2016 Domaine Fondrèche Ventoux Rosé

Friday, January 5, 2018 5:34 PM

2016 Domaine Fondrèche Ventoux Rosé

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose - So said Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr.  It's usually translated as "The more things change, the more they stay the same."  Sometimes change goes unnoticed; other times, it may come as a surprise.  Over the past decade, one of our most popular Rosé wines adhered to a particular style - very pale in color, bone dry, with aromas devoid of any detectable red fruit.  This is what we came to expect from Sébastien Vincenti and Nanou Barthélemy's Domaine Fondrèche Ventoux Rosé after a decade of consistency.  I would repeatedly tell customers that if it were served to me in a black glass, I would think it was white wine - it was that sleek.  When we received our container of Rosé wines early this summer, we were all quite surprised by the appearance of the 2016 Fondrèche Rosé.  It had color.


Although color alone doesn't necessarily indicate that the wine's flavor profile has changed, it does most certainly affect everyone's perception of it.  I think Anya nailed it on the head when she described its color as, "a light salmon/coral."  Each year, when we receive our Rosé wines from France, our staff gets together and gives them all a taste.  Over the past decade, the Fondrèche Rosé can be a little shy and muted when it first arrives.  We're never worried about it.  After a month or so, it comes to life, and it actually can keep longer than most Rosé wines.  So when we headed to the tasting room earlier this year for Rosé day, we were all anxious to taste Sébastien's Rosé.  The verdict?  Fantastic!  The very first thing we noticed was that its color is a bit deceptive.  It's no fruit bomb.  It's actually very much like its former self, only with detectable red fruit aromas, and a bit of fruit on the palate.  If anything, it's better; though I still may be challenged identifying it as a Rosé if tasting it from the aforementioned black glass.  Hints of strawberries and watermelon drift from the glass, though their expression is subtle.  There are herbal notes as well as stony minerals.  The palate is bone-dry, the soft melon-y fruit sits at its core with the other complexities wrapped around it.  The finish is dry and crisp, like always.

Maybe the word "change" is not doing a service to the 2016 Fondrèche Rosé; it's more like Vincenti finely tuned it.  Either way, it's an extraordinary effort by a winemaker who is not afraid of change.  In fact, Sébastien had been working organically for many years, finally obtaining certification in 2013.  In January of 2016, Decanter magazine reported that he dropped his organic status in favor of "better treatments."  An interesting concept - and one worth looking into.  This resonates with me as it was just Thursday evening, I was dining with a Bordeaux negociant and a young woman from a very prominent Bordeaux family.  We spoke about her mother's property, and she told me that though her mother is open to some organic techniques, she wouldn't go fully organic due to the impact of copper to the soil, which over the long-term is detrimental to a vineyard.  This, of course, has my interest piqued, and I will continue to investigate it.  But for now, it's time for me to just grab a bottle and head off for the weekend.  We've got a big showdown in the world of English Football tomorrow morning; kick off is 5:30 PDT.  May the best team win.  Happy Weekend! - Peter Zavialoff
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2012 Domaine Fondrèche Ventoux Cuvée Persia

Well, that’s a little more like it. Our typical summer in SF weather is back, just in time to shroud The Outside Lands concerts with nature’s air conditioning, known around here as Karl The Fog. Despite the atypical weather patterns that we have been enduring this year, the summer fog is something we can depend on! Not all is lost. If one prefers sunshine and warmer weather, just head north, east, or south some 10 miles or more, and you’ll find some. In keeping things cool, the fog does enable us to add a category to our wine drinking options: Red wine. It’s good to have options, and after being tantalized by a photo posted today by Olivier’s Butchery, I opt to indulge in their grill-ready hanger steak. Hmmm. What to drink with it? I recently had a fine tasting experience with the dregs of a bottle of 2012 Domaine Fondrèche Ventoux Cuvée Persia that went out on sales calls for a day. It’s time to call one of my food & wine pals and pop a bottle!

Domaine Fondrèche is not a newcomer, nor a stranger to me. I have enjoyed many of winemaker Sébastien Vincenti’s wines over the years, their reflections of place and their purity of fruit have had a place at my table since my beginnings here at TWH. To me,Sébastien’s Cuvée Persia has always been a big, big fancy wine that needed something substantial on the plate to stand up to it. So after a long day here at the shop, out popped 7 or so sample bottles that were poured for wholesale accounts, and Tom, Chris, and I headed for the tasting room to see how they were showing. There were Rosés, a bottle of white, and 3 different 2012 cuvées of Fondrèche. I knew going in that, of the reds, I wanted to taste the Cuvée Persia last. That’s what experience will do for you. Short of appetizers, let alone a well seasoned, grilled hanger steak, I was preparing myself for another big, youthful vintage of the Persia. I was in for a surprise. I found the sample rather giving and expressive. It’s still a big wine, and yes, the grilled hanger steak will help, but it was beaming with complexity! So much so, that despite the weather on that particular evening, I was going to drink red. It’s not in the Tuesday night wine price category, but if you consider what the well-known fancy producers around the Rhône Valley get for their wines, there is tremendous value here.

Here is what The Wine Advocate’s Jeb Dunnuck had to say about the 2012 Cuvée Persia: The 2012 Ventoux Persia is Syrah dominated, yet incorporates 10% Mourvèdre. It’s aged half in small barrels and the balance in a mix of concrete and foudre. Silky, fabulously polished and full-bodied, it gives up lots of cassis, black raspberry, roasted meats and graphite. While it’s upfront and supple, it will evolve gracefully on its purity and balance. 91 points”

Having lived in the SF Bay Area all my life, I have always appreciated the summer fog, for if things get too warm (I begin to melt at around 73F), I can always head back into the thick of it for a little relief. And hey, if it gets me grilling and popping amazing red wine, all the better! – Peter Zavialoff

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

July 2012 Dirty Dozen

Monday, July 2, 2012 7:12 PM

Summer’s here!!! Our reward? 31 days of July followed by 31 days of another summer month, but we’ll get to that later. So yes, we’ve got warm weather, bustling farmers’ markets, and plenty of daylight for picnics and barbecues. What to drink with all of that frolicking? May we suggest the July Dirty Dozen? 12 wines, all chosen for their versatility, for 1 low price. Santé!

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Click here to purchase the Dirty Dozen for $109.

