Muller Thurgau From Oregon

Monday, July 31, 2017 12:07 PM

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







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



AnneAmie2



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



Anya_sPorch



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

May 27, 2017. In search of tidbits of information about our habits over Memorial Day Weekend, I came across one which purports that 75% of Americans participate in some sort of barbecue activity over the three day period. Sounds about right, as my recollections of the unofficial start to summer are full of memories of good eats, good friends, and yes, good wines. A fortnight ago, I wrote a bit about Carolina Furque’s 2015 Malbec, and last week, Anya showcased a stunning 2014 value in the form of Château Sénéjac. If you purchased either one (or both), you’ve got some great grillin’ wine on your hands. But let’s have a look forward. Summer IS coming. There will be plenty of wines to chill and enjoy over the warm months, but some wines warrant stocking up on. David just slashed prices on a whole lot of our Burgundy selections, and two of these wines strike my particular fancy: The 2012 Auxey-Duresses Les Boutonniers and Les Hautés.


Auxey-Duresses is located in the Côtes de Beaune, just west of Volnay and Meursault. Both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are planted there, the former planted on the Volnay side and the latter near Meursault. Gilles Lafouge is the 6th generation vigneron for the property which can trace its lineage back to the 17th Century. He makes good, honest Burgundy, wines with wonderful expression and balance. 2012 was another very good vintage for white Burgundy, joining a long line of high-quality vintages going back to 2004!


Though both vineyards border Meursault, it is the Les Boutonniers which is most like its neighbor. The 2012 Auxey-Duresses Les Boutonniers is awash with orchard fruit aromas mixed with dusty minerals with a soft, inviting palate. There is balance and lively acidity midway, with the ever-present Meursault-like softness caressing the palate throughout. The Les Hautés vineyard is further up the slope from the valley floor, and its soils are rich with limestone. The 2012 Auxey-Duresses Les Hautés is a lively, mineral driven expression of Chardonnay, much in the direction of a village Puligny-Montrachet. It has fresh aromas of citrus blossom, stony minerals, and hints of apple/pear fruit. The palate is sleek and nervy, and the fresh white fruit falls right in line with the wine’s structure. The finish is crisp, complex, and harmonious. These two wines are well worth their retail price of $39.99 per bottle, but now that they’re marked down to $19.95, it’s time to stock up. Warning: We don’t have a whole lot of either wine, and a little educated guesswork has me thinking that they both will sell out in the coming weeks. If you want to stock up on some delicious go-to white Burgundy for summer 2017, we suggest you act sooner than later.




Yep. Summer is on its way. The signs are everywhere. Just today on my drive in, as I passed St. Mary’s Cathedral (which was built on the site of a former Lucky supermarket where I remember grocery shopping with my parents as a small child), there were scores of caps and gowns roaming about, as Sacred Heart College Prep was holding their graduation ceremonies inside the church. Our local baseball team is not giving us any reason to be excited or optimistic this summer, but if one can stock up on some quality white Burgundy for an entry-level price, and enjoy them throughout the season, that is good reason to be excited and optimistic! – Peter Zavialoff

Entre-Deux-Mers: Drink Responsibly

Monday, April 24, 2017 1:14 PM

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


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


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




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

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




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


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

Cellar Aged Chardonnay From Ici/La-Bas

Tuesday, February 28, 2017 12:00 PM


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



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



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




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


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


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

Anya Balistreri

Tasting Room Revelations – 2015 Ca’Lojera

Monday, February 20, 2017 11:49 AM

As I was taking out the week’s recycling this morning, I couldn’t help notice that the four wine bottles going into the bin were all Italian! This doesn’t happen very often. Though we do import and sell wines from Italy, we have soooo much else to choose from, that the odds of each week’s collection of half-poured, taken home samples to all be from the same country are big. Though considering that this week pretty much was Italian week around here, it does make sense.




Italian week. Yes, Gambero Rosso’s annual tre bicchieri tasting took place this past Wednesday at Fort Mason. Our friends, Enrico Pierazzuoli and Gianlorenzo Picollo were in town for it, as Enrico’s 2013 Carmignano Riserva was included in the tasting. Before they arrived, on Monday evening, we all found ourselves in a tasting room with a lineup of red wines from a Sicilian producer for whom we had high expectations. This is one of the ways we decide whether or not to import/carry a producer’s lineup. You can’t learn to swim from a book; and the same can be said about a wine’s tasting experience. Well, expectations being the harbinger of disappointment and all, it was a shame that the wines weren’t up to our standards. After taking in the aromas, Chris decided to not even taste the last wine. That’s how it goes sometimes. But as we often say, “We taste a lot of bad wine (okay, that may be a bit harsh in this case), so you don’t have to.” Many of the half-poured sample bottles didn’t even make it to any of our homes that evening.


