Pow, Bam, Fizz – Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011 6:19 PM

I am rarely surprised anymore by the things people say to me on the subject of wine
. However, during a trip to Brooklyn a couple months ago for my friend’s wedding, I stopped into a small, and what I determined to be quite reputable, wine shop.  I struck up a conversation with one of the employees.  Upon asking him if they had any small grower Champagne, I was met with a somewhat astonished facial expression followed by “you guys know about grower Champagne out in California?!” I had to stop myself from laughing hysterically lest I come off as a phony (psst, I’m not really from California) AND offensive.

That said, I know we can be a bit Californicentric with our wine selections on the west coast, but when it comes to bubbles, well…. in the words of one of our favorite Californian winemakers when I asked him what he’s drinking these days… “Champagne. Especially from growers. That’s pretty exciting to me.” So yes world, we know all about Champagne!!! It is delicious; It is festive; It is one of the most diverse and versatile wines on the planet; It is exciting. Oh, and it’s available in California!

Grower Champagne – Champagne made from vines grown on and bottled by a single estate – is not necessarily inherently superior (or inferior for that matter) to one made by a négociant or co-op, but many small grower Champagnes today offer a distinct type of drinking experience that diverges from the larger producers. Not to mention the fact that it’s nice to know where the grapes for your wine come from. TWH carries both categories proudly and with discerning standards. All of our Champagnes represent the absolute best of the various sub-regions, styles, and producers from a region renowned for its pivotal role in history as the place for royal inaugurations and celebrations. Oh, and did we mention that our Champagnes are celebrity-endorsed?

Last night before we closed up shop, TWH staff was treated to a bottle of the 1999 Pascal Doquet Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Le Mesnil (That’s Pascal in the pic above, btw). The freshness, the vibrancy, and the complexity of this wine, after all these years, was mind-blowing. It’s nowhere close to retiring. And even after a long day of work, in the back of our warehouse, with no cause for celebration per se, we had a sense that the moment was special. THIS is why we drink Champagne. Happy New Year! ~ Emily Crichton

** Here are a few of our favorite bubbles in stock **

NV Arlaux Brut 750ml (Also available in 375ml)

Arlaux is a tiny Champagne house run by Christine Marechal. A recoltant-manipulant, Marechal is based in Vrigny, and owns just 7 hectares of Premier Cru vines, predominantly Chardonnay but with both Pinots planted alongside, on the north-western edge of the Petite Montagne de Reims. All of the Arlaux wines are made from the first pressing only and following both fermentations, are aged in the Arlaux cellars before release, with up to three years for the basic non-vintage cuvees, and up to five years for the reserve non-vintage and vintage wines. The entry level non-vintage is the Brut NV, a blend of 50% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier and just 10% Chardonnay.- TheWineDoctor.com

1998 Arlaux Brut Millesime

This has a lovely character on the nose, which is evolving and interesting. There is elegant but rich tropical fruit with a lemon twist, and a nutty element coming in behind. The palate is impressive, defined and linear, but also creamy and harmonious. There is great fruit texture, fine acidity and perfect balance. A delicious wine which is very approachable now. –TheWineDoctor.com, March 2009

NV Pascal Doquet Brut Blanc de Blancs

92 Points– Wine & Spirits December 2008

Pascal and his wife Laure own and operate this fabulous small grower Champagne domaine in the town of Vertus, located near Avize. The Doquet’s Champagnes are made entirely from their 15 hectares (2.5 Grand Cru / 12.5 Premier Cru) which are all farmed organically and hand harvested.

In the Cellar the wines ferment in both tank and cask before being bottled to under go secondary fermentation where they are allowed to rest on their lees for a minimum of 2 years but often up to 3 before disgorgement; much longer than the law requires. This technique and patience allows for the wines to develop richness and depth.

This Brut Blanc de Blancs cuvee was aged in tanks for 6 months, including 3 months sur-lies. The wine is a blend 2 vintages: 67% of 2004 and 33% of 2002, and was bottled in April 2005.

