2005 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules Costieres de Nimes Select

Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Languedoc-Roussillon;

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$12.31 per bottle with case discount.


A customer and I got into a long conversation about 2005 Bordeaux wines which ultimately lead to a discussion of wine prices. I admit, I have bought some ‘05’s, and hope to buy more, but none of the blue chip first growths and such for me. No, my pared down lifestyle won’t allow for that. However, as I explained to my customer rather optimistically, as long as there are bang for your buck, complex, and charming country wines out there, I know I will always be drinking well. This interchange came rushing back to me from the depths of my cluttered mind as I took my first whiff of the 2005 Rouge Select from Chateau D’Or et de Gueules. THIS IS IT! This is what I was talking about! Warm, sticky blue/black berry fruit aromas drift out of the glass revealing crushed rock and earthy minerality. At a staff development day, the first taste of this wine unleashed a great big smile from me. I looked to my colleagues for validation and consensus. I was met with equally giddy smiles. Yes, this is good, really good.

A little background: Diane Puymorin purchased the estate in 1998 and embarked on a vigorous task of replanting and other such winery improvements. The fruits of her labor are definitely paying off, as her wines go from strength to strength. Her wines are not going unnoticed either. Diane was recently featured in Decanter where they described her wines as “stylish, complex and assertive-much like herself”. A featured Wine House Staff favorite, the 2003 Rouge Select received a whopping 91 pts from the Wine Advocate and virtually disappeared from our store in a matter of minutes (what little we had left from our persistent recommendations). So let this be a warning to you: buy now, you won’t regret it. I am going to go out on the limb and say the ‘05 is even better than the ’03. A blend of roughly half syrah with the balance divided between old vine carignan and grenache, this deeply fruited red has dimension and complexity. There is certainly ample fruit but then there is that added something else that can only be described as that “Chateau D’or et de Gueules thing”. Yes, that is a technical term the Wine House staff has coined. One sip of this wine and you’ll immediately understand. An analogy I like to overuse is that it gives me the same type of pleasure that a true old-vine zinfandel does, not necessarily similar in flavor but it has that combo of gooey fruit matched with soil and herb.

And so, Lent is finally over, my family is celebrating Easter and after my fill of vodka and kholodetz (you’ll have to look this one up) my plan is to marinate some Lamb, throw it on the grill and wash it down with this amazing wine! – Anya Balistreri

2005 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules Costieres de Nimes Select

Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Languedoc-Roussillon;

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$12.31 per bottle with case discount.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008 2:11 PM

A great way to learn about Burgundy and its wines, and (even better) the perfect way to get a discount on two high quality bottles. Sign up now!

Click here to purchase the sampler.

Basic Facts for those of you who are new to the program: Every two months we select two Burgundies, one red and one white. We include write-ups detailing the background of the grower, the vineyard source, and the wine. Finally we knock a significant percentage off the prices of the wines, making the Sampler price $89.98. If you would like us to add you to the Sampler Club and receive the wines regularly, please specify “store pickup” or “ship it” in the comments field, and we will charge your card accordingly. If you would like us to ship faster than the standard ground service, please specify this as well.

2005 Beaune 1er Cru “Aigrots,” Albert Morot

The Domaine Albert Morot has a long, well-documented history dating back to 1820. What had started out as a negociant business in Beaune turned into a long-standing family winery. After 16 years of running the business on her own, Françoise Choppin turned the reigns over to Geoffrey Chopin de Janvy, her nephew, in 2000. Since then, Geoffrey has taken the winery into the spotlight by crafting wines that have garnered attention from critics, collectors and Burgundy lovers alike. The vineyard of Beaune Aigrots is situated between Clos des Mouches and Champs Pimonts. This classy, concentrated chardonnay has lovely notes of buttered toast and green, apple fruit. The palate-feel of the wine is broad and expansive. The flavors linger to reveal rich, ripe fruit uplifted and carried by bright acidity. Not flabby in any way, this wine is open and ready to drink.

2003 Gevrey Chambertin “Vieilles Vignes”, Philippe Naddef

Philippe Naddef goes back decades with The Wine House, all the way to his very first vintage in 1983. This long relationship has given us a unique insight into the evolution of his full-bodied, sturdy wines. Naddef’s reds typically begin their young life tight and firm. With age, they turn graceful and exceedingly aromatic. As a vintage, 2003 red burgundies were either softer, fleshier and approachable in style or assertively tannic. The former vintage characteristic coupled with Naddef’s big pinots produced a 2003 Gevrey Chambertin Vieilles Vignes that is at once drinkable and big-scaled. The wine is produced from grapes that come from 4 different parcels. The average age of the vines is 45 five years old. These cherished old vines produce naturally concentrated, small berries. The wine is aged in 60% new barrel and 40% in one year old barrels with no racking. Notes of cinnamon and beeswax give way to ripe red cherry fruit that finish in silky, round tannins. Naddef’s wines have a flavor all their own. In our fast-food culture where conformity is all too often equated with quality, it is soul-soothing to taste the magical union of winemaker and grape in Naddef’s wines.


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Anya’s Great No Brainer: 2006 Domaine du Pouy

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 2:20 PM

2006 Domaine de Pouy Cotes de Gascogne

White Wine; other white varietal; Other France;

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$7.65 per bottle with case discount.


Before Ben had his wedding white (Brunel’s luscious Cotes du Rhone, Domaine Becasonne), I had mine – Domaine de Pouy. A crisp, fresh, zesty wine composed of ugni blanc and colombard. So refreshing, so versatile, so affordable! Proprietor Yves Grassa, a wine-making visionary, took grapes destined for the distillery, applied modern vinification practices that best capture and retain the vivacity of young white wine, and produced one of the best wine values of the world for the last 20+ years!!! I love this wine served as cold as you can get it. Where others might be inclined to slush around the cooler for a tasteless watery brew, I prefer this classy, thirst-quenching refreshment. There is a lot to love about this wine, and I could go on about how so many of our long-time customers buy it by the case or how Domaine de Pouy is consistently named best under $10 value, etc. Buy it by the case! But don’t just believe me, check out the passion and enthusiasm Robert Parker conjures up describing Domaine de Pouy on his website’s bulletin board:

“If Domaine de Pouy isn’t one of the finest white values in the world…..than I will show up in public with a glass of V-8 juice(Valtellina)…..the 2006 continues a nearly 20 year run of excellence of this Cotes de Gascogne…..light(10.5% alcohol),loaded with crisp grapefruit and lime-like notes….zesty….fresh…and clean as a mountain spring….this is delicious wine that is totally tank fermented and aged….available just about every good wine shop for $10 or less….and finished with a screwcap for you corkophobes…the newly released 2006…an excellent vintage for white varietals in that neck of the world…is going down the gullet as I type…and holding up nicely with some very spicy homemade Maryland crab soup…just think-for the price of one bottle of oxidized white Burgundy you can have 24-36 bottles of something delicious….give me pleasure over prestige anytime…any place….” – Robert Parker

Ten years later, I am still here at The Wine House (time flies when you are having fun!), I am still married (shout out to you, Koshka!) and I am still recommending, enjoying and drinking Domaine de Pouy!!! – Anya Balistreri

2006 Domaine de Pouy Cotes de Gascogne

White Wine; other white varietal; Other France;

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$7.65 per bottle with case discount.

