Bedrock Rocks!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018 4:56 PM


Bedrock Wine Co.


Congratulations Morgan Twain-Peterson!

Morgan Twain-Peterson, proprietor of Bedrock Wine Co., recently became the first winemaker from California to become a Master of Wine. He is one of only 45 MWs from the United States. That is quite an achievement in and of itself, and yet consider the fact that during the time he was working towards becoming a Master of Wine, he was also building Bedrock Wine Co. - Wow!   I jumped on the Bedrock Wine Co. bandwagon from the start. My admiration was instantaneous and The Wine House has been rewarded for our support of Bedrock wines in the way of allocations. We are proud to carry a wide selection of Bedrock wines,from the vineyard-designated reds to the experimental blends. 



What I recognized early on, was Morgan's devotion to the vineyard. Morgan seeks out to use, but also essentially to preserve, old-vine vineyards. I too have a respect and affinity for the unique character of Zinfandel-based field blends.Without advocates like Morgan, these special, historic vineyards would undoubtedly be lost. I understand that what I am about to write is scientifically unprovable, but in 
Morgan's wines, I can taste that, well, love for the vineyard.

 

 Bedrock Vineyard: photo courtesy of BWC website



Their flagship wine (or at least that's how I see it) at Bedrock is The Bedrock Heritage. The Bedrock Vineyard has a long and storied history that can trace its grape growing roots well over a hundred years. It is a sizeable vineyard that sits in the heart of the Sonoma Valley. There are well over 30 different varieties growing at Bedrock Vineyard. In the 2015 Bedrock Heritage there are 19 different varieties (perhaps even more) that go into the wine, dominated by Zinfandel, Carignane, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah and Alicante Bouchet. A true, classic Californian field blend. Morgan writes that "Bedrock Vineyard is always going to have orange-scented perfume and rooted tannins". It's a full-scale red that is tasty in all its exuberant youth, but can also rest in the cellar. It really is a taste of California's wine history.



Words fail me to describe the emotions felt since fires ravaged Northern California. I am certain that we all know at least someone touched by this catastrophe.Living here in Northern California all my life, I am aware of the dangers of wildfire, but this was like nothing imaginable. As I learned about the losses to wineries and vineyards, I reflected on what I value most about being in the wine business. It comes down to the people and the land. It is indeed, people like Morgan who pursue winemaking, not just as commerce, but as a way of honoring the past and preserving our heritage, that inspires me. There are fewer and fewer of these precious old vines in California. I am grateful to those who champion these agricultural treasures.  Check out our full line-up of Bedrock wines to explore and taste these historic sites. - Anya Balistreri

From the Winery:

"The 2015 is a svelte lumberjack but a true lumberjack—not the soft-handed, urbane, hipster type, nor the Monty Python cross-dresser (though if that is what it wants to be when it grows up, that is just fine with me!).  A wine that is well-built, a little gruff at first, but full of nuance, soft eyes, and a well-hewn heart."

 

From the Winery:

"This wine, a field blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Negrette, Carignan, Grenache, Trousseau Noir and many more, is dark and lovely stuff.  Definitely give it some time- either in the cellar or the decanter as time and/or air will help it to unfold."

Giving Back – La Cuadrilla!

Monday, July 3, 2017 11:28 AM

What is now known as The La Cuadrilla program at Stolpman Vineyards began as a way for the vineyard manager to better train his crew. The idea was to dedicate a two-acre block, or cuadra, that the vineyard crew had to then cultivate, from pruning to harvest, without supervision. This training block was called the La Cuadrilla, in Spanish meaning the people of the block. To challenge the crew even further, this two-acre training block would be set up in another part of the vineyard the next vintage. Eventually the vineyard manager confided to owner Tom Stolpman the success of this training system. It was Tom who came up with the idea of making wine from that training block and giving those bottles to the crew as a way to enjoy the fruits of their labor. By 2009, the program expanded to include fruit from other parts of the vineyard so that La Cuadrilla could be sold commercially. Profits from the sale of La Cuadrilla are divided among the vineyard crew in the form of a year-end bonus. This is a creative way for all to benefit by incentivizing learning and taking steps to achieve sustainable employment. Bravo to Stolpman Vineyards!



Of course, in order for this program to really work well, the wine has to be good – this can’t be just a gimmick. The 2015 La Cuadrilla is a lively blend of Syrah with small additions of Grenache, some of it old vine, and Sangiovese. The wine is vinified in concrete tanks and then aged in neutral barrel. La Cuadrilla has a lot of brightness and tart red fruit. It isn’t heavy or over-ripe, but is dominated by red fruit flavors and a pleasant, earthy note. Because of its fresh palate feel, it’s a great choice for warm-weather food pairings like smoky barbecued meats.




Stolpman Vineyards is located in the heart of Santa Barbara’s Ballard Canyon AVA. Ballard Canyon is Santa Barbara’s newest AVA and sits between the Santa Rita Hills and Happy Canyon. Ballard Canyon benefits from warm days during the growing season and is protected from wind by the surrounding hills. Temperatures drop significantly at night. Some soils, like at Stolpman, have limestone deposits.



I won’t only be celebrating our nation’s birthday this weekend. I will also be celebrating my mother’s birthday and my own. Mother and daughter will be throwing a joint birthday party! My brother, bless his heart, suggested putting only one candle on each of our birthday desserts. I agreed, adding that we wouldn’t want to ignite a raging inferno. My birthday year was not a particularly good vintage for wine throughout most of world. No worries here because the party calls for youthful wines, so La Cuadrilla will make an appearance on the table. It should be another great family meal up at the dacha out on the deck beneath the Redwoods. Happy Happy, Everyone! – Anya Balistreri

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

2013 Cotes-du-Rhone La Boissiere, Domaine Boudinaud

Wednesday, February 8, 2017 11:36 AM


Whoa! How did it get to be February already??!! Seriously, the period after the holidays may be somewhat quiet for some, but around here it was hoppin’. I mentioned the parade of folks from Bordeaux passing through our doors the past couple of weeks; the UGC tasting of the newly bottled 2014’s was a week ago Friday. The wines are showing as well, if not better, than I anticipated after having tasted them as barrel samples. I’ve got more to say about them, but tonight’s exercise is more about what I like to call ye olde reliable, Côtes-du-Rhône rouge. Specifically, the 2013 CdR La Boissière from Domaine Boudinaud.


It’s funny. My memory is chock full of useless information. I don’t know why I remember some things (seriously, yesterday was my best friend’s from 3rd grade birthday), and not other, more important things. Like when and where and why did I taste my first Côtes-du-Rhône? It almost feels to me like it just always was a given. If I wanted a nice glass or two of delicious red wine without much expense, there is always Côtes-du-Rhône. When a new customer walks in to our shop and informs me that they like wine, yet aren’t very familiar with French wine, I tend to start here. With Côtes-du-Rhône, it’s tough to go wrong.


We have been working with Thierry and Véronique Boudinaud for well over a decade, and we just love their wines. For the 2013 la Boissière, Thierry blended 55% Grenache with 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre, and 5% Cinsault. The nuance of each variety’s aromatic profile is noticeable and the blend is quite harmonious. And what’s great about this wine in particular is that you can drink it on its own, with a burger, with steak, with a pork chop, barbecue chicken, and so forth. It is that versatile. Given its price point, it’s a super wine for a very fair price. I do remember how much we liked the 2012, and how my colleagues and I squirreled away bottles for ourselves when our stock began to vanish. When it finally dried up, the countdown began for the new vintage. Now that it’s here, our entire staff is enjoying it. One bottle at a time. And though $13.49 is already an extraordinary deal for a wine of this quality, the case price of $11.47 per bottle is what we call a no-brainer.

