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


 
 
 
Here we are on the precipice of Memorial Day Weekend!Chances are, the likelihood of any of us being around a barbecue grill is greatly increased this weekend as statistics show that approximately 60% of US households barbecue over this period. Bring it on! We just love grilling. I just received a phone call from my longtime barbecue maven friend telling me about a brisket that has been on the grill since this morning. Hmmm, what was it that Oscar Wilde said about temptation? It actually seems rather appropriate, now that I think about it, because it was10 years ago this weekend that I was invited over in similar circumstances. I wasn’t yet well versed with our entire inventory back then, so when I consulted pairing wizard and TWH alum Ben about what to bring, hestrongly advised that I grab some northern Rhône Syrah and all would be fine. How right he was! I made a reference to this wonderful revelation in a post last year, and will never forget it. Smoky barbecued something or other? Northern Rhône Syrah. Simple. Genius.
 
We’ve been well versed with the wines from Domaine Belle since the 1990’s. For years their wines have graced our bins, and we happily represented the brand for their former importer. A few years ago, we became the importer! You’ve probably heard us go on about Belle’s Les Pierrelles cuvée before. It’s a great wine for a great price.The Cuvée Louis Belle is a fancier, more serious offering. It sees some time in French oak barrel, 15% of it new, which frames the vibrant yet smoky purple fruit delightfully. This wine means business. We can say with a degree of conviction that finding a Syrah of this quality for less than $30 is an immense challenge, if it’s even possible at all! Again, as we mentioned in an email last week, it is our responsibility to provide our customers with the best wines for the best prices, because what matters most to us is your pleasure.
 
You can certainlytake our word for it, thatthis Crozes-Hermitage out-drinks it’s price point by a mile, but here’sThe Wine Advocate’s Rhône expert, Jeb Dunnuck’s take,“Even better than the Les Pierrelles, the 2012 Crozes Hermitage Cuvee Louis Belle (aged 18 months in 15% new French oak) has full-bodied, concentrated aromas and flavors of black raspberry, crème de cassis, toasted spice and sweet oak. Fabulously rich, structured and balanced, with building, sweet tannin, it will have a decade of longevity. 92 points.

 

This family owned Crozes Hermitage-based estate seems to fly under the radar, yet they’re a terrific source of beautiful reds and whites from the north.”

 
Whatever you may be doing, we wish you a happy and safe long weekend. May these precursory days to summer treat you well, and may you continue to taste great wines when the occasions to do so present themselves. –Peter Zavialoff

2013 Domaine Fondreche Ventoux Rouge

Friday, May 20, 2016 6:14 PM


Domaine de Fondrèche Ventoux Rouge

Hands down, the most important producer in the Ventoux, Domaine de Fondrèche continues to evolve – adjusting, experimenting, remaining dynamic. From the start, I’ve been drawn to winemaker Sébastien Vicenti’s wines for they encompass deep fruit expression with captivating spice and herb notes. Success and accolades haven’t stifled Sébastien’s drive to make the finest wine possible. Not at all. For the 2013 vintage, and going forward, the winery will no longer be making their special cuvée, Nadal. Nadal, a Grenache-based blend, garnered high scores and was one of my all-time favorite Rhône reds carried at TWH. So where is all that old-vine Grenache going to go? My guess is that it all went into the 2013 Ventoux and is possibly the reason why this vintage is so incredibly dense and chewy. I should be more upset that my beloved Nadal is no more, but the sting of that loss is easily mitigated by the impressive bottling of the 2013 Ventoux.

