Bedrock’s Standout Syrah

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 5:13 PM

I had a lovely chat this week with a customer who had just relocated to SF from overseas. Among the many wine-related topics we discussed was the price of entry for interesting, high quality, non-mass produced California wine. I threw out the number $25, saying you could find really exceptional wines starting at this price point, but added you have to do your research to find them. I then threw out a few names of producers that offer such wines, starting off my list was Bedrock.

To illustrate my point, I pointed to Bedrock’s 2015 North Coast Syrah. The North Coast Syrah is primarily made from three vineyards: Hudson, Alder Springs and Weill a Way. Hudson Ranch is located in Carneros, Alder Springs is in Mendocino, and Weill a Way is in the Sonoma Valley. The barrels of Syrah from these vineyards that did not end up in the vineyard-designated bottlings were blended together, along with some co-fermented Viognier, into the North Coast Syrah. Bear in mind, Bedrock makes three Syrahs from the Weill a Way Vineyard (highly allocated) that in 2013 received 100 points for two of them and the other 99 points from Robert Parker, Jr. Now I am not suggesting that the North Coast Syrah is any way like the Weill a Way Syrahs, but it is the same fruit. Boom!

Hudson Vineyard

For the North Coast Syrah, winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson likes to vinify using native yeasts and some whole-cluster pressed fruit. The wine is raised in 100% French oak, but none of it is new. In his liner notes for this wine, Morgan writes “I am always channeling my favorite producers of St. Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage. I want a wine that is perfumed, spicy, peppery and delicious, something long on flavor and low on pretense.” In a review by Antonio Galloni, he put it simply like this, “A huge, richly textured wine, the 2015 North Coast Syrah offers unreal quality for the money.”

Alder Springs

Our limited, or in the parlance of the day, curated domestic wine section always has several offerings from Bedrock. I will gladly accept any allocation from this winery, as I’ve followed and admired them from their inception. The quality is there, the price is fair and Bedrock’s emphasis on vineyard sites aligns with my own interest in providing TWH customers the best wine values. Check out our entire Bedrock inventory here.

The number of school days left before summer break begins are down to single digits. My little family, which includes my husband (a teacher) and my daughter (a middle-schooler) is counting down the days. I am so looking forward to sleeping in past 7:30! My natural sleep cycle does not jive with early wake-up times. But most of all, I am looking forward to welcoming spontaneity to rule the day and schedules to take a back seat. And in that space, I expect to be enjoying a glass or two of 2015 North Coast Syrah. No more pencils, no more books… – Anya Balistreri

A White From Carlisle? That’s Right!