Potato Chips and Pinot Gris

Monday, July 21, 2008 4:12 PM

First and foremost, I adhere to the philosophy that wine is to be enjoyed. I may subscribe to simple wine rules, like white with fish and red with meat, and probably spend way too much time thinking about which wine to pair with practically every meal. However, I am quick to say if you only drink red, then go ahead, drink red with that white-sauced clam fettuccine, if that’s what you like. I had a fascinating wine experience not long ago at a family get-together where my brother, who once again out-did himself, prepared a Spicy Thai noodle salad with a healthy dose of fresh jalapeno and grilled up garlicky flank steak with vegetables basted in a chipotle butter sauce (sorry for the mouth-watering details). I brought over a big, fruity California syrah, thinking that this would stack up well against all those zesty, hot flavors. As it turned out, it withered under all that heat and spice. The real hit and unbelievably delicious match was a 2006 Pinot Gris Rotenberg from Domaine Ehrhart that I brought to start out the evening. A white wine with flank steak? Oh yeah, it was marvelous. I was once again reminded how perfectly suited Alsatian wine is to bold food flavors and how sometimes, rules need to be put aside. The round, oily texture of the Pinot Gris coated the palate allowing the heat of the food to dance along gracefully.

Only about 25% of Alsace’s total production is exported, of that the US is probably the fifth largest importer. In other words, not a lot of Alsatian wine makes it here. So, chances are there are many of you reading this who have never ever tasted an Alsatian wine. The story relayed above may be a round about way of suggesting this to you, but you should. You owe it to yourself. And specifically, you should try the ’06 Pinot Gris Rotenberg. Domaine Ehrhart grows and farms vineyards throughout ten different communes, all of which are certified organic with the French government. The ’06 Pinot Gris Rotenberg is laden with flavors of tree-ripened apricots, delicate overtones of fresh tarragon and citrusy aromas. The round, oily mouthfeel never feels cloying as the minerality of the wine balances the flavors out nicely on the palate. It is what I like to categorize as a POTATO CHIP WINE, because you can never just have one taste!!! Speaking of potato chips, so good with those cracked black pepper flavored ones! As you contemplate and organize your next big, backyard blow-out this summer, consider pairing the 2006 Pinot Gris Rotenberg with your spiciest offerings!

So now that I’ve established the taste merits of the ’06 Pinot Gris Rotenberg, I want to persuade you that there is tremendous price value here as well. This is a single-vineyard offering from a family run winery (the winery dates back to 1725!!!) that tend to their vines and wine with exhaustive care and detail, for under $25. You could easily spend that much on a mass-produced, “custom-blended” (read: purchased bulk wine) bottled from anywhere around the globe kinda wine. Why not taste something that offers authentic flavors of the highest caliber?

The basil in my garden is thriving and the cushions for our new lounge chairs should be arriving any day. I plan to capitalize on these two seemingly unrelated occurrences to whip up something pungent and spicy, maybe grilled chicken with a sweet chili dipping sauce or pork chops with an herby salsa verde, to serve with the well-chilled bottle of Pinot Gris Rotenberg I have waiting for me in the fridge. A sante! Anya Balistreri

Stop and Smell the Rose

Monday, August 18, 2008 2:44 PM

I think we have about 10 different roses in stock at the moment. Inevitably, I will be asked which one do I like best. I usually answer with the truth which is I like them all, even though I know very well that this answer is often met with doubt and skepticism. A wine expert is supposed to prefer one rose to another. To like all ten seems wishy-washy and uncommitted. I decided to look over my past invoices (which is more painful than you can imagine!) and discovered that one rose is purchased by moi more frequently than any other, the 2007 Rose from Chateau Guiot. It turns out I have a favorite; I just did not know it!!!

So what do I like about it? The Chateau Guiot rose is the darkest in color, maybe one shade off from being a red wine. The deep raspberry color is vibrant and pleasurable to spy in your glass. A blend of mostly Grenache and Syrah, there is ample fruit, mostly the brambly kind like boysenberry and raspberry, and finishes dry and long. The big full flavors are a two-fold benefit. First of all, you can drink it on its own. There is so much to savor and delight in that food is not necessary. On the other hand, those same big flavors are bold enough to match up with even the spiciest of Summer Grillin’ fare. When nighttime temperatures spike, Mas de Guiot rose perfectly answers my craving for something flavorful and rich minus the heavy tannins and high alcohol.

On my first visit to Mas de Guiot in the Costieres de Nimes, the pastoral feel of the winery charmed me. This impression was actualized as I snooped around, sneaking away from the group and came upon a bird, newly hung, waiting for plucking. I knew then and there that these people were real farmers. That close relationship to the land beautifully translates into their hearty, gutsy wines. Pre-season football may have started, and school is about to start for many (Egad! My little one is starting pre-school…quick get me a chair and a drink!), but according to my calculations, there is at least a month and a half of great summer weather. Sippin’ Guiot rose while lounging on my new outdoor furniture (definitely nicer than what you’ll find inside!) just waiting for the tomatoes to ripen is my ambition for the weeks ahead. Leisure is an art I wish to perfect. Someone has to watch the clouds go by… Anya Balistreri


Tuesday, September 16, 2008 3:31 PM

2005 Rouge Cht. D’Or et De Gueules

IT’S BACK!!! Following the Spring email offer, Gold Red Wine, our initial 70 case allocation vanished in the blink of an eye. Even I was shut out, only managing to squirrel away a bottle, and I wrote the email! After much begging and pleading, we managed to get our hands on some more. This wine is not to be missed. I can’t tell you how excited I am to get this wine back in stock. Now, those of you who couldn’t keep from opening just one more bottle will have an opportunity to replenish your stash and I will take my own advice to buy some NOW.

