Muller Thurgau From Oregon

Monday, July 31, 2017 12:07 PM

My wine o’clock choice for Summer sipping while sitting on the front porch, whether I’m checking in on my mom by phone or greeting neighbors as they stroll by, is typically something light, dry and white, and preferably something low in alcohol. The 2015 Müller-Thurgau from Oregon’s Anne Amie meets all of my criteria. In addition, it has a delightful fruitiness that runs the gamut from citrus to fresh pear. Bottled under screw cap, there is an effervescent tingle that dissipates quickly after opening. It is a wine that is so easy to like and so pleasantly uncomplicated.







Müller-Thurgau is commonly found in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Northern Italy, Slovenia and much of Eastern Europe. Invented by a man named Dr. Herman Müller in 1882, it is a crossing between Riesling and Madeleine Royale.Dr. Herman Müller was born in the Swiss Canton of Thurgau, hence the grape’s name. In Oregon, only a handful of wineries currently grow the grape. Anne Amie’s twelve acres of vines were first planted in 1979. Luckily, despite Müller-Thurgau’s lowly reputation worldwide, Anne Amie has embraced their old-vine plot to successfully produce a wine of distinction and charm.



AnneAmie2



It’s funny but true – I hear similar stories from winery folks all the time – aromatic varietals like Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Müller-Thurgau sell well in winery tasting rooms, but have a hard time making an impact on the wine market at large. I have a few explanations for this phenomenon. One is that after a day tasting one young heavy red after another, trying something fresh, aromatic and light on its feet is a welcome departure. Not to mention, not all occasions call for profound, contemplative wines. Sometimes the simplest wine is the most enjoyable one. Think of this 2015 Müller-Thurgau as the equivalent of the perfect Summer beach read – it’s easy to get and satisfying to consume.



Anya_sPorch



There won’t be any tropical beach getaways for my family this summer. Instead we opted for three tickets to see Hamilton, An American Musical. After nine months of listening to the soundtrack non-stop, it was satisfying to finally see it performed. We surprised my daughter with the tickets, who was left speechless when she saw that they were for that evenings’ performance. This weekend there will be more musical theater shows to see. My girl is performing in a production of Les Miserables as one of the “lovely ladies”, aka Prostitute #3. I couldn’t be more proud! -Anya Balistreri

Classic Rioja – 75 Years In The Making!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017 11:51 AM

Viña Ardanza, the estate owned by La Rioja Alta, is celebrating its 75th Anniversay this year with the release of their 2008 Rioja Reserva. The 2008 is the first vintage that uses 100% grapes grown by the estate. In years past the 20% Garnacha that was blended in with their estate grown Tempranillo was purchased from other growers. While purchasing grapes in and of itself is not problematic, it is clear from statements made by winemaker Julio Sáenz that having control over all of the grapes is a welcome improvement. Sáenz even compares the 2008 to the extraordinary 2001 Reserva Especial which also happens to be the only other Spanish red wine I’ve ever written about for a Saturday night newsletter – that was five years ago!


VinaArdanza1



Though La Rioja Alta is considered a classic, traditional producer of Rioja, their winery facility is state-of-the art. What makes Viña Ardanza Rioja considered traditional is the winemaking and aging. After fermentation, the wine is put into barrels. The barrels are made “in house” in their own cooperage using only American oak that has been cured outside for two years. The wine does not go into new oak, but into used barrels. It is then racked, using gravity, every six months for 3 years (a little less time for the Garnacha). This extended racking method removes sediment from the wine and gently oxygenates it, which helps to soften the tannins and creates an opulent, supple texture. Nearly ten years out from harvest, the wine shows both maturity and youthful vigor. This contrast provides a complex tasting experience; flavors of fresh red cherries mingle with balsamic, herb, spice and cedar.



LaRiojaAlta1



Most of the time, you will hear me banging the drum for small production wineries. La Rioja Alta is not a small producer. At any one time, they are said to have over 50,000 barrels and 6.4 million bottles stored- not all of it Viña Ardanza, of course. So for the consumer of Viña Ardanza, this means an opportunity to drink aged, classic Rioja at a very affordable price. At less than $35 a bottle, you can drink an aged, ready to drink red from one of the world’s great wine regions made by one of its most respected producers. I’d say that is real value, and a true bargain.



LaRiojaAlta2



I played tourist with my husband, daughter and one of her friends on my day-off this week. We went to the Academy of Sciences, rented a pedal-boat on Stow Lake, had lunch at The Yellow Submarine and got a scoop of ice cream at Polly Ann’s. On the way home, driving north out of the city we marveled at the majestic fog ripping down the Headlands. We drove with the windows open so we could greet the fog and let it cool us. It was a very good day. - Anya Balistreri

Giving Back – La Cuadrilla!

Monday, July 3, 2017 11:28 AM

What is now known as The La Cuadrilla program at Stolpman Vineyards began as a way for the vineyard manager to better train his crew. The idea was to dedicate a two-acre block, or cuadra, that the vineyard crew had to then cultivate, from pruning to harvest, without supervision. This training block was called the La Cuadrilla, in Spanish meaning the people of the block. To challenge the crew even further, this two-acre training block would be set up in another part of the vineyard the next vintage. Eventually the vineyard manager confided to owner Tom Stolpman the success of this training system. It was Tom who came up with the idea of making wine from that training block and giving those bottles to the crew as a way to enjoy the fruits of their labor. By 2009, the program expanded to include fruit from other parts of the vineyard so that La Cuadrilla could be sold commercially. Profits from the sale of La Cuadrilla are divided among the vineyard crew in the form of a year-end bonus. This is a creative way for all to benefit by incentivizing learning and taking steps to achieve sustainable employment. Bravo to Stolpman Vineyards!



Of course, in order for this program to really work well, the wine has to be good – this can’t be just a gimmick. The 2015 La Cuadrilla is a lively blend of Syrah with small additions of Grenache, some of it old vine, and Sangiovese. The wine is vinified in concrete tanks and then aged in neutral barrel. La Cuadrilla has a lot of brightness and tart red fruit. It isn’t heavy or over-ripe, but is dominated by red fruit flavors and a pleasant, earthy note. Because of its fresh palate feel, it’s a great choice for warm-weather food pairings like smoky barbecued meats.




Stolpman Vineyards is located in the heart of Santa Barbara’s Ballard Canyon AVA. Ballard Canyon is Santa Barbara’s newest AVA and sits between the Santa Rita Hills and Happy Canyon. Ballard Canyon benefits from warm days during the growing season and is protected from wind by the surrounding hills. Temperatures drop significantly at night. Some soils, like at Stolpman, have limestone deposits.



I won’t only be celebrating our nation’s birthday this weekend. I will also be celebrating my mother’s birthday and my own. Mother and daughter will be throwing a joint birthday party! My brother, bless his heart, suggested putting only one candle on each of our birthday desserts. I agreed, adding that we wouldn’t want to ignite a raging inferno. My birthday year was not a particularly good vintage for wine throughout most of world. No worries here because the party calls for youthful wines, so La Cuadrilla will make an appearance on the table. It should be another great family meal up at the dacha out on the deck beneath the Redwoods. Happy Happy, Everyone! – Anya Balistreri

Rose From Provence: Start Your Summer Right!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017 11:11 AM

The Rosés have landed! The Rosés have landed! The one I took home first, was the one I took home most often last vintage: Domaine des Aspras à Lisa Rosé. The 2016 is as delightful as was the 2015. What’s not to love? Fragrant strawberry aromas give way to nuanced berry and melon flavors on the palate.I believe my affinity for Rosé has been well established, and now that I’ve reached a certain age, I am not afraid to admit that I prefer Rosés with a fruitier profile. I still want a dry finish but I want fruit – if I want a white wine, I’ll drink one. The à Lisa Rosé gives me the fruit I am looking for along with the fresh and lively finish I crave.


