Enrico’s Chianti – Life’s A Beach!

Monday, March 27, 2017 12:18 PM

This year’s visit from the Enrico and Gianlorenzo Show coincided with the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri World Tour’s stop in San Francisco on February 15. Enrico was pouring his wine on the tour and Gianlorenzo Picollo, his friend, fellow winemaker, and traveling companion, came along too. Those two usually travel to the States together, which works out perfectly for us because we get the pleasure of meeting with two of our favorite Italian producers at the same time. I lovingly call their visit a “show” because they remind me of a duo á la Jay and Silent Bob, as Enrico is the talkative one and Gianlorenzo, shy and less sure of his English, taking on the role of the sidekick.

Enrico, Gianlorenzo and David

The “show” begins with Gianlorenzo pouring his fabulous Gavis. Pete wrote about the Rovereto earlier in the year. Since there are only two Gavis and the winemaking here is fairly straight forward, this portion of the show is quick. Next up is Enrico with his line-up from two estates; one from Chianti Montalbano and the other from Carmignano. This can take a while because Enrico is adamant on explaining all aspects of his wine production, not to mention that he is not one to hold back on sharing his opinion on, well, most things. I for one relish these presentations by Enrico. His enthusiasm and devotion to his work comes through with equal parts seriousness and humor. Enrico has a dry wit and delivers it with grand hand gestures and animated facial expressions.

2015 Chianti Montalbano

The first wine Enrico poured for us was the 2015 Chianti Montalbano and it was clear right off the bat that this is one of his finest efforts. Enrico, swinging his arms up and folding them behind his head, explained it this way, “in 2014 you really needed to make the wine, in 2015 it made itself…you could go to the beach”. 2015 was a favorable vintage across Italy and Montalbano was no exception. The Sangiovese fully ripened while retaining all the necessary structure, acid and tannin to make great wine. In general, Enrico’s Chianti Montalbano tends to be fruit-driven and light-to-medium bodied, but the 2015 is noticeably fuller and dense. The vines are now over twenty years old and that also contributes to the quality of the grapes.

Tenute Pierazzuoli

TWH staff and Enrico spoke at length about the challenges of making and selling Chianti. So much of what is produced is what Enrico calls “industrially made”. These mass produced Chiantis are antithesis to the approach Enrico and his family take to making wine. For the Pierazzuoli’s, it is a real family affair. In addition to making wine, they produce their own olive oil as well as other food delicacies like vegetable conserves and fruit jams. They renovated their farmhouse into an agriturismo and most recently converted an ancient hayloft into a traditional Tuscan osteria. Last summer, my niece had the pleasure of staying a night at one of their apartments during a tour through Italy. She and her fiancé had dinner at the osteria. It was the highlight of their trip. I think I’m due a trip there myself! In the meantime, it’ll be bowls of pasta Puttanesca and glasses of 2015 Chianti Montalbano to tie me over until then.– Anya Balistreri

Le Rote Chianti Colli Senesi

Monday, November 14, 2016 5:17 PM

The Chianti sub-zone of Colli Senesi covers a large area, so as a whole, its reputation for quality does lag behind the more famous and narrowly defined Chianti Classico. But discerning eyes and palates know that drawn borders and appellations only tell part of the story. Take Le Rote as an example, located just a mile north of the famous towers of San Gimignano, you might also notice that it is just 16 miles due west of Castellina, the sweet spot of Chianti Classico. The soil, climate and altitude are quite similar to each other.

To continue the story, Le Rote is owned by Massimo Scotti and his family. They run a successful agriturismo business, make olive oil and produce wine. Their wine production is small, most of it consumed by the guests staying at their restored 18th century farmhouse and also sell a large portion of their fruit to off-set costs. Their Sangiovese is grown on a south-west facing hill with a 100 meters of separation from top to bottom. Depending on vintage conditions, they may either harvest from the top, the bottom, or the middle of the slope. Because they can afford to harvest by altitude, their Chianti has incredible consistency. The importer for this wine explained to me that "we've never met anyone else with the circumstance and ability to be so surgical in their harvest". Their enologist, Paolo Caciorgna, who also makes wines nearby for Andrea Bocelli, is a native of San Gimignano and appreciates the approach the Scotti's take to viticulture. The historic clone Sangiovese grapes are hand-harvested, sustainably farmed and dry farmed. Total production of the Chianti Colli Senesi is shy of 600 cases with yields averaging a bottle a plant.

The 2011 Chianti Colli Senesi from Le Rote is jam-packed with black cherry flavors, some sweet earthy aromatic notes, and a satisfying, easy-going finish. It's drinking optimally right now and should stay so for months to come. To inaugurate The Wine House's 39th Anniversary Sale, the 2011 Le Rote Chianti Colli Senesi is now on sale for $14.95 per bottle, down from $19.98. To sweeten the pot even further, we are also offering the enticing special full-case price of $142 - that's less than $12 per bottle! Now that's a deal, non ci piove! Take advantage of this deep discount to spread holiday cheer far and wide. A bottle for your neighbor perhaps who pet-sits in a moment's notice or for the friend who is always available to help out on demo-days? Stashing a case is going to make last minute gift-giving a cinch. Who wouldn't love a bottle of Chianti?

During my research for this write-up, I felt it compulsory to test out a bottle with a bowl of classic red-sauced pasta. Talk about comfort food. You could put a candle on it and serve it to me in lieu of a birthday cake. No joke. There is something magical about the combination of Sangiovese and a tomato-based pasta sauce. The fruit flavors of Sangiovese waltz seamlessly with the acid of the tomato. A dusting of Parmigiano Reggiano completes the sweet/salty balance to achieve flavor nirvana. Cook up a pot, open some bottles of 2011 Le Rote Chianti Colli Senesi and invite a bunch of friends over for dinner. Do it - it'll be good for you! - Anya Balistreri

