Moroccan Dinner With Ouled Thaleb

Saturday, November 28, 2015 12:26 AM

Ouled Thaleb: Dinner Recap
A month ago The Wine House hosted a dinner at Mourad –Mourad Lalou’s swanky Financial District restaurantinside the newly renovated Pacific Telephone Building. The dinner was organized to introduce and feature the wines of Ouled Thaleb, Morocco’s oldest working winery. ThoughThe Wine House has been stocking Ouled Thaleb winesever since they became available in California, the wines are still relatively unknown to the larger wine market.
In a private room, seated around a gorgeous handmade wood table, diners were treated to a delicious multi-course meal accompanied by the wines of Ouled Thaleb. The energetic and charismatic importer of Ouled Thaleb, Didier Pariente, kept our attention focused on the wines, giving us quick tutorials for each one. Throughout the evening Didier shared stories and insights on the food, wine and culture of Morocco. He emphasized the relevance and importance of Morocco as a wine regionand encouraged us to travel there.
I enjoyed tasting through Ouled Thaleb’s portfolio of wines in their proper context – with food. The cuisine at Mourad is inspired by the flavors of Morocco, transformed through a skilled chef to create a culinary language all his own. This is elevated food, and the wine kept in step. Three years ago I answered the phone and was greeted bya polite, French-accented man who asked me if anyone there would be interested in tasting wines from Morocco.I normally try to avoid biting on a cold call, but I was intrigued. I had an opening in my tasting calendar, so I said “Sure, come on over”. This is how I met Didier. I tasted the wines and felt them to be interesting and of merit on their own terms, not just a novelty. In other words, if the wines weren’t any good, there was no reason to buy them for the store. I continue to find Ouled Thaleb wines deliciousand carry them vintage to vintage. They have a steadyfollowing among ex-pats, adventure seekers and wine drinkers looking to expand their tasting horizons.
Listed below are Ouled Thaleb wines that are in stock, along with some brief tasting notes. For the future, if anyone reading this would like to be notified of upcoming wine dinners, please send in your request to info@wineSF.comand we’ll add you to our list.
July 25. Yes, we are aware of the fact that we have sent out several emails recently embracing Rosé, and all things summer. Why not? We have now entered late July and the period known as the dog days. What does it mean? Many things to many people. France is about to shut down for a month, and some of our friends from over there have been over here visiting. Last week it was Hélène Garcin-Lévêque from Bordeaux, and this week, we were visited by longtime friend, Philippe Ehrhart from Alsace!



Ever been to Alsace? Seeing Philippe again always brings back wonderful memories of the time Chris and I visited the Ehrharts at Domaine St. Rémy in Wettolsheim. If you don’t know the story, Chris had been with TWH for around 5 months at the time, and I had just started. A French food & wine promotional company was offering a free trip for 2 for the retailer that did the best job promoting the wines of Alsace during a given period of time.  Chris built the most magnificent pyramid of picturesque Alsatian boxes with different bottles displayed on each tier, flanked by maps of the region. It was rather eye-catching, to say the least. Our sales of Alsatian wines were quite brisk during this period, and one day a few months down the road, the phone rang. It was a representative of the French company sponsoring the contest. We had won! In what I can only describe as pure luck, I was chosen to accompany Chris on a whirlwind tour of Alsace with visits to 9 estates in 3 days. David was consulted by the sponsor for recommendations as to whom to visit. He also amended our itinerary to spend an extra day there in order to visit the 2 growers that we represented at the time. After 3 days chock full of visits, tastings, and rich meals, we were picked up on that final morning by Philippe Ehrhart himself and driven down to Wettolsheim to Domaine St. Rémy.

On the drive, Philippe regaled us with information about the villages, vineyards, and countryside. Once at the winery, he introduced us to his father and we began tasting tank samples of the recent harvest. It was rapidly approaching midday, so we were off to meet Philippe’s wife, Corinne, at their home for a tasting which included lunch. Philippe made the introductions and then led us to the dining room in which 10 bottles of various Domaine Ehrhart wines were opened and ready to be tasted. Somewhere after we tasted our 3rd sample, Corinne must have removed the lid to the pot with the simmering Choucroute, and the heavenly aroma wafted into the dining room. Beside one of my notes I scribbled, “Omg, I smell Choucroute.” (Wait, did I write “Omg?” Really? Hey, it was 2006, I was just a kid.)