Monday, June 13, 2016 5:59 PM

The Derivative from Carlisle
I like to boast about the fact that The Wine House started carrying Carlisle wines from the very first vintage whenMike Officer, then a customer of ours with a taste for Rhônes, began making small lots of Zinfandel. Eighteen vintages later, we continue to still stock Carlisle wines only now their repertoire has expanded to include several single-vineyard and appellation-designated Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah (to name a few) and of late, white wine too. The 2013 The Derivative is a complex blend of several white grape varietals from multiple vineyard keeping in line with Carlisle’s zeal for sourcing old-vine fruit.
Semillon at Monte Rosso Vineyard
The base of the wine is Semillon, about half of the blend, from the famed and historic Monte Rosso Vineyard.Monte Rosso Vineyard is named for its rich, red volcanic soils and lies on the last high flank of the Mayacamas Range. The Semillon grown here was first planted in 1890. To this Mike adds Muscadelle from three different vineyards, and Colombard from Mancini Ranch. At the corner of Piner and Olivet Roads just west of Santa Rosa,Mancini Ranch was planted by Lucca Mancini in 1922.The Colombard adds a significant acid component, adding lift and zip to the wine. Only the Semillon was fermented in oak and of that, only 20% was new. The rest of the grapes were fermented in tank. Phew, that was a lot of information I realize, but I find it interesting to know how the pieces fit together to make a harmonious, complex wine. The wine is golden-hued with honey, grapefruit and beeswax notes. It has firm structure and the acid is notable and pleasant.
Saitone Ranch
On a recent Monday morning, Peter said to me “guess what I drank yesterday?”. I of course had no idea, but my best guess was “Bordeaux”. Nope, he drank a glass of The Derivative with Sunday lunch at a restaurant. I hadn’t tasted it yet, so I asked what he thought of it. He told me he liked it very much and that it reminded him of White Bordeaux. Hmmm…that sounded intriguing to me. The winery notes on The Derivative specifically suggest that fans of White Bordeaux would find this wine “right up your ally”. I have to admit that when I took the wine home to try for myself, because of the percentage of Semillon, I had in mind a much different flavor profile. I expected it to be oily and round, but what I tasted was far more stealth and lively … like White Bordeaux. The grapefruit and spearmint flavors are followed by a slight oxidative note reminding me of the bottles of 1998 Domaine de Chevalier I polished off just a while back. In flavor and in structure, this wine suggests it will age quite comfortably. I would be curious to know how this wine evolves over time. For right now though, it is pretty delicious.
Mike Officer
I siphoned off a bit of The Derivative into a vial to share with the guys at the store. I served them a taste blind just to make it more interesting. Chris, David and Pete liked it immediately and with some deductive reasoning, Pete recognized the wine as being the one he had at Sunday lunch. Chris remarked that he wished he could taste the wine with food, thinking that it would perhaps show differently. I got excited by his comment because I knew it to be true. As the cliché goes, The Derivative is a food wine.The Derivative takes on a much broader flavor spectrum with food and its acidity cradles rich, creamy flavors to higher heights. I write this because I know – at home the glass I tried became far more opulent and showy when I drank it with my dinner.
2013 The Derivative
Over the last eighteen vintages, I have witnessed the evolution of a winery go from a small unknown to one widely recognized as being one of the finest producers in California. An online wine forum that I follow from time to time – they claim to be “The World’s Largest and Most Active Online Wine Community”- even has a thread that reads “Which Carlisle are you drinking”? The thread has over 6,000 posts. Not just any winery can command that much interest and devotion.
School’s out for Summer! Alice Cooper’s lyric looped inside my head as I drove my daughter to her last day of 6th grade. I think I may be more excited than she is about the start of summer. I am hoping to slow down the pace, go outside, explore. As someone wisely said in a movie I watched with my daughter (her choice) last weekend, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Anya Balistreri
Poco a Poco Zinfandel
Zinfandel reached American shores approximately 200 years ago. Soon after arriving, Zinfandel travelled west to California where it flourished, achieved success and has become so respected and adored that it is now commonly accepted to refer to it as America’s grape. A true American wine tale. I understood its allure early in my wine life. Zinfandel makes a wine that is easy to grasp and appreciate. The flavors are bold and forward; the pleasure is immediate. For me the connection is Zinfandel + Russian River = family + summer + good times. That’s why to mark the unofficial start of summer, a bottle of Zinfandel will trek up north with me to the family dacha this weekend. What will I be toting along? Poco a Poco’s 2014 Russian River Zinfandel.
Winemaker Luke Bass
Poco a Poco is a line of wines made by Luke Bass of Porter Bass Vineyards. Luke sources organic grapes along with his own biodynamically grown grapes to make easy, immediately accessible, well-crafted wine at more than fair prices. Thinking about this now, I can’t really come up with too many other producers who are deliberately using grapes of this quality to make value-priced wine on a small scale. Maybe there is no glory in it or probably the economics don’t play out well enough. All this means is that this wine buyer spends a lot of time combing through offers, meeting with vendors and keeping her eyes and ears open to who’s doing what to find such a gem.
Luke and Son on tractor
The 2014 Zinfandel is sourced from the Forchini family that owns a 24 acre vineyard 1/2 mile east of the Russian River just south of Limerick Lane. The vineyard is farmed organically. Luke, as he does with all his wine, approaches winemaking by celebrating the grape. For this Zinfandel, he fermented the grapes with native yeast andaged the wine in neutral French oak. Pretty straightforward, if you ask me. The resulting wine capturesthe zesty berry burst of Zinfandel allowing the tanginess of the fruit to emerge. Not soupy or marred by oak notes, this is a resoundingly bright natured Zinfandel. The inherent acidity will play nicely at the table, especially with bold-flavored grilled fare and won’t shy away from American barbecue.
Hacienda Bridge
I called my mom to find out what was on the menu for the family get-together dinner. She said “the usual Zaharoff cook-out…Bulgogi, rice, fresh cabbage salad, bean sprouts salad and a bunch of other stuff”. For years growing up I thought the classic Korean Bulgogi was actually a Russian dish. It is not a far stretch to imagine how a Russian immigrant family came to adopt classic Korean dishes as their own and turning it into their American tradition, serving it on National Holidays at family gatherings. I am excited to see how the Poco a Poco Zinfandel will soak up the savory flavors of the rum-marinated beef and sesame seed oil seasoned salads. I think its going to be a sensational pairing. And yes, Kon, I really am bringing a bottle of this wine to the River! – Anya Balistreri