Anya’s Tasting Notes:

One whiff of the ‘05 Rouge Select lets you know this is it! Warm, sticky blue/black berry fruit aromas drift out of the glass revealing crushed rock and earthy minerality. A blend of roughly half syrah with the balance divided between old vine carignan and grenache, this deeply fruited red has dimension and complexity. There is certainly ample fruit but then there is that added something else that can only be described as that “Chateau D’or et Des Gueules thing”. Yes, that is a technical term the Wine House staff has coined. One sip of this wine and you’ll immediately understand.


In the recent issue of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate dedicated to the world’s greatest wine values under $25, the 2005 Rouge was featured and bestowed with a score of 90 points. The Advocate‘s tasting note follows the wine listing.

2005 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules Costieres de Nimes Select

Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Languedoc-Roussillon;

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Smoky, Lapsang tea, roasted game, and jellied black fruits rise from the glass. An impressive concentration of elderberry, purple plum and meat juices on the palate are laced with iodine, bitter fruit pits, pungent herbs, dark chocolate, and chalk. For all of its sheer density, this wine displays textural polish, and for all of its ripeness there is scarcely any heat, but an abundance of sheer juicy finishing fruit.
$12.31 per bottle with case discount


And so, leaves are being to gather on my front lawn, Pre-School has armed my daughter with a new repertoire of songs to entertain us with and those pesky heirloom tomatoes are finally ripening. All I need now is a glass full of this lovely red to complete the mood… Anya Balistreri

Smackin Good Syrah

Thursday, February 5, 2009 3:12 PM

NEED A REMEDY FOR THE SILVER PALATE ON A TIGHT BUDGET? Look no further than the 2007 Domaine des Cantarelles Syrah de Fayel. It has it all: cheery, lively fruit with a hint of herb lurking beneath with no oak to mask the sunny syrah flavors and it costs only $10.99 ($9.34 per bottle on a full case purchase). My bio for our website notes that I pride myself on turning people onto bang for your buck wines for everyday enjoyment. This is precisely the kind of wine that fulfills that promise. My first taste of this wine made me giddy with excitement knowing that our customers were in for a real treat. Tasting wine with staff in our warehouse is informative, but sometimes I need to get to know a wine better. This means taking a bottle home to get to know it on a first name basis. Many subsequent bottles later, my enthusiasm for this wine has only grown. The sweet black cherry fruit, while concentrated, remains lively and fresh on the palate. My weekly dinner menus tend to be simple preparations, so I favor medium-bodied reds, nothing heavy or overwhelming. The unoaked treatment is right on target when you’re looking for something delicious, albeit uncomplicated or unfussy, but that delivers lots of well-rounded fruit with no harsh tannins or excessive acidity. Meant with the utmost of respect, this is the perfect “pizza, pasta, burger” wine.

If you haven’t heard, the 2007 vintage in the southern Rhone is a great success. Winemakers and wine critics alike are voicing their admiration for this vintage. I take notice when I hear things like “the best vintage ever” or “nothing like it in 30 years”. Whether or not I end up collecting the sought-after wines of this region, my excitement comes from knowing that in these consistent, across the board quality vintages like 2005 in Bordeaux, quality can be found at all levels.Translation: fantastic wines that are soft on the pocketbook abound! That’s good news; we all need a little good news. For a sneak peak into this phenomena, you must try the 2007 Syrah de Fayel. The vineyards for the Syrah de Fayel are situated southeast of Nimes. The large pebble strewn soils of this area closely resemble southern Cotes du Rhones vineyards. The meticulous work done in the vineyard by proprietor Jean-François Fayel ensures the best material with which to work. On a side note: not that us wine types pay attention to this kinda stuff, but I can’t tell you how charmed I am by the colorful label depicting the Feria de Nimes, or bull fighting.

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s been hard to remember that we are still in the midst of winter. Even so, the sunny days haven’t made a dent into my cravings for slow braised meats and old-fashioned casseroles. As I scour over my grocery store fliers planning for the week ahead, I relish knowing that I can pop a cork on the 2007 Syrah de Fayel without feeling that I’ve overspent my budget. Anya

A Passion For Malbec

Thursday, February 26, 2009 5:58 PM

A couple of months back I was pleasantly surprised to find an email from my big brother asking whether The Wine House carried any malbec from Argentina and what I knew of them. Since emails from my big brother come infrequently and my family rarely asks for my advice, wine or otherwise, I was quick to write back. Mainly I explained to him about thisremarkable relationship malbec has with the high elevation vineyards of Argentina.Historically grown in France, malbec plantings have been declining significantly there. Its presence remains in the Loire and, of course, in the famous reds of Cahors. However it’s another matter in Argentina where malbec thrives. Widely planted, this is a vivid example of the great synergy between grape varietal and climate, a.k.a terroir. When properly vinified malbec can be a juicy, fruit-forward, charming wine. I concluded to my brother that The Wine House in fact sells adynamite malbec, but unfortunately it was sold out. The malbec I had in mind was Alberto Furque’s malbec from Mendoza’s Uco Valley (the vineyards are 3,000 feet in elevation). The Wine House is now on its third vintage of this passion-inducing little number, but because it gets snapped up by a prominent and popular restaurant group in the Bay Area, we never get the chance to shout too loudly about this wine; in the door, out the door. Well, we finally got wise to this predicament and made sure to order extra this time. I am so glad we did because I think this is the best malbec from Furque to date! So listen up big brother- it’s finally here, I’ll gladly make the delivery!

Tasting Notes:

An eye-popping ruby red color gets the senses revving up. Expressive aromas greet the nose reminiscent of bing cherries. Lots of black cherry, plum and cassis fruit on the palate with an ever so slight note of black licorice and green herb; after all this is malbec, not syrah or zinfandel! The tannins are fine, the body is medium-weight, and the texture is sweet and persistent. This is wine for immediate pleasure, no need to lay it down, just pour and enjoy. It is no wonder this is such a wine-by-the-glass success at restaurants as it is ready to go and eager to please.