Needless to say, the Choucroute was divine! Having the opportunity to taste the Ehrharts’ Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Auxerrois, and Gewurztraminer alongside it was the perfect Alsatian cultural experience.  So, even if it sounds a little cliché, when a couple of Alsatian winemakers invite you to their home for Choucroute, cancel the rest of your plans immediately and accept their invitation! We stayed well past our time limit, and when Philippe asked us what time our next appointment was, I looked at my watch and said, “5 minutes ago.” Philippe exclaimed that he wished we weren’t leaving, and we all reluctantly got in the car for our 20 minute drive.



I learned a lot during that trip. Having an eastern European background, cured meats, sausages, cabbage, and potatoes are all within my sphere of familiarity. I just never had a clue of what wines to pair with them. I can’t tell you how many bottles of quality red Bordeaux I brought to family gatherings which featured ham at the center of the table. In retrospect, the wines were all great, they just didn’t pair with the salty cured meat. After this trip, I knew, Riesling is the wine. Pinot Gris works too, as does Pinot Blanc’s sibling, Pinot Auxerrois. Gewurztraminer may be a little aromatically overwhelming for a holiday ham, ah, but the things you can pair with Gewurz … More on that later. The trip really opened my eyes as to how versatile the wines of Alsace are, and the formation of my opinion that the best pairings are with white wines had begun to take shape. I eat a lot of spicy food. These wines work well with spicy food. Really well.

So yeah, Philippe Ehrhart visited our new digs in Dogpatch this week! We popped one bottle each of the entire Ehrhart line in the cold box this past Tuesday and tasted them with Philippe and David after their full day of meetings and appointments. Having just flown in, Philippe showed no signs of weariness, and eagerly discussed the wines as we tasted them. The Ehrharts have always farmed organically, and the purity and precision of the end product is evidence of this practice paying off. Philippe informed us that he has been employing bio-dynamic practices in the vineyard, and beginning with their 2012’s, will be Demeter certified.


The Ehrharts have recently moved into a lovely, modern new winery complete with upscale tasting room. Another recent development has been to employ a scale from 1-10 on their back label describing the perceived sweetness of their wines.  This is extremely helpful for consumers because there is a wide range of styles amongst the wines of Alsace. Some wines are sweeter than others, and to point out the perceived sweetness in this fashion is useful. With their organic techniques, their new facility, and Demeter certification, we see nothing but great things ahead for the Ehrharts! We love their wines and we applaud their ability to look forward and not rest on any of their laurels. Never been to Alsace? It is worth strong consideration, you won’t regret it! – Peter Zavialoff
2012 Domaine Ehrhart Pinot Auxerrois Val St.-Gregoire

White Wine; other white varietal; Alsace;

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Perceived Sweetness – 2

Pinot Auxerrois is considered the finest clone of Pinot Blanc due to its natural low yields and smaller berries. It’s a great aperitif, as it has round apple-like flavors and aromas. Great with things like chicken salad, grilled trout, creamy cheeses, or a lobster roll.
2011 Domaine Ehrhart Riesling Herrenweg

White Wine; Riesling; Alsace;

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Perceived Sweetness – 2

It may say 2, but it seems drier to me. The aromas are fresh, there are floral hints surrounding the core of pear fruit and stony mineral. The palate is lively; it’s the epitome of a dry, versatile white wine. It goes with most traditional Alsatian fare, but there’s oh, so much more. Hunan smoked duck would be fun with this, also raclette, spicy shrimp scampi, or maybe even chile verde.
2011 Domaine Ehrhart Pinot Gris Im Berg

White Wine; Pinot Grigio/Gris; Alsace;

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Perceived Sweetness – 2

Unlike the Riesling, I get a little more body and sweetness out of this one. Their Pinot Gris has a fuller body and is deep and rich. Aromas of earthy mushrooms are ever-present. The palate has depth, yet is well balanced. Versatile and giving, you can pair this with things like carnitas tacos, a ginger panko crusted salmon with Asian vegetabels, sushi, or Kung Pao pork.
2012 Domaine Ehrhart Gewurztraminer Herrenweg

White Wine; Gewurztraminer; Alsace;

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Perceived Sweetness – 4.5

Gewurztraminer is a bit enigmatic. If you like spicy curry dishes, I highly recommend you try a glass of Gewurz with your next curry. I wouldn’t particularly sit down at a wine bar and order a glass of it, but when the balance of the sample bottle was up for grabs, that was all the motivation I needed to whip up a big batch of pork curry with a myriad of peppers last night, and all I have left, sadly is the leftover curry. The Gewurz is long gone! It is the perfect curry wine, no doubt, but I’ve tried it with spicy red beans and rice with much success. Spicy jambalaya, and an abundance of Asian dishes are begging for this highly aromatic, slightly off-dry wine. 

