Trassegum, Occitan for "Love Potion."

Saturday, November 3, 2018 4:19 PM

Trassegum, Occitan for
Diane & Husband, Mathieu Outside TWH

Talk about an exciting week,

Halloween was a hoot and so was the next day. You know what November 1st is?  It's our Anniversary. This past Thursday TWH celebrated our 41st Anniversary! It's a long time to be in business and we have all of you to thank for it. As a way of saying thanks, we are currently putting the finishing touches on an Anniversary Sale to be unveiled shortly!  Stay tuned.

While sitting at my workstation putting the finishing touches on the November Dirty Dozen write-up, I heard Anya answer the phone. She put the party on hold, called David's attention, and told him, "Diane's on the line."  It was the way she said it.  Not dye-ANNE, like we say here in the states, but "dee-AHN" was how she pronounced it. I knew immediately who it was on the line. David couldn't quite make out what Anya had said over the din in the shop, but he got it eventually and picked up the line. Made me think of how cool it is to work here. Diane Puymorin has been one of our most well-respected winemakers for decades, churning out great wines vintage after vintage. It's been a long standing fact that her Les Cimels Rouge has been my go-to house red for over 10 years, and I'm not alone in my adoration of this wine. I've put many a bottle into satisfied customers' hands over this time, and I just thought it was cool that we bridge the gap between her vineyard, all the way in southern France, to you all, our customers in the good ole USA.

You may have heard the story. In 1998, Diane purchased a property once known as Domaine de la Petite Cassagne and re-named it Château d'Or et de Gueules, Occitan for "Gold and Red," the colors of her family crest. My favorite facet of this story has to be the fact that some of her advisors strongly advised Diane to rip her Carignan vines out, as the variety had a reputation for over-producing, resulting in uninteresting wines. She scoffed at this advice, citing the vines' age at over 60 years at the time. She said that the complexity derived from such a gift in the vineyard would enable her to make great wine. I'm a big fan of pragmatism in the face of peer pressure. I am also grateful, because a tiny bit of that Carignan makes its way into that Les Cimels Rouge, and that is perhaps the reason I love it so much.

Diane uses the fruit from her Carignan vines, now over 80 years old, in another blend known as Trassegum, Occitan for "Love Potion." You may remember Trassegum from the past, but probably not from any recent vintages. That's because a local French restaurant had pretty much swept up the past 3 vintages for their by the glass program. But just like a good comfortable sweatshirt, things have to be changed out every now and then. So when the 2015 Trassegum arrived, we were delighted to know that it's back on our shelves, and that we, the staff are able to purchase the wine for our own enjoyment.

Video Of Chateau With Drone Footage
Currently in stock is the 2015 vintage of Trassegum.  The blend is 50% Syrah, 25% old vine Mourvèdre (80+ years old), and 25% old vine Carignan. Production is a stingy 25 hl/ha. The wine is full-bodied, focused, and concentrated. The fruit is savory in character, more in the way of black olives than plummy fruit and/or berry notes. It's the perfect red for the season and a great wine to pair with the hearty fare we tend to enjoy once the nights grow long and a chill hits the air. