Domaine des Corbillières
 
I’ve been known to call Domaine des Corbillières’ Touraine blanc ‘the poor man’s Sancerre’. It’s a quick way to convey that this wine is made from Sauvignon Blanc, like Sancerre, and that it is full of attack, like good Sancerre, but because it says Touraine on the label and does not carry the same cache Sancerre does, it is less expensive. It is rightfully so that Touraine is not as prestigious as Sancerre for it is a vast region encompassing varied soils and climates, often producing underwhelming wines. However, as in every region, there are the exceptions, the stand-outs and one such winery is Domaine des Corbillières.
 
Harvest in Touraine
 
Domaine des Corbillières is situated at the eastern end of Touraine in the village of Oisly. Dominique and Veronique Barbou farm 16 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc that range in age from 13-43 years of age. The vines grow in sand atop deep clay subsoils. In 1923 Dominque’s great grandfather, Fabel, purchased the property and, legend has it, was the first in the region to recognize the benefit of growing Sauvignon Blanc in Touraine. The story goes that Fabel allowed a vine to grow alongside his home and he soon noticed how well it thrived in the terroir. True or not, that’s a pretty cool story!
 
Dominique & Veronique Barbou
 
The 2013 Touraine blanc is showing beautifully at the moment. Lots of pungent pink grapefruit and green melon flavors permeate the wine. It’s assertive without being assaulting to the nose and palate as too many Sauvignon Blancs can be in my opinion. There is enough texture to create interest in the mouth, but still manages to end with an invigorating finish. This Touraine is not only a stand-out for the region, as I wrote above, but it is a stand-out among Sauvignon Blanc.
 
The Domaine at sunset
 
My daughter wanted mac-n-cheese for dinner. Feeling motivated to cook something special, I made the mac-n-cheese from scratch. I used three different kinds of cheese, sautèed up some red and green bell peppers, and even steeped fresh herbs and garlic into the milk before making the béchamel sauce. I thought it came out pretty good. My daughter, on the other hand, was disappointed that the mac-n-cheese was a casserole! Huh? Unlike my homemade mac-n-cheese, the pasta in the boxed yellow-colored kind made stove-top does not bind together,rather it spreads all over the plate in an oozy orange-glow mess. She likes it that way better! Knowing I had a chilled bottle of the 2013 Touraine in the fridge at the ready helped me to feel more magnanimous towards her. I suggested next time I make homemade mac-n-cheese, she can make the boxed kind herself! – Anya Balistreri

2012 Sancerre Rouge From Domaine des Buissonnes

Monday, June 15, 2015 7:29 PM

2012 Sancerre Rouge
Domaine des Buissonnes
 
The 2012 Sancerre Rouge from Domaine des Buissonnes is yet another fine example of a light, medium-bodied Pinot Noir from a region of France more famous for their whites than for their reds. Its delicate frame carries with it satisfying fruit flavors of sour cherry and tangy raspberry. The gentle tannins play nicely with the chalky finish. There is a soil component to the wine that pleasantly keeps the fruitiness at bay. It is a refreshing drink for those who value character over brawn.
 
Domaine des Buissonnes’ Sancerre Rouge
 
In last week’s post, Peter described a staff tasting where a white and a red were tasted. Although the subject of his post was Raousset’s Beaujolais Blanc (he was not at all exaggerating our enthusiasm for the wine!), the red he referred to, but did not name, was Buissonnes’ 2012 Sancerre Rouge. Just like we dug the stripped down, mineral-driven crisp Chardonnay from Raousset, the Buissonnes’ Sancerre Rouge showed us another approach to vinifying Pinot Noir. The 2012 Sancerre Rouge has a transparent quality; it is as if the grapes had sponged up the soil they were grown in and was then squeezed back into the wine. Chris liked the delicacy and lightness of the Sancerre Rouge and Peter was reminded how much he likes reds with a hint of green in it.
 
Harvest in Sancerre © InterLoire
 
I don’t foresee this style of Pinot Noir overtaking the popularity of super ripe, super concentrated ones, but I think there is a large segment of wine drinkers who are ready to take on and experience a more nuanced expression of the grape. It is au courant to put a slight chill on this wine, especially in warmer weather, to accentuate the snappy, tangy fruit. The incredible lightness of being that the 2012 Sancerre Rouge evokes, makes it an excellent candidate for lingering over slowly, taking in all the soft-spoken fruit.
 
It’s been a strangely, and unexpectedly, emotional last two weeks as my daughter finished up her elementary school years. How is it possible for six years to buzz by so quickly?We walked to school on the last day, just as we did on her first day to Kindergarten. I remember thinking then how grown up the fifth graders looked in comparison to my little one, but in my eyes, my soon to be middle-schooler still looks little to me. I realize she’s growing up, but she’ll always remain my baby girl.
 
5th grade trip: Crissy Fields SF
 
So, in my invariably Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah way, I’m going to celebrate these life changes by, what else, cooking up some lovely meals and drinking some tasty wine. I’m envisioning a moment this summer, after a long day of nothin’, of firing up the grill for a cedar-plank salmon. The2012 Sancerre Rouge from Buissonnes would be a perfect match, complimenting the sweet, smokey nuances of this type of preparation. I’d also like to see this wine match up with other types of fish or even grilled octopus sprinkled with smoked paprika. – Anya Balistreri

The June 2015 Dirty Dozen

Tuesday, June 9, 2015 5:55 PM

If one were to ask a hundred different people what their favorite month is, June would most likely top the chart. Any school kid would choose it, those that love to welcome summer would follow suit. June brides, Dads, and grads all have reason to put the sixth month first. Here at TWH, we’ve got a soft spot for June as well. The clock is ticking; summer is almost here! To get ready for it, why not pick up the June Dirty Dozen today? 12 wines, all different, all chosen for their versatility, one low price!

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2013 Domaine de la Petite Cassagne Blanc $11.99, $9.59 reorder

White wines from the Rhône Valley are some of the best bang-for-your-buck wines in the world! This one is a blend of 50% Rolle (some call it Vermentino), 30% Grenache Blanc, and 20% Roussanne, all tank-fermented with fresh and lively fruit expression. This is best served with light summer salads or avocado bruschetta drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

2012 Chenin Blanc, Blue Plate $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder

Here’s a Chenin Blanc grown sustainably in the Sacramento Delta commune of Clarksburg. It is pure sunny, melon-laden and tropical-tinged juice. The fruit is picked early to keep acids fresh and sugars in check. Fleshy, yet dry, this versatile white pairs up well with fried chicken and all the traditional sides.

2014 Vinho Verde, Arca Nova $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder

Slightly effervescent and super low in alcohol, a well-made Portugese Vinho Verde, like this one, is perfect for daytime imbibing or partnering up with a picnic. A family-owned winery, Arca Nova makes their Vinho Verde from the grapes, Loureiro, Arinto and Trajadura. For an unexpected pairing, try it with spicy pan-fried rice noodles like Pad Kee Mow.

2012 Riesling Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Ehrhart $19.99, $15.99 reorder

Okay, try this one. You’re sitting at a restaurant with a few friends. One friend orders a turkey sandwich. Another goes for corned beef and cabbage. A third likes the idea of the Dungeness crab salad, and you can’t take your eyes off the fish tacos. Think you all need the ‘by the glass’ list? Think again. This dry Riesling works with all of them.