Aspras in Winter


Domaine des Aspras is located in the unique Provençal village of Correns. What makes Correns unique is that the entire village is BIO. It is the first village in France to become so, which means everyone farms organically and the community has agreed to pursue sustainability in everything they do. Michael Latz, the proprietor of Domaine des Aspras, is also the Mayor of Correns. Michael’s parents, Lisa and Gottfried established the winery in the 1960’s, after first fleeing their native Germany in the thirties and then escaping the Congo Crisis of the early sixties. Neither Lisa nor Gottfried knew anything about viticulture when they settled in Correns, but they made a go of it.


A Room With A View


The à Lisa is the domaine’s entry-level line of wines (there is also a white and a red). As you could probably guess, the name is in honor of Michael’s mother. The Rosé is a 50/50 blend of Grenache and Cinsault grown on vineyards along the banks of the Argens River. A direct-press Rosé of 100% de-stemmed fruit, the quality here is on par with pricier Cotes de Provence and Bandol Rosés. A delicate salmon-pink hue is both pretty to look at and delicious to drink – And, there is enough weight on the palate to take this Rosé from aperitif to the dining table.



The Photographers


The night I tasted the 2016 à Lisa Rosé was not nearly as warm as the evenings we’re experiencing this weekend across most of the US, but that didn’t stop me from making one of my all-time favorite warm weather dishes, Salade Niçoise. Salade Niçoise is on regular rotation at my house for the next several months and my first choice to serve with it is a Rosé. It’s a match made in heaven.


A special thanks goes out to my brother and sister-in-law who shared their photos of Domaine des Aspras. I was able to arrange for them to visit the winery this past March after they took a river cruise along the Rhone. Though still winter with a glimmer of spring on the horizon, the photos convey the sheer beauty of the region. Hey Kiki – next time we go together! – Anya Balistreri

Bedrock’s Standout Syrah

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 5:13 PM

I had a lovely chat this week with a customer who had just relocated to SF from overseas. Among the many wine-related topics we discussed was the price of entry for interesting, high quality, non-mass produced California wine. I threw out the number $25, saying you could find really exceptional wines starting at this price point, but added you have to do your research to find them. I then threw out a few names of producers that offer such wines, starting off my list was Bedrock.

To illustrate my point, I pointed to Bedrock’s 2015 North Coast Syrah. The North Coast Syrah is primarily made from three vineyards: Hudson, Alder Springs and Weill a Way. Hudson Ranch is located in Carneros, Alder Springs is in Mendocino, and Weill a Way is in the Sonoma Valley. The barrels of Syrah from these vineyards that did not end up in the vineyard-designated bottlings were blended together, along with some co-fermented Viognier, into the North Coast Syrah. Bear in mind, Bedrock makes three Syrahs from the Weill a Way Vineyard (highly allocated) that in 2013 received 100 points for two of them and the other 99 points from Robert Parker, Jr. Now I am not suggesting that the North Coast Syrah is any way like the Weill a Way Syrahs, but it is the same fruit. Boom!


Hudson Vineyard

For the North Coast Syrah, winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson likes to vinify using native yeasts and some whole-cluster pressed fruit. The wine is raised in 100% French oak, but none of it is new. In his liner notes for this wine, Morgan writes “I am always channeling my favorite producers of St. Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage. I want a wine that is perfumed, spicy, peppery and delicious, something long on flavor and low on pretense.” In a review by Antonio Galloni, he put it simply like this, “A huge, richly textured wine, the 2015 North Coast Syrah offers unreal quality for the money.”


Alder Springs

Our limited, or in the parlance of the day, curated domestic wine section always has several offerings from Bedrock. I will gladly accept any allocation from this winery, as I’ve followed and admired them from their inception. The quality is there, the price is fair and Bedrock’s emphasis on vineyard sites aligns with my own interest in providing TWH customers the best wine values. Check out our entire Bedrock inventory here.

The number of school days left before summer break begins are down to single digits. My little family, which includes my husband (a teacher) and my daughter (a middle-schooler) is counting down the days. I am so looking forward to sleeping in past 7:30! My natural sleep cycle does not jive with early wake-up times. But most of all, I am looking forward to welcoming spontaneity to rule the day and schedules to take a back seat. And in that space, I expect to be enjoying a glass or two of 2015 North Coast Syrah. No more pencils, no more books… – Anya Balistreri

A good-sized parcel of 2014 Bordeaux has landed at TWH! Though several others are still en route, many have now hit our sales floor. I have been closely listening to Peter talk up the vintage, making a strong case for its quality and comparable value, especially on the Left Bank. With Peter’s guidance, TWH seized the opportunity to load up on high-quality, value-oriented Bordeaux from 2014 in addition to the region’s high-flyers. Only after customers who bought wines on futures were notified and the last pallet was broken down, did I buy my first bottle of 2014 to take home – the 2014 Sénéjac.



I selected the 2014 Sénéjac for three reasons:

1) It’s under $20

2) In really good vintages, Sénéjac always ends up on “sleeper of the vintage” lists

3) The crown logo and script font reminds me of another one of my favorite Bordeaux chateau, Branaire Ducru.


I took home the bottle, popped open the cork and poured a glass for myself for no other reason than to edify myself on 2014 Bordeaux. I need a reference point, a place to start all future comparisons. A sub-$20, Haut-Médoc seems like a reasonable place to start.


When I was first introduced to Bordeaux, working here at TWH, I either tasted young Bordeaux in order to acquaint myself with TWH stock or I was treated to cellared, well-aged fine Bordeaux courtesy of David and Company. I got spoiled fast and as a result liked to claim that I didn’t like young Bordeaux, only Bordeaux with some age on it. There was both truth and pretentiousness to this declaration. Over the years, I’ve come to enjoy young Bordeaux more and more. I think some of it has to do with changing wine styles as well as the overall advancement of quality in the region. In some years, 2009 comes to mind, young Bordeaux tastes great from the get-go. No need to wait, but if you find one you like in particular, buying some to cellar is a good thing too.




On Mother’s Day I hosted dinner for nine including my mother, mother-in-law, sister and spiritual mother. I promised to keep it low-key, but it was work nonetheless. I made a pork tenderloin in an agrodolce sauce studded with dry fruit and citrus zest and paired it with the Le Nid 2013 Moulin-à-Vent. As much as I enjoy making a meal for others, this year a long held fantasy was actualized. My daughter made me a special Mother’s Day breakfast. She planned the meal and shopped for it. In the morning, she quietly got out of bed, closed my bedroom door to allow me to sleep longer undisturbed. It was one of the tastiest meals of my life!




