Me: “So, what sort of white wines do you like to drink?”

Customer: “I love Sancerre!”

Me: “Ah, so you like Sauvignon Blanc.”

Customer: “Oh no, I don’t like Sauvignon Blanc.”

I have had this conversation with customers many times over the years. I don’t wish to embarrass anyone so I try to gently and respectfully explain that Sancerre is made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape. I’ve thought a lot about such conversations and have concluded that the reason why some people might not associate Sauvignon Blanc with Sancerre is that when Sancerre is made well, the super-assertive and super-pungent green flavors of Sauvignon Blanc that prevail out in the marketplace are absent. I for one get why someone would love Sancerre, but be less than thrilled with a sharply herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc.




I took a bottle of the 2015 Sancerre Les Godons from Philippe Raimbault home the other day. It also arrived on the most recent container, along with the many Bordeaux that Pete has recently written about. At my local market, I saw that they had large shrimp on sale, so I planned a shrimp and Sancerre match-up. After poring over a dozen cookbooks, I settled on going without a recipe. Essentially what I made was shrimp Scampi. At first, I sautéed shallots, instead of garlic, in olive oil left over from a jar of Chevoo Smoked Sea Salt and Rosemary goat cheese – waste not, want not. Then to the shrimp I added wine, lemon juice and stock. At the end, I tossed in fresh tarragon and a generous knob of butter. Piping hot out of a cast iron pan, I indulged on the shrimp which was made even more delicious by the lusciousness of the 2015 Sancerre Les Godons.




The 2015 Les Godons exhibits the sweet citrusy flavors of ruby red grapefruit. The citrus tang is there without any hint of harsh acidity. The 2015 vintage was looked upon favorably in Sancerre, but it was lower yielding than the bountiful 2014 vintage. 2015 produced for many a riper-styled wine, but Philippe Raimbault does not acidify his wines, so what you get in the 2015 Les Godons is what nature provided.




Les Godons is a vineyard uniquely shaped in a semi-circle above the village of Sury-En-Vaux. There is a pen and ink illustration of the vineyard on the label, so you can see how steep the slopes are. The vineyard is south-facing, so exposure to the sun is maximized. In some years there is a distinct tropicality to the Les Godons that I find irresistible. I would have thought in a warm vintage like 2015 that quality would dominate, but I found the 2015 to be rather citrus driven; pamplemousse, pomelo and sweet orange. Fragrant and lush, sipping this one on its own is perfectly acceptable and encouraged too.




Last Saturday The Wine House staff dined at Boulevard for our Post-Holiday party. Everything was great – the food, the wine, the company! In my opinion, Boulevard is one of San Francisco’s best restaurants – it’s a classic. The food is impeccable, the service is attentive and seamless, and the atmosphere is welcoming and warm. For our first course, we selected a couple of orders of Foie Gras to share. We drank 1988 De Fargues with it. Divine! The flavor sensors in my brain exploded! Of course, this being TWH Post-Holiday dinner, there was a second bottle of 1988 De Fargues because that’s how we roll. We love Sauternes and enjoy drinking it throughout a meal. There was also White & Red Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne too, but what a luxury it was to have a glass of Sauternes to taste with each course. Thank you Christian, Mrs. Moore, Mr. B, Chris, Pete, Mrs. Netzer and David for a memorable evening! -Anya Balistreri

Sancerre Les Godons 2014
After three extremely challenging vintages, 2014 was a welcome and much needed respite for Loire Valley vintners. July and August did bring a bit o’ worry to growers as heat and rain ping ponged back and forth creating the perfect conditions for rot, but September came to the rescue with a string of glorious, sunny days. Throughout the region, you could hear a collective heavy sigh of relief.Philippe Raimbault’s Sancerre Les Godons encapsulates the best traits of the 2014 vintage, which is to say the best wines have ripe fruit in combination with enlivened acidity.
 
