Tuesday, May 31, 2016 7:50 PM
Monday, June 1, 2015 7:22 PM
As wine trends go, I am over-joyed by the uptick in frequency of customers asking specifically for lighter reds. It warms this wine merchant’s heart to see wine drinkers embrace a wider diversity of wine styles. As we head into the summer months, it is not as if we all stop drinking red wine and start drinking white and rosé exclusively. And yet, how often, even with a rich piece of grilled meat, does a heavy tannic red fall flat (or hot) when outside temperatures spike? Avoid this mishap by selecting a softer tannin red, one that does not sacrifice flavor and complexity for heft like the 2014 Poco a Poco Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. I know I’ll be looking forward to bringing along a bottle to share with family and friends at one of this summer’s out-on-the-deck beneath the Redwoods dinner gatherings. – Anya Balistreri
Monday, November 25, 2013 7:24 PM
|Carrying over Pete’s theme from last week – for Thanksgiving, drink what you like! Yes, the anything goes approach when choosing a wine for Thanksgiving is gaining strength even among wine writers and journalists. It is a relief to me that this new trend has emerged. If asked, I will share strong opinions as to what I think works best with turkey and all the trimmings, but I feel even stronger that at Thanksgiving, time should be spent on family and friends and not worrying about what wine to serve. It really only matters what you enjoy drinking and to understand your crowd. For years I was banging my head against the wall, trying to impress my food-loving, California wine-drinking family with the earthy, soil-driven red Burgundy I brought to share. With age and wisdom, I now know to grab a bottle of Zinfandel or Syrah from one of my favorite California producers to take home. Now we are all happy. So you see, relax and enjoy during this time of gratitude and reflection.
I have selected the following wines as viable options for the Thanksgiving table, that just also happen to be two top values from California. The quality that you get in the bottle far exceeds the price tag. They are not new to TWH and are probably familiar to many of you who read our newsletters, so without any further adieu welcome back in stock Lacuna and Juicy Villages!!!!
The 2011 is the third vintage from Lacuna. Unlike the 2010, which was heavily influenced by Petite Sirah, and more like the 2007, our Top Ten of 2010, the 2011 Lacuna has Syrah back in the driver’s seat. Leave it to winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson to source top quality fruit from various celebrated sites to blend together a perfect amalgamation of fruit, structure and perfume.
For the three original partners in Lacuna, who were already actively working in the wine business, the aesthetic behind creating Lacuna was all about the aromatics and the texture. The three, passionate about Old World wines, wanted to apply their palate preferences to domestic wine. It may be a marketing nightmare for the guys, but I appreciate how each vintage of Lacuna brings out a different expression of fruit all the while adhering to a strong point of view. The aromatics at this young stage are quite dramatic in the 2011 Lacuna; notes of bacon fat, berries and petals waft up out of the glass. Inside the bottle you will find 85% Syrah, sourced from several sites and some co-fermented with Viognier just like they do in Cote-Rotie, with the balance comprised of old-vine Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Carignan. The mouth-coating fruit is persuasive and energetic. Yes, I would bring this wine to Thanksgiving, but I would also love to see it alongside braised short ribs or a steaming bowl of Carbonnade. The 2011 Lacuna proves to me that ’07 and ’10 weren’t just flukes. The gorgeous Lacuna reds are moving from strength to strength.
Last year the 2011 Juicy Villages from Juicy Rebound made it to our list of Top Ten of 2012. It did not stay in stock for long. With only 100 cases produced, I expect the same to be true for the newly released 2012 Juicy Villages. Again it is a blend, but this vintage Syrah takes center stage with Grenache and Mourvedre cast in supporting roles. The Syrah and Grenache come from a vineyard in the Russian River Valley, while the Mourvedre comes from the legendary Evanghelo Vineyard in Contra Costa County. It is plush, dense and concentrated.Honestly, if you were to buy a wine of this quality from the majority of wineries out there, you could expect to pay 2-3 times more. So how do we get to be so lucky? It is one of those quirks in the wine industry; if you pay close enough attention though, this type of treasure can still be found. Let’s just say, I’m deeply thankful to be able to recommend a wine of such pedigree and pleasure at such an affordable price to TWH customers.
There is a classification of winemaker that I describe as “a winemaker’s winemaker”. Douglas Danielak is such a winemaker. He may not be a household name like Randall Grahm, but if you ask around, you will find the respect and admiration for Doug’s winemaking skills, tasting prowess and overall wine knowledge is universal. As proof, Morgan Twain-Peterson (see Lacuna above) last July tweeted, “My vote for most historically underrated winemaker would likely go to Doug Danielak,” along with a photo of a bottle of Juicy Rebound Grenache. So you see, it is not just my opinion!