2013 Chardonnay/Torrontes, Martin Fierro $9.98 net price, $8.98 reorder

Tulum Valley, Argentina is north of Mendoza. The vines there grow at elevations exceeding 2000 feet. The combination of Chardonnay and Torrontes makes for a fragrant yet perky, clean wine. A chilled glass to linger over on the veranda is nice especially with some nibbles of fava bean puree on crostini, crunchy crudité or a composed dinner salad.

NV Vouvray, Domaine d’Orfeuilles $16.98 net price, $15.28 reorder

June is a month known for several celebrations. And though we highly promote sparkling wines to be served at any occasion, this bottle may come in handy should you need a quick fizz pick me up. It’s made from Chenin Blanc and has aromas of dusty mineral and a crisp apple. Sparkling wine pairs very well with salty snacks like chips or popcorn.

2011 Syrah/Grenache, Laurent Miquel $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder

Spicy Syrah combined with juicy Grenache is a traditional blend in the Languedoc. Laurent Miquel vinifies these two complementary grapes to create an accessible and plush red. One famous British wine writer described producer Laurent Miquel “as one of the most reliable and forward-looking in the Languedoc.” Serve with any Mediterranean inspired dish.

2008 Tempranillo, Gárgola $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder

This structured, soft tannin Spanish red comes from grapes grown in the Extramadura region. Situated along the border with Portugal in western Spain, this sparsely populated region is rich in wildlife and home to the famous Jamón Ibérico. Try this cured-meat delicacy with some Marcona almonds and a large goblet of the Gárgola for a quick festive feast!

2012 Grenache, Blue Plate $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder

Looking for a warm-weather red quaffer? Something juicy and light with little oak? If so, the Blue Plate Grenache is the one for you! Pretty aromas of strawberry, raspberry and a hint of violet charm the senses. Light-bodied and fresh, serve with teriyaki-glazed chicken, Korean short-ribs or anything spicy and assertive that needs a fruity back drop.

2013 Syrah, Domaine Saint Antoine $11.49, $9.19 reorder



Coming from just outside the Rhône Valley, our friends at Saint Antoine craft this brawny Syrah. Another terroir-driven wine that speaks of its place of origin, it’s 100% de-stemmed and all tank fermented. Pair it with Papardelle with rabbit sauce.

2010 Château La Gorre, Médoc $16.98 net price, $15.28 reorder

Wait. What??? 2010 Left Bank Bordeaux in the Dirty Dozen? You bet. 2010 was one of the best vintages in the region in recent memory. La Gorre is another producer located in the village of Bégadan, and their 2010 is expressive and balanced. Treat it special: get the good stemware, a decanter, someone to share it with and a nice T-Bone steak.

2011 Ventoux Fayard, Domaine Fondrèche $17.99, $14.39 reorder

Winemaker Sébastien Vincenti has one of the best locales in all of Ventoux, and continues to churn out expressive wines with charm and complexity. For his Fayard blend, Vincenti uses 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 20% Mourvèdre to give it some gaminess and backbone. Pop it with a simple Margherita pizza and your taste buds will be tickled.

Check Out Our Complete Inventory at Click here to purchase all 12 wines for $109!

Poco a Poco
 
 
The Poco a Poco 2014 Russian River Valley Pinot Noiris another one of those strong values made by a talented winemaker offering an entry-level tier. I look out for these types of scenarios because, if the stars all perfectly align,fabulous juice can be purchased for a fraction of what the competition might charge for a comparable wine. The 2014 Poco a Poco Pinot Noir is delightful because of its vibrant, cheery red cherry fruit delivered in a charming light/medium-bodied weight package. This is not an over-the-top Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, but a restrained, fruity and pure example of one.
 
 
Poco a Poco is brought to you by Luke Bass and his wife, Elena. Luke Bass is the winemaker at Porter Bass. At the north-western edge of the Russian River Valley lies the vineyards of Porter Bass which are biodynamically farmed. The fruit from this small estate is in very high demand, and they only it sell to a select few. The tiny production at Porter Bass forced them to seek other vineyard sources to make wine under their Poco a Poco label. For the 2014 Pinot Noir, Luke uses fruit from the Forchini family’s vineyard just south of the town of Healdsburg and a half mile east of the Russian River. The Pinot Noir grown here is between 10-30 years of age and is organically farmed. The success of the Poco a Poco Pinot Noir is evident in that little by little production has increased. This is certainly a good thing because TWH has been cut short on more than one vintage. The 2014 has just been released, so I anticipate stocking it over the next couple months.
 
The 2014 Poco a Poco Pinot Noir is ideally suited for warmer days and evenings with its integrated, delicate tannins. If you decide to pop open a bottle and temps outside are pushing 90 degrees, its important to make sure the wine isn’t at room temperature. Go ahead and stick the bottle in the fridge for a few minutes in order to replicate optimal cool cellar temperatures. By doing so, you’ll get brighter and livelier flavors in the glass.
 
 

As wine trends go, I am over-joyed by the uptick in frequency of customers asking specifically for lighter reds. It warms this wine merchant’s heart to see wine drinkers embrace a wider diversity of wine styles. As we head into the summer months, it is not as if we all stop drinking red wine and start drinking white and rosé exclusively. And yet, how often, even with a rich piece of grilled meat, does a heavy tannic red fall flat (or hot) when outside temperatures spike? Avoid this mishap by selecting a softer tannin red, one that does not sacrifice flavor and complexity for heft like the 2014 Poco a Poco Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. I know I’ll be looking forward to bringing along a bottle to share with family and friends at one of this summer’s out-on-the-deck beneath the Redwoods dinner gatherings. – 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!
 

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Domaine des Buissonnes’ Sancerre is precisely why Sancerre is so beloved and has such far reaching popularity; the flavors are refreshing, crisp and persistent. Grower and winemakerDominique Naudet is a meticulous farmer. His Sancerre is always lush on the aromatics without compromising that charged Sauvignon Blanc attack. The 2013 is particularly compelling with its focused and precise flavors; compact and clean. You will immediately be greeted by aromas of gooseberry and passionfruit. On the palate it’s got citrus and cut grass freshness, but by no means is it “grassy”.
 
 
At the end of April, Jeanne-Marie de Champs, who represents many of the producers The Wine House imports, and comes to SF bi-annually to visit us,held court in our new conference room sharing with TWH staff a line-up of newly arrived winesoff of our last container. Though Jeanne-Marie works from Beaune in the heart of Burgundy, she is originally from Loire. When Jeanne-Marie is in town, I try to take these opportunities to ask as many questions as possible about each domaine, especially ones like Buissonnes that leaves no marketing or social media footprint. It is as if they don’t exist, other than the fact that our clients clamor for it as if it were the only Sancerre on the market.
 
Jeanne-Marie showing Peter the line-up
 
Jeanne-Marie explained that typical of the region,Domaine des Buissonnes owns several parcels around Sancerre, not just one contiguous vineyard. This is by design as the region is often devastated by hail, and owning vines in various places helps to insure a crop. Dominique Naudet owns about 20 hectares of vines and the winery itself is in Sury-en-Vaux just north of the town of Sancerre. Vinification occurs in stainless steelhowever to draw out aromatics and give a rounded mouthfeel, the wine sits long on the lees.
 
JM Holding Court
 
In an article about Sancerre’s popularity, a wine director for a high profile New York restaurant confessed that he won’t offer Sancerre by the glass because if he did it would make it nearlyimpossible to sell another white by the glass, thus destroying his by-the-glass program. Just some food for thought. Despite the popularity, I would caution that not all Sancerre is made equally.The family-run estate of Domaine des Buissonnes can only survive if it delivers quality, which is does vintage after vintage.
 