Raimbault Vineyards in Sury En Vaux
 
Philippe Raimbault farms close to 40 acres in three appellations: Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé and the Coteaux de Giennois. He is one of the few non-negociants in the Loire to do so. Philippe comes from a long-line of winemakers dating back to the 1700s. Typically Sancerre producers use several parcels to make their wine, not just one contiguous plot. Hail is notorious for destroying crops is this region, so it is prudent to use grapes from several locations. For his Apud Sariacum Sancerre Philippe does just that – he uses 22 different parcels of vines which circle the village of Sury En Vaux. The Les Godons Sancerre is unusual as it is a single-vineyard that is south-facing and is shaped like an amphitheater. An etching of the vineyard is depicted on the label. Philippe’s grandfather purchased Les Godons in 1946. The exposition of the vineyard contributes to a unique microclimate. I find the Les Godons’ Sauvignon Blanc to be a little richer, a little more opulent, a tad more tropical than your average Sancerre.
 
Fossil Found in the Vineyard
 
The 2014 Les Godons has penetrating fruit flavors of mandarin, pomelo and passion fruit. On the nose it screams of Sauvignon Blanc but stops short of being assaulting. On the palate the ripe fruit flavors are escorted by a pronounced minerality. The Les Godons is energetic and, well, delicious. For an unoaked wine, it has superb texture and weight. The fruit Philippe is able to harvest from this special vineyard makes for a high-impact wine. It distinguishes itself from most Sancerre.
 
Pre-Friday Night Fish Fry Glass
 
Temperatures spiked in the Bay Area, even the inside of my house got sweltering hot. Except for the Thirst Gamay from Radford Dale, white wine has been the vin de jour all week. For our Friday Night Fish Fry, I was craving something thathad complexity, had substantial fruit presence yet finished fresh and lively. I looked around the store to see what I should begin chilling in our tiny staff refrigerator so that after battling end of the work week traffic, I could cool down with a zippy white. My eyes landed on the 2014 Les Godons and I knew I found what I was looking for. I was not disappointed. With a glass in hand, sitting on the front porch, greeting neighbors as they strolled past, I savored the lush flavors of this special Sancerre. Though it tasted nicely with baked fish, I was thinking next time I would like to serve this with a Cobb salad, substituting the Roquefort for Humbolt Fog. A splendid idea!– Anya Balistreri

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Domaine des Buissonnes’ Sancerre is precisely why Sancerre is so beloved and has such far reaching popularity; the flavors are refreshing, crisp and persistent. Grower and winemakerDominique Naudet is a meticulous farmer. His Sancerre is always lush on the aromatics without compromising that charged Sauvignon Blanc attack. The 2013 is particularly compelling with its focused and precise flavors; compact and clean. You will immediately be greeted by aromas of gooseberry and passionfruit. On the palate it’s got citrus and cut grass freshness, but by no means is it “grassy”.
 
 
At the end of April, Jeanne-Marie de Champs, who represents many of the producers The Wine House imports, and comes to SF bi-annually to visit us,held court in our new conference room sharing with TWH staff a line-up of newly arrived winesoff of our last container. Though Jeanne-Marie works from Beaune in the heart of Burgundy, she is originally from Loire. When Jeanne-Marie is in town, I try to take these opportunities to ask as many questions as possible about each domaine, especially ones like Buissonnes that leaves no marketing or social media footprint. It is as if they don’t exist, other than the fact that our clients clamor for it as if it were the only Sancerre on the market.
 
Jeanne-Marie showing Peter the line-up
 
Jeanne-Marie explained that typical of the region,Domaine des Buissonnes owns several parcels around Sancerre, not just one contiguous vineyard. This is by design as the region is often devastated by hail, and owning vines in various places helps to insure a crop. Dominique Naudet owns about 20 hectares of vines and the winery itself is in Sury-en-Vaux just north of the town of Sancerre. Vinification occurs in stainless steelhowever to draw out aromatics and give a rounded mouthfeel, the wine sits long on the lees.
 
JM Holding Court
 
In an article about Sancerre’s popularity, a wine director for a high profile New York restaurant confessed that he won’t offer Sancerre by the glass because if he did it would make it nearlyimpossible to sell another white by the glass, thus destroying his by-the-glass program. Just some food for thought. Despite the popularity, I would caution that not all Sancerre is made equally.The family-run estate of Domaine des Buissonnes can only survive if it delivers quality, which is does vintage after vintage.
 
At a small town farmer’s market this past week I purchased some sweet, young Spring onions that would be perfect to grill, drizzle with a light vinaigrette and then crumbled over with fresh goat cheese – you know where I am going with this?– to serve with a chilled glass of 2013 Domaine des Buissonnes Sancerre. Now, doesn’t that sound lovely?
 