2011 Scaia Bianca $12.98 net, $11.68 reorder
Here we go: blending 60% Garganega with 40% Chardonnay results in a bright, delectable quaffer that Tom likes to refer to as a ‘Super Soave’, as it is in Soave where Garganega is boss! The Chardonnay buffers it with richness and depth, making it perfect to pop with spaghetti langoustini. The über-cool glass enclosure can be reused!

2010 Malvar, Tochuelo $9.98 net, $8.98 reorder
Amazing values in the wine world continue to present themselves! Not yet a household name (at least not here in the states), Malvar is a white grape predominately grown in the Vinos de Madrid DOC. It’s light on its feet with delicate nuances of citrus and orchard fruit. Bone dry, it is great with light dishes such as a shrimp salad.

2011 Sauvignon Blanc, La Petite Perriere $11.48 net, $10.33 reorder
Plenty of Sauvignon Blanc is grown all over the world, that’s for sure. But there is something special about Loire Valley SB, even if it comes in bargain form. The Saget family got their vinous start in the late 18th century putting them among only an elite handful of Loire Valley estates that can boast of such longevity. The proof’s in the juice. Crisp and clean.

NV Rosé Brut, Comte de Bailly $10.98 net, $9.88 reorder
Pop the cork of one of these. Seriously, just do it. When this bargain Rosé fizz was poured for us, we were stumped. How could something so good be so inexpensive? Better yet, it comes from Tempranillo grown in Spain, but it is produced in Burgundy. Clean red fruits are present on the nose and the palate is lively and refreshing. Pour it with anything!

2010 Les Tours, Domaine la Hitaire $10.39, $8.31 reorder
You’ll have to search far and wide to find better deals on white wines than those made by la famille Grassa in Gascony. Purchased by Yves Grassa 20+ years ago, Domaine la Hitaire is run by his 2 sons Rémy and Armin. This blend of Ugni Blanc and Colombard is crisp and fresh; the perfect summer sipper. It’s what you drink with a plate of little fried fish.

2010 Gewurztraminer Herrenweg, Domaine Ehrhart $20.99, $16.79 reorder
Domaine Ehrhart has been on the Alsatian wine scene since the early 1700’s. With that many generations experiencing that many vintages, you have to say there is expertise afoot! The Herrenweg Gewurz shines with a good chicken curry.

2007 Plaisir 75 cl., Roger Sabon $13.98 net, $12.58 reorder
On to the red side; famed Châteauneuf du Pape producer, Roger Sabon apparently cannot stop with his CdP. The 2007 vintage was soooo good in the southern Rhône that he found some terrific grapes for an even better price and made the Plaisir for notre plaisir. Think bright red fruit, earth, and a waft of Provençal herbs. Pour it with a grilled pork chop.

2008 Bardosa, Bodegas Lomablanca $12.98 net, $11.68 reorder
Garnacha and Tempranillo are the players here in a bottle of 2008 Bardosa. It’s a deep red with more than a dollop of black cherry and cassis, a hint of smoke and bright, lively acidity to keep that finish going. Great with pizza or calzone.

2010 CMS, Hedges $11.98 net, $10.78 reorder
Domestic price to quality wines are becoming more and more difficult to find, but here’s a live one! Hedges Family Estates is proud of their blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 12% Syrah. The CMS is medium/full in body, rich, and balanced. This is a great wine to bring to a party though it may not last long. Burgers on the grill? No prob.

2009 Touraine Les Demoiselles, Domaine des Corbillières $14.99, $11.99 reorder
Arguably one of our favorite sub $15 reds in the shop, this is our first vintage of Corbillières’ Les Demoiselles cuvée! We’ve always loved their straight-up Cabernet Franc, but this blend consists of 40% Pinot Noir and 30% Côt, with the rest Cab Franc. The result is an aromatic masterpiece. Red fruit, purple fruit, herbs, earth, oh my! It’s a great food wine, think grilled meats and vegetables, but it’s so friendly you can pop it on its own and all will be well.

2010 Chianti Montalbano, Pierazzuoli $13.49, $10.79 reorder
Yes, we’ve been directly importing Enrico Pierazzuoli’s wines from Tuscany for well over a decade and there’s one word to describe why … quality! It says on the label “One bottle of wine for each vine”, it’s a great perspective from a man who cares about his vines and the resulting product. Made from 100% Sangiovese, Enrico’s Chianti Montalbano is one of our most popular red wines and his 2010 is rarin’ to go. Flexible and versatile, team it with a bowl of pasta Bolognese.

2009 Côtes du Rhône La Boissière, Vignobles Boudinaud $16.59, $13.27 reorder
Same goes with the wines from Vignobles Boudinaud, we’ve been representing (not importing) them for many years because we believe in Thierry and Véronique’s dedication to the quality of the product they bottle. The Côtes du Rhône La Boissière is imported by DC’s Robert Kacher Selections, yes, but this wine was especially imported just for The Wine House and our customers. True old-school Côtes du Rhône, it’s medium bodied and complex. Veal chops work well here.

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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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When my sister gave birth to her third child, a third son, my mother proudly criticized her for having no imagination. This must be a family trait as I’m once again spending a Saturday afternoon in March writing about a Domaine Belle wine. In my defense, why would I look past a wine just because I wrote about another wine from the same producer two weeks before? Seems silly to avoid a wine like that especially one I find as delicious as the 2010 Crozes-Hermitage Les Terres Blanches from Domaine Belle. It has aromas of white blossoms, apricots and juicy mandarins that carry over on to the palate. It’s got a fresh, zesty mouthfeel dominated by ripe citrus flavors and then stays interesting through to the finish with its perky minerality. In my opinion, there is a lot to love about Rhone whites though they are unjustly overlooked by the more popular Rhone reds.

The 2010 Les Terres Blanches is a blend of 70% Marsanne and 30% Roussanne and sees a third low-toast new barrel, a third 1-year old barrel and the rest is in stainless steel. The barrel regiment is quite deft and is used for texture. I was quite surprised to learn that there was new barrel since I detected no overt oaky flavors or notes. The grapes for Les Terres Blanches are grown on a special white clay soil called Kaolin which is quite rare in Crozes-Hermitage and is likely only found around the town of Larnage where Domaine Belle is located. Marsanne is known for displaying the mineral flavors of the soil in which it is grown and as such, this rare Kaolin soil helps to explain the depth of flavor and, as I wrote above, the perky minerality Belle’s Les Terres Blanches shows in abundance. 
Last Sunday, TWH staff celebrated the last days of winter by throwing a Post-Post Holiday Party at Garçon. It was well worth the wait…as you can imagine the wines selected were dazzling and they showed beautifully. Definitely one of the great perks of working at TWH are times like this drinking great wines with my comrades. It makes putting up with frost bitten toes well worth it. I won’t bore you with the list of wines we drank but if you are curious you can check them out here.