At a small town farmer’s market this past week I purchased some sweet, young Spring onions that would be perfect to grill, drizzle with a light vinaigrette and then crumbled over with fresh goat cheese – you know where I am going with this?– to serve with a chilled glass of 2013 Domaine des Buissonnes Sancerre. Now, doesn’t that sound lovely?
 
At The Wine House, we strive to stock the very best wine in every category from collectibles to everyday pleasures. For the latter, Domaine St. Antoine’s Merlot is our go-to for large gatherings, weddings, or budget-conscious imbibers. The 2013 Merlot is as it should be: fruity with approachable tannins with some backbone and drinkable start to finish. I won’t mislead you; you won’t mistake Saint Antoine Merlot for Ausone. However, that is not to say there are plenty of reasons to find charm and quality in the 2013 Merlot from Domaine St. Antoine.
St.Antoine1Domaine St. Antoine’s vineyards
 
Domaine St. Antoine is situated west of the Rhone River in the hills southeast of Nîmes. The estate is run by Jean-Louis Emmanuel and his wife, Marlène. The vines are planted on a plateau of rocky limestone that was deposited there when the area was underneath the Rhone River. The approach to winemaking here is simple. The Merlot grapes are 100% de-stemmed to keep the flavors fresh and vibrant, cold fermented in tank and then transferred to concrete cuves to rest before being bottled unfiltered. Nothing is added to bolster fruit flavors or trick tasters into thinking the wine was aged in barrel.This is honest to goodness country wine brought to market for a fair price.
Jean-Louis
Jean-Louis and Marlène
 
 
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that Domaine St. Antoine doesn’t have a website – and unless someone else takes over their social media, it is unlikely they ever will. Domaine St. Antoine is a working farm with an ancient olive grove that they press into oil, that happens to grow grapes. They make simple, albeit delicious, wine. I visited the estate once years ago. With my camera at the ready to take lots of pictures, I found it difficult to capture that postcard perfect angle. It was January and wet. Theestate which truly looks more like a farm and nothing like the wineries strewn along California’s Highway 29,was muddy, had farm equipment parked all around and maybe a dog or two barking in the driveway. It was a wonderful place. I met Jean-Louis and remember him as warm, but quite shy. His wine does all of the talking.
TreeAntoine
Ancient Olive Tree
 
On Day 2 of Easter, if the katzenjammer isn’t so bad, we set off on a pilgrimage to a small butcher shop in Santa Rosa to buy made in-house beef jerky, smoked bacon and an assortment of sausages. On the way there we stop by my brother’s house to check in on his chickens, gentlemen’s vineyard (new plantings of Mataro and Grenache have been added to his Petite Sirah and Zinfandel for a field blend effect), and any of his new hobbies. This year he escorted us to the wine cellar to peak in on and taste his curing Prosciutto! Hobbies are good. Bravo K! For tonight’s dinner a package of sausages have been de-frosted and a simple kinda of red is on tap – 2013 Merlot from Domaine St. Antoine. – Anya Balistreri
Prosciutto
Curing Prosciutto

2012 Pinot Noir Rosenberg – Domaine Saint Rémy

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 12:56 AM

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Pinot Noir accounts for less than 10% of total wine production in Alsace. Not much of it even leaves the region. It is therefore unlikely that many of us have great knowledge or familiarity with Alsatian Pinot Noir. If you desire to dabble in the esoteric then the 2012 Pinot Noir Rosenberg from Domaine Saint Rémy is a perfect place to start your exploration of Alsatian Pinot Noir.

 

 

Philippe and Corinne Ehrhart have transformed their centuries old domaine into an estate committed tosustainability and conscientious farming practices.They are certified organic and biodynamic. Their emphasis on meticulous work in the vineyard reflects back in the glass. TWH has proudly offered their range of AOC and Grand Cru whites, but it is only recently that we’ve stocked their Pinot Noir.

RemyVineyards2

Courtesy Domaine Ehrhart’s Facebook page
 
Ehrhart Pinot Noir comes from the Rosenberg vineyard, a recognized lieu-dit. The vineyard is south and southeast facing with clay-limestone topsoil and lots of rock underneath. The age of the vines are 25-30 years.

 

 

The 2012 Pinot Noir Rosenberg is 100% destemmed and likely spends some time in barrel but certainly not any new. It is light but not without complexity. The exuberant red cherry flavors of new world Pinot Noir are not in play here. Instead the berry fruit goes arm in arm with more savory notes of dried herbs and tea leaves. The lower alcohol (13% on the label) evokes a more restrained palate feel and the aromatics suggest more herb and tea leaves than fruit.
 
RemyVine3
Courtesy Domaine Ehrhart’s Facebook page
 
I slapped myself on the forehead this morning as I spied the 2012 Pinot Noir Rosenberg tucked among the Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris. All week I’ve been asked wine recommendations for ham, lamb or braised brisket. Rhone and Burgundy always came first to my mind, but I see now that I missed a perfect opportunity to introduce Alsatian Pinot Noir to a wider audience.The 2012 Pinot Noir Rosenberg, with its lighter profile, also makes a nice option for daytime and early evening meals.

 

 

 
I’ll be pulling double-duty with Western Easter this Sunday and Eastern Orthodox Easter next. Can a bit of spring cleaning even be a consideration for me at this time? Probably not; another fail. Gratefully, failing at choosing the perfect wine to go with Nana’s stuffed roast pork isn’t possible now that the Ehrharts’ Domaine Saint Rémy 2012 Pinot Noir Rosenberg is back on my radar. Wishing all of you a glorious Spring celebration!

2010 Barolo from G.D. Vajra

Saturday, April 11, 2015 5:45 PM

2010 Barolo from G.D. Vajra
 
If you haven’t yet heard, the 2010 vintage in Barolo was outstanding. When word began spreading about the fine quality of the vintage, it was natural for some to wonder if all the high praise was mostly hype. Not so it seems. As with all great vintages, the story begins with the growing season and in 2010 the season began late as winter lingered long into March. Overall 2010 had cooler than normal temperatures, promoting a long ripening season. Most producers harvested in mid-October. The 2010 vintage is characterized by power, intensity and precision. Neither austere nor over-ripe, the 2010’s are perhaps best summed up as modern classics, for they achieve fruit ripeness without losing site specificity.
 
Bricco

Bricco delle Viole courtesy G.D. Vajra’s Facebook page

 
The Wine House is offering two beautiful examples of 2010 Barolo from a family-run estate, G.D. Vajra. We’ve been stocking their entry-level BaroloAlbe for several vintages now, as it offers elegance and class at a very reasonable price (yes, like fine Burgundy, Barolo can be expensive).

 

 
G.D. Vajra began when Aldo Vaira fled city life and returned to his family’s estate, situated in Vergne – the highest elevation village in the Commune of Barolo – to farm the land. This was the early 70’s, a time when most people were looking for a way out of rural life and wanted to head to the city. Not Aldo. From the beginning, Aldo devoted himself to making the highest quality wine possible.Over time and with careful planning, Aldo was able to expand his vineyard holdings to the current 40 hectares of which 10 are planted to Nebbiolo for Barolo. Today, his son Giuseppe is the winemaker and brand ambassador. The Wine House was pleased to meet him for the first time back in January when he visited our store, bringing along a gorgeous line-up of G.D. Vajra wines. –Anya Balistreri
Giuseppe
Giuseppe Vaira courtesy winery’s Facebook page
The 2010 Barolo Albe comes from three vineyards,Fossati, Coste di Vergne and La Volta. The vineyards are all between 400-440 meters above sea level, with both young and older plantings. Here is a review by Antonio Galloni:
“Rose petal, mint, sage and licorice meld together ina supple, racy Barolo endowed with both tons of near-term appeal and the potential to develop beautifully in bottle. Vajra crafts the Albe to be accessible young, but 2010 is a vintage in which a few years in bottle will only help. The Albe is one of the very finest Barolos in its price range.”93+ points.
 