Then Tuesday came, and with it, two of our pals from Italy. We tasted through their wines and they were all showing very well. There were no leftover samples on Wednesday morning! We tasted a few more of their wines on Wednesday, and ditto, nothing was left behind. Not even Enrico and Gianlorenzo. They were off to the east coast on Wednesday evening. Thursday came and went without incident, and then on Friday, the expectation/disappointment paradigm went the other way!


Winemaker Tiziana Settimo of Aurelio Settimo fame suggested we taste a lineup of wines made by some friends of her’s. The wines were shipped from Italy via air freight, and when Anya pulled them from the box, she exclaimed, “Ooh. The whites are from 2016 – these folks mean business. I’m really looking forward to tasting these!” First, David and Anya went through the lineup, then Chris and I had our turns. The consensus? We like them. A lot. As a matter of fact, we love them. Not only did all the samples disappear from the tasting room, there was noticeable tension among us while taking turns choosing which wines to take home. You will hear about them someday, when they get here; but for tonight, a similar yarn about an Italian producer whom we hold in high esteem: Ca’Lojera from Lugana.


Franco and Ambra Tiraboschi’s Ca’Lojera was David’s discovery. And as Anya wrote about years ago, he is not the kind of man who jumps up and down and screams, “Read all about it!” That’s more of what we do. David happily signed Ca’Lojera to our roster, and the rest is delicious history. Samples were shipped across the country for our staff to taste, and back at our old location, after we closed one day, we tasted the wines. Our reactions were very much like our reactions this past Friday, we loved them and could barely wait for them to arrive! With 5 successful vintages under our belts, we are pleased to announce the arrival of the Ca’Lojera Lugana from 2015!



A reminder: Ca’Lojera’s Lugana is made from 100% Trebbiano di Lugana, or Turbiana, as the locals call it. The vineyards are on the southern shore of Lake Garda, and the winery is located in the commune of Sirmione. (Um, if you search images of Sirmione, you may want to travel there soon). The 2015 vintage was a good one in the region, with healthy ripeness levels and well-balancing acidity. The 2015 Ca’Lojera Lugana has you at “hello.” Its fresh, clean aromas of rich yellow fruit, blossoms, and mineral greet you like a fresh breeze off a lake surrounded by orchards. The palate is harmonious and lively, the complexities abound, all threaded together by the buoyant acidity. The intertwined components all fade slowly on the crisp, yet somehow fleshy, finish. All in all, I have a lot of ideas as to what to pair this wine with. It seems to be as versatile as can be!


Well, Italian week has come and gone. We laughed, we cried. We tasted some wines with great promise, and we tasted some wines to which we will politely say, “No thank you.” We said, “Ciao,” more this week than we will over the next few months combined, and the thought of pairing Osso Bucco with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo will haunt me all day tomorrow. No matter what happens next week, I can be assured of one fact: there will be not one, but at least two bottles of Italian wine in next week’s trip to the bottle bank. For I am taking two bottles of 2015 Ca’Lojera Lugana home tonight to enjoy over next week! – Peter Zavialoff


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

Customer: “I love Sancerre!”

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

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

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




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




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




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




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

White Bordeaux For $10?

Monday, December 12, 2016 11:37 AM

There are deals and then there are deals. As I mentioned the other day, there are great wines with their prices slashed all over the shop. In a way, almost too many; it’s our way of saying thanks to our customers! When there are so many choices, sometimes some of the best deals go unnoticed. Make that under-noticed, as evidenced by a visit from one of our long-time regular customers. This gent has been known to pick up a Dirty Dozen on a fairly regular basis, and he also peruses our bins mixing and matching an additional case or so. This past week, he went about his usual business, but with one exception. “Can you grab me a case of the 2014 Château Couronneau Blanc? I love that wine, and that’s just too good a deal to pass up,” he said. I agreed.


