The Wine House SF Top Ten Wines Of 2012

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 3:06 PM

Now that we’ve all settled into 2013, we have to say with excitement that this is going to be a great year! We are anxiously looking forward to all of the good things and the many great wines coming our way in 2013. But before we get too far into it, let’s have a look back as we reveal our Top Ten Wines of 2012!

The concept may sound simple … the top wines, right? Well, not so fast. We could tap into the multitude of reviews from wine writers and critics and fashion a list of highly rated, don’t drink until 2025, keep in a bank vault wines, butthat’s not how we roll here at TWH. In years past, our Top Ten lists are comprised of wines we all love. Wines that deliver. Wines that outshine their respective price points. Wines that provide pleasure, because really, isn’t that what wine is all about? We taste a whole lot of wine throughout the year, both here and abroad, and only bring in the ones we deem worthy to be on our shelves for you, our customers. Choosing a Top Ten out of all of the wines we’ve said yes to is a fun albeit difficult exercise. It’s fun because we get to relive our tasting experiences, remembering the meals, the ambiance, and the company that went along with each wine. Remember, some of the wines have sold out, but we list them here based on their merits … So without further ado, here is The Wine House San Francisco’s Top Ten wines of 2012!!!

Please use these links to view our Top Ten from last year, 2010, or 2009.

20NV Pascal Doquet Extra Brut Premier Crus Blancs de Blanc

With New Year’s memories slowly fading, let’s begin with some bubbles. TWH mainstay Pascal Doquet makes some of the best Grower Champagne that we’ve encountered. He sure has been garnering praise recently from the likes of James Molesworth of The Wine Spectator and The Wine Advocate’s Antonio Galloni. Why wouldn’t he? His artisanal Champagnes have been wowing our staff for over a decade! When this Extra Brut landed here in our shop this year, it instantly became a favorite of our staff and all customers who have tried it.Here’s what Mr. Galloni had to say about it, “Doquet’s NV Extra Brut Premier Crus Blanc de Blancs is pretty, soft and enveloping. Dried pears, spices, crushed flowers and almonds wrap around the palate in this expressive, layered Champagne. This is one of the more open Extra Brut Champagnes readers will come across, likely because of the high presence of 2005 juice and full malolactic fermentation. Technical details aside, the wine is flat out delicious. 91 points”
NV Pascal Doquet Premiers Crus Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs

Sparkling; Champagne Blend; Champagne;
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19Michel-Andreotti Montagny les Guignottes

White Burgundy. Honestly, we don’t really have to say much more than that. It is special wine. Unfortunately, supply and demand do what they do, and a great amount of it is priced in the ‘special wine’ echelon. Well, David’s trips to Burgundy have paid off yet again, as we are now importing the Montagny “Les Guignottes” from Michel-Andreotti. From the slightly off-the-beaten-path appellation of Montagny in Côte Chalonnaise, “Les Guignottes” outperforms its price point by far and reminds us that there is good White Burgundy out there for a fair price. First came the 2010. It’s an understatement to say that it sold out quickly. Then along came the 2011, it sold out too, but we just re-loaded and it’s back in stock. Which one made our Top Ten of 2012? It’s a dead heat. They both belong!
2011 Domaine Michel-Andreotti Montagny Les Guignottes

White Wine; Chardonnay; Burgundy;
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182011 Juicy Villages From Juicy Rebound

Now for some local representation. You’ve got to love old-vine Mourvèdre. It’s rare to find a blend from California that showcases the grape in the leading role. Winemaker and hockey fanatic Douglas Danielak took 120+ year old Mourvèdre from the Evanghelo Vineyard in Contra Costa where the vines look like “little trees” and blended it with Syrah and Grenache to create a mouth-filling berry bomb bestowing it with the catchy name, Juicy Villages. There’s plenty of grip and tang to give Juicy Villages a well-balanced flavor experience. A whopping 100 cases were produced of this unique and delicious Côtes du Rhône-esque red. All that for a price that’s more than fair on your pocketbook. Bravo!
2011 Juicy Rebound Juicy Villages California

Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Other California;
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172009 Domaine Martin Bart Marsannay

2012 was the year of containers. It seemed all throughout the year, we were simultaneously in the process of consolidating one overseas, anticipating the arrival of the one already on the water, and unloading the container at our dock! That just means we found lots of goodies on our trips overseas. The 2009 vintage was a phenomenal one in France (more on that later), and we tasted a lot of great wines that now have “Imported by Wine House Limited” on their labels.So 2009 was great in Burgundy, especially for the red wines. So again, we’re sure the top names of the region produced formidable wines, but we like to kick tires and look under rocks to find value! David is on a roll bringing some amazing, new-for-us, high-quality producers to join TWH family! Another feather in his cap in 2012 were the wines from Domaine Bart in Marsannay. Their Les Champs Salomon was a home run of a Red Burgundy. It smelled fancy. It tasted fancy. Its price tag? Not so fancy. That all explains its sold out status. Welcome to TWH top 10, Domaine Bart!