The 2010 Barolo Bricco delle Viole is magnificent.Bricco delle Viole is one of the highest altitude crus with clay/calcium rich soils. Only the oldest vines go into this bottling. Antonio Galloni had this to write about the wine:
“The 2010 Barolo Bricco delle Viole is going to need quite a bit of time to fully come together. Dark cherries, plums, tobacco and spices burst from the glass in an intense, structured Barolo that hits all the high notes. Next to the Ravera, the Bricco delle Viole is more floral, lifted and finessed, especially with time in the glass. Rose petals, savory herbs and sweet spices add the last nuance of complexity. The 2010 is fabulous; it’s as simple as that.” 96+ points.
 
 
Introducing
the 2013 Chardonnay El Camino Vineyard Santa Barbara County from Varner
 
 

 

 

Varner single-block Chardonnays from the Spring Ridge Vineyard up in the Santa Cruz Mountains are undeniably some of California’s most exquisite Chardonnays. They garner high scores from critics who bestow points, are collected by passionate advocates of California Chardonnay, and are universally admired for their rich fruit and restrained balance. My personal take on the wines is that if you champion and appreciate great Chardonnay, Varner should be on your list of wines to drink. So, can you imagine my excitement when I learned that Varner was about to release a brand new wine from a vineyard in Santa Barbara County?!

 

 

As Jim Varner explained to me, he doesn’t really like telling people he can’t sell them any more wine. Poor guy has to do this probably all the time, since Varner wines are allocated and in great demand. It makes sense then that Jim and Bob Varner would want to look for a way to use their Chardonnay making prowess to expand their offerings. Jim went on to explain to me that he and his brother were ready to take on a new project and wanted another creative outlet, so the search was on for the fruit. The El Camino Vineyard in northern Santa Barbara County parallel to the Santa Rita Hills was the right spot. The grapes come from a single block (see a pattern here!) of clone 4 Chardonnay. Clone 4…what does that mean? In the beginning stages of a vineyard’s life, clones matter, but over time – 10 years out or so – Jim tells me grapes can lose their clonal distinction as site overtakes influence on the vines.

 

 
 
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Cooking with Varner Chardonnay
 

 

El Camino Vineyard is five miles east of the Pacific Ocean with cool, coastal influences, but it is not a windy site. The Varners don’t favor windy sites. The phenolics in the grapes were especially compelling to theVarners and fit in with the direction they wanted to take with this new project. With the 2013 El Camino Vineyard Chardonnay, the Varners de-stemmed the fruit and fermented it in stainless steel tanks. A quarter of the wine was then aged for 6 months in new French oak puncheons, while the rest remained in tank resting on its lees. The intention was to preserve acidity and temper the tropical notes of Santa Barbara Chardonnay, moving flavors towards citrus and apples, convening into “a more tightly coiled Chardonnay in a modern style”.

 

 

 
I must confess, I was taken aback by the wine when I first tasted it because I was expecting another Spring Ridge Vineyard Chardonnay, which it isn’t. I had failed to pay close attention to the tech sheet provided by the winery.This wine is a clear juxtaposition to their barrel-fermented Mountain wines. The 2013 El Camino Vineyard is quick on its feet with pronounced acidity. The tropical fruit notes while not eliminated, play background to the lemony citrus notes. At this stage, none of the oak is detectable. I predict that with some bottle age those flavors might emerge ever so slightly. The tangy acidity and firm structure of the fruit are its dominant features. Jim told me he was under a lot of pressure to release the wine early. I can see why.The quality, price, and the fresh, vibrant style is ideal for restaurant by-the-glass lists, not to mention Varner fans and anyone looking for a different expression of California Chardonnay.

 

 
 
Bob&Jim
Jim & Bob Varner
 

 

Once I put away my expectations of what I thought aVarner Chardonnay should taste like, I began to appreciate the 2013 El Camino Vineyard Chardonnay on its own merit. Fortunately the night I opened a bottle, I had prepared for dinner a simple quesadilla with caramelized onions and sautéed nopales. The green tartness of the nopales was perfect foil for this crisp Chardonnay. It was also another unseasonably warm winter California evening, so something light and fresh was definitely in order. Its no secret that the entire staff at The Wine House are admirers of the Varners. Both Jim and Bob are uncommonly gracious. They’re a couple of the good guys who happen to also make great wine! Oh and here’s a teaser: a Varner Santa Barbara Pinot Noir is coming soon! So stay tuned.
 
 

Brick & Mortar – In On The Ground Floor

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 8:29 PM

 


Brick & Mortar is an exciting new wine project we are betting will be getting more and more attention once theirminiscule production levels increase for wider distribution. But for now, only a few select places, mostly top Bay Area restaurants, are able to offer their wines –and we’re one of the lucky ones!

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We were introduced to Brick & Mortar by way of one of David’s tasting groups. The winemaker, Matthew Iaconis, met with us at the store to share his story and pour his wines. By the time he left the building, David and I were conspiring to figure out how much we should buy! The wines are compelling and Matthew’s confidence and enthusiasm convinced us that he is a winemaker we want to get in with on the ground floor, so to speak.

 

 

Matthew, a native Californian, played football for UC Davis where he was studying Atmospheric Science – he wanted to be an astronaut! It was also at UC Davis that he took an introductory course on winemaking; this changed everything for him. After college, Matthew worked at wineries here and abroad. Most recently, he has worked with the Antinori family in Napa Valley. It is through this connection that he was able to acquire the fruit he needed to start his own project. Working with fruit from Cougar Rock Vineyard, a high elevation vineyard in the Atlas Peak appellation, Matthew achieves balance and finesse with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in what is typically thought of as Cab Country. The elevation and exposition of the vineyard allows for daytime sun and cool nights, perfectly suited for these Burgundian varietals. In addition, Matthew sources Pinot Noir from a vineyard on the other side of the Valley up on Spring Mountain.