Wow. I’m at a loss for what to do for dinner this evening. As Anya mentioned last week, our staff had our annual holiday dinner gathering a fortnight ago, and last Saturday, I was lucky enough to join a supplier and representatives from three Bordeaux chateaux at The Battery for an incredible dinner. It was there that I tasted my very first grade A-5 Wagyu beef. I will not be forgetting about that anytime soon. I have a feeling that tonight’s dinner plans will be less extravagant and more about comfort food. What wine will I be bringing home to sip with my comfort food? Ye olde reliable, of course! – Peter Zavialoff

Inky, Dark, Spicy - Syrah at its Best !

Monday, January 9, 2017 10:56 AM


Not to belabor the obvious, but it's cold outside. And it gets dark earlier too. This signals the time of year when Syrah calls out to me the loudest - I hear you Syrah, loud and clear! A robust, full-flavored Syrah paired with a slow braised one-pot dish; now that's sounds good to me. As I look around the store, searching for that Syrah to satiate my craving, my eyes naturally fall onto our limited, but stellar selection of Northern Rhones. Of the two producers TWH directly imports, Domaine Belle is the most established. When I came to work for TWH in the late 90's, Belle was a relative newcomer on the Rhone scene and a true darling of Robert Parker who was a great advocate for this French region, propelling fervent enthusiasm for Syrah. In the 1997 revised edition of "Wines of the Rhone Valley", Parker concludes his review of Belle by writing it was "one of the bright, shining stars of Crozes-Hermitage, and this is an estate to follow". In my opinion, he was absolutely right. So what has Domaine Belle been up to in the two decades since Parker wrote that statement? They've been consistently making outstanding wines that fly under the radar!


Philippe Belle is at the helm, having taken over from his father Albert who retired in 2003. Fortunately for Domaine Belle fans, Philippe has sons who are being groomed to work in the family business. On his trip to France this past November, David paid a visit to Belle where he tasted recent and upcoming vintages. There he met with Philippe and his son, Valentin, who is currently studying enology at Montpellier. David sent a photo of father and son to me (I'm always hounding him to take more pics on his trips!) as well as a photo of the 2015 Crozes Hermitage Roche Pierre, which he captioned "one of the darkest wines I've ever seen". The 2015 Roche Pierre won't be available any time soon, but we do have the gorgeous 2012 in stock now. And though we bid adieu to our 39th Anniversary Sale, we will offer the 2012 Roche Pierre at discount for this email - regularly $36.99 per bottle, on sale for $27.95 per bottle!


Roche Pierre is a single-vineyard with vines upwards of 70 years old grown on granitic soil. These are special vines and Belle only bottles this wine in special vintages (otherwise it goes into Cuvee Louis Belle). We have the '12 in stock, and they made '13 and '15, but no '11 or '14. It is a wine that showcases the full spectrum of Syrah's appeal, from the inky color to the dark, black fruit to the spicy, smoky notes. The texture is rich with firm tannins. Less than 300 cases of this single-vineyard Crozes-Hermitage are produced. Jeb Dunnuck who has taken over reviewing Rhone wines for Parker had this to say about the 2012 Roche Pierre:



"I was blown away by the 2012 Crozes Hermitage Roche Pierre and it showed even better from bottle than barrel, which is always a good sign. Aged two years in 40% new French oak, it's certainly one of the top wines of this appellation. Cassis, toasted spice, leather, beautiful minerality and classic minerality are all present in this full-bodied, focused, pure and age-worthy Crozes Hermitage. There's no shortage of tannin here, so give it a year or three, it will have 10-15 years of longevity." 94 points #216 Dec. 2014


This weekend I will be celebrating a milestone birthday...my baby girl is turning 13! A teenager. It doesn't seem possible. Her birthday lands on Old Calendar Christmas Eve (Happy Birthday to MTP as well!), so we'll first celebrate with a traditional Russian lenten meal with family then host a rip-roaring sleepover party with her BFFs the next evening. Call me crazy, but I love hearing all the girl chatter and laughter filling up the house. It warms my heart. Happy Birthday to Sascha, my sweet girl...many blessed years! And Happy New Year to all of you! - Anya Balistreri

Remembering 2012 With A Fine Gigondas

Monday, August 15, 2016 9:27 PM


It sure has beenan interesting week. On one hand, it’sthe middle of August. Most of France is on holiday and I’ve always beenunder the impressionthat these waning summer days before school begins againare the official “dog days.” This perception needs updating. While having lunch at a restaurant the other day (still in search of the best French Dip in the North Bay), I overheardtwo people talking about school starting.As in this week! What??!! It’s August 14th! Anya confirmed this today as her daughter is less than a week from her first day. Seriously, where does the time go?It’s a good thing we have wine in our lives. Meant for pleasure rather than scrutiny; each bottle is a living thing made from a combination of elements including soil, grape variety, winemaker, and vintage. In the wine biz, we sometimes get caught up in only thinking about a wine region’s quality during a given year, butit also leaves us an opportunity to reminisce. This week, I am reminiscing with2012 Tour de l’Isle Gigondas.

 

 
To start, I must confess that I am a longtime fan of Gigondas. Back in the day, each night after my band finished practicing at Lennon Studios South of Market, we would pack it up and head over to Ruby’s Restaurant on 3rd Street where a friend worked as chef de cuisine.He always took good care of us, and would usually join us at the table after his shift. They had a reasonably priced Gigondas on the list, and it was our go-to dinner wine for years. It was probably around the 5th or 6th time we ordered it, that Mr. Ruby himself took a seat at our booth and inquired exactly how a group of 20-something rockers came to order Gigondas.“Michael (the chef) told me that you’re really into food and wine, but what makes this wine so special that you keep ordering it?” Ruby asked.
“It’s a food wine,” I replied. “There are all sorts of fancy wines out there, many of them are made to impress critics, and that provides no service for the diner. This Gigondas is balanced and elegant. It was made to enjoy with dinner. And you can’t beat the price.”
This seemed to put him at ease, and he agreed wholeheartedly. As we continued our patronage, Ruby wouldoften sit with us for dinner and conversation. He would offer us tastes of the many other wines that he had on his list, but we would always drink the Gigondas with our dinner. Nobody complained. Ever.
 
 
When the first Tour de l’Isle wines arrived at TWH, I wasexcited to see that they made Gigondas, and was not going to waste any time waiting to taste it. I did, and that’s why I’m typing. At the helm of the Tour de l’Isle label is Robert Rocchi. Robert has been involved with the wines of the southern Rhône Valley for over 35 years!Rocchi works with a select handful of growers in the area and assists and advises them on how to produce the finest wine from their holdings. As Anya likes to say,“He’s not afraid to make wine that tastes good.” The 2012 Gigondas is comprised of 70% Grenache, 18% Mourvèdre, and 12% Syrah, all aged in large foudre.The Mourvèdre gives it some gamey backbone, the Syrah some smokiness, but this is an Old World Grenache lover’s dream. It displays aromas of red and black fruit, spice and herbs, some forest floor earthiness, and a hint of iron. The palate is focused and layered, the elegant fruit persists long after the finish. No, he’s not afraid to make wine that tastes good.
 
 
2012. Sure, I have opinions on vintage quality, particularly in Bordeaux, but also the southern Rhône Valley. Butseeing this particular year on the label got me reminiscing about the year itself. Looking back, it was a pretty good one. For me, it was the year of the live show. I went to more concerts than I had in any other year,and by the time it ended, it was me back on stage after taking a few years off from performing live. It was a magical year for European Football as the club I support won club football’s grandest prize in dramatic fashion. A local baseball team did very well also! The trip to Bordeaux was a successful one, especially consideringit was in 2012 when I was able to taste Château Coutet’s dry white, Opalie for the very first time.Shortly thereafter, the 2010 vintage of the wine was released to the world and The Wine House San Francisco was the world’s first wine merchant to offer it! So yeah, great year.
 