A Sonoma Cab For Winter Fare: 2013 “E” From Enkidu

Wednesday, January 27, 2016 8:20 PM

Cold wintry weather, a warm cozy home, a delicious one-pot dish and a full-bodied red to share can add up to a magical night indoors. A good winter tuck-in is my favorite time to reach for a fuller, more loud red than I typically drink. One such red, the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon “E” from Enkidu, hit all the right marks for that distinctly new world, unabashedly full-styled wine. Big fruit, big aromatics, and yet still harmonious. If you’re in the mood for something less restrained, thisEnkidu Cabernet Sauvignon is worth checking out.
Courtesy of Enkidu FB page
In retail, you must plan for the holidays. Keeping stock of the best wine in different categories at various price points is essential, but things can happen unexpectedly. All of a sudden, TWH needed a local Cabernet Sauvignon under $25, preferably from Sonoma or Napa but not necessarily, and, as we like to support the “little guys”, it had to be from a smaller producer. It was hectic around here and there was little time to be out searching and tasting new products. So I did what I often need to do in a pinch, rely on my relationships. I found a Cabernet Sauvignon I thought would fit the bill and asked the wine rep who sells it what they thought of the wine. If you’ve led me in the right direction before, I’m more than willing to listen to your advice. In this case, I was told that the wine I found was fine but what would better suit TWH is the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Enkidu. He explained the2013 Enkidu Cabernet Sauvignon was well received and a hit at many Bay Area restaurants because of its fresh, rounded fruit. It’s yummy right out of the gate, er’ bottle.
On good faith, I brought in the wine. A sample was soon provided that was shared at a staff tasting. At first, I have to admit, I was hesitant and a bit skeptical; the label read 15.2% abv. That seems high to me, but I also know that numbers, especially in wine, can be deceiving. I was the first to try the wine and it put to rest any concerns I had upon first whiff. Deep berries, cocoa nibs, very expressive aromatics. The flavors on the palate mirror the aromatics adding notes of tangy fruit and seasoned barrel notes. It’s a delightful drink. Next up were the serious critics, my colleagues, and they too thought the Enkidu Cabernet Sauvignon was delightful. Even Pete, our resident Bordeaux Scout, found much merit in this affordable domestic Cabernet Sauvignon. We concluded that for customers who describe themselves as liking big reds, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, the Enkidu would be a great option for them! The price, at under $25, is an added bonus.
Courtesy of Enkidu FB page
Phil Staehle is the owner/winemaker at Enkidu. Phil cut his teeth at Carmenet Vineyards before starting his own business. The 2013 “E” Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County is sourced from a number of vineyards, mostly from the Sonoma Valley floor. An inclusion of 10% Petite Sirah from the Red Hills gives the wine girth and a touch of flamboyance. Phil writes in his tasting notes that he included a higher percentage of Moon Mountain District fruit which “raised the already very good quality of the “E” to the best yet of this bottling”.
I took the remnants of the sample bottle home. Curled up on the couch, watching the end of the Warriors game, I savored the rich, sweet fruit, delighting in the dark cherry, dusty cocoa, and brown sugar notes. Let me tell you, it sure was a pleasant way to end the day! -Anya Balistreri

2012 Scherrer Sonoma County Grenache

Monday, September 14, 2015 8:03 PM

Scherrer Winery’s
2012 Grenache
I have a confession to make: I do not visit local wineries as much as I should. What’s even worse is that I do not visit as much as I would like to either! Never mind the reasons why I don’t get out to Wine County often enough; it’s simply the reality. What’s even worse is that when I vacation at my family’s dacha along the Russian River, which I do as often as possible, I am only minutes away from hundreds of wineries! As luck would have it, my staycation up at the River this July coincided with Scherrer Winery’s Open House. Normally open by appointment only, Scherrer’s Open House is for mailing list customers to come try new releases and taste wine out of barrel. I’ve been a mailing list customer ever since the winery began in the early ’90s and as a wine buyer now, I am always eager to expound my admiration and preference for Scherrer wines.
The winery itself is a humble structure (an old apple-packing building) and is down a now-paved driveway that always makes me second-guess myself whether I turned down the right way. I love this place! Here there are no meticulously maintained gardens, gift shops, or pool cabanas. It’s a place where they make wine. Inside it’s dark and cellar-cool. The Open House is a family affair, with Fred and his father Ed pouring wines, and Fred’s wife, Judy, helping customers with their wine purchases. Even Fred’s daughter, home for the summer from college, was helping out pouring wine and reciting her father’s morsels of wine wisdom. And of course, you can’t forget about the dogs. Lots of them. All corralled in a pen near some barrels stacked up high.
I arrived at the winery with husband and daughter in tow, soI planned on making a quick pass through the wines. Fortunately, my daughter was preoccupied with the dogsand the tasty appetizers that were served. I had gotten through the first couple wines when I noticed a TWH customer. It was like running into an old friend! We ended up staying, tasting, chatting for a long time. I was enjoying being a customer and soaking up the atmosphere as more Scherrer fans came through the winery to taste. I didn’t bother grilling Fred with lots of questions this time. Instead I was more like a fly on the wall and just listened to what was going on around me. If you are ever interested in learning even more about wine (and have some time), check out the series Ask a Winemaker that frequently features Fred Scherrer. His thoughtful and clear explanations on wine topics are invaluable.
I wanted to properly thank Fred before I left the winery, and as I tried to catch his attention before heading out the door,Fred waved me over and asked if I had time to taste one more thing. What a question! How could I say no? Why would I say no? Fred pulled out a bottle of 2012 Grenache Sonoma County from behind a barrel. He explained that it was a wine he felt could work well in our store, given our customers’ palate preferences (and mine). It’s a wine that is almost exclusively on restaurant wine lists, as the tannins are smooth and the fruit prevalent without being over-the-top; in other words, a classic-styled Scherrer wine.
The 2012 Grenache has a Sonoma County appellation, but it is essentially a single-vineyard wine from Kick Ranch, which is situated along the eastern edge of Rincon Valley. Fred and Ed have been having a lengthy, on-going dialogue about what to do with a part of their Scherrer Vineyard in Alexander Valley that has laid fallow for some time. They settled on the idea of planting Grenache. Typical of Fred’s curious and methodic nature, he wanted to first work with the varietal before making any decisions in the vineyard. The 2012 Grenache is an impressive effort. I loved the voluminous texture and the soft-edged tannins.The finish gave off this milk-chocolatey nuance that reminded me of the finer Vacqueyras I’ve tasted. The2012 Grenache captures the liveliness of true Southern Rhone wines but with the juicy fruit expression of California.
In his newsletter, Fred writes that “we have done extensive research at the dinner table pairing this wine with many different foods from tomato-based sauces and pasta, simple grilled pork to braised beef and antelope and find that it is extremely versatile. It also handles a diverse set of food spices and sings with rosemary in particular [no great surprise there].” I am eager to test out his findings at home. I particularly like the rosemary angle…perhaps a grilled leg of lamb basted with rosemary dipped in olive oil or jus? That could be epic! – Anya Balistreri