Our Bordeaux Scout, Pete Z., is heading off to Bordeaux this week and will be reporting back on the 2011 vintage.Inside our warehouse we are busy making space for back-to-back containers. New stuff is on the way! Yippee! Domestically speaking we’ve got some stellar Pinots from the Anderson Valley from Knez and Drew Family and a new vintage from Arbe Garbe…but more on that later. —Anya Balistreri

2009 Tour de l’Isle Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Friday, February 17, 2012 3:33 PM



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.


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”

2009 Persia from Fondreche

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 6:49 PM


At Domaine Fondreche, winemaker Sebastien Vicenti makes an opulent, opaque purple, mostly Syrah cuvee called Persia. It’s audacious and downright concentrated, smashing conventional wisdom for what is thought possible to be produced in the Ventoux, an appellation that flanks and gets its name from Mount Ventoux. In the shadow of the mountain, particularly areas south and west, temperatures tend to be cooler than other parts of the Southern Rhone. Sebastien Vicenti exploits this cooler climate to his advantage, making deeply concentrated wines that retain nerve and tension in the finish. Sebastien makes another cuvee called Nadal that is Grenache-based, which I have tended to favor(and have raved about before) up until this past Tuesday when I had my first taste of the 2009 Persia. Now that is what I call powerful juice! It has notes of oak, from its year in a combination of small barrel and large cask, that is in complete balance with the power of the Syrah fruit. Lots of spice and tangy black berry fruits dominate the flavor spectrum. I may not want to pop the cork on this one during the heat of summer, but now that there is a chill in the air, the 2009 Persia is just the kind of bone-warming, soul-stirring red I want to linger over in front of a warm hearth.

Sebastien has long ago embraced Biodynamics and organic farming; he is part of a wellspring of winemakers who firmly believe in the health and vitality of the soil. I’ve been privileged to follow Sebastien’s evolution as a winemaker over the past 15 years. It’s clear to me that now, even with his “level-entry” cuvee Fayard,his wines have elevated to a category that rivals the most famous and prestigious Rhone appellations. And though his wines can be delicious young, the potential for aging is there, especially so for the Persia.


It didn’t take me long to figure out that a newWine Advocate review of Rhones had beenissued as the phone calls and emails poured in this week. Domaine Fondreche garnered a slew of big points, for the 2010 vintage that, except for the Fayard, won’t arrive until next year. So you’ll have to go back a year to see that Fondreche’s 2009 Persiareceived the same smoking 93 points as did their 2010.

I’ve got leg of lamb defrosting in my fridge that I plan making into plov (or pilaf) on Sunday. With any luck I might get in a bit of football but more than likely I’ll be taking a hike with the girl and the dog so that the husband can watch his dose of action without interruption. And furthermore, with any luck, I’ll have a glass of the 2009 Persia to match up with my steamy bowl of spiced rice and gamey lamb…this will more than make up for any loss of game watching, n’est pas?

Anya Balistreri

Andre Brunel’s 2009 Les Cailloux Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Tuesday, November 8, 2011 4:54 PM


One of the greatest things about being in business for over 30 years(Anniversary Sale coming soon … real soon!), are the relationships we make. One of our favorite relationships in the southern Rhône Valley has been with superstar winemaker André Brunel.We’ve been carrying a swath of Brunel’s wines for over 20 years, and that just goes to show that we know a good thing when we’ve got it. So it came as no surprise when the latest The Wine Advocate came out the other day and Mr. Parker heaped a ton of praise on André’s 2009 Chateauneuf-du-Pape “Les Cailloux”! We figured that another stellar vintage in the Rhône would put some fire in Brunel’s eye. And How!

Listen to Mr. P gush: “The Les Cailloux 2009 Chateauneuf du Pape (70% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre and the rest Syrah and other permitted grape varieties) may be the finest regular cuvee produced at this estate, even eclipsing the 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape. A beautiful deep, plum/garnet color is followed by notes of ripe figs, licorice, tobacco leaf, sweet herbs, pepper and sumptuous quantities of kirsch and blacker fruits. Intense and full-bodied with silky tannins as well as a plump, sexy, voluptuous style, it begs for consumption now and over the next 10-15 years.

Andre Brunel’s family first settled in Chateauneuf du Pape in the 18th century and began estate bottling their wines in the middle of the 20th century. Les Cailloux was one of the first estates to employ the now famous oenologist, Philippe Cambie (in 1998). This modestly sized, 45 acre estate has their largest holdings in the northern sector of the appellation in the lieu-dit called Farguerol, which is just behind the plateau of Mont Redon. –95 points”

Domaine Boudinaud 2008 Cotes du Rhone Mataro

Saturday, August 20, 2011 4:42 PM

It’s amazing how the wines of Thierry & Véronique Boudinaud just keep getting better and better. Not that they were ever disappointing, mind you… Five generations of winemaking and a profound commitment to lifelong professional education allow for a great deal of skill-perfecting, after all.

The Boudinaud estate, located in the tiny commune of Fournès

Jose Tomas

Spanish bullfighter Jose Tomas faces a bull during the Feria, in Nimes, southern France, Friday, May 29, 2009. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

along the right bank of the Rhone River, has definitely put itsbest foot forward with their2008 Mataró Cotes du Rhone, though. The grape here is more commonly known in France as Mourvèdre, though it made its way to the new world in the mid to late 1800s under its alter ego,Mataró – A name taken from a town near Barcelona where the varietal was grown. The Boudinauds decided to use this version of the word, althoughthere are over 50 different names for this grape worldwide, includingBalzar, Drug, and Plant De Saint Gilles (To quote Bill S., “what’s in a name?”). Furthermore, their decision to release a 100% Mourvèdre is as impressive as the wine itself. The grape isn’t typically bottled as a single variety, but more often as part of a blend with other Rhone varietals, such as Syrah and Grenache (it’s the “M” in a GSM blend).