Alsatian Auxerrois – Say That Five Times Fast!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016 8:18 PM


 

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

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


We interrupt this summer time to bring you … wait. It’s almost August. These are truly the dog days of summer. We all need to just chill.I don’t want to interrupt anybody’s summer. Relax. Have fun. Visit with friends. Visit with family. Travel. Repeat.This is what August is all about. No need for any deep thinking here. When I come home from work and start prepping dinner on a summer evening,I want something cool and crisp in my glass. Sure, I would love some Burgundy, but that’s special wine.Burgundy is better suited for companyand more special an occasion than Monday night dinner prep. In order to have this bottleproperly chilled by Monday night, I need to bring it home when I leave work on Saturday.The wine that I keep grabbing each Saturday so far this summer?The 2015 Les Tours from Domaine La Hitaire.

 

 
Do you remember Domaine de Pouy? Many of us have fond memories of Domaine de Pouy and the affordable quaffability it provided. I’ve heard many customers romanticize about how it “got me through grad school,” or “just pairs with everything.” Anya even served it at her wedding and also informed me that it was the cornerstone of The Dirty Dozen, as it was a consistent component during the DD’s early days. The Les Tours from Domaine La Hitaire is essentially the same wine as the Domaine de Pouy. Both labels are owned by the same family, formerly run by Yves Grassa, and are now in the hands of his two sons Rémy and Armin. Both wines are blends of Ugni Blanc, Colombard, and Gros Manseng. Both wines are delightfully light and crisp, and they both have that kiss-of-honey finish. They are the same wine.
 
 
Historically, the Gascogne region produces distillates,and the Grassa family’s bas-Armagnac is prized for its quality. The family thought high enough of the quality of their grapes to make wine from them as well, and what a service they have provided for us! Every now and then I peruse the wine selections when I’m shopping at supermarkets and grocery stores. In general, I haven’t found anything below $10 per bottle that give me any reason to revisit. That is why I’ve been leaving with a bottle of Les Tours every weekend. It’s a no-brainer white. It’s not an interruption; it’s delicious, inexpensive, and low in alcohol (10.5%).
 
 
Call it coincidence, but this coming Monday is the first of August. How kind of the calendar makers to give us back to back 31 day months in summer. However you plan to spend August 2016, we hope it is full of wonderful moments, great meals, your favorite people, and memorable wines. Please excuse this interruption. I tried to be brief. I could have just said, “2015 Les Tours from Domaine La Hitaire. It’s $9.17 per bottle by the case. It’s light, crisp, and delicious.” Happy summer! –Peter Zavialoff
 
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Domaine de Pouy, wines from southwest France, summer plans, or the upcoming football season: peter@wineSF.com
Sancerre Les Godons 2014
After three extremely challenging vintages, 2014 was a welcome and much needed respite for Loire Valley vintners. July and August did bring a bit o’ worry to growers as heat and rain ping ponged back and forth creating the perfect conditions for rot, but September came to the rescue with a string of glorious, sunny days. Throughout the region, you could hear a collective heavy sigh of relief.Philippe Raimbault’s Sancerre Les Godons encapsulates the best traits of the 2014 vintage, which is to say the best wines have ripe fruit in combination with enlivened acidity.
 
Raimbault Vineyards in Sury En Vaux
 
Philippe Raimbault farms close to 40 acres in three appellations: Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé and the Coteaux de Giennois. He is one of the few non-negociants in the Loire to do so. Philippe comes from a long-line of winemakers dating back to the 1700s. Typically Sancerre producers use several parcels to make their wine, not just one contiguous plot. Hail is notorious for destroying crops is this region, so it is prudent to use grapes from several locations. For his Apud Sariacum Sancerre Philippe does just that – he uses 22 different parcels of vines which circle the village of Sury En Vaux. The Les Godons Sancerre is unusual as it is a single-vineyard that is south-facing and is shaped like an amphitheater. An etching of the vineyard is depicted on the label. Philippe’s grandfather purchased Les Godons in 1946. The exposition of the vineyard contributes to a unique microclimate. I find the Les Godons’ Sauvignon Blanc to be a little richer, a little more opulent, a tad more tropical than your average Sancerre.
 
Fossil Found in the Vineyard
 
The 2014 Les Godons has penetrating fruit flavors of mandarin, pomelo and passion fruit. On the nose it screams of Sauvignon Blanc but stops short of being assaulting. On the palate the ripe fruit flavors are escorted by a pronounced minerality. The Les Godons is energetic and, well, delicious. For an unoaked wine, it has superb texture and weight. The fruit Philippe is able to harvest from this special vineyard makes for a high-impact wine. It distinguishes itself from most Sancerre.
 