Speaking of all things tasty, the 2014 Sénéjac is one of those young Bordeaux that tastes pretty darn good right now. Maybe not as dense as I remember some of the 2009 to be, what the 2014 Sénéjac has going for it is overall balance. The components are all there in harmony: fruit, acid, tannin. The aromas are undeniably Bordeaux with plum and red currant notes, a hint of oak that sneaks out of the glass but gets buried in the fruit on the palate. A classy expression of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. I am looking forward to revisiting the rest of the wine tonight! – Anya Balistreri

Domaine Parent’s Exquisite Pommard

Monday, May 8, 2017 1:29 PM

Anne Parent visited The Wine House at the end of January along with her sister Catherine and our dear friend and colleague, Jeanne-Marie de Champs. It’s not often we welcome three influential and prominent players from Burgundy at the same time, let alone three women. The dynamic in our tasting room was turned on its head. Most often, I am the only female in the room, but this time I was in the majority. As you can see from my expression in the photo below, I was overjoyed to be in their company.



Jeanne-Marie, Anne, Anya and Catherine


Anne and Catherine represent the twelfth generation at their family’s estate. Anne makes the wine while Catherine handles the commercial side of the winery. Domaine Parent itself was founded in 1803 in the heart of Pommard, but the family can trace its winemaking heritage back to the beginning of the 17th century. In fact, in 1787 Etienne Parent established a friendship and working partnership with Thomas Jefferson. Etienne assisted Jefferson in navigating Burgundy while he resided in France and then later partnered with Jefferson to import wine to the US when Jefferson returned to Monticello. This tidbit of history delights me – probably more than it would have prior to the invasion of Hamilton An American Musical into my home sphere courtesy of my obsessed daughter. Nevertheless, I am fascinated by wine’s influence on culture and history.



Getting ready for TWH staff


We tasted a couple of vintages and a number of different crus from Domaine Parent’s holdings. The wines are at once robust and not shy of tannin, yet remain finesseful and polished on the palate. We tasted mostly 2013 and 2014, but when we got to the 2011, Anne declared that “people will rediscover 2011”. As so often happens, classic vintages can get lost after hyped, exceptional vintages, in this case 2009 and 2010. 2011’s in Burgundy did have their fair share of challenges, but as Anne is widely quoted and said to us, “there are no bad vintages, only bad winemakers”. 2011 was one in which sorting grapes was of the upmost importance. At Domaine Parent, they sort in the vineyard where they only hand-pick the grapes, then again at the winery, first on a vibrating sorting table and after by hand. This thrice sorting method assures quality grapes. At the Domaine, they farm organically and practice many of the tenants of biodynamic farming.



What a line-up!


I was reflecting on how wine is marketed as the perfect gift for Father’s Day, but not so much for Mother’s Day. Maybe it’s the company I keep or my own personal preference, but I can’t think of too many women who wouldn’t love to receive a special, luxurious bottle of Pinot Noir, like the Parent 2011 Pommard 1er Cru Les Chaponnières. Les Chaponnières sits just below Rugiens and Parent’s vines are 60+ years old. The wine is aged in barrel, of which approximately 30% to 40% is new. Parent’s Pommard shows typicity by way of its fullness and sturdy backbone and yet, Anne coaxes out a suppleness and balance that creates a wine which is harmonious on the palate.



Les Cadeaux


I’ve written this many times, TWH customers are the best. Come on in and I’ll share some stories about the many kind and interesting people I’ve met working here. A case in point, today a couple, who coincidentally share a surname with this Domaine I’m writing about today, came in bearing gifts from a trip they recently took to France. This generous gesture touched my heart, put a smile on my face and reminded me how lucky I am to be a part of this thing called the wine business. I’m thinking the anchovies can be added into a marinade for lamb that in turn should be mighty tasty with a glass of 2011 Pommard Les Chaponnières, n’est ce pas?– Anya Balistreri

Entre-Deux-Mers: Drink Responsibly

Monday, April 24, 2017 1:14 PM

Could it be because Pete just returned from Bordeaux, or that it’s Earth Day and I am thinking about human stewardship of the planet? Or is it because it is a wine I have frequently purchased for my own personal pleasure that I have selected to write a few words about the lovely white Entre-Deux-Mers from Chateau Ferran? For all the above reasons and more, I have the 2015 Chateau Ferran Entre-Deux-Mers on my mind. Entre-Deux-Mers is a expansive Bordeaux appellation but within it are a few choice sub-appellations. One of note is Haut Benauge and this is where you will find Chateau Ferran. Haut Benauge is directly across the Garonne River from Graves and because it is on high ground it is considered a choice location to grow wine grapes.


Chateau Ferran is a family-run estate that converted to organic and biodynamic farming nearly ten years ago. In preparation for this write-up, I visited Chateau Ferran’s website. The website has plenty of information about the winemaking, the farming philosophy and such, but there is practically no mention of the people who make the wine or run the estate. I think this is a deliberate exclusion. It suggests to me that the Ferran family places more importance on the land, the soil, the biodiversity of the vineyards, than on human intervention.


This Entre-Deux-Mers is a blend of equal parts Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon with 10% each of Sauvignon Gris and Muscadelle. I am drawn to the yellow fruit flavors, reminiscent of peaches and apricots, that linger long on the palate. It has no pungent, grassy flavors so often associated with Sauvignon Blanc. All tank fermented, with some time on the lees, it has gorgeous floral aromatics that bring to mind citrus blossoms and acacia. The finish is slightly creamy and is very fresh. It has filled in very nicely as my Friday Night Fish Fry wine, making a lovely match with baked, breaded Petrale Sole.




Julien Ferran is the current winemaker who took over from his father, Alain. Julien is a biologist by trade, so his interest in biodynamic farming is not unexpected (check out 

this video of Julien discussing geobiology in the vineyard). I know for many the principles of biodynamic farming are controversial and verge on the cult-like, but in my anecdotal experience with wineries who embrace biodynamics, I see a direct connection between the exhaustive, conscientious work down in the vineyard and the quality of the wine. This under $15 Bordeaux blanc is impressive because of the effort that went into it and the final outcome, its deliciousness.




Samples of Chateau Ferran were sent to us by another French winery who included them among their own samples. We had no prior relationship to Chateau Ferran when we tasted the samples. We knew nothing of them other than they were friends of a wine family with whom we were starting to do business. Based solely on the quality (and price) of the samples, we purchased a pallet of Chateau Ferran. This is atypical of TWH to pull the trigger so quickly, but good wine is good wine – we recognized it immediately, so we felt there was little risk.


The last few weeks have had a recurring theme for me that centers around the question, “what do you believe in?” I have been asking myself a lot of questions about what I am willing to stand up for personally, socially and spiritually. I’ll spare you my existential angst, but if I’m comparing two wines of equal pleasure to me and one is made by a small family who farms organically and/or biodynamically and the other is mass-produced, industrially made, I am going to pick the former every time. The 2015 Entre-Deux-Mers is coming home with me tonight. I am not sure what is on the menu, but I’ll start the evening with a chilled glass of it. Tastes good and it’s good for you! – Anya Balistreri

Award-Winning Carmignano Riserva – Le Farnete 2013

Tuesday, April 11, 2017 12:52 PM

In my last post I wrote that Enrico Pierazzuoli was in San Francisco to pour his wines at Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri World Tour held at Fort Mason’s Festival Pavillon. Enrico is a practical man who does not place too much importance on scores, awards and such, but when his estate in Carmignano, Le Farnete, received a “Tre Bicchieri” for their 2013 Carmignano Riserva, he was clearly honored. It feels good to be recognized for your efforts, especially when it’s by Italy’s most influential wine and food publication.



Tuscany’s Carmignano is a lesser-known appellation, but its history of wine growing traces back centuries. In 1716, the Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici legally recognized and identified this area for wine growing. Enrico appreciated the timing of receiving his first-ever “Tre Bicchieri” while celebrating Carmignano’s 300th Anniversary! The 2013 Carmignano Riserva is a blend of 80% Sangiovese with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged in small oak barrel for a year and then another year in bottle before being released to market, it is a full-bodied expression of Sangiovese. The inclusion of a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon is enough to give the wine significant back-bone and structure. Less than 200 cases are produced of the Riserva and only in the best years. It is a wine with a long life ahead of it.



The Pierazzuoli’s run a traditional osteria on their estate in Chianti Montalbano. They sent out a notice earlier this week that they no longer have any reservations open for Easter. Of course there is lamb on the menu, so I am guessing patrons will be enjoying the 2013 Carmignano Riserva as it should be a perfect match. Shame I can’t be there! Buona Pasqua! -Anya Balistreri

Enrico’s Chianti – Life’s A Beach!

Monday, March 27, 2017 12:18 PM

This year’s visit from the Enrico and Gianlorenzo Show coincided with the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri World Tour’s stop in San Francisco on February 15. Enrico was pouring his wine on the tour and Gianlorenzo Picollo, his friend, fellow winemaker, and traveling companion, came along too. Those two usually travel to the States together, which works out perfectly for us because we get the pleasure of meeting with two of our favorite Italian producers at the same time. I lovingly call their visit a “show” because they remind me of a duo á la Jay and Silent Bob, as Enrico is the talkative one and Gianlorenzo, shy and less sure of his English, taking on the role of the sidekick.



Enrico, Gianlorenzo and David


The “show” begins with Gianlorenzo pouring his fabulous Gavis. Pete wrote about the Rovereto earlier in the year. Since there are only two Gavis and the winemaking here is fairly straight forward, this portion of the show is quick. Next up is Enrico with his line-up from two estates; one from Chianti Montalbano and the other from Carmignano. This can take a while because Enrico is adamant on explaining all aspects of his wine production, not to mention that he is not one to hold back on sharing his opinion on, well, most things. I for one relish these presentations by Enrico. His enthusiasm and devotion to his work comes through with equal parts seriousness and humor. Enrico has a dry wit and delivers it with grand hand gestures and animated facial expressions.



2015 Chianti Montalbano


The first wine Enrico poured for us was the 2015 Chianti Montalbano and it was clear right off the bat that this is one of his finest efforts. Enrico, swinging his arms up and folding them behind his head, explained it this way, “in 2014 you really needed to make the wine, in 2015 it made itself…you could go to the beach”. 2015 was a favorable vintage across Italy and Montalbano was no exception. The Sangiovese fully ripened while retaining all the necessary structure, acid and tannin to make great wine. In general, Enrico’s Chianti Montalbano tends to be fruit-driven and light-to-medium bodied, but the 2015 is noticeably fuller and dense. The vines are now over twenty years old and that also contributes to the quality of the grapes.



Tenute Pierazzuoli


TWH staff and Enrico spoke at length about the challenges of making and selling Chianti. So much of what is produced is what Enrico calls “industrially made”. These mass produced Chiantis are antithesis to the approach Enrico and his family take to making wine. For the Pierazzuoli’s, it is a real family affair. In addition to making wine, they produce their own olive oil as well as other food delicacies like vegetable conserves and fruit jams. They renovated their farmhouse into an agriturismo and most recently converted an ancient hayloft into a traditional Tuscan osteria. Last summer, my niece had the pleasure of staying a night at one of their apartments during a tour through Italy. She and her fiancé had dinner at the osteria. It was the highlight of their trip. I think I’m due a trip there myself! In the meantime, it’ll be bowls of pasta Puttanesca and glasses of 2015 Chianti Montalbano to tie me over until then.– Anya Balistreri

Cellar Aged Chardonnay From Ici/La-Bas

Tuesday, February 28, 2017 12:00 PM


When you discover five cases of a 2008 Chardonnay made by arguably one of California’s most respected winemakers, who do you call? The Wine House! Mel Knox along with winemaker Jim Clendenen partner to make wines under the Ici/La-Bas label. Mel called a week ago and said he had some wine he wanted to show us. Any opportunity to taste with Mel Knox is a welcome one – I will always make time for him. Mel has an encyclopedic knowledge of California’s wine history and of wine in general. He began his career in retail, then started his own company selling French barrels nearly 40 years ago. He knows the industry intimately both here and abroad and has been an integral player in the advancement of California’s wine industry.



And so, Mel came by the store to pour us wine from Ici/La-Bas and from another project he is involved with. I wouldn’t characterize Mel as a typical sales person as he is truly candid and honest in assessing his own wines. A masterful storyteller, his visits are never a splash and dash. The first wine he poured was the Ici/La-Bas 2008 Elke Vineyard Chardonnay from Anderson Valley. Inventory management being what it is, Mel “found” a few cases of it in his warehouse. I wouldn’t say I was skeptical, I know how well Jim Clendenen’s wines age, I just wasn’t expecting to be so blown away by it. It was youthful, fresh, delicious and complex. The flavors on the palate unfurled with each taste, noting apple, pear, creamy vanilla, flint and mineral and a whole lot more. It is a truly Burgundian-styled California Chardonnay.



I asked Mel if he would email a few notes on the winemaking to me. The Chardonnay was barrel fermented in 228 liter Francois Freres barrels. A barrel expert, he explained that, “The barrels were made from wood from the Bertranges forest, air dried three years. Bertranges gives wine a bit more tannic structure, perhaps bad for short-range consumption of the wine but great for long term aging. The longer seasoning of the wood eliminates the harsh tannins and provides a more subtle flavor. We used about 35% new barrels.” The wine was left on its lees for an extended period, then bottled in the Spring of 2010. Now with almost seven years of bottle age, the wine is in its prime! How often do you get the benefit of a cellared wine for such a reasonable price? TWH is offering the remaining bit of 2008 Chardonnay for $29.98 a bottle!




I spent a portion of the morning reading online articles on Jim Clendenen. My intention was to use some provocative quote of his to highlight Jim’s reputation for being a non-conformist in the wine industry. If you’d like to read a couple quick articles on Jim, please click here, here or here. In my early days at TWH, Jim often came by with new releases. David was an early admirer of Au Bon Climat wines. I was also fortunate to have been a guest at Jim’s annual luncheon at his friend, Michael Wild’s restaurant, Bay Wolf, a couple of times. A tasting of new releases from Au Bon Climat would precede a lunch that always included cellared bottles – that is how I discovered how well his wines aged. Jim lives up to his reputation and I find him inspirational. I always left those luncheons glad to be a part of the wine business.


When Mel left the store, David and I remained in the tasting room discussing the 2008 Chardonnay. David, like myself, was impressed with the wine. He said that TWH might not be known as a California Chardonnay house, but when a wine is this good, we can’t pass it up. With that, I placed my order. Revel in this well-cellared wine. It is in its prime, will likely age further, but is really one to enjoy right now – be in the moment! It is a testament to the skill of the winemaker. It’s a show piece.