16Ravan From Kabaj

We’ve got our eyes open for great wines from all corners of the wine world. Like Slovenia. Wines from Slovenia are catching favor with consumers and critics alike, popping up on restaurant wine lists and profiled in thoughtful wine publications. Just one whiff, just one taste was enough for us to throw caution to the wind and stack the Ravan from Kabaj high and proud. Were we concerned whether TWH customers would shy away from an unknown producer from an unfamiliar wine region? Not. The staff were all in for sure, but when a wine is this delightful, exotic and complex, we knew our adventurous clientele would embrace the Ravan from Kabaj just as passionately. The 2009 has sold out, but we find the 2010 a worthy successor!
2010 Kabaj Ravan White Wine Goriska Brda

White Wine; other white varietal; Slovenia;
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152009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape – Tour de l’Isle

Imagine attending a traveling French wine trade show in Chicago in the middle of January … brrrrr! Seriously, at some point you have to ask yourself why? Well, part of our service to you all is to indeed kick tires, look under rocks, kiss some toads, and every now and then, we get lucky. Here goes your proof. Last January David braved the elements and flew into 6 degree Farenheit Chi-town. He met a lot of people and tasted a lot of wine. When he met the folks representing the Tour de l’Isle brand,he was gaga over their Châteauneuf-du-Pape! A sample bottle was shipped to the shop the following week, and now we all sing the praises of this rich, powerful (yet friendly), stone mineral driven, Grenachey Grenache! The 2009 was already in the US, courtesy of another importer. Well, we all love it so much that we made ’em an offer they couldn’t refuse. We bought their entire stock and are now the proud importer of their wines! Boo Yah!
2009 Tour de l’Isle Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Rhone;
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142009 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon

One of the advantages, and pleasures, of being in business for over 35 years (!) is the long-standing relationships we’ve forged with both customers and vendors. One of David’s first discoveries working at The Wine House was the debut vintage of Spottswoode’s estate grown 1982 Cabernet Sauvignon.The Wine House has been proudly offering their Cabernet Sauvignon every vintage thereafter.The 2009 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon is a standout among a very long line of outstanding efforts; it has that unmistakable thread of Spottsberry fruit pushing through with the signature silky tannins wrapping around it. It is a true collectable California Cabernet and we are happy and proud to include this monumental effort among our Top Ten Wines of the year!
2009 Spottswoode Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Napa Valley

Red Wine; Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa;
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132011 Gavi di Gavi

We’ve been directly importing the Ernesto Picollo line of Gavi wines for 5 vintages now, and though we have always felt they smash the quality for price ratio, their 2011 Gavi di Gavi Roveretohas that extra umph that propels it into 2012’s Top Ten! Anya swears that it is the fact that Picollo’s top cuvée Rughe wasn’t made this year, so that special older-vine fruit made its way into the Rovereto. Whatever it was, there’s no denying the quality of this wine. Crisp, mineral driven, and precise, you would swear that the bottle cost would be twice or even three times as much as it is! It is that special. It’s very likely THE best white wine deal in the house!
2011 Picollo Ernesto Gavi di Gavi Roverto

White Wine; other white varietal; Piedmont;
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122001 La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva Especial

Chances are if you’ve been in our shop in the latter part of 2012, and perhaps overheard a customer request for a “special wine” or a “gift wine”, you would have heard a member of TWH staff gush over the merits of the 2001 Reserva Especial Rioja Viña Ardanza by La Rioja Alta.Whew, that’s a mouthful; but so is the wine! This well known Rioja producer has only thought it appropriate to make this special bottling in two other vintages: 1964 and 1973! Space limitations will keep us from gushing too much over this in writing, but let’s just say that if it were twice the price, it would still be a bargain. With 11 years of age, it can be enjoyed anytime from now until your 3 year old graduates from college … and then some!
2001 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial Rioja