Well, it is mid-August. That’s a fact. I suppose just like any other time of the year, it means different things to different folks. Thousands of kids in the North Bay will be back in school this week, but the French will remain on holiday. My perception of the dog days will continue, as willmy quest for the best French Dip. When I find it, it may be a good idea to have a bottle of 2012 Tour de l’Isle Gigondas handy. After all, it’s a great food wine! – Peter Zavialoff
 
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about summer’s dog days, French Dip sandwiches, Gigondas, or Bordeaux: peter@wineSF.com

Wow; how did it get to be July already??!! Having just endured most of what it takes to work through a Bordeaux En Primeurs campaign from the importer/retailer side, it’s easy to lose track of time.Just a reminder, we have plenty of 2015 Bordeaux futures available, please see our website or feel free to contact us should you have any questions about Bordeaux futures.Apart from that, with the long holiday weekend upon us,there’s plenty to do. Several customers have asked about my plans for the long weekend. I’m sticking around; as simple as that! Since I got back from Bordeaux, I’ve been crazy busy … oh yeah, somewhere in the middle of all that I moved too. This will be the first year in a long time that I won’t have the annual 4th of July parade pass my driveway, but I’m planning to catch a glimpse of it while hiking high above it! My plan for the 4th is to eat well, exercise, enjoy the company of some good friends, and share some nice wine. Some grilled steaks and boy-oh-boy, have I found the wine!
 
 
I was tasting through some samples the other day when I pulled the cork on a fairly new acquisition: the 2014 Domaine des Aspras Les Trois Frères Côtes de Provence. Domaine des Aspras? Oh yeah, they’re another new grower that David found while attending a tasting in Chicago many months ago. He liked the wines. They shipped some samples to us. We liked the wines. We bought the wines, and now they’re here!
 
The story is a soulful one. Driven from Germany in the 1930’s, Gottfried and Lisa Latz sought refuge in Congo until its independence suddenly sent them back to Europe in the early 1960’s, and to Domaine des Aspras. With no winemaking experience for either of them,Gottfried and Lisa’s passion, patience, and perserverence guided the way. In 1995, Gottfried and Lisa’s son, Michael, an agricultural engineer, began managing the property. Nowadays, Michael runs the property with his wife, Anne, and their three sons, Raphael, Sébastien, and Alexandre.
 
 
The property consists of 25 hectares of vines grown in clay-limestone soils. Surrounded by limestone hills, the region has enjoyed a reputation for producing excellent wine that goes back to the 13th century.The property gets its name from the Latin, asper-apera, or rough and rocky. The village of Correns sits in the middle of Provence, and since 1996, has been the first French vinous village in which all the farmers have chosen to farm organically. Their Les Trois Frères Rouge is a Syrah based blend with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.Les Trois Frères means the three brothers and is named for Raphael, Sébastien, and Alexandre. The three of them represent the third generation of Latz’s running Domaine Aspras, and they adhere to the family philosophy of caring for their land and making the best wines possible from their holdings in the Côtes de Provence.
 
The 2014 Les Trois Frères is an aromatic beauty. The first whiff reminded my of a Minervois we used to carry. Their wines were Syrah dominated blends and I used to love the savory aromas of forest floor and tobacco. This has a hint of that forest floor for sure, but the tangy red fruit pops out and there is a hint of orange bitters on the nose. There is oak influence both in the bouquet and on the palate, though it dissipates over time.The palate is medium bodied and very lively. I salivate thinking of the food that would go with this wine.The finish is fresh and balanced and that pleasant little pinch of bitterness (much like Diane Puymorin’s wines) caps it all off. This wine speaks of a place. It has a certain rusticity which I chalk up to terroir. The tannins are present, yet they’re fine and integrated. This is a great food wine, I’m going to need more than one bottle for the long weekend!
 
Yes, long weekend. It’s going to be great. I’m looking forward to some R & R. Whatever it is that you do, from all of us here at TWH, we wish you a safe, happy, and healthy Independence Day Weekend! – Peter Zavialoff
 
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about long weekends, Côtes de Provence wines, 2015 Bordeaux Futures, or European Football: peter@wineSF.com


Whew! Who knew? Put someBurgundy on sale, and things get hopping! Or as one customer who came in today said,“Burgundy sales are the only way mere mortals can buy and enjoy the stuff.” True, true. When we introduced this little surprise sale, we did mention that it wasmore than just Burgundy, and many of you found some other goodies by clicking around our website. On the heels of my recent blurb about affordable reds,I just kicked the proverbial rock and uncovered another beauty, andIT’S ON SALE for $9.95 per bottle: the 2011 Domaine Fondrèche Fayard!

 

 
 
On the heels indeed, of my recent write-up and Anya’s recent post about the 2013 Ventoux Rouge. I hesitated for a moment to put fingers to keyboard about this wine thinking it too similar to these two recent posts, but no, it’s a different wine; for sure. This baby has been gettingsome nice beauty rest and is in a fine place to treat our taste buds this summer! When I first approached the bottle to pour myself a taste, I brought some expectations. As Anya mentioned about the 2013, it needed air. We havealways enjoyed Sébastien Vincenti’s wines over the years, but we know that his wines tend to be in need of oxygen when they’re young. That’s just how he rolls; wedecant the wines, and they’re great. I remembertasting the 2011 Fayard when it was young. It was dense and jammy; the fruit was in the forefront and it was a challenge to perceive the overall framework of the wine because of it. Time has been kind to this wine.With those expectations in the back of my mind, I looked; I swirled. I reached for the light switch as I wanted to closely examine the color – it had changed. It’s not bricking or anything, but it has grown deeper in the maroon department and away from the magenta/purple hue it shined in its youth. A positive sign of a little age. I sniffed. Whoa. Tar, earth, there’s fruit, but it’s more mature, less jammy and more in line with the complex notes that one perceives now that it’s not so fruit forward. On the palate, it has a medium bodied mouth feel. It’sbright, the acidity is very much alive, and the fruit is smoky leading me to check the percentage of Syrah in the blend: 30%. It’s half Grenache, 30% Syrah, and the rest equal parts Carignan and Mourvèdre. Did I mention it was 10 bucks? If I sat down in a nice restaurant and they poured me a glass of this wine for 10 bucks I would be doing backflips, not to mention I would return again and again for more. I know that I grabbed a case of that 2010 Tradicional to keep my new apartment stocked with an underpriced delicious red, but I’ve got to have a case of this too! If you like southern Rhône Valley reds with smoky, Syrah character and a little bit of bottle bouquet, don’t walk, run to this one.
 
 
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, we had a busy week. In the timing department, along with the sale, the week was marked by the release of the 2015 prices for some of Bordeaux’s marquis names. David has been staying up in the middle of the night as these prices are released, making sure that our allocations are confirmed. I’ve been trying my best to get all of these purchases into our system and website, and you will soon see more offers for 2015 Bordeaux futures. This week promises to be chock full of even more releases as the campaign is soon to reach its pinnacle. So please keep an eye out for that. In the meantime, this latest little sale of ours continues, and hits like the 2011 Fondrèche Ventoux Fayard keep coming. Talk about pleasant surprises!– Peter Zavialoff
 
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about 2015 Bordeaux futures, our sale, the 2011 Fayard, or the state of English Football: peter@wineSF.com


 
 
 
Here we are on the precipice of Memorial Day Weekend!Chances are, the likelihood of any of us being around a barbecue grill is greatly increased this weekend as statistics show that approximately 60% of US households barbecue over this period. Bring it on! We just love grilling. I just received a phone call from my longtime barbecue maven friend telling me about a brisket that has been on the grill since this morning. Hmmm, what was it that Oscar Wilde said about temptation? It actually seems rather appropriate, now that I think about it, because it was10 years ago this weekend that I was invited over in similar circumstances. I wasn’t yet well versed with our entire inventory back then, so when I consulted pairing wizard and TWH alum Ben about what to bring, hestrongly advised that I grab some northern Rhône Syrah and all would be fine. How right he was! I made a reference to this wonderful revelation in a post last year, and will never forget it. Smoky barbecued something or other? Northern Rhône Syrah. Simple. Genius.
 