2011 Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)

Monday, February 17, 2014 9:09 PM

The 2011 Chateau Coutet was the stand out wine at the L.A. UGC tasting this past January, or so I am told for I was not in attendance (Pete was!).  The uniformly passionate praise for Coutet’s 2011 is well documented with wine publications all awarding glowing reviews and huge scores to it (Wine Advocate 94-96pts, Wine Spectator 97pts … and it goes on like this everywhere). The Twitter-sphere blew up with raves about the 2011 Coutet as the UGC tour made its way around the world. With such hype, expectations naturally rise. When Pete generously shared a bottle with TWH staff graciously provided by Aline Baly, my expectations were met and I instantly joined the ranks of admirers. Apricot fruit leather, thoroughly mouth-coating viscous nectar, coconut cream, and a lengthy rich finish – an incredible wine!


Long before Pete, our self-proclaimed Sauternes lover, began espousing the virtues of Chateau Coutet (and its ability to transform your dining experience beyond dessert), I recommended Coutet to those who wanted top-tier quality Sauternes but didn’t want to pay the inflated prices of some of the more famous names in the region.  To my palate, Coutet always carries a tangy fruit quality that makes the wine sing on the tongue. Never heavy or cloying, that characteristic Coutet CUT shines through each vintage. 



With Valentine’s Day just behind us, I had thought a lot about what wine is best suited for this made-up holiday. Bubbles, sure why not? Wines from S-LOVE-nia…get it? Then I began to think more about the type of love it takes to make a wine, that if you examine closely, really is an insane way to make a living; a dedication not unlike one needed to make romantic love last.  Looking over the breath-taking photos on Chateau Coutet’s website, one can easily fantasize of a life on such a grand estate (even if it once was only a stable for the Lur-Saluces family!). Then the reality of what it takes to get wine into bottle starts to take shape. Vintage conditions must provide that the grapes not only fully ripen but become infected with Botrytis, that miraculous decomposer that helps concentrate the sugars in the grape, producing the liquid nectar. A team of about 80 is needed to pass through the vineyards, picking grape by grape, not once but often as many as 8 times! When all is said and done, it takes one whole vine to make just one glass of Coutet. Like I said, insane!


So getting back to 2011 Coutet, after relishing each sip and shouting out a litany of descriptors -apricot, pineapple, crème brulee, butterscotch, tangerine- the first food pairing that popped into my mind was a savory one. Why delay the glorious flavors and balance of the 2011 Coutet to the end of the meal, when the intensity and, most importantly, its acid structure is naturally suited to a non-sugary dish.  By all accounts, the 2011 Coutet has all the components to live long in the cellar, but it also is so perfectly complete that it is a wine you will and should drink in its youth. For this reason, I highly recommend buying some for now and some to save. For anyone out there with a baby born in 2011 that wants to stow away some special wine to drink at a graduation, wedding, or other special occasion, the 2011 Chateau Coutet is a must. 



Valentine’s Day can be complicated for adults and children alike. At my daughter’s school, it was strongly suggested that Valentines be homemade and no candy allowed. My daughter added that the Valentines should not be too romantic either! It would have been so much easier to just buy them at the drugstore and tape on a heart-shaped candy, but I took on the challenge and for not being a particularly crafty type, I thought the Valentines came out well. A-hah, maybe that is part of the lesson, like the making of 2011 Chateau Coutet, some things are worth doing just to bring beauty, joy and love no matter how difficult or challenging. Anya Balistreri


Please note: This is a pre-arrival offer. The wine is expected to arrive by mid 2014.

2011 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac) (Pre-Arrival)

Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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“The white peach, pineapple, white ginger, orange zest and green fig notes are clear and racy, while green almond, brioche, pear and yellow apple details wait in reserve. Offers stunning range and polish, showing terrific energy and cut on the finish. This just makes you feel special when you drink it. Bravo, to an estate that has been rising steadily for a while now. Best from 2016 through 2035. From France. 97 points” – James Molesworth, The Wine Spectator

Spring Cleaning Sale: 2005 Sauternes

Saturday, June 1, 2013 7:58 PM

Whew! I hope everyone had a great long weekend last week. The thing about long weekends is that they lead right into short weeks. Toss in my fairly regular Wednesday off, and let’s just say that I had very little time to take care of all that was on my plate. I’m still going back and forth sending emails to negociants in Bordeaux; be on the look out for our 2012 Bordeaux futures offer very soon. This weekend’s Spring Cleaning Sale has got us all hopping around like crazy, but that’s one way to make some room here in our warehouse. When I arrived here at the shop Thursday morning, I immediately went into overdrive preparing for the sale. One of our favorite customers popped in Thursday morning and inquired, “What’s this weekend’s wine going to be?” Talk about a deer in the headlights moment! And then it occurred to me.  Sauternes on sale? No brainer here.