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The 2014 Rosé of Pinot Noir is superb. It is quite delicate and subtle in the fruit department, yet the strawberry flavors of Pinot Noir come across. Using the saignée method of bleeding juice off of his two Napa Valley Pinot Noirs, Matthew then places half in stainless steel and the other in neutral barrel. It is a smart approach, preserving both texture and freshness in the wine. The pale, pale pink color, by the way, is divine. (55 cases produced)

 

 

The 2013 Chardonnay combines texturally rich fruit with a lifted palate feel. Neither overblown nor heavy,this is a composed Chardonnay that showcases sun-kissed fruit in a more discreet fashion. Barrel-aged, but only in a third new oak, this is a citrus-laden Chardonnay that accentuates acidity and stoniness on the finish. (260 cases produced)

 

 

Rounding out the trio of Brick & Mortar wines is the 2012 Pinot Noir. Put aside any pre-existing notions of Napa Valley Pinot Noir. This is mountain fruit – it has depth and reveals layers of flavors. The 2012 Pinot Noir is reflective of the character of Cougar Rock Vineyard. Matthew uses two blocks within the vineyard that run east/west. The soils are a mixture of gravelly loam and dusty red clay with extensive granite rock strewn about the parcel. For this wine Matthew put the grapes through an extended cold-soak with native yeast fermentation and then aged the wine in once used French oak barrels. His intention was to let the vineyard shine through the wine. We appreciated the soft, rounded texture and savored the deep, red berry fruit that was framed by earthier notes. Like the other two wines of Brick & Mortar, the 2012 Pinot Noircombines a pleasurable fruit presence with elegance. All of the wines sit lively on the palate. (110 cases produced) – Anya Balistreri

The March 2015 Dirty Dozen

Tuesday, March 10, 2015 6:10 PM

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Could it be that spring is on the horizon? Yes, indeed. The month of March has all sorts of wonderful things to deliver. Think about it. Spring training for baseball lovers, March Madness for fans of college hoops, St. Patty’s Day for amateurs, and the start of spring for those of us who long for warmer weather. This March, why not try out a Dirty Dozen? 12 bottles, all different, all chosen for their versatility, for one low price. The March 2015 Dirty Dozen. Yay!

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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

 

 

 

Click here to purchase the Dirty Dozen for $109.

2013 Chardonnay Viognier, Laurent Miquel $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder

Thank you Laurent Miquel for elevating the French country wine to such heights! Harvesting at night and fermenting in stainless steel tank make for a fresh, clean wine that offers up the sunny fruit of the Languedoc. Apricots and citrus fruit flavors abound. Chicken, lemon-stuffed and roasted or drowning in Mojo sauce, would do nicely here.

2013 Côtes-du-Rhône Colline Blanc, La Cabotte $12.48 net price, $10.78 reorder

La Cabotte’s vineyards are certified biodynamic and organic. A third each of Grenache blanc, Clairette and Viognier harmoniously blend together to make a classic white Rhône – stone fruit flavors prevail while the finish retains a striking minerality. The quality over delivers for price on this charmer! A brined and roasted pork loin would pair perfectly!

2012 Ranina Mea Culpa, Kogl $13.98, $12.58 reorder

A wine from Slovenia? A DD first! Ranina is considered indigenous to Slovenia. A wild crossing between some Pinot variety and an unknown parent, Ranina is often used for sweet wine. Kogl prefers to ferment their Ranina dry. White-fleshed fruit and subtle floral aromas on the nose combine to make a captivating, delicious white wine. A wonderful choice for heat-spiked foods and fresh water fish.

2013 Touraine Rosé, Domaine des Corbillières $15.99, $12.79 reorder

Now that the days are getting longer and the weather warmer, it just makes sense to have some Rosé handy. Ah, but this is no ordinary Rosé! Hints of citrus blossoms and red berry fruit are noticeable on the bouquet, yet the palate is crisp. Extremely versatile, one can be quite creative when thinking of pairing partners, though a sunny picnic will do.

2013 Hors Saison, Domaine La Hitaire $13.99, $11.19 reorder

In the local dialect, Hors Saison means outdoor season. It is March, and around these parts, March is not just a verb. It is the time of year when windows open, blossoms appear, and fresh, easy-drinking white wines are fashionable. This blend of 85% Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon is light and refreshing. It is ideal to pour with macaroni salad with tuna and mayo.

2012 Gavi di Gavi Rovereto, Ernesto Picollo $16.79, $13.43 reorder

Direct-importation is responsible for this amazing wine to come to us for such a ridiculously low price! It’s all about the crisp dried yellow fruits and minerals here. If you can pair it with halibut puttanesca, you’ll be in Schaeffer City!

2013 Garnacha, Bodegas Filón $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder

DO Catalayud is part of Spain’s Ebro River Valley region, where high elevation vineyards seek refuge from the dry, arid Spanish interior. Garnacha thrives in this region, producing sappy, rich reds with notes of mint. Bodegas Filón does a noble job at producing an open-armed, succulent Garnacha. Time to serve up some patatas al ajillo with chorizo!

2012 Peljesac, Dingac $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder

An hour drive north of Dubrovnik, the Peljesac Peninsula juts 40 miles out into the Adriatic. In this part of Croatia, the native grape Plavac Mali is commonly planted. This Plavac Mali is fashioned in a locally popular style – the grapes are harvested late giving the wine the quality of sur-maturité. This super ripeness shows on the nose but not on the palate. Plummy flavors with dried herbs characterize the wine. Be adventurous – pair with Korean short ribs or fajitas.

2009 L’Artisan Languedoc, Laurent Miquel $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder

Predominantly Syrah, this is a full-bodied southern French red. Typical of the region, the Syrah impart spice notes of white and black pepper. A tiny touch of Grenache is blended in to give a fruitier dimension. Honestly, this one, because it has had time to settle in bottle, goes with practically any cuisine – all the edges have been smoothed out.

2011 Domaine de la Petite Cassagne Rouge $12.99, $10.39 reorder

Red Rhône wines have to be counted among the most consistent bargains of the wine world. For quality and price, it’s tough to go elsewhere. For this one, Diane Puymorin blends 10% old vine Carignan and 10% old vine Mourvèdre with Syrah and Grenache and the result is quite complex for a wine in this price range. Serve it with sautéed veal cutlets.

2012 Syrah/Grenache, Grange des Rouquette $11.99, $9.59 reorder

Speaking of red Rhône wines, Thierry Boudinaud uses a similar recipe to craft his entry-level red. His Syrah/Grenache receives the added benefit of a little Mourvèdre (10%), which gives the wine a little added complexity. It’s fresh and charming, no problem if you want to pour it on its own, but it will pair well with pasta in red sauce or a calzone.

2012 Pinotage, The Winery of Good Hope $13.49, $10.79 reorder

South Africa’s signature grape, Pinotage was created as a hybrid of Pinot Noir and Cinsault back in the 1920s. Alex Dale’s Winery of Good Hope’s version is all de-stemmed and consists of only the free-run juice, keeping the fruit at the forefront. Serve it with a slight chill, and enjoy with spicy carnitas served on corn tortillas.

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

 

 

Click here to purchase all 12 wines for $109!

 

Reg. $156.58On Sale $109.00

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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.
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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.
 


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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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The 2012 Scaia Corvina from Tenuta Sant’Antoniorepresents the 5th vintage we’ve carried at The Wine House. There is a good reason why we have and that is because it is a veritable steal for the quality! 100% Corvina sourced from the winery’s young vines fashioned into a supple, un-oaked red beauty.

 

Tenuta Sant’Antonio began twenty years ago when four brothers decided to take their collective wine knowledge and go into business together, purchasing land to augment their familial vineyard east of Verona. A risky venture anywhere in the wine world, but these four had passion and experience behind them and they were determined to make world-class Amarone and Valpolicella. At last week’s Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri tasting at Fort Mason, Sant’Antonio poured their top end Amarone, so the wine world has taken notice of their achievement in making fine wine. A tactic of mine that can bring good results is to seek out high-end wineries that also produce an everyday line such as Sant’Antonio’s Scaia. At best, what I hope to find is top-notch winemaking from quality grapes that from the bottle over-deliver for price. The Scaia Corvina is such a wine.
 
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I’ve enjoyed the Scaia rosso starting with the 2007 vintage. Many of you may already be familiar with Scaiaespecially if you’ve been a frequent buyer of The Dirty Dozen; the Scaia goes in nearly every vintage.