We’ve been well versed with the wines from Domaine Belle since the 1990’s. For years their wines have graced our bins, and we happily represented the brand for their former importer. A few years ago, we became the importer! You’ve probably heard us go on about Belle’s Les Pierrelles cuvée before. It’s a great wine for a great price.The Cuvée Louis Belle is a fancier, more serious offering. It sees some time in French oak barrel, 15% of it new, which frames the vibrant yet smoky purple fruit delightfully. This wine means business. We can say with a degree of conviction that finding a Syrah of this quality for less than $30 is an immense challenge, if it’s even possible at all! Again, as we mentioned in an email last week, it is our responsibility to provide our customers with the best wines for the best prices, because what matters most to us is your pleasure.
 
You can certainlytake our word for it, thatthis Crozes-Hermitage out-drinks it’s price point by a mile, but here’sThe Wine Advocate’s Rhône expert, Jeb Dunnuck’s take,“Even better than the Les Pierrelles, the 2012 Crozes Hermitage Cuvee Louis Belle (aged 18 months in 15% new French oak) has full-bodied, concentrated aromas and flavors of black raspberry, crème de cassis, toasted spice and sweet oak. Fabulously rich, structured and balanced, with building, sweet tannin, it will have a decade of longevity. 92 points.

 

This family owned Crozes Hermitage-based estate seems to fly under the radar, yet they’re a terrific source of beautiful reds and whites from the north.”

 
Whatever you may be doing, we wish you a happy and safe long weekend. May these precursory days to summer treat you well, and may you continue to taste great wines when the occasions to do so present themselves. –Peter Zavialoff

2013 Domaine Fondreche Ventoux Rouge

Friday, May 20, 2016 6:14 PM


Domaine de Fondrèche Ventoux Rouge

Hands down, the most important producer in the Ventoux, Domaine de Fondrèche continues to evolve – adjusting, experimenting, remaining dynamic. From the start, I’ve been drawn to winemaker Sébastien Vicenti’s wines for they encompass deep fruit expression with captivating spice and herb notes. Success and accolades haven’t stifled Sébastien’s drive to make the finest wine possible. Not at all. For the 2013 vintage, and going forward, the winery will no longer be making their special cuvée, Nadal. Nadal, a Grenache-based blend, garnered high scores and was one of my all-time favorite Rhône reds carried at TWH. So where is all that old-vine Grenache going to go? My guess is that it all went into the 2013 Ventoux and is possibly the reason why this vintage is so incredibly dense and chewy. I should be more upset that my beloved Nadal is no more, but the sting of that loss is easily mitigated by the impressive bottling of the 2013 Ventoux.

 

Bobby Kacher with Sèbastien
 

Another change at the winery, but one of less consequence than the demise of Nadal, is that their Ventoux rouge has dropped the name “Fayard”. So henceforth, I’ll be calling Fondrèche’s basic red, the Ventoux rouge. The 2013 Ventoux rouge is half Grenache, 40% Syrah and the balance, Mourvèdre. Sébastien Vicenti is a strict practitioner of organic farming, and though is not certified as such, closely follows the principles of biodynamic farming. In interviews, Sébastien emphasizes the connection between the natural harmony of the land and soil to the grapes. His credo in the vineyard carries over into the winery, where he strives to do “less” to attain “more” from the grapes. The 2013 Ventoux rouge is aged in a combination of egg-shaped concrete tanks, barrels and Foudres. This makes for a very texturally rich and engaging wine. The French publication, Le Guide Hachette des Vins, described it as “chewable”, noting its generous palate as round and silky. The Le Guide Hachetteeven bestowed a coveted “Coup de Coeur”, suggesting it is a wine worthy to investigate, irrespective of price. Good newshere as it relates to price is the 2013 Ventoux rouge is $16.99 per bottle, getting down to $14.44 when purchased by the case or as part of a mixed one! A stunning bargain!

 
Domaine de Fondrèche
 

All this gushing over the wine does come with a recommendation and it is this: Be prepared to decant. In Sébastien’s effort to control the freshness of the grapes, the resulting wine is in need of oxygen to release its full potential. Can you pop the cork, pour a glass straight out of the bottle and enjoy it? Sure, that is perfectly acceptable, but I want to suggest getting the wine some air to really set off the bevy of sweet spices and licorice notes you get on the nose. It is one of those wines that can be enjoyed one glass at a time over the course of several days from the bottle. It won’t fall apart quickly.

 
Second Growth, baby!
 

Some weeks are good “food” weeks and other are good “wine” weeks. For me, this week was both. It began last Saturday night when my husband and I went to La Folie. The dinner was my Valentine Day’s present. Flowers and jewelry are good choices, but so is a fine meal! It was our first time at La Folie and, though I don’t normally do so, I brought along a special bottle of wine – 2000 Puligny Montrachet Les Combettes from Etienne Sauzet (Thank you to my Fairy Wine-Father!). We dined for nearly 4 hours! A tear ran down my face as the last sweet amuse bouche was served. On Tuesday I attended an Italian wine tasting hosted at Acquerello. Typically at trade tastings some cheese and bread may be offered, but this being an Italian restaurant, there were also platters of salumi and olives, while small plates with either penne al sugo or truffled risotto were passed. I returned to the store in time to taste through some Bordeaux that a visiting Négociant was pouring for Pete and David. We tasted multiple vintages of Brane Cantenac, Nenin and…Leoville Las Cases! Wipe me off the floor! AND at a staff tasting I got to try the 2013 Ventoux rouge from Fondrèche. OK, I’ll stop, though I could go on. Yep, a very good food and wine week.

– Anya Balistreri


Mas de Bressades
2012 Cabernet – Syrah Les Vignes de Mon Père
 
There was a big announcement over at The Wine Advocatethat Robert Parker Jr. was passing the baton over to Neal Martin, who will now be the sole reviewer of Bordeaux for the publication. For those of us who follow such things, this is a big deal. Yes, Parker has been reviewing far fewer wines, nevertheless, his impact on the wine industry lingers – especially in Bordeaux and California. What I have observed over the past five years or so is that because Parker is not featuring the portfolios of favored importers as frequently as he once did, the frenzy for some of the exceptional, under-the-radar values that he would highlight has faded. That is a shame. Case in point, the Cabernet-Syrah from Mas de Bressades has not been reviewed in The Wine Advocate for many, many vintages. However, if you were to look up past reviews for this wine you would see mostly scores of 90 & 91 points. Pretty impressive for a wine under $25. Back when I started at TWH, the Mas de Bressades Cabernet-Syrahwas practically doled out case by case. Everyone had readhow terrific the wine was and it had generated a loyal following among those searching for elevated French “country” wine.
 
 
TWH recently purchased the remaining stock of the Mas de Bressades 2012 Cabernet-Syrah at a crazy good price and we’re passing along the savings! It has been awhile since I last tasted a bottle, but I fondly remember the Mas de Bressades Cabernet-Syrah as being the jewel in the crown of Robert Kacher Selections’ offerings from the Costières de Nîmes. Bobby Kacher was a trailblazer in this region, recognizing its great potential for quality wineand began importing the best ones to the US nearly thirty years ago. The Costières de Nîmes was formerly lumped with eastern Languedoc wines, but the soil and climate more closely resembles southern Rhône. Therefore,Costières de Nîmes is now officially part of the Rhône Valley.
 
