2014 Domaine Fondreche Ventoux Blanc

Tuesday, February 9, 2016 9:25 PM

Fondrèche Ventoux Blanc
TWH has been proudly carrying the wines of Fondrècheever since Sébastien Vincenti joined his mother, Nanou Barthelémy, in making wine at the domaine in the mid-1990’s. Sébastien quickly gained recognition for making some of the finest wines from Ventoux, often scoring 90 points or above in many wine journals, notably The Wine Advocate. Early on, Sébastien became interested in the principle of sustainable farming. He farmed organicallyand adopted many of the ideas of biodynamic farming. Not one to conform, he recently withdrew his organic certification since becoming officially certified in 2009. Sébastien cited that in order to stay true to his philosophy of organic farming he can’t be restricted by rigid rules (if you want to learn more about it, click here).
Only 4% of the wine production of the Ventoux is white; I’d say that’s pretty miniscule. Fortunately, Fondréche makes a blanc using Grenache, Roussanne and a bit of Clairette and Rolle (aka Vermentino). I’ve been eyeing the2014 Ventoux blanc, which arrived at the end of last year, wanting to take it home to see how it performs with a home-cooked meal. This week I bought a bottle because I was in the mood for a fuller white that would maintain minerality and was not Chardonnay (no offense Chardonnay – I remain a fan forever!). My daughter put in a request for oven fried chicken. I was more than happy to oblige because who doesn’t love super crispy skin and I had a hunch that the 2014 Ventoux blanc would pair well with it.
The 2014 Ventoux blanc has seductive roasted and smoky aromatic notes. It could lure you into thinking it is Chardonnay, as it did my husband, but once you take a sip, it’s evident that it is something else. The flavors are less apple/pear like Chardonnay and more peach skin and under ripe apricots. The saline finish keeps things fresh and vibrant. Though it paired nicely with the chicken, this wine has enough attack to pair with fish dishes. The Ventoux blanc was aged in barrel for six months which lends it a supple texture and adds complexity. The oak treatment is quite deft, leaving the fruit to do most of the talking. I’ve tasted Chateauneuf du Pape blancs with far less character and verve. The 2014 Ventoux blanc is a very strong value in the context of upper-level Rhône whites.
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em; so, yes, I’ll be watching Super Bowl 50 with friends at a party. I don’t have a horse in the race, so I’ll mostly be savoring the snacks. The Bay Area has been all a buzz with the impending game for obvious reasons, so to pretend that I can avoid it seems silly. My taste for football has waned in the last decade or so. I think it has something to do with becoming a mother; I can’t bare to see anyone get hurt. That said, watching an NFL football game brings out the worse in me in no time. Before I know it, I’m yelling “get him”, “smash him”, or worse! The adrenaline starts pumping and my normally pacifist self is ready for a fight. I am a much better, gentler person when I watch baseball. Don’t miss kick off!– Anya Balistreri

Ouled Thaleb: Morocco’s Finest

Monday, August 25, 2014 5:50 PM

The Wine House has been stocking the wines of Ouled Thaleb for nearly two years!Our reputation for carrying a vast selection of French wine may cause some to overlook the global wine selection at the The Wine House but we have wines from Central Europe, the Southern Hemisphere and beyond. Thebeyond part takes us to Ouled Thaleb, one of Morocco’s leading wineries established in 1923. The winery is located twenty miles northeast of Casablanca in the Zenata appellation. The Zenata AOG is prized for its coastal climate, sandy shale and gravelly sand soils, and high elevation. The history of wine production in Morocco is said to go back 4,000 years and has appeared and disappeared over the centuries. In the late 1880’s French winegrowers came to Morocco seeking new areas to plant while back home phylloxera was creating havoc and devastation. In 1923 Morocco became a protectorate of France and the cultivation of vines grew to over 130,000 acres. When France left Morocco in 1956 many of the vineyards turned fallow. However in the 1990’s French winemakers returned to Morocco at the urging of its king to lease vineyards and replant.I hope this very brief history lesson is not a total bore, but I find it helps to better understand why there is such a prevalence of traditional French varietals planted in Morocco.


Two years ago, a young Frenchman came into our store and asked whether we’d be interested in tasting wine from Morocco. I jumped at the chance to have a new wine experience. I remember tasting Moroccan wine years and years ago at a restaurant in the Richmond district called Mamounia’s – nothing impressive, but fine and drinkable. I’m sure in those days not much made it out of Morocco and even today, it’s extremely limited.Fortunately for us, this young Frenchman has a strong passion for wine and believes deeply in the potential for great wines from this area of the world. He poured me the entire portfolio from Ouled Thaleb. I was immediately captivated, not only because it was exotic and new, but because the wine tasted so good. The Moroccan White Blend is, you guessed it, a blend of the native varietal Faranah and Clairette. It is a bright, stainless steel fermented, citrus-laden, zippy white. Lots of clean flavors that encourage casual sipping or perhaps a seafood match-up. The Moroccan Red Blend (also a blend!) is comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. A juicy, medium-bodied red that sees a short stay in oak barrel, flavors of red plum, ripe cherry dominate with hints of spice. The two Moroccan Blends are perfect everyday wines offering high value to price ratio. The Ouled Thaleb Syrah steps it up a notch, offering a dark smokey fruit profile, a dead ringer for a Northern Rhone Crozes-Hermitage.  Speaking of Crozes-Hermitage, famed vigneron Alain Graillot visited Ouled Thaleb some time back and was so impressed with their Syrah, he collaborated with them, creating his own “barrel-selected” bottling. I like to turn people on to Ouled Thaleb Syrah who express both interest in Syrah and enjoy the more finesse-ful side of the varietal.