|It probably comes as no surprise that I do love Thanksgiving! All you do is eat, and drink. Yes, I love the roasted turkey and the traditional sides, but I also love how this American holiday adapts to each individual household. At my husband’s Italian-American family, there will be a platter of ravioli and at my family’s Russian-American table there will be pickled mushrooms and peppers, some type of beet dish and this year, fresh roe my mother cured. I hope to make the rounds to see everyone (and to taste a bit of everything!). Wishing you and yours a bountiful Thanksgiving! – Anya Balistreri|
Monday, September 16, 2013 9:30 PM
|The latest offerings from Cazar, the 2011 Chardonnay Russian River Valley and the 2012 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast, may in fact be the best values in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from California. A strong case can be made for this opinion. Under the Chasseur label, winemaker William Hunter has been widely recognized for making some of the finest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from “West County”, Sonoma County’s western edge of the Russian River Valley and Green Valley and the ocean-influenced Sonoma Coast. Taking his cue from Burgundy, William makes small lots of vineyard-designated wines. His wines are expressive and opulent. A few vintages back he created another label, Cazar, utilizing wine that doesn’t quite fit into his Chasseur offerings. His approach to making Cazar is not unlike his approach to making his vineyard-designated wines save for the oak regiment, which can dramatically impact cost. In essence, what you get with Cazar is something far more compelling and delicious than the majority of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir available for under $25. Seriously.|
|The 2011 Chardonnay is sourced entirely from the Russian River Valley. Aged in oak, this Chardonnay is full-bodied and rich. Golden-hued in color with notes of roasted hazelnuts, honey, ripe apple and pear, with a delectable, texturally rich, long-lasting finish. The intensity of this Chardonnay is bounded by the vintage’s trademark minerality. It is fancy through and through. The Cazar Pinot Noir has the coveted Sonoma Coast designation and comes from the picture perfect 2012 vintage. It is an intense Pinot Noir with notes of cherry and the sweet tangy goodness of ripe pomegranate seeds. Stylistically full and lush, this could easily be another winery’s flagship offering. I imagine there are probably wineries out there cursing William Hunter for offering wine of this quality for such a price. I just relish in knowing that bargains can still be found in the crowded wine market.
The appeal for these Cazar wines is not based solely on price. This pair successfully deliver the goods for a full-bodied, plush tasting experience. It was wise for William Hunter to create a separate label for Cazar as these wines are not sloppy seconds to his Chasseur wines, but can stand on their own. TWH has been carrying the Cazar wines for several vintages now and yes, they’ve all been great. However without a doubt, these new offerings are the very best yet. Stunning. Perhaps not collector’s wine, but if you are a devotee of sun-soaked California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, these wines should not be passed by.
|It was Back to School Night this week at my daughter’s school. They sure get you for fundraising, donations and volunteering. But it is all good – the school’s wonderful. We had to guess our child’s self-made profile which included a family portrait, favorite things, etc. Besides recognizing her hand-writing, I immediately knew which one belonged to Sascha because she listed baking and cooking as her favorite activities. I was relieved that wine tasting was left off, but I know now that I am raising a Foodie! —Anya Balistreri|
Friday, November 23, 2012 10:25 PM
I am not exactly sure why a single-vineyard, 200 case production, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir would be offered for under $25 when Pinot Noir from the same exact vineyard, Floodgate Vineyard, can command bottle prices twice as much.Floodgate Vineyard, at the southern end of the Russian River Valley in an area known as the “Middle Reach”, was first planted decades ago and has been the source for numerous award-winning wines. I suppose the reason why winemaker/proprietor Miro Tcholakov offers this lovely, jubilant cherry-infused Pinot Noir at the low, low price of $22.98 (at The Wine House) is because he can. I have not personally met him (yet), but I’m going to go out on the limb here and conclude that Miro is probably a bit of a rebel who bucks convention to make wines that outperform expectations given their modest sticker price. We get inundated with wholesale books, dropped off regularly by hopeful wine salespeople. Time allowing, I will peruse the pages, hoping to find a gem among the crowded field. When I came across Miro’s Cellars in a small boutique portfolio, I thought the prices listed were a typo. I quickly emailed my rep and asked to taste the wines…only after confirming that the prices were indeed correct. I tasted the Floodgate Pinot Noir with Tom who when asked what he thought of it said something to the effect of “what are you waiting for?” Yeah, really, how often am I going to find a balanced, approachable, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir from a famed vineyard for $22.98? Not nearly often enough; back up the truck!
| Miro Tcholakov, a Bulgarian native, came to the U.S. on a student exchange program offered through the Future Farmers of America. He landed in Napa and quickly thereafter came to Dry Creek Vineyards where he worked up the ladder from harvest intern to winemaker. Now that is an American success story. These days he is winemaker for Trentadue Winery in Alexander Valley and as a side gig, makes wines for himself under Miro’s Cellars. Everything I’ve tasted from Miro to date has been wonderful and along with the Floodgate Vineyard Pinot Noir, we are carrying a Grist Vineyard Zinfandel and a GSM blend called “Cuvee Sasha”. Most of what I am sharing with you is information gathered from the Miro’s Cellar website where I found it revealing and refreshing that to read about Mr. Tcholakov, you have to scroll down to the very bottom of the homepage and click on a link. Obviously he is a modest winemaker who wants his wines to take center stage.
Miro’s 2010 Floodgate Vineyard Pinot Noir is indicative of the intense cherry fruit you look for in Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Though relatively low in alcohol, labeled at 13.5%, for a red from this area, and with time in new oak, about 11 months, this Pinot Noir is expressive of place and is reigned in nicely. It’s a wine to consider for the Thanksgiving table or to bring along to your next dinner party.
|The warehouse has been reloaded with a container from France. We’ll be unveiling the new arrivals in upcoming newsletters and once pallets have been broken down and wine counted in, many of you will soon be getting emails for wines purchased on pre-arrival. I’ve been having a major clean-up at home as I no longer can take refuge from the mess by staying outside. I made my first pot of stew of the season and have been on a roasted vegetable kick. Have you tried roasting Brussels Sprouts? My daughter scoffs them down! She told me the other night as she stabbed the tiny cruciferous morsel, “Do you know that some kids at school think these are yucky? I don’t…I love them!” Put that in the win column for mom. —Anya Balistreri|