To update an old quote of mine: Not a day goes by when I don’t say – that not a day goes by when I don’t want to take home a bottle of Sauternes. Not a day. Seriously, it’s come to that. A young couple came in this morning exclaiming, “Last time we were here you helped us with some Sauternes recommendations.” Yep, that’s not difficult to imagine. I was recently looking over some of my earliest invoices as an employee of TWH, and they were dotted with both half and full bottles of various Sauternes. I caught the bug long ago in a past life, and my chef buddy Carsten still calls me “Raymond Lafon” or “Monsieur Lafon” as I once had a seemingly unlimited supply of their 1986. But afterattending a tasting of 2005 Sauternes, I fell hard. Hook, line, and sinker! John explained to me that the period of harvest was (in some cases) 4 times as long as usual. This gave the vignerons that much more to work with. Also, the botrytis in 2005 was profound. At the aforementioned tasting, the botrytis was unmistakable in every sample I tasted; my notes reflecting this fact.

So back to the couple that came in earlier today. They are expecting. This was the reason they were unable to join us back in January for our All-Sauternes (okay, Barsac) dinner at Restaurant Picco with Aline Baly of Château Coutet. Anya still proudly has her menu handy at her work station. She pulled it out and we showed it to them. Then we started talking about Sauternes and food pairings. If you ever want to kill an hour or two, bring that subject up with me. The myriad of plates that pair well with Sauternes is so numerous, that I can declare it the most versatile style of wine when it comes to food pairing. Anya regaled this couple with a historical perspective citing that Sauternes were the wines of choice for many a royal-type throughout history. Expounding on this topic, she also noted that the sweetness of botrytised wine leant an “honesty” to the flavors of the food it was paired with. A dry, austere wine might change a diner’s perception of what they’re eating whereas a Sauternes can enhance the food’s flavors. It makes sense if you think about it. Fois gras and Roquefort cheese are traditional pairings because the sweetness and balancing acidity of the wine frame the flavors and textures honestly. But we’re far beyond traditional pairings here. Or to quote Ms. Baly, “There are traditions, but no rules.”


Okay, so which one? Not so fast, I said I’m a huge fan of 2005, and when Sauternes go on sale, I think it is a good idea to grab any of them! I’ve gone on about half-bottles before, and I still believe they’re a great idea, because one can taste more wine when not having to pour out the “lucky drops” of a 750ml bottle. So I am recommending half-bottles of 2005 Sauternes. Seriously, Sauternes on sale? You’ve been good. You deserve it. 

Okay, this is going to be a memorable week! ALL KINDS of stuff going on. Let’s see, my sister’s birthday, our 2012 Bordeaux futures offer, (fingers crossed, touch wood) the homecoming of football’s finest manager, the release of Camera Obscura’s new album, the June Dirty Dozen, and my band has 3 gigs in the next 7 days … 2 of them in Hood River, Oregon! I’m taking home a half bottle of 2005 Sauternes. Cheers! – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about 2005 Sauternes, Sauternes pairing, 2012 Bordeaux futures, football, or my band’s upcoming gigs:

2006 Dry Riesling Marlborough Isabel Esate Vineyard

Thursday, January 20, 2011 5:01 PM

Happy New Year, all! Whew! I hope all y’all’s holidays went well. I knew sometime in late November that I wouldn’t be taking my foot off the gas pedal until mid-January. See, I have reason to celebrate January 1st, 3rd, 7th and 14th. Actually, for me, it really goes until the 25th, and this year, next week will be packed with good stuff. The annual UGC Bordeaux tasting comes to San Francisco next Friday, the 21st. Also, we have the Sauternes/Barsac tasting dinner with Aline Baly, and the fabulous wines of Chateau Coutet coming up at Restaurant Picco this Monday evening. Another Sauternes friend will be arriving Wednesday, and there are more dinner plans. Followed by what will be my first glimpse into the newly bottled 2008 Bordeaux! Whew! Is right.