Chianti, Relationships, And Family Business

Monday, March 7, 2016 11:48 PM

Three winemakers from TWH’s Italian portfolio paid us a visit last week. The trio consisted of Giavi’s Marco Cuscito,Ernesto Picollo’s Gianlorenzo Picollo, and Tenuta Pierazzuoli’s Enrico Pierazzuoli. A visit from a producer is a mix of business and pleasure. David drove “the boys” all over the Bay Area, meeting with restaurants and fine wine shops. The trio had also “worked the market” in LA, getting their wines placed on some pretty impressive wine lists. To say the wines were well received is an understatement. Our back stock of their wines have dwindled. David spent several days after they left trying to figure out the quickest way to get more wine imported from Italy!
I had met Enrico in Italy a few months after I started working at TWH. I had planned the trip in advance of accepting a position at TWH and it happened to coicide with this new relationship between TWH and Pierazzuoli. That was nearly twenty years ago! My boyfriend, now husband, and I drove north from Radda to Montelupo and somehow managed to find our way to Pierazzuoli’s estate tucked in the rolling hills of Montalbano. Enrico proudly showed off his new vineyard plantings, the cellar, and a farmhouse that he said he hoped to renovate to make into an agriturismo. Seeing Enrico in San Francisco reminded me of how hard he has worked to make his dreams come true making wine on his family’s estates. I’m guilty of this too, to think “wouldn’t it be great to have your own winery in Tuscany” without considering all it takes to make that a reality especially if you are not being funded by deep pockets. Enrico is a talker and he talks a lot about the trials and tribulations of running a family business in Italy. When it is quiet at the winery, Enrico is out promoting his wine abroad. He comes to the US every year as he knows it doesn’t just end at making great wine…you need to make sure it gets into the right hands.
Enrico Pierazzuoli
Enrico’s 2013 Chianti Montalbano is a great example of a simple wine that delivers charm and purity of fruit. In comparison to most Chianti’s out in the market below $15, Enrico’s Chianti Montalbano offers more delicious fruit andclean flavors. I have been tasting quite of few value-priced Chianti’s lately and I am appalled at the shoddy quality and metalic flavors. Some are downright awful and undrinkable. On the other hand, Enrico’s Chianti Montalbano has fresh-picked, bright cherry fruit flavors. It may lack girth but that is not its purpose. It is meant to be that perfect back drop to your favorite bowl of pasta. For me personally, I adore the Chianti Montalbano with a Bolognese sauce. The tangy, red cherry fruit marries well with the tomato sauce and the acidity level is just right not to overwhelm the dish.
Marco, David, Gianlorenzo and Enrico
Over dinner at the newly opened Fiorella in SF’s Richmond District with Enrico, Gianlorenzo, Marco, David, Tom and I in attendance, stories were shared with much laughter emanating from our table. Those Italian boys are good people and that matters! I left home that evening with a feeling of satisfaction knowing that when I recommend a bottle of 2013 Chianti Montalbano there is a real person who made every effort to make the best wine they could.Tenuta Pierazzuoli is not a label but a family business. I like to think I’m part of that family. So cook up a whole lotta pasta and gravy and invite your family over to share stories, laugh, eat and make sure to serve the 2013 Chianti Montalbano to make it all that much better!– Anya Balistreri
The majestic, undulating hills of Montalcino give birth to some of the Italy’s greatest wines made from Sangiovese: Brunello di Montalcino. Regrettably, I am not as well-versed in Brunello as I’d like to be. Opportunities to evaluate them have been limited during my wine business tenure and well, they can be too pricey for casual exploration. Luckily I have an ace in the hole for when the urge strikes for a taste of that suave, bright cherry Sangiovese fruit, delivered in a slightly more opulent package than its cousin to the north in Chianti, and that is a bottle of delicious Rosso di Montalcino. Recently, we took in some 2012 Rosso di Montalcino from Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona which I wasted no time purchasing to evaluate at home with a Sunday supper.
The 2012 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Rosso di Montalcino is a beauty with rich layers of black cherry, anise and spice. What attracted me most to this wine is the texture. It has a powerful impression to the fruit but the finish and mouthfeel is pure luxe and velvety smoothness. The texture is the result of fermentation in tank, stainless and concrete, and then a 12 month rest in large Slavonian oak, followed by a few months in bottle before going to market. This regiment smoothes out any sharpness to the acid or roughness to the tannins. It is straight out of the bottle ready.
The Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona estate dates back to the 17th century, changing hands from church to titled aristocracy. Current ownership of the estate belongs to the Bianchini family who inherited it from the Countess Ciacci Piccolomini, who had no heirs.Giuseppe Bianchini, who has since passed, lived on the estate and raised his family there while overseeing the day-to-day operation of food and wine production for the Countess. In 1985 Giuseppe was willed the estate and his dream to produce Brunello became a reality. Today his children, Paolo and Lucia run the estate and wine production.
I traveled and stayed in Montalcino in the late 90’s. I remember at the time thinking to myself – why all the fuss over vacationing in Chianti and not Montalcino?Less tourists, less traffic, similar beautiful vistas and equally, if not better, wine – impossible not to fall in love with the region.
Anyway, knowing I was going to be matching dinner up with the 2012 Rosso di Montalcino from Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, I naturally turned my thoughts to preparing something Tuscan or at the very least, Italian. I wanted to cook up something comforting but at the same time I didn’t want pasta. I was stumped, so I decided to widen my culinary borders and settled on Shepherd’s pie. I like to include lots of mushrooms to the ground lamb to lighten up the dish a bit, and I always double the portions – gotta have leftovers. The Ciacci Piccolomini Rosso was divine with the dish. The creaminess of the mashed potatoes and the gaminess of the lamb suited the succulence of the Sangiovese beautifully. The wine’s underlying acidity was welcomed and cut through all that comfort food richness.
In the last half of May, my daughter will have performed in three different dance/musical productions. Last night she sang the opening number followed by a long monologue. It was the first time she had a solo role, so emotions ran high. I was excited for her and felt proud watching her overcome nerves to deliver a strong performance. Afterwards, the family celebrated with sweets and libations. No, I didn’t serve the 2012 Rosso di Montalcino from Ciacci Piccolomini, but I did servechilled bottles of Giavi Prosecco that were quickly and happily depleted by my guests. I think I can get used to this stage mother thing!

2012 Le Farnete Carmignano – A Wedding Gift

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 7:57 PM


Whew! As another week zooms by, what lies in its wake? Well, the big event this past week, no doubt, wasGambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri tasting. Gambero Rosso is a well known Italian wine publication which rates the country’s wines by bicchieri, or glasses, three being the highest. Each year they hit the road with the latest recipients of this designation, and the show was here in SF this past Thursday. Believe it or not, coincidentally, two of our Italian producers were also here on Thursday,though neither was part of Gambero Rosso’s event.Gianlorenzo Picollo was here pouring his family’s Gavi and Gavi di Gavi, and he was joined by Enrico Pierazzuoli from Le Farnete. I have to say thatEnrico’s Carmignano has been a personal favorite of mine for many vintages, and as I’ve alluded to recently, this can create lofty expectations, which of course aresometimes difficult to live up to.
So this past Thursday at closing time, Gianlorenzo and Enrico stepped into our staff tasting area and openedsome of their recent releases for us. The wine of the tasting? For me, it was the 2012 Le Farnete Carmignano. I don’t know what it is with this wine, but as I said, I have some history with this wine. I remember loving the 2004. I stocked up on the 2005 after we put it on sale, as it was the mother of no-brainers. Anya and I boththought enough of the 2008 to write about it. The 2009 was another winner, so when it came time to taste the 2012 with Enrico in the room, the pressure was on. I remember the warmth cloaking me and the smile that I couldn’t hide after I put my nose in the glass. Wonderful stuff. Incense, clove, black cherries, forest floor, black tea.My kind of wine. The palate was lush, well balanced, and complex. The finish was firing on all cylinders, another winner!



Le Farnete’s Carmignano is a blend of Sangiovese (80%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (20%), a wine that might be misclassified as a Super Tuscan. But no, this is not a Super Tuscan. As we have previously reported, under Italian law, Cabernet Sauvignon has been allowed to grow in Carmignano since Medici times. What we didn’t know was this tidbit that Enrico let us in on. In the 16th Century, when Catherine de’ Medici married French King Henry II, as a wedding gift, the French delivered some Cabernet Sauvignon vines that would be planted in Carmignano. And the rest is history.



Considering the price of this wine, it’s another no-brainer. Wines of this kind of quality can sell for double this price or even higher. It’s 13.5% alcohol and can pair with a myriad of cuisine. All of the traditional Italian dishes are easy pairings; osso-buco, bistecca alla Fiorentina, or rabbit pappardelle would be lovely, but the Carmignano is inexpensive enough to pop with simple pasta with Bolognese or Arrabiata sauce and is perfect with a sausage pizza. We had a lovely visit with these two Italian gentlemen.
I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine’s Day. The weather here in San Francisco was incredible, or as I’ve said many times, “If it’s not going to rain, it may as well do this.”We’ve got some exciting stuff on the horizon coming your way soon. It starts on Monday. Yes, we’ll be open on President’s Day, normal weekday hours of 10am-6pm. There was no footy, or at least not for my team this weekend, but that’s okay because the Champions’ League knock-out phase begins Tuesday!!! We’re up against French giants Paris Saint Germain. This will be one of those rare weeks when I won’t have my usual Wednesday off. Come on you Blues! – Peter Zavialoff

2011 Ca’Lojera Ravel & 2007 Pierazzuoli Millarium

Friday, November 7, 2014 12:47 AM

Two Sweet Exclusives

TWH does not shy away from sweet wines. Many have marveled at our comprehensive Sauternes selection. I don’t have the scientific data to back this up, but I surmise that TWH has one of the largest selections of Sauternes in the country. But as much as we love Sauternes, why stop there? Two of our direct-imports from Italy, Ca’ Lojera andTenute Pierazzuoli, make superb passito-style sweet wines that are currently in stock at our store. In fact outside of Italy, we are the only place you can purchase these wines! (And I have the scientific data on that fact.) Yes, they are that special and we find them to be value-driven options when selecting something a little sweet for a special dinner or to serve as an aperitif when you want to shake things up.



Ca’ Lojera’s passito-style wine is called Ravel. Ca’ Lojera settled on this name as a reference to the composer Ravel whose most famous composition, Boléro, can evoke warm, passionate feelings in the listener. Likewise Ca’ Lojera’s Ravel is a moving expression of their local Turbiana grape. A small amount of Malvasia is added in for aromatic lift and perfume, but it is the Turbiana that plays center stage. The grapes are hand-harvested, dried on wooden trays for an extended period of time and then pressed. The wine is then aged in barrel before bottling. The 2011 Ravel is light on its feet with a fresh finish, not at all unctuous. An exotic coconut flavor dominates with cheerful lemon undertones. A glowy citrus yellow color lights up the glass and the lush flavors settle nicely on the palate. The coconut flavors give a nice toasted note without being overly extracted or heavy-handed. Frankly, this wine is better suited for aged cheeses than for matching with a dessert. This wine is perfectly capable of being a stand-alone dessert, no sugary caloric confections needed. In an email providing us with some background notes on their latest releases, Ca’ Lojera’s Ambra Tiroboschi signed off with this charming sentiment, “this is briefly the history of our wines, that derive from our projects and reflect our dreams.”