 
Mas de Bressades’ winemaker, Cyril Mares, is a sixth generation winemaker. His father, Roger, purchased the estate in the early ’60s. Cyril has added the moniker Les Vignes de Mon Pèreto the Cabernet-Syrah in honor of his father and, I think, to emphasis the old-vine pedigree of the grapes. The old-vine character of this wine is palpable; deep berry compote fruit gives way to cedar notes with a rich cassis finish. The wine is supple and coats the mouth with warm, sultry flavors. The blend is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Syrah. I like to tell customers that it has the structure of Cabernet but with the elegant fruit notes of Syrah. Far from being rustic, this is French country wine at its best. You get fancy textureand flavors from the oak aging, the ripeness of the regionbut without the pearl clutching price of so many other notable French regions. This wine, though full-bodied, is suitable for showy main course masterpieces as well as more humble fare. You can even enjoy a glass on its own, if that is what the occasion calls for.
 
 
In my last post, I mentioned plans for a seaside escape. I am happy to report that the getaway was fabulous! Lots of happy memories made in four fun-filled days. We went to stay at a beachfront hotel in Santa Cruz with a group of friends with lots of children in tow. On the first evening of our arrival, while the children continued to play in the pool, the adults gathered around the gas fire pit to keep warm and chat. I shared the Mas de Bressades 2012 Cabernet-Syrah which we drank from hotel room water glasses. I am grateful to the tolerant hotel staff who kindly overlooked our bad behavior for breaking the “pool rules”.The warming flavors of the wine echoed the warming flames, enhancing the beauty of our surroundings. My friends, expecting a wine this tasty to be expensive, were shocked when I told them TWH sells it for $14.95! Such a deal! Share some bottles with your friends – I am confident they’ll also be impressed. – Anya Balistreri

2013 Domaine Belle Crozes-Hermitage Les Pierrelles

Monday, February 22, 2016 10:47 PM

Lasting Friendships And
Northern Rhône Syrah
 
I started my wine retail career with little knowledge but with great enthusiasm. I had a passable grasp of California winesthanks to open-minded parents who allowed small tastes at dinner and to summers spent in Sonoma County where I witnessed the changing agricultural landscape; from apple and prune orchards to vineyards. At the store where I worked, one of my colleagues, near in age to me, was well on his way to absorbing all things related to French wines. He enrolled in as many wine courses as he could afford at UC Berkeley Extension. It was a course on the Rhône Valley that sparked the most infectious passionin him. After each class, he’d go over with me what he learned and what was tasted. He even began bringing extra hand-outs for me to take home and read, henceforth began my discovery of Rhône wines.
 
 
 
If it’s red and from Southern Rhône, the wine can be a blend. But, if it’s red and from Northern Rhône, then the wine must be Syrah. This was my first lesson learned. When I came to work for TWH, the selection of Rhône wines was much larger and more comprehensive than at my previous employment. It was time to dive in further.Domaine Belle, which then was known as Domaine Albert Belle, represented value and quality for Northern Rhône Syrah, though it was at that time still a young enterprise. In 1990 after breaking away from the Tain growers’ cooperative, Albert and Philippe Belle, father and son,began domaine-bottling their wine. In a book titled Rhone Renaissance published in 1995, author Remington Norman wrote that Belle was “a domaine to watch”. Nearly three decades later, with Albert retired, Philippe is running the domaine and his son Guillaume is being groomed to join the family business. Over the years, the domaine has expanded its vineyard holdings and upgraded their winery facility. All this was accomplished by hard work and consistently making excellent wine. Robert Parker recently wrote that Belle “has long been one of my favorite estates since I first tasted their wines”. I too have a soft-spot for this domaine, especially the Crozes-HermitageLes Pierrelles.
 
 
Les Pierrelles is often introduced as their “entry-level” wine, but that is a bit misleading. Les Pierrelles uses grapes grown on small, rounded galets (stones) on top of red clay soils. These vineyards are located in the communes of Pont d’Isère and Mercurol. The grapes are de-stemmed, fermented with indigenous yeast and then aged in barrel for 14 months in older barrels of 2-5 years of age. Typically it is juicy, has nice tannin integration and fragrant aromatics.
 
The 2013 Les Pierrelles is really terrific. Pouring it into a glass unleashes aromas of boysenberries, black currant and tangy pomegranate. The first sips are swathed in fruit. Then with aeration, the white pepper and meaty notes emerge. Despite the succulent, sweet flavor of the fruit, the wine lies fresh and lively on the palate. It is a harmonious and pleasurable wine.
 
 
There was a lot of discussion as to whether this wine is more feminine or big-scaled. The 2013 Les Pierrellesdelivers on big flavors, and yet it finishes elegant and gentle on the palate, so it’s both really. As I savored and evaluated what was in my glass (which I mistakenly, but conveniently had over-poured into, and of course Pete took notice of – thanks!?!) I pondered over who might enjoy a wine like this and instantly my old friend who taught me so much about Rhône wines (see above) popped into my head – Mike A. Some of you probably remember him too, as he also worked at TWH when it was located on Bryant Street. I shared my observation with David. Wine is a curious thing as it can conjure up so many feelings and memories and good friends. -Anya Balistreri

Tour de l’Isle 2014 Luberon

Monday, January 11, 2016 8:01 PM

 
Love, Love, Love This Luberon
 
 
The 2014 Luberon from Tour de l’Isle is a worthy successor to the equally enjoyable and delicious 2012 that I gushed over in a newsletter here. Fragrant aromas of blackberry and raspberry twirl around a core of spice and herbs. Yes, it smells divine. Not heavy- it rings in at 13.5% alcohol by volume – this Luberon has plenty of fruit impact, announcing its Southern Rhone pedigree at first sip. What is especially lovely about this juicy red are the soft tannins that help glide the flavors to your senses. Watch out though, it can go down quick if you’re not paying attention.
 
Photo Courtesy of Domaine de la Citadelle
 
Tour de l’Isle is Robert Rocchi’s line of wines made at a handful of selected domaines in the Southern Rhone. Robert doesn’t hide the fact that he makes his wines at these various domaines. The domaine names appear on the back label as if to say these wines come from a specific place and are not blends assembled from multiple sources. For the Luberon, Robert uses fruit from Yves Rousset-Rouard, the proprietor of Domaine de la Citadelle.Predominantly Syrah, with additions of Grenache, Mourvedré and Cinsault, as I wrote above, this wine is so juicy and delicious it is hard to limit yourself to just one glass!
 
The Luberon appellation was established in 1988. The region lies east of Avignon and sits south of the Ventoux and above Coteaux d’Aix-En-Provence. I have never visited this part of the Rhone Valley, but by all accounts, it is particularly picturesque.
 
Photo Courtesy of Domaine de la Citadelle
 

The Holidays are a good time to open special bottles. I understand the logic of doing so, but my contrarian nature kept me reaching to open simple, quiet wines like the 2014 Luberon from Tour de l’Isle. When emotions run high and there are lots of goings on, a dependable, built-to-please-many red can be a life-saver. On Christmas Eve, I did opena magnum of Napa Valley red that I had been cellaring for a long time and finally got the nerve up to pop the cork. I enjoyed it, but couldn’t help but be distracted by the table banter, the serving of the meal, etc. to really have enjoyed it. On Christmas Day, it was the 2014 Luberon that called out to me. As I nursed a glass while catching the last frame ofThe Christmas Story marathon, I asked my husband to describe what he liked about this Luberon. His answer was simple but precise “the fruit is there and the tannins are light”. Bring on the distractions! Happy New Year Everyone!– Anya Balistreri

2013 Mas de Guiot Grenache/Syrah

Monday, November 23, 2015 8:25 PM

On my first trip to France with The Wine House, we visitedMas de Guiot. The winery is located in Saint Gilles, a village south of Nîmes, near the edge of the Camargue. The Camargue is a beautiful geographical region; a river delta where the two arms of the Rhône River meet the Mediterranean Sea. At the “mas” or farmhouse, I spied a rabbit tied up by its feet near the cellar door. After barrel-tasting, we were invited to ride through a pasture on a flatbed truck to view Les Taureaux de Camargue, the famed bulls of the region. At first it seemed a bit silly to me, but quickly it turned out to be a delightful outing into the gorgeous pastoral setting. Not your average tourist excursion. The whole experience left me with a deeper appreciation for how closely connected François and Sylvie Cornut, owners of Mas de Guiot, are to their land.This country living isn’t a lifestyle, it is their life.
 