Not a crafty type by nature, I spent a lovely week preparing homemade Valentines with my daughter. I forgot how soothing it is to cut heart shapes out of pretty paper. It was a relaxing diversion from the “quick, whats gotta be done next” mindset. And so when I go home tonight this Valentine’s Day, even though my under-the-weather sweetheart won’t be greeting me with a finely prepared gourmet meal,as is our Valentine’s Day ritual, I’ll be doing just fine. I’ll have a glass of the passionately intense 2007 Alberto Furque Malbec to jazz up my dinner, read “Scooby Doo’s Valentine Mystery” to my daughter and hopefully watch a movie from beginning to end with my sneezing husband at home in our love nest. Now that’s a good Valentine’s Day! I hope yours is too!! Anya

The One That Won’t Get Away

Friday, February 27, 2009 9:32 PM

At The Wine House there are a few wines that come and go so quickly that they never get the proper attention that they deserve. Such a wine is Mas de Bressades’ Viognier/Roussanne. Loyal fans and local restaurants gobble up this wine before we ever get a chance to make a fuss over it. This vintage will be different, as I am making a point to select the 2007 Viognier/Roussanne as my “STAFF PICK OF THE WEEK”, just as it is rolling off our newly arrived container. Truth be told, viognier is not a favorite of mine. Sure I have been blown away by Condrieu, and there was a time (a very long time ago) when I was enamored by California viogniers, but at this point in my life it rarely appears in my repertoire. Most taste of canned peaches and finish flabby and dull. I like viogniers that show off exotic aromatics but can reign in all that headiness with some complimentary acidity. This combination is hard to find without spending a lot of money. Thankfully, Cyril Mares from Mas de Bressades crafts an elegant blend (roughly 50/50) of barrel-fermented viognier and roussanne managing to achieve balance of fruit with structure minus the high-price tag ($19.99 per bottle/ $16.99 with case discount). Every time I taste this wine, I swoon with pleasure over the tropical fruit notes, long finish and creamy texture. This is fancy stuff!

I have just arrived from vacation and I am still moving in Maui mode. Longing to keep this feeling going, I went to the flower market before work today to purchase stems of Red Ginger. This weekend I plan to sauté up some prawns, serve it with a chilled glass of the 2007 Viognier/Roussanne from Mas de Bressades and stare at my flowers as my tanned daughter picks off the petals. Anya Balistreri


On the nose, a tropical concoction of lychee nuts, orange blossom, and white jasmine; on the palate,exotic flavors of nectarine and papaya that finish long and creamy, just a tiny hint of coconut. Texturally it is round and full, not heavy nor flabby. Lots of fresh, vibrant fruit moved along and uplifted by zippy minerality. The flavors stay in the mouth long after the glass is empty.

Year of the Mutt

Friday, March 6, 2009 4:16 PM

2006 Portrait of a Mutt Zinfandel
2006 Mutt Lynch Winery Zinfandel Portrait of a Mutt Sonoma County

Red Wine; Zinfandel; Sonoma;

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What’s not to love? The 2006 Portrait of a Mutt is 75% zinfandel sourced from a Dry Creek Valley vineyard with the balance old vine carignane from the Stone Vineyard in Alexander Valley and is aged in used French oak barrels all for $9.98! The Wine House has been selling Portrait of a Mutt zinfandel for some time now. The 2006 is the third vintage to grace our shelves, but I don’t think we’ve ever described its goodness in any newsletter or staff email. Our oversight is probably due to the fact that without any fanfare the wine sells steadily, gaining loyal fans who purchase it by the case. I like to bring this zin to backyard cook-outs and family gatherings. I love the purity of fruit in the wine; it is zesty and full of plum and blackberry. What I especially appreciate is the un-vamped flavors that emerge from the glass. I attribute that quality to the aging in used French oak and to the blending. I love zinfandel, always have.Zinfandel reminds me of summers spent on the Russian River picking sticky sweet blackberries in the summer sun. However, I have come to the conclusion that zinfandel benefits from blending, as in the old tradition of field blending. In the case of the Portrait of a Mutt, the addition of old-vine carignane gives added nuance and dimension. Not heavy-handed or massive, the medium-bodied structure of the Mutt assures versatility and food-friendliness. This is a good thing indeed.

A quick conversation with the winemaker, Brenda Lynch, clued me into a few news tidbits: they recently garnered some medals at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and are pouring their award-winning wines at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition’s public tasting . Sadly, since the tasting is happening as I am writing this email, you might be thinking why bother mentioning it? But maybe you were lucky enough to attend, tasted the zin and want to know where to find it. We have it!


And now, for my shameless grand finale: I couldn’t resist including a picture of my beloved mutt, Marty. Marty has been known to spend the day at The Wine House. After all, what’s a fine wine establishment without a dog? Despite his mutt pedigree, Marty has a refined palate. No, really! The weekend is showing great promise with a trip to Napa. On our drive up, an obligatory stop for a glass of fizz at Gloria Ferrer is in order (thank you Anita!). Stopping there is always a chance to taste something lovely and to remind ourselves of how fortunate we are to be living in such a beautiful place! Anya Balistreri

2006 Monthelie, Xavier Monnot

Thursday, March 19, 2009 2:21 PM

The saying goes that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is…not this time!A deeply scented, aromatic pinot noir from a dedicated, driven winemaker for $29.95 (on purchases of 6 or more bottles) and it’s B-U-R-G-U-N-D-Y? Yes, it’s true!!! I am so enthralled by this 2006 Monthelie from Monnot, I find it almost too difficult to put down my thoughts. My love affair began with a chance sampling, and then was consummated over an evening just spent smelling it. Not one to restrain myself from kicking back a glass when wine smells this good, the incense-laden/bright fruit aromas kept me from taking a sip. I could not help sticking my nose back into the glass. I just couldn’t get enough of that scent. My delayed gratification did not last for long though, because after all it’s Burgundy and it tastes so good! It is important to point out that even without our special pricing, this stellar Burgundy offers value and is worth every penny.

It just so happened that Xavier Monnot recently visited The Wine House for the second year in a row with his good friend and fellow winemaker Herve Gantier of Domaine Sainte-Eugenie. Witty and serious about wine, Xavier revealed that his Monthelie comes from the single vineyard, Les Sous Courts, which lies right next to Monthelie’s top Premier Cru vineyard, Les Duresses. He confessed to us that he is proud that his wines taste like where they come from: his Volnays taste different from his Beaunes, which taste different from his Monthelies, etc. I could not agree more! Tasting through a range of his wines, you could easily identify the unique regional differences. The heavy-handed imprint of a winemaker is absent. This is not the first time our staff has singled out and featured the wines of Monnot. If you take the time to read over our past reviews, it will become clear that what draws us to Monnot’s wines is the transparency and pureness of fruit. This past Friday, I engaged in a long, passionate discussion with winemaker Mick Unti of Unti Vineyards about how when participating in a comparative wine tasting, it is often the big, showy wines that score highest. We agreed that these wines are indeed impressive, but they are not necessarily the wines we prefer to drink the entire evening. Along these lines, Xavier Monnot is often quoted as saying “I make wines when you drink one glass, you’ll want to finish the bottle”.