 

Bobby Kacher with Sèbastien
 

Another change at the winery, but one of less consequence than the demise of Nadal, is that their Ventoux rouge has dropped the name “Fayard”. So henceforth, I’ll be calling Fondrèche’s basic red, the Ventoux rouge. The 2013 Ventoux rouge is half Grenache, 40% Syrah and the balance, Mourvèdre. Sébastien Vicenti is a strict practitioner of organic farming, and though is not certified as such, closely follows the principles of biodynamic farming. In interviews, Sébastien emphasizes the connection between the natural harmony of the land and soil to the grapes. His credo in the vineyard carries over into the winery, where he strives to do “less” to attain “more” from the grapes. The 2013 Ventoux rouge is aged in a combination of egg-shaped concrete tanks, barrels and Foudres. This makes for a very texturally rich and engaging wine. The French publication, Le Guide Hachette des Vins, described it as “chewable”, noting its generous palate as round and silky. The Le Guide Hachetteeven bestowed a coveted “Coup de Coeur”, suggesting it is a wine worthy to investigate, irrespective of price. Good newshere as it relates to price is the 2013 Ventoux rouge is $16.99 per bottle, getting down to $14.44 when purchased by the case or as part of a mixed one! A stunning bargain!

 
Domaine de Fondrèche
 

All this gushing over the wine does come with a recommendation and it is this: Be prepared to decant. In Sébastien’s effort to control the freshness of the grapes, the resulting wine is in need of oxygen to release its full potential. Can you pop the cork, pour a glass straight out of the bottle and enjoy it? Sure, that is perfectly acceptable, but I want to suggest getting the wine some air to really set off the bevy of sweet spices and licorice notes you get on the nose. It is one of those wines that can be enjoyed one glass at a time over the course of several days from the bottle. It won’t fall apart quickly.

 
Second Growth, baby!
 

Some weeks are good “food” weeks and other are good “wine” weeks. For me, this week was both. It began last Saturday night when my husband and I went to La Folie. The dinner was my Valentine Day’s present. Flowers and jewelry are good choices, but so is a fine meal! It was our first time at La Folie and, though I don’t normally do so, I brought along a special bottle of wine – 2000 Puligny Montrachet Les Combettes from Etienne Sauzet (Thank you to my Fairy Wine-Father!). We dined for nearly 4 hours! A tear ran down my face as the last sweet amuse bouche was served. On Tuesday I attended an Italian wine tasting hosted at Acquerello. Typically at trade tastings some cheese and bread may be offered, but this being an Italian restaurant, there were also platters of salumi and olives, while small plates with either penne al sugo or truffled risotto were passed. I returned to the store in time to taste through some Bordeaux that a visiting Négociant was pouring for Pete and David. We tasted multiple vintages of Brane Cantenac, Nenin and…Leoville Las Cases! Wipe me off the floor! AND at a staff tasting I got to try the 2013 Ventoux rouge from Fondrèche. OK, I’ll stop, though I could go on. Yep, a very good food and wine week.

– Anya Balistreri

Santa Duc’s 2010 Vacqueyras Les Aubes

Monday, April 14, 2014 7:11 PM

 

Santa Duc’s Yves Gras has ventured south from Gigondas to Vacqueyras where he uses two parcels to make an impressive, substantial red. The 2010 Vacqueyras Les Aubes showcases the grittier, rustic side of Grenache. In Yves’ capable hands, the signature Santa Duc garrigue-thing is preserved and at the forefront in his Vacqueyras. Sure the fruit is there, but before you get to it, you must peel back layers of lavender and dusty dirt. It is a bold expression of Grenache. A dark berry red color, almost purple really, fills the glass. Just as soon as you stick your nose in, you know you’re in Southern Rhone. No mistaking it for Priorat or New World anywhere. There is a black olive, dried brush aroma that reminds me of taking a hike just after a gentle rain. Aromatically speaking, there is a lot going on in this wine.

 

Yves Gras began to make domaine-bottled wine at Santa Duc in the early 80’s. 1982 was the first vintage bottled. Prior to that, as was customary in the southern Rhone, wine was sold to negociants. Santa Duc led the trend away from selling wine to negociants to making domaine bottled wine. Santa Duc’s Gigondas quickly became a collectable wine, garnering high praise and scores from the wine press.