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And yet, the2012 Scaiadistinguishes itself from past bottlings. Now the varietal, Corvina, is prominently written on the handsome, newly updated front label and Veneto is identified as the IGT or indicazione geografica tipica. But more importantly, it is the wine that makes the 2012 their finest effort. For a 100% Corvina it is pleasantly dense and rich at the core while still maintaining freshness and light tannins. The fruit is all red cherry with a thread of green, typical of the grape.

 
From issue #216 of The Wine Advocate comes this review:
“The 2012 Corvina Scaia is an unbelievable deal, and a wine that can be purchased by the case-load for those informal occasions at home when a simple glass of red wine accompanies you as you cook dinner or watch television. This is the ultimate downtime wine. The fruit is fresh and bright with white cherry, cassis, sweet almond and freshly milled white pepper. It’s appearance is compact with a light ruby hue. ” 90 points.

 

In the last six months since my father’s passing, I’ve met my youngest nephew hours after his birth and just last night witnessed my eldest nephew announce his weddingengagement to the family.  Life does indeed go on.
 
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And Pete is right when he wrote, “life’s too short to not enjoy something special at least once a month.”Splurging is good, but if you can’t (or don’t want to) you shouldn’t have to jeopardize quality in order to enjoy an affordable glass of wine. It may take a bit more effort on your part to find such a wine, but that’s why you have us here at The Wine House – to help you find the best possible wine to enjoy at any price.

 

The February 2015 Dirty Dozen

Monday, February 16, 2015 7:40 PM

February might be the shortest month of the year, but it’s packed with fun stuff to do! There’s Valentine’s Day, of course, but Presidents’ Day and winter break right afterward. That’s reason enough to have a Dirty Dozen handy. Think about it, 12 wines, all chosen for their versatility, in one handy box, for one incredibly low price. So no matter what’s cooking, there’s something in this here sampler that will pair well beside it. Vive la Dirty Dozen!

 

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2013 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Col del Mondo $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder

An old favorite makes a return visit to the DD. These mature Trebbiano grapes are grown on silt/clay soils rich in calcareous elements. Winds off the Adriatic keep temps cool at night, preserving freshness. Meticulous work in the vineyard yields results that over-deliver for the price. Unoaked and yet dripping with sunny, citrusy flavors – delizioso! Serving suggestions include veal Piccata, a bowl of Castelvetrano olives, or a rotisserie Chicken.

2013 Chardonnay, Sean Minor $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder

This Central Coast Chardonnay is put together keeping balance in mind as only a portion of the wine is aged in barrel. A Chardonnay that is unapologetically Californian in flavor profile: apple, pear, with nuances of tropical fruit. A rounded, creamy finish will compliment Swiss enchiladas, pan-roasted salmon or it can go solo at your next book club meeting.

2013 Pinot Grigio, Riff $11.98, $10.78 reorder

One of Italy’s most famous producers, Alois Lageder, makes this delightful, delicious and de-lovely Pinot Grigio. Fermented in tank and left on its lees for four months to develop texture, this is far removed from the sea of plonky Pinot Grigio. Depth and pronounced aromas of orchard fruit make this a perennial TWH favorite. Food match-ups are endless here, but to get you started: Oysters Rockefeller, clam chowder, or a grilled Gruyere & ham sandwich. Nice!

2012 Unoaked Chardonnay, The Winery of Good Hope $13.49, $10.79 reorder

English expat Alex Dale has a few labels under his umbrella down Stellenbosch way. His entry-level brand, The Winery of Good Hope doesn’t spend precious resources on new barrels, packaging, or marketing, ultimately keeping their bottle prices über-friendly. Here it is: Lively Chardonnay with no make-up, waiting to be poured with those crabcakes.

2012 Bordeaux Clairet, Château Armurey $9.99, $7.99 reorder

Speaking of the English – They’ve called red Bordeaux wines “Claret” for centuries. Where’d they get that from? In the Middle Ages, light red wine called Clairet (say Klare-ay´) was shipped from Bordeaux to England, and that inspired this now permanent fixture in their lexicon. Not a red wine, not a Rosé, this Clairet is as versatile as it is easy on the wallet!

NV Touraine Brut Rosé, Domaine d’Orfeuilles $17.98 net price, $16.18 reorder

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here’s a pink sparkler with plenty of nuance and character. Made mostly from Côt (non Loire people call it Malbec), it sports a deep brick-like color, but don’t let that fool you. This fizz is dry and zesty, the fruit pings with freshness, and there is gravelly mineral at its core. Perfect to open with tempura and/or sushi.

2013 Luberon, Dauvergne Ranvier $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder

Juicy black cherry and plum flavors are embraced by firm, velvety tannins making this the ideal anytime Rhône red. Two-thirds Syrah with the balance Grenache, this wine captures the easy-to-drink profile of the region. Each sip can elicit taste memories of fruit and Provençal herbs. Try with turkey and hominy chili (make it as hot as you like, this red with handle the heat), lamb burgers or white bean and kale stew for meatless Monday.

2013 Nero d’Avola, Marchione $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder

The dark-skinned Nero d’Avola is Sicily’s most important and widely planted grape. This rendition of Nero d’Avola opts to take the fresher route by fermenting the grapes in tank, leaving the acid bright and the fruit intense. A charming Nero d’Avola if ever there was one. It is well suited for tomato-based sauces and dishes, as well as Mediterranean seafood stews like Cioppino or Bouillabaisse. Too much effort? Ok then, a lamb shawarma or carnitas burrito can do in a pinch.

2013 Bobal, Atance $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder

One can easily make the case that Spain produces the greatest selection of wine values in the world. Allow us to put into evidence, Atance Bobal. Crusader of Bobal, Toni Sarrion of Bodegas Mustiguillo, makes this wine using grapes from the DO Valencia. A medium-bodied red, the aromatics have an alluring thread of black pepper in tandem with the raspberry fruit. Muy ricos!

2013 Merlot, Domaine de St. Antoine $11.49, $9.19 reorder

Jean-Louis Emmanuel’s terroir in the hills to the southeast of the city of Nîmes have been compared to the terroir of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He grows Syrah as well, but he found something to his liking by planting Merlot under the hot sun of the Costières de Nîmes. It’s juicy and medium bodied with a hint of the garrigue; great with pasta and duck ragu.

2011 Morgon Côte du Py, Domaine Pierre Savoye $18.99 net price, $15.19 reorder

There are 10 classified ‘Crus’, or growths, in Beaujolais. Though they’re not labeled as such, their recognition suggests each one special, akin to Premier Cru or Grand Cru. The wines from Morgon’s Côte du Py are considered to be some of Beaujolais’ more age worthy. Think bright red cherries and forest floor, this juicy number suits a turkey sando just fine.

2012 Barco Reale di Carmignano, Le Farnete $14.59, $11.67 reorder

Hardly a newfangled ‘Super Tuscan,’ Cabernet Sauvignon has been allowed to grow in Carmignano since Medici times. Blended with 80% Sangiovese, the Barco Reale shows plenty of brightness braced by the sturdy Cabernet fruit. This is a food wine extraordinaire, as it will suit pasta, pizza, stews, barbecue, veal shanks, meatballs; we could keep going!

