2015 Antonio Sanguineti Cannonau Di Sardegna

Friday, January 5, 2018 4:47 PM



2015 ANTONIO SANGUINETI CANNONAU DI SARDEGNA

Our Bestselling Sardinian Red Is Back In Stock!



Our third vintage of Antonio Sanguineti's Cannonau di Sardegna has recently arrived, ushering in what is a new Summer tradition here at The Wine House. There is just something about this accessible, soft-tannin red that resonates with our customers. I've already managed to tote a few bottles home and each time, I've been delighted by the restrained cherry flavors and distinct underbrush notes. Because the tannins are tempered and the fruit, forward and warm like berry pie filling, it is perfect for casual, outdoor summer dining. To date, I've served it with Cevapcici, a type of Balkan ground meat delicacy, that I make with a combination of beef and lamb and another time with grilled salmon doused in garlic and olive oil. Whether surf or turf, it worked beautifully!

 

Cannonau di Sardegna is an appellation that covers most of the island. The Cannonau grape is not identical to Grenache, though is closely related and is surely as far as taste goes - very similar. An ampelographer could write 2015 ANTONIO SANGUINETI CANNONAU DI SARDEGNAvolumes on Cannonau's genetic background, but for most wine historians, it seems reasonable to believe that the grape is closely linked to Grenache, whether originating from France or Spain. Though able to produce dark, complex, age-worthy wines, Sanguineti's Cannonau di Sardegna is meant for early consumption; a sort of elevated table wine. 





Summer break in my household is coming to a close - for many families, the new school year has already begun. I prefer to think of Summer as the full three month season it is and not just as the time between the end of school year and the start of the new one. To that end, I expect to spend a few more days at the beach and/or throw an impromptu backyard dinner party or two. Still, school starts up for my husband, a teacher, and my daughter, a student, next week.  I think my daughter put it best when she said to me, "I'm sort of excited and sort of not." Raising a glass of Sanguineti's 2015 Cannonau di Sardegna to all the students and teachers out there starting off the new school year!

- Anya Balistreri

Giving Back – La Cuadrilla!

Monday, July 3, 2017 11:28 AM

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



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




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



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

Rose From Provence: Start Your Summer Right!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017 11:11 AM

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


Aspras in Winter


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


A Room With A View


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



The Photographers


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


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

2013 Cotes-du-Rhone La Boissiere, Domaine Boudinaud

Wednesday, February 8, 2017 11:36 AM


Whoa! How did it get to be February already??!! Seriously, the period after the holidays may be somewhat quiet for some, but around here it was hoppin’. I mentioned the parade of folks from Bordeaux passing through our doors the past couple of weeks; the UGC tasting of the newly bottled 2014’s was a week ago Friday. The wines are showing as well, if not better, than I anticipated after having tasted them as barrel samples. I’ve got more to say about them, but tonight’s exercise is more about what I like to call ye olde reliable, Côtes-du-Rhône rouge. Specifically, the 2013 CdR La Boissière from Domaine Boudinaud.


It’s funny. My memory is chock full of useless information. I don’t know why I remember some things (seriously, yesterday was my best friend’s from 3rd grade birthday), and not other, more important things. Like when and where and why did I taste my first Côtes-du-Rhône? It almost feels to me like it just always was a given. If I wanted a nice glass or two of delicious red wine without much expense, there is always Côtes-du-Rhône. When a new customer walks in to our shop and informs me that they like wine, yet aren’t very familiar with French wine, I tend to start here. With Côtes-du-Rhône, it’s tough to go wrong.


We have been working with Thierry and Véronique Boudinaud for well over a decade, and we just love their wines. For the 2013 la Boissière, Thierry blended 55% Grenache with 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre, and 5% Cinsault. The nuance of each variety’s aromatic profile is noticeable and the blend is quite harmonious. And what’s great about this wine in particular is that you can drink it on its own, with a burger, with steak, with a pork chop, barbecue chicken, and so forth. It is that versatile. Given its price point, it’s a super wine for a very fair price. I do remember how much we liked the 2012, and how my colleagues and I squirreled away bottles for ourselves when our stock began to vanish. When it finally dried up, the countdown began for the new vintage. Now that it’s here, our entire staff is enjoying it. One bottle at a time. And though $13.49 is already an extraordinary deal for a wine of this quality, the case price of $11.47 per bottle is what we call a no-brainer.

Wow. I’m at a loss for what to do for dinner this evening. As Anya mentioned last week, our staff had our annual holiday dinner gathering a fortnight ago, and last Saturday, I was lucky enough to join a supplier and representatives from three Bordeaux chateaux at The Battery for an incredible dinner. It was there that I tasted my very first grade A-5 Wagyu beef. I will not be forgetting about that anytime soon. I have a feeling that tonight’s dinner plans will be less extravagant and more about comfort food. What wine will I be bringing home to sip with my comfort food? Ye olde reliable, of course! – Peter Zavialoff


2014 Cannonau di Sardegna
Antonio Sanguineti
 
 
The new vintage of Sanguineti’s Cannonau di Sardegna has finally arrived at the store! The response to last year’s offer was so enthusiastic, we made sure to double up on quantities. That said, once it’s gone, it’ll be gone until the next vintage as we have only one shot at ordering this wine. The introductory 2013 vintage was delicious and I predicted it would probably end up being winemaker’s Antonio Sanguineti’s most successful offering. Sure enough, I was right. Antonio upped his production by securing more grapes from his friends on the island, those same friends for whom he works for as a consultant. So to those who bought the 2013 and loved it, I am confident the 2014 will not disappoint. As a whole, 2014 was a difficult vintage for red wines in Italy, especially in northern appellations where August rains caused havoc. However, these unfavorable weather conditions did not reach as far south as Sardinia and Sicily, where in fact the vintage is considered excellent.
 
 
Antonio in the forefront
 
Cannonau is the most widely planted red grape on Sardinia.The common belief is that Cannonau is the same grape as Spain’s Garnacha, though some purists and ampelographers aren’t so sure. After reading a lengthy article laying out a scientific argument for whether or not Cannonau and Garnacha are the same grape, I concluded that for most of the wine drinking population – who cares? What is important to note is that there is commonality in flavor profile between them and so it’s natural to recommend a Cannonau di Sardegna to anyone who is an enthusiast of southern red Rhônes and Spanish Garnacha or visa versa. Though I’ve heard from our customers on more than one occasion that for their palate, Cannonau di Sardegna is far more interesting and pleasurable than most Grenache they’ve tried. AgainMother Nature shows us that something planted here does not taste the same when planted over there – one of the many reasons why I find wine endlessly interesting.
 
Stocked and ready for purchase
 
Antonio sources his Cannonau grapes near the seaside town of Villesimius which sits along the southeastern tip of the island. Unoaked, this red is jam-packed with dusty berry flavors buoyed up by a complementary thread of acidity that keeps the flavors popping. The aromas are a mix of fresh and faded berry notes and some dried herb.Overall it has a smooth presence on the palate, making it pleasurable sipping on its own, though at the table is where it really sings. This is not a monster red, but it will stand up to beef and lamb. Fire up the grill!
 
This is how we do Paella! (no relevance to this newsletter)
 
School started for my daughter this week. It was a bit of a shock getting up so early for all of us except for the dog who remained snoozing in his bed. It probably wouldn’t have been as painful for me if I hadn’t stayed up so late watching the Olympics. It was well worth it. School might have started but summer is not over yet! I’ve got at least until after Labor Day, right? So far, this summer has been wonderful. Far less stressful than the last couple of summers and filled with family gatherings, visits with friends and excursions around Northern California. This weekend I’m going to lay low and catch up with household chores (mostly filling out and signing paperwork for school). A trip to the Farmer’s Market is a must as it’s SHOWTIME there with summer’s harvest in full swing. I’ll probably end up buying way too many tomatoes (not really, not possible!), squash and fruit. My husband will be grilling something on the Weber and the 2014 Cannonau di Sardegna from Sanguineti will be in my glass. Cheers to an endless summer!– Anya Balistreri

Remembering 2012 With A Fine Gigondas

Monday, August 15, 2016 9:27 PM


It sure has beenan interesting week. On one hand, it’sthe middle of August. Most of France is on holiday and I’ve always beenunder the impressionthat these waning summer days before school begins againare the official “dog days.” This perception needs updating. While having lunch at a restaurant the other day (still in search of the best French Dip in the North Bay), I overheardtwo people talking about school starting.As in this week! What??!! It’s August 14th! Anya confirmed this today as her daughter is less than a week from her first day. Seriously, where does the time go?It’s a good thing we have wine in our lives. Meant for pleasure rather than scrutiny; each bottle is a living thing made from a combination of elements including soil, grape variety, winemaker, and vintage. In the wine biz, we sometimes get caught up in only thinking about a wine region’s quality during a given year, butit also leaves us an opportunity to reminisce. This week, I am reminiscing with2012 Tour de l’Isle Gigondas.