Pierazzuoli’s 2007 Millarium Vin Santo is a laborious endeavor. First the grapes are hand picked from vines that were deliberately left with only two bunches. The grapes were then hung up to dry in the rafters of their well-ventilated facility. The grapes dry for six months. The must is then fermented and aged incaratelli, very small barrels, for four years, during which time the wine is kept in an area directly under the roof in order to maximize temperature swings during the year. After bottling, the wine rests for another year before commercial release. Amazing isn’t it when you think about what it takes to make a wine like this especially given the usual turn-it-over fast, send-it-out-to-market-quick mentality? Making real Vin Santo is a commitment.Vin Santo, or “holy wine”, has many origin stories. The one proprietor Enrico Pierazzuoli shared with us is that the name is derived from the historical practice of pressing the wine during Easter. Actually what I found most interesting was Enrico’s description of his Vin Santo as being “an ideal wine for company and conversation, as an aperitif or at the end of a meal, it goes very well with sheep cheese served with green tomato marmalade or chestnut honey, or with liver pâté.” Please note that no mention is made of any type of cake, torte or sweet. Save that stuff for the espresso! The2007 Millarium Vin Santo is dark amber in color with a lightly honeyed note, lots of freshness, a slight herbal component that gives a minty spark and finishes with decadent burnt sugar and lots of roasted hazelnuts. Beautifully balanced without any over-compensating sweetness. A perceived dryness permeates the palate giving the wine a youthful sheen. – Anya Balistreri

2013 Cannaiuolo Rosato – Montenidoli

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 7:33 PM



There’s electricity in the air. The World Series is here in San Francisco! Some of us care, some don’t. Either way, it isexciting. During this week of heightened energy, our staff got together and tasted a bunch of wine samples,and I think we’ll be bringing in a few new wines soon. Stay tuned. As I was rummaging through some sample boxes the other day, I was reminded of the day that we discovered Elisabetta Fagiuoli’s Canaiuolo Rosato.


I want to say this must have taken place circa late 2009. We were setting up for a staff tasting. Some samples from Tuscany’s Elisabetta Fagiuoli had arrived several weeks earlier, and the day to taste them had arrived. We love the Montenidoli Vernaccias; talk about terroir driven white wines! There were a couple of Chianti samples in there as well, and then … what’s this? 2006 Rosé? Or Rosato, as it’s known in Italy. Really? 2006? What in the heck is that doing in the box? The idea of tasting 3 year old Rosé didn’t exactly get our respective hearts to beat any faster, as a matter of fact, we were all wondering if we really needed to taste it at all. Boy are we glad we did! First of all, it was smoking! I mean, sure, our expectations were somewhat dimmed for tasting a 3 year Rosé, but this was incredible. It was fresh. It was lively. It had subtlety, complexity, richness, and a long, crisp finish. We were mesmerized. David! David! What is this stuff? How do we get some? It took some time, but we opened our Montenidoli Rosato account with the 2010 vintage.When it arrived in the summer of 2011, we were super excited. Taking this special Rosato to picnics and barbecues sounded like a great idea for the summer of 2011. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, those in the know (a very famous Italian chef), ordered ALL OF IT! Gone.Gone like a circus gone. Gone like a troubadour. Well, that was good for the sales department, but bad for staff members who wanted to take the wine to picnics and barbecues. Well, there’s always next year. Guess what? We ordered more from the following vintage. Guess who bought ALL OF IT again? Yup, Mr. TV pizza authority for one of his restaurants. It had given us a bit of a complex. Customers would come in and ask, “What’s your favorite Rosé?” The first thing to come to mind was always the wine we weren’t allowed to sell in the shop. It happened again the next year, but we made a point of keeping 5 cases for the shop. Some of you already know what I’m on about here. Our biggest order to date for Montenidoli’s Canaiuolo Rosato came with the 2013 vintage, and we now have it in stock! It’s not a happy-go-lucky, carefree Rosé. It is a serious wine. And though it’s pricier than our other Rosés, it’s worth every penny.It is refined, fresh, complex, with all components tuned together in seamless harmony. It is as special as its winemaker.
rosato 9.52.39 AM
So, yes. I had a conversation with a chef/customer the other day as he was picking up some Bordeaux for an anniversary dinner. He asked me if Rosé sales were still on the upswing. I told him that unbelievably, Rosé sales are still increasing. He asked if I had any idea why. What I said was that I thought the perception of these wines being off-dry plonk was diminishing. Also, I told him that I thought the perception of Rosé to be only a wine for summer was also fading. I equated it with bacon. Does bacon have a season? Neither does Rosé. Its versatility makes it somewhat ideal to take to a dinner if you don’t know what’s cooking. Lookout! With Thanksgiving coming, some pedigreed Rosato from Tuscany will grace any table upon which it is served.

Yes, the World Series is here in San Francisco. Some fans support one team, some fans, the other. Some folks don’t care. It’s all good as long as we have fun. Speaking of fun, the 2013 Canaiuolo Rosato from Montenidoli is something we all can get behind and enjoy together!– Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about Rosato, The World Series, Bordeaux, or tomorrow’s big showdown at Old Trafford: peter@wineSF.com

Pierazzuoli’s 2011 Barco Reale di Carmignano

Monday, July 28, 2014 7:09 PM

Le Farnete’s 2011 Barco Reale di Carmignano combines Sangiovese’s lush red cherry fruit and fresh acidity with Cabernet Sauvignon’s structure and backbone.Not some newfangled blend, Carmignano, a Tuscan region just northwest of Florence, has championed this combination of grapes since the 18th Century! A Super Tuscan before there were Super Tuscans. The Barco Reale di Carmignano will see less time in barrel and comes to market sooner than its big brother, Carmignano. I find the inclusion of Cabernet Sauvignon extremely complimentary to Sangiovese and in no way detracting from Sangiovese’s intrinsic juiciness and vibrancy. July’s heat has found me drinking plenty of Rose, that’s for sure, but when I am in need of a red wine that has softer tannins yet still has body, the 2011 Barco Reale di Carmignano from Le Farnete fits the bill beautifully.


Le Farnete is one of two Tuscan estatesowned by the Pierazzuoli family. Enrico is the owner and is assisted by his wife, brother and two sisters. Along with the wines, the Pierazzuoli’s produce olive oil and vegetable preserves and also run an agriturism business. It’s a true family affair for the Pierazzuoli’s. This close connection to each other and to the land is what fuels their passion for making the best wine possible. When Enrico took over from his father in 1990, he began an extensive replanting of the vineyards, choosing low-yielding clones which were densely planted. Improvements also occurred on the production side including building a state-of-the-art winery. All this investment has paid off as their wines continue to impress and provide a high quality to price ratio. I’m not sure exactly how The Wine House was introduced to Enrico Pierazzuoli but I am sure it was his confidence and vision that attracted us to his wines. Believing in Enrico and his vision for the future, The Wine House began importing his wines. That was nearly two decades ago!


Sangiovese in summertime. Sounds good and tastes good!Checking out our blog, I noticed that the last two times I wrote about wine from Pierazzuoli it was in summer. I can tell you honestly that stuffed zucchini and Barco Reale di Carmignano are dynamite together! My garden is exploding with zukes and I have a couple of recipes using them that need a red but one where the tannins are in check, has good acidity and rich fruit. Ba-da-bing…2011 Barco Reale di Carmignano from Le Farnete!



Last weekend I rushed from work for a quick trip up to the River to meet with childhood friends for a “Russian River Rats” reunion. Many of them I hadn’t seen for a very long time – too long! Lots of laughter and reminiscing ensued and continued well into the night. Funny how we all fell into our roles behaving like we did all those years ago. I brought along a bottle of the Barco Reale di Carmignano. It was a big hit, especially with the lamb shashlik that my brother grilled over a Weber while three of us held flashlights allowing him to see in the darkened backyard. Summer fun! – Anya Balistreri

Montenidoli: 2010 Il Garrulo Chianti Colli Senesi

Sunday, April 14, 2013 6:32 PM

The 2010 Il Garrulo from Montenidoli is impactful, full of flavor and brimming with textural elegance. This is not the first time I’ve singled out Il Garrulo or the wines of Montenidoli. Working here at TWH, which is the exclusive importer of these special Tuscan wines into California, positions me favorably to appreciate and become not just familiar, but, dare I say, intimate with them. For the past 40 years, Montenidoli has been recognized for their outstanding efforts in the vineyard and in the cellar. The reverence and admiration directed at Montenidoli by writers, critics, colleagues, and ordinary wine enthusiasts who have made the trek to the winery is unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. It may be unnecessary to mention, but I will anyway, that such strong emotion is earned and not bestowed arbitrarily.