I just returned to the treehouse after being treated to dinner by one of my dearest friends. She and I go way back, and we are often spotted at Brandy Ho’s on Columbus & Pacific. In all the years I’ve been going to that restaurant, there is one dish I order EVERY TIME. It is the spicy Smoked Ham With Cloves Of Garlic. If you like smoky ham, garlic and lots of hot pepper, I highly recommend it. One of our favorite rituals is that she asks me to take the leftovers (I call them “Brandovers”) for the next day, provided I send her a text when I’m eating them, expounding on their delicacy. So, a bit of a rarity, tonight being Saturday, I will not eat my Brandovers at work tomorrow, I will eat them here, so I get to pair them with wine! What wine, you may ask? Tomorrow, it will be the2006 Dry Marlborough Riesling from Isabel Estate Vineyard. So the story goes something like this: Just as the ever-popular, sold out, 2004 Chateau Mont Perat, we caught a distributor closing out a great wine. (Please keep in mind that we taste a lot of “closeouts” and pass on the vast majority of them.) But this wine was poured for me blind, in a sense, and as I inhaled the aromas, I was impressed. It had an herbal note that was unmistakeable, a mineral drive and that petrol-like complexity that Riesling of distinction can have. On the palate, it was crisp and lively. The fruit was in harmony with the herbs and minerals, and it was as complex as some of my favorite dry Rieslings from Alsace. Anya already knew what I didn’t, but when they told me the price, I took a glass to a very busy David, and asked him what he thought. Stop. For a second. David is an expert. His ability to evaluate a wine is amazing. So when I do things like this, I don’t tell him a thing about the wine. I just handed him a glass. He took in the aromatics, blind, mind you. His response was “It smells like Riesling with a little age, but on the palate, it has New World fruit … it’s enigmatic, but really good!” I then told him that we could sell it for 8 bucks a bottle. He arose from his busy desk, greeted the rep, asked how much they had, and bought it all. Now, we can offer this to all of you … for 8 bucks. If you love dry Riesling with character, this is a no-brainer!

So yeah, Monday night will be the dinner with Aline at Picco, and that will be epic. I may have a seat or two (no more than that) available, and will be checking my email Sunday and Monday, in case any last minute Coutet fans may fancy hanging with us. But one night before, I will be enjoying my Brandovers with a couple of glasses of the 2006 Dry Riesling from Isabel Estate Vineyard! – Peter Zavialoff

2007 Sauternes: Chateau Coutet In Stock!

Monday, August 30, 2010 4:13 PM

If you’ve been by our shop recently, you most likely noticed we weremaking space. Making space for what? More wine, of course. We’re 33% complete with another trio of incoming containers bringing us all sorts of goodies from overseas. This last one was chock full of Bordeaux. Red and white; sticky white, that is. Yes, I mean Sauternes. Most of our 2007 Sauternes selections are now in stock, including my favorite, Chateau Coutet!

I’m not going to get all sentimental about this, though I should point out that 2007 was the first vintage I tasted out of barrel in Bordeaux. So when I saw the forklift unloading palates stacked with wood cases with 2007 printed on them, I felt that things had come full circle. There were a plethora of memorable moments on that trip, but one of the most memorable was our stop at Chateau Desmirail in Cantenac for the UGC Sauternes tasting. Having spent the morning driving from the other Medoc UGC tastings at Pontet Canet and Lascombes, tasting 50 or so young, tannic, red wines, the thought of cleansing the palate with some luscious Sauternes was a brilliant idea. I just didn’t know how brilliant.

I’ve said before
that I’m a big fan of the 2005 vintage in Sauternes, yet I’d heard that 2007 was another stellar vintage for the region, and I was anxious to taste what I was hearing about. What a show. We got there around lunch time, the masses were still busy feeding themselves, and we had the room almost to ourselves. Only in such an empty tasting room could the following have happened. While tasting the Chateau d’Arche, I experienced a humorous episode. A sample was poured for me, I swirled it in my glass, and took a whiff. It was puzzling. I was already half way through the tasting, and these botrytised wines have similarities, but this was something strangely different. I swirled and inhaled again. It was unmistakable. Floral. I mean reaaaally floral; I started to write: “Weird faux floral thing, shampoo-like …”, I stopped. I turned around, and they were cleaning out the spittoon behind me and mopping the floor with soapy suds. Ah. I took my pour elsewhere in the empty room, and continued tasting. I found the majority of the wines to show great weight, buoyed by zippy acidity, wrapped around the ever so important botrytis. As I approached the finish line, having just tasted the opulent Chateau Guiraud, I stepped forward to sample one of my fave’s, Chateau Coutet. It’s a double-edged sword when you approach a tasting with expectations. I got my sample, gave it a swirl, and started jotting things down.“Enigmatic. Orchard fruit, a hint of grass, not getting any botrytis … marshmallow.” Then I tasted, “Dense, has depth, there’s the botrytis, it intensifies on the palate, deep, what a fine wine. Finish has depth, botrytis, lively acid, and fades slowly. Long.” Okay, there it was. I believe it was right there and then when I began to understand the difference between Sauternes and Barsac. The Guiraud was very good, yet somehow obvious. The Coutet was delicate, elegant; it was the waltz to the Guiraud’s tango. I tasted the final quintet, and it was time to go. Thank you Chateau Desmirail. Thank you for hosting a most lovely Sauternes tasting.