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2012 Jean-Marie Chaland Macon Villages Les Tilles

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 1:25 PM

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Sneaky – that’s the way I see it anyway. The 2012 Mâcon Villages Les Tilles from Jean-Marie Chaland is sneaky the way its flavors intensify with repeated sips. With an unoaked Chardonnay from the Mâconnais you might not expect much complexity, but this one is different. Once you get past the first refreshing, satisfying swallow, what emerges is a sophisticated expression of classic Chardonnay flavors like apple and pear.jmchaland

Talented winemaker Jean-Marie Chaland, whose swashbuckler good looks make him a shoo-in for a remake of The Three Musketeers, organically farms several old-vine (some darn near ancient) micro-parcels in the villages of Viré and Montbellet. The grapes for the 2012 Les Tillesare mere youngsters at 40-50 years old and come from a single parcel grown on a plateau of clay and limestone soil near Montbellet. Jean-Marie takes a simple approach to vinifying this wine: stainless steel tank fermentation, natural yeasts, no added sugars or acidification. What you taste in the glass, aside from any clever flavor descriptor I can come up with, is the environment in which the grapes were grown (soil, climate, viticultural practices) and Jean-Marie’s gentle guidance of turning the grapes into wine.

 

 
 
Jean-Marie Chaland may take a simple approach to making his 2012 Mâcon-Villages Les Tilles but the end result is extraordinary. It is analogous to a chef, someone like Judy Rodgers of Zuni Cafe, who honored ingredients by skillfully preparing them without masking their inherent goodness and flavors. When you have a perfectly ripened garden tomato or a farm-fresh egg, there is not a whole lot you need to do to make it taste better.
 
 
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And so to recap, the 2012 Mâcon-Villages Les Tilles:
 
1) organically grown grapes,
2) grown on clay/limestone soil,
3) 40-50 year old vines,
4) unoaked
and….
5) $19.99 per bottle or $16.99 by the case!
 
Did I just hear a needle scratch over the record? I must admit, I have tried excellent unoaked local Chardonnay but I can assure you, they don’t cost under $20 a bottle! An amazing value when you consider the material in the bottle.
 
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Sent my big Bro home with a bottle!

Now for a little sharing – rather than watch the Super Bowl at home with her parents, my daughter opted to spend it at her BFF’s house – they too were having a party. Right after halftime, she called home to inform us that she had eaten dinner. After I assured her that that was fine and that I expected she would have eaten with them, she followed up by making me promise to save some of the Buffalo Wings we were serving for her to eat later! My little foodie!
 
 
Domaine Julie Benau’s Picpoul de Pinet is a wine that we initially stocked because we felt it was one of the finest of its kind. Now we stock it because we’d have a riot on our hands if we didn’t. Talk about a wine that has gained traction! It has become a favorite and staple for many TWH customers. It combines the desire one might have for a white with charged acidity with one that has some fleshiness. I’d place it somewhere between a Muscadet and crisp white Cotes du Rhone.
 
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Picpoul de Pinet refers both to the name of the grape and the appellation; something you don’t often encounter on a French wine label. The vineyards grow along the Etang de Thau which is a series of lagoons that stretch along the Mediterranean coast. The water has high salinity and is host to a thriving oyster-producing community. Like Muscadet, Picpoul de Pinet is a natural choice for oysters on the half shell. To illustrate this point,Domaine Julie Benau’s Picpoul de Pinet literally has a pen and ink sketch of an oyster on the front label. Though personally, I wouldn’t limit Benau’s Picpoul de Pinet to just raw shellfish – that would be a mistake. Boquerones, grilled sardines or a creamy Brandade would be a great way to go if you had this perky white chilling in the fridge.

 

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In 1980, Julie Benau’s family bought the domaine which centers around a 16th century fortified farm and like most growers in the area do, sold their fruit to the local co-op. In 1999, Domaine Julie Benaubegan bottling part of their production using their best vines. It is clear to my palate that this practice continues as the 2013 Picpoul de Pinet is laden with green-tinged fruit, lemony flavors and a touch of oily roundness. It’s the texture here that makes me think white Cotes du Rhone, though the body weight of Picpoul is far lighter than a Rhone. Perhaps not coincidentally, outside of the Languedoc, Picpoul can be found growing in the Rhone. It is one of the thirteen varietals allowed in Chateauneuf du Pape and is used mainly to add acidity to the blend. The wordPicpoul itself translates to “stings the lip”.
 
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TWH post-Holiday staff party last Saturday night was a great celebration. Vintage Champagne and crab beignets (an incredible combination)…and that was only the beginning! My tastebuds are still doing a happy dance one week later. Speaking of dancing, my tiny dancer is hitting the big stage to perform sick Hip Hop moves as part of a dance school showcase. I am giddy with excitement for her. Break a leg, sweet pea!

 

The January 2015 Dirty Dozen

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 12:55 AM

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Happy New Year! It’s January 2015, time for new beginnings, and renewed optimism. As we look back and see the holidays in our wake, it’s comforting to feel the relative calm that January brings. It’s a great month to just chill, get caught up on our reading, and taste some new wines. The Dirty Dozen is exactly the discovery tool to accompany all three pastimes. So kick off your shoes, get the glasses, and let the DD do the entertaining!

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2012 Alento, Monte Branco $12.98 net price, 11.68 reorder

A slew of autochthonous grapes make up the blend for this zippy Portuguese white. It’s an easy sipper with pronounced amounts of bright, citrusy flavors. Young winemaker Luís Louro established the winery in Alentejo, a wine region in the southern part of the country. Saffron-infused steamed mussels and crab cakes work well as does a winter veggie slaw.

2011 Chardonnay, Brezza $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder

This Langhe Chardonnay comes from an estate located near the town of Barolo, Italy. It is all stainless steel tank fermented, so it is a crisp rendition of this famed grape variety. 20+ year-old vines grown on sand and silt make for a stylish, structured white. Serve with pizza bianca or clam linguine.

2014 Gewurztraminer, Banyan $9.98 net price, $8.98 reorder

This is seriously delicious Gewurztraminer! Perfumed aromatics are met with a dry, vibrant finish. The fruit is sourced from Monterey County, where climate suits the varietal well. The winemaker, of Thai decent, deliberately set out to make a wine to pair with Southeast Asian cuisine. Burmese tea leaf salad, Panang beef curry, Pad Kee Mao, oh yeah!

2013 Syrah Rosé, Domaine Saint Antoine $11.49, $9.19 reorder

Jean-Louis Emmanuel and his wife Marlène run this estate and its 20 hectares planted on a plateau of rocky limestone in the Costières de Nîmes. Their Rosé is made from 100% Syrah using the saignée method, or “bleeding” the juice off the skins after a short time on them. It’s a versatile wine that pairs well with pork chops, tuna salad, or a warm kitchen.

2011 Chardonnay, Lalande $13.99, $11.19 reorder

A semi-frequent visitor to the DD, the Lalande Chardonnay is a no-brainer in the quality for price Chardonnay category. It’s bright and fleshy with a crisp finish. It sees 33% new, 1-year, and 2-year old barrel to give it texture and aromatic complexity. Enjoy this one with a fried chicken sandwich, crab pasta salad, or just a baguette and some green olives.

NV Crémant d’Alsace, Domaine Ehrhart $17.98 net price, $16.18 reorder

TWH pals Corinne and Philippe Ehrhart farm organically and make their Crémant d’Alsace from 100% Chardonnay. It’s rich and creamy, with just the right amount of balancing acidity. It’s always good to have a bottle of sparkling wine handy just in case an occasion presents itself! You know what sounds great right now? Brats, potato pancakes, and this!