2011 Papa’s All-Blacks

Saturday, September 7, 2013 5:53 PM


For many of us, Labor Day Weekend marks the end of summer. Why bid adieu so early? I would like to assert that summer is in fact in effect for yet another 3 weeks! Grape harvest is in full swing in California, I’ve been glued to my Instagram account following the dramatic journey from vineyard to winery to juice. Outside I’ve noticed early mornings are nippier, the sultry Naked Ladies lilies that erupt in August are withering dry, and trees are dropping leaves in greater numbers.The transition from summer to fall shouts out for Zinfandel! Therefore, I present to you an exciting new project spearheaded by Mady Peterson and executed by her husband Joel and his son Morgan Twain-Peterson, the 2011 Papa’s All Blacks. 


Papa’s All-Blacks was named to honor the tradition of the early “field blends” of the late 1880’s and early 1900’s. Back then grape growers planted a mix of grape varieties and co-fermented them. The grape varieties included mostly black-skinned grapes, notably Zinfandel, with a smidgeon of white grapes. These “field blends” that survived are now our greatest old-vine vineyards. Many growers who are dedicated to preserving and promoting these vineyards have also taken to reproduce them with original cuttings. Joel Peterson, founder of Ravenswood, has championed these vineyards for decades. His son Morgan, no stranger to TWH with his delectable Bedrock Wine Co. and Lacuna wines, is such an advocate of these precious old vineyards, he formed the non-profit Historic Vineyard Society. Together, they have created a wine that looks to these field blends as benchmarks. The 2011 Papa’s All-Blacks is approximately 60% Zinfandel with Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouchet and Carignane in the balance sourced from old-vine vineyards all located in Northern California. The grapes were fermented in small open-top fermenters using native yeast and then aged in 25% new French oak barrels. This is a wonderfully supple, rounded red that imparts the zesty-ness of Zinfandel and is augmented with added depth by the other varietals. The fruit is a harmonious blend of plum and brambly fruit and the aromas sing out with berry notes and a floral flare. You could tuck this away for a bit, but I think the temptation to drink up the 2011 Papa’s All-Blacks right now is way too strong! 


The long weekend couldn’t have come at a better time now that school has started and schedules have been re-shuffled; I am in need of some down time. What better a way than a day spent at the beach followed by dinner with la familia under the Redwoods drinking a robust red like the 2011 Papa’s All-Blacks?

Good times! Speaking of good times … made it to The Mayflower in San Rafael’s lovely West End district to catch our very own Pete Z. shred it up with his band, Over Time, to kick off his 3 week long BirthdayFest. The man sure knows how to celebrate! Cheers to you! —Anya Balistreri

2011 Juicy Villages from Juicy Rebound

Tuesday, November 6, 2012 11:44 PM


The 2011 Juicy Villages from Juicy Rebound is fun, delicious, and quite a remarkable wine value when you consider the quality of grapes that go into the blend.Winemaker Douglas Danielak took 120+ year old Mourvedre from the famed Evanghelo Vineyard in Contra Costa County and added a bit of Sonoma County Syrah and Grenache for the Southern Rhone-inspired Juicy Villages. You would think that fruit from any one of these sources would command a higher price tag, but Douglas was looking to make an entry-level orvillages level, if you would, wine that could be enjoyed immediately.



As is so often the case, Douglas Danielak is not only a winemaker who we have been following for many, many years starting with his pioneering years at Jade Mountain and then at White Rock and now with Paras Vineyards, but is a customer of The Wine House, having a penchant for French wines. Currently, Douglas makes wine for a number of micro-boutique wineries. It is only recently that he has started his own labels, Juicy Rebound and Pont Neuf, with his wife Mary. Douglas’ hobbies extend beyond wine; he is an avid fan of hockey and also plays in local leagues. This seems incongruous to his friendly demeanor and encyclopedic knowledge of wine. When Douglas came by the store last, we got on the subject of premature oxidation in White Burgundy. Douglas gave a quick lecture citing several theories, explaining them in easy-to-understand language, quoting sources from the many French winemakers he personally knows and visits frequently. This AND the fact that he makes fabulous wines and can skate on ice while swinging a stick at a fast moving puck, is impressive, I’d say.


The 2011 Juicy Villages, though approachable and well… JUICY, is not devoid of that dark brooding fruit you’d expect of a wine dominated by Mourvedre.The Mourvedre from Evanghelo Vineyard, which was planted in 1880, grows in sand. Yes, sand. I’ve included a photo, courtesy of Douglas, that puts this fact into vivid view. This sand bank was created where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers merge. The vines are all head-pruned, non-irrigated and on their original rootstock – Douglas calls them “little trees”. All this contributes to lush aromatics, beautiful violet aromas and tangy acidity. Douglas has worked with fruit from Evanghelo Vineyard for 20 years. You can tell how special Evanghelo is to Douglas not only by the deliciousness of the finished wine but by how intimately he describes this unique vineyard site. A strong connection between winemaker and vineyard makes for very interesting wine. The Syrah and Grenache are not afterthoughts but rather intentional components that add richness and sweet fruit. The 2011 Juicy Villages is an example of the exciting and noteworthy wines being made in California that buck the trend of massive, oaky, Cab-centric reds at a budget-friendly price. —Anya Balistreri