 
I have always found wines from Mas de Guiot to exhibit a pleasant amount of funk. Yes, funk – the good kind,George Clinton-style- like in the 2013 Grenache-Syrah.The dense dark berry flavors snap with a black licoricenote that gives it that unmistakable southern Rhône quality. The soil at Mas de Guiot closely resembles what you find in more prestigious Rhône regions like Chateauneuf du Pape,where smooth rocks, les galets roulés, dapple the ground like some sort of moonscape. The age of the vines range from 10-50 years old. The Cornuts pick late, partially de-stem the fruit and cold macerate the grapes for 24-48 hours before putting the wine in tank to finish fermentation.
 
 
A 40/60 blend of Grenache to Syrah, the wine is a vivid dark violet in the glass and has an alluring ripe fruit quality.Elevated French country wine? It has enough interest, a touch of rusticity, and rich fruit to make it enjoyable to linger over while you prepare dinner and it will also nicely carry over to the table. The 2013 Grenache-Syrah has a sale price of $8.95, but the deal gets even sweeter on a full case purchase of $99.

 

 
The intensity of this time of year has ratcheted up and to help combat all the busyness, I have gravitated towardsclassic comfort foods for dinner. Things like chicken enchilada casserole and pot roast with mashed potatoes have been on the menu at chez moi. Meals like these do not need sophisticated, complicated wine. What works is something simple, but impeccably made, like the 2013 Grenache-Syrah from Mas de Guiot.
 
 

Thanksgiving next week will find me with family and friends. I only need to bring a side dish, so I am hoping I will find a bit of time to relax that day. The Wine House’s 38th Anniversary Sale has had us buzzing around here and my daughter’s foray into musical theatre has been rather demanding with dress and tech rehearsals all week. Not to mention, I made a huge tactical error when I dropped off my daughter’s costume at rehearsal, only to be talked into staying to “help” with make-up. I am now the expert on doing make-up for Cinderella’s mice. Honestly, I love it. Those darling faces are so perfect, how could my ineptness at face-painting ruin their beauty! Wishing you all a bountiful and meaningful Thanksgiving.– Anya Balistreri


The Northern Rhône, to be exact. One of myfavorite pairing memories from my early days here at TWH was when I was invited to some friends’ house after work for “something that has beenon the smoker for hours.”With little first hand experience of tasting the wide selection of red wines on our shelves, I consulted our pal Ben, andhe put a 5 year old bottle of Northern Rhône Syrah in my hands. “It’s gotstructure and ample fruit, but this Syrah hasa smoky-meaty quality that will work perfect with your dinner.” The words are seared in my memory becausethe pairing was perfect. So perfect that my friends loaded up on the wine because their smoker and grill were used pretty often. That wine is long gone,but in the world of 5 year old (okay, 4.5 years) Northern Rhône Syrah, we’ve got a pretty dang good deal!

 

 
 
Crozes-Hermitage surrounds the tiny, and much more expensive appellation of Hermitage on the east bank of theRhône River just north of the commune of Valence. Syrah is the red grape of the region, and many of the winesfrom this part of the world have a distinct smoky-meaty-gamey nuance to them. That was certainly the case with the wine I mentioned in the above paragraph. Tonight’s wine has it as well, but there’s more!
 
One of the wines in the August 2015 Dirty Dozen is the 2011 Domaine Belle Crozes-Hermitage Les Pierrelles. Due to the budget of our monthly sampler, we could only include a half bottle in the DD, but as Anya advised me,“Our Dirty Dozen customers deserve a treat like Crozes-Hermitage!” A treat it is. The best way that I can describe it is that it’s a red wine that can do it all. It’s got enough fruit and balance to be enjoyed on its own, and now that it’s spent some time in bottle, it has the complexity to be enjoyed with your victuals.
 
 
The Wine Advocate’s Rhône specialist, Jeb Dunnuck had this to say about the 2011 Domaine Belle Crozes-Hermitage Les Pierrelles:
 

“Starting off the 2011s and another delicious, classically constructed effort from this producer, the 2011 Crozes Hermitage Les Pierrelles exhibits ample blackberry, pepper, underbrush and textbook northern Rhone meatiness to go with a medium-bodied, fruit forward and nicely textured profile on the palate. Despite the up-front feel here, it firms up nicely on the finish and should have a gradual evolution. This was a rock solid lineup from this tiny, family owned estate. 89 points”

 
Being August, I’ve made a point of hitting the farmers’ market each Sunday. The assortment of summer’s bounty is fantastic, with sights and smells that only come this time of year. Speaking of smells, I’ve had to wash a lot of clothes lately, mostly because I’ve been standing around a lot of smoking barbecues. I don’t necessarily want to do more laundry on my day off tomorrow, but if I have to, I have to. That’s the good thing about taking home a bottle of the 2011 Crozes-Hermitage Les Pierrelles: The barbecue is optional. – Peter Zavialoff
 
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about smoked meats, grilling, the northern Rhône, Bordeaux, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com


2012 Domaine Fondrèche Ventoux Cuvée Persia

 
Well, that’s a little more like it. Our typical summer in SF weather is back, just in time to shroud The Outside Lands concerts with nature’s air conditioning, known around here as Karl The Fog. Despite the atypical weather patterns that we have been enduring this year, the summer fog is something we can depend on! Not all is lost. If one prefers sunshine and warmer weather, just head north, east, or south some 10 miles or more, and you’ll find some. In keeping things cool, the fog does enable us to add a category to our wine drinking options: Red wine. It’s good to have options, and after being tantalized by a photo posted today by Olivier’s Butchery, I opt to indulge in their grill-ready hanger steak. Hmmm. What to drink with it? I recently had a fine tasting experience with the dregs of a bottle of 2012 Domaine Fondrèche Ventoux Cuvée Persia that went out on sales calls for a day. It’s time to call one of my food & wine pals and pop a bottle!
 
 

Domaine Fondrèche is not a newcomer, nor a stranger to me. I have enjoyed many of winemaker Sébastien Vincenti’s wines over the years, their reflections of place and their purity of fruit have had a place at my table since my beginnings here at TWH. To me,Sébastien’s Cuvée Persia has always been a big, big fancy wine that needed something substantial on the plate to stand up to it. So after a long day here at the shop, out popped 7 or so sample bottles that were poured for wholesale accounts, and Tom, Chris, and I headed for the tasting room to see how they were showing. There were Rosés, a bottle of white, and 3 different 2012 cuvées of Fondrèche. I knew going in that, of the reds, I wanted to taste the Cuvée Persia last. That’s what experience will do for you. Short of appetizers, let alone a well seasoned, grilled hanger steak, I was preparing myself for another big, youthful vintage of the Persia. I was in for a surprise. I found the sample rather giving and expressive. It’s still a big wine, and yes, the grilled hanger steak will help, but it was beaming with complexity! So much so, that despite the weather on that particular evening, I was going to drink red. It’s not in the Tuesday night wine price category, but if you consider what the well-known fancy producers around the Rhône Valley get for their wines, there is tremendous value here.