Yves was always passionate about his work in the vineyard. It is nearly ten years ago that he abandoned methods such as chemical weed control, and naturally evolved to sustainable use of his farmlands and environment. More recently, Yves decided to make his pursuit of organic farming official by seeking certification from Ecocert, an organic certification organization founded in France. The 2012 vintage will have the Ecocert certification on the label.

 

I am five weeks into an ova-pescatarian diet. Though the benefits of eating more healthy are starting to be felt (less puffy, more energy), my craving for fatty protein is getting harder to quell. One way to curb the craving is to pour myself a glass of a meaty red like the 2010 Vacqueyras Les Aubes. The earth, fruit, ripe tannins and succulent acidity of the Les Aubes create a full-flavored wine drinking experience. And because Les Aubes is Grenache-based (20% is Syrah), I can easily match it up with a whole-grain entrée and not feel I am missing out. The other night I was oiling up some Farmers Market fresh, white and purple carrots to roast, when my daughter uttered a yum and commented to me that “roasted carrots are like corn dogs for vegans.” C’est vrai! – Anya Balistreri

Cote Rotie from Domaine Pichat

Monday, September 30, 2013 7:27 PM

Domaine Pichat is a welcome new addition to TWH portfolio. David had been searching for a Côte Rôtie producer to import for some time now, so finding young winemaker Stéphane Pichat’s tiny production of classic Northern Rhônes was an especially exciting discovery. Stéphane’s wines are the real deal and fairly priced given their exceptional quality.The 2011 Côte Rôtie Löss is Domaine Pichat’s newest cuvée and is a wine that can be appreciated at an early stage. I was blown away by its meaty, smoky palate – a characteristic of Syrah that speaks to me of classic Côte Rôtie. My first inclination was that some of that smoke came from barrel, but this wine sees no new oak and only spends time in 1 and 2 year old barrels. The flavors of the fruit exhibit plush red and black plum, juicy red berries and a strip of peppery vibrancy. I was reminded of a conversation I once had with a winemaker who described Syrah as a ballerina who can kick-box. The 2011 Côte Rôtie Löss is a perfect example of this dichotomy; on one hand it has elegance and polish and on the other it has meatiness and smokiness delivered with formidable structure. 
Stéphane Pichat began making wine from his family’s vineyards in 2000. It’s a typical story: the family used to sell their wine to the local co-op until Stéphane put an end to it. In fact, David relayed a story to us that Stéphane’s grandfather used to sell his wine to the local watering hole. Can you imagine walking into a bar, ordering the house red and getting Côte Rôtie?!!!With only 4 hectares of vine, the estate produces less than 2000 cases annually. The 2011 Côte Rôtie Löss is comprised of 2 parcels, Cognet and Fongeant, with a third, Gerine, soon to be added. All the sites used at Domaine Pichat are Côte Brune, which is the area north of the town of Ampius. Domaine Pichat, though relatively new and unknown to a wider Rhône drinking audience, is gaining reputation for its quality wine among wine writers and point-oriented publications. Getting in early with a producer like this is key; David has done it again!

As the nights stretch longer and temperatures dip quickly with the fading light, my desire for fuller, more impactful reds gets stronger. A Côte Rôtie such as the 2011 Löss would balance nicely with braised lamb or slow and low-cooked pork roast but isn’t so brute that it couldn’t match up with plate of roasted root vegetables piled on grain pilaf. Celebrating 15 years of marriage tonight! A romantic dinner out with my husband and daughter is the plan. Not knowing what I might order, bringing along the 2011 Côte Rôtie Löss would cover a wide range of options and is the way I’ll probably roll tonight as the wine I bought from our wedding year are stored out of reach. Tomorrow I’ll be joining the parade at the San Anselmo Country Fair Day. Always a lot of good hometown fun for all! —Anya Balistreri

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