 

 
To start, I must confess that I am a longtime fan of Gigondas. Back in the day, each night after my band finished practicing at Lennon Studios South of Market, we would pack it up and head over to Ruby’s Restaurant on 3rd Street where a friend worked as chef de cuisine.He always took good care of us, and would usually join us at the table after his shift. They had a reasonably priced Gigondas on the list, and it was our go-to dinner wine for years. It was probably around the 5th or 6th time we ordered it, that Mr. Ruby himself took a seat at our booth and inquired exactly how a group of 20-something rockers came to order Gigondas.“Michael (the chef) told me that you’re really into food and wine, but what makes this wine so special that you keep ordering it?” Ruby asked.
“It’s a food wine,” I replied. “There are all sorts of fancy wines out there, many of them are made to impress critics, and that provides no service for the diner. This Gigondas is balanced and elegant. It was made to enjoy with dinner. And you can’t beat the price.”
This seemed to put him at ease, and he agreed wholeheartedly. As we continued our patronage, Ruby wouldoften sit with us for dinner and conversation. He would offer us tastes of the many other wines that he had on his list, but we would always drink the Gigondas with our dinner. Nobody complained. Ever.
 
 
When the first Tour de l’Isle wines arrived at TWH, I wasexcited to see that they made Gigondas, and was not going to waste any time waiting to taste it. I did, and that’s why I’m typing. At the helm of the Tour de l’Isle label is Robert Rocchi. Robert has been involved with the wines of the southern Rhône Valley for over 35 years!Rocchi works with a select handful of growers in the area and assists and advises them on how to produce the finest wine from their holdings. As Anya likes to say,“He’s not afraid to make wine that tastes good.” The 2012 Gigondas is comprised of 70% Grenache, 18% Mourvèdre, and 12% Syrah, all aged in large foudre.The Mourvèdre gives it some gamey backbone, the Syrah some smokiness, but this is an Old World Grenache lover’s dream. It displays aromas of red and black fruit, spice and herbs, some forest floor earthiness, and a hint of iron. The palate is focused and layered, the elegant fruit persists long after the finish. No, he’s not afraid to make wine that tastes good.
 
 
2012. Sure, I have opinions on vintage quality, particularly in Bordeaux, but also the southern Rhône Valley. Butseeing this particular year on the label got me reminiscing about the year itself. Looking back, it was a pretty good one. For me, it was the year of the live show. I went to more concerts than I had in any other year,and by the time it ended, it was me back on stage after taking a few years off from performing live. It was a magical year for European Football as the club I support won club football’s grandest prize in dramatic fashion. A local baseball team did very well also! The trip to Bordeaux was a successful one, especially consideringit was in 2012 when I was able to taste Château Coutet’s dry white, Opalie for the very first time.Shortly thereafter, the 2010 vintage of the wine was released to the world and The Wine House San Francisco was the world’s first wine merchant to offer it! So yeah, great year.
 
Well, it is mid-August. That’s a fact. I suppose just like any other time of the year, it means different things to different folks. Thousands of kids in the North Bay will be back in school this week, but the French will remain on holiday. My perception of the dog days will continue, as willmy quest for the best French Dip. When I find it, it may be a good idea to have a bottle of 2012 Tour de l’Isle Gigondas handy. After all, it’s a great food wine! – Peter Zavialoff
 
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about summer’s dog days, French Dip sandwiches, Gigondas, or Bordeaux: peter@wineSF.com


Whew! Who knew? Put someBurgundy on sale, and things get hopping! Or as one customer who came in today said,“Burgundy sales are the only way mere mortals can buy and enjoy the stuff.” True, true. When we introduced this little surprise sale, we did mention that it wasmore than just Burgundy, and many of you found some other goodies by clicking around our website. On the heels of my recent blurb about affordable reds,I just kicked the proverbial rock and uncovered another beauty, andIT’S ON SALE for $9.95 per bottle: the 2011 Domaine Fondrèche Fayard!

 

 
 
On the heels indeed, of my recent write-up and Anya’s recent post about the 2013 Ventoux Rouge. I hesitated for a moment to put fingers to keyboard about this wine thinking it too similar to these two recent posts, but no, it’s a different wine; for sure. This baby has been gettingsome nice beauty rest and is in a fine place to treat our taste buds this summer! When I first approached the bottle to pour myself a taste, I brought some expectations. As Anya mentioned about the 2013, it needed air. We havealways enjoyed Sébastien Vincenti’s wines over the years, but we know that his wines tend to be in need of oxygen when they’re young. That’s just how he rolls; wedecant the wines, and they’re great. I remembertasting the 2011 Fayard when it was young. It was dense and jammy; the fruit was in the forefront and it was a challenge to perceive the overall framework of the wine because of it. Time has been kind to this wine.With those expectations in the back of my mind, I looked; I swirled. I reached for the light switch as I wanted to closely examine the color – it had changed. It’s not bricking or anything, but it has grown deeper in the maroon department and away from the magenta/purple hue it shined in its youth. A positive sign of a little age. I sniffed. Whoa. Tar, earth, there’s fruit, but it’s more mature, less jammy and more in line with the complex notes that one perceives now that it’s not so fruit forward. On the palate, it has a medium bodied mouth feel. It’sbright, the acidity is very much alive, and the fruit is smoky leading me to check the percentage of Syrah in the blend: 30%. It’s half Grenache, 30% Syrah, and the rest equal parts Carignan and Mourvèdre. Did I mention it was 10 bucks? If I sat down in a nice restaurant and they poured me a glass of this wine for 10 bucks I would be doing backflips, not to mention I would return again and again for more. I know that I grabbed a case of that 2010 Tradicional to keep my new apartment stocked with an underpriced delicious red, but I’ve got to have a case of this too! If you like southern Rhône Valley reds with smoky, Syrah character and a little bit of bottle bouquet, don’t walk, run to this one.
 
 
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, we had a busy week. In the timing department, along with the sale, the week was marked by the release of the 2015 prices for some of Bordeaux’s marquis names. David has been staying up in the middle of the night as these prices are released, making sure that our allocations are confirmed. I’ve been trying my best to get all of these purchases into our system and website, and you will soon see more offers for 2015 Bordeaux futures. This week promises to be chock full of even more releases as the campaign is soon to reach its pinnacle. So please keep an eye out for that. In the meantime, this latest little sale of ours continues, and hits like the 2011 Fondrèche Ventoux Fayard keep coming. Talk about pleasant surprises!– Peter Zavialoff
 
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about 2015 Bordeaux futures, our sale, the 2011 Fayard, or the state of English Football: peter@wineSF.com

The Wine House SF – Top Ten Wines Of 2015

Thursday, January 14, 2016 7:31 PM


 

The Wine House SF
Our Top Ten Wines Of 2015

 

 

As we begin to settle in to 2016, we look forward to all of the new wines and new discoveries that await us. But before we head full-steam into the new year, a brief recap of 2015 in the form of a list of our Top Ten Wines is in order! Here at TWH, over the course of a year, we taste thousands of wines made by hundreds of producers. From all of these tastings, one can only imagine the difficulty in choosing which wines to import and/or to stock on our shelves. A very small percentage indeed. Taking all that into consideration, paring the list of those wines down to a neat Top Ten is quite the challenge. So many wines deserve a mention, but one important criterion consistent in each year’s Top Ten is this: A good story. After all, a bottle of wine is a living thing.And so are we. Good wine is meant to be shared, and that is the only tidbit of instruction that we offer to accompany this list. Life is short. Live a little. Share your wine. Smile. Repeat as often as you can.

 

For a look at our previous lists, here are links to our Top Ten Wines from:

 


A few of these wines have sold out, but deserve to be mentioned on their merits. In no particular order, here areour Top Ten Wines of 2015:

 

 
 
2010 Domaine Sainte Barbe
Perle de Roche
Crémant de Bourgogne
 
 
We begin with bubbles. How can we not? With New Year’s Day festivities in our wake, it just makes sense. The 2010 Perle de Roche Crémant de Bourgogne from Domaine Sainte Barbe is very special indeed. In the day and age of mega-corporate Champagne producers flooding the market with their hundreds of millions of bottles, it’s refreshing to come across a small producer in Burgundy who cares for their Crémant like artisanal Grower-Champagne producers do. This fizz is dry, as only 4g/l of sugar are used, which is much lower than most wines labeled as “Brut.” Stony minerals are at its core, and its zippy nerve leads to a crisp, elegant finish. Winemaker Jean-Marie Chaland has not made this wine since his 2011 (which was produced in tiny quantities), and currently thereisn’t any new Crémant in the pipeline. So what is left is all there is. For now.