I’ll be buying some bottles to take home. I plan to stump industry friends with it, share with my girlfriends who are exclusively Chardonnay drinkers, and for when I am hankering for the style of California Chardonnay I enjoy most. The Ici/La-Bas 2008 Chardonnay Elke Vineyard is not to be missed!

Anya Balistreri

Wonderwall Pinot Noir: A Super Bargain

Monday, February 13, 2017 11:45 AM


I am a bargain shopper. I love the hunt. In my personal life, I like to search on-line classifieds, scour local thrift and consignments stores and frequent estate sales. For me, it’s a sport. This need of mine to find the best deal also applies to my professional life. Nothing satisfies like when I find a wine I can say is a super bargain. These days it is harder and harder to find one from California, but we try and we do, which leads me to my wine pick of the week: 2015 Wonderwall Pinot Noir.




Wonderwall is a secondary label for Field Recordings’ Andrew Jones. Jones is a vine nursery fieldman who moonlights as a winemaker. He claims to have stood in almost every vineyard in the Central Coast. The guy knows the area and he knows vineyards. With Wonderwall, Jones focuses on Pinot Noir from cool climate sites. For his 2015 Pinot Noir, two vineyards were sourced for fruit: Spanish Springs and Jespersen. Spanish Springs is only 1.2 miles from the Pacific Ocean, just northeast from the seaside town of Pismo Beach. The vineyard is at 900 ft elevation with temperatures rarely exceeding 80 degrees. The proximity to the ocean keeps the vineyard cool and free of disease and its favorable south-facing slope ensures long, ripening hang time. You might recall that Evening Land Vineyards used Spanish Springs for their single-vineyard program a few vintages back, receiving high praise and scores for it. Jespersen is also in the Edna Valley AVA. It is four miles from the ocean and, like Spanish Springs, enjoys a long, cool growing season.




Partially de-stemmed, the 2015 Wonderwall Pinot Noir was aged for 7 months in 100% French oak; only 15% of it new. I was struck by its joyous cherry fruit flavors and subtle notes of baking spice and brown sugar. The tannins are rather soft, so the structure suggests drinking this one in the near term. At $17.98 a bottle, the whole point is to drink and enjoy it right now! There is a similarly priced Pinot Noir out in the market that begins with “M” and ends in “i” that is wildly popular. This wine has a production of a quarter million cases. Now I’m not suggesting that wine can’t be any good, but consider the difference between making a few barrels of wine versus nearly a million cases! It’s like trying to make an intricate dish for 200 people instead of 4; something gets lost in the scaling up whether it is the execution, the ingredients or both.




I don’t normally comment on labels, but I have to this time. I think in some instances, customers have purchased a bottle of 2015 Wonderwall Pinot Noir solely for the label only to return a few days later because of its contents. The label has a famous photograph of the Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí holding his pet ocelot, Babou, on it. I admire Dalí’s work, I even have a signed lithograph of one his paintings hanging on my wall that I earned selling art back in high school – now that’s a whole other story! Overall, this is a delicious wine in a whimsical package made by a talented winemaker using excellent fruit for well under $20. A super bargain!– Anya Balistreri


Me: “So, what sort of white wines do you like to drink?”

Customer: “I love Sancerre!”

Me: “Ah, so you like Sauvignon Blanc.”

Customer: “Oh no, I don’t like Sauvignon Blanc.”

I have had this conversation with customers many times over the years. I don’t wish to embarrass anyone so I try to gently and respectfully explain that Sancerre is made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape. I’ve thought a lot about such conversations and have concluded that the reason why some people might not associate Sauvignon Blanc with Sancerre is that when Sancerre is made well, the super-assertive and super-pungent green flavors of Sauvignon Blanc that prevail out in the marketplace are absent. I for one get why someone would love Sancerre, but be less than thrilled with a sharply herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc.




I took a bottle of the 2015 Sancerre Les Godons from Philippe Raimbault home the other day. It also arrived on the most recent container, along with the many Bordeaux that Pete has recently written about. At my local market, I saw that they had large shrimp on sale, so I planned a shrimp and Sancerre match-up. After poring over a dozen cookbooks, I settled on going without a recipe. Essentially what I made was shrimp Scampi. At first, I sautéed shallots, instead of garlic, in olive oil left over from a jar of Chevoo Smoked Sea Salt and Rosemary goat cheese – waste not, want not. Then to the shrimp I added wine, lemon juice and stock. At the end, I tossed in fresh tarragon and a generous knob of butter. Piping hot out of a cast iron pan, I indulged on the shrimp which was made even more delicious by the lusciousness of the 2015 Sancerre Les Godons.




The 2015 Les Godons exhibits the sweet citrusy flavors of ruby red grapefruit. The citrus tang is there without any hint of harsh acidity. The 2015 vintage was looked upon favorably in Sancerre, but it was lower yielding than the bountiful 2014 vintage. 2015 produced for many a riper-styled wine, but Philippe Raimbault does not acidify his wines, so what you get in the 2015 Les Godons is what nature provided.




Les Godons is a vineyard uniquely shaped in a semi-circle above the village of Sury-En-Vaux. There is a pen and ink illustration of the vineyard on the label, so you can see how steep the slopes are. The vineyard is south-facing, so exposure to the sun is maximized. In some years there is a distinct tropicality to the Les Godons that I find irresistible. I would have thought in a warm vintage like 2015 that quality would dominate, but I found the 2015 to be rather citrus driven; pamplemousse, pomelo and sweet orange. Fragrant and lush, sipping this one on its own is perfectly acceptable and encouraged too.




Last Saturday The Wine House staff dined at Boulevard for our Post-Holiday party. Everything was great – the food, the wine, the company! In my opinion, Boulevard is one of San Francisco’s best restaurants – it’s a classic. The food is impeccable, the service is attentive and seamless, and the atmosphere is welcoming and warm. For our first course, we selected a couple of orders of Foie Gras to share. We drank 1988 De Fargues with it. Divine! The flavor sensors in my brain exploded! Of course, this being TWH Post-Holiday dinner, there was a second bottle of 1988 De Fargues because that’s how we roll. We love Sauternes and enjoy drinking it throughout a meal. There was also White & Red Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne too, but what a luxury it was to have a glass of Sauternes to taste with each course. Thank you Christian, Mrs. Moore, Mr. B, Chris, Pete, Mrs. Netzer and David for a memorable evening! -Anya Balistreri

Inky, Dark, Spicy - Syrah at its Best !

Monday, January 9, 2017 10:56 AM


Not to belabor the obvious, but it's cold outside. And it gets dark earlier too. This signals the time of year when Syrah calls out to me the loudest - I hear you Syrah, loud and clear! A robust, full-flavored Syrah paired with a slow braised one-pot dish; now that's sounds good to me. As I look around the store, searching for that Syrah to satiate my craving, my eyes naturally fall onto our limited, but stellar selection of Northern Rhones. Of the two producers TWH directly imports, Domaine Belle is the most established. When I came to work for TWH in the late 90's, Belle was a relative newcomer on the Rhone scene and a true darling of Robert Parker who was a great advocate for this French region, propelling fervent enthusiasm for Syrah. In the 1997 revised edition of "Wines of the Rhone Valley", Parker concludes his review of Belle by writing it was "one of the bright, shining stars of Crozes-Hermitage, and this is an estate to follow". In my opinion, he was absolutely right. So what has Domaine Belle been up to in the two decades since Parker wrote that statement? They've been consistently making outstanding wines that fly under the radar!