As a late-ripening grape that thrives in high heat, it’s not every Dick & Jane winemaker that can handle it in the vineyard, nor tame its meaty flavors and grippy tannins (What’s Bill’s other saying, “if you can’t handle the heat, get out of the vineyard”??). Furthermore, unlike other wines of the 2008 vintage which show a much more plush, fruit-forward profile, the Mataró Cotes du Rhone is a dark, robust wine with a structure more reflective of the attention-garnering 2009 vintage than its own.That’s not to say it isn’t drinking beautifully right now, as a little decanting goes a long way with this one. Deep, dark, and full-bodied, blackberry & currants lurk beneath a savory mélange of leather, black pepper, graphite, and game-like flavors with a dusty, finely-ground-coffee type texture to the finish that is surprisingly approachable and pleasant (I guess that’s where the 2008 part comes in). It is the type of wine that begs to be paired with grilled meats, sautéed mushrooms, and a generous amount of dried herbs and spices to complement its savory and earthy personality. If single-variety releases like this are the future of Mourvèdre in the Rhone Valley, the future is looking mighty bright. – Emily Crichton

What a crazy week! It all started last Saturday after we closed. I attended aKFC/Dom Perignon tasting. Yep. It was great. No, I don’t know why. It was a chaotic week in the 2010 Bordeaux Futures game, as several high-profile chateaux released their prices. It’s been very difficult keeping up, but look for something in your inbox soon. Vinexpo is going on in Bordeaux this week, so they’re going crazier than I, but not by much. Our upcoming Winemaker Dinner with Château Coutet is all-systems-go and reservations are now being accepted. And finally, we’re getting around to sampling some of the new

wines that recently arrived via container.

The thrill of the change of seasons has beckoned the Rosé lover in all of us, and this year’s selections are unbeatable! There are some lovely White Burgundies from the Macon that you all will be hearing about very soon. There are a few reds from the Rhône Valley including a dynamite Côtes du Rhône from Domaine Boudinaud! We’ve had wines from Vignobles Boudinaud for many vintages, but this is the first time we’ve had the La Boissière line. The 2008 La Boissière Côtes du Rhône has everything I like in a Côtes du Rhône: rich, ripe fruit, a kiss of earthy mineral, and a waft of herb which when all tied together makes me happy that unlike the famous wines of Bordeaux, these wines are affordable. I’m not alone here at TWH when it comes to this wine either. Here’s a funny one. So our staff pulled a Chip and Dale on this one. No one wanted to appear selfish and take it home the day we opened it. Emily had left early, so we decided to leave it for her as she and David came in last Sunday for a short time to check out Sunday Streets Potrero Hill, Dogpatch and Bayview. I left her a note saying it was here on the tasting table and guess what? She didn’t take it either. It doesn’t happen often, but our entire staff was crestfallen that the best of the bunch was left undrunken. These things do happen, so in penance, I’m buying one for tonight. This will not be my last.

For me, Sundays are for resting. And after the week I had, I will rest. To all you Dads out there, Happy Fathers’ Day! Here’s a tidbit of wisdom from my Pop:

Pete? Do you have a minute?

Right now? Okay … grumble, grumble (I was around 15 at the time)

Sit down (gulp)

Soon, there will be times when you may be drinking

Uh, really?

I just want you to remember one thing.

What’s that, Pop?

If one bottle costs $7 and the other one $15, buy the $15 bottle, you’ll thank yourself in the morning.


You can go now.

Fast forward to today. Thanks Pop. – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me if you want to know more about 2010 futures, our upcoming dinner with Aline Baly of Château Coutet or anything else: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

2009 Grange des Rouquette Syrah/Grenache

Thursday, May 12, 2011 5:23 PM


En Avril, n’ote pas un fil. En Mai, fais ce qu’il te plait. Translation: “In April, don’t take off your clothes, but in May, do as you please.”


Mon Dieu! “Clothes off? What is this woman talking about!?” You must be wondering. Well, aside from an attempt at showing off what little of the French language I have mastered, I thought this quirky quote a rather lovable and fitting introduction to our May “Wine of the Month”. If you’ve been following us through cyberspace or via snail mail lately, you know that we’re just a smidge excited about Springtime, and in particular, the month of May. The only month of 31 days spent entirely in Spring; The month in which we celebrate everything from horse power and heros to mothers and Mexico… and do a lot of barbecuing to boot!

That being the case, it stands to reason that a wine befitting many occasions (and many a budget) should be the May W.O.M. Drum-roll please…. The 2009 Grange des Rouquette Vin de Pays d’Oc Syrah/Grenache is one of those gems that epitomize what we here at TWH love to do most: find wines that outperform their pricepoint. By a LOT.

Now in its fifth generation of viticulture and winemaking, Domaine Grange des Rouquette has become renowned for their craft both locally and abroad. Located in the tiny commune of Fournes, on the right bank of the Rhone River, this estate has produced vintage after vintage of delicious and versatile wines – both red and white – that seem to not only represent the terroir from which they hail, but also the many things about great winemaking learned, practiced, and perfected across the globe. This is thanks to Thierry and Veronique Boudinaud, the heart and soul behind Grange des Rouquette, who have traveled from New Zealand to California and places in between in order to hone their skills. The couple now owns 50 hectares in and around the Cotes du Rhone appellation, and though this Syrah/Grenache (with a little Mourvedre thrown in) is Vin du Pays d’Oc, the old-vine Syrah and Grenache come from their best vineyard sites. The blend is a traditional one, made up of 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache, and 10% Mourvedre – all harvested separately for optimal ripeness. A small portion of the old-vine Syrah gets barrel treatment, but otherwise, the grapes are vinified in stainless steel tanks to maximize the freshness of the fruit. The result is a wine with bright, juicy purple & red fruit on the nose and palate and enough savory earthiness and grit to warrant the cognomen “baby Cotes du Rhone.” I’d suggest pairing it with Poulet de Bresse while taking in the view from a grande villa in the Rhone-Alps, but it will be just as fantastic with a fat juicy burger & veggies off the grill in your back yard (and if you happen to take my first recommendation, please take me with you.)

Santé! –Emily Crichton

p.s. Happy Birthday to my adorable niece Minnie who turns 1 year old today!! Whoo hoo!

