loire Valley! (See above.)

“I’d like a nice Châteauneuf-du-Pape … under $20.” – Many Wine House customers. I tasted this almost a year ago with André Brunel, and I was immediately impressed by the amplitude and scale of the wine. “Châteauneuf-like” was underlined multiple times in my notes. Naturally I was excited to try the wine when it arrived at our warehouse, hoping for consistency of notes. Say what you will about the life experience virtue of being wrong, realizing you’re wrong, and learning from being wrong. I find myself in a much better mood when I get it right. And while I hear that pride is a bad thing, I have yet to be convinced that being right is wrong. You can see where this is going. I’m proud to announce my original notes were right. (Pride is bad.) Without being grown there, and without saying it on the label, this is pretty much Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Not Châteauneuf-du-Pape à la teeny new oak barrel or deep purple extract or high alcohol. This is not Châteauneuf-du-Pape to be mistaken for Barossa wine. More like the style that made the reputation in the first place. Also, let me remind us this is not Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Notice the price. This is a high level Rhône Villages wine that would fool me into thinking it was Châteauneuf-du-Pape if it weren’t so clearly labeled. It reminds me that old vine, Rhône grown Grenache is a great argument for the existence of terroir. When not obscured by technique, it has an unmistakable garrigue character. Everybody says so, you’ve heard it many times, and that’s because it actually tastes and smells like the countryside. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is especially noble in its garrigue expression, and this Cuvée Sabrine walks with a similar gait. It also has deepness and warmth. Not alcohol heat (it’s 13.5%), but a suggested warmth that is the grape’s expression of the Provençal sun. Very useful this time of year.

I keep comparing this wine to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, not to make a quick sale, but to answer (and echo) a constant customer request. As the prices on these famous wines move out of the reach of casual consumption, I still want to be able to facilitate the request for affordable Châteauneuf. My solution is to point to (one of my favorite CdP producers) André Brunel’s Sabrine. It is to the Rhône Valley what Sociando Mallet and Pontet Canet (pre-2005) are to the Médoc: High quality, lower price. And that is exactly what we need this time of year. – Ben Jordan


New Year’s Resolutions. I cheat with these. It is my personality to resolve throughout the year, rather than front loading in January. When people ask me, I tend to pull out something I started doing in November or May. My wine New Year’s resolution (started in October) was to stop using the word ‘balance’. In the interest of explaining myself, I will be using the word ‘balance’ a number of times in this paragraph, but after that I’m done. This is the wine word I was overusing to the point of abusing. I started to sneer at myself when I said it. The problem is, I prize balance in wines, therefore the wines I like are always what I would describe as balanced, and when people ask for a recommendation I go to the wines I like, start describing them, and end up talking about the balance. It was annoying me, so I decided to try to stop. Please support me in this, and try not to dangle unfinished sentences about wine components and whether they are … ? You can assume that the wines I write about are well endowed with the state of being that is described by this word that I don’t want to say anymore. Including the 2005 Cuvée Sabrine. On top of everything else I love about it, it is very …

In terms of ‘real’ notes, I love the old vine Grenache garrigue and the Syrah pepper, though who can really attribute the exact varietal origin of the flavors? Since there is no new wave oak treatment, the structure is all from the grapes: sweet, dark and chewy. This wine is better compared to those above $20, and at $13.16 with the case discount it represents one of the great Rhône deals on the market. With the fallen dollar, this is already a price of the past that we just happen to still be charging now.

Email me at ben.winehouse@sbcglobal.net with questions/comments and synonyms for the ‘b’ word.

2005 Mourvedre: La Bolida

Sunday, November 11, 2007 5:52 PM

2005 Mourvedre: La Bolida

Chateau d'Or et des Gueules La Bolida

You know what? I’m liking David Schildknecht’s palate lately. I may eat those words, or simply contradict myself later, but I’ve agreed with a number of the notes he’s given recently. Last week’s Belliviere and this week’s La Bolida. These are examples of cool, non-mainstream wines that happen to be very good, and he hasn’t been afraid to step out and stand behind them. This 90% Mourvedre (10 Syrah) has been in my queue for a while, and I had written much of this when he came out with his notes last week. After such a positive review, it’s now or never. I’ll say it right now, if you want it, get it now. We have very little, and soon we’ll have none. People have a knack of finding anything with 93 points from Parker’s Wine Advocate even if we say nothing. By the way my 6 bottles are safely behind my desk. Don’t even think about coming in while I’m on my honeymoon and asking our new guy (we have a new guy), “Whose are those? Can I buy those?” I will find you when I get back from France. We have a small number of magnums of the 2004, which is very good as well.