Philippe Belle is at the helm, having taken over from his father Albert who retired in 2003. Fortunately for Domaine Belle fans, Philippe has sons who are being groomed to work in the family business. On his trip to France this past November, David paid a visit to Belle where he tasted recent and upcoming vintages. There he met with Philippe and his son, Valentin, who is currently studying enology at Montpellier. David sent a photo of father and son to me (I'm always hounding him to take more pics on his trips!) as well as a photo of the 2015 Crozes Hermitage Roche Pierre, which he captioned "one of the darkest wines I've ever seen". The 2015 Roche Pierre won't be available any time soon, but we do have the gorgeous 2012 in stock now. And though we bid adieu to our 39th Anniversary Sale, we will offer the 2012 Roche Pierre at discount for this email - regularly $36.99 per bottle, on sale for $27.95 per bottle!


Roche Pierre is a single-vineyard with vines upwards of 70 years old grown on granitic soil. These are special vines and Belle only bottles this wine in special vintages (otherwise it goes into Cuvee Louis Belle). We have the '12 in stock, and they made '13 and '15, but no '11 or '14. It is a wine that showcases the full spectrum of Syrah's appeal, from the inky color to the dark, black fruit to the spicy, smoky notes. The texture is rich with firm tannins. Less than 300 cases of this single-vineyard Crozes-Hermitage are produced. Jeb Dunnuck who has taken over reviewing Rhone wines for Parker had this to say about the 2012 Roche Pierre:



"I was blown away by the 2012 Crozes Hermitage Roche Pierre and it showed even better from bottle than barrel, which is always a good sign. Aged two years in 40% new French oak, it's certainly one of the top wines of this appellation. Cassis, toasted spice, leather, beautiful minerality and classic minerality are all present in this full-bodied, focused, pure and age-worthy Crozes Hermitage. There's no shortage of tannin here, so give it a year or three, it will have 10-15 years of longevity." 94 points #216 Dec. 2014


This weekend I will be celebrating a milestone birthday...my baby girl is turning 13! A teenager. It doesn't seem possible. Her birthday lands on Old Calendar Christmas Eve (Happy Birthday to MTP as well!), so we'll first celebrate with a traditional Russian lenten meal with family then host a rip-roaring sleepover party with her BFFs the next evening. Call me crazy, but I love hearing all the girl chatter and laughter filling up the house. It warms my heart. Happy Birthday to Sascha, my sweet girl...many blessed years! And Happy New Year to all of you! - Anya Balistreri

Making Wine On A Volcano – Cantine Russo

Tuesday, December 6, 2016 11:32 AM

2015 Rampante Etna Bianco from Cantine Russo


The stable of Italian producers that TWH directly imports has increased by one: Cantine Russo. Cantine Russo sits on the northeast slope of Sicily’s Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano. The winery is family-run and can trace its winemaking roots back to 1860. It wasn’t until 1955 that Ciccio Russo began bottling wine to sell commercially. Ciccio’s son, Vincenzo is the current owner. Vincenzo runs the winery with his son, Francesco, who is the winemaker and his daughter, Gina, who handles the day-to-day operations.


In an article celebrating the women of Etna, Gina recalls running around her grandfather’s cellar with her brother. She describes her first harvest at about age 5 and claims to not have missed a single one in 40 years! This tight-knit bond the Russo family has to the land is common among natives of Etna. Having visited the area, I can understand the lure to stay in this harsh, yet painfully beautiful landscape. Over the last decade or so, more and more attention has been given to Sicilian wines particularly those from Mount Etna. It really is incredible to think about all the challenges and risks involved in growing grapes on an active volcano. It takes steadfast dedication.


Cantine Russo concentrates on indigenous varietals, like Carricante and Cataratto, which make up the blend for the 2015 Rampante Etna Bianco. Carricante makes up 80% of the blend and is thought to have grown in Sicily for at least a thousand years. Today it is fairly rare, only the 31st most planted grape variety on the island. It is noted for its acidity and citrusy flavors. Carricante is often blended with Cataratto, which is far more common, taking up nearly 60% of the island’s total vineyard area. Cataratto is low in acidity and therefore makes a nice blending partner with Carricante. The 2015 Rampante, though unoaked, is quite complex and above all is mineral-driven. The wine is golden-hued, the aromas are subtle and delicate…notes of flint and white pepper emerge slowly. If you like steely, nervy white wines, than the 2015 Rampante is right up your alley. I enjoyed a bottle over the course of three days. The wine stayed fresh and vibrant. I noticed different aspects with each glass. Though subtle, its definitely not a one-note kind of wine. I’d love to stow away a few bottles to see how it ages. My prediction is that is would do quite well in the near term.


I travelled to Sicily with my husband (who at the time was my boyfriend), his parents, sister and a cousin. It was a memorable trip with its ups and downs, and I long to go back. With each glass of the Rampante I imagined some of the dishes that stood out for me during that trip like the raw marinated shrimp or deep-fried baby whitebait. I can’t wait to try the 2015 Rampante with cracked Dungeness crab – now that should be quite a match!


I’ve been taking deep breaths lately. December is holding up to its promise of being a whirlwind month. My daughter, the thespian, is in six performances of Annie Jr. this weekend. Last night I signed up to volunteer in the dreaded “Room 5”. I’m not sure why no one signs up for this duty, which is to supervise the younger cast members. In this case, I was the “orphan wrangler.” Sure, the kids were super cute, boisterous and extremely talkative, but what touched me was the professionalism shown by these young actors. One orphan arrived late. By this time most of the costumes were spoken for. I helped her find something that would fit over her tiny body, pinning it were needed. She never complained that it wasn’t fair that somebody took her costume. No, nothing like that. Instead she reassured me that she was an orphan so didn’t need to wear anything special. Now that’s pretty special! – Anya Balistreri

Le Rote Chianti Colli Senesi

Monday, November 14, 2016 5:17 PM

The Chianti sub-zone of Colli Senesi covers a large area, so as a whole, its reputation for quality does lag behind the more famous and narrowly defined Chianti Classico. But discerning eyes and palates know that drawn borders and appellations only tell part of the story. Take Le Rote as an example, located just a mile north of the famous towers of San Gimignano, you might also notice that it is just 16 miles due west of Castellina, the sweet spot of Chianti Classico. The soil, climate and altitude are quite similar to each other.


To continue the story, Le Rote is owned by Massimo Scotti and his family. They run a successful agriturismo business, make olive oil and produce wine. Their wine production is small, most of it consumed by the guests staying at their restored 18th century farmhouse and also sell a large portion of their fruit to off-set costs. Their Sangiovese is grown on a south-west facing hill with a 100 meters of separation from top to bottom. Depending on vintage conditions, they may either harvest from the top, the bottom, or the middle of the slope. Because they can afford to harvest by altitude, their Chianti has incredible consistency. The importer for this wine explained to me that "we've never met anyone else with the circumstance and ability to be so surgical in their harvest". Their enologist, Paolo Caciorgna, who also makes wines nearby for Andrea Bocelli, is a native of San Gimignano and appreciates the approach the Scotti's take to viticulture. The historic clone Sangiovese grapes are hand-harvested, sustainably farmed and dry farmed. Total production of the Chianti Colli Senesi is shy of 600 cases with yields averaging a bottle a plant.