Matchmaker Matchmaker Find Me a Wine

Wednesday, February 23, 2011 12:38 PM

If there’s one thing that never gets old, it’s when the stars align and make good things happen.  Case in point, my return to TWH (and thus, blogging) has fallen over that holiday which is so near and dear to thine heart, Valentine’s Day.  Coincidence?  I don’t believe in coincidences…. But I do believe in cheesy holidays that capitalize on human emotions, and apparently, I like writing about them too because the last time I wrote anything about wine (publicly anyways) was last year around this time.  I must preface this post, however, by saying that while this is indeed a post inspired by Valentine’s Day and love and all that good stuff, it is NOT one of those posts where I tell you what to drink with your lover on V-day.  If it were, I would be extremely tardy and my words would fall into a black hole of post-holiday obsolescence.  Instead, I have decided to combine my love for wine with one of my favorite guilty pleasures, The Bachelor/Bachelorette.  If you haven’t seen the show, a purportedly “great catch” is given a pool of 30 or so eligible persons of the opposite sex from which to find the one with whom he/she will fall in love and spend the rest of his/her life.  Needless to say, it’s everything you’d think a Hollywood matchmaking television show would be, but hey, love works in strange ways, who am I to judge?  That said, I asked Pete (who would like it to be known that he has never seen the show) to choose six noteworthy wine suitors for me- 3 reds & 3 whites– and subsequently took each one of them out on a date in hopes of falling in love.  Am I going to kiss and tell?  You betchya!

Date 1: 2009 Picollo Ernesto GaviI really wanted the Gavi to be my first date.  Certainly, I’d heard good things about all of the wines in the bunch from everyone at TWH, but the Gavi seemed to be extremely high up on the list of “go-to” wines being recommended to customers at the store, so I was highly anticipating making its acquaintance.  With that in mind, I got to know Gavi while nibbling on a marinated mix of olives & peppers and French bread, followed by a lovely dinner of lemon & pesto grilled chicken on top of a mixed green salad with fresh parmesan, steamed veggies, and sun-dried tomato polenta.  This wine definitely lived up to its hype… beautiful nose of melon, honeyed lemon, slight tropical fruit, cut hay, and a touch of salty sea air.  The palate, while fresh and clean, had a very pleasantly surprising viscosity and roundness to it as well.  The fruit was more citrusy on the palate and that classic Italian minerality, herbs/white pepper was there too.  Overall, a fantastic date and I feel like Gavi and I will be the best of friends.  The white wine that I will feel more than confident taking to parties, pairing with a wide range of fare, or just drinking all by itself when the mood strikes.  It’s the kind of wine I want to have a lot of on hand.


Date 2: 2005 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules Costieres de Nimes Trassegum RougeThough it’s been a while, the ’05 Trassegum and I have met before, and I must say, I’ve always had a crush on it.  It’s a Rhone blend made predominantly from Syrah by one of my all-time favorite producers.  I let the bottle sit open & untouched for about half an hour while I made homemade valentines for loved ones and waited for lamb tandoori from Indian Palace.  When I finally poured myself a glass, the wine was a little tight, but I was still able to discern the nose of charcoaled meat, leather (both sweet & dirty), violets (omigosh, the violets!), dark fruit, a hint of anise and Provençal herbs.  It was juicy and balanced on the palate, but again, needed a little time to unwind.  About an hour later, I noted red fruit coming through more and….mmmm, forest floor.  Later yet, the sweet spices started to shine- cinnamon, vanilla, cassis, spicy raspberry and plums- it just kept getting prettier and more layered.  Oh my, I thought to myself, It’s seducing me, I can feel it! I’d describe the mouth-feel as silky and elegant, but with density and muscle at the same time. Moments later my food arrived. I don’t know if lamb tandoori was the pinnacle of food pairings for this, but sometimes I think the best pairings are whatever you’re in the mood to eat paired with whatever you’re in the mood to drink. Which is exactly what this was… and it was heavenly.


Date 3: 2009 Chateau Couronneau Bordeaux Blanc & 2008 Enrico Pierazzuoli Carmignano Le Farnete For the next outing, I grabbed some gal pals and headed down to Sapore Italiano in Burlingame for some fabulous Italian cuisine.  We sipped (ok, gulped) the Couronneau while partaking in the Antipasto delle due Sicillie- an assorted plate of meats, cheeses, olives, grilled veggies, and bruschetta.  Oh we are off to a GREAT start!  Almost a little too good, in fact.  We guzzled the Couronneau and moved on to the Carmignano so fast I felt as if I didn’t give it its due time in the spotlight.  It’s like that person at a party you start flirting with but never really get a chance to talk to before they leave (luckily, I know where to find more).


That said, what I did experience of the Couronneau absolutely knocked my socks off.  The old world crushed rock minerality exploded off the nose, intermingling in perfect harmony with fresh citrus fruit and hints of white flower.  The fruit and minerality came thru on the palate with exquisite finesse along with a vibrant and long-lasting acidity.  Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with when and how this wine was consumed, but I would love to try it again sometime with a mélange of seafood and longer timeframe.  In a nutshell, this wine out-drinks its price point by a LOT.  Moving onto the Carmignano, I think this might win “best friend” in the red category.  It’s a blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and while both varietals make their presence known, neither one overpowers the other.  Upon first whiff, I definitely noted the luscious ripe red and dark fruit first, which evolved into a combination of cherries, rose petals, red currants, cedar, and slight oak nuances.  The palate was more rustic than the nose would suggest, with dusty tannins that smooth out and a little mulchy sweetness to the fruit.  Overall, I found it to have an approachability that would please most any group and/or occasion.  I’d say it’s a solid notch and more above your average “pizza wine”, but that certainly didn’t stop me from ordering a whole pie for myself to go with it.

 Date 4: 2009 Chateau de Raousset Fleurie– Truth be told, I had actually had this bottle in my possession since Thanksgiving.  My initial intention was to share it with my T-day companions because what goes better with Thanksgiving dinner than Cru Beaujolais? But I got selfish and decided to keep it to myself for a later date (sorry gang).  I started out just sipping this sans sustenance, which was delightful.  Then I got hungry and having no patience for a trip to the grocery store, I pulled out some prosciutto, brie, crudités, small green salad, and a whole bunch of sweet potato fries (basically everything that looked yummy in my fridge).  All I have to say is that Cru Beaujolais- especially this one with its beautiful layers of wild strawberries, lavender, Provençal herbs, hint of minerality, and elegant yet juicy palate- is the arm candy of wine.  It is just oh so pretty and it goes with EVERYTHING.  If you’re one of those wine drinkers who still isn’t convinced that Beaujolais can be some of the most gorgeous and versatile wines on the planet, grab a bottle of this tout de suite.