So where did summer vacation go? School started up this week and it caught me totally unprepared. Granted my focus has been elsewhere, but I just wish I had a few more weeks to laze around in that unscheduled nirvana of summer vacation. The calendar is back up and filling in quickly with after school activities and all the other stuff surrounding elementary school. My consolation is that we’re entering prime tomato season!My own tomato plants had a surge of ripening a few weeks back and have tapered off due to the cooler nights we’ve had in the Bay Area of late. Thankfully the good folks at the Farmer’s Market travel far with their heat-soaked sweet tomatoes! I might take a cue from my own weekend write-up and put together a Moroccan-spiced eggplant tangine to serve with one or all three of the Ouled Thaleb wines offered here at The Wine House! Be adventurous with your tastebuds. Anya Balistreri


2011 Tour de l’Isle Cotes du Rhone Blanc

Monday, September 23, 2013 8:23 PM


September 22 – The first day of autumn, 2013. Yep, things are changing … rapidly. There seem to be an abundance of fallen leaves already strewn about the ground; evening temperatures have taken a turn to the cooler; and beginning last night and lasting through today in the Bay Area, we got our first rainstorm of the season! I guess I did actually jinx the weather at the end of my write-up two weeks ago. No matter if I did or didn’t, the fact remains that it is now fall. What does fall mean to us? Well, to me, it means the days are getting shorter, Champions’ League group stage has begun, and it’s become time to eat more seafood. Living next to the Pacific Ocean, one doesn’t necessarily need to adhere to ye olde adage about not eating shellfish in months with no ‘R’s, but I’m still pretty careful anyway. And with crab season in the not too distant future, I think the time is right to sock away a few bottles of the 2011 Côtes du Rhône Blanc from Tour de l’Isle, so I will have them when I need them.


Something that I was already on to when I first began working here at TWHwas that as much as I enjoy red meat and red wine, I find that the best wine pairings are with white wine. And sure, it would be great to live Anya’s dream and have white Burgundy every night, but a modicum of realism is in order. I read an article in a wine publication many years ago which declared white Rhône wines to be, “The best white wines you haven’t been drinking.” A bold statement to be sure, but in many ways, I agree. White wines make up less than 25% of the Rhône’s total production, so they’re not easy to find. But when you find one, especially if it’s at the right pricepoint, there is cause for stocking up. We recently received another container from France (you’ve been hearing about some of these wines already, and there will be more soon), and on it were the latest releases from Robert Rocchi’s Tour de l’Isle label. (A bit on Robert here.) The 2011 Côtes du Rhône Blanc is made from 30% Clairette, 25% Grenache Blanc, 25% Marsanne, and 20% Roussanne. It’s a bright, fresh, complex little number that delivers much quality for a modest price. Tom told me he thinks that the Clairette is the magic ingredient, giving the wine that je ne sais quoi, making it stand out among an already underpriced, over-performing group of wines. The aromas are of fresh white peach, apricot, a hint of kiwi, and an underlying Provençal herb garden. On the palate, it is bright and zippy, the fruit buoyed by the lively acidity, with mineral notes; leading to a fresh, harmonious finish. It is NOT a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but it sure reminds me of one … at 1/3 the cost!!! Yes indeed, I am going to want to have some of these around the next time I’ve got a crab in me mitts. It’s not just for crab either – you can enjoy this with things like scampi, roast chicken, Salad Niçoise, or an herb crusted roast pork loin.



So yeah, I’m excited about the fall and all the things that come with it.  Birthdayfest has been over for a week (though it was extended by one day this past week), and what a fest it was! Good times! Let’s just say that Champions’ League began with a debacle, but hopefully, we’ll get past that. Most importantly, we’re super excited about our recent container from France – look for more on that soon. We’ll be unveiling a brand new vintage of a very special wine from Bordeaux next week, be on the look out for that! Meanwhile, for your pairing needs, howz about giving the 2011 Tour de l’Isle Côtes du Rhône Blanc a whirl? It could very well be the best white wine that you haven’t been drinking! – Peter Zavialoff


Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments on Côtes du Rhône Blancs, our new container, Champions’ League Football, or autumn: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

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