Anthill Farms, Bedrock & Carlisle

Monday, April 23, 2012 5:41 PM

At The Wine House we are privileged to carry wine from some of California’s finest, most beloved wineries, many whom have long ago closed their mailing lists to the public and leave throngs of fans wondering where can they find their wines. Looking for Anthill Farms’ single-vineyard elegant Pinot Noirs from the cool climates of California’s North Coast? What about the small-lot, eclectic bottlings from Bedrock’s winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson (from here on out we’ll refer to him as MTP)? And what about California’s heirloom vineyard preservationistMike Officer from Carlisle, whose wines critic Robert Parker has called “artisanal, world-class reds that remain among California’s most fairly priced high quality wines”? Look no further, we have a selection of them newly arrived, though as you can imagine, all are available in tiny quantities. If you discover something has sold out before you had a chance to place your order, please shoot us an email with your request, as we have been known to beg and plead for more wine from our friends, and sometimes, more wine does shake loose, though we can’t make any promises it will happen this time. —Anya Balistreri

Anthill Farms

Anthill Farms’ Pinot Noirs are unabashedly elegant and balanced. Though texturally rich and delightfully perfumed, Anthill Farms’ reputation is built on making wines that allow the vineyard site, and hence the fruit, to stand center stage. I was impressed by the liveliness and tightly wound structure of the 2010s. These wines are oh so pretty!
2010 Anthill Farms Pinot Noir Tina Marie Vineyard Russian River Valley

Red Wine; Pinot Noir; Sonoma;
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“This site lies in the heart of the Green Valley appellation, on the corner of Green Valley and Maddocks Roads. Owner and manager Ron Black had the foresight to plant his hillside very densely to create intense vine competition and low yields. This approach delivers an intoxicating combination of lushness and poise to the wines from this site. Our section of the vineyard yielded two tons per acre in 2010. The nose is rich in exotic kirsch, violets, warm earth, and carnation. The wine’s texture is lush and deep but very well-delineated by balanced acids. While charming now and perhaps our most accessible wine early on, the wine’s focused length and chewy tannins will allow for years of aging.”
2010 Anthill Farms Pinot Noir Campbell Ranch Vineyard Sonoma Coast

Red Wine; Pinot Noir; Sonoma;
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“The vineyard is located a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, near the tiny town of Annapolis, and is farmed by Steve Campbell and ourselves. At approximately 750 feet above sea level, it sits at the boundary of the marine layer, allowing the cool, coastal conditions to delay ripening well beyond warmer vineyards to the east. The twelve-year-old vines grow on sandy, low-vigor Goldridge soil, which helps reduce yields to less than two tons per acre. The wine exhibits exotically fragrant aromas of cherry liqueur, jasmine, and green tea, with subtle fresh mushroom scents as the wine opens. The velvety mouthfeel and intense midpalate flavors complement and highlight its nose. Juicy acids and subtle tannins rein in the gentle sweetness of the fruit and add structure to the wine, lifting and lengthening the floral, spicy finish. It is delicious early, but best over the next 3-6 years or more.”

My admiration for Bedrock wines has been well documented. From my first taste of MTP’s debut vintage, I knew I was going to be following this winery very closely. I tasted that something special that is impossible to quantify, but know it when I taste it. Indeed Bedrock is now easily recognized in the wine world as the producer to watch. The cat is out of the bag, so to speak. Fortunately we saw Bedrock’s potential early on and as such are thankfully allocated a bit of wine with each release. I recently took home the “Ode to Lulu” Rose and I must say this was the first time I tasted a domestic rose that was void of any candied fruit flavors. This rose has layers to it with a fresh dry finish.
2011 Bedrock Wine Company Ode to Lulu Rose of Mourvedre Sonoma Valley

Rose; Mourvedre; Sonoma;
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“In the ongoing quest to craft the perfect rosé there are some revisions to the 2011 Ode to Lulu. Rather than being completely composed of whole-cluster pressed Mourvedre from Bedrock planted in 1888, this vintage the wine also contains 31% whole-cluster pressed Mourvedre from Pagani Ranch planted in 1921 and 9% younger-vine Grenache treated the same way from Annadel Vineyard. All the lots were picked between 19.6 and 21.2 brix. They were vinified separately using native yeasts and then blended back together. This is easily the most delicate version of this wine yet. It is a beautiful light copper-pink and weighs in at 12.3% alcohol. This will pair nicely with a wide range of Spring and Summer fare or simply on its own. God, I love rosé!” MTP
2011 Bedrock Wine Company Casa Santinamaria White Wine Sonoma Valley

White Wine; White Blend; Sonoma;
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“The first vintage from these venerable vines planted in 1905. Like the Compagni Portis this is a old-field blended white vineyard but the varieties present are completely different. This is composed of Muscadelle, Chasselas, Zinfandel, Semillon, and even a little bit of Chardonnay. I picked everything together (including the red Zinfandel) and whole-cluster pressed it into a mix of old French oak barrels and stainless steel barrels. The wine fermented with native yeasts and ML was inhibited. The resulting wine is certainly unique! Though not as effusively aromatic as the Compagni Portis it possesses uncanny density and lift for a wine that did not see either malolactic or new oak. To be honest is reminds me most of a Marsanne/Roussanne blend. Eight barrels made.”MTP
2011 Bedrock Wine Company Sauvignon Blanc Kick Ranch Sonoma County