NV Pascal Doquet Brut Rose 1er Cru

91 Points– Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

This Rose Brut Premier Cru cuvee comes from the Southern Cote des Blancs: Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Vertus, Bergeres-les-Vertus. The wine was aged in tanks for 6 months, including 3 months sur-lies. A Chardonnay base is used along with some Pinot Noir from Vertus. This is a blend of 2005, 2004 and 2003 vintages, which was bottled in April 2006.

NV Pascal Doquet Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Le Mesnil

92 Points– Wine & Spirits December 2008

This Brut Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs cuvee (100% Chardonnay) comes from Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, and was aged in tanks for 6 months, including 4 months sur-lies. The wine is a blend 3 vintages: 73% of 1999, 7% of 1998 and 20% of 1996, and was bottled in April 2000.

*2000 Pascal Doquet Brut 1er Cru Mont Aime

*1999 Pascal Doquet Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Le Mesnil

NV Pierre Peters Cuvee de Reserve Blanc de Blancs

92 PointsStephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar
Light, bright green-gold, with a strong bead. Vivid citrus and green apple aromas are complicated by subtle lees, spice and brioche qualities, as well as a slow-building floral quality. Firm and focused, offering tangy orange and orchard fruit flavors along with anise and sweet butter. Gains weight with air but not at the expense of the crackling fruit. The citrus notes linger impressively on the finely etched finish. I really like this wine’s delicacy and sneaky power.
And many many more…..
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November 2011 Dirty Dozen

Monday, November 7, 2011 5:50 PM

Sniff, sniff … Smell that? Yep, autumn is in the air. Cool air, crisp leaves, and fires roaring in the fireplace. The time for giving thanks is here and we know the last thing you need to think about is which wines to pour at the table. No worries, we’ve got you covered this T-Day. From sweet to sparkling, silky to “sock it to me!”, there is something for everyone in this month’s DD. 12 different turkey-worthy wines, chosen for their versatility, packed into one box, all for an awesome low price.

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Click here to purchase the Dirty Dozen for $109.

2010 Hooked! Riesling, Rudi Wiest Selections – $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
New to us this fall is this yummy unpretentious German quaffer from importer Rudi Wiest. Sourced from vineyards in the Nahe, this perfectly balanced Riesling sings of clean, pear-like fruit. It’s off-dry, so it works well with spicy Szechzuan fare.

NV Cava, Segura Viudas – $7.98 net price, $7.18 reorder
Our most popular sparkler, the Segura Viudas tips the quality-for-price meter completely over! Made from Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel-lo, it has to be the best fizz in this price range. It has a pleasant creaminess, a hint of citrus blossom, and finishes fairly crisp. Best thing is, if someone wants to make mimosas, they can do it here … guilt free.

2010 Montravel Blanc ‘Terrement’, Château Puy-Servain – $12.99, $10.39 reorder
Winemaker Daniel Hecquet blends equal parts Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris for his ‘Terrement’, and the result is pure magic. The Gris gives the wine its plump fruity middle and the Sauvignon Blanc does the rest with its fresh acidity and flavor profile. Daniel may not be able to write White Bordeaux on the label, but it may as well be. Bowl o’mussels here.

2010 Destinos Cruzados – $9.98 net price, $8.98 reorder
In this corner, hailing from La Mancha region in Spain, is this 100% Macabeo from Destinos. We now know that Macabeo is a grape that is blended to make the sparkling Cava, but here it is on its own. It’s lean, light, and crisp with hints of citrus blossoms and zippy apples. A versatile, easy-going wine, it works well as an aperitif or better with a shrimp salad.

2008 Pinot Gris Im Berg, Domaine Ehrhart – $19.99, $15.99 reorder
We can’t say enough about our friends Corinne and Philippe Ehrhart from Wettolsheim, Alsace. Philippe’s grandfather instilled organic farming techniques and now the Domaine has the official Agricole Biologique status. This Pinot Gris is teeming with aromatic wonderfulness. On the palate it is dry, rich, and balanced. One for that bockworst and cabbage.

NV Mediterranean White, René Barbier – $5.98 net price, $5.38 reorder
If you can find a better deal on a bottle of white wine than this, we need to know about it! Seriously, bang for your buck, Barbier’s white offers stunning value. Clean and crisp and coming in at 11.5%, it’s great with ceviche.