Pre-Friday Night Fish Fry Glass
 
Temperatures spiked in the Bay Area, even the inside of my house got sweltering hot. Except for the Thirst Gamay from Radford Dale, white wine has been the vin de jour all week. For our Friday Night Fish Fry, I was craving something thathad complexity, had substantial fruit presence yet finished fresh and lively. I looked around the store to see what I should begin chilling in our tiny staff refrigerator so that after battling end of the work week traffic, I could cool down with a zippy white. My eyes landed on the 2014 Les Godons and I knew I found what I was looking for. I was not disappointed. With a glass in hand, sitting on the front porch, greeting neighbors as they strolled past, I savored the lush flavors of this special Sancerre. Though it tasted nicely with baked fish, I was thinking next time I would like to serve this with a Cobb salad, substituting the Roquefort for Humbolt Fog. A splendid idea!– Anya Balistreri

Affordable Luxury – Premier Cru Chablis

Monday, July 18, 2016 5:56 PM

 


2014 Chablis 1er Cru Côte de Léchet
Domaine Sébastien Dampt
 
 
The above photo may look romantic, right? Who doesn’t like a lit up vineyard at night? Unfortunately, it’s not romantic. This picture Sébastien Dampt sent David back in early May shows what sometimes is done in hopes of fending off any severe damage from forecasted overnight frost by keeping the newly broken buds warm. 2016 has been a nightmare for Chablis producers as they had not only frost to contend with, but suffered through two hailstorms. Damage was so severe in some communes that the vintage itself has come into question, as in “Will we make wine in 2016?” As far as we know,Sébastien will make his wines in 2016, but how much is anybody’s guess. Taking that into consideration, one could come to the logical conclusion that in order to keep his business running, he may need to raise his pricesslightly to recoup lost revenues due to lost fruit. It’s a sad reality, but it is reality nonetheless. Let’s keep that in the back of our minds and focus on what’s in front of us now, in the present, and currently in-stock: 2014 Domaine Sébastien Dampt Chablis Premier CruCôte de Léchet and its incredible low price.
 
When David is on assignment in France, he usually stays in touch by sending us notes and comments from some of his tastings. Last winter, he sent this in an email, “Lots of good tastings. I tasted a couple of ’15s at Dampt today – they’ll be nice, round, early maturing. I went through all the ’14s and they are THE BOMB! I actually prefer the 1er Crus to the Grand Crus. The Vaillons, Léchet, and Beugnons are just fantastic.” I probably don’t need to add anything to that; if David is going to recommendsomething with that kind of enthusiasm, I would say we would be depriving ourselves if we don’t heed his advice.
 
We’ve mentioned Sébastien Dampt before, as we’ve been directly importing his wines for a few years now. That’sdirectly importing, as we deal with Sébastien himself, not a negociant or special contact who have their hands open for a “finders’ fee.” This, of course, is great news for all of us as prices are as low as possible. Take that fact and then read Burghound’s Allen Meadows’ comment that, “As the scores and comments suggest, these are well-made wines and at the prices the Dampt wines generally sell for, they are first-rate bargains.” And yes, they’re all that.
 
 
I have a soft spot on my palate for wines from Côte de Léchet. Long ago, back when one could tell my hair color was once brown, we had a different producer’s Côte de Léchet, and I loved it. It was $44.99 per bottle.Obviously, we weren’t the importer for that wine. But while we had this other producer’s line of Chablis, it was a rite of late spring to grab one bottle of each vineyard and head over to a buddy’s house to taste them against each other while noshing on sautéed shrimp and scallops. Go figure that the Côte de Léchet was always the standout. So when we began importing Dampt’s wines, it was not a surprise that I gravitated toward the Côte de Léchet. As if I needed further encouragement, the sub $30 price tag was a huge bonus! Don’t you love it when you’re ready to pay $50 for something, but are then told it’s only $30?
 
The Chablis, shrimp and scallops tradition may have waned in recent years, but tasting Sébastien Dampt’s newly released Côte de Léchet has picked up right where we left off. I tasted the 2014 the other night, this time with some baked chicken with garlic and herbs. Bingo! I think that the thing about Côte de Léchet that tips the scale for me is its richness. When I’m about to take my first sip of Chablis, I am prepared for sleek, zippy acidity and a mineral underlay. From the aromas to the finish, this 2014 Sébastien Dampt Côte de Léchet delivers some rich, fleshy, white and yellow Chardonnay fruit; kind of like a green apple with a little lemon blossom. That fruit is propped up and balanced by the sleek, fresh profile, and the harmony of the finish is quite the upside surprise. I’m a fan.
 