 Date 5: 2009 Paco & Lola Albarino Rias BaixasFor my last, but no less anticipated, date I braved the rain and met up with a friend of mine for sushi and a bottle of the P&L Albarino.  In my opinion, sushi is comfort food and white wine can be just as cozy a companion as any red.  My notes on this wine were as such: “on the nose, very nice melon, green pear that opens up into more lush tropical fruit.  Noticeable leesiness, and oh, is that macadamia nut? Indeed! Yay! Slight creaminess through the mid-palate and awesome burst of acidity on the finish.  Sushi + P&L + rainy day = love.

The Verdict:  Pete, ya done good, I love them all but I love playing the field (or should I say vineyard) even more and I’m not ready to settle down with one wine just yet.  Being a bachelorette is much much too fun.  - Emily Crichton

2007 Nadal from Fondreche

Monday, February 21, 2011 4:36 PM

We have these small signs used for display at TWH with a staff member’s first name and the word “pick”. You know, like Tom’s Pick, Chris’ Pick, Peter’s Pick, etc. I have three such signs in the store that I move around. I’m pretty sure that’s one more sign than anyone else, but I figure since I’m a veteran ’round here I get an extra pick, right? The 2007 Cotes du Ventoux Cuvee Nadal from Domaine Fondreche has had my name on it for some time, yet I’ve never written about it. How can this be? Most likely it’s that for me, Fondreche’s Nadal is like Pernot’s Bourgogne Blanc…always great, always a value. It’s a no brainer, an easy choice. That and Pete wrote about itbefore I had the chance. Be that as it may, as I contemplated the rain, the bone-chilling wind and how I have this deep desire to hibernate, though not before concocting some sort of soul-warming one pot comfort food thingy that I could serve alongside an equally soul-warming red winethis weekend, THE ONLY WINE that came to mind was the 2007 Nadal. It’s so texturally rich and beautifully perfumed, you can’t help feel happy inside.

When I came to work at TWH some ten plus years back, Sebastien Vincenti had just started Domaine Fondreche in the Cotes du Ventoux after having worked with Rhone master, Andre Brunel. Fondreche’s Nadal, a Grenache-based wine, quickly became a favorite of mine. I suppose I’m partial to Grenache, especially from the Rhone. What do I love about Grenache?Let me count the ways: pie filling-like fruit, aromas of garrigue and forest floor, and milk chocolatey tannins. These qualities can be found in the 2007 Nadal. I have yet to suggest this wine to someone who hasn’t come back for more. This being true, it may seem surprising that we still have in stock this big-scoring (see Parker’s review below) red from the highly lauded 2007 Rhone vintage, yet not surprising when you learn that with this perennial Wine House favorite, we took a big position. Even so, we are, sadly, down to the last 20 cases.

I last tasted the 2007 Nadal less than a month ago. I noticed that it has lost a bit of its youthful baby fat (remember 2007 Rhones had fruit o’plenty) and has grown into its skin, as it were. It’s hit its sweet spot, drinking smooth and deliciously, and should continue to do so for the next 5 years. At this point,you can pull the cork and NOT chastise yourself after for having opened it too soon. All the elements have come together, the fruit, the acidity and the tannins, melding together into a seamless, plush, aromatic red Rhone. It really is a lovely drink. I was discussing dining with a couple of wine reps this week that led into a conversation about where I like to go out to eat in my neighborhood. I explained that though I follow the goings on of restaurants and love to eat out, I’m in a stage of life (kid, dog, mortgage, etc.) that limits real exploration. What I said is more likely to happen is a visit to my local farmer’s market for the freshest of produce. We all agreed that with farmer’s market fresh produce you don’t have to be a great chef to make something tasty. I can sprinkle (a little salt), I can drizzle (some authentic Tuscan olive oil from Tenuta Pierazzuoli and aged balsamic, both of which are available for sale at TWH) and I can grind (black pepper that is, careful!). And then to complete the five-star experience, a bottle of something special is all you need. With the 2007 Nadal in mind and thinking back to what I spotted at last Sunday’s winter market, I begin to envision roasted beets and juicy oranges sliced thin for a salad, or braised rainbow chard with white beans (add pork if you like; hmmm bacon!). Doesn’t that just sound wonderful? Man, is this rain making me ever so hungry…AND THIRSTY for Fondreche’s 2007 Nadal! 

Anya Balistreri

2007 Domaine de Fondreche Cotes du Ventoux Cuvee Nadal

Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Rhone;
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“Two late-release 2007s that have just hit the market are brilliant wines, among the best I have ever tasted from the cool-climate, high-elevation vineyard of Domaine de Fondreche. The 2007 Nadal (50% Grenache, 40% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre, all from vines over 70 years of age) is brilliant. Deep ruby/purple, with kirsch liqueur, licorice, spring flowers, and black raspberries, the wine is dense, medium to full-bodied, and despite being aged in small barrels, displays virtually no evidence of any wood. The freshness of the acids buttress this substantial, rich wine, which should drink well for 4-6 years. Both of these wines actually showed even better this year than they did last year.

One of the consistently superb estates in the Cotes du Ventoux, Domaine de Fondreche offers very high quality and reasonable prices. The creation of Sebastian Vincenti and Manou Barthelemy, these wines are bursting with fruit and have loads of minerality and aromatics. They are beautiful efforts representing the best of what a young generation of French producers can do. The estate is just under 100 acres in size and is now 100% biodynamically farmed.” 92 points from Wine Advocate’s Issue #185

Domaine de la Janasse Cotes du Rhone Villages

Tuesday, January 18, 2011 5:31 PM

It might surprise you to learn that I don’t do a lot of fancy wine drinking over the Holidays. Good wine, yes, but not necessarily expensive, cellared, prized possessions. At Christmas with the prime rib we drank Odisea Wine Company’s Tres Tintos, a blend of three Spanish varietals, Tempranillo, Garnacha, and Graciano. At $19.48, this 73 case production wine packs a big punch. A forward, extracted Californian red for sure, but if you’re not looking for subtlety, this one’s for you. For my Holiday pilgrimage to the beloved House of Prime Rib, I brought along a bottle of 2007 Lacuna. You really do get a lot of wine for the money here. The full-scaled fruit cut nicely through the rich meaty goodness of the prime rib. We blasted through our first couple of drops, but thankfully we loaded up the last go around so that those of you who wish to reorder will have the opportunity to do so. Once it is gone, the Lacuna will be tough to replace. For a New Year’s Eve soiree, my BFF made a rockin’ Moroccan beef stew, so I brought along the 2004 Cotes du Rhones Villages Terre d’Argile from Domaine Janasse. This was a perfect match. The spices in the stew mirrored the spices in the wine: cinnamon, cumin, and coriander. With a bit of time in bottle, the edges have smoothed out. It was an overwhelming favorite at the party, where there were a few first-time French wine drinkers. I could see the light bulbs turning on above their heads. A recent purchase, the 2004 Cotes du Rhones Villages Terre d’Argile was offered to us at an enticing end of vintage price. At releasethis had the “suggested retail price” of $30, we are offering it at $15.99 per bottle ($13.59 by the case)!!! Not a bad way to start the new year off! The only downside here is that stock is limited to stock on hand and at present there are only about 12 cases left. The Janasse Cote du Rhone happens to be a component of this month’s Dirty Dozen…just another way to check it out.

