The long Holiday weekend will find me enjoying family time not too far away from Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery up at the family dacha. September is my favorite time of year at the beach on the River; the riff raff is mostly gone and the sun’s rays are more golden and gently warming. The Redwoods have begun to drop their needles and our heritage pear tree is ready to ripen all at once. According to my Instagram feed, grape harvest is in full swing all over California. Fort Ross is probably getting close, but out along the coast, harvest comes mid to late September. There is a lot of excitement out there as winemakers are thankful for August’s cooler than usual yet sunny days. Here’s to their good and successful labor!– Anya Balistreri
Tuesday, September 6, 2016 8:09 PM
Thursday, February 12, 2015 9:08 PM
It started out as a concept brought to light while fighting off a bout of insomnia, but after five years, it seems to have stuck. A Top Ten Wines of the Year list. We taste so, so many wines each year – whether in the form of reps pouring samples on site, to airfreighted samples that arrive from overseas, the occasional trade tasting, here in SF, LA, Chicago, or New York, or the litany of wines that come at us on tasting trips overseas. Add them up, and we’re talking about thousands of wines made by hundreds of producers! Keeping that in mind, just making the selections as to which wines to stock is a fairly severe exercise which endorses a paltry few bottles compared to all that we taste. Now, take those wines and choose our ten favorites; that is a tough assignment! For a look at our previous lists, here are links to our Top Ten Wine lists from 2013,
The phantom. Depending on your timing, you may have seen it on our sales floor, or maybe not. You see, the “Apud Sariacum” Sancerre has been the darling of a high-profile, wine-centric restaurant in the Los Angeles area for a few years. Funny thing is, this resto is known for switching out its wine list often, yet the “Apud” resided there for FOUR VINTAGES! Yep, it’s that people-pleasing. It was a difficult task making sure that there was enough to keep them pouring it continuously, many times resulting in our pulling it from the sales floor. All good things must come to an end, and after a very long ride, the restaurant’s policy of mixing it up resulted in the “Apud’s” replacement. That’s good news for the rest of us! A phantom no more. This bright, refreshing Sancerre is full of life with its zesty citrus aromas framed in stony minerality. Easy to like, you can pour it as an aperitif, or pair it with those dishes that beg for a zippy Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc.
If you’d have asked any of us last year if there would be a wine from the Republic of Georgia in our annual top ten, we may have reacted inquisitively, as in “really?” As you probably already know, we look all over the world for wines to stock here in our shop. And when we say all over, we mean ALL OVER! The Orgo Saperavi took us by storm with its juxtaposition of softness and solid structure.Kind of reminds us of the “fist in a velvet glove” analogy. It comes with a great story too. I love it when a wine gets us talking about history, clay kveri, and Teinturier grapes!
As David continues to travel to Burgundy (and beyond!) in search of new wines and producers, we are collectivelyexcited at the prospect of welcoming them to our shelves! If you think about it, it takes a lot of work. On these road trips, one tastes a lot of wine. Those outside the wine business make light of this with quips like, “tough job,” “it must be nice,” and “somebody’s got to do it.” Let’s just say that finding wines to bring back home takes a lot of time and patience. One thing that David does regarding new producers is he tastes several vintages before pulling the trigger. He tasted young Stephane Magnien’s wines again and again, and after a few years, bam! Here they are. The entire line is impressive, as Stephane’s holdingsinclude some fancy locales! But we were all quite taken by the 2011 Morey Saint Denis 1er Cru “Aux Petites Noix.”One thing that is never looked for, yet always mentioned in my tasting notes when present is “X-tra D,” or extra dimension. This one has it.
And from right here in our own backyard, from theSonoma Coast, we were introduced to a new wine made by some old friends. The celebrated vintner Steve Kistler and business partner Mark Bixler teamed up once again to produce an amazing Pinot Noir under the Occidental label.There isn’t a whole lot of production, so when we saw the chance to get our hands on a teeny-tiny allocation, we jumped at it. You should have been in the tasting room when we all tasted the sample, it was poured into one glass, each of us taking tiny sips and emerging with wide eyes and happy disbelief! We weren’t the only ones who jumped at the chance. The Occidental Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir disappeared from our shelves literally hours after they were placed there!
This one was an example of a wine coming to us! Though there are wine reps here pouring wines multiple times per week for Anya, it is a rare occasion when a rep pours for Anya, Chris, Tom, and myself collectively. This meeting was set up by David, who knew of the 7 or 8 samples to be poured, and strongly advised us to pay close attention to the 2012 Saumur Rouge from Hauts de Sanziers. In retrospect, he didn’t need to mention it. However, mentioning it did create an expectation level that was not only met, but surpassed! It’s a light-styled herbaceous Cabernet Franc from Saumur that has a Burgundian feel, and as Anya once said, “It’s light, but without being thin.” More wine-geek wine here.Loire Valley Cabernet Franc is not for everybody, but if you like the woodsy herbal quality one finds in them, this one’s for you too.
So there we are, already well into 2015! The UGC deBordeaux passed through town pouring the 2012’s from bottle back at the end of January. 2012 is not a “vintage of the century,” but a solid one with plenty of wines to like. There are containers on the water. David will be headed to France next month, and I will follow shortly thereafter. All of that means we are hard at work, not only looking for our Top Ten of 2015, but for a fine stable of solid wines that we can present for your enjoyment. Onwards and upwards!! – Peter Zavialoff
Monday, December 22, 2014 7:21 PM
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|
Monday, February 27, 2012 5:49 PM
You know the saying, “it is not what you know but who you know“. This aptly describes how we acquired the 2009 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay from Millworks. Millworks could be termed a pop-up label; there is no traceable link to its winery origins. It’s a one-off of sorts by an ultra-premium producer who is so sensitive to preserving its reputation of exclusivity that they chose to forgo a second label and created a totally new one to maintain anonymity. The wine came to us from a wine broker with whom we have had a long-standing friendship and working relationship, so we trusted him when he vowed thatMillworks’ 2009 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay comes from a pedigreed source. What he was able to disclose to us is that rather than bulk off the juice, which is common practice, this undisclosed producer felt the wine was just too good to let go and why they opted to create Millworks. So that’s the nuts and bolts of the business end of things. For the wine drinker what is important here to make obviously clear is that you get a wine made with grapes from a producer who sells their own Chardonnnay at upwards of $50 for $15.98!!!! Now that is what I call a screaming bargain. 60% barrel fermented in French Oak for 12 months so the creamy rich texture is there but then the balance is fermented in stainless-steel tanks so a freshness and brightness is retained on the palate. A supercharged burst of citrus and ripe apples glide along the finish. You may not mistake this for Batard Montrachet, but there is deftness and elegance here that can only come from quality grapes and skilled winemaking.
|After an eleven and a half month house remodel, my family finally moved back in! I can’t begin to express how grateful I am. This truly has been a dream come true and one that could never have materialized without the help, encouragement and support of my parents, in-laws, siblings, friends, co-workers, neighbors and a bevy of building professionals like Cameron over at Belmont Hardware a block over from The Wine House (the bath and kitchen knobs look gorgeous, thank you!). The anticipation and adrenaline of moving home took its toll on our immune system; my husband, daughter and I spent our first week home sick. No pity party here…if you’re gonna be feeling ill, wellthere’s no place like home, there’s no place like home!