Red Wine; Red Blend; Rioja;
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11Bet you didn’t see this one coming. Of course it had to be a 2009 Bordeaux. I only wrote about this vintage and its wines umpteen times. But which one? Seriously, this was the toughest point of this exercise. But when you take everything into consideration, we’ve got to give the big tip of the cap to the 2009 Château Larrivaux, Haut-Médoc. I loved it out of barrel. Then, when the first 2009’s arrived in early 2012, it was on the first container. Chris and I grabbed a few of the new arrivals and taste tested them. His overwhelming favorite of the bunch was the Larrivaux. We opened another bottle the following week for Anya, Tom, and David to taste, and it was unanimous! Now that everyone was on board, we went back to the marketplace and loaded up. It is certainly not the only success story from the 2009 vintage, but that kind of quality for less than $25 resonates big time! Ignore at your own peril.
2009 Chateau Larrivaux Haut Medoc

Red Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
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So there you have it, our Top Ten Wines of 2012! We’ve already begun tasting new wines in the new year, and we’re taking good notes, so we’ll have plenty of candidates for this list this time next year! Wishing you all the best in 2013!Anya Balistreri & Peter Zavialoff

3 Summer Whites: Oysters Anyone?

Monday, July 16, 2012 9:23 PM

In my teens, I noted my summers by the crushes I had-those were good times. Now instead of crushes, a culinary obsession and what wines go along best mark my summers. One year it was the Summer of stuffed vegetables, another making the perfect Ceasar Salad, and so it goes. During my Fourth of July get-away, this summer’s theme emerged: oysters. Teeny tiny ones for slurping up raw or big honking ones that need to heat through on an open fire, I like them all. My brother and his wife purchased a whole mess of medium-sized oysters at Drakes Bay Oyster Co. for the Fourth. We ‘qued them on the grill, sipping on Ernesto Picollo’s Gavi, and served them up with fresh horseradish and garlic butter. We had a large crowd, so there was a wait between bites, but I loved that as you waited for the next delicious taste, people had time to visit with one another. So, now back at the shop, I’ve been eyeing the whites and imagining which would be best suited for my next oyster extravaganza. These three whites are oyster-friendly and are especially suited for Summer sippin’.


The 2011 Jarenincan is another charming, unique wine from Slovenia that has got the staff jazzed. The estate of Crnko is located in eastern Slovenia. Crkno is a working farm that also grows vegetables, raises livestock and even bakes bread daily from the wheat they grow and mill themselves! Their vineyards are planted on a specific type of marl soil. Marl is said to look like slate but is more brittle and silty to the touch. Jarenincan, a proprietary name that refers to the nearby town of Jarenina, accounts for half of the winery’s production from their 6 hectares of vines. Prior to ’09 the entire production of Jarenincan was sold locally in Jarenina.The Jarenincan, which comes in a liter bottle, is a blend of various white grapes grown on the estate. The blend varies from year to year. The 2011 is probably dominated by Muller-Thurgau and Laski Riesling. Probably? Yes, probably. I have read differing accounts from the winery’s website and the importer’s technical data sheet. You might wonder how this is possible, but having had direct experience with small producers in France and Italy, I can only say that Europeans are not always as compelled as we (Americans) are to know the exact varietal composition of a wine. The take away here is that this is not supposed to be a serious wine, but an approachable, delicious, fresh drink. We offered the ’10 in last year’s October Dirty Dozen. It was big hit with DD drinkers. I think the ’11 is less floral and has more attack on the finish, though still ever so slightly off-dry. At under 12% abv., this is unquestionably the one to pop open on that sweltering summer evening.
2011 Crnko Jarenincan (1 liter bottle)

White Wine; other white varietal; Slovenia;
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Portugal’s Vinho Verde is synonymous with Summer sippin’ for many a wine drinker. And why wouldn’t it be? Low in alcohol and loaded with juicy citrus fruit that finishes with a playful, tongue-tingling effervescence. So nice. Vera is a collaborative effort between a Portugese native and a winecentric New Yorker–go figure. The grapes for Vera are sourced from 10-35 year old vines grown in the Vinho Verde sub-region of Basto. The grapes are Arinto, Azal, and Loureiro. Never heard of them? Me neither, but that’s ok because Vinho Verde is all you need to know and Vera makes an especially delightful one! Like the Jarenincan, this is an uncomplicated wine that is ideally suited for casual gatherings, served well-chilled, to go along with snacks or light seafood fare. I recently ate a fried oyster sandwich slathered with fennel-flecked coleslaw while visiting Pt. Reyes…the 2011 Vera would have been the perfect match.
2011 Vera Vinho Verde

White Wine; other white varietal; Portugal;
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Domaine Sigalas