White Wine; Sauvignon Blanc; Sonoma;
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“As usual the steep and rocky hillsides of Kick Ranch yielded a small crop of flavorful Sauvignon Blanc. I picked about a week before anyone else knowing the barrel fermentation and lees stirring were going to add plenty of richness to the final wine. Always fiddling/attempting to perfect I changed up the vinification a little bit. Much of the Sauvignon Musque went down to used barrels along with 12% new Acacia wood. The remainder was fermented in a 600 gallon oak foudre to enhance lees contact without as much stirring. I am very pleased with the resulting wine- perfumey and high-tone but possessing a lifted but broad center. 450 cases made.”MTP

Like Bedrock and Anthill Farms, The Wine House has been fans of Carlisle wines from their start. Carlisle wines never stay on the shelf for long, so know you’ve been warned! In recent years, winemaker Mike Officer has taken an active role in the preservation of heirloom vineyards with the formation of a non-profit organization called the Historic Wine Society..
2010 Carlisle Winery Syrah Papa’s Block Russian River Valley

Red Wine; Syrah/Shiraz; Sonoma;
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“Regrettably, we did not bottle a Papa’s Block Syrah in 2009. The fruit did not hold up well after the deluge of October 13th and what little we received (all 1.2 tons) went into our ’09 Sonoma County Syrah. Needless to say we were highly disappointed, especially after having the 2007 land on the cover of the Wine Spectator. Fortunately though, the vineyard bounced back magnificently in 2010. Picked October 20th, two-thirds of the fruit was destemmed while the rest was left as whole clusters. Fermentation was indigenous. All French oak, 26% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.Tasting Note: Very dark purple garnet. Verging on opaque. A fabulous sniff of blackberry compote, black and green pepper, and spring flowers. An intriguing element of green olive lurks in the background, most likely from the whole cluster inclusion. On the palate, pure silk with an explosion of blackberry fruit. So delicious now that we see no reason to wait. Dive right in! The water’s fine!” Mike Officer, winemaker.

Adventures Of Wine Girl: A Prologue

Monday, October 10, 2011 3:04 PM

One afternoon my daughter created a series of girl characters with super powers, like “Dog Girl” or “Fairy Girl”. In my honor,she drew “Wine Girl”.When she finished drawing, she wanted to staple the pages into a book to bring to school and show her teacher. I begged her not to include “Wine Girl”, thinking that her teacher might not get the right impression seeing a likeness of her mother with a wine bottle sticking out of her head.Once again, I’ve been called out by my daughter. Without further ado, this here “Wine Girl” would like to highlight a few wines that get relegated to our California Weird White section (all this really means is that they aren’t Chardonnay): 2009 Arbe Garbe, Matthiasson’s 2010 Napa White, 2010 Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc and Sean Thackrey’s 2010 “Lyra” Viognier. These four wines exemplify the exciting trend towards blending high intensity flavor balanced out with texture and bright finishes. My inspiration for these four picks was an article written by SF Chronicle wine writer Jon Bonné titled “A New Age for California White Wines”. It’s a great read for sure with 3 of my 4 picks reviewed in depth. Here’s my spin on them:


2009 Arbe Garbe Bianco Russian River Valley

White Wine; other white varietal; Sonoma;
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Arbe Garbe’s inaugral release was selected for TWH’s Top Ten Picks of 2009. I’ve been a fan from the start and with each vintage you see the evolution of a confident winemaker who knows they are on to something. The ’09 is primarily Pinot Grigio with a small smattering of two lesser-known varietals, Ribolla Giallo and Tocai Friulano. I just love the engaging floral aromas, broad mid-palate and creamy texture.Though the composition for this wine has changed vintage to vintage, what hasn’t changed is the perfect interplay of vivid aromatics that carry over on to the palate without feeling heavy or overdone.


2010 Matthiasson Napa Valley White

White Wine; White Blend; Napa;
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Matthiasson’s 2009 Napa White was chosen for TWH’s Top Ten Pick of 2010…do you see a pattern here? The blend for the 2010 is identical to 2009, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Tocai Friulano and Ribolla Giallo, but it’s a whole other animal. I think the difference really comes down to vintage with 2010 being a cool weather vintage. The 2010 has crackly minerality and bracing acidity. At this stage, a hint of oak hovers in the background, giving of a more Bordelais feel to the flavor profile.Don’t expect this wine to taste like last year’s. This winery is not a brand; a brand is something that is manufactured and consistent. Steve Matthiasson is a winemaker who works directly with the fruit and makes wines that are representative of what Nature bestows. No hocus-pocus here. Oh yeah, and for those folks who follow such matters, the 2010 Napa White comes in with an alcohol content of 12.5%.


2010 Spottswoode Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Napa County/Sonoma County

White Wine; Sauvignon Blanc; Other California;
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I think TWH has been buying Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignons since their first release in the early 80’s, yet this is the first time we’ve been offered their Sauvignon Blanc! Oh joy! I’ve always loved their Sauvignon Blanc and have been only able to enjoy it off of restaurant wine lists (I fondly recall sharing a bottle with my husband during our honeymoon at a fish house on Maui). A blend of Napa and Sonoma County fruit, I love the citrus notes, the faint spice flavors of the integrated oak, and the weighty mouthfeel. So perfectly elegant and refined, much like their heralded Cabernets.