Il Garrulo is the proprietary name given to Montenidoli’s Chianti Colli Senesi that is fashioned in the traditional way set down in the late 19th Century by Barone Ricasoli to include white grapes. Il Garrulo is comprised of two red grape varietals, 75% Sangiovese and 20% Canaiolo, and two white grape varietals, 3% Trebbiano Gentile and 2% Malvasia Bianca. As you can see, the inclusion of white grapes is only a tiny proportion of the blend, but are vital to the overall sensory expression of the wine. There is real lift with a gorgeous red-petal aromatic that emanates from it. The 2010 is saturated with ripe red cherry fruit. The classic red fruit Sangiovese flavors are concentrated and plush. What is so pleasurable about the 2010 Il Garrulo is the richness of fruit combined with perky acid freshness all wrapped up like a luxurious cashmere throw by fine, plump tannins. This all translates to a versatile red that is not only perfect for traditional tomato-based foods but more exotic, harder to match dishes like Indian curries, Chile Rellenos or Chicken en Adobo. The fruitiness of the Il Garrulo won’t wilt with the heat and the smooth tannins won’t interfere with the dishes. 



The estate of Montenidoli has 24 hectares of vines and 10 of olive trees. We just received in Montenidoli’s newest batch of delicious olive oil – peppery, buttery and with a delightful bite. The estate is perched high above the hills overlooking the medieval town of San Gimignano, surrounded by 200 hectares of woodlands.  My in-laws had the chance to visit Montenidoli back in ’11 and they describe getting to the winery as if on some wild, off-road adventure.


This past February, proprietress and winemaker, Elisabetta Fagiuoli paid another visit to The Wine House. I regrettably was not able to meet with her during her very short stay. Despite her age, Elisabetta comes to San Francisco to work. And she works hard and tirelessly, just as she does at Montenidoli. However, the usually feisty and energetic Elisabetta was not quite herself this time around. It was with great sadness that we learned that Elisabetta’s partner in life, work and love, Sergio Muratori had passed away in the Fall. It would be unthinkable for me to write about Montenidoli without acknowledging Elisabetta and Sergio for Montenidoli is not just a place, or a portfolio of wines, but it is a living testament to their union. —Anya Balistreri

October 2012 Dirty Dozen

Friday, October 26, 2012 7:40 PM

Boo! Alas, summer is over, and days are rapidly shortening. That just means that the nights are getting longer, and the time for more indoor activities is here! No worries. We have the perfect idea for indoor gatherings: The October Dirty Dozen. 12 bottles packed neatly into 1 box for a super low price! All different; what could be better than that?

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Reorder Special !!! 20% off 6 bottles or more of any one regularly priced Dirty Dozen wine! Or 10%/Net Wines – 5%/ Sale Wines

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2010 Blanco, Bodegas Ercavio $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
The name ‘Ercavio’ is derived from an old Roman settlement, and the grape that goes into the 2010 Blanco is 100% Airén. Say you haven’t heard of Airén? Hailing from the area surrounding Madrid, Spain, it is thought to be the most widely planted wine producing grape variety! Dry and crisp, it’s a great aperitif or, it teams up well with crispy fried fish.

2009 Godello, Montenovo $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
Eric Solomon, one of America’s finest small importers, is at it again with this fine example of the Godello grape. Godello is grown in Galicia in the northwest corner of Spain, and does it deliver! It shows plump, ripe white and yellow fruit, propped up by zippy acidity and underlying spice and mineral. No wonder some folks believe it’s similar to Chardonnay.

2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Lalande $11.79 net price, $8.79 reorder
Need a crisp, affordable white for your next gathering? Look no further than the Lalande Sauvignon Blanc. Vintage after vintage, this TWH staple has always been a hit with customers and staff alike. It is terrific with halibut.

2006 Viognier, Paras Vineyards $14.95 sale price, $14.20 reorder
California Viognier in the DD? This could be a first, or at least a first for a wine of its pedigree. Grown at elevations of over 1000 feet on Mount Veeder, this Viognier was fermented in barrel with no malo. As fermentation stopped, some residual sugar remained, leaving this Viognier off-dry. It’s just the right thing to pour with a cheese plate at the end of a meal … or if exotic flavors strike your fancy, we’re thinking something spicy hot like Hunan-style smoked duck.

2010 Crozes-Hermitage Les Terres Blanches, Domaine Belle $24.99, $19.99 reorder
Every now and then we pull out the stops with our DD selections, and this would be one of those months. This WHITE Crozes-Hermitage is a special wine. It’s a fancy wine. It’s a blend of 70% Marsanne and 30% Rousanne, 2 of the Rhône’s well known white varieties. It sees some 1 year old barrel which gives it texture and aroma, but there’s no hiding that lovely, complex mineral underneath. This is a classy wine and suits a fancy free range chicken dinner well.

2011 Rosé, Domaine Saint Antoine $11.29, $9.03 reorder
Now that summer is over, the masses are forgetting about just how cool it is to pop a no-frills bottle of Rosé! This one from Saint Antoine is made from 100% Syrah and balances the fruit/acid components perfectly. The result? An easy to pair quaffer; it goes well with everything, and it makes for a great cooler-downer as one toils in a hot kitchen.

2008 Terre de Bussière, Domaine de la Janasse $12.98 net price, 11.68 reorder
The southern Rhône Valley has been bargain central for those of us who love low priced high quality red wines. This unusual blend of 65% Merlot and 35% Syrah will put a smile on your face as it sings along side of that sausage pizza.

2010 Le Loup dans la Bergerie, Domaine de l’Hortus $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
Speaking of Syrah/Merlot blends, Domaine de l’Hortus’ Jean Orliac adds a little Grenache to that mix to produce his Le Loup dans la Bergerie. It has great aromas, ample fruit, and medium bodied weight. A solid all-purpose red!

2009 Floresta, Pere Guardiola $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder
As the Pyrenees come into view in Empordà-Costa Brava, Spain’s northeastern corner, you will find the vines belonging to Pere Guardiola. The blend here is 40% Garnacha, 30% Mazuela, and 30% Syrah. The wine is ripe, rich, and robust with aromas of dark berry fruit and spice. A great value, it has the stuffing to pair well with a dry rub pork shoulder roast.

2010 Carmenère, In’ka $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder
Bursting with dark berries, chocolate, and spice, the aromas for the 2010 In’ka Carmenère jump from the glass with delight! Carmenère has its origins in Bordeaux, but was fairly recently discovered in South America where it has been thriving. It has the charm of Merlot, yet the backbone of Cabernet Sauvignon. Perfect with a juicy steak.

2009 Carmignano, Le Farnete $18.99, $15.19 reorder
A TWH direct-import, Le Farnete’s Carmignano has been a favorite ’round here for many vintages. The 2009 is no exception. Carmignano has been growing Cabernet Sauvignon since Medici times, long before the age of the ‘Super Tuscan.’ Dark aromas of brambly berries and earth lead to a fuller bodied palate. We’re thinking Osso Bucco here.

2010 Syrah/Grenache, Vignobles Boudinaud $11.99, $9.59 reorder
Grenache and Syrah are a match made in heaven, as if the wines from the southern Rhône don’t already underline that fact. Our pal Thierry Boudinaud crafts a lot of different wines down there, but here is something special that he makes out of some Langeudoc fruit that he sources. Alive and fresh, it is all tank-fermented preserving that pure fruity profile. Don’t let its friendliness fool you. Its medium body allows for some earthy complexity. Great with food, or not!

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September 2012 Dirty Dozen

Saturday, September 8, 2012 10:00 PM

As we motor along through 2012, we’re down to 3 weeks of summer left before it’s time to start thinking about raking leaves, post season baseball, and persimmons. Let’s not go there just yet. Our Indian summer is about to begin, so there will be plenty more chances to picnic and barbecue. Need some wine? The September Dirty Dozen should do the trick!

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2011 Vino Blanco, Bodegas Castano $9.98 net price, $8.98 reorder
The Castano family is one of the most respected wine producing families in southeastern Spain.  For their Vino Blanco, they blend 50/50 Macabeo and Chardonnay, and the result will put a smile on your face.  Hints of white and tropical fruits are present in the aromas and the palate is round and structured.  The perfect wine to pour with that ceviche.

2011 Cercius, Philippe Cambie/Michel Gassier/Eric Solomon $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
Eric Solomon, one of America’s finest small importers, teamed up with consultant Philippe Cambie and winemaker Michel Gassier to launch the Cercius label.  A blend of mostly Grenache Blanc with Sauvignon Blanc, the wine plays a bigger role than the sum of its parts.  Fleshy, yet crisp, this will pair mightily with pan-seared scallops over leafy greens.