 

 
2012 Domaine du Pegau Cuvée Réservée
Châteauneuf-du-Pape
 
 
Truly a Châteauneuf-du-Pape lovers’ CdP, Domaine du Pegau is a standard bearer for traditional, old-school wines from the wine capital of the southern Rhône. The Wine Advocate’s Jeb Dunnuck puts it thusly, “Without a doubt, Domaine du Pegau is one of the top reference point estates for traditionally made Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
 
He goes on to describe the wine, “One of my favorite wines, the 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée is a classic. Beautiful on the nose, with notions of ground pepper, wild herbs, minerality and smoked plum and dark fruit, it’s medium to full-bodied, nicely concentrated and has plenty of tannin that comes through on the finish. Similar in style to a lighter-weight 2010, drink this beauty anytime over the coming 12-15 years. 94 points”

 

2012 Scherrer Sonoma County Grenache
 
 
On a field trip last summer, Anya paid a visit to the Scherrer winery during their annual open house.Having been on their mailing list since the winery’s early days in the 1990’s, she was very familiar with their various bottlings of Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. After another fine visit and tasting, as she was saying her good-byes, Fred Scherrer asked if she had time to taste one more wine. That’s a proposition that few wine geeks can resist, and Anya wasn’t about to buck the trend. He reached behind a barrel and revealed his 2012 Sonoma County Grenache. Knowing a bit about our selections of Grenache-based Rhône wines, Fred felt his Grenache would be a good fit with our customers. It is literally a single-vineyard bottling from Kick Ranch. Let’s just say that it went over so well that we are all in agreement about the wine’s ability to integrate the liveliness of southern Rhône Grenache with the juicy fruit expression of Sonoma County. We’re very happy to include the Scherrers in our Top Ten of 2015!

2012 Gabriel Billard Pommard Les Vaumuriens
 
 
It’s all in the family. Laurence Jobard and her sister, Miraille own Domaine Gabriel Billard. You may be familiar with Laurence from her 30 year tenure as oenologist at Maison Joseph Drouhin. The sisters now entrust Laurence’s daughter, Claudie with winemaking duty. Claudie has hit TWH’s Top Ten in the past, and does so again with this 2012 stunner. The domaine is a bit of a secret; they do not submit samples to any well-known publication or critic, and production is remarkably low.
 
After doing the research (delish!), and composing the write-up for the June 2015 Taste Of Burgundy, I asked David the rhetorical question, “I should have some of this in my cellar, shouldn’t I?” We popped a bottle at the end of a busy Friday during the Anniversary Sale/Holiday frenzy. I think Anya summed it up best when she said, “You know, I always love the inexpensive wines that we have in abundance here. I take a bottle of Gavi or a bottle of Côtes du Rhône home for dinner, and they always deliver, making me think, wow, what a goldmine. But then I taste a wine like this one and I get it. This is in another league; this is special.” The 2012 Pommard Vaumuriens is, for all intents and purposes, sold out. We do have a few bottles left of the 2012 Gabriel Billard Pommard 1er Cru Charmots, which is a qualitative upgrade from the Vaumuriens; but ultimately it’s about 2012 red Burgundy and the Jobard family magic!

2012 Domaine Stéphane Pichat Côte Rôtie Champon’s
 
 
The hits just keep coming! As the story goes, a sample bottle of the 2012 Domaine Stéphane Pichat Côte Rôtie Champon’swent out on a sales call to some fancy restaurants, and

when the remains showed back up in the shop after we closed that day, Chris and I were treated to more of that “another league” special kind of wine! Layers of all of the goodness a quality Côte Rôtie can provide, smoky, meaty, gamey, dark savory fruit, spice, and earthiness in a glass! It took every bit of willpower we had to not finish the bottle in order for Anya and Tom to get a taste the following day, and after they did, our euphoria for this wine is unanimous! The 2012 has sold out, but we still have some 2011 in stock, and 2013 on the way. I’m building a vertical of this one!
 
Here’s what The Wine Advocate’s Jeb Dunnuck had to say about the 2012 Pichat Champon’s, “Aged two years in 30% new oak, the 2012 Côte Rôtie le Champon exhibits gorgeous notes of black raspberry, sweet black cherry, smoked earth, herbs and dark chocolate. Pure, fine, elegant and layered, with medium to full-bodied richness, it too has a modern ting, but still has plenty of Côte Rôtie style. Drink it over the coming decade. 93 points”
 
And the 2011, “Comprised all of Syrah and aged 24 months in 40% new French oak, the 2011 Cote Rotie Champon’s exhibits a perfumed, complex bouquet of black raspberry, smoke, incense, saddle leather, violets and underbrush. This is followed by a medium to full-bodied, supple, elegant and pure 2011 that can be consumed any time over the coming 10-15 years. 92 points”

2012 Brick & Mortar Pinot Noir
 
 
Sometimes you never know what might be coming your way; so it’s a good idea to be open to new things.Introduced to us by David through a connection made via one of his tasting groups, winemaker Matthew Iaconis visited TWH last year and introduced us to Brick & Mortar. By the time he left, we were all convinced that we were on to something. And that’s the beauty of small, family-style run wine shops – If you’re new and under-the-radar, have a good story, and bottle a quality wine, folks like us are approachable. We don’t need fancy marketing, big scores, or any other bells and whistles. If the wine is high in quality and represents good value, bam; everyone wins. Especially our customers! Speaking of which, I took a look at the list of customers who bought the 2012 Brick & Mortar Pinot Noir, and it reads like a who’s who of Pinot Noir-centric customers who appreciate small production, off the radar, quality wines (a handful of which were in on Anthill Farms in the days before they caught on). We were delighted with the 2012 Brick & Mortar Pinot Noir (and their other wines too!), and are looking forward to the next vintage!

2010 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole
 
 
The 2010 vintage for Barolo was an outstanding one. But hold on folks – Rather than gushing about the perfect conditions, we’d like to mention the challenges.First off, winter did not go away easily. Frosty conditions continued through March which delayed the start of the growing season. Temperatures remained cool throughout the spring and summer, and a fair amount of rain fell in June and October. Most estates harvested around mid-October which made for a long growing/ripening season. What we’ve got here is a modern classic vintage. Wines that will age very well and reward those with patience.
 
Giuseppe Vajra paid us a visit last year and poured some exquisite wines for us, including the 2010 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole. Taking all that into consideration, this is yet another wine begging the rhetorical question, “I should have some of this in my cellar, shouldn’t I?”

2013 Antonio Sanguineti Cannonau di Sardegna
 
 
Island wines. Who knew? We heard quite a bit about island wines in 2015. And when we purchased and subsequently offered the 2013 Antonio Sanguineti Cannonau di Sardegna, we had no idea what was about to happen! First off, we sold through our stocks in record time. Then, we continued to receive inquiries in hopes that we could acquire more wine. Then, this posting received the most hits of the year on our blog. We ordered this wine on pre-arrival, so what was shipped to us was all there was going to be.The good news: All being said, we will be getting the next vintage soon. Stay tuned.

 

 

 
Cannonau is what they call Grenache in Sardinia. As written above, we are big fans of Grenache-based wines, both from the southern Rhône Valley and Sonoma County. Well, we can add another place of origin to the list as this island Cannonau exhibits wonderful round cherry fruit with layers of earth and herbs.Taking all of its quality into consideration, coupled with its value price, it’s no wonder that it was literally swept up in less than a week! Island wines? Now we know.

2012 Château Carbonnieux, Pessac-Léognan Blanc
 
 
The 2012 Château Carbonnieux Blanc underlines one of our more important strategies when scouting for wines to import. Upon tasting Bordeaux’s 2012 vintage En Primeur in the spring of 2013, I visited negociants, the UGC Tastings, and had several appointments at some fancy chateaux. It takes a lot of concentration to not let bias and perceived quality differences distract from being in the moment and appraising what is in the glass at any given time. It is well documented that I am fond of dry white Bordeaux, though one can probably say that about all styles of wine from the region. Sticking with the dry whites, I usually taste samples of Haut Brion, La Mission Blanc, Domaine de Chevalier, Pape Clement, and several others; wines that will retail for close to $100. In the case of the first two I mentioned, it’s more like $700 per bottle. So yeah, the quality/price model is a bit out of whack here, souncovering great value is a challenge. I vividly remember tasting the 2012 Carbonnieux Blanc out of barrel at the UGC tasting at Château Olivier. It had the structure and balance that I look for in a barrel sample. In the back of my mind, I had an idea of what its approximate price would be, and had it on a short list of must haves.
 