2010 Sean Thackrey Viognier Lyra Noble Vineyard Knights Valley

White Wine; Viognier; Sonoma;
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If my facts are correct, this is Sean Thackrey’s first commercial release of a white wine. I know he has made whites over the years, Viognier is often a component of his Pleiades blend, but he has never been satisfied enough to release one until now. Once again, Sean Thackrey proves to be unconventional and single-minded in his drive to make wines that are alive and real. The 2010 Lyra is 100% Viognier from Noble Vineyard in Knights Valley. The Knights Valley AVA essentially separates Sonoma County from Napa County and is the warmest of Sonoma’s Viticultural Areas. The soil is mostly volcanic and there are some gravel deposits from ancient rivers that once meandered through this area. I have read that my beloved Russian River once flowed this direction but was diverted westward after a St. Helena eruption. Thackrey’s 2010 Viognier blew me away; while it contains exotic flavors and an oily texturetypical of Viognier, it has none of that hideous canned peach flavor so common to California Viogniers. It is expansive and rich, and goes long on the finish. A true showstopper.

New Domestic Arrivals: Spotlight on Carlisle

Thursday, September 1, 2011 6:05 PM

Mike Officer’s Zinfandels and Syrahs are powerful reds that though delicious young, reward those patient enough to lay them down for a bit. The structure and intensity that Mike coaxes out of the grapes produces wines that can age. No longer known just as a master of Zinfandel, Mike Officer has earned a reputation for making some of California’s most coveted Syrahs. In a recent WA review, Parker summed up Carlisle with this declaration, “these are artisanal, world-class reds that remain among California’s most fairly priced high quality wines.” We couldn’t agree more. – Anya Balistreri

*Notes from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Feb 2011

It is amazing to think that fifteen years ago no one had ever heard of Carlisle Winery and Vineyards or Mike Officer. Moreover, what Officer has done to preserve old vine Zinfandel vineyards in Sonoma is nothing short of astonishing. Add to that success story his sensational line-up of Syrahs, Petite Sirahs and Rhone Ranger blends and it is undeniable that this man and his winery are at the top of their game. These are artisanal, world-class reds that remain among California’s most fairly priced high quality wines… Mike Officer says 2009 is a strong year for his wines, but since he has done nearly everything right, it is hard for me to say his 2009s are better than previous vintages… Readers who love these wines are advised to stock up on what is left of the 2008s as well as the upcoming 2009s. – Robert Parker

2009 Russian River Valley Carlisle Vineyard Zinfandel93-95 POINTS
The 2009 Zinfandel Carlisle Vineyard (93% Zinfandel and 7% mixed blacks) is equal to the Montafi and just a notch behind the prodigious Monte Rosso. A sexy, heady wine, its dark plum/purple color is followed by a big, sweet kiss of blueberries, blackberries, wild, briery, mountain berries, spice box, pepper, roasted herb and forest floor. This chewy, thick, rich beauty will drink well for 7-8 years.

2009 Russian River Valley Papera Ranch Zinfandel92-95 POINTS
Another classic in the making, the 2009 Zinfandel Papera Ranchdemonstrates just how elegant Zinfandel can be with its kirsch and raspberry notes that resemble Grenache more than Zinfandel. There is terrific fruit on the attack and mid-palate, full body and good purity. Moreover, the wood component is pushed to the background. This 2009 should be delicious young and last 4-5 years.

2009 Bennett Valley Cardiac Hill Syrah92-94 POINTS
From the famed Cardiac Hill, the 2009 Syrah Cardiac Hill will not make anyone forget the 2008, but it is another great effort. Forty percent whole clusters were used and the crop size was significantly larger than in 2008. The 2009 displays a blue/purple color along with copious aromas of graphite, ink, black currants, crushed rocks and a hint of spring flowers. Full-bodied with surprisingly modest alcohol (14.5%) for this vineyard, it offers a beautiful combination of power and elegance and should age effortlessly for a decade.

New Domestic Arrivals: Spotlight on Bedrock Wine Company

Thursday, September 1, 2011 5:26 PM

Bedrock Wine Company is no longer some little known, up and coming winery.  Quite the contrary, winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson is clearly a leading force in the making of California’s most intriguing wines from unique, often historical vineyards along the North Coast.  Only a few hundred cases made of this and a few of that, so nothing stays on the shelf for long.  Any self-describing Zinfandel lover must try the Bedrock and the Lorenzo’s… You owe it to yourself! – Anya Balistreri

*Notes from Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar, May/June 2011:

2010 Sonoma Coast Syrah

2009 Sonoma County Cuvée Caritas90 POINTS
(A 55/45 blend of semillon and sauvignon blanc): Bright yellow-gold. High-pitched aromas of grapefruit rind, green apple and white flowers, with musky lees and smoky nuances adding complexity. Concentrated and tactile, with very good cut to its intense citrus and floral flavors. Has a firm backbone and closes with very good, chewy persistence.

2009 Old Lakeville Vineyard Syrah92 POINTS
(vinified with 40% whole clusters): Bright violet. Intense scents of blackberry, cherry-cola and candied violet, with strong mineral and spicecake accents. Shows energetic, peppery, very pure flavors of dark berries and candied flowers. Picks up a wild herb note on the back, finishing sweet and impressively long, with lingering suggestions of tangy minerals and allspice.