2010 Chardonnay, Novellum $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
Languedoc Chardonnay isn’t something that we hear about too often, but when we tasted the Novellum, we were impressed.  The wine is bright and lively with tropical hints and a kiss of spice.  Pair it with a clam and garlic pasta.

2010 Grenache Blanc/Chardonnay/Marsanne, Cote EST $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
Lovers of Rhone-inspired crisp white wines will feel at home with a glass of the Cote EST from France’s Cotes Catalanes.  It has a bright, lively mouth feel, a fleshy fruit presence, and medium bodied weight.  Another wine to enjoy here in the waning warmth of summer 2012, it can be served on its own, at a picnic, or with a shrimp salad.

2011 Gavi di Gavi Rovereto, Ernesto Picollo $15.99, $12.79 reorder
Mama mia!  Our scouting missions to various Italian wine tastings have paid off big-time here!  Regular DD subscribers, no doubt, have tasted Picollo’s super bargain Gavi DOCG, but the Gavi di Gavi Rovereto is a whole ‘nother animal.  Richness, purity, and precision present themselves in dapper manner, as this wine exudes class.  A great one for a bowl of mussels.

2009 Pinot Gris Im Berg, Domaine Ehrhart $14.99, $11.99 reorder
Ehrhart.  As in Corinne and Philippe from Wettolsheim.  Their family has only been making wine in Alsace since the early 18th century.  They make opulent wines with excellent balance and verve.  This single vineyard Pinot Gris has earthy, mushroomy aromas and a wide, fleshy presence on your palate.  A great wine with a bacon wrapped chicken breast.

2009 Baron Des Chartrons $9.98 net price, $8.98 reorder
At this point, you must have heard about the success of the 2009 vintage in Bordeaux.  If not, just know that the weather was perfect for the region’s red wines – everybody got good grapes AND you don’t have to take out a second mortgage to enjoy it.  Check out this more than reasonably priced quaffer from the Moueix family.  Think juicy steak.

2010 Syrah, Porcupine Ridge $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder
South Africa’s Porcupine Ridge has delighted our palates for several vintages now, as we can’t help but love those smoky aromas that surround the spicy, dark red fruit.  The palate is medium to fuller bodied, and the smoky, spicy framework holds through to the finish.  If you’ve got a beef brisket cooking low and slow on the smoker, you’ve found your pairing!

2009 Montravel Vieilles Vignes, Chateau Puy-Servain $21.59, $17.27 reorder
The success of the 2009 vintage was not confined to Bordeaux, but if your vineyard sits just across the Dordogne from the Bordeaux AOC, you pretty much got great grapes too.  TWH friend Daniel Hecquet’s Montravel Vieilles Vignes is very special in 2009.  So good mind you, that you could sneak this into a blind St. Emilion tasting and get away with it.

2009 Montsant Old Vines, Celler De Capcanes $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
Old Vines is an understatement here, as the Grenache vines are over 80 years old.  The Montsant mountains and vines surround the more well known Priorat appellation, though stylistically, the wines are different.  This blend of mostly Grenache with a soupcon of Syrah is another great deal coming from Espana.  Grilled meat skewers will work well here.

2010 Syrah, Saint Antoine $10.99, $8.79 reorder
Red wine lovers on a budget know all about the virtues of Jean-Louis Emmanuel’s Saint Antoine from the Costieres de Nimes.  Jean-Louis now de-stems all of his grapes and vinifies in steel tank resulting in wines that are pure and fresh.  Bright cherry flavors with Cassis and spice make up the flavor profile.  Another great wine for the outdoor grill.

2010 Chianti Montalbano, Pierazzuoli $13.49, $10.79 reorder
You can argue that Chianti is a rustic, simple quaffer meant to be served by the glass next to a bowl of cappellini with fresh tomato sauce.   That’s before you taste Enrico Pierazzuoli’s Chianti Montalbano.  Not your grandfather’s Chianti, Enrico’s is 100% Sangiovese grown just west of Firenze in the Tuscan countryside.  Robust dark cherry flavors with earthy undertones burst forth from the glass suggesting the wine be paired with something a little more serious.

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A Tuscan Beauty for under $15

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 8:16 PM


I’ve been making my way through our latest wine arrivals from Italy,reacquainting myself with old favoritesand discovering new ones likeEnrico Pierazzuoli’s Le Farnete 2010 Barco Reale di Carmignano. Producer/winemaker Enrico Pierazzuoli owns two estates, one in Carmignano and the other in Chianti Montalbano, whose wines TWH has been importing directly for close to 16 years. I know this because 15 years ago, a few months after I began working at TWH, I took off on a trip to Italy which I had planned well in advance of joining TWH staff. I had a pretty tight schedule already in place but was able to connect with Enrico at his estate in Chianti Montalbano near the town of Monte Lupo just west of Florence. Enrico met with me and my now-husband for a tour of the estate and winery. The lasting impression I was left with after meeting Enrico at his estate (which at that time was referred to as Tenuta Cantagallo, before Gallo Winery sent out a Cease and Desist letter claiming copyright infringement because “gallo” appeared in the name), was of a young, passionate winemaker prepared to put in the necessary hard work in the vineyard and in the winery in order to produce the best wine possible. Having completed extensive replanting and modernizing production with new equipment and a new regiment of barrels, it’s obvious to me that Enrico was able to actualize his vision. Along with his brother and two sisters, Enrico has brought his family’s winery estates into the modern era while retaining the traditions of a family business.


The 2010 Barco Reale is essentially a mini-me to their Carmignano, a long-time Wine House bestseller.
Whereas the Carmignano, a DOCG, must be in barrel for a year and in bottle for another,Enrico’s Barco Reale, a DOC, sees only 4 months in 1 year old barrel and another 4 months in bottle before release. Like Enrico’s Carmignano, the Barco Reale is comprised of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. The name Barco Reale refers to a wall constructed in the 17th century by the Medici family around a hunting preserve. Parts of the original wall exist to this day. In terms of its flavor profile, I get lots of dusty, rocky notes with underpinnings of red cherry and sweet plums. There is a discernible vegetal/bell pepper note from the Cabernet Sauvignon that adds a nice counterpoint to the cherry-er Sangiovese flavors. The 2010 Barco Reale has real charm and is styled for early drinking. It’s a good choice for backyard parties and informal gatherings. At our last patio party my husband grilled up some Spiedini, pounded meat stuffed with seasoned bread crumbs tied up with pancetta then impaled onto a skewer, and I can’t tell you how gloriously well the Barco Reale matched up with it. It was so good my guests assumed that the Barco Reale was a far more expensive wine than it is and when I told them it sells for $11.89 by the case, I got some incredulous stares back.

In the winter of 2011, I met with Enrico at a trade tasting event in New York City. Though only our second meeting I was greeted as an old friend. It can be that way in the wine biz. Enrico makes the wine and it’s my job to share his story and his wines. That relationship is valued and it’s what keeps me cemented in this business. More than a decade since we first met in Tuscany, with a few more grey hairs on our heads, Enrico once again impressed me with his devotion and pride for his wines. He still has a nerdy (I mean this in a good way!) attention to detail, explaining at length the technical aspects of his production. Upon departing, I was asked to come visit again in Italy and I replied my usual “You have no idea how much I would like that to happen!” —Anya Balistreri

May 2012 Dirty Dozen

Monday, May 7, 2012 2:20 PM

The only month with all 31 days spent in spring is upon us. Happy May! It’s also National Barbecue Month, so let’s get grillin’. The Derby, Mothers’ Day, and the old unofficial kickoff to summer, Memorial Day are all coming soon. For any parties or get togethers you may be having, may we suggest the May Dirty Dozen. 12 great wines. 1 low price.

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2007 Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon, Northfield $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
Introducing Northfield Wines! They’re a small, family-run producer with vineyards in both New Zealand and California. For this bottling, they blend 25% Semillon with their Waipara Valley Sauvignon Blanc, and the result is a crisp, clean kiss of citrusy fruit and mineral with a soft landing. Pair this up with a spring afternoon and a chicken salad sandwich.

NV Fortuna, Törley $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder
Now for something completely different. You love fizz, we love fizz. This sparkler from Hungary, made from Muscat Lunel, Muscat Ottonel, and Irsai Oliver (how’s that for wine geekyness?), has a rich, floral presence on the nose and palate. It has a hint of sweetness with just the right acidity to balance it perfectly. A spicy Thai salad works well.

2010 Malvasia, Borgo di Colloredo $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder
Pure 100% Malvasia here, all tank fermented, fresh and lively. The vines are over 30 years old giving the wine an abundance of complexity. The aromas are of fresh blossoms, the palate precise, and the finish long. Linguine with clams.