2010 Touriga Nacional, Quinta do Pinto $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder

Big, rugged, earthy with plum flavors and a hint of tobacco and chocolate on the finish, this 100% Touriga Nacional is perfect for winter’s heavier fare. The winery is situated in the Lisboa wine region, which stretches along the Atlantic coast west and north of Lisbon. Aged for nine months in 2 & 3-year old French oak barrels, this wine will warm the soul even on the chilliest of evenings. Pair with braised, slow-cooked dishes, crusty bread and a roaring fire.

2012 Scaia, Tenuta Sant’ Antonio $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder

A wildly popular red from a producer of Valpolicella and Amarone, Scaia is made from 100% Corvina. Juicy, red cherry and wild strawberry fruit is bolstered with herb and forest floor notes. Medium-bodied and plush, this is a crowd-pleasing, versatile red. Perfect for a wild mushroom ragout, Shepherd’s Pie, or truffled mac-n-cheese.

2012 Blue Plate Grenache, Picnic Wine Co. $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder

A boisterous and playful lighter-styled California Grenache intentionally constructed to show off the grape’s juicy nature. Fresh strawberry and raspberry flavors are left unobstructed by oak, making this an ideal red to serve at daytime events. At home, take a cue from the label and serve with meatloaf and mashed potatoes or other diner favorites.

2010 Tradicional, Quinta do Alqueve $11.29, $9.03 reorder

Here’s another head-scratching, “How do they do it?” wine coming out of Portugal. We don’t ask how, we just enjoy it! It’s a four grape blend: Touriga Nacional (40%), Tinta Roriz (30%), Trincadeira (20%), and Castelão (10%). It gets a little oak treatment to knit them all together, and bam, is it ever great! Pair it with small bites like meatballs or sliders.

2013 Pinot Noir, Lomas Del Valle $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder

Coming to us from Chile, the Lomas del Valle Pinot Noir tips the scales in the quality for price Pinot Noir department. Its aromas are of lovely Pinot-berry fruit with depth and earthy complexity. On the palate, it shows medium body with a red fruit attack that melts in the fresh acidity and finishes in harmony. We’re thinking thin-crust Neapolitan pizza here.

2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Vinum Africa $17.99, $14.39 reorder

Transplanted Brit Alex Dale now calls South Africa his home and is involved with making and marketing the wines for Vinum Africa. Many have concluded the etching on the bottle to be an ancient tribal symbol, but alas, it’s just a clever way of spelling Vinum. This Cabernet comes from a sensational vintage when everything went right. We’re thinking a grilled T-Bone steak for this one.

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If it isn’t Champagne, what do you call it? In France, the term used to denote a sparkling wine other than Champagne is Crémant. The 2010 Crémant de Bourgogne Perle de Roche from Domaine Sainte Barbe is therefore technically not a Champagne but you’d be hard pressed to know that if given a glass to taste blind.

Just like in Champagne, Domaine Sainte Barbe has the wine go through secondary fermentation in the bottle. This is called Méthode Traditionnelle. The darling monk, Dom Perignon, is erroneously credited for discovering this technique of making still wine into sparkling wine. The transformation of still into sparkling wine was less of a sudden discovery and more like a drawn-out process that evolved over a long time period. At any rate, Domaine Sainte Barbe’s winemaker, Jean-Marie Chaland, uses 100% Chardonnay, a blanc de blancs as it were, from two parcels: one in Mâcon and the other from the lieux-dit, La Verchère, in Viré-Clessé. The Chardonnay grapes are grown on clay and limestone soils, lending an especially minerally quality to the wine.
 
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Jean-Marie takes further care by leaving the wine en tirage for a good long time, and in the case of the 2010 vintage, the wine sat on the lees for 30 months before disgorgement. Chaland’s 2010 Cremant de Bourgogne is rather dry, he uses only 4 grams of sugar per liter, which is low even for Champagne standards. It is a sparkling wine for Rock Heads – the affectionate term used for wine drinkers who have an affinity for mineral-driven, steely wines. At the store, we call Domaine Sainte Barbe’s Crèmant de Bourgogne, the Poor Man’s Les Mesnil because of that distinctive, crisp, sleek finish.

 

No need to twist my arm, I gladly embrace the tradition of drinking a glass – or two- of bubbly this time of year. Of course, I don’t usually need any encouragement to drink it as I adhere to the Lily Bollinger way of thinking (“I only drink Champagne when I’m happy, and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I am alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when am. Otherwise, I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.”LB)
 
 
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On Christmas Day, after the wrapping paper and boxes were gathered and put into the refuse bins and we finished a couple cycles of The Christmas Story marathon, I was ready for a celebratory glass of bubbly. The 2010 Crèmant de Bourgogne was right on target with the slightly nutty nose and sleek finish. One sip pushed aside all earthly cares, helping me languish in the moment.

 

For New Year’s Eve, I’ll be arming myself with a couple of bottles of Sainte Barbe’s Crèmant de Bourgogne to take to a house party. The price makes it doable. It doesn’t hurt either that the package is elegant, but ultimately it is the quality in the bottle that will impress and so no one will be the wiser that I did not have to over-pay for mediocre Champagne.
 
In anticipation of the new year, I would like to wish all of you a healthy, joyous, and prosperous 2015!
 
 

 

Bouzereau’s 2011 Bourgogne Blanc is a sensational deal. How often can you drink white Burgundy priced at $24.95 per bottle and get this level of complexity? Sadly, not too often these days. That said, it is our unending quest to keep searching the Côte D’Or for hidden gems to import at affordable prices. Though Bouzereau no longer can be considered a “hidden gem”, as the domaine is becoming well recognized for making exceptional Meursaults, Puligny-Montrachets and Volnays,it is their Bourgogne Blanc that gives us mere mortals with aspirations of drinking more white Burgundy more often the possibility to pull the cork even on casual occasions.

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My neighbor across the street has a son-in-law who is an avid amateur fisherman and, lucky for me, can’t seem to consume all the crab he brings her. So she shares it with my family. Two things I don’t tire of is fresh Dungeness crab and white Burgundy, separately or together. It bears mentioning here, that I have gone on record many times with saying that if I could, I would drink white Burgundy every day. Knowing I had crab marinated in parsley, Meyer lemon and olive oil waiting for me last night, I fretted all during the day deciding what I wanted to drink with it. Often I go with something light and crisp, but this time I wanted richness, something luxurious and layered to accompany the crab. White Burgundy, that’s what I wanted. Not Chablis, not some crisp Macon, something with more heft and flesh. Heading into the gift-buying season, I had to be budget conscious too. Bouzereau Bourgogne Blanc: the clear and obvious answer.

 

 

 
 
Bouzereau’s Bourgogne Blanc comes from 3 parcels, including one from Meursault and one from Puligny-Montrachet. The oldest vines were planted in 1957.Aged in barrel, this is no ordinary Bourgogne Blanc. It is much, much more and quite frankly, easily mistaken for a village or Premier Cru level wine. Yes, it gives you that much to appreciate. The nose is boisterous with notes of anise and hazelnut creme, minty even. The flavors on the palate are textured and lengthy, with beautifully integrated fruit and oak notes. This is darn good Chardonnay!
 
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In a review of the 2011 Bourgogne Blanc from Bouzereau,critic Allen Meadows of Burghound ended with “One to buy by the case” – no kidding!

 

 

 
Take his word, take my word, you will want to drink this over and over again and at $24.95 per bottle you can do so without feeling any pangs of guilt.
 

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