2010 The Bedrock Heirloom Vineyard, Sonoma Valley

2009 Lorenzo’s Heirloom, Dry Creek Valley90 POINTS
(A blend based on 50% zinfandel and 25% carignane): Opaque purple. Powerful, ripe cherry and blackcurrant aromas are deepened by strong mineral and violet tones. A rich, rather brooding style, with chewy texture and deep, liqueur-like dark fruit flavors. Finishes ripe and very long, with powerful tannins; this could use some time to loosen up.

2009 Kick Ranch Syrah92 POINTS
Inky purple. Rich, pungent aromas of singed plum, blackberry, cherry compote and espresso, plus a hint of licorice. Full and weighty but lively as well, with strong cherry and plum flavors accented by dark chocolate, espresso and candied violet. Finishes with pliant, harmonious tannins and excellent persistence. This decidedly rich, powerful wine would work well with grilled meats or strong cheeses. There’s 5% viognier in here and all of the grapes were destemmed; it’s carrying 15.1% alcohol but I get no heat.

2009 Rebecca’s Vineyard Pinot Noir90 POINTS
Bright red. Vibrant redcurrant and cherry aromas are enlivened by fresh rose, Indian spices and zesty minerality. Bright red berry and bitter cherry flavors are framed by silky tannins and given lift by a hint of tangy blood orange. Puts on weight with air and picks up a darker blackberry note, finishing with very good clarity and nervy cut.

2010 Monte Rosso Vineyard Zinfandel

Old World Italian Varietals and Their New World Makers

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 10:21 PM

I understand. You found paradise in America, you had a good trade, you made a good living. The police protected you and there were courts of law. And you didn’t need a friend like me. But now you come to me, and you say: “Don Corleone, give me justice.” But you don’t ask with respect. You don’t offer friendship. You don’t even think to call me Godfather.…. (Ooohhh, chills).

Well, last night marked the (hold for pensive moment…23rd? 57th? 134th?) time I’ve watched “The Godfather”. How does one describe a movie like this to someone who’s never seen it? Well, if you’re me, your eyes bulge out of their sockets and you stammer out something like What!? How have you never seen this movie?! It’s like, it’s uh… I mean, it’s just really good.

Enough said, right?

OK, for the sake of conversation, you could say it’s the 3-part story of an old world family making their mark on new world soil. Oooh, more chills. And so, it is with this story (and all the delicious details) fresh in my mind that I felt inspired to pay homage to a trilogy of wines with Italian bloodlines but domestic zip codes. The following wines aren’t your typical let’s-take-a-stab at “Cal-Ital” and see what happens type of thing. NOT at all. In fact, I’d venture to guess that the creative minds behind the bottles wouldn’t be too keen with such a quaint categorization of what is not only their professional passion, but their personal identity.



Ex-surfer/rockstar/Italophile, Steve Clifton (of the Brewer-Clifton fame) and his wife Chrystal (fluent Italian speaker and former wine manager at Bouchon) are the the heart & soul behind Palmina in Santa Barbara, where they make wines that not only represent the varietals indigenous to Italy, but also the culture & lifestyle surrounding the consumption of wine. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen another domestic winemaker so insistent upon the fact that they make wines meant to complement food… in addition to“conversation, celebration, and love.” (I don’t know if that’s more Californian or Italian but I like it!). Based on the two wines we have from them, I’d say they ain’t kidding. Both thePalmina 2010 Santa Barbara County Pinot Grigio and the Palmina 2009 Santa Barbara County Barbera are in a nutshell, wildly unexpected. The fruit shows through in a way that suggests they’re not trying to hide their Santa Barbara upbringing, yet they have thatundeniable acidity & finesse one finds in their quality Italian cohorts. Both were picked from various cool-climate vineyard sites throughout the area and whole cluster-pressed directly after picking in order to retain the cool evening temperatures. The Pinot Grigio is lively and aromatic(two qualities often missing in P.G. on this side of the pond) with hints of lemon curd, quince, and a bit of mineral flintiness that I like quite a bit. While the Barbera is a melange of dark plummy and more tangy cherry/rhubarb fruit underlined by medium tannins and enough earthiness to give it some street cred.


PETRONI VINEYARDS 2006 Rosso di Sonoma

Most people know Lorenzo Petroni as the face behind the San Francisco institution known as North Beach Restaurant, which serves authentic Tuscan cuisine to weary travelers and eccentric locals alike. However, rumor has it that Lorenzo’s first love is the grape. More specifically, his dream was to be the first California vintner to grow the prized Sangiovese Grosso clone from his native Tuscany in Sonoma soil. Lofty, but apparentlynot impossible. In the Spring of 1992, Lorenzo & his wife stumbled upon a vineyard site on the red, rocky, mineral rich terrain of the Mayacamas Range, bought it the next day, and began growing grapes. His Rosso is aSuper Tuscan-like blend of Syrah, Sangiovese, and Cabernet. Again, awine that aptly reflects both its Italian heritage and its high elevation Sonoma home. Dense blackberry & dark cherry, cedar, spicebox, and hintsof the volcanic soil from which it hails are the hallmarks of the Rosso’s aromatics. On the palate the tannins are soft & rich, but again, the old world structure hasn’t been lost to a heavy, overly-extracting hand.

In keeping with my old-world-meets-new-world theme today, I’m going to grab a bottle each of these wines and head out to watch the Brew Crew play the Giants and eat some sausages…. Italian sausages, of course! – Emily

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