I’ve got to get out on our sales floor a little more often! Funny, I work here 5 days a week, so there goes any excuse … Every now and then, presumably on my days off, newly acquired wines make their way to the floor without my noticing them. Here at TWH, we’re like a little family, constantly sharing food and wine tasting experiences, so it was not out of the ordinary when I arrived at work a few days ago and struck up a conversation with Anya. “Oh man, I popped into Picco last night and they’re pouring this delicious Saumur by the glass! It was great; light on its feet, yet with just the right amount of fruit, all framed with the classic herbal and earthy character one gets from Loire Valley Cabernet Franc. I have a new go-to!”

“Who is the producer?” She asked.

“I don’t remember (I had more than one glass). Let me look it up, I bet it’s on their beverage list online.” At which point I surfed to said list and proclaimed, “Yeah, this is it. It’s the 2015 Saumur from La Paleine.”

“Yes, Pete. That’s a good one indeed. You know, it’s out on our floor right now.”

“This Saumur?”

Anya was chuckling now. “Yes. You might want to take a look around every once in a while.”

Talk about instant gratification …



The commune of Saumur is perhaps best known for its fancy chateau which sits on the hill above it. It’s also one of a handful of Loire Valley appellations which produces some of the world’s finest Cabernet Franc wines. Domaine de la Paleine is located in Puy-Notre-Dame, 20km southwest of the chateau, and the 32 hectare property is mainly planted to Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc. The soil is clay upon limestone, and the tufa subsoil acts as a sponge, absorbing excess water after the rains, and releasing it slowly when the vines need it. Owners Marc and Laurence Vincent had sought AB (certified organic) status beginning in 2010, and were rewarded with the certification beginning in 2013. As mentioned above, the wine is well balanced with textbook Loire Valley Cab Franc aromas in seamless harmony. The palate is medium in body, with bright acidity and a round raspberry-like core. Loire Valley Cabernet Franc brings out the wine-geek in me, so I am more than thrilled that I can procure a bottle of this for around the same price that restaurants charge for a glass!


This is not the first time that I have tasted a wine at Picco, only to subsequently find it among our offerings here at TWH. I have to give a big tip of the hat to such a fine restaurant in which I have enjoyed countless delicious meals, great wines and company over the years. I have made many friends there, including many members of their staff, which is coincidentally like a little family. This takes me back to my very first professional interaction with a manager who worked there over 9 years ago. On a quiet evening, we were discussing one of her new wines for the list, and I was more than intrigued to try it. When she said we could all try it as long as we covered the bottle’s cost, I was the first one to pony up the cash for my share. After all, it was Loire Valley Cabernet Franc. – Peter Zavialoff


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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

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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
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Coming on the heels of our Top Ten Wines of 2015 list, I struggled while choosing a wine to write about this evening, as whatever I might choose wouldmost likely suffer by comparison. But that’s okay.Top Ten wines are special. Special wines can have elevated price tags; that’s just how markets function, efficiently. If one isto incorporate moderate wine consumption into their lifestyle, the best recommendation that I can give is tobe open and taste, taste, taste every wine that you have any interest in tasting. If you’re going to be tasting many wines over a shorter period of time, spit. Most wine tasting facilities offer spit buckets of some kind.So why exactlyshould we taste everything that we possibly can?Experience. No doubtwe will taste wines that we really like, but we’ll alsoexperience wines that don’t exactly hit home with our respective palates. Sometimes, we’ll even come across wines we do not like at all. That is all in everyone’s best interest. It’simportant to try and understand why certain wines work for us while others don’t. This will make iteasier to find wines to our liking in the future, not to mention unlocking the door to the treasure chest known as,“The best wine values!” A wine that certainly falls into that category is the2013 Domaine des Corbillières Touraine RougeLes Demoiselles.

 

 
 
Dominique and Véronique Barbou run the 26 hectare estate in the Loire Valley commune of Oisly, which is approximately 30 km east of Tours. Dominique’s great-grandfather, Fabel, purchased the property in 1923,and together with his grandson, Maurice, built the property up into its current form. TWH regulars are well aware of thetremendous value that the Barbou’s wines provide. Their Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé are house favorites for many of us. Their Touraine Rouge Les Demoiselles has beenone of my go-to reds for the better part of a decade. Usually made from Cabernet Franc, Loire Valley reds can be lighter bodied wines that exhibit distinct herbal qualites. Interestingly enough, the Barbou’s Touraine Rouge Les Demoiselles is made of 40% Pinot Noir, 30% Cabernet Franc, and 30% Côt (Malbec). For the 2013, the aromas are of lush, plump purple fruit which no doubt is the Côt’s influence. A second whiff reveals a brambly thicket undertone with hints of strawberries which we can attribute to the Pinot Noir. Thepalate entry is tangy and lively, with the woodsy Cabernet Franc coming into focus. The Côt provides a bit of weight on the palate and the Pinot Noir continues to express its aromatic complexity. The finish is crisp as the tangy mouth feel fades into the wine’s complexity. Being the sort of chap who usually reaches for white wine with his pork roasts or chops, I can easily build a case to pour this 2013 Les Demoiselles the next time I whip some up.
 