As summer continues, it just makes sense to have wines on hand that are delicious when chilled. Holy cow! The Thirst Gamay that Anya wrote up last weekend hasearned a permanent place in my refrigerator door! Though, just in case I find some nice looking shrimp or scallops at the market on my way home, I’m going to want a bottle of 2014 Sébastien Dampt Côte de Léchet on that shelf too! The new treehouse is finally taking shape and I enjoyed a glass of something nice last night out on the deck while the sun set behind the canopy of trees. Now that’s romantic. – Peter Zavialoff
 
Please feel free to email me with any questions about Chablis, Côte de Léchet, Bordeaux, European Football, Sauternes, or treehouses: peter@wineSF.com

2012 Bodkin Dry Creek Valley Chardonnay

Tuesday, April 12, 2016 10:36 PM


Bodkin Chardonnay – The Fearless
Just like with people, you often know whether you like a wine or not in the first 10 seconds. The aromas and flavors of Bodkin’s 2014 Chardonnay drew me in immediately and before the wine rep could screw back on the cap and put the bottle away in his wine tote, I placed an order. I don’t usually pull the trigger this quick. I like to mull over my decisions. Does this wine have an audience? Is it distinctive? Is there value for our customers?These questions were easily answered “yes” with one sip.
 
 
I had heard the buzz on Bodkin wines. New on the scene,Bodkin specializes in Sauvignon Blanc and has received much praise for producing the first ever sparkling wine made from this varietal in California! I have to admit, I initially thought this concept a bit gimmicky. The wine business is challenging enough…why complicate things further by making something for which there is no existing market? But then I met winemaker/proprietor Chris Christenson at a trade tasting and it all began to make sense to me. I mean this as a compliment, Chris is a geek, a nerd, who has particular interests and passions and follows them. Chris did not strike me as someone who follows the crowd. The whole concept of Bodkin wines is a clear reflection of Chris’s interests – from Medieval history and literature to making wine his way.
 
 
The 2014 Chardonnay is dubbed The Fearless in honor of the 15th century French ruler, John the Fearless, who was Duke of Burgundy. This goes to show, Chris doesn’t take the easy marketing path by naming his wines after family members or pets. The Fearless is also so named, I think, because this Chardonnay is made slightly atypical compared to most California Chardonnay. First of all, it comes in at 13.4% abv which is low especially for Dry Creek Valley fruit. The wine spent time in French oak, but only a small portion of it new, did not go through malolactic fermentation and sat on its lees with no stirring. Finally, it was bottled unfiltered. All acceptable winemaking choices but not the norm in this part of the world. The resulting wine I find exciting and delicious.The aromatics hint at sweet tangy Meyer lemon and on the palate the zippy citrusy fruit is buoyed by the roundnessimparted from the time in barrel sur-lie. The acidity is spiky and refreshing. The fruit couples with the acidity like the flavors of a Gravenstein apple that is green, has a few stripes of red on its skin but absolutely no hint of yellow!Snappy, succulent and irresistible!
 
 
I paired Bodkin’s 2014 Chardonnay with salmon croquettes. It was a great match since the salmon demanded a wine with body but the lightness of the dish needed acidity. I did a little dance around the kitchen after sampling the first croquette and washing it down with a sip of The Fearless.
 
 
After weeks of anticipation and preparations, Pete has flown to Bordeaux to taste the 2015 vintage out of barreland to, hopefully, find new bottled treasures to import and stock up at the store. As our Bordeaux Scout, Pete has a full agenda and we wish him well on his quest to find those great Bordeaux values you expect to find at TWH. He’s even posted a picture on The Wine House’s Facebook page.Check it out and if you “like” it, perhaps he’ll be encouraged to post some more! – Anya Balistreri


Whencustomers enter TWH for thevery first time, they often inquire aboutwhat it is that we do and how we go about sourcing the wines to put in the bins that line our sales floor. While there are no general, party-line answers to those questions, there isone major criterionthat isconsistently present in our wines,whether they’re $10 per bottle or $200: Value. As in,“Is this worth it?” To a Pomerol collector with a much larger wine budget than mine, the2012 Vieux Chateau Certan is a great wine from a great producer that isevery bit worth its $168.98 price tag. Oh how I would love to taste this wine 10 years from now. To a Dogpatch neighbor who walks their dog every afternoon and occasionally pops in forgood, inexpensive dry white wine, we have several to choose from. One such white wine,not to be missed, would be the2014 Montravel Blanc from Château Calabre.