Here is what The Wine Advocate’s Jeb Dunnuck had to say about the 2012 Cuvée Persia: The 2012 Ventoux Persia is Syrah dominated, yet incorporates 10% Mourvèdre. It’s aged half in small barrels and the balance in a mix of concrete and foudre. Silky, fabulously polished and full-bodied, it gives up lots of cassis, black raspberry, roasted meats and graphite. While it’s upfront and supple, it will evolve gracefully on its purity and balance. 91 points”

 
Having lived in the SF Bay Area all my life, I have always appreciated the summer fog, for if things get too warm (I begin to melt at around 73F), I can always head back into the thick of it for a little relief. And hey, if it gets me grilling and popping amazing red wine, all the better! – Peter Zavialoff

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Boudinaud’s 2012 Côtes du Rhône La Boissière is about half Grenache and a quarter Syrah with the balance divvied up between Mourvedre, Cinsault and Counoise.Yeah, this is a Côtes du Rhône alright. Supple, strawberry fruit merges with spicy white pepper Syrah notes, while the Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Counoise complete the aromatic experience. It is a typical Southern Rhône story here at Domaine Boudinaud, with climate and soil perfectly suited for the varietals. But what isn’t typical is the exceptional quality of the 2012 La Boissière. It is compact and jammy on the palate and aromatically on pointe with the berry notes and whiffs of lavender and garrigue.
David&Thierry
David & Thierry
I’ve been on a Southern Rhône kick. They’re such good values; I find it hard to pass them up. For Domaine Boudinaud, the newly arrived 2012 reds usher in a Golden Age for the winery. Thierry Boudinaud has always made super-value wines – we’ve been importing his wines for a long time, so we know – however his 2012 reds enter an even higher plane of excellence. Admittedly, I fall into wine-writing cliché here, but it’s unavoidable because it is true: the 2012 reds are Domaine Boudinaud’s best wines to date. Like with Couronneauand Pierazzuoli, as the years advance, so has the quality of their wines. Surely they were terrific to begin with, otherwiseThe Wine House wouldn’t have bothered to import them in the first place, but what you see in these instances over time is the evolution of place and winemaker.
 


BoudinaudSign
Which way to Boudinaud?
 

Have you ever had one of those weeks where a seemingly innocuous playground accident turned into a three hour visit at the doctor’s office, then leaving with your child wearing a cast on her hand? The visit to the doctor, of course, had been further complicated because your husband’s truck was in the shop and had to use your car for the day, so you had to borrow a ride to get to the doctor’s office in the first place? It doesn’t end there – the truck doesn’t get fixed as quickly as promised, therefore you had to get ready even earlier all week so that there was enough time to drive your husband to work before dropping your child off at school and then try to make it to work on time? What about deciding to wake up extra early on that week’s Saturday so that you can take a long, peaceful shower and perhaps linger over coffee while reading the morning paper before heading off to work, only to discover that the doghad thrown-up in the kitchen as well as had pooped all over the floor of the shower? Ever had one of those weeks? I think you know what I am talking about.

 
Boissiere12After work last Saturday, I brought home a bottle ofBoudinaud’s 2012La BoissièreCôtes du Rhône to have with veggie burgers. Given the week I had, I wasreally looking forward to that glass of wine! But before I could even touch my lips to the rim, my cell phone blew up with texts. Before I could shoot a text back, the texter called up on the telephone- great…something must be up! After quelling this mini-crisis, I returned to the kitchen and was handed a glass of theLa Boissière by my husband. I was about to fill him in on the phone conversation, but couldn’t get the words out of my mouth because the aromas of the wine stopped me in my tracks…it smelled so good. In fact so good, Iknew I was going to love this wine! And sure enough, I do.
 

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There’s been a lot going on around here lately, and as is usual for me, much of it has to do with Bordeaux. Of course, there were our two recent offers of the fantastic back to back vintages of 2009 and 2010. Funny, just before I pushed the magic button to send the 2010 vintage email, a couple walked in and said hello. Turns out they were the owners of a chateau in St. Emilion! More Bordeaux people are scheduled to visit us next week, but the big, big news was the announcement by Robert Parker that he will not be traveling to the region for the 2014 En Primeur tastings. Neal Martin will be handling Primeurs for The Wine Advocate beginning this year. The torch is being passed and time moves on. Speaking of time, as the 2nd month of the year comes to a close, I thought it a good time to check in on my wine resolutionsthat were made back at the beginning of the year.
 

 

Okay, not bad. Merlot? Just had some last night. Events?Our dinner with Château Brane Cantenac was a huge success. We’ll get something else on the books soon.Expanding horizons? Hmmm. This one needs a little help. Good to know. I’ll work on it. Push the boundaries?I’m learning new things all the time, so no problem with that one. Monthly splurge? Hmmm. Could it be that February has gone by without one? That’s easy to fix, and it’s about asno-brainer as it gets. The wine that every member of our staff is ready to flush their budget for is the 2012 Côte Rôtie Champon’s from Domaine Pichat.
 

 

grapes
Last Thursday, somepretty fancy wines were opened for a few of our wholesale customers. At the end of the day, there were some lovely samples for our staff to divvy up and take home. Our staff that day consisted of Chris and myself. Most of the samples had been tasted by Tom and Anya previously, so those were free to go home, but there was one that no one had yet tasted. For occasions such as these, we have small vials that we fill so they can be tasted the next day. It was really hard to part with even a vial-full of this wine! This is the magic that can come from a bottle of Côte Rôtie!

 

 
When I first started working here, a close friend of mine who is a regular wine tasting buddy, a foodie, and a great chef to boot asked me to bring by a bottle of Côte Rôtie so he could see what all the fuss was about. What I ended up bringing was a very nice Côte Rôtie, but it fell short of expectations as it wasn’t exhibiting any Côte Rôtie magic that night. Well Chief, if you still read my ramblings, this one has it in spades!!! The first whiff: magic. Côte Rôtie magic. Earth, dark purple Syrah fruit, meat, bacon fat, spice, autumn leaves … I mean the aromas are gorgeous. You can literally spend 5 minutes smelling this wine. The palate is equally spectacular with layers upon layers of complexity all in balance as if all components of the wine were woven together with magical thread. The finish is sad, as in darn, it’s gone. Butas Dr. Seuss reminds us, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Anya and Tom came in the next day, and let’s just say that I didn’t need to keep an eye out for when they tasted the Côte Rôtie. The oohs and ahhs and cries of praise from the tasting room were enough to hear in all corners of our warehouse. I know Chris well, and when he’s committed to a budget, he’s committed to a budget, but he’s already ready to cave, as this wine can seduce the most willful.

 

champonsbottle
As I stated in my wine resolutions,life’s too short to not enjoy something special every now and then. It is just a small sacrifice for pleasure. The 2012 Côte Rôtie Champon’s from Domaine Pichat is well worth every penny, and if you like the smoky, meaty, dense briary fruit that Côte Rôtie can deliver, this wine’s for you.

 

Time marches on! Before Robert Parker turned tasting at Bordeaux’s En Primeur tastings over to Neal Martin, he also welcomed Rhône expert Jeb Dunnuck to his staff to cover the region. Here’s what Jeb said about Stéphane Pichat’s 2012 Côte Rôtie Champon’s:

“Aged two years in 30% new oak, the 2012 Côte Rôtie le Champon exhibits gorgeous notes of black raspberry, sweet black cherry, smoked earth, herbs and dark chocolate. Pure, fine, elegant and layered, with medium to full-bodied richness, it too has a modern ting, but still has plenty of Côte Rôtie style. Drink it over the coming decade. 93 points

Producing a modern-styled Condrieu and Côte Rôtie, this outstanding estate is run by the young Stephane Pichat. He’s excelled in both 2012 and 2013. I think production here is minuscule, but these are worth the effort to track down.”
 