The 2006 Monthelie tastes of concentrated red berries mingled with red earth and gravel. The aromatics are explosive with notes of raspberry, incense and beeswax. Overall, this is an elegant, yet sturdy, pinot noir that is charming and accessible even at this early stage. In fact, I would say this is a wine to drink tonight without any pangs of guilt over drinking it too young.Anya Balistreri

Sauvignon In Springtime

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 1:56 PM


Spring has arrived! How can I tell? Well for one thing, the wisteria that is threatening to throttle my neighbor’s bamboo has unfurled a few pendulous, purple flowers. Also, lemons and juicy citrus fruit are abundant at the market. This last indicator leads me to my latest obsession – preserved lemons. I can’t get enough of that salty, bittersweet tang that preserved lemons lend to dishes. The bountiful Meyer lemon tree that my late grandfather planted 30 plus years ago is essential for making an especially intense preserved lemon (there is a fabulously simple recipe inThe Zuni Cafe Cookbook). I chop up the pungent peel into EVERYTHING: risotto with roasted asparagus, root vegetable stew with Moroccan spices, relishes of all types, just to name a few dishes. And to wash this all down perfectly is my “staff pick of the week” the 2007 Montpezat Sauvignon! This is an ideal wine to usher in springtime. Warmer, sunnier weather dictates a lighter, fresher white that can at once be a lovely sipping wine yet complex enough to showcase spring’s tender young greens. To further entice you, The Wine House is offering SPECIAL PRICING: on sale for $9.95 a bottle or $88 per case ($7.34 per bottle – that’s almost 40% off by the case!!!). It’s simple really; we want to make it easy for you to enjoy quality wine everyday of the week!


A little background on Montpezat: Christophe Blanc is a third-generation winemaker for his family’s 100 acre estate. The estate is situated near the medieval town of Pezenas, located in the heart of the Languedoc. Christophe, though quiet and understated in a large crowd, gets animated and passionate when he talks about his wines one on one. He is meticulous and disciplined, overseeing all aspects of making wine. I remember a lovely evening spent at a tiny pizzeria in Nimes drinking his hearty, full-bodied wines along with a group of wine industry folk. David and I enjoyed Christophe’s wines and he took notice. Christophe’s eyes twinkled, and asked if we wanted to taste something new. Of course we did! Out came a bottle from underneath the table. Christophe was demonstrably excited and proud of his wine offerings. I’ve been a fan of his reds, so I was happy to find the same intensity ending up in his white wine.


The 2007 Sauvignon is a weighty white with lots of amplitude and girth for the varietal. That being said, it is all tank-fermented so the body is attributable to the quality of the grapes. Neither grassy nor assertive, I perceive flavors of lemon custard and citrus peel with an ever so slight note of tropical fruit. That lemony rich fruit glides along the palate and finishes with fresh acidity and verve. At my last Friday Night Fish Fry, I enjoyed the palate teasing freshness of the wine while I prepared the salad. For dinner, the pasta with juicy prawns sauteed with shallots, garlic and touches of saffron was enhanced by the citrusy flavors of the 2007 Monpezat Sauvignon. Anything too floral or oaky would have destroyed this dish. Versatility is the name of the game here. In anticipation of upcoming holidays and celebrations, it makes sense to have a stash of this delicious white! Believe me, I’ve tasted a lot of sauvignon blanc from all parts of the globe lately and have not found anything close to this in terms of price, value and character. Anya Balistreri

Sutton Cellars

Wednesday, April 15, 2009 3:41 PM




I am not afraid to admit it – I love dessert wines. I like to tease that a little sugar and alcohol goes a long way to tempt me. That is not to say that any dessert wine will do. No, no. The pleasure of dessert wine is in the balance between fruit and perceptible sweetness. If too fruity, it is grapey and dull. If too sweet, you’ve got a wine cloying and flat. All the elements have to come together so that you find yourself reaching for just one more glass…


Carl Sutton realized his dream of starting a winery in 1996. Before that he was involved in the wine business in both production and retail (I remember him when he was still a wine buyer for Andy’s Produce in Sebastopol). Now housed in a charming facility along bucolic Adobe Road in Petaluma, Carl continues to make hand-crafted small lots of single varietal wines mostly from Sonoma County vineyards. What I am about to mention next will probably come off like a wine store newsletter cliché, but it is absolutely true: the Wine House has a huge following for Carl’s wines and therefore we try to keep something in stock at all times. The single most asked for wine from Sutton Cellars happens to be a dessert wine he makes from zinfandel, which he now calls “Vino Generoso”. The zinfandel that goes into this wine comes from 40 year old vines grown in the Russian River Valley. After stopping fermentation by adding neutral spirits, the grapes are pressed and then the wine is left to age for 16 months in neutral American oak barrels. Carl does not fill the barrels to capacity. This allows the wine to be effected slightly by oxidation, giving the wine its unique and delightful nutty, toffee notes. “Vino Generoso” is a cross between late harvest zinfandel, a Banyuls and a tawny port.The jammy berry aromas of the zinfandel are prevalent, but on the palate that berry goodness is intermingled with butter brickle and coffee flavors. What I especially delight in is the playful exchange of flavors between the sweet and a salty/savory finish, that’s where the Banyuls comparison comes in. The wine stays fresh and lively up to a month after opening.



When I throw a dinner party, I spend so much time trying to figure out what to prepare for a main course, I inevitably forget to plan for dessert. My quick fix solution is a bottle of dessert wine. With the “Vino Generoso”, I like to pair it with anything chocolatey (I have a penchant for Pepperidge Farm’s Brussels cookies) or something nutty like a walnut tart. So do yourself a favor and try a bottle (or two or six) and watch those leftover chocolate Easter eggs disappear! Anya Balistreri

2007 Carlisle Syrahs

Monday, April 20, 2009 6:13 PM



I am not able to recall specific dates as easily as my colleague, Pete, but I am pretty sure the last year I attended a ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) tasting was back in ’97. It was the first time I was made aware of a table that sampled wines that had been entered into competition for home winemakers. My strategy at these big events is to always ask people I know what shouldn’t I miss tasting? Strangely, the answer that came back time after time that year was not Turley, Ridge, or Biale, but “you’ve got to try that Carlisle wine on the home winemaker’s table”. I did and WOW what a triumph. The name Carlisle did not ring a bell, but the winemaker, Mike Officer, did. Mike was a Wine House customer who was known to purchase a bottle of Rhone, or two. I remember cornering Mike, asking him to promise to offer his wines to the Wine House if he ever starts to sell his wines commercially. Sure enough, 1998 was the first commercial release for Carlisle and the first to grace the shelves at the Wine House. Since then I’ve witnessed the evolution of Carlisle wines from little known and well regarded to now considered one of California’s premier producer of top quality zinfandels and syrahs. Carlisle wines generate a lot of excitement and anticipation each year. Sourcing fruit from some of California’s oldest and best placed vineyards ensures the quality of fruit, but it’s the finished wine that entices the palate. Carlisle wines are not shy or restrained by any means. That being said, all the while remaining deeply fruited, rich and concentrated, Mike is able to achieve in his wines complexity of flavor and maintain balance. Anya Balistreri
2007 Carlisle Winery Syrah Russian River Valley