 

 
 
Coming on the heels of Anya’s recent email about longtime relationships in the wine business, TWH is happy and proud of our ongoing association with Daniel Hecquet and his wines from Montravel and Bergerac. We’ve been stocking Daniel’s wines for 20 years! Why? Value. Are they worth it? Unquestionably. The Château Calabre Montravel Blanc is Hecquet’s entry-level white, made in the style of dry white Bordeaux blends. The blend for his 2014 is 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Sémillon, and 10% Muscadelle. It’s fresh and clean, all tank fermented, and ready to go with its screwcap enclosure. The palate is zippy and lipsmacking with fine balance, and it clocks in at 13% alcohol. It’s a great little versatile white thatdelivers pleasure at a very reasonable price: $10.99 (or $9.34 by the case). As someone who has worked on sourcing the wines in our Dirty Dozen sampler for a decade can attest to, it is much more difficult to find good quality inexpensive white wine than red. I don’t know why that is, but it is true. If there were more producers out there like Daniel Hecquet, sourcing the Dirty Dozen each month would be a little easier.
 
 
It just makes good sense that a shopper doesn’t make a purchase unless they perceive there to be value in said purchase. Please keep in mind that before we offer these wines to you, we ourselves must buy them! That of course makes us wine shoppers also. When tasting and appraising a wine, we have an idea of what its price tag is going to be. That’s where the decision is made. Is it worth it? The 2014 Château Calabre Montravel Blanc sure is; the $9.34 by the case price makes it a no-brainer. – Peter Zavialoff

 
Sometimes the most enjoyable wine is the simplest. Take our bestselling Gavi from Ernesto Picollo – it is made with one grape, Cortese, fermented in tank for approximately three weeks and then bottled. Simple, no? But what results! Lemony, citrusy flavors made vibrant with a solid backbone of acidity. The 2014 Gavi just landed in our warehouse and it’s as wonderful as the previous seven vintages TWH has carried!
 
Rovereto
 
At $10.99 a bottle, it isn’t difficult to understand whyPicollo’s Gavi is a bestseller. It’s an authentic wine made by a tight-knit Italian family who continue to push themselves to make the best possible wine for a very fair price. Gianlorenzo Picollo is the third generation proprietor, whose shy demeanor can mask his passion for the work in the vineyard and the cellar. Because there isn’t much in the way of manipulation in the cellar, it is crucial to bring in excellent fruit. Gianlorenzo accomplishes this with green harvesting and keeping reasonable yields.
 
The Picollo Family
 
Though part of Piedmont, its proximity to the Ligurian Sea gives Gavi a more Mediterranean climate as opposed to the continental climate of Barolo and Barbaresco to the north.The winery is located in the hamlet of Rovereto in the heart of Gavi. The Picollo farm is right across from the church, just as depicted on their label. David travelled to Italy for the first time this past summer to visit with many of our Italian producers. David asked for Picollo’s coordinates since he was getting there by car and was using GPS.Gianlorenzo ignored his request and told him when he gets to the church, there they are!
 
Vineyards in Gavi
 
We had been out of Gavi for over a month. Our container from Italy was delayed over and over. I was at a loss, for the Gavi is my staple for Friday Night Fish Fry.Whether it’s baked filet of sole, linguine with clams, or pesto pasta, Gavi matches it all. Though fragrant and full of character, Picollo’s Gavi is the perfect foil for fish, shellfish and vegetarian dishes because it doesn’t overwhelm the palate. You notice the acidity but it is never harsh and the citrusy flavors are snappy. The 2014 comes in at 12% abv, keeping things light and easy.
 
My calendar for 2015 is filling up fast. When I read a post on FB warning that there were only ten Saturdays until Christmas, I felt sick to my stomach. Stay in the moment, I coached myself. One thing at a time. Yes, one thing. Ah yes,the one thing that I am most looking forward to isour event at Mourad’s on October 22 featuring the wines of Ouled Thaleb, Morocco’s oldest working winery. We’ve been carrying Ouled Thaleb wines for some time now, so I am especially excited to taste through them while dining at Mourad Lahlou’s newest restaurant. Seats are still available, so if interested in joining us, please give us a call. – Anya Balistreri

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