2011 Rosé, Domaine de la Petite Cassagne $10.99, $9.03 reorder
Leave it to Costières de Nîmes superstar Diane Pouymorin to craft a strong contender for “Rosé of the vintage” for 2011. Made from equal parts Cinsault, Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre, this year’s offering is light and herbal with a subtle kiss of fruit. Just what you’d expect if you were on holiday in Provençe. A baguette and a bowl of olives will do fine.

2010 Terrement Blanc, Château Puy-Servain $13.99, $9.45 reorder
Another crazy good deal by virtue of direct importation, Daniel Hecquet’s Terrement Blanc smashes the Price for Quality meter to bits! Named for the Terrement de Segur as all his land plus the house and property which once belonged to his grandfather were owned by the Marquis de Segur in the mid 18th century. Dry and crisp, it drinks like White Bordeaux.

2010 Hors Saison, Domaine La Hitaire $11.99, $9.59 reorder
In Gascony, Rémy and Arcin Grassa (sons of the famous Yves) toil in the vineyards at La Hitaire. ‘Hors Saison’ literally means ‘outdoor season’ in the local dialect, and one taste of this springtime quaffer will have you yearning to be outside.

2008 Toscana Rosso, Panizzi $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder
Next up is a 100% Sangiovese from Tuscany. Sticking with our springtime theme this month, we have a red with aromas of violets and earth. On the palate the tangy red fruit dances with the round tannins making for a complex, well-balanced finish. Definitely a great all-purpose red, it will pair well with pizza, salumi, or a tortellini salad.

2008 Pinot Noir, Avitus $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder
Since Pinot Noir’s surge in popularity over the last decade, it has become harder and harder to find one of fine quality without saying “ouch” at the register. Hailing from Auvergne in the middle of France, the Avitus does EXACTLY that-delivering that great berry, Pinot Noir flavor for such a low price. The screwcap makes it so easy to take on a picnic!

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Tololo $9.98 net price, $8.98 reorder
It goes without saying that some of the wine world’s best bargains come from Chile, but here’s further proof of the validity of that statement. Deep, rich purple fruit and spice dominate the aromas, the palate is full and smooth with fine tannins marking the finish. Now that it’s National Barbecue Month, git that grill a-blazin’, and toss on a rib-eye.

2009 Beaujolais Lantignié, Château du Basty $13.99, $11.19 reorder
Great vintages in Beaujolais DO happen, as evidenced by 2009. The wines at the Cru level are special, providing that friendly cherry fruit with a lighter body and mellow tannins. Beaujolais Lantignié sits between Cru and village level, still providing all that yummy, luscious berry fruit with wafts of spice and forest floor. Great with a duck breast sandwich.

2006 Tradition, Château de Valcombe $11.99, $9.59 reorder
Here at TWH, we taste and taste and retaste the wines we have stocked here in our warehouse. A recent staff tasting of the 2006 Valcombe Tradition had our staff fighting over who got to take the sample bottle home. Layers of complexity, dark purple fruit, a hint of earth, herbs, and the famous garrigue make this a superstar. Great with pasta.

2005 Trassegum, Château d’Or et des Gueules $21.99, $17.59 reorder
This month’s DD closes with a bang! Diane Pouymorin’s prestige cuvée is a blend of Syrah and 60+ year old-vine Carignan. The result is pure magic. Rich, savory purple fruit, spices, forest floor, and underbrush dominate the aromas. The palate is firm and precise, the fruit mingling with the earthy character, and sturdy tannins which fade nicely on the long, harmonious finish. Pure class in a bottle. Bring this to a fancy barbecue, and you will win everyone’s favor.

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October 2011 Dirty Dozen

Monday, October 17, 2011 4:57 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2008 Le Farnete Carmignano

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 6:00 PM




Greetings, All. We’re hoping the weekend was a good one for everyone. TWH has been a-buzz with banter about what was tasted over the weekend; Burgundy, Nero d’Avola, and Cava, just to name a few. But the wine we can’t stop talking about today is the 2008 Carmignano from Enrico Pierazzuoli’s Le Farente.

We brought in a container last month, this time it was chock full of goodies from Italia. With all of the excitement about the new vintages of Ambra Tiraboschi’s Luganas (Turbiana), her Cabernet Sauvignon, the Giavi Proseccoand Ernesto Picollo’s trio of 2010 Gavi (Cortese), 2008 Carmignano(80% Sangiovese 20% Cab Sauvignon) ALMOST got by unmentioned. To reiterate: it’s not our first vintage of this wine. We brought in the oh-so-lovable 2004, the sturdy 2005, and the 2008. Shortly after its arrival back in January did we open a bottle for our staff to taste. I won’t forget that day. I poured a taste and swirled. Mind you, I was still 5 minutes away from tasting it, as I stood mesmerized those 5 minutes by the wine’s aromas. Still without tasting it, I calmly walked over to David’s office and offered him a taste. His eyes got big. He looked impressed. I nodded. I said, “We’re going to need another pallet of this one.” He nodded. The original pallet was long gone in short time, and we had to wait a couple of months for the next one to make its long journey here.Well it’s back in-stock now! And it’s that good! And yes, it will sell out again; hopefully you get to try it. – Peter Zavialoff

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Montenidoli: 2007 Vernaccia Fiore

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 9:44 PM

Elisabetta Fagiuoli is a force to be reckoned with, that’s for certain. As proprietress of the breathtakingly beautiful winery Montenidoli,Elisabetta has single-handedly taken Vernaccia di San Gimignanoout of the ranks of lowly whites to produce what many consider some of Italy’s finest white wines. I felt a twinge of nerves at the prospect of meeting her in New York last January at the same conference where I spent time with Ambra Tiraboschi from Ca’Lojera. By this point, I had heard andread so much about Elisabetta, I understood I was about to meet a wine legend. Not helping the nerves were the several exchanges I had with other Italian winemakers prior to meeting Elisabetta, who responded with awe in their voices when I let it be known that The Wine House was the California importer for Montenidoli. It’d go something like this, “Oh, you know Elisabetta!” and then a quiet pause. Elisabetta is a rock star among Italian winemakers; highly respected and revered. When I came up to the Montenidoli table, I introduced myself to Elisabetta and asked to taste through her wines. Thinking she would give me a lengthy explanation for each wine, she poured the sample with little said and watched my reaction. By the time I got to the last wine, she knew that I knew her wines were the bomb! My face said it all. Montenidoli is situated in the hills overlooking the medieval town of San Gimignano(and home to the most awesome wild boar salami you’ll ever eat, I might add). In a promotional pamphlet the winery passes out, the historical evolution of the soil upon which the vineyards of Montenidoli are grown are described going back 5 million years ago and then 250 million years ago. That’s just crazy! Elisabetta started the winery with her husband, not quite so far back but in 1965, and never in that time have they used any insecticides and use copper and sulfur only in rare instances to treat infection. From the beginning they have been devoted to organic farming and hold the philosophy that it is the soil (terroir) that produces great wine and that they are only there to guide the grapes into wine. I get the idea that great wine is made from great grapes, not made by human hands. But I also know that without the guiding hand of a great winemaker, wine is just wine, and not something magical, as are the wines that Elisabetta makes.

112The recently arrived 2007 Vernaccia di Gimignano “Fiore” is made entirely from free-run juice and sees extended time on the lees before bottling. It is bright, lively and has a long, lingering finish. It is AROMATIC without being perfumey and RICH without being unctuous or flabby. The body has roundness and fullness from the sitting on the lees, but it is this driving mineral thread that comes in half way and sizzles on the palate straight through to the finish that really perks up the taste buds! I have had the pleasure of drinking this wine on several occasions lately and each time that acid backbone is so surprising and satisfying. The 2007 Fiore is the ideal springtime wine, matching perfectly with peas, tender greens, and artichokes. This week I drank a glass with a pasta with rapini and Little City Market sausages. A red would have overpowered this dish, but the 2007 Fiore had enough fruit and depth to hold up to the sharpness of the rapini and the fattiness of the sausage. Are you getting hungry or thirsty yet? I sure am! On Montenidoli’s website they write “Our wines have strong personalities. They are clear and brilliant, with intriguing bouquets whose complexities reveal their significance; a sip unleashes powerful, savory, mineral structures that fill the mouth. Their aftertaste is broad and very long, and the aromas that arise from an empty glass again reveal their great body.” I couldn’t say it any better. —Anya Balistreri

Here is a link to a wine blogger who in his article on Montenidoli says that the 2007 Fiore is “excellent” and “worth the search”: Amazing Vernaccias

The photo above was taken from the Montenidoli website.