Red Wine; Syrah/Shiraz; Sonoma;

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Winery Tasting Note: Opaque purple. Even the bubbles are black. Concentrated, brooding aromas of blackberry, acacia flower, graphite, and peppery spice. What a sniff! On the palate, totally seamless with impeccable balance. Served blind, many knowledgeable wine drinkers might guess Crozes-Hermitage. While enjoyable now with a good decanting, peak drinking should be between 2010 through 2016.
2007 Carlisle Winery Syrah Dry Creek Valley

Red Wine; Syrah/Shiraz; Sonoma;

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Winery Tasting Note: Black ruby-purple. A perfumed nose of blackberry, cassis, and spring flowers (the viognier perhaps?) emerges from the glass. Full-bodied but like a welterweight champion, light on its feet thanks to healthy acidity and refreshing tannins on the finish. Drink this refined but authoritative syrah from 2012 through 2020.
2007 Carlisle Winery Syrah Papa’s Block Russian River Valley

Red Wine; Syrah/Shiraz; Sonoma;

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Winery Tasting Note: An opaque black-purple core leads to a deep ruby rim. Head-turning aromas of mulberry, black olive, licorice, and violets titillate the senses. On the palate, full-bodied but smooth as silk. Nary a rough edge to be found. Enjoy this hedonistic wine (and raise a glass to Papa!) from release through 2014.Parker’s notes: Bigger, richer, and fuller is the 2007 Syrah Papa’s Block, a gorgeous, full-bodied effort displaying roasted coffee, blackberry, acacia flower, licorice, and dark raspberry characteristics. This full-bodied, dense, chewy, smooth-as-silk Syrah will provide superb drinking over the next 8-9 years. WINE ADVOCATE (92-94PTS.)

2003 Il Templare

Thursday, April 30, 2009 5:21 PM

2003 Montenidoli Il Templare

White Wine; White Blend; Tuscany;



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Someone wise once wrote “I don’t believe in coincidence. Nope, no such thing.” This same person and I both, perchance (?), recently drank a bottle of the 2003 Il Templare from Montenidoli within a day of each other. As is customary at The Wine House, we like to update one another how we spent our weekend or day off. These updates always include wine drinking highlights. We swapped notes on the Il Templare. Here is what I shared: indulging once again my craving for preserved lemons, I invited my parents over for dinner. I served Risotto with lemons and roasted asparagus for the entree. My parents introduced me to wine at an early age. Being emigres from Russia, it was deemed appropriate for young children to have “tastes” of wine at special occasions. I was hooked, most likely, from the very first sip. Anyway, my parents drink and enjoy Californian wines. So, from time to time I like to serve them something different. The 2003 Il Templare is different. First of all it’s a blend of 6 grape varieties: Vernaccia, Trebbiano, Malvasia Bianco, Semillon, Verdicchio and Grechetto. All these varietals were found in the old vineyards of the Montenidoli estate. The wine is fermented in barrel, giving off a lovely hint of Burgundian butter cream on the nose. The richness persists on the palate but is supported by this incisive and zippy acidity. This combination is what makes this wine so perfect for food. I did not hold back on the butter or parmesan for the risotto, so the Il Templare nicely cut through all that fat. A bottle of 2003 Il Templare and suddenly a Thursday night impromptu dinner with the folks was a real celebration.

When I came to work this week, still suffering from my Eastern Orthodox Easter celebration, I could not believe my eyes! The Il Templare was put on sale as part of an in-store promotion for 25% off the bottle price! That did it! I had to pick this wine as my “staff pick of the week”. I was excited about this wine when it was $19.99 per bottle, $16.99 by the case. At $14.95 per bottle, it is downright dancing-on-the-table time. The coincidences keep coming, or not…. Anya Balistreri


2003 Montenidoli Il Templare

White Wine; White Blend; Tuscany;



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Peter’s Thoughts

Ya know, I’m going to stick to my guns here, there is no such thing as coincidence. Even though my Russian parents thought it was important to allow me to taste the wines on special occasions when I was a child. Even though I was hooked early on. Even though I just celebrated Eastern Orthodox Easter. Even though both Anya and I chose to taste this wine 24 hours apart.

Brevity not being my strong suit, I’ll try my best here. A recent visit to my best friend’s cellar had him pulling some white wines to take upstairs in preparation for the recent heat wave. I spotted a bottle of the 2003 Il Templare, pulled it, and said, “Make sure I’m around when you pop this one.” A few days later, I was invited over for an impromptu jam session. Only problem was, it was after work, and he didn’t have any food. The text messaging went something like this: What time?, 7:15, What about dinner?, Gira Polli, Great we can open that wine you wanted. So I popped in to Gira Polli, picked up a whole rotisserie chicken, swiss chard, and pasta and was on my way. Now this is the part I was regretting. Anya is so good at tasting notes, I mean, come on, Burgundian butter cream? How can I follow that? I know, with my big mouth, or fingers, or whatever. So yes, we popped the wine and poured it. It had a pale golden tone to it with spicy, complex aromatics. On the palate, it was the perfect wine for our meal! It had a nutty, spicy note that complimented the slight char of the rotisserie perfectly. Alive and vibrant, it stood right up to the mild red pasta sauce, and a bite of swiss chard served as a brilliant precursor to demonstrating the fine texture of white fruit in the wine. Even my friend was astonished. I love it when I get a pairing dialed in perfectly.

So you see, there is no such thing as coincidence. This write-up in praise of the 2003 Sono Montenidoli Il Templare was meant to be! – Peter Zavialoff

A Rosé Like No Other

Thursday, May 14, 2009 2:16 PM

I’ve been on a Wine House high. Last weekend I participated in an event at Golden Gate Meat Company that introduced their new line of grass fed beef to Bay Area chefs. I poured a few of our wines, and the positive response was nothing short of overwhelming. And then on Wednesday night, I joined David Netzer, store manager and the force behind the Wine House, along with Diane de Puymorin, winemaker for Chateau d’Or et des Gueules and Domaine de la Petite Cassagne, and 16 other wine lovers for a fabulous winemaker dinner at Nopa-more on that later! There is great stuff happening here and it all begins with the wine.