Until last week very few people knew about this wine. Our staff loves it, the restaurant NOPA in the neighborhood of Nopa loves it, and besides that we just hand sell it to a few folks looking for a particularly special bottle. I believe we were bringing as much of this into the country as any other state. Actually, we may be one of a few retailers in the country with the 2005 at this point. Now it has points, and it just might become an allocated wine in future vintages. It’s funny how these things happen.


We have been a strong supporter of this estate for a number of years now. John and David (David in particular) recognized the quality the first time they tasted with proprietor Diane Puymorin. More importantly they recognized the inspiration that she applies to her winemaking. These are not your everyday drinkers. These are serious, age-worthy wines, and La Bolida is her top wine made from 90% old vine Mourvedre. Diane’s wines are best compared to the those in Chateauneuf du Pape, Bandol, and the prestigious appellations in the northern Rhone. The biggest difference is the prices are wonderfully low relative to their famous counterparts. Peter, Matt (you all remember Matt, right) and I had the 2004 La Bolida during an epic lunch (eight hours, seven courses) that included the 1990 Montrose, 2003 du Terte, a Chateauneuf du Pape, and a 1998 Gigondas. Guests talked about it as much as any of the other wines, and though the wine was youthful relative to the others, it was many of our ‘wine of the day’. As a side note, none of us were overly full or intoxicated at the end of lunch which is the exact opposite of most of my experiences when I go out to eat. It’s too bad we can’t spend 8 hours every time we have a special meal. Anyway, If you made me choose, I’d say the 2005 has the edge, but the 2004 is so strong, it is a great wine in its own right. I have six bottles and a magnum of that as well. Even though it’s only two vintages, it’s one of the verticals in my cellar I’m most excited about. It’s my Rhone version of Pontet Canet. I want to keep buying it, it used to be under the radar and so far has been very high quality for the price, but if the critics keep scoring it so high, I may not be able to get it anymore! Luckily it’s not experiencing the price inflation that PC is.

I wish I had written about this wine earlier when we had more to go around, but it is such a pet property that I think it’s worth it to offer to all of you who have been so supportive and who have the patience to read these offers which, no matter how hard I try, are always longer than I intend. Like last week, my notes and those from David S. for the 2005 are below. – Ben Jordan

Tasting Notes

Mourvedre, when handled correctly, yields one of the most compelling “dark” wines of the world. As would be expected, this wine is like night. If Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc are light and sunny like a summer day, this is black and haunting. The flavors are intense yet they fleet through across your palate. There is a cloak that opens to violets, game, dark spice, and earth. The fruit is rich and black, ripe and assertive. The acidity of the 2005 gives energy to the aromatics, driving and changing your impressions. Though still in its youth the 2004 has settled into itself, and I expect both wines will need a few more years to really start to vibrate. They will both make their 10th birthdays easily.

“Diane de Puymorin purchased (and renamed) this property in 1998 and is generating wines of amazing richness and complexity for a relative pittance. The 2005 Costieres de Nimes La Bolida is an essence of Mourvedre (with 5-10% Syrah depending on the vintage) aged in barrel and (sadly) rendered in tiny quantities. With an intense nose of plum preserves, well-aged game, bay, bitter chocolate, black tea, and smoked meats, it saturates the palate with sweet dark fruits, pungent brown spices, and myriad manifestations of meat (that’s Mourvedre!). Marrow, smoky and bitter black tea and fruit pit inflections all cut the wines’ basic sweetness of fruit and torrefactive richness so that they never overwhelm the palate, and this satin-textured beauty finishes with real verve. 93 Points.” David Schildknecht, Wine Advocate #173

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