Later that same day, I was sitting at dinner at my favorite chateau, when I was asked by the other guests to “defend” a wine. I mentioned how dry white Bordeaux may be a bit underappreciated. Citing the tiny production, significant demand, the overall quality and ability to age well, I called out the 2012 Carbonnieux Blanc as a dynamite value from a sector known for pricy wines. After the wine arrived here in our warehouse last summer, I was happy to read of The New York Times’ Eric Asimov’s endorsement of the 2012 Château Carbonnieux Blanc.This article, of course, helped the wine sell out. Last spring, I tasted the 2014 Carbonnieux Blanc and I liked it every bit as much. With the stronger dollar, the 2014 Carbonnieux Blanc is an even better value! Hmmm. Perhaps one of the Top Ten Wines of 2017?

2012 Château d’Issan, Margaux
 
 
Red Bordeaux. Margaux. The 2012 Château d’Issan.It’s funny. I never think about our Top Ten Wines list when I’m out tasting. But this one goes all the way back to the spring of 2013 and Bordeaux’s En Primeur tastings. I tasted this at a large negociant tasting, asChâteau d’Issan does not participate in the UGC tastings. Tasting at this negociant’s can be quiteoverwhelming as there are literally hundreds of wines available. I try to pass on most of the wines that I will have other opportunities to taste in order to get to as many as possible. The barrel sample of 2012 d’Issan floored me. Using descriptors such as classy, silky, sexy, expressive, and nothing overboard meant this wine was a textbook example of a great barrel sample. My note ends with, “The star so far.” I was asked several times during this tasting by various members of the negociant’s staff what my impressions were and if I had any favorites. I pointed them all to the d’Issan and witnessed their happy reactions after tasting. When I returned from Bordeaux, I sat down with David to discussthe 2012 vintage. I told him that I liked the reds and whites from Pessac-Léognan, the wines from Barsac, Margaux, and Pomerol. David answered that yes, he had read about Pessac and Pomerol, but regarding Margaux, he said, “You’re kind of on your own here, because nothing I’ve read had anything great to say about Margaux.” Hey, what can I say; I taste what I taste. Maybe it was the d’Issan in particular, though there were other Margaux wines that I felt confident enough in to include the appellation among my favorites.
 
Fast forward to November of 2014. Augustin Lacaille from Château d’Issan visited us here at TWH and poured a few wines including the newly bottled 2012. My expectations were not in line with reality. Fortunately, neither was the wine. It’s off the charts! The best thing is that it isn’t off the charts when it comes to price. Bravo to the team at Château d’Issan for their outstanding 2012!

 

 

And there you have it. Another exciting year in wine has passed, another new year awaits. Well, we’re not waiting. It’s only the 13th of January, but we’re already out there tasting new wines to stock on our shelves. Trips to Europe are being planned, and of course, the Bordeaux UGC tastings of the 2013 vintage are set to hit the US at the end of the month. There’s no rest in the wine biz. All the best for a great 2016! –Peter Zavialoff

Tour de l’Isle 2014 Luberon

Monday, January 11, 2016 8:01 PM

 
Love, Love, Love This Luberon
 
 
The 2014 Luberon from Tour de l’Isle is a worthy successor to the equally enjoyable and delicious 2012 that I gushed over in a newsletter here. Fragrant aromas of blackberry and raspberry twirl around a core of spice and herbs. Yes, it smells divine. Not heavy- it rings in at 13.5% alcohol by volume – this Luberon has plenty of fruit impact, announcing its Southern Rhone pedigree at first sip. What is especially lovely about this juicy red are the soft tannins that help glide the flavors to your senses. Watch out though, it can go down quick if you’re not paying attention.
 
Photo Courtesy of Domaine de la Citadelle
 
Tour de l’Isle is Robert Rocchi’s line of wines made at a handful of selected domaines in the Southern Rhone. Robert doesn’t hide the fact that he makes his wines at these various domaines. The domaine names appear on the back label as if to say these wines come from a specific place and are not blends assembled from multiple sources. For the Luberon, Robert uses fruit from Yves Rousset-Rouard, the proprietor of Domaine de la Citadelle.Predominantly Syrah, with additions of Grenache, Mourvedré and Cinsault, as I wrote above, this wine is so juicy and delicious it is hard to limit yourself to just one glass!
 
The Luberon appellation was established in 1988. The region lies east of Avignon and sits south of the Ventoux and above Coteaux d’Aix-En-Provence. I have never visited this part of the Rhone Valley, but by all accounts, it is particularly picturesque.
 
Photo Courtesy of Domaine de la Citadelle
 

The Holidays are a good time to open special bottles. I understand the logic of doing so, but my contrarian nature kept me reaching to open simple, quiet wines like the 2014 Luberon from Tour de l’Isle. When emotions run high and there are lots of goings on, a dependable, built-to-please-many red can be a life-saver. On Christmas Eve, I did opena magnum of Napa Valley red that I had been cellaring for a long time and finally got the nerve up to pop the cork. I enjoyed it, but couldn’t help but be distracted by the table banter, the serving of the meal, etc. to really have enjoyed it. On Christmas Day, it was the 2014 Luberon that called out to me. As I nursed a glass while catching the last frame ofThe Christmas Story marathon, I asked my husband to describe what he liked about this Luberon. His answer was simple but precise “the fruit is there and the tannins are light”. Bring on the distractions! Happy New Year Everyone!– Anya Balistreri

2012 Scherrer Sonoma County Grenache

Monday, September 14, 2015 8:03 PM

Scherrer Winery’s
2012 Grenache
I have a confession to make: I do not visit local wineries as much as I should. What’s even worse is that I do not visit as much as I would like to either! Never mind the reasons why I don’t get out to Wine County often enough; it’s simply the reality. What’s even worse is that when I vacation at my family’s dacha along the Russian River, which I do as often as possible, I am only minutes away from hundreds of wineries! As luck would have it, my staycation up at the River this July coincided with Scherrer Winery’s Open House. Normally open by appointment only, Scherrer’s Open House is for mailing list customers to come try new releases and taste wine out of barrel. I’ve been a mailing list customer ever since the winery began in the early ’90s and as a wine buyer now, I am always eager to expound my admiration and preference for Scherrer wines.
 
 
The winery itself is a humble structure (an old apple-packing building) and is down a now-paved driveway that always makes me second-guess myself whether I turned down the right way. I love this place! Here there are no meticulously maintained gardens, gift shops, or pool cabanas. It’s a place where they make wine. Inside it’s dark and cellar-cool. The Open House is a family affair, with Fred and his father Ed pouring wines, and Fred’s wife, Judy, helping customers with their wine purchases. Even Fred’s daughter, home for the summer from college, was helping out pouring wine and reciting her father’s morsels of wine wisdom. And of course, you can’t forget about the dogs. Lots of them. All corralled in a pen near some barrels stacked up high.
 
 
I arrived at the winery with husband and daughter in tow, soI planned on making a quick pass through the wines. Fortunately, my daughter was preoccupied with the dogsand the tasty appetizers that were served. I had gotten through the first couple wines when I noticed a TWH customer. It was like running into an old friend! We ended up staying, tasting, chatting for a long time. I was enjoying being a customer and soaking up the atmosphere as more Scherrer fans came through the winery to taste. I didn’t bother grilling Fred with lots of questions this time. Instead I was more like a fly on the wall and just listened to what was going on around me. If you are ever interested in learning even more about wine (and have some time), check out the series Ask a Winemaker that frequently features Fred Scherrer. His thoughtful and clear explanations on wine topics are invaluable.
 
 
I wanted to properly thank Fred before I left the winery, and as I tried to catch his attention before heading out the door,Fred waved me over and asked if I had time to taste one more thing. What a question! How could I say no? Why would I say no? Fred pulled out a bottle of 2012 Grenache Sonoma County from behind a barrel. He explained that it was a wine he felt could work well in our store, given our customers’ palate preferences (and mine). It’s a wine that is almost exclusively on restaurant wine lists, as the tannins are smooth and the fruit prevalent without being over-the-top; in other words, a classic-styled Scherrer wine.
 
 
The 2012 Grenache has a Sonoma County appellation, but it is essentially a single-vineyard wine from Kick Ranch, which is situated along the eastern edge of Rincon Valley. Fred and Ed have been having a lengthy, on-going dialogue about what to do with a part of their Scherrer Vineyard in Alexander Valley that has laid fallow for some time. They settled on the idea of planting Grenache. Typical of Fred’s curious and methodic nature, he wanted to first work with the varietal before making any decisions in the vineyard. The 2012 Grenache is an impressive effort. I loved the voluminous texture and the soft-edged tannins.The finish gave off this milk-chocolatey nuance that reminded me of the finer Vacqueyras I’ve tasted. The2012 Grenache captures the liveliness of true Southern Rhone wines but with the juicy fruit expression of California.
 