Domaine Sigalas is no stranger at The Wine House. The 2009 Santorini made our Top Ten Wines for 2010. Not to mention that everyone from critic Robert Parker to writer Eric Asimov to every wine blogger who has ever tasted Sigalas’ Assyrtiko have raved about this world renowned wine. The 2011 Sigalas Assyrtiko’s intense mineral attack and finish, its subtle fruit profile and complexity is pitch perfect. It’s exactly what I think most white wine drinkers are looking for in a light-bodied, crisp white wine. I am struck and amazed by how this seemingly easy-going wine lures you in with its freshness but leaves you dazzled by the layers of flavors and long lasting finish. The wine changes in the glass and it changes on the palate. The 2011 Assyrtiko is my go-to pick for raw oysters on the half shell. The briny, sea breeze flavor of the oyster liquor mirrors the mineral taste of Sigalas’ Assyrtiko.
2011 Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko Santorini

White Wine; other white varietal; Greece;
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Before I began my staycation, I asked/pleaded if it were possible to sleep in past 8am. After a full day of swimming, sun and the wild rumpus of family, that first morning we all slept in till 10am, including the dog! That was golden. Continuing with the summer oyster theme, I hope to make a trek out to the coast for another bushel of those briny morsels…I’ll be sure to have one of each of the above wines at the ready in the fridge. —Anya Balistreri

Ravan And Kekfrankos

Tuesday, May 8, 2012 10:04 PM

Last week, Pete alluded to a recently arrived container that has brought back into stock Puy Servain’s 2009 Montravel VV Rouge (only 20 cases left!) and the 2009 Couronneau Bordeaux Superior (this is our 3rd and final shipment) along with a slew of 2011 Roses from France. My perennial favorite is from St. Antoine. The ’11 has matched the quality and pleasure of last’s years version, but this time it’s made entirely from Syrah which is probably why I detect an even spicier fruit quality. You can’t imagine what a visual delight it is to gaze upon the floor stacks of pale pink wines; you’ll have to make a pilgrimage to the store to see for yourself! This brings up a point and that is this: if you only read our emails and have never visited our store, you might not know that TWH carries wines from places other than France, Italy and the US, which you might not expect like Greece and Spain. Of late, our vinous curiosity has taken us to Eastern Europe, increasing our selection fourfold! I’m jazzed to introduce a duo ofnot to miss wines; one white from Slovenia and one red from Hungary.Anya Balistreri



This exotic white from Slovenia has been my ‘go-to’ wine for anyone who might otherwise fancy whites from Northern Italy or Northwest Spain. Ravan is the local name for a grape that is also known as Green Sauvignon (formerly Tocai Fruilano) or Sauvignonasse. Don’t get confused by the names–I’ll just keep to the name Ravan because that’s what it says on the label! Kabaj is an estate located only 15 miles from the Adriatic, borders Northeastern Italy and lies at Goriska Brda at the foothills of the Alps. The winemaker, Jean-Michel Morel, is a French vigneron who met and married Katja Kabaj in the late ’80s. They returned to live in Katja’s family village of Šlovrenc where generations of Kabajs have tended vines. The Ravan is fermented with native yeast, spends time on the skins and is aged in large cask barrels. It’s the kind of white that captivates the senses with a complex mélange of fruit and herb aromas ranging from citrus to spearmint.There is richness at the mid-palate with flavors that continue on to a long tangy fresh finish. I’ve had customers tell me that it reminds them of white Bordeaux with an exotic edge. Last time I popped open a bottle was with mixte grille of shrimp, pineapple and bananas. It was a crazy-good combo. The 2009 Ravan from Kabaj gives access to a unique flavor experience from a little known wine region crafted by a skilled winemaker.



Kekfrankos is the Hungarian name for Blaufrankish. Or is Blaufrankish the Austrian name for Kekfrankos? Oh never mind! The things to know here is that sisters Brigit and Katrin Pfneisl make wine from ancestral vineyards located in the region of Sopron in Hungary just at the border with Austria. Sopran is a peninsula of territory that literally juts into Austria’s Burgenland wine region. The sisters farm their vineyards organically and with the 2009 vintage are officially certified organic. Winemaker Brigit had studied winemaking all over the world before settling down on this project with her sister. A young winery with great promise! I love the fresh blue fruit flavors of this Kekfrankos. It has soft tannins and the bright spicy fruit has just a hint of herb. This is an exuberant, juicy red, perfect for those who want complexity but without any heavy tannins from skin or oak. I’m planning to get better acquainted with this one tonight alongside a sandwich consisting of Ribeye on focaccia fromLiguria Bakery. Now, doesn’t that sound yummy?

October 2011 Dirty Dozen

Monday, October 17, 2011 4:57 PM

What’s this? No more peaches, just pears? It must be October. Yes, the sights and sounds are changing as we march on into autumn. Picnic and beach party seasons may be coming to an end, but as the festivities move indoors, we’re here for you with plenty of great wine. Like this here Dirty Dozen: 12 wines, all chosen for their versatility, packed in a box for one low, amazing price! Howz that for a great deal?