Classic Sancerre: 2012 Apud Sariacum from Raimbault

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 5:30 PM

A second vintage of Philippe Raimbault’s Sancerre Apud Sariacum has arrived at TWH after a lengthy absence while monopolizing a spot on a very popular, wine-centric Los Angeles restaurant list. This L.A. restaurant is known for having an innovative wine-by-the-glass program, rotating in new items every few months or so.  Raimbault’s Sancerre Apud Sariacum remained on this list for nearly 3 years! All of our stock went to fulfill their orders.  When the sommelier called to tell us he was finally going to take the wine off the list in order to keep intact the integrity of their changing list, it was clear he did so reluctantly – probably because his customers were going to put up a stink for not having their beloved Apud Sariacum to enjoy by the glass! A true testament to the quality of the wine and to the wide range of palates that enjoy it. 

 

Phillippe Raimbault assembles his Sancerre Apud Sariacum from eight tiny parcels grown on steep slopes surrounding the picturesque village of Sury en Vaux, which up until the 12th century was known as Apud Sariacum. The soil here is part of a geological stratum formed during the second era of the Jurassic period. Fossils of sea creatures dating back 130 million years can be found in these vineyards. Phillippe has an impressive collection of these fossils which he proudly displays at his tasting room. These ancient soils really drive home the idea that dirt does matter and as such, Sauvignon Blanc grown along the steep slopes of Loire Valley’s Sancerre region does demonstrate a special quality of depth, weight and, yes, minerality.

 

 

The name recognition for Sancerre is far reaching and evokes a certain sophistication among wine drinkers. Even people who say they dislike Sauvignon Blanc will ask for Sancerre at our store. I chalk this up to the fact that most Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t share the verve and citrusy bite that Sancerre shows off in the glass. Grassy, yes, but not assertive or too pungent, just like the 2012 Sancerre Apud Sariacum which is chock full of fragrant citrus, juicy green melon, ending with a nervy, vibrant finish. Refreshing and offering something more than just a crisp drink. The 2012 Sancerre Apud Sariacum is a textbook, classic Sancerre!

 

Raimbault’s wife Lynne, who is a London transplant, runs a charming shop and wine bar selling Philippe’s wines and local products in town called Les Fossiles. Lynne visited TWH this past November. Regrettably, I was not at the store that day, but all the guys raved about her outgoing personality and easy charm.

So get this … TWH is moving in about a week and I’m going to Disneyland! I am abandoning my comrades to take a very short sojourn this weekend to the happiest place on earth. It probably wasn’t the best timing on my part, but when is it ever? I’ll be back soon enough, hopefully with plenty of stories to share, and ready to help move TWH into its new home. – Anya Balistreri

2011 Philippe Raimbault Sancerre Apud Sariacum

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 12:58 AM

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“I see the light at the end of the tunnel, someone please tell me it’s not a train.”
Sardonic lyrics from Mr. David Lowery, but my heart skipped a beat when I noticed that my “Blur” write-up from last year was written on February 18. I’m hoping for some R & R before the 18th of February, because blur is where I am every January. Along with the usual array of friends’ birthdays, family namesdays, Russian holidays, and the annual UGC de Bordeaux tasting, this year we added another Sauternes pairing dinner with Château Coutet and a live performance by my new musical project! So yeah, it’s been another Blur January (song title?). Whenever it all ends (sigh … Birthday Party tonight), I’m going to chill with something light, crisp, complex, and fun to sip! Hmmm. There’s a wine that we’ve been importing for many vintages now, but it hasn’t seen our sales floor in three!!! Ladies and Gents, for the first time in three vintages, back on our sales floor is the Sancerre Apud Sariacum from Philippe Raimbault! The vintage: 2011.

 

 

Yep, for three vintages ALL of it had been earmarked for a high profile restaurant in southern California that has been pouring it by the glass and going through more than a handful of cases every week. Under normal circumstances, restaurants change out their “by the glass” lists periodically throughout the year. Not this one. Not with this wine anyway. What’s not to like?It’s a bright, crisp Sancerre with plenty of lift, complexity, and grapefruit-weds-lime citrus character. What makes this wine great is its overall quaffability. You can have it on its own where that citrus will dance on your palate buoyed by the fresh acidity and hint of mineral. Should you decide to pair it with lunch or dinner (I always love Sancerre with lunch), you can go many routes, it’s just that versatile. Let’s see … you can do raw oysters, seared scallops, a crab salad, crostini with goat cheese, roast turkey with creamy gravy and potatoes, or OMG … I’m famished! You get the picture.