This past January, The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux came to Los Angeles to pour the bottled 2007’s, and, as you would imagine, I was psyched to see how they turned out. I found many of the reds to my liking; and with their mineral drive and lively acid levels, the dry whites were stellar. Yet the wines of Sauternes stole the spotlight that day.Seriously, TV cameras and everything. I was looking around wondering where Angelina Jolie was. I tasted through the newly bottled stickies, andfound them ethereal. When I got to the Coutet, again, I was expecting a lot, but they didn’t fail me. Again, I got that depth, that pleasant pinch of all taste sensors, the botrytis, but the way the flavors seemed to intensify on the palate was extraordinary. Again, the finish was deep, complex, and lengthy. Bravo! I staggered through the end of the Sauternes section much like a prize fighter pinned to the ropes. I mean this figuratively, not literally, I am a professional, ergo I spit. But now that these lovelies are here in our shop, I can take one home and drink it! I think I just may treat myself to a half bottle tonight!


PS Sauternes are not dessert wines. Sure you can have them with dessert, as dessert, or as an aperitif, as the French do. You can pair them with savory cuisine. That’s right, savory cuisine. And I’m not just talking about foie gras. (Insert eye roll here). In fact, I was discussing this very topic with Sandrine Garbay back in April (Sandrine is the Maitre de Chai at Chateau d’Yquem), and when foie gras came up we collectively rolled our eyes at this good, but very tired pairing. Imagine seeing the same film every time you go to the cinema!?? Aline Baly, proprietor of Chateau Coutet visited our shop back in May, and we discussed the same subject at length. Especially now, in a day and age where so many exotic flavors and types of cuisine are available to us, the wines of Sauternes are extremely versatile and can pair with almost anything. A good customer of ours (and reader of these Sunday emails) was picking up a bottle of Sauternes earlier this week. We asked him what he was going to drink it with, and he said, “Hunan Lamb”. That’s the spirit!Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments regarding savory Sauternes pairings, 2007 Bordeaux in general, or the latest transfer gossip:

From The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin, “This has a relatively simple but crisp nose with dried honey, apricot, quince and a touch of almond. The palate is well balanced with good acidity and botrytis, pure, quite linear with white peach, pear, a touch of mandarin and citrus acidity cutting through its viscous texture towards the finish. It improves the more it remains in the mouth, the nose seeming to absorb energy, the palate becoming ever more “pixilated”. This is another intellectual Sauternes that should age beautifully. Drink 2012-2030+ – 94 points”

*Vineyard photo from; bottle/glasses from

Come gather young people wherever you roam … Yes, change is in the air. Some exciting and some not so exciting. Let’s just say that the new credit card machine that has our staff grumbling is not so exciting. What is exciting, to all of us here at TWH, is the anticipation of NEW WINE! And lots of it! Remember the rumors of containers on the water? After a couple of brief delays (striking dock-workers in France, what else?), we’ve got a FULL CONTAINER ready to dock, chock-full of goodies that we will be able to offer you in about a week’s time! A recent sneak peak shipment revealed a wine I have a personal love affair with: The 2008 Domaine d’Orfeuilles Vouvray “Les Courdraies”. You know, the same folks that brought you the wonderful sparkling Vouvray and, of course,their sparkling Rose!


I’ve got to say, I’ve had issues with change. I don’t want to get too philosophical here, but I recognize the good and bad in it. Being a wine-geek, I have changing tastes and love trying new and different wines. Sometimes, I can be indifferent; sometimes disappointed (must manage expectations … but that’s for another email); but usually, I am pleased. Sometimes, I become elated. That’s pretty much what happened when I first tasted the “Les Coudriaes” Vouvray from Domaine d’Orfeuilles!