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2010 Lugana, Ca’Lojera – $14.99, $11.99 reorder
Ambra Tiraboschi’s take on the Turbiana grape has certainly turned some heads ’round here! This zippy little quaffer hits you immediately with hints of tangerine blossoms, melons, and minerals. On the palate, its racy mouth feel keeps that citrus sensation alive and the finish is delightfully crisp. Best served with lighter fare, perhaps pan-seared scallops?

2009 Macon-Villages, Roux Père et Fils – $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
The Maconnais district, in southern Burgundy, is best known for producing great value whites – and this puppy is NO exception! Made from 100% Chardonnay, it possesses aromas and flavors of buttery apple and lemon, with a hint of toasted almond, and a long, clean, lip-smacking finish. Poullet a la Rotisserie? Le yummy.

2010 Viognier, Serbal – $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
This is not the first time we’ve featured a southern hemisphere Viognier, a good thing. Though this Argentine estate is named after the aboriginal bush grown on the property, its dry, single-vineyard Viognier is more reminiscent of fresh white lilies and citrus blossom (thank goodness!). Divine alongside a fresh calamari salad or Gruyere & vegetable quiche.

2010 Jarenincan 1 liter, Crnko – $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
Though the blend changes every vintage, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, & Riesling were the selections for this 2010 Slovenian white blend in Liter. At 11% abv, it gets the official “Must quaff” stamp by TWH staff.

2009 Blanc de la Château de la Petite Cassagne – $6.95 sale price, $6.60 reorder
We just can’t get enough white Rhône these days. Costières de Nîmes superstar Diane Puymorin blends 60% Grenache Blanc with 40% Rolle (Italians call it Vermentino), presses the juice immediately after harvest, and ferments it all in steel tank. It’s bright and fresh offering hints of orange blossoms and fleshy stone fruit. Great with tuna salad.

NV Touraine Rosé, Domaine d’Orfeuilles – $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
Rounding out the “chillable” section of the DD is a sparkling gem from the Loire Valley. Made mostly from the grape Côt (some call it Malbec), the d’Orfeuilles represents a HUGE value in Rosé fizz. Hints of bright red fruit persist throughout the tasting and are braced by lively acidity and tiny bubbles. Don’t laugh, but this is GREAT with fried chicken!

2009 Tempranillo, Casa Gualda – $9.98 net price, $8.98 reorder
As our Spanish section continues to grow, we are discovering that the country that produces the most wine also pumps out a consistent bevy of bargains. Not sacrificing quality, Casa Gualda blends a little Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with the Tempranillo to give the wine a little backbone, and it works. Bust it out with that roasted pork sandwich.

2009 Pinot Noir, Bigvine – $13.98 net price, $12.58 reorder
Bigvine winemaker Scott McLeod considers 2009 an ideal vintage for California’s Central Coast, and the proof’s right here in a bottle of his Pinot Noir. 85% of the fruit comes from Arroyo Grande and the other 15% from the Santa Rita Hills. Think deep, rich, red berry fruit, a hint of cola, and a lively mouth feel. Would be great with a slice of pizza.

2006 Tradition, Château de Valcombe – $11.99, $9.59 reorder
Made in the style of southern Rhône blends, 60% Syrah is blended with 40% Grenache, and the result is a hearty balance of brambly purple fruit and earth. A little bit of bottle age goes a long way, giving the wine some extra complexity.

2007 Syrah de Fayel – $10.99, $8.79 reorder
We had to apologize to Chris when we included this one in the DD. You see, we all have our individual “pet wines” that we take for ourselves because the quality is there and the price is right. This one is/was his baby. Oh well, he’ll have to find a new one, and you all can see what good taste he has. Bright, sturdy country Syrah here, goes great with ribs.

2008 Carmignano, Tenuta Le Farnete – $18.99, $15.19 reorder
When this Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon blend first arrived, one swirl and sniff indicated that we needed to get on the phone with Enrico and order another pallet. Truth be told, that first pallet went like hotcakes and we were stuck with nothing. The good news is that the new pallet is here and once again you can get your hands on this super, Super Tuscan.

2009 Ventoux “Fayard”, Domaine Fondrèche – $16.99, $13.59 reorder
With the string of successful vintages coming from southern France over the last 8 years, we’re beginning to wonder, “Are bad vintages a thing of the past?” 2009 is everything you want in a red Rhône vintage: plenty of opulent fruit, silky tannins, and lively acidity. Sebastien Vincenti just stays out of the way and bottles the Ventoux terroir.

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