 
In his newsletter, Fred writes that “we have done extensive research at the dinner table pairing this wine with many different foods from tomato-based sauces and pasta, simple grilled pork to braised beef and antelope and find that it is extremely versatile. It also handles a diverse set of food spices and sings with rosemary in particular [no great surprise there].” I am eager to test out his findings at home. I particularly like the rosemary angle…perhaps a grilled leg of lamb basted with rosemary dipped in olive oil or jus? That could be epic! – Anya Balistreri

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Boudinaud’s 2012 Côtes du Rhône La Boissière is about half Grenache and a quarter Syrah with the balance divvied up between Mourvedre, Cinsault and Counoise.Yeah, this is a Côtes du Rhône alright. Supple, strawberry fruit merges with spicy white pepper Syrah notes, while the Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Counoise complete the aromatic experience. It is a typical Southern Rhône story here at Domaine Boudinaud, with climate and soil perfectly suited for the varietals. But what isn’t typical is the exceptional quality of the 2012 La Boissière. It is compact and jammy on the palate and aromatically on pointe with the berry notes and whiffs of lavender and garrigue.
David&Thierry
David & Thierry
I’ve been on a Southern Rhône kick. They’re such good values; I find it hard to pass them up. For Domaine Boudinaud, the newly arrived 2012 reds usher in a Golden Age for the winery. Thierry Boudinaud has always made super-value wines – we’ve been importing his wines for a long time, so we know – however his 2012 reds enter an even higher plane of excellence. Admittedly, I fall into wine-writing cliché here, but it’s unavoidable because it is true: the 2012 reds are Domaine Boudinaud’s best wines to date. Like with Couronneauand Pierazzuoli, as the years advance, so has the quality of their wines. Surely they were terrific to begin with, otherwiseThe Wine House wouldn’t have bothered to import them in the first place, but what you see in these instances over time is the evolution of place and winemaker.
 


BoudinaudSign
Which way to Boudinaud?
 

Have you ever had one of those weeks where a seemingly innocuous playground accident turned into a three hour visit at the doctor’s office, then leaving with your child wearing a cast on her hand? The visit to the doctor, of course, had been further complicated because your husband’s truck was in the shop and had to use your car for the day, so you had to borrow a ride to get to the doctor’s office in the first place? It doesn’t end there – the truck doesn’t get fixed as quickly as promised, therefore you had to get ready even earlier all week so that there was enough time to drive your husband to work before dropping your child off at school and then try to make it to work on time? What about deciding to wake up extra early on that week’s Saturday so that you can take a long, peaceful shower and perhaps linger over coffee while reading the morning paper before heading off to work, only to discover that the doghad thrown-up in the kitchen as well as had pooped all over the floor of the shower? Ever had one of those weeks? I think you know what I am talking about.

 
Boissiere12After work last Saturday, I brought home a bottle ofBoudinaud’s 2012La BoissièreCôtes du Rhône to have with veggie burgers. Given the week I had, I wasreally looking forward to that glass of wine! But before I could even touch my lips to the rim, my cell phone blew up with texts. Before I could shoot a text back, the texter called up on the telephone- great…something must be up! After quelling this mini-crisis, I returned to the kitchen and was handed a glass of theLa Boissière by my husband. I was about to fill him in on the phone conversation, but couldn’t get the words out of my mouth because the aromas of the wine stopped me in my tracks…it smelled so good. In fact so good, Iknew I was going to love this wine! And sure enough, I do.
 
At TWH, we’ve been referring to Sébastien Vincenti as the “young winemaker” from Domaine de Fondrèche for quite a while. Here’s the funny thing, Sébastien has been making wine at the domaine for twenty years! His youthful looks aside, Sébastien is one of those ambitious and passionate winemakers who early in his career attached himself to important wine mentors and then took on the challenge of producing exceptional wine in a region that was overlooked and overshadowed by its more famous neighbors. A quick whiff of the 2012 Fayard will instantly orient you to the Rhône with its aromas of ripe berries, dusty herbs, and violets. Well it should, as it is from the Rhône, only not from Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Gigondas, but from Ventoux.
 
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Sébastien’s mother, Nanou Barthelémy purchasedDomaine de Fondrèche in 1993. The vineyard is 28 hectares and provides the grapes for their red wine production. The vines are grown on rocky soil over gravel and limestone on a plateau that flanks Mount Ventoux. It really is a prime location for the growing of grapes, especially Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, where the Mistral wind keeps the grapes pristine and cools down temperatures for an optimal, long growing-season.
 
The 2012 Fayard is a blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah and the rest Mourvèdre. The gorgeous red fruit is fresh and vibrant. It is open-knit and drinking superbly at this moment. Unmistakably Rhône-ish, the2012 Fayard has the soft-edged, succulent Fondrèche palate-feel without any of the funkiness it can often have upon release. The 2012 Fayard is raring to go, to delight and share a bit of that Provençal sunshine with each glassful during these wintery dark nights.
 
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It seems a lifetime ago now, but during a trip to France, visiting many of our producers with a large group of wine trade folk, I had a memorable lunch at an auberge where the wines of Domaine de Fondrèche were served. To get to the auberge, you had to drive along a dirt driveway where the animals, that might at some future date be your entrée, were stabled alongside the restaurant. The food was rustic, homey, and for this girl, just the kind of food I like best to eat. The servers also looked like they enjoyed the food they prepared and proudly presented each course family-style. A leg of lamb spit-roasted in the main room’s open fireplace was a favorite dish, but it was the barley salad with sautéed crispy bits of duck gizzards that to this day have me salivating. I can’t remember the exact vintage, but the Fayard poured was perfectly matched to the nuttiness of the grain and the earthiness of the gizzards. I must one day try to re-create this pairing.
 
 
This weekend should also be memorable in The Bay Area. Yep, my daughter will be hosting her first ever sleepover birthday party! And, there is the historic Golden Gate Bridge closure. I am well prepared for both events! Or am I? I am beginning to think that before I depart work today and drive northbound over the Golden Gate one last time before a movable medium will be installed on the bridge, maybe, just maybe, I should tote along a bottle of the 2012 Fayard. Fayard and gizzards, that I know match up, but what about Fayard and a gaggle of chatty eleven-year old girls? Probably should take a bottle…wish me luck!
 
 
 
 
From The Wine Advocate’s issue #210 “A blend of 50% tank-aged Grenache and 30% Syrah and 20% Mourvedre aged in barrel, the 2012 Cotes du Ventoux Fayard (which was the only 2012 I tasted out of bottle) is a gorgeous effort that gives up impressive notes of black raspberry, flowers, violets and pepper. Perfumed, complex and with the hallmark purity of the fruit that all of this estate’s wines show, this medium-bodied, elegant and lively effort has good acidity and a clean finish. Enjoy it over the coming 4-5 years. “ 90 points.

Boudinaud’s 2012 Syrah Grenache

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 5:47 PM

 

“We tried the 2012 Syrah Grenache; WOW is it great!”. That’s how I was greeted when I came into work on Thursday. I hadn’t yet tried the 2012 Syrah Grenache from Boudinaud myself, but I had taken home a bottle over the weekend. I was planning on opening it soon anyway, but with such a resounding endorsement from the crew, I was compelled to open it that evening. When it comes to trying out new vintages of our value-priced direct imports, I don’t like being the odd man out. Deeply relieved, I too found the wine to be delicious. Relieved? Yes, relieved because Boudinaud’s Syrah Grenache is my ‘house red’ as it were. When in doubt or not sure what meal plans lay ahead, I know I can’t go wrong with this versatile, charming red.

 

 



I wouldn’t say the 2012 Syrah Grenache is a departure from past vintages, but it clearly has more stuffing to it and a distinctly Rhone-like herby thread that weaves through the nose and palate. David remembered that the 2012 Syrah Grenache is for the first time 100% de-stemmed and is what probably gives the wine the added dimension. The fruit is redolent of black and red berries, fresh and bright but not tanky; it is more akin to a Cotes du Rhone than the average Southern French fighting varietal. Boudinaud’s winery is located in Fournès, a small village between Avignon and Nîmes, and very near the famous Pont Gard. Boudinaud’s vineyards are both within the Cotes du Rhone appellation and just next to it. The 2012 Syrah Grenache is more than fairly priced with lots of personality and a sense of place. 