I don’t know why this is, but I heart spicy food. No, really. Big time; seriously, spicy with heat. There aren’t two days in a row that go by when I don’t have some kind of hot pepper fix. This passion, when combined with my overall wine geekyness, has opened me up to a whole new level of experimentation. Q: Hot and spicy food? A: Sweeter wines. They don’t have to be over the top, bursting with sugar; but just like everything else, a little goes a long way. Take this demi-sec Vouvray. It exhibits an abundance of complexity beginning with the aromatics. Honeysuckle, granite-like mineral, peachy stone fruit, and melon. The mouth feel is seamless in its balance of the aforementioned complexities combined with a subtle sweetness, and a vibrancy that pinches the inside of your mouth like marmalade. A swirl and sip of the 2008 Domaine d’Orfeuilles Vouvray “Les Coudraies” is exactly the way to follow a spicy fish taco … or Henry Hunan’s Harvest Pork … or Brandy Ho’s Sauteed Squid In Black Bean Sauce! Dang! Now I’m hungry again … the pitfalls of the wine world.


I’ll ease off here and tell you change is good. And exciting. The English Premiership kicks off soon, much has changed there. A week from today, we’ll have the annual Charity Shield match-up at Wembley. I’m rooting against change there. But in the wine world, we can’t wait until we see the fruits of the new container’s bounty dispersed throughout our shop!2006 Bordeaux. 2007 Bordeaux. 2008 Burgundy. 2009 Cru Beaujolais, and plenty of other goodies. Ben once told me that Vouvray ages very well and that I should sock some away in the cellar. My problem is I need to sock a lot away, because I can’t keep my hands off the stuff right now!Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments regarding hot and spicy food, wines to pair with them, English Football, or Vouvray for the cellar:

Blood Of Zinfandel

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 2:19 PM

Last time I had a go of it, I threatened to go out on a limb and write about a domestic rose made from Zinfandel. I’m not backing down. Well, with the weather approaching 90° in downtown San Francisco (oh, my!) and having overdosed on Food Network episodes of all things bbq and grill related, I’m through with being a spectator. It is time to ravage the spice rack and start rubbin’. The question which follows next, naturally, is what to drink? Ok, hear me out. I think it is well established that I am quitefond of French rose. No surprise there. However, when heat is a major component to the food, like spicy meat rubs or tangy barbeque sauces, you need a rose that has a bit more intensity and structure to match up. And that is how I have come to recommending Storybook Mountain’s 2009 Zin Gris, aka Blood of Zinfandel. The wine’s bright grenadine color immediately signals that this ain’t no ordinary rose of Zinfandel. Put all preconceived notions aside. This is a rose fermented dry in barrel from wine bled off from Storybook’s famed Zinfandel grapes. It is fruity, full-bodied, round textured and seemingly created especially for summer month cookouts.


Dr. Jerry Seps purchased his vineyard property high atop the Mayacamas Range back in the 70’s. Though the property had a long history of grape growing dating back to the 1880’s, the vineyard had been neglected and needed replanting. Seps considered the red clay soil, the ideal eastern exposure of the vineyard, and the climate, and decided upon planting Zinfandel. On his winery’s website, Seps quotes Andre Tchelistcheff’s advise that “the best area anywhere to grow Zinfandel is in the red clay soils above Calistoga.” As a side note, I had the great honor of meeting the legendary Monsieur Tchelistcheff at a gala event for Beaulieu Vineyards back in the early 90’s (Pete always tells me, whenever you think it happened, subtract 5 years and you’ll be right). I walked right up to his table and introduced myself. I was not going to let the opportunity to meet one of California’s greatest winemakers pass me by. He was gracious and patient with me as I, the pesky fan, gushed on and on. Back to the task at hand, for the last 30 years, Storybook Mountain has been making some of California’s finest, and longest-lived, Zinfandels. The Zin Gris, an unorthodox rose, is a refreshing and well-crafted addition to Storybook’s line-up of reds.