There are lots of good things happening at TWH, including the recent arrival of a container of wine from Italy! Va bene! We will be writing about them in the coming weeks, but from what I’ve gotten to taste thus far, I can honestly say that there are going to be some stellar wines. We’ve gotDavid back in France scouring the countryside for more discoveries,as well as visiting many of our favorite producers, like Fondreche andChateau d’Or et des Gueules, to check out what is coming down the road, or should I say, across the water. So far in his reports back to us, David is echoing Peter’s experience with the 2009 Bordeaux and what we learned with the cru Beaujolais, that 2009 is a terrific vintage, offering stunning wines in all price ranges and styles. The fruits of David’s labor in France now should hopefully come our way by late spring/early summer. —Anya Balistreri

Howdy! I hope your Thanksgiving weekends all went well. Mine was stellar, as I hit the trifecta, celebrating with family and friends. Now that December has begun, unfortunately, we are going to have to begin winding down our 33rd Anniversary Sale.

Again, we would like to thank you all, our customers, for allowing us to serve your vinous needs throughout the year. You all are truly a gift for us; and our gift to you in return is that magical month of November where we slash prices on some pretty special bottles! We have extended the sale this year through next Sunday, December 12. It’s not too late; give us a call or come on by, we’re standing by to help.

We may have mentioned a sale wine or two in our recent Sunday emails, and the list of great deals is a long one, but I’ve noticed a spectacular wine on sale that none of us are talking about … not even to each other. What’s interesting to note is that in spite of not talking about it, I’ve noticed a few bottles on many employees’ personal invoices. Hmmm. The 2005 Crozes-Hermitage Cuvee Louis Belle from Domaine Belle could very well be the best of the “secret wines” on this year’s sale list. From a great northern Rhone vintage, this 100% Syrah is made from the oldest vines of the Belle’s Les Pierrelles vineyard (average 40 years old). It gets 30% new barrel treatment (the balance 1-year old) to add spice and texture to the smoky Syrah. This is fancy wine, folks! It’s considered their Reserve bottling, and named for the current proprietor’s late grandfather. All in all, I find it insanely good! The aromas are that of dense, dark, smoky purple fruit and forest floor. On the palate, it has a lush, silky mouth feel, its tannins melt into spicy fruit and the acidity picks all of that up on the finish which is quite long. Yes, fancy wine. I would have no problem opening this one for any V.I.P., anytime. But hey, I don’t hang around with V.I.P.’s, that’s just not the way I roll. Though, especially in light of the great interactions that took place on Thanksgiving, I do hang around with V.I.P.’s … because my friends and family are all very important … to me!

With all of the celebrations expected to take place between now and January, you’d be doing yourself a solid to have a bottle or two of this to wow your V.I.P.’s! Speaking of January, I am still working on all of the logistics fora dinner/pairing event featuring Chateau Coutet’s own Aline Baly, pairing her wines from Barsac with savory cuisine. I’ve got quite a list of interested parties. If you would like to be added to the list, please contact me. The event(s) will take place January 17th or 18th (or both). Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity! – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me if you would like to share your Thanksgiving stories, be added to the list of interested parties for the Chateau Coutet event(s) in January, or to commiserate with me about the current state of The Blues: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

April 2010 Dirty Dozen

Saturday, April 17, 2010 5:13 PM

Spring has sprung, and even if we’re dodging raindrops for the time being, the optimism of another growing season cannot be contained. It’s exciting to know that the days will continue to get longer and warmer. For all of your vinous needs, allow us to offer a suggestion: 12 bottles, all different, all chosen for their versatility; we pack them in a box with a flyer that describes them and sell it for a crazy 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

Click here to purchase the Dirty Dozen for $109.

2008 Hors Saison, Domaine La Hitaire – $11.99, $9.59 reorder
In the local dialect, ‘Hors Saison’ means ‘Outdoor Season’; so with it being spring and all, we’d like to kick off the April DD with a crisp white blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon that says, “Get out of that winter mode and enjoy the outdoors!”

2008 Chenin Blanc, Winery of Good Hope – $11.69, $9.35 reorder
Hmmm, something big’s a brewing down in South Africa. Well sure, there’s that tournament they call The World Cup, but something else is afoot. Howzabout the wine?? South Africa has been churning out some delectable vino recently; after all, they’ve only been producing wine since the 17th century. This Chenin is dry, clean, and expressive. Enjoy!

2008 Rose, Domaine Gournier – $5.95 sale price, $5.65 reorder
Speaking of the great outdoors, the longer days of spring are prime time for picnics! And no matter what you may be a packin’ in that there pic-a-nic basket, a dry, crisp Rose will do the trick! This one here has depth with a spicy profile. Just put a little chill on it, and you’re good to go. Bonus – if you forget your wine key, don’t worry, this one comes in screwcap!

2007 Soave Classico, Vigna della Stefano – $8.95 sale price, $8.50 reorder
From Italia’s Veneto region, this fleshy white is made from 100% Garganega. Another one perfectly suitable for the springtime weather; we envision a late lunch of langostinos … al fresco … and this here bottle of Soave classico!

2006 Montravel Blanc, Chateau Calabre – $5.95 sale price, $5.65 reorder
Daniel Hecquet is quite the recognizable figure in the Dordogne Valley. His Chateau Calabre of Montravel lies in an ideal setting just due north from Bordeaux’s easternmost outpost, St. Foy la Grande. For his Montravel, Daniel blends Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and a drop of Muscadelle. The result? Great balance and harmony, and a perfect match for crab.