 

Next month, along with my siblings, I will be throwing a 60th Wedding Anniversary party for my parents. It will be a daytime garden affair. The menu will include a whole spit-roasted pig and salmon. So far, the 2012 Syrah Grenache is my front runner for the red selection. I think it will go equally well with the fish and animal. And because this is a daytime event, I don’t think a heavy powerful red is appropriate or necessary.  I like the freshness and liveliness of the tank-fermented Boudinaud Syrah Grenache. It will be a far more pleasant drink and food companion than something with stronger tannins and oak. Plus, as I tried to convey above, this red is not lacking in the fruit department; it has plenty of WOW factor. Anya Balistreri

2009 Tour de l’Isle Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Sunday, December 15, 2013 9:45 PM

Attention Customers: The Wine House SF will be open the following 2 Sundays, December 15 & December 22!!! Please note that our special Sunday hours will be 12 Noon – 4 PM. 
Yep, there’s something in the air. You feel it. I feel it. It’s indisputable. The longest night of the year is but a mere week away. We’re full-on embroiled in “The Holidays!” And however you choose to celebrate, we hope your celebrations are full of love, cheer, and happiness. It’s a good thing that one of many assignments I have today is to put fingers to keyboard and type away. This way I get to catch up on my thoughts, so please bear with me. It has been a banner week! Jeff Tweedy of Wilco fame just rolled through northern California, and if you’ve read any of my ramblings around the times Wilco has been in town, you would be safe to assume that I was in attendance. It was a close call traffic-wise, but I made it up to Davis on Tuesday night just in time to catch Mr. Tweedy from the 2nd row! Wednesday and Thursday nights were less hectic at the legendary Fillmore. Thursday night’s show was particularly special, with an amazing setlist that still has me shaking my head in disbelief. Anyways, all that positive energy has carried me here, and away I type. Here’s the part about a wine that I fancy.
They hang like grapes on vines that shine … One of my favorite things about being part of TWH team is knowing that we are extremely flexible when it comes to importing the myriad of wines that we do.  One beaming example of this practice (which usually comes with a 5 minute, detailed story on our sales floor), is how we’ve come to be the California importer for Robert Rocchi’s Tour de l’Isle label. It all started in Chicago … and the wind blew me back, Via Chicago in the middle of the night. David went to a trade show there a couple of years ago and tasted a whole lot of wines, many of which were made by producers seeking importers. One wine that he tasted there was the 2009 Tour de l’Isle Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He loved it. He loved it so much, he brought a bottle back with him. He brought that bottle back for us to try. We loved it too. It’s true; every single one of our staff was blown away. Chris took a sip and made that snapping sound with his fingers. Tom was gushing with praise (and if I remember, he got to take what was left of the sample bottle home). Anya couldn’t keep the smile off of her face for the better part of an hour. Emily (remember Emily?), who once told me she would marry Grenache if she could, was smitten. David held the air of a proud parent after we were all collectively blown away. One problem: they already had a California importer. Well, we didn’t let a little thing like that stop us. We sought out the importer and bought their remaining stock. And beginning with the 2010 vintage, we are now the importer of the Tour de l’Isle wines! The wines are simply amazing, especially the 2009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

 

Being in the wine biz, it is safe to assume that I get a lot of emails about wine. A lot. Every day, I’ve got a box full of letters … One email that came a couple of weeks ago was for some famous bottlings of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Labels like Pegau, Beaucastel, and the like. Only thing was the price; they were selling these wines for upwards of $100 per bottle! I thought, “Sure these are fancy wines, but sheesh! That’s expensive. Especially considering the fact that we’ve got the Tour de l’Isle for $35. But now that we’re well into our 36th Anniversary Sale, it’s been marked down to $25.95!!! I mean that’s just crazy. This sale will likely mark the end of our having the 2009 in stock, but we sure have this special wine to thank, as it opened our doors to Robert Rocchi’s stable of fine wines from the southern Rhône Valley.

Here’s what Robert Parker had to say about this wine, “The dense ruby/purple-tinged 2009 Chateauneuf du Pape Tour de l’Isle reveals tremendous opulence, power and richness. Pepper, spice box, garrigue and kirsch characteristics emerge from this full-bodied effort. It should drink nicely for a decade or more.”

So there you go. If you love Grenache (you don’t have to marry it) – If you love the wines from the southern Rhône Valley – If you love a great sale – pass on this at your own peril!

Whew! What a day! As I type this, we are officially closed for the day, though several customers are still here picking over the bargains scattered around the floor. It was hopping at TWH today! I have to say the quote of the day had to be courtesy of the 8 year old son of a couple of TWH pals, “Do you have any 2005 Cos d’Estournel?” I was floored; that was awesome. Speaking of awesome, it was an odd Saturday as over a handful of customers wanted to talk about Sauternes! I’m not going to question it, nor ask why. I like to talk about Sauternes more than I like to talk about Wilco. But hey, with the music still fresh in my head, and with the shop open tomorrow (and the following Sunday), I’m going to bring my guitar with me. Who knows, with proper coaxing, I might be convinced to play a couple of songs here in the frigid, echoing warehouse.  Mr. Browning has a prediction, so we, we’ve all been told. – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments on Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Our 36th Anniversary Sale, this week’s Jeff Tweedy shows, Bordeaux, or English Football: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

2009 Santa Duc Cotes du Rhône Les Vieilles Vignes

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 8:18 PM

There is just something about Santa Duc’s Cotes du Rhônes. In the hands of winemaker Yves Gras, Grenache is elevated to the grand heights of sensory pleasure. For my palate, the taste of ripe, plush Grenache is as comforting as falling into a down-filled overstuffed sofa. With the 2009 Cotes du Rhône Les Vieilles Vignes, Yves augments that cushy, juicy Grenache fruit with elements of white pepper, fragrant forest-floor herb notes, and a seamless finish. It is a lovely drink for evenings that are constructed around simple foods and animated conversations that go long into the night. When you have the urge to tuck in, curl up on the couch, and savor a glass of something yummy, I strongly suggest reaching for Santa Duc’s 2009 Les Vieilles Vignes. 
Domaine Santa Duc has long been recognized for stellar Gigondas and Cotes du Rhônes. In the 1997 edition of Wines of the Rhone Valley, Robert Parker Jr. wrote, “Santa Duc has become not only an important estate in Gigondas…but also a noteworthy producer of high-quality Cotes du Rhone…” I can assure you that in the 15 years since this publication was written, Yves has not been resting on his laurels and in fact is making even better wine today. Back in the late 80’s, Yves took over from his father who had been selling the fruit from their domaine to local negociants. This was common practice back then, but Yves had someithing else in mind for Santa Duc. With his unwavering work in the vineyard and cellar, becoming certified organic as of 2012, Santa Duc has yielded consistently exceptional wine over the years. It certainly hasn’t hurt that the Rhône has been blessed with a string of quality vintages either. However I’d like to point out as testament to Yves’ winemaking prowess that in the disastrous 2002 vintage, when most of the Rhône’s wine production was obliterated by torrential rains and floods, Yves managed to salvage his grapes and make, ok I’ll try not to exaggerate, very good wine. No small feat. The 2009 Les Vieilles Vignes is a selection of vines over 50 years old from primarily Villages-level vineyards, Yves’ own designation for calling it “old vines”. Grenache dominates, with the remainder Syrah, Mourvedre and the other usual Rhone suspects. Other than that, not much else to note – it really is all about the ripe fruit.Today, Wine House customers seemed ready to get busy in the kitchen. I heard about menus featuring roast duck, herb-crusted pork loin and, my favorite, a pork shoulder brined over night to be cooked on a rotisserie attachment over a grill. And what do all these mouth-watering dishes have in common? They’d all be great with the 2009 Les Vieilles Vignes from Santa Duc, c’est vrai! 
Last Saturday I rushed home to celebrate Mardi Gras, Russian-style. That’s right, we had buckwheat blini with all sorts of preserved and salted fish. As we were catching up on things, my brother commented that he expects to read something about our feast in my next write-up, but I explained it would be difficult since this is one of the few meals where wine just doesn’t work, it’s strictly vodka with blini. What could I do? Well, my brother then went on to say that he likes to keep the Dirty Dozen write-up on top of the wine fridge he keeps in the dining room. That way when he’s sent to grab a bottle for dinner, he can call back, “what’s cooking?” and then try to find what best matches the food pairing suggestion written at the end of each Dirty Dozen wine description. Now that’s a helpful tip I can share. Thanks big brother! —Anya Balistreri

2011 Juicy Villages from Juicy Rebound

Tuesday, November 6, 2012 11:44 PM

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The 2011 Juicy Villages from Juicy Rebound is fun, delicious, and quite a remarkable wine value when you consider the quality of grapes that go into the blend.Winemaker Douglas Danielak took 120+ year old Mourvedre from the famed Evanghelo Vineyard in Contra Costa County and added a bit of Sonoma County Syrah and Grenache for the Southern Rhone-inspired Juicy Villages. You would think that fruit from any one of these sources would command a higher price tag, but Douglas was looking to make an entry-level orvillages level, if you would, wine that could be enjoyed immediately.