The 2013 Touraine Les Demoiselles isn’t going to make anyone forget about our Top Ten, but it has its place and will continue to provide food pairing pleasure to those who appreciate it. I still remember my very first encounter with a Loire Valley Cabernet Franc. I was perusing the selections at Mill Valley Market and decided it was time to taste a Chinon. I knew very little about Loire Valley wines at this point, as I was still regularly consuming domestic wines. Heeding my own advice mentioned above, I was on a mission to taste (and get to know) more wines out of my comfort zone. The wine was nothing like a rich, ripe, fancy oak barreled Napa Cabernet or the like. It was stemmy, woodsy, crisp and tangy. My palate was surprised to say the least. As I continued to taste more wines from different places, I weened myself from popular local wines and embraced the subtle differences of Old World wines; wines that were less fruit forward, lower in alcohol, which wereparticularly made to be enjoyed with a meal.
 
 
The best tidbit of wine advice that I ever receivedcame from an old boss of mine many years ago, JT. He lived in Napa, collected wine, and knew personally many individuals in different facets of the wine biz. Shortly after hiring me, he learned that I was very interested in wine also. He then told me, “Don’t be concerned about critics and whether or not they like the wines that you like. If you like a wine and a critic pans it, it’s good for you! There will be more of it around and the price will remain low.” Sage advice. We remain friends to this day. – Peter Zavialoff
 
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Loire Valley red wine, Bordeaux, Sauternes, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com
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Domaine des Corbillières
 
I’ve been known to call Domaine des Corbillières’ Touraine blanc ‘the poor man’s Sancerre’. It’s a quick way to convey that this wine is made from Sauvignon Blanc, like Sancerre, and that it is full of attack, like good Sancerre, but because it says Touraine on the label and does not carry the same cache Sancerre does, it is less expensive. It is rightfully so that Touraine is not as prestigious as Sancerre for it is a vast region encompassing varied soils and climates, often producing underwhelming wines. However, as in every region, there are the exceptions, the stand-outs and one such winery is Domaine des Corbillières.
 
Harvest in Touraine
 
Domaine des Corbillières is situated at the eastern end of Touraine in the village of Oisly. Dominique and Veronique Barbou farm 16 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc that range in age from 13-43 years of age. The vines grow in sand atop deep clay subsoils. In 1923 Dominque’s great grandfather, Fabel, purchased the property and, legend has it, was the first in the region to recognize the benefit of growing Sauvignon Blanc in Touraine. The story goes that Fabel allowed a vine to grow alongside his home and he soon noticed how well it thrived in the terroir. True or not, that’s a pretty cool story!
 
Dominique & Veronique Barbou
 
The 2013 Touraine blanc is showing beautifully at the moment. Lots of pungent pink grapefruit and green melon flavors permeate the wine. It’s assertive without being assaulting to the nose and palate as too many Sauvignon Blancs can be in my opinion. There is enough texture to create interest in the mouth, but still manages to end with an invigorating finish. This Touraine is not only a stand-out for the region, as I wrote above, but it is a stand-out among Sauvignon Blanc.
 
The Domaine at sunset
 
My daughter wanted mac-n-cheese for dinner. Feeling motivated to cook something special, I made the mac-n-cheese from scratch. I used three different kinds of cheese, sautèed up some red and green bell peppers, and even steeped fresh herbs and garlic into the milk before making the béchamel sauce. I thought it came out pretty good. My daughter, on the other hand, was disappointed that the mac-n-cheese was a casserole! Huh? Unlike my homemade mac-n-cheese, the pasta in the boxed yellow-colored kind made stove-top does not bind together,rather it spreads all over the plate in an oozy orange-glow mess. She likes it that way better! Knowing I had a chilled bottle of the 2013 Touraine in the fridge at the ready helped me to feel more magnanimous towards her. I suggested next time I make homemade mac-n-cheese, she can make the boxed kind herself! – Anya Balistreri
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