So, I am getting ready to write this email when it occurs to me that I should check my customer “want list” because I recall someone asking to be contacted when the 2008 Rosé Touraine from Domaine des Corbillieres finally arrives. Sure enough there was someone, so I call this customer. She politely tells me “thank you for the call, but I checked with the store earlier this week, was told it just arrived, and I bought some already”. This type of passion and zeal for a wine is usually reserved for high end Napa cabernets or high-scoring Bordeaux and Burgundy, not rosé.But alas this is no ordinary rosé, but a most delicate, nuanced, ethereal rosé from the Loire Valley. Unlike the rosés of sunny southern France, the Touraine rosé from Domaine de Corbillieres is ever so slightly pink and not at all a full frontal attack of fruit. No, this rosé is fresh and zesty on the palate with understated flavors of ripe peach and strawberry, lots of lift and snappy fruit flavors and a dry finish. Stick your nose in the glass and you could swear you were picking strawberries out in the garden.And then there is the color, oh how exquisite and sublime, like the thinnest, sheerest slice of fresh caught salmon imaginable. I was inspired to take out my Benjamin Moore color wheel. I have the color pegged somewhere between Bermuda pink and Sanibel peach. The Touraine Rosé from Domaine des Corbillieres, year after year, sells out the quickest of all our rosés. It has been my experience that those who normally shy away from rosé, gravitate and delight in the delicacy of this wine. I recently opened a bottle to serve with a pork tenderloin that I marinated in a combination of every single Asian condiment I could find in my fridge and pantry. It worked beautifully, however I think that the piece de resistancewould be a match up with salmon, or some other meaty fish.

This week my daughter was down for the count with the flu. At any given time, I was used as a pillow, blanket and, my personal favorite, a tissue. As I tried to comfort this fever-ridden child, I could not help but get teary eyed as I thought how happy I was to be her mother. Maybe I am the sick one here. This Mother’s Day I will still be working, as my husband and I have an annual brunch celebrating our biological and spiritual mothers. To all you Mothers out there, I salute you! Anya Balistreri

The Ultimate Refrigerator Door White

Wednesday, May 27, 2009 2:24 PM


Mercury is in retrograde
. My best friend pointed it out to me, as did my colleague Pete. What does that mean? As best I can understand it, communication gets all messed up. Perhaps this explains why on Wednesday the Wine House email database had to be rebuilt or why on my day off, with a list of 10 really important things to complete, I couldn’t get a dial tone on my home phone. This wouldn’t have been such a big deal except that my cell phone does not get reception near my house. I had to go over to my best friend’s house to use her phone; thankfully she was there. Turns out she was waiting for the repair service to fix her Internet connection. So how does this relate to the 2007 Grüner Veltliner from Ecker? Well it reminds me that having a wine that you can count on to deliver flavor and pleasure becomes all the more important.




The Grüner Veltliner from Berger (which is available for purchase) is wildly popular and elicits exclamations like “oh, I love that stuff!” or “I’ll take a case of that”. I echo that sentiment. As I reached for a bottle, I couldn’t help but wonder about the other bottle of Grüner Veltliner stacked up next to it. David, our Austrian/German buyer, is always finding new, tasty treats, so I figured it was time to try something different. The Ecker, bottled in a tinted green bottle that could be mistaken for mineral water, made its way to the lower right spot on my refrigerator door. 

After proper chilling, it was time to twist off the cap and pour a glass. I am always amazed at the range of flavors that Veltliners show from herbal, green earthy flavors to riper, more succulent and unctuous flavors. The Ecker has a sweet smelling floral aroma like mimosa or tree blossoms. That delicate floral aroma moves from the nose to the palate. Next a spicy green, mineral note comes rushing in on the floral qualities. This combination is jolly and refreshing. The importer of this wine, Terry Theise, describes it as having “spring-water clear honesty”. At 12% alcohol, you can enjoy this wine any time of day without feeling like you’ve been run over by a freight train. AND, it comes in a liter bottle, prolonging the pleasure! The versatile, adaptable Grüner Veltliner is particularly food-friendly and works magic with artichokes, pungent bitter salad greens, and asparagus. On this occasion, I drank the Ecker with grilled chicken breasts that I served with a salsa composed of mango, cantaloupe, cucumbers and lots and lots of lime juice and a bunch of cilantro. The grassy cilantro with the Grüner Veltliner made a celestial match. As my candidate for the ultimate refrigerator door white, I found that this wine held up nicely after opening. I finished off the bottle on Day 3 and it was still fresh and lively. The long weekend looks to be promising especially after a rare night-on-the-town date with my husband. However, I am not convinced that the fog will burn off early enough to make it enjoyable swimming in the Russian River, where I’m headed. I am also quite certain that I will have little success in convincing my daughter of this! Oh dear! My clan is planning to make ribs three different ways. Who do they think they are, Michael Mina? I’ve got salad and sides duty, and the wine of course! Anya Balistreri

Domaine Fondreche–2007 Fayard

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 4:56 PM

The things that stick in your mind…

I was driving home, listening to the radio, when the person being interviewed mentioned that sales for Harlequin Romance novels have seen a sharp increase in 2009. As forms of communication and media rapidly change, it makes sense to me that more of us would want to fall back on simple pleasures like an easy read… or a delicious bottle of red! With this in mind, allow me to recommend a red that made me swoon – the 2007 Cotes du Ventoux Fayard from Domaine de Fondreche. As I sit here in front of the computer screen, I can imagine everything about the wine perfectly; the taste memory is vivid and it lingers. A hedonistic fruit missile of a wine, the Fayard drips with cherry red fruit and mouth-coating opulence.

There is a temptation to want to write every detail of my experience tasting this wine. The temptation is driven by my intense hope to convince you just how delicious this wine is and how disappointing it would be for anyone to miss tasting the 2007 Fayard. I’ve been known to choke, like the time when I was bowling with friends in Cleveland the night before my friend Jack’s wedding and all I had to do to win was to hit just one pin. Of course I threw a gutterball and my husband, then boyfriend, threw a strike to win (though I am pretty sure he was w-a-a-y over the line!). An admitted poor loser, I was devastated. I wanted it too badly. I am afraid I am running the risk of choking here again. How do I describe a wine I enjoyed immensely without falling into cliché? The trick is to go with it head on. So here it goes! The 2007 Fayard is a brand new cuvee from Sebastien Vincenti at Domaine Fondreche. The Cotes du Ventoux appellation is within the Rhone Valley and flanks Mount Ventoux. Sebastien Vincenti, who learned from Rhone master Andre Brunel, has taken this lesser known region and has exceeded expectations by reducing yields and creating pure, fruit driven wines. The Fayard is a blend of 50% grenache, 30% syrah, 10% carignan and 10% mourvedre. After vinification the wine sits on its lees in tank for 9 months before bottling. There are no hard edges; there are no hard tannins. Rounded, weighty fruit persists and tantalizes. The color is a mesmerizing shock of fuchsia. Flavors of sweet tangy Bing cherries and fragrant raspberries dominate. Beware: this wine goes down real easy! In the movie “Big” circa 1988, Tom Hanks plays a boy who wakes up one day to finds himself a grown man. In the film, his co-worker and lady-friend (she doesn’t know of his transformation and has grown-up feelings for him) invites herself to his place for a sleep-over. As he is about to open the door, he announces to her – “I get to be on top!” This line kept popping into my head as I drank this wine. Anya Balistreri
2007 Domaine de Fondreche Cotes du Ventoux Fayard

Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Rhone;
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“Like most of its siblings, the 2007 Cotes du Ventoux Fayard (a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Carignan) includes the smallest amount possible of SO2. Classic raspberry, kirsch, licorice, underbrush, and spice box characteristics emerge from this rich, medium to full-bodied, fresh wine. It finishes with considerable power as well as length. Enjoy this impressive Cotes du Ventoux over the next 3-4 years.” 91 points, Wine Advocate #181, Feb. 2009

And now for something totally different…

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 4:36 PM

I’m gonna make this pencil disappear!
2005 Fortitude Field Blend Napa

Red Wine; other red varietal; Napa;
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The perfect scenario: Saturday night, following a lovely dinner and successfully getting my ebullient child early to bed, a chance to finally catch a flick – The Dark Knight! The evening was made all the better with a bottle of 2005 Frediani Field Blend from Fortitude.Like the movie, this is a really dark stuff. A black-fruited complex mélange of Charbono (58%), Carignane (32%), Petite Sirah (5%), and Valdiguie (5%), this unique blend from Napa Valley is a project conceived by Tony Soter of Etude Wines. The idea behind the project is tohonor multi-generational wine growers by putting their name smack dab in the middle of the label. Now the Frediani name is not new to us, as we’ve been enjoying T-Vine Wine Cellars Napa Valley Syrah from this self-same vineyard for many vintages. I read somewhere that the Frediani family have been farming in the Napa Valley since 1898. Today, the Frediani’s farm about 9 acres of Charbono, the oldest vines planted in 1935!!! While I’m throwing out a bunch of statistics, here are some more: there are less than 100 acres of Charbono grown in California, half of it in northern Napa Valley. Not too many folks making wine with this grape and it’s a shame really.


Charbono was once thought to be related to Barbera or Dolcetto. After tasting the Frediani Field Blend, you can easily understand how this confusion could have occurred. The Frediani Field Blend has lovely blueberry and plum flavors, gentle tannins with some rip-roaring lively acidity. The Frediani Field Blend is Italianesque; it has none of the overpowering fruitiness one associates with New World wines. It is now known that Charbono is in fact related to a grape, one with many names, grown in the Savoie region of France and may ultimately be a relative of Dolcetto. This of course is all very interesting, but what about the wine? Well, as I’ve noted, there are layers of tart plum and darker berry flavors with an uncommon acid structure that I found pleasurable and refreshing. The first time I tasted this wine I was transported to a time when California made heartier, more rustic wines. Not to mention, it has 12.8% alcohol, which is practically unheard of these days. Not that I’m a basher of high alcohol wines (just like with oak, its all about the balance!), I think the lower alcohol translates to a brighter, more vivid fruit experience. Pair with tomato-based sauces or gooey cheesy things, as it will be able to cut through the fat or complement the acid in the tomatoes. I know what you’re thinking, ’cause so am I – PIZZA! Va Bene! So next time you find yourself enjoying a movie night at home, remember to order up your favorite pie, pour yourself a glass of the Frediani Field Blend and enjoy the show! Last month I made a point to mention Mother’s Day. I feel equally compelled to send greetings and shout-outs to all the Fathers out there celebrating their Day this Sunday. Thank you for all you do! Papachka, ya tebe lyublu. Anechka Balistreri

Brandborg Pinot Noir

Tuesday, July 7, 2009 3:49 PM

I’m not prone to nationalistic sentimentality, but because I grew up in a household with parents who had to flee their native land, freedom and independence were never just abstract ideals. It seemed important for me to choose an American wine for my staff selection this Independence Day weekend. In this spirit, I want to shine a spotlight on the 2006 Pinot Noir “Bench Lands” from Brandborg. Terry Brandborg is not new on the scene. Back in the early 90’s, I was delighted with Brandborg’s Anderson Valley Pinot Noir that he made in a facility in Richmond, CA. Sometime in 2001, Terry and his partner Sue ventured north and settled in the Umpqua Valley in southern Oregon. There they have been able to realize their dream of running a winery and vineyard. The “Bench Lands” bottling is produced from fruit sourced from a number of vineyards that are situated along the Umpqua River. The vineyards, though differing in soil types, all share the benefits of cool maritime air and fog that get sucked in from the coast which lies only 25 miles away. Ideal conditions for growing Pinot.


If you’ve ever come by our store asking for a recommendation on a domestic Pinot Noir under $20, you may have noticed my face scrunch up like I just sucked on a lemon. It is not that there aren’t any Pinot Noir at that price range, it is just that there aren’t too many good ones. Trust me when I say, we’ve tasted a lot of wine in the hopes of finding that good one. Well, that “one” is the 2006 Pinot Noir “Bench Lands”. This Pinot Noir has lush dark fruit, more plum-like than cherry, with distinctive earth and spice notes, reminding you that you’re drinking a wine from Oregon. A recent article in Wine & Spirits magazine bestowed a 90 point rating for this wine. A high score no doubt but the real revelation is that similar high scoring Oregon Pinot Noirs had price tags of $40-$60. Now I’m not suggesting that point scores are the only way to evaluate a wine (I’ve participated on many tasting panels and know a bit how they work), but I do know that cream rises to the top and the 2006 Pinot Noir “Bench Lands” is awhopping deal!!!


In the July issue of Decanter magazine an article titled “How to get your kids into wine” caught my attention. While I haven’t yet read the article, it reminded me of a delightful episode that occurred the previous evening. As I was sampling yet another wine while making dinner, a screechy noise made me turn around. My daughter, dressed up in her latest Disney princess attire, was swirling sparkling pomegranate juice, which she insists on drinking from a wine glass. “Mama, why do we swirl?” she asked. “It smells better that way,” I answered. Satisfied with my explanation, she took a sip. Anya Balistreri

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