 

 

As is so often the case, Douglas Danielak is not only a winemaker who we have been following for many, many years starting with his pioneering years at Jade Mountain and then at White Rock and now with Paras Vineyards, but is a customer of The Wine House, having a penchant for French wines. Currently, Douglas makes wine for a number of micro-boutique wineries. It is only recently that he has started his own labels, Juicy Rebound and Pont Neuf, with his wife Mary. Douglas’ hobbies extend beyond wine; he is an avid fan of hockey and also plays in local leagues. This seems incongruous to his friendly demeanor and encyclopedic knowledge of wine. When Douglas came by the store last, we got on the subject of premature oxidation in White Burgundy. Douglas gave a quick lecture citing several theories, explaining them in easy-to-understand language, quoting sources from the many French winemakers he personally knows and visits frequently. This AND the fact that he makes fabulous wines and can skate on ice while swinging a stick at a fast moving puck, is impressive, I’d say.

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The 2011 Juicy Villages, though approachable and well… JUICY, is not devoid of that dark brooding fruit you’d expect of a wine dominated by Mourvedre.The Mourvedre from Evanghelo Vineyard, which was planted in 1880, grows in sand. Yes, sand. I’ve included a photo, courtesy of Douglas, that puts this fact into vivid view. This sand bank was created where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers merge. The vines are all head-pruned, non-irrigated and on their original rootstock – Douglas calls them “little trees”. All this contributes to lush aromatics, beautiful violet aromas and tangy acidity. Douglas has worked with fruit from Evanghelo Vineyard for 20 years. You can tell how special Evanghelo is to Douglas not only by the deliciousness of the finished wine but by how intimately he describes this unique vineyard site. A strong connection between winemaker and vineyard makes for very interesting wine. The Syrah and Grenache are not afterthoughts but rather intentional components that add richness and sweet fruit. The 2011 Juicy Villages is an example of the exciting and noteworthy wines being made in California that buck the trend of massive, oaky, Cab-centric reds at a budget-friendly price. —Anya Balistreri

September 2012 Dirty Dozen

Saturday, September 8, 2012 10:00 PM

As we motor along through 2012, we’re down to 3 weeks of summer left before it’s time to start thinking about raking leaves, post season baseball, and persimmons. Let’s not go there just yet. Our Indian summer is about to begin, so there will be plenty more chances to picnic and barbecue. Need some wine? The September Dirty Dozen should do the trick!


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

2011 Vino Blanco, Bodegas Castano $9.98 net price, $8.98 reorder
The Castano family is one of the most respected wine producing families in southeastern Spain.  For their Vino Blanco, they blend 50/50 Macabeo and Chardonnay, and the result will put a smile on your face.  Hints of white and tropical fruits are present in the aromas and the palate is round and structured.  The perfect wine to pour with that ceviche.

2011 Cercius, Philippe Cambie/Michel Gassier/Eric Solomon $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
Eric Solomon, one of America’s finest small importers, teamed up with consultant Philippe Cambie and winemaker Michel Gassier to launch the Cercius label.  A blend of mostly Grenache Blanc with Sauvignon Blanc, the wine plays a bigger role than the sum of its parts.  Fleshy, yet crisp, this will pair mightily with pan-seared scallops over leafy greens.

2010 Chardonnay, Novellum $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
Languedoc Chardonnay isn’t something that we hear about too often, but when we tasted the Novellum, we were impressed.  The wine is bright and lively with tropical hints and a kiss of spice.  Pair it with a clam and garlic pasta.

2010 Grenache Blanc/Chardonnay/Marsanne, Cote EST $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
Lovers of Rhone-inspired crisp white wines will feel at home with a glass of the Cote EST from France’s Cotes Catalanes.  It has a bright, lively mouth feel, a fleshy fruit presence, and medium bodied weight.  Another wine to enjoy here in the waning warmth of summer 2012, it can be served on its own, at a picnic, or with a shrimp salad.

2011 Gavi di Gavi Rovereto, Ernesto Picollo $15.99, $12.79 reorder
Mama mia!  Our scouting missions to various Italian wine tastings have paid off big-time here!  Regular DD subscribers, no doubt, have tasted Picollo’s super bargain Gavi DOCG, but the Gavi di Gavi Rovereto is a whole ‘nother animal.  Richness, purity, and precision present themselves in dapper manner, as this wine exudes class.  A great one for a bowl of mussels.

2009 Pinot Gris Im Berg, Domaine Ehrhart $14.99, $11.99 reorder
Ehrhart.  As in Corinne and Philippe from Wettolsheim.  Their family has only been making wine in Alsace since the early 18th century.  They make opulent wines with excellent balance and verve.  This single vineyard Pinot Gris has earthy, mushroomy aromas and a wide, fleshy presence on your palate.  A great wine with a bacon wrapped chicken breast.

2009 Baron Des Chartrons $9.98 net price, $8.98 reorder
At this point, you must have heard about the success of the 2009 vintage in Bordeaux.  If not, just know that the weather was perfect for the region’s red wines – everybody got good grapes AND you don’t have to take out a second mortgage to enjoy it.  Check out this more than reasonably priced quaffer from the Moueix family.  Think juicy steak.

2010 Syrah, Porcupine Ridge $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder
South Africa’s Porcupine Ridge has delighted our palates for several vintages now, as we can’t help but love those smoky aromas that surround the spicy, dark red fruit.  The palate is medium to fuller bodied, and the smoky, spicy framework holds through to the finish.  If you’ve got a beef brisket cooking low and slow on the smoker, you’ve found your pairing!

2009 Montravel Vieilles Vignes, Chateau Puy-Servain $21.59, $17.27 reorder
The success of the 2009 vintage was not confined to Bordeaux, but if your vineyard sits just across the Dordogne from the Bordeaux AOC, you pretty much got great grapes too.  TWH friend Daniel Hecquet’s Montravel Vieilles Vignes is very special in 2009.  So good mind you, that you could sneak this into a blind St. Emilion tasting and get away with it.

2009 Montsant Old Vines, Celler De Capcanes $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
Old Vines is an understatement here, as the Grenache vines are over 80 years old.  The Montsant mountains and vines surround the more well known Priorat appellation, though stylistically, the wines are different.  This blend of mostly Grenache with a soupcon of Syrah is another great deal coming from Espana.  Grilled meat skewers will work well here.

2010 Syrah, Saint Antoine $10.99, $8.79 reorder
Red wine lovers on a budget know all about the virtues of Jean-Louis Emmanuel’s Saint Antoine from the Costieres de Nimes.  Jean-Louis now de-stems all of his grapes and vinifies in steel tank resulting in wines that are pure and fresh.  Bright cherry flavors with Cassis and spice make up the flavor profile.  Another great wine for the outdoor grill.

2010 Chianti Montalbano, Pierazzuoli $13.49, $10.79 reorder
You can argue that Chianti is a rustic, simple quaffer meant to be served by the glass next to a bowl of cappellini with fresh tomato sauce.   That’s before you taste Enrico Pierazzuoli’s Chianti Montalbano.  Not your grandfather’s Chianti, Enrico’s is 100% Sangiovese grown just west of Firenze in the Tuscan countryside.  Robust dark cherry flavors with earthy undertones burst forth from the glass suggesting the wine be paired with something a little more serious.

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2009 Les Cimels: South of France in a Glass

Monday, May 21, 2012 9:37 PM

 



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The 2009 Les Cimelsfrom our beloved Chateau d’Or et de Gueules is a Syrah-driven red that elegantly combines ripened fruit flavors with South of France earth/spice aromas and notes. You wouldn’t mistake Les Cimels for anything but a French wine; you can’t ignore the black pepper spice and herbes de Provence. It’s precisely this quality that I believe draws our customers to this wine vintage after vintage. Les Cimels is not a cookie-cutter product; there is vintage variation, however that distinctive combo of fruit and spice threads through it each year. The 2009 Les Cimels is redolent of raspberry fruit, is really approachable and like so many ’09s from France, has enough tang and structure to keep it interesting. Of course that little hint of Syrah funk is also welcoming.  

When proprietress and winemaker Diane de Puymorin purchased the property that would become Chateau d’Or et de Gueules in the late ’90s,she did something really wonderful, something someone with less imagination and integrity would not have done — she left old-vine Carignan growing in the vineyards!! It would have made much better economic sense to rip out the vines that were producing less, that were more of a bother to care for and plant vigorous young vines in their place. Instead Diane followed her conviction, left as much of the old-vines that could be saved and added them to her blends. I think the result is an undeniable complexity that differentiates her wines from other Costieres de Nimes wines. Diane’s wines are true artisanal expressions of winemaking. For the Les Cimels, Diane ferments old vine Carignan carbonically, giving the overall blend a freshness and brightness as counterpoint to the more brooding Syrah (there is also a small portion of Grenache in the mix).