2007 Syrah, Domaine Saint Antoine – $11.29, $9.03 reorder
Nestled in a warm pocket of micro-climate in the Costières de Nîmes is Domaine de Saint Antoine. Run by husband and wife Jean-Louis and Marlène Emmanuel, the wines from this property proudly carry their representation of place. Aromas of briary black and red fruit, herbs, and earth are met with a medium body that would stand up nicely to a prime rib.

NV Sherman & Hookers Shebang! – $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
Pretty much the best deal we’ve got these days on a California red wine has to be the Shebang! Made by Bedrock’s en fuego Morgan Twain-Peterson, it’s a blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and Alicante and according to the SF Chronicle’s Jon Bonné tasts like a bottle worth almost twice the price. Would make a fine addition to the holiday table.

2010 Saint George/Cabernet Sauvignon, Skouras – $9.98 net price, $8.98 reorder
Looks like our Greek section is growing! A recent peek revealed 4 wines from the land of the Odyssey. Composed chiefly of Greek native Aghiorghitiko, it benefits from a kiss of Cabernet Sauvignon. It goes without saying lamb skewers work.

2008 Dão Vinho Tinto, Quinta do Correio – $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
Another hit in the November DD, Correio’s Dão Tinto comes mostly from the Portuguese grape Jaen. It undergoes just a little barrel aging to give it some texture and it boasts some medium red fruit and violet flavors. It’s great with pizza.

2009 Morgon Douby, Château Raousset – $19.99, $15.99 reorder
November always marks the arrival of nouveaux Beaujolais, and we really feel that does a disservice to the quality of the region’s top wines, or Cru Beaujolais. A recent scouting trip to France uncovered the gem of a Château, Raousset. The 2009 vintage was astounding for these top Cru wines, we strongly urge you to try this Morgon; you can cellar this one!

2008 Côtes du Rhône Mataro, Vignobles Boudinaud – $21.99, $17.59 reorder
As if this month’s DD needed a trump card! This 100% Mourvèdre CdR tips the scales for quality/price. Think dark, earthy briary berries wrapped up in a fresh, zippy elixir with silky tannins. That’s what you get. We’re proud to be the only shop in the country with this wine. That’s why we’re here; that’s what we do. We find great wines from afar and bring them home for you and yours to enjoy. Enjoy this with a log on the fire and someone special by your side.

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Avitus Pinot Noir

Monday, October 24, 2011 7:09 PM

I remember thinking to myself, as I tasted the 2008 Avitus Pinot Noir, that this is just the sort of Pinot Noir TWH customers have come to expect to find at our store, but is nonetheless challenging to come by; a Pinot Noir with a Frenchy sensibility and an affordable price tag that belies its quality. Now I know that a $15 Pinot Noir is not completely unheard of, we have some tasty offerings from California that are long standing staples, but what I think the Avitus offers is a slightly softer fruit profile overall. Avitus’ American counterparts will always have a more bombastic fruit component to them. Though the 2008 Avitus Pinot Noir is not lacking for charming red cherry fruit, it does finish with earth and mushroom flavors. It is light-bodied, fresh, and sits clean and bright on the palate.
The story behind Avitus begins with Arnaud de la Chanonie who is by trade a wine wholesaler in France. His family has vineyards in Auvergne, which is considered part of the greater Loire region but is actually closer to the vineyards of Northern Rhone than to the Loire River. The vineyards are on steep hillsideswith soils of volcanic origin with basalt, clay and limestone. One of the producers Arnaud represents in France is Chateau St. Cosme in Gigondas. Arnaud is friends with the winemaker, Louis Burruol, whom he met at school. Arnaud enlisted this talented winemaker to make his Pinot Noir. Louis’ approach for the Avitus Pinot Noir is pretty straightforward: after a cold soak, the wine is fermented with natural yeasts and then racked to a stainless steel tank for 9 months before bottling– no pumped up wine trickery here to muck up all the perky fruit.
I just spent a couple days in Southern California pouring our wines for some wine industry events. It’s one thing to know that our imports are good, its another thing to witness wine professionals swoon over our selections. Pretty great, really. Anyway, there were only 125 cases of the 2008 Avitus Pinot Noir imported to the US, and though this is not a huge amount of wine, we hope to have it stocked through the new year.
Anya Balistreri 