 

 



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So back to the resto for a sec. Saying that they flew through this wine is an understatement. But they flew through this wine for three vintages at a price north of 15 bucks-a-glass! Their bottle price was more than 60! Okay, Chez Vous might not be a trendy so-Cal restaurant, but you can have a bottle of celebrity Sancerre for yourself, your friends, and your family for just a bit more than Kobe Bryant, Danny Devito, Katy Perry, or Wolfgang Puck paid for a glass! If you love Sancerre, and we know you do, you owe it to yourself to try the 2011 Apud Sariacum Sancerre from Raimbault! Word.

 

 

I do see a light at the end of the tunnel. I do. Birthday party tonight, namesday celebration tomorrow, and one more birthday to go, things should settle down come February 1. Our dinner with Aline Baly of Château Coutet atRestaurant Picco in Larkspur was a smashing success! Kudos to Chef Jared Rogers for outdoing his last effort, and putting smiles on the attendees faces. TheUGC de Bordeaux tasting of the 2010 vintage was a fantastic tastingshowcasing part deux of another pair of legendary vintages. No doubt you’ll be hearing more about that soon. And in the music department, the momentum is building … rumor has it that there will be another live show in February! Now that my schedule is beginning to slow down, it’s time to pull a couple bottles of 2011 Philippe Raimbault Sancerre Apud Sariacum; one for band practice and one for the fridge! – Peter Zavialoff

 

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Sancerre, 2010 Bordeaux, Sauternes/Barsac Pairing Dinners, Footballers kicking ballboys, or my latest musical project: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

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35th Anniversary Sale Deal: 2011 Apud Sariacum Rosé

Saturday, December 8, 2012 1:20 AM

And just like that, it’s December! Our 35th Anniversary Sale has been going strong for almost a month now, and it’s just a great time of year to be working here at TWH. I’ve seen so many customers in the past few weeks and I always enjoy uncovering great deals for your individual palates. Why just last night, while dining at the home of a friend (who also happens to be a TWH customer), I dropped off a case of Bordeaux futures that recently arrived, and thanked him for having trust in my palate. His response was, “Pete, I trust your palate implicitly.” It’s great. I know what he likes, and when I taste something that I know will work, I tell him about it. I am happy to do the same for many of you … especially during sale time. During sale time, it’s difficult not to notice drastic price reductions among the fancier wines. What was once out of reach becomes a thought for either a gift or maybe a special occasion. That’s what I was on about in my last Sunday email; a special occasion wine for a very fair price. Well, this week it’s different. This week I’ve found something great that’s on sale for $13.95. This week I’ve found something with a strong reputation and pedigree. This week I found the2011 Sancerre Rosé Apud Sariacum by Philippe Raimbault!
Chances are, if you asked me about the 2011 Apud Sariacum Sancerre Rosé, I would have immediately asked, “Do you like mineral-driven Rosé?” It is unmistakable. As is the complexity of this wine. While many of our Rosé selections are easy to drink, light, and refreshing, this one is for the wine lover that’s looking for something a little more serious. I often extol the virtues of sipping Rosé while I work in a hot kitchen, as it is refreshing and cools me down (not to mention, it’s handy in case something on the stove needs a dash or two of wine). I would NOT recommend this Rosé for that purpose. If I have 2 burners, an oven, and a glass of 2011 Apud Sariacum Rosé going, I’m liable to burn something. I would be lost with my nose in a wineglass before I could smell the smoke. I am NOT kidding. This wine is that special.