 

Speaking of time marching on, the first bit of English Football silverware is up for grabs tomorrow at Wembley. May the best side prevail! – Peter Zavialoff
 

 

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Bordeaux, Côte Rôtie, Wine Resolutions, or English Football:
peter@wineSF.com

Gorgeous Aromas – Stephan Pichat’s Syrah and Viognier

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 12:51 AM

 


Aw shucks. We’ve been receiving a lot of praise lately from some of our customers in regard to our write-ups. We just want to say a big Thank You to all of you who read our write-ups with any degree of regularity! It means so much to all of us, and we greatly appreciate the compliments. Why just this morning, in response to our last email about finding 3 more hidden gems from Bordeaux, we were thanked for our time and effort in sussing out such value-driven wines. On Saturday, a customer who lived near our old Carolina Street location over five years ago came in with two friends in tow and made a beeline over to Anya. “I love reading your write-ups,”she gushed. “They’re written with such passion and they are so distinct that I can tell who was doing the writing.When I finish, I just want to lick the screen!” Wow! What incredible praise. We were very touched.

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As reported in this past weekend’s email, we all visited the home of some very close friends of TWH for our annual Post Holiday Party. To say it was epic would be a massive understatement! During one course, which was paired with a three vintage vertical of Côte Rotie Les Grandes Places from Stéphan Pichat one of our hosts commented that he had never seen such passion. We were all swirling, sniffing and tasting each of the three glasses we had in front of us. The conversation was all about the wines; where they were in their development; where they were headed. “I can’t imagine any other group of co-workers doing what you’re all doing right now. You all love wine, and it shows!” Again, more praise. For that, we are very grateful.

 

 

The 2010, 2011, and 2012 Cote Rotie Les Grandes Places all showed extremely well, each framing the signature of its vintage. They are truly special wines from one of Côte Rotie’s top sites, made by one of the region’s top young winemakers! All three have very long lives ahead of them. We’ve had these remarkable wines for three vintages now, and they’re a bit spendy for regular staff tastings, but Stéphane makes some other wines that aren’t. When David visits Stéphane each year, he also tastes his VDF, or Vin de France wines, a Syrah and a Viognier. Both of these wines represent fantastic bargains and David has put in orders for them each year since we’ve begun working with Stéphane. Up until now, it was no dice. The wines sell out quickly and demand for them exceeds supply significantly. This year we got lucky. We got some. And guess what? They’re here.

 

 

The 2013 Domaine Pichat Syrah is a blockbuster of a Syrah with super expressive aromas. They are a solid core of deep red berry fruit, spice and earth that will freeze you in your tracks just taking them all in. I got to the sample first that day and somehow managed to keep a straight face afterwards. Watching Anya take her first sniff was an absolute delight. Her eyes widened, eyebrows went up, mouth agape, she exclaimed, “Now THIS is expression!” We were all quite taken by this magical wine. All of the fruit is from just outside Côte Rotie, but the price is so, so much more friendly!

 

 

For the 2013 Pichat Viognier, the fruit is sourced from a vineyard bordered on three sides by Condrieu, where Viognier has thrived since Roman times. Again, it isanother aromatic masterpiece with all its floral expression with hints of apricot, peach, and rose petal. The palate combines all the aromatic complexity with asweet kiss of crisp acidity and the whole package melts together and finishes in wonderful harmony. Again, an amazing wine for a very fair price.
 
 
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We will let our collective passion continue to drive us into 2015, and there are some good things on the immediate horizon. Our Top Ten wines of 2014 will be announced soon and there is a fairly intimate Bordeaux dinner coming up. Bordeaux dinner? Yes, as the UGC de Bordeaux makes its way through the country, we’re going to team up with Château Brane Cantenac for a dinner at Piperade restaurant on Battery Street on Thursday, January 29 at 7pm. There are still some places available, but they’re filling fast. Five wines will be paired with five courses, and the price is $100 per person which includes dinner, wine, tax, and gratuity. In the world of Bordeaux dinners, that is dirt cheap! We’re expecting the dinner to sell out, so if you are interested, I recommend you contact me as soon as you can and I will provide further details. – Peter Zavialoff



415.355.9463

peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

At TWH, we’ve been referring to Sébastien Vincenti as the “young winemaker” from Domaine de Fondrèche for quite a while. Here’s the funny thing, Sébastien has been making wine at the domaine for twenty years! His youthful looks aside, Sébastien is one of those ambitious and passionate winemakers who early in his career attached himself to important wine mentors and then took on the challenge of producing exceptional wine in a region that was overlooked and overshadowed by its more famous neighbors. A quick whiff of the 2012 Fayard will instantly orient you to the Rhône with its aromas of ripe berries, dusty herbs, and violets. Well it should, as it is from the Rhône, only not from Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Gigondas, but from Ventoux.
 
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Sébastien’s mother, Nanou Barthelémy purchasedDomaine de Fondrèche in 1993. The vineyard is 28 hectares and provides the grapes for their red wine production. The vines are grown on rocky soil over gravel and limestone on a plateau that flanks Mount Ventoux. It really is a prime location for the growing of grapes, especially Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, where the Mistral wind keeps the grapes pristine and cools down temperatures for an optimal, long growing-season.
 
The 2012 Fayard is a blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah and the rest Mourvèdre. The gorgeous red fruit is fresh and vibrant. It is open-knit and drinking superbly at this moment. Unmistakably Rhône-ish, the2012 Fayard has the soft-edged, succulent Fondrèche palate-feel without any of the funkiness it can often have upon release. The 2012 Fayard is raring to go, to delight and share a bit of that Provençal sunshine with each glassful during these wintery dark nights.
 
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It seems a lifetime ago now, but during a trip to France, visiting many of our producers with a large group of wine trade folk, I had a memorable lunch at an auberge where the wines of Domaine de Fondrèche were served. To get to the auberge, you had to drive along a dirt driveway where the animals, that might at some future date be your entrée, were stabled alongside the restaurant. The food was rustic, homey, and for this girl, just the kind of food I like best to eat. The servers also looked like they enjoyed the food they prepared and proudly presented each course family-style. A leg of lamb spit-roasted in the main room’s open fireplace was a favorite dish, but it was the barley salad with sautéed crispy bits of duck gizzards that to this day have me salivating. I can’t remember the exact vintage, but the Fayard poured was perfectly matched to the nuttiness of the grain and the earthiness of the gizzards. I must one day try to re-create this pairing.
 
 
This weekend should also be memorable in The Bay Area. Yep, my daughter will be hosting her first ever sleepover birthday party! And, there is the historic Golden Gate Bridge closure. I am well prepared for both events! Or am I? I am beginning to think that before I depart work today and drive northbound over the Golden Gate one last time before a movable medium will be installed on the bridge, maybe, just maybe, I should tote along a bottle of the 2012 Fayard. Fayard and gizzards, that I know match up, but what about Fayard and a gaggle of chatty eleven-year old girls? Probably should take a bottle…wish me luck!
 
 
 
 
From The Wine Advocate’s issue #210 “A blend of 50% tank-aged Grenache and 30% Syrah and 20% Mourvedre aged in barrel, the 2012 Cotes du Ventoux Fayard (which was the only 2012 I tasted out of bottle) is a gorgeous effort that gives up impressive notes of black raspberry, flowers, violets and pepper. Perfumed, complex and with the hallmark purity of the fruit that all of this estate’s wines show, this medium-bodied, elegant and lively effort has good acidity and a clean finish. Enjoy it over the coming 4-5 years. “ 90 points.

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