What’s going on at The Wine House? Expanding International selections, newly painted WC (dubbed “the Disco”) and now, lest you think we take ourselves too seriously, domestic roses.Sure we’re going to continue to offer Bordeaux Futures and seek out those tiny wine jewels from France, but we are first and foremost wine lovers here; wherever and whatever it takes to stock what is good and what is tasty. If you have not finalized your Father’s Day menu, may I suggest Asian-spiced baby back ribs and a slightly chilled glass of Storybook’s 2009 Zin Gris.After all, real men do drink roses, so don’t feel you have to serve a heavy red. This week I went to my daughter’s “moving on” ceremony. No longer a Kindergartner, her ravenous appetite and lengthening limbs are pushing her ahead leaving the chubby, squishy baby behind. A tad sad, yes, but mostly I am excited for her. New BFF’s forged, writing and reading language, an unrequited crush, and learning to count to one hundred. I’d say it was as close to perfect a school year could be. – Anya Balistreri

Good Times, Good Timing, Good Wine, Good Friends

Monday, February 22, 2010 6:25 PM

I’ve been known to say, “Planning leads to expectations, and expectations are the harbinger of disappointment.” My apologies for repeating myself. I tried my best to manage my expectations last night after work. But looking at the evening as planned, I couldn’t help losing touch with my philosophy. Dinner at my best friend’s house is always a good thing. In addition to dinner, there was a reason to celebrate, acellar full of wine, guitars and basses, and a 7:00 AM Chelsea match on TV this morning. Yes, I needed the sleepover kit.
One of my favorite things about being in the wine world isdiscovering new flavors and sensations. It was a great thing for us at TWH when importer Bobby Kacher began to import wines from Argentina. We now have two producers from this illustrious country, and the wines all sing. Something very new for us is the addition of Torrontes to the lineup of wines from producer Inacayal. Being a fan of spicy Asian cuisine, I was more than anxious to try what was presented to me as a great pairing wine for exactly that kind of food. It passed with flying colors! Yesterday, we had a sample bottle open for some wholesale accounts, and when the remainder was up for grabs after work, I made it my first choice. Funny thing was I had dinner plans, and they weren’t for spicy Asian fare. How was this going to work out? I wondered.

 Dinner plans involved red Bordeaux, that’s all I knew. What it was going to be, I didn’t. It did not take much thought to realize there would red meat along side the Claret. My best friend was treating me, yet again (Big tip of the cap here!), in celebration, after I told him that I would be tasting the 2009 vintage from barrel next month. We took a walk down into the cellar and started pulling bottles. After several pulls, he had a bottle of 1990 Cos d’Estounel in his hands and said, “How ’bout this?” Sometimes I have bad days, sometimes I have good days, sometimes I have really good days. My eyes popped at the sight of the trophy bottle, and back up the stairs we went. I’ve been in the habit of breaking corks lately, so I was real careful with this one, and POP, no breakage. A small pour in each of our glasses and wow, there’s nothing like … wait a second. What about the Torrontes?? Wait for it.

So we’re hanging in the kitchen. (Isn’t that where EVERYONE hangs out?)The components for the meal are now being revealed. New York steaks (who knew?), asparagus … a look around for the famous bachelor/musician potatoes found nothing. Crab cakes was the call. I know the source, and I remember their recipe is a little on the spicy side. With my nose buried in a big glass full of 1990 Cos, Torrontes was the furthest thing from my mind. As everything miraculously prepared itself (I guess it just seemed like that), we sat at the table. Oh yeah, there was chicken salad too. As I spooned some of that on my plate, I grabbed a crabcake and then it hit me! I’ll be right back. I ran out to the car,grabbed the sample bottle, and now we were set. My buddy was impressed that I could just dial in a perfect pairing on the fly like that, and I was just as amazed that the perfect opportunity for the Torrontes to shine presented itself.

The wine sang. Its delightful bouquet of floral, blossomy aromas harmonized brilliantly with the fleshy stone fruit profile, and this cut right through the spice of the crabcakes, and made for a brilliant pairing. The chicken salad had an Asian spiced dressing, so as you would imagine, it sang with that too! He then asked me how much it cost. 25? 30? Nope. Try 14. Really? Yep. Case.

I won’t go out on a limb and say it was better than 1990 Cos d’Estournel and a New York steak, but for pairing purposes, our first course was more interesting, that’s for sure. The rest of the night included some tasty jamming and much hilarity. I caught some Z’s on the couch, woke up to the sound of my buddy cheering and watched my beloved Chelsea Blues open up a four point lead atop the English Premiership table!

It’s funny. You just never know. I have no idea what compelled me to grab that bottle of Torrontes. I’m literally shaking my head typing this. That’s the great thing about being in the wine world. It pays to be lucky, and timing is everything, and a stitch in time … nevermind. Sometimes, I just need to keep quiet and smile. Cheers! – Peter Zavialoff

Feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Torrontes, Argentine wines, Bordeaux, Music, Footy, or whatever else you may have on your mind:

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