 

Before I started writing today, to set the mood, I decided to pop a bottle in the cold box and share a taste with Anya and Tom. What a great idea!!! The first thing that gets me is the mineral. “Chalky, dusty, strawberry, rocks and rhubarb, geranium leaves, a savory component that adds an extra dimension.” Seriously, those were the words we bandied about … and we were only taking in the aromas. This is a sophisticated Rosé. I could easily (and I did) just smell this wine for minutes before even THINKING about taking a sip. There’s so much there. On the palate, it is pure heaven. Fresh and bright, just a hint of fruit – savory fruit balanced by lively acidity wrapped around a rocky mineral core that finishes with a very faint hint of honey. Bravo! This Rosé rocks my world! Apparently, I’m not the only one. Last year’s version was well received by this gent, and that’s an understatement! He was recommending it at “about $25 per bottle.” Again, as part of our 35th Anniversary Sale, it’s only $13.95. To quote one of today’s customers, “If I had a conscience, I’d feel like I’m stealing.” We invite you to “steal” some of this wine. Again, this is a serious Rosé. It’s not one of those “only good when they’re fresh” Rosés. This will still be drinking fine well into the summer of 2013.We’ve got a few cases left, our apologies when it sells out.

We’ve decided to extend our Anniversary Sale through (at least) the first 2 weeks of December. Though many wines have sold out, there’s still plenty to choose from. If a sophisticated Rosé with pedigree and an amazing swath of complexity is something that tickles your fancy,please allow me to bang on the table and shout, The 2011 Apud Sariacum Sancerre Rosé by Philippe Raimbault is the wine for you!Peter Zavialoff

 

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about our 35th Anniversary Sale, holiday gift ideas, or the implosion of my favourite football club: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

2009 Les Godons From Philippe Raimbault

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 6:08 PM

Loire Valley wines are on fire here at the store and, in particular, Sancerre continues to captivate and delight the public’s palate. Yes, it’s just Sauvignon Blanc, but what Sauvignon Blanc it is. You want attack, verve, raciness, bright snappy fruit, to name a few criteria; then you want Sancerre. We now import two producers of Sancerre. You’d think one would be sufficient, but since not all Sancerre taste the same, the range of options sits well with our clientele (and staff!). In fact we used to bring in only one cuvee of Sancerre from Philippe Raimbault, the Apud Sariacum, but each time we tasted the Les Godons alongside it, we suffered over which to import until someone brilliantly suggested importing both. Indeed, why not two cuvees? Makes sense given how different the wines are from one another.

 

Acquired by the Raimbault family in 1946, Les Godons is a steeply sloped vineyard described as forming a natural amphitheatre helping to protect the vines from wind and creating a unique microclimate. A one man operation (though I understand his mother takes care of the paperwork), Philippe Raimbault comes from a long line of vignerons dating back a couple of hundred years, so you could say wine is in his blood. I get a kick out how his representative in France affectionately and matter-of-factly says of Philippe that he is “just a good grower with a lot of care on details”. No fanfare, no celebrity status, just someone who makes the best wine possible. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Philippe, but if the theory holds that dogs look like their owners and wines reflect their makers, I’m confident I’d get on just fine with Monsieur Raimbault.

 

Never having visited the Loire, my relationship to Sancerre is based primarily on its magical ability to pair well with food. And as summer’s bounty heats up, Sancerre takes a more prominent spot in my culinary and vinous arsenal. Just last night a couple of zucchini fritters and a side of cut-up tomatoes with chervil and cress were elevated to something teetering on inspired by a glass of chilled 2009 Les Godons. The 2009 Loire vintage is being heralded as a great success and for those who follow these things, is ripe like the ’03s with the structure and snap of the ’05s. Les Godons typically is devoid of herbal or grassy notes and leans toward flavors of ripe citrus and melon. The ripeness of the ’09 vintage really brings forth the melon notes, like a bite of Crenshaw that takes with it a bit of the green rind. The nose is super expressive, displaying melon, lemon cream and unripe peach. Next time, I intend to pair the 2009 Les Godons with a zucchini stuffed with lamb, pine nuts and a crumble of goat cheese. Now that is gonna be epic! I’ve made it abundantly clear to family and neighbors that I accept overgrown squash and zucchini. At the start of summer, I made a pact with myself to explore the limitless ways you can stuff the vegetable. I marvel at what is seemingly so simple to make, given the freshest of ingredients, can taste so good. I further marvel at how such a dish can reach even higher pleasure points with the accompaniment of an honest, well made glass of vino. After all these years in the biz (this week a colleague referred to me as “an old-timer”!), I still get giddy pairing up something special in the glass with something homemade on the plate. – Anya Balistreri

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