2008 Chardonnay, Foxglove – $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
The Varner brothers continue to gain praise for all of their wines. They have achieved much success with the Varner label. Their Foxglove wines have flown under the radar for some time, but those days are over. Huge on quality, short on price; these wines are not to be missed. Unfortunately for us bargain wine lovers, the critics know about them, and they talk …

2007 Syrah, Domaine Saint Antoine – $11.29, $9.03 reorder
No French wine growing region can boast of the consistent string of successful vintages as the southern Rhone Valley. The success in 2007 was not confined to the valley itself, as the vineyards in the Rhone’s environs have had much success also. This Syrah is rich and dense with notes of smokiness, earth, and dark red fruit. A perfect red to pair with that roast beef.

2007 Terre d’Ardoise, Mas Lavail – $12.59, $10.07 reorder
Very near the Spanish border on the Mediterranean side of France, is the Cotes Catalanes and the town of Maury. ‘Tis where you’ll find Mas Lavail. Their (mostly) Carignan blend has won the admiration of many a winemaker and chef, if we can divulge who it is that buys this wine. It’s a medium bodied effort with plenty of spice, garrigue, and complexity.

2008 Tutti I Giorni, Nutz!, Vino Noceto – $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder
‘Tutti I Giorni’ roughly means ‘everyday’ and that’s the intention of this Cal-Ital grown in the Sierra Foothills: to produce a quality quaffer at a price that enables one to enjoy it any ol’ day. Made mostly from Sangiovese, this is the ideal wine to pop with a steamy bowl of spaghetti with Bolognese sauce.

2006 Tradicional, Quinta do Alqueve – $11.99, $9.59 reorder
Okay, time to get the notebook out. This four grape blend from Portugal is comprised of the famous Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Trincadeira, and Periquita. It has a medium body with bright acidity and well-integrated oak. It’s the perfect selection to tee up with that pizza.

2007 Le Clos, Domaine Sainte Eugenie – $8.99, $7.19 reorder
Here’s one that comes from our ‘How do they do it?’ section. THIS four grape blend is made up of some rather recognizable varieties: Merlot, Grenache, Carignan, and Cabernet Sauvignon. It is deep. It is rich. Its verve of zippy fruit is enough to make any wine lover scratch their head and wonder, “How much did this cost?” Which, in turn, leads to, “I better get down to The Wine House and pick up a case while they still have some.”

2005 Prestige, Chateau Valcombe – $14.99, $11.99 reorder
One of our many regular customers was once asked if he had a cellar at home. He replied, “Why should I when I have one right here in your shop?!” Well, who can argue with that? This here Prestige cuvee is a perfect example of what he meant. It has spent some time in the bottle and is now perfectly mature and complex. Enjoy it now. Think rib-eye here.

Springing Forward With An Outstanding 2007 Rhone!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 4:31 PM


aaa1Good timing. Got lucky. A couple of phrases that are used from time to time to describe a fortuitous turn of events. I too use these phrases often, but after pondering the concept a while, I think there’s something greater at play here. Much greater. Funny thing is it’s ineffable. It’s one of those concepts. Kind of like science vs. Mother Nature. Having just recently read a very humorous, yet poignant Twitter post about that very subject this past week, it got me to thinking that fate is fate; I fight it, I embrace it, I sometimes think I can control it … but at the end of the day, I realize that I just can’t.

 I guess one just has to listen closely. Sometimes it’s as subtle as coming across an unfamiliar word in a book and looking it up in the dictionary only to be asked the following day, out of the blue, what that word means. You know the answer, and look like a genius over something just learned. Or say you walk into a crowded room on your first day of work. You keep your formal game-face on as you meet and greet, but then you look at someone, they look back and instead of being formal, you get the spark in the eye and the old head nod. Of course that one turns out to be your best friend. So when I started working here at TWH, I looked around at this plethora of wine and was initially overwhelmed.How would I get to know all these wines? Well, the answer is obvious, but where to start? I had been on the job for less than a week when The Wine Advocate released its synopsis of the 2004 Rhone vintage. The phones lit up, as usual, with many a point chaser trying to track down the latest ninety-somethings. One of the point chasers happened to be a wholesale account! They took our entire inventories of both Domaine Fondreche’s Cotes de Ventoux cuvee Persia and cuvee Nadal. As I stacked the cases in our warehouse preparing them to be shipped out, I lamented this loss of two tasting opportunities … ah, but it was just the beginning.


aaa3I became very familiar with what the cases of Domaine Fondreche’s wines looked like. I must have stacked 30 of them that day. When the work day ended, I was handed a couple of recent back issues of Decanter magazine to peruse and to begin to familiarize myself with the multitude of wine that I knew nothing about. I came back home to the old treehouse … Wow! The OLD treehouse; whew! That was a whole ‘nother lifetime ago. Anyhoo, I had a bottle of Fondreche O’Sud open, and was not a bit surprised when I opened up the magazine to an article titled, “Young Giants of the Rhone Valley”. I was even less surprised to see a half page photograph and article about Sebastien Vincenti himself. I thought to myself, “Of course … he’s in the air. Here’s how I’m getting started” So off I went. I learned about the Cotes de Ventoux in the eastern Rhone. I learned that Vincenti’s vineyards are in one of the best spots in the appellation. I learned that he was a disciple of legendary Rhonemaster, Andre Brunel. I also learned that he had been making wine for over 10 years … wait. How old is he? 30? Wow! So, chances are, if you wanted to talk Rhone with me in the early days, I was going to gush about all things Fondreche. In fact I have done so in writing. So has Anya! Even Emily mentioned Fondreche in her Valentine’s write-up. Something about this crazy brain of mine, I remember things like that. How I got there. Who helped, who shined the halogen light forward so I could squint and say, “Oh, there it is. Got it. Thanks.” So I’ve always had it for Sebastien’s wines. Ever since I started here. Somehow, I think I always will.So when the next vintage of Fondreche wines arrived, I made sure to get my mitts on a bottle of the Nadal. It’s a little more pricey than the O’Sud, but well worth the additional expense. It’s deep, rich, and complex. This is special occasion wine, at a much lower price tag than most special occasion wines! You can bring this to any wine lover’s soiree, and get nothing but accolades. I’m not one to gush over wine critics’ scores and tasting notes, but I will copy The Wine Advocate’s tasting note at the end of this write-up. 

I think now about the how’s and why’s, though I am constantly fascinated by this thing called life, and resign myself to accepting my fate. That is not to say I won’t fight to change it when I can, but when all signs point to my trying the wines made by Sebastien Vincenti of Domaine Fondreche, why fight?Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me about fate, Fondreche, or Footy: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

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