The 2011 Chianti Colli Senesi from Le Rote is jam-packed with black cherry flavors, some sweet earthy aromatic notes, and a satisfying, easy-going finish. It's drinking optimally right now and should stay so for months to come. To inaugurate The Wine House's 39th Anniversary Sale, the 2011 Le Rote Chianti Colli Senesi is now on sale for $14.95 per bottle, down from $19.98. To sweeten the pot even further, we are also offering the enticing special full-case price of $142 - that's less than $12 per bottle! Now that's a deal, non ci piove! Take advantage of this deep discount to spread holiday cheer far and wide. A bottle for your neighbor perhaps who pet-sits in a moment's notice or for the friend who is always available to help out on demo-days? Stashing a case is going to make last minute gift-giving a cinch. Who wouldn't love a bottle of Chianti?


During my research for this write-up, I felt it compulsory to test out a bottle with a bowl of classic red-sauced pasta. Talk about comfort food. You could put a candle on it and serve it to me in lieu of a birthday cake. No joke. There is something magical about the combination of Sangiovese and a tomato-based pasta sauce. The fruit flavors of Sangiovese waltz seamlessly with the acid of the tomato. A dusting of Parmigiano Reggiano completes the sweet/salty balance to achieve flavor nirvana. Cook up a pot, open some bottles of 2011 Le Rote Chianti Colli Senesi and invite a bunch of friends over for dinner. Do it - it'll be good for you! - Anya Balistreri

Traditional Dolcetto D’Alba from Aurelio Settimo

Monday, October 31, 2016 3:16 PM



Dolcetto D'Alba from Aurelio Settimo
 
He ended the phone conversation with "and I'm going to the store to pick up some cans of 6 in 1". Music to my ears! My husband is making red sauce, or if you like, gravy. I know what I'm bringing home tonight: 2015 Dolcetto d'Alba from Aurelio Settimo. The 2015 Dolcetto d'Alba landed earlier this month and just in time as the 2014 has been sold out for nearly a month. We introduced the wines of Aurelio Settimo in early 2016, dubbing them "Time Machine Wines" because they move the style dial towards "traditional" and away from "modern/international".


dolcettovinesSettimo's Dolcetto Vines

 
Winemaker Tiziana Settimo took production over from her father in 2007 upon his passing. She had worked with her father for twenty years and continues the same traditional winemaking she learned from him. Settimo owns a little over two acres of Dolcetto which is east facing and grown on calcareous soil. Calcareous soil is optimal for growing Dolcetto. Dolcetto is reputed to be difficult to cultivate and vinify. This coupled with the fact that demand for Piedmontese Nebbiolo is at an all time high, helps explain why the total acreage of planted Dolcetto is decreasing. And this is a real shame. Nebbiolo can certainly make some of the world's greatest wine, but what about the joy of a well-made "everyday" wine? Dolcetto has charming, grapey flavors, with bright acidity and medium tannins. It's versatility and freshness make it the perfect everyday/any day red.




dolcettoharvest


Harvest 2016 at Settimo
 
At Settimo the Dolcetto grapes are hand harvested with careful selection of the bunches. Tiziana gently presses the grapes, leaves the wine on the skins for a short seven days, with frequent pump overs and ages it in concrete tanks for about six months. Because Dolcetto tends to be reductive, the pump overs allow for oxygenation, keeping the flavors and aromas fresh. Making good Dolcetto can take as much (or more) effort than it does Barolo. Settimo's Dolcetto d'Alba is redolent of plum and cheerful red cherry fruit and finishes with perky acidity. It's got a lot of zing. When the 2015 Dolcetto d'Alba was delivered to our warehouse, we were happy to see that David upped the numbers from what we purchased of the 2014. About the 2014 we joked that it was the wine that sold without ever writing about it. It found its way home repeatedly with many customers who shop at the store. The 2015 Dolcetto d'Alba is here and in good quantity...for the moment.
 
 
harvestgrapesPicture perfect Dolcetto bunches

 
6 in 1 All-Purpose Ground Tomatoes is essential to making gravy, at least the Balistreri way. No other canned tomatoes will do. My husband makes a large batch; some to eat now while the remainder is frozen for future meals. A red-sauced pasta is going to need a wine with palpable acidity like a Dolcetto d'Alba to make a merry match. It has been a satisfying week with poured concrete (yeah, no more dirt path!), measurable rain and a daughter who went to her 7th grade school dance and said it was fun. As to the weekend, I'll be putting out Halloween decorations and stock-piling candy. Our well-lighted, close to the curb house typically sees over 500 trick-or-treaters. This is not an exaggeration! I won't even bother closing the door, but will pull up a chair to the front door to greet the masses. Here's hoping everyone has a safe and sweet Halloween! - Anya Balistreri

2011 La Bolida – 80 Year Old Vine Mourvèdre

Monday, October 17, 2016 8:29 PM

 
Wine & Spirits Magazine: Top 100
 
Last week Jeanne-Marie de Champs came to town, this week it was Diane de Puymorin and Mathieu Chatain from Château d’Or et de Gueules. It was a quick trip as this husband and wife team flew out to California specifically to participate in Wine & Spirits Magazine‘s grand tasting featuring the Top 100 Wineries of 2016. It is the first time in this magazine’s history that they’ve selected a winery from the appellation of Costières de Nîmes for this honor. Now, anyone who has ever been to our store or read any of our newletters should be pretty familiar with Château d’Or et de Gueueles, as we’ve been hardcore fans ever since Diane started making wine. We are thrilled that they’ve been recognized in this way by such a high profile publication. They deserve the accolades!
 
Diane and Mathieu @ TWH
 
At the grand tasting Diane and Mathieu poured the 2011 La Bolida which was featured in the Top 100 issue. It received a whopping 94 points and a glowing review (see below). On Tuesday, Diane and Mathieu came by the store to meet with staff and catch up on things wine related and otherwise. TWH has held several wine dinners with Diane over the years, but this was the first time we got to meet her husband Mathieu. Diane told us that we’ve heard her speak about Château d’Or et de Gueules plenty of times, so it would be a nice change to have Mathieu present the wines. Mathieu began his presentation by describing his relationship with Diane at the winery this way, “she is the brain and the hands are here”, raising his hands up for all to see. His affection and respect for his winemaker wife was unmistakable. Mathieu explained that the decision to make wine was not motivated by vanity but by choosing a way of life. With five daughters to raise, living and working on the land was the life they wanted to persue. Next, Mathieu boiled it down to three things that make their wines exceptional: 1) the terroir: stony, pebbly soil like in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and with proximity to the sea, the climate is ideal, 2) low, low yields and 3) they harvest at the right moment – just at the peak of maturity. It’s that simple…!
 
Mathieu’s presentation
 
La Bolida falls under a category that Diane and Mathieu like to call “passion”; a small batch cuvée that takes all of their effort to make the finest wine. La Bolida is made from their oldest Mourvèdre vines which range in age from 80-100 years old. The yields are miniscule, only 10hl/h (whereas the appellation allows for 60hl/h). They produce about 3,000 bottles of La Bolida. That’s only 250 cases! While we were tasting the 2011 La Bolida, Diane stretched her hand outwards from her mouth to demonstrate the long length of the wine. She described what she finds in La Bolida as the elegant tension of fruit with the freshness of acidity and tannin. To achieve this balance, Diane ages the wine in 300 liter barrel for a year, then old foudre for another year, and then rests the wine in concrete tank for 6-12 months before bottling. She likes what aging in barrel does for the structure of the wine but she doesn’t want the oak to dominate. The 2011 La Bolida is impactful and impressive. The generous fruit is succulent and cohesive. At once powerful and elegant. La Bolida is masterfully blended with the intention of keeping the integrity of the old vine Mourvèdre front and center. Wow!
 