And now a word from Emily:
Howdy everyone! If you’ve stopped by the shop recently you may have noticed a tall cardboard box near the door that looks exactly like the one in the picture. Well, it’s not just for decoration… We are officially a Public Collection Partner for ReCORK, a natural wine cork recycling program. How cool is that?! All you have to do is save your (real) corks, bring them to TWH, and we’ll do the rest. Cheers, Emily

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October 2011 Dirty Dozen

Monday, October 17, 2011 4:57 PM

What’s this? No more peaches, just pears? It must be October. Yes, the sights and sounds are changing as we march on into autumn. Picnic and beach party seasons may be coming to an end, but as the festivities move indoors, we’re here for you with plenty of great wine. Like this here Dirty Dozen: 12 wines, all chosen for their versatility, packed in a box for one low, amazing price! Howz that for a great deal?

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Reorder Special !!! 20% off 6 bottles or more of any one regularly priced Dirty Dozen wine! Or 10%/Net Wines – 5%/ Sale Wines

Click here to purchase the Dirty Dozen for $109.

2010 Lugana, Ca’Lojera – $14.99, $11.99 reorder
Ambra Tiraboschi’s take on the Turbiana grape has certainly turned some heads ’round here! This zippy little quaffer hits you immediately with hints of tangerine blossoms, melons, and minerals. On the palate, its racy mouth feel keeps that citrus sensation alive and the finish is delightfully crisp. Best served with lighter fare, perhaps pan-seared scallops?

2009 Macon-Villages, Roux Père et Fils – $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
The Maconnais district, in southern Burgundy, is best known for producing great value whites – and this puppy is NO exception! Made from 100% Chardonnay, it possesses aromas and flavors of buttery apple and lemon, with a hint of toasted almond, and a long, clean, lip-smacking finish. Poullet a la Rotisserie? Le yummy.

2010 Viognier, Serbal – $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
This is not the first time we’ve featured a southern hemisphere Viognier, a good thing. Though this Argentine estate is named after the aboriginal bush grown on the property, its dry, single-vineyard Viognier is more reminiscent of fresh white lilies and citrus blossom (thank goodness!). Divine alongside a fresh calamari salad or Gruyere & vegetable quiche.

2010 Jarenincan 1 liter, Crnko – $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
Though the blend changes every vintage, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, & Riesling were the selections for this 2010 Slovenian white blend in Liter. At 11% abv, it gets the official “Must quaff” stamp by TWH staff.

2009 Blanc de la Château de la Petite Cassagne – $6.95 sale price, $6.60 reorder
We just can’t get enough white Rhône these days. Costières de Nîmes superstar Diane Puymorin blends 60% Grenache Blanc with 40% Rolle (Italians call it Vermentino), presses the juice immediately after harvest, and ferments it all in steel tank. It’s bright and fresh offering hints of orange blossoms and fleshy stone fruit. Great with tuna salad.

NV Touraine Rosé, Domaine d’Orfeuilles – $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
Rounding out the “chillable” section of the DD is a sparkling gem from the Loire Valley. Made mostly from the grape Côt (some call it Malbec), the d’Orfeuilles represents a HUGE value in Rosé fizz. Hints of bright red fruit persist throughout the tasting and are braced by lively acidity and tiny bubbles. Don’t laugh, but this is GREAT with fried chicken!

2009 Tempranillo, Casa Gualda – $9.98 net price, $8.98 reorder
As our Spanish section continues to grow, we are discovering that the country that produces the most wine also pumps out a consistent bevy of bargains. Not sacrificing quality, Casa Gualda blends a little Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with the Tempranillo to give the wine a little backbone, and it works. Bust it out with that roasted pork sandwich.

2009 Pinot Noir, Bigvine – $13.98 net price, $12.58 reorder
Bigvine winemaker Scott McLeod considers 2009 an ideal vintage for California’s Central Coast, and the proof’s right here in a bottle of his Pinot Noir. 85% of the fruit comes from Arroyo Grande and the other 15% from the Santa Rita Hills. Think deep, rich, red berry fruit, a hint of cola, and a lively mouth feel. Would be great with a slice of pizza.