It being the middle of May, I am in full wonderment at the beauty of Spring as April showers have given way to more sunny May days. The fava beans in my garden are finally ready for harvest, though they rarely make it into a pot. I love to eat them raw right there in the yard and toss the shells and skin back into the dirt. Instant composting! But if I were to curtail my habit of eating the fava beans raw, I would probably concoct a ragout of lamb with them and pour a glass of the 2009 Les Cimelsalongside. Now doesn’t that sound like a capital idea! —Anya Balistreri

April 2012 Dirty Dozen

Tuesday, April 3, 2012 9:02 PM

Days get longer, the nights grow short, our Easter baskets are getting filled up, and what’s this? Baseball season? Yep, it’s April and it’s time for opening the windows and doors, getting some fresh air, and maybe a picnic or four. However you like to spend your time this spring, consider this: Twelve bottles, one low price.

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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

2010 Orvieto, Cardèto
Big on our list of springtime wines are dry, crisp, easy quaffers that deliver in the quality department, yet keep the big bills in your wallet. This Orvieto is just the ticket! Lean and crisp with a citrusy freshness, this blend of Trebbiano and Grechetto is a great refresher should a warm spring afternoon come your way. Pairs great with a bowl o’mussels.

2010 Chardonnay, Viano Vineyards
Is it us, or do you ever see Cali Chardonnay in the sub $10 category anymore? At least quality, sub $10 Cali Chardonnay? Sales reps visit us and pour and pour, but we keep saying no until the right one comes along. Well, here it is! From Contra Costa county, no less; halfway between the Napa and Livermore Valleys comes the Viano. Pair with a crab salad.

2010 Vino Valpredo Bianca Mia, Fritz Winery
Rather than choose between Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, why not blend them? At least that’s what our friends at Sonoma’s Fritz Winery thought. You know what? This is some quality juice. Aromas of stone fruits and citrus blossoms give way to a zesty citrus palate. Anya says grill up some shrimp and serve it with mango salsa … and this, of course.

NV Prosecco Superiore, Giavi
Talk to any of us about our new D.O.C.G. Prosecco Superiore, the Giavi, and prepare yourself for an enthusiastic reply! Seriously, this Prosecco has it all: tiny bubbles, a pale, frosty appearance, depth, and crispness. Crostini with caviar?

2010 Blanc de Domaine de la Petite Cassagne
Her name is Diane de Puymorin. We adore her wines … all of them. Diane purchased the Petite Cassagne estate back in 1998, renamed it Château d’Or et des Gueules, yet still pays homage to the old guard with a Rouge, Rosé, and this Blanc. Diane blends 40% Rolle (Vermentino) with Grenache Blanc and the result is a bright, citrus infused aromatic showpiece.

2009 Fernão Pires, Quinta do Alqueve
Dare we try to get wine geeky on you, but here’s Portugal’s Fernão Pires blended with a smidge of Arinto. Geeky? Maybe. But the stone fruity aromas and crisp mouthfeel will make wine geeks out of us all! Great with sardines.

2009 Garnacha Two Rows, Odisea
As we switch to the reds, let’s point out that our friends at Odisea have another hit on their hands. Mostly Grenache with small parts Syrah and Tempranillo, the Two Rows is a plump palate pleaser. Ripe cherries and raspberries mingle with vanilla spice and herbs resulting in ethereal harmony. If it’s burgers on the grill; sorry, these Two Rows are taken.

2010 Tempranillo, Enanzo
Yummy Tempranillo from Spain’s Navarra region! The philosophy at Enanzo is simple. To quote them, “this Tempranillo is made by applying the only true winemaking criterion: intimate, permanent, progressive harmony between man and his environment.” It works here, the herb infused fruit is braced by dusty tannins and spirited acidity. Great with pizza.

2009 Château de Bouchet La Rentiere
What a vintage 2009 was for the wines of Bordeaux! The Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker likened the vintage to the legendary 1982 noting one exception: in 1982 there weren’t many small, inexpensive producers taking advantage of the perfect weather to make great affordable Bordeaux. That’s different now. Pair this beauty with your prime rib.

2008 Les Cimels, Château d’Or et des Gueules
If there’s a better $15 red wine here at TWH, I haven’t seen it. The aforementioned Diane de Puymorin blends some old vine Carignan with Grenache and Syrah, and the result is an herbal masterpiece. Forest floor, Kalamata olives, and black tea dominate the aromas, and the palate is more savory than fruity. The perfect wine for pasta with an herbal sauce.

2009 Côtes du Rhône les Boissières, Vignobles Boudinaud
New to us is Veronique and Thierry Boudinaud’s les Boissières Côtes du Rhône. It’s an exciting story as 100% of what’s imported to the US is imported for us! Think honest, old-school Côtes du Rhône here. It shows plenty of fruit, but without going overboard. Toss in some cracked pepper and herbs Provençal, and you get the drift. This is yet another versatile bottle in what can be called The Versatile Dozen. Great on its own, or paired with cassoulet.

2006 Syrah, Alberto Furque
Ever popular with our staff and customers, the Alberto Furque line crushes it when it comes to quality for price. Grown at altitudes of over 3000 feet, the vineyards of Mendoza’s Bodega Aconquija (we call them Alberto Furque) get just the right amount of warm days and cool nights to produce wines with dazzling structure. This Syrah sings of balance and harmony. If you find yourself dreaming about some thinly sliced Argentine beef with Chimichurri sauce, pour this.

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2009 Tour de l’Isle Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Friday, February 17, 2012 3:33 PM

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Tap, tap, tap. What’s that? Knock, knock, knock. Who is it? BANG, BANG, BANG!!! Got your attention? Good. That would be a table … and we areBANGING THE TABLE on what we can only describe as the most exciting new southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape to be exact, wine to hit our shelves EVER! When you’ve been in business 34 years, that’s one bold statement; but when you’ve been in business 34 years, you’ve got some good connections. A few weeks ago, through one of these connections, a sample bottle of the 2009 Tour de l’Isle Châteauneuf-du-Pape was popped for our staff at the end of a hectic work day. With 6 of us gathered ’round the tasting table, the Tour de l’Isle CdP didn’t stand a chance of leaving TWH any other way than via the recycle bin. Just ask any of us about this wine, as we were collectively blown away! Think pure, yummy Grenache goodness. Plenty of ripe dark berry fruit, cracked black pepper, and an earthy spice dominate the aromatics; the palate is bursting with power as the fruit, earth, and spice mesh seamlessly with the robust structure of this textbook Châteauneuf! The finish is complex and lively with great length. Seriously, we are so dang excited to be representing this wine, we cannot contain ourselves.



robertrocchiThe Skinny:


Tour de l’Isle’s Robert Rocchi has been involved with the wines of the southern Rhône for over 30 years. After college, he began working for his uncle, a Côtes du Rhône producer. He was involved in all aspects of his uncle’s business from growing to vinifying to international marketing. In 1991, he and his wife purchased a portion of his uncle’s vineyard, opened a large retail wine store and an old-fashioned wine bar, and the Tour de l’Isle brand was born. As their retail business thrived, they found the need to focus on expanding the brand, so they sold their vineyard. Rocchi then worked with a few carefully selected producers,first in the blending of, and then eventually by making his wines at the properties of the respective producers. 100% transparent, Robert lists each producer’s name on the back labels, and the wines come in boxes marked by each individual producer. Patrick Jaume makes this stunning Châteauneuf. His 2009 Tour de l’Isle Châteauneuf-du-Pape is made from 85% Grenache, 8% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre, and 2% Cinsault.



jrrpTestimonials:


You can sure take our word for it when it comes to the stunning value of this wine, but if you’re looking for additional confirmation,check out what some of the wine world’s heavy hitters have to say about the 2009 Tour de l’Isle Châteauneuf-du-Pape:



The Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker: “The dense ruby/purple-tinged 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape Tour de l’Isle reveals tremendous opulence, power and richness. Pepper, spice box, garrigue and kirsch characteristics emerge from this full-bodied effort.It should drink nicely for a decade or more. A good sized estate of nearly 50 acres, Domaine des Chanssaud is owned by Patrick Jaume. 92 points”

Jancis Robinson, MW: “Dark ruby. Racy stuff without the intensity of many Châteauneufs but good balance and drinkability – which is not to be sneezed at. A sort of Domaine de Chevalier of Châteauneuf. Rather low key, but rather delicious. 17.5 points”

 

Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar’s Josh Raynolds: “Glass-staining ruby. Dark berries and potpourri on the highly fragrant nose. Ripe and fleshy on entry, then firmer in the mid-palate, offering blackberry and blueberry flavors that show an exotic quality. Closes on a sweet note, with seamless texture and very good fruit-driven persistence. 90 points”

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