Diane & Mathieu
 
Who’s coming next to visit us? It feels like a party over here in Dogpatch! I always tell new customers that at TWH, we have long relationships with many of the wineries we carry and that we prefer to do business with people we like. For me, it’s more than just about the wine, it’s about the people – their stories and their passion. Meeting with Diane and Mathieu this week puts this all into practice. – Anya Balistreri

Bringing Tasty Back: Aloxe Corton From Domaine Rapet

Tuesday, October 4, 2016 8:22 PM

 
2010 Aloxe Corton from Rapet
 
Vincent Rapet’s family has a long connection to winemaking in Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune. Domaine Rapet dates back to 1765. In Anthony Hanson’s book, Burgundy, he writes, “I remember the late Robert Rapet pulling out his massive family tastevin (inscribed L. Rapet D. Pernand 1792), clapping it between his hands, saying it was built to withstand the pressures of heated conversation.” We could all use a tastevin like that, couldn’t we? Vincent is Robert’s grandson and is continuing the family tradition of making wine. The domaine has 20 hectares of vines, making both red and white. The cave is in the picturesque and quaint village of Pernand Vergelesses. Among their offerings is a village Aloxe Corton red that captures the best of that appellation.
 
2010 Aloxe Corton from Rapet
 
Aloxe Corton is a sturdy, robust red. The elegant, ethereal Pinot Noir of the Côte de Nuits and its famed Grand Crus are what may at first come to mind when thinking about red Burgundy, but really as a whole, Burgundy offers drinkers a far greater range of styles. A fine Aloxe Corton harkens back to a more grippy, meaty wine that in my circle is often referred to as “farmer wine”. Not meant to be derogatory, this term illustrates the more rustic nature of some Burgundy. Imagine stopping at a small roadside restaurant where the conversation is animated and strictly in French. The daily lunch special is Coq au Vin. You want a good bottle of Burgundy to go with your order. Let’s face it, you aren’t going to buy a bottle of Richebourg, but a well-aged Aloxe Corton, now that’s the way to go. TWH has a few cases of 2010 Aloxe Corton and that’s the kind of wine you are going to want to serve with all manner of braised dishes or hearty stews.
 
Vincent and his father, Roland Rapet
 
Rapet’s Aloxe Corton comes from three sites: Les Boutières, Les Citernes, and Les Combes. As with all their reds, the wine is aged in oak of which about 20% is new. 2010 was a vintage that produced low yields but of excellent quality. Vincent is quite pleased with his 2010’s.At a staff tasting, we revisited the 2010 Aloxe Corton and were happy to see that is has begun to soften up its tannins. Aloxe Corton is expected to be a bit stern in its youth, but with patience and cellaring, it can develop into a wine with depth. Rapet’s 2010 Aloxe Corton is in the beginning stages of its optimal drinking window. Chewy red raspberry fruit, firm structure and prominent acidity bundle up together to make a formidable red wine. I wanted desperately to write about this wine at the beginning of summer when we tasted it, but I conceded that it was more suitable to serving during cooler months. This wine will show off its attributes best with either a rib-sticking meal or with an after-dinner cheese course.
 
Domaine Rapet
 
I’ve been hankering to make a classic beef stew with root vegetables. The chilly mornings have signaled to me that fall has arrived, that and regular-season NFL games. Isn’t football only played on Sundays – when did that all change? I’ve been paging through my copy of Patricia Well’s Bistro Cooking looking for inspiration. I love her brief descriptions of the characters behind the dishes. As a home cook, I appreciate the simplicity of the recipes knowing that with quality ingredients I too can make something tasty. Rapet’s 2010 Aloxe Corton is a wine I’ll happily reach for when I finally get around to making that beef stew. The hominess of the dish will beautifully embrace the lusty purity of the wine. – Anya Balistreri

Alsatian Auxerrois – Say That Five Times Fast!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016 8:18 PM


 

2014 Pinot Auxerrois From Saint-Rémy
 
What is Pinot Auxerrois? Pinot Auxerrois is a grape that is planted extensively throughout the Alsatian region of France. It is not always labelled as such as it is legal under AOC Alsace appellation laws to label it under the more commonly recognized Pinot Blanc. Many people will explain that Auxerrois is a clone of Pinot Blanc but that is not accurate. In fact Pinot Auxerrois is an offspring of Pinot Blanc, which is a white-berried mutation of Pinot Noir, and is a sibling to Chardonnay, Aligote and Melon de Bourgogne. Pinot Auxerrois has smaller berries than Pinot Blanc so then when yields are limited, a truly interesting wine can be made like the 2014 Pinot Auxerrois from Domaine Saint-Rémy.
 
 
Saint-Rémy’s bottling of Pinot Auxerrois comes from the single-vineyard, Val St. Gregoire. Val St. Gregoire is close to Grand Cru Brand, has southern exposure and the soils are more granitic. I remember when Philippe Ehrhart, proprietor of Domaine Saint-Rémy, visited us at the store in the summer of ’14 and explained these facts. He also made a point of saying that at Saint-Rémy they do not use commercial yeasts, and give a very gentle pressing to the grapes to get pure, clean juice. The Pinot Auxerrois stays on the lees for 6-8 months before bottling. The Ehrharts have taken their centuries old domaine to new heights by converting to organic farming. They became certified organic in 2010 and certified biodynamic in 2012. Phillipe and family are strong advocates of this movement in their region. This fastidious stewardship of the land is rooted in tradition but is also a very real solution to climactic and ecological threats.
 
 
As I mentioned above, Pinot Auxerrois has smaller berries than Pinot Blanc with a higher skin to juice ratio so when made well there is good structure, fruit and acidity. Both Pinot Auxerrois and Pinot Blanc can get flabby (true for most of us!) if not taken care of properly. I find the Saint-Rémy Pinot Auxerrois to have plenty of fruit flavors – peach, apricot – a nice bitter tinge and freshness to the finish.This combination makes it delicious to enjoy by the glass sans food or easily adaptable to appetizers. I was particularly impressed at how well it went with my usual Friday Night Fish Fry of baked sole. Typically I reach for something with a leaner fruit profile, but the wine carried the dish beautifully without overpowering it. I’d say go ahead and serve this with poultry and light pork dishes too. It is really quite versatile.
 
 

I’ve survived a full month of back to school scheduling. Twice I’ve forgotten it was my turn in the carpool to do “drop-off”. In a moment of panic, my daughter is surprising compliant at jumping in the car with a hastily clad mother. My husband has been cracking himself up by reenacting my reaction when I finally figure out that theyare not the ones late…I am! So when Friday rolls around, and I finally have a moment to myself, you might find me on the front porch with a glass in hand. This week the 2014 Pinot Auxerrois Val St. Gregoire was a lovely reward to a busy week. The golden, honeyed fruit mirrored the soft hues of the autumn sun’s rays. Aahh, the restorative nature of wine!– Anya Balistreri

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