Matchmaker Matchmaker Find Me a Wine

Wednesday, February 23, 2011 12:38 PM

If there’s one thing that never gets old, it’s when the stars align and make good things happen.  Case in point, my return to TWH (and thus, blogging) has fallen over that holiday which is so near and dear to thine heart, Valentine’s Day.  Coincidence?  I don’t believe in coincidences…. But I do believe in cheesy holidays that capitalize on human emotions, and apparently, I like writing about them too because the last time I wrote anything about wine (publicly anyways) was last year around this time.  I must preface this post, however, by saying that while this is indeed a post inspired by Valentine’s Day and love and all that good stuff, it is NOT one of those posts where I tell you what to drink with your lover on V-day.  If it were, I would be extremely tardy and my words would fall into a black hole of post-holiday obsolescence.  Instead, I have decided to combine my love for wine with one of my favorite guilty pleasures, The Bachelor/Bachelorette.  If you haven’t seen the show, a purportedly “great catch” is given a pool of 30 or so eligible persons of the opposite sex from which to find the one with whom he/she will fall in love and spend the rest of his/her life.  Needless to say, it’s everything you’d think a Hollywood matchmaking television show would be, but hey, love works in strange ways, who am I to judge?  That said, I asked Pete (who would like it to be known that he has never seen the show) to choose six noteworthy wine suitors for me- 3 reds & 3 whites– and subsequently took each one of them out on a date in hopes of falling in love.  Am I going to kiss and tell?  You betchya!

Date 1: 2009 Picollo Ernesto GaviI really wanted the Gavi to be my first date.  Certainly, I’d heard good things about all of the wines in the bunch from everyone at TWH, but the Gavi seemed to be extremely high up on the list of “go-to” wines being recommended to customers at the store, so I was highly anticipating making its acquaintance.  With that in mind, I got to know Gavi while nibbling on a marinated mix of olives & peppers and French bread, followed by a lovely dinner of lemon & pesto grilled chicken on top of a mixed green salad with fresh parmesan, steamed veggies, and sun-dried tomato polenta.  This wine definitely lived up to its hype… beautiful nose of melon, honeyed lemon, slight tropical fruit, cut hay, and a touch of salty sea air.  The palate, while fresh and clean, had a very pleasantly surprising viscosity and roundness to it as well.  The fruit was more citrusy on the palate and that classic Italian minerality, herbs/white pepper was there too.  Overall, a fantastic date and I feel like Gavi and I will be the best of friends.  The white wine that I will feel more than confident taking to parties, pairing with a wide range of fare, or just drinking all by itself when the mood strikes.  It’s the kind of wine I want to have a lot of on hand.


Date 2: 2005 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules Costieres de Nimes Trassegum RougeThough it’s been a while, the ’05 Trassegum and I have met before, and I must say, I’ve always had a crush on it.  It’s a Rhone blend made predominantly from Syrah by one of my all-time favorite producers.  I let the bottle sit open & untouched for about half an hour while I made homemade valentines for loved ones and waited for lamb tandoori from Indian Palace.  When I finally poured myself a glass, the wine was a little tight, but I was still able to discern the nose of charcoaled meat, leather (both sweet & dirty), violets (omigosh, the violets!), dark fruit, a hint of anise and Provençal herbs.  It was juicy and balanced on the palate, but again, needed a little time to unwind.  About an hour later, I noted red fruit coming through more and….mmmm, forest floor.  Later yet, the sweet spices started to shine- cinnamon, vanilla, cassis, spicy raspberry and plums- it just kept getting prettier and more layered.  Oh my, I thought to myself, It’s seducing me, I can feel it! I’d describe the mouth-feel as silky and elegant, but with density and muscle at the same time. Moments later my food arrived. I don’t know if lamb tandoori was the pinnacle of food pairings for this, but sometimes I think the best pairings are whatever you’re in the mood to eat paired with whatever you’re in the mood to drink. Which is exactly what this was… and it was heavenly.


Date 3: 2009 Chateau Couronneau Bordeaux Blanc & 2008 Enrico Pierazzuoli Carmignano Le Farnete For the next outing, I grabbed some gal pals and headed down to Sapore Italiano in Burlingame for some fabulous Italian cuisine.  We sipped (ok, gulped) the Couronneau while partaking in the Antipasto delle due Sicillie- an assorted plate of meats, cheeses, olives, grilled veggies, and bruschetta.  Oh we are off to a GREAT start!  Almost a little too good, in fact.  We guzzled the Couronneau and moved on to the Carmignano so fast I felt as if I didn’t give it its due time in the spotlight.  It’s like that person at a party you start flirting with but never really get a chance to talk to before they leave (luckily, I know where to find more).


That said, what I did experience of the Couronneau absolutely knocked my socks off.  The old world crushed rock minerality exploded off the nose, intermingling in perfect harmony with fresh citrus fruit and hints of white flower.  The fruit and minerality came thru on the palate with exquisite finesse along with a vibrant and long-lasting acidity.  Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with when and how this wine was consumed, but I would love to try it again sometime with a mélange of seafood and longer timeframe.  In a nutshell, this wine out-drinks its price point by a LOT.  Moving onto the Carmignano, I think this might win “best friend” in the red category.  It’s a blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and while both varietals make their presence known, neither one overpowers the other.  Upon first whiff, I definitely noted the luscious ripe red and dark fruit first, which evolved into a combination of cherries, rose petals, red currants, cedar, and slight oak nuances.  The palate was more rustic than the nose would suggest, with dusty tannins that smooth out and a little mulchy sweetness to the fruit.  Overall, I found it to have an approachability that would please most any group and/or occasion.  I’d say it’s a solid notch and more above your average “pizza wine”, but that certainly didn’t stop me from ordering a whole pie for myself to go with it.

 Date 4: 2009 Chateau de Raousset Fleurie– Truth be told, I had actually had this bottle in my possession since Thanksgiving.  My initial intention was to share it with my T-day companions because what goes better with Thanksgiving dinner than Cru Beaujolais? But I got selfish and decided to keep it to myself for a later date (sorry gang).  I started out just sipping this sans sustenance, which was delightful.  Then I got hungry and having no patience for a trip to the grocery store, I pulled out some prosciutto, brie, crudités, small green salad, and a whole bunch of sweet potato fries (basically everything that looked yummy in my fridge).  All I have to say is that Cru Beaujolais- especially this one with its beautiful layers of wild strawberries, lavender, Provençal herbs, hint of minerality, and elegant yet juicy palate- is the arm candy of wine.  It is just oh so pretty and it goes with EVERYTHING.  If you’re one of those wine drinkers who still isn’t convinced that Beaujolais can be some of the most gorgeous and versatile wines on the planet, grab a bottle of this tout de suite.

 Date 5: 2009 Paco & Lola Albarino Rias BaixasFor my last, but no less anticipated, date I braved the rain and met up with a friend of mine for sushi and a bottle of the P&L Albarino.  In my opinion, sushi is comfort food and white wine can be just as cozy a companion as any red.  My notes on this wine were as such: “on the nose, very nice melon, green pear that opens up into more lush tropical fruit.  Noticeable leesiness, and oh, is that macadamia nut? Indeed! Yay! Slight creaminess through the mid-palate and awesome burst of acidity on the finish.  Sushi + P&L + rainy day = love.

The Verdict:  Pete, ya done good, I love them all but I love playing the field (or should I say vineyard) even more and I’m not ready to settle down with one wine just yet.  Being a bachelorette is much much too fun.  - Emily Crichton

2008 Carmignano from Le Farnete

Monday, January 24, 2011 8:08 PM


Watching pallets unload from a container is a sight that brings tears of joy to my eyes. The anticipation of something new and good is almost too much to bear. Less than two weeks ago a container arrived from Italy with a bevy of delectable direct imports from Tuscany, Veneto, and Piedmont. We wasted no time tasting through them. Oh boy what fun! And then came along the 2008 Carmignano from Le Farnete. It brought us to a reverent silence. A great wine, for sure. IT IS RED WINE THE WAY WE LIKE IT. It’s got ample fruit, unmistakable soil qualities, judicious use of oak, seamless tannins and a lively finish. And though I have the honor of choosing Le Farnete’s 2008 Carmignano as my Pick of the Week, I can assure you that my enthusiasm for this wine is shared by the entire Wine House staff; if it weren’t but for a computer glitch last week, Pete would have been all over this wine. Normally, if there are samples left to be taken home, the staff cordially divides up the wine. This time, however, I could see the calculating look in everyone’s eyes as we tried to determine who would be the lucky one to take the last bit home. No fistfights broke out, I’m happy to report, thanks only to learning that the bottle price was only $17.99 (that’s $15.29 with a case purchase)!!! Hey buddy, you take this empty bottle home, I’ll buy myself a full one to take home, thank you very much.