2006 Tradition, Château de Valcombe – $11.99, $9.59 reorder
Made in the style of southern Rhône blends, 60% Syrah is blended with 40% Grenache, and the result is a hearty balance of brambly purple fruit and earth. A little bit of bottle age goes a long way, giving the wine some extra complexity.

2007 Syrah de Fayel – $10.99, $8.79 reorder
We had to apologize to Chris when we included this one in the DD. You see, we all have our individual “pet wines” that we take for ourselves because the quality is there and the price is right. This one is/was his baby. Oh well, he’ll have to find a new one, and you all can see what good taste he has. Bright, sturdy country Syrah here, goes great with ribs.

2008 Carmignano, Tenuta Le Farnete – $18.99, $15.19 reorder
When this Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon blend first arrived, one swirl and sniff indicated that we needed to get on the phone with Enrico and order another pallet. Truth be told, that first pallet went like hotcakes and we were stuck with nothing. The good news is that the new pallet is here and once again you can get your hands on this super, Super Tuscan.

2009 Ventoux “Fayard”, Domaine Fondrèche – $16.99, $13.59 reorder
With the string of successful vintages coming from southern France over the last 8 years, we’re beginning to wonder, “Are bad vintages a thing of the past?” 2009 is everything you want in a red Rhône vintage: plenty of opulent fruit, silky tannins, and lively acidity. Sebastien Vincenti just stays out of the way and bottles the Ventoux terroir.

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Quinta do Alqueve 2007 Tradicional

Saturday, October 1, 2011 7:24 PM

The other night a friend of mine was talking about an article he’d read on the subject of personalities. According to one school of thought, there are “maximizers” and um, I suppose non-maximizers (we didn’t get into the other ones actually). In short, maximizers are people who like tosqueeze the most out of every moment– always on the go, planning the next big thing while simultaneously checking today’s big thing off the list. “Hmmm, sounds like everyone in San Francisco, doesn’t it?” I remarked. The natives in TWH family might disagree with me, but in my experience, SFers are maximizers to the MAAAX!

 Mind you, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a maximizer, but IMHO, some moments (often the simplest ones) are worth repeating. I dare say all of us at TWH were reminded of this upon revisiting an “old friend” of sorts from our Portuguese stash several weeks ago at the request of one of our high-end restaurant accounts (who subsequently bought it to pour by the glass), the 2007 Tradicional from Quinta do Alqueve. I think Chris said it best when he said “Wow, that isreally good. I’d kinda forgotten how good it is, maybe I never realized it.” And the rest of us nodded in agreement, our mouths still full of wine (a healthy portion of which probably did not get spit out, btw). Yes, it was worth the repeat. Since then we have been boasting about this wine to everyone who comes into the store looking for a red wine with any of the following adjectives: delicious, juicy, food-friendly, approachable, interesting, affordable (did I mention it’s only $11.99 and even less by the case??)… or as Anya says, “hearty, simple and honest.” No, it did not just arrive. No, it’s not the next big thing. It’s a country wine from Portugal that we absolutely adore and that we feel deserves some attention.

The Stats: The Saturnino Cunha family owns and operates Quinta do Alqueve, which now consists of 36 hectares of vineyards planted in the appellation of Tejo about an hour north of Lisbon. The 2007 Tradicional is a blend of all hand-harvested, indigenous Portuguese grapes Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo), Trincadeira and Periquita. The wine is aged in French oak for 9 months after fermentation, creating a wine with round tannins, but enough structure to keep it from being overly plush. Its ripe red fruit is balanced by a hint of earthy, sweet spices and acidity, giving it a bit of “lift”, as we say in the biz.

Between Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Oktoberfest, and wine country crush festivities, there are all sorts of things for Bay area maximizers to check off the list this weekend, but even so, the laundry still needs to be done and the dog taken out for a walk. And everyone’s gotta eat. So why not try something undemanding, unpretentious, and quite simply delicious to wash it all down. – Emily Crichton

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