The Carmignano from Enrico Pierazzuoli’s estate, Le Farnete,
is not new to TWH. We’ve been importing Enrico’s Carmignano for several vintages. I’m pretty sure many of you still remember the incredible 2004 and the beefy 2005.Who could forget them? I bought a case each of the ’04 and ’05 at the time (and soon a case of the ’08), but nothing is left. If I know I’ve got a bottle of Carmignano from Le Farnete sitting somewhere in my vicinity, I’m going to drink it! I am unable to leave this wine alone to age. The wine region of Carmignano, north west of Florence, is an interesting one dating back to the 14th century. In the 17th century, the Grand Duke Cosimo III de’Medici gave this area legal status. He himself was growing and making wine here and regularly sent it to nobility around Europe. Despite this early recognition of Carmignano’s high quality, it was not until 1990 that it was given its own DOCG. Another curious note about Carmignano is that long before the proliferation of “Super Tuscans” from Chianti in the ’90s, Cabernet Sauvignon was cultivated in this region. It still remains the only Tuscan region to require the inclusion of Cabernet Sauvignon.Le Farnete’s breakdown of Sangiovese to Cabernet Sauvignon is 80/20. It’s clear that the supple bright cherry fruit comes from Sangiovese and the underlying structure and tannin comes from the Cabernet. Le Farnete produces less than 1500 cases each year of their Carmignano. It is aged in large 60 gallon oak barrels for eight months and then bottled aged for another eight months.


I’m sat here in front of the computer screen with a bottle next to the keyboard. Just writing about this wine gets my salivary glands going. I can’t stop dreaming about food pairings with the 2008 Carmignano like garlic-studded roast pork or oil-rubbed T-Bone steak. Yum! I remember once pairing the ’04 with oven roasted pork ribs seasoned with a hint of red pepper flakes which were then basted with Vermouth. Though I may be inclined to serving this with meat, the vivacity and lift of fruit in the ’08 allows for pairing with lighter fare like risotto or vegetable/grain main courses.

Anya Balistreri

2005 Carmignano: The Mother Of All No-Brainers

Friday, November 13, 2009 3:22 PM





Whew! We are in Anniversary Sale mode around here these days, and that means there is currently an abundance of great wine at great prices that will leave one shaking their head as to what to buy given all the choices. Take a stroll through the Rhone or Burgundy sections here, and you will see some incredible deals! We just sent out an email about our Bordeaux on sale with my top 10 picks amongst those. Being on a strict budget keeps me from jumping too high for those bigger ticket items, but hey, a sale like this has stuff for everybody. What would you say if I told you that we have a Super Tuscan blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese which has just opened its drinking window, showing ever so nicely, reduced in price from $22 to $13.95??? We do!!!

As most of you know, the majority of wines we import and carry in our shop are from France. Funny coincidence, I love French wine! It’s so easy for me to grab a bottle of French wine on my way out the door whether I’m going to a friend’s house, or chez moi to cook up a little din din. But contrary to what my best friend believes, I am not confined to a particular region, grape, or nation of origin.Long before I began to discover the wines of France (save Bordeaux, of course), I was a regular consumer of Italian wine. I gravitate to the wines of Italy for much the same reason as I do French; character. I look for wines that have something more to offer beyond fruit extract and alcohol. One will find far more complexity in a wine made in a subtle, elegant style. They pair better with food, and are fun to talk about. I hate saying things like this, let alone writing them, but here goes: When asked once by a friend where she should go for a first time trip to Europe, I asked her if she liked food and wine. She said yes.I said go to Italy. I know, I know. But I mean it … still. France is no slouch, mind you; but here, try this. Go to a cafe in France, ask for a glass of wine and see what happens. You’ll get your wine, but probably nothing else. Do the same thing in Italy, and you’ll get your wine alright, but something to eat too. And in many cases the food will be the bomb!

We have been importing the wines (and olive oil) from Tuscan producer Enrico Pierazzuoli for well over a decade. There’s a reason for that. We know a good thing when we see one. Or in this case, taste one. The Carmignano is a blend of 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 80% Sangiovese. When released, this 2005 blockbuster was big and tight, but you just knew that a little time would make a big difference. Well, that time has come. The wine is delightfully sanguine in appearance, and that nuance does not end there. Strong notes of iron high-five the brooding Cabernet Sauvignon fruit on the nose, the palate is firm, but medium bodied, and the finish is harmonious with notes of spice hailing a ride from the iron Cab. It’s meatiness makes it the perfect wine to pop with that herbal roast of … of … of whatever you want to roast, really. This wine retails for $22. Now at $13.95, this is the best sub $15 bottle in our sale!

This wine is certainly not to be missed, but it is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our Anniversary Sale! There are deals all over our shop; so pop in, check us out online, or give a call for recommendations. We’re here to help!

Tomorrow morning brings the first league match-up between the Chelsea and Manchester United football clubs. Kick-off is at 8:00 AM PDT. I’ll see y’all down at the Mad Dog In The Fog! –Peter Zavialoff

0 Comment Posted in Italy Tuscany

2003 Il Templare

Thursday, April 30, 2009 5:21 PM

2003 Montenidoli Il Templare

White Wine; White Blend; Tuscany;



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Someone wise once wrote “I don’t believe in coincidence. Nope, no such thing.” This same person and I both, perchance (?), recently drank a bottle of the 2003 Il Templare from Montenidoli within a day of each other. As is customary at The Wine House, we like to update one another how we spent our weekend or day off. These updates always include wine drinking highlights. We swapped notes on the Il Templare. Here is what I shared: indulging once again my craving for preserved lemons, I invited my parents over for dinner. I served Risotto with lemons and roasted asparagus for the entree. My parents introduced me to wine at an early age. Being emigres from Russia, it was deemed appropriate for young children to have “tastes” of wine at special occasions. I was hooked, most likely, from the very first sip. Anyway, my parents drink and enjoy Californian wines. So, from time to time I like to serve them something different. The 2003 Il Templare is different. First of all it’s a blend of 6 grape varieties: Vernaccia, Trebbiano, Malvasia Bianco, Semillon, Verdicchio and Grechetto. All these varietals were found in the old vineyards of the Montenidoli estate. The wine is fermented in barrel, giving off a lovely hint of Burgundian butter cream on the nose. The richness persists on the palate but is supported by this incisive and zippy acidity. This combination is what makes this wine so perfect for food. I did not hold back on the butter or parmesan for the risotto, so the Il Templare nicely cut through all that fat. A bottle of 2003 Il Templare and suddenly a Thursday night impromptu dinner with the folks was a real celebration.

When I came to work this week, still suffering from my Eastern Orthodox Easter celebration, I could not believe my eyes! The Il Templare was put on sale as part of an in-store promotion for 25% off the bottle price! That did it! I had to pick this wine as my “staff pick of the week”. I was excited about this wine when it was $19.99 per bottle, $16.99 by the case. At $14.95 per bottle, it is downright dancing-on-the-table time. The coincidences keep coming, or not…. Anya Balistreri


2003 Montenidoli Il Templare

White Wine; White Blend; Tuscany;



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Peter’s Thoughts

Ya know, I’m going to stick to my guns here, there is no such thing as coincidence. Even though my Russian parents thought it was important to allow me to taste the wines on special occasions when I was a child. Even though I was hooked early on. Even though I just celebrated Eastern Orthodox Easter. Even though both Anya and I chose to taste this wine 24 hours apart.

Brevity not being my strong suit, I’ll try my best here. A recent visit to my best friend’s cellar had him pulling some white wines to take upstairs in preparation for the recent heat wave. I spotted a bottle of the 2003 Il Templare, pulled it, and said, “Make sure I’m around when you pop this one.” A few days later, I was invited over for an impromptu jam session. Only problem was, it was after work, and he didn’t have any food. The text messaging went something like this: What time?, 7:15, What about dinner?, Gira Polli, Great we can open that wine you wanted. So I popped in to Gira Polli, picked up a whole rotisserie chicken, swiss chard, and pasta and was on my way. Now this is the part I was regretting. Anya is so good at tasting notes, I mean, come on, Burgundian butter cream? How can I follow that? I know, with my big mouth, or fingers, or whatever. So yes, we popped the wine and poured it. It had a pale golden tone to it with spicy, complex aromatics. On the palate, it was the perfect wine for our meal! It had a nutty, spicy note that complimented the slight char of the rotisserie perfectly. Alive and vibrant, it stood right up to the mild red pasta sauce, and a bite of swiss chard served as a brilliant precursor to demonstrating the fine texture of white fruit in the wine. Even my friend was astonished. I love it when I get a pairing dialed in perfectly.

So you see, there is no such thing as coincidence. This write-up in praise of the 2003 Sono Montenidoli Il Templare was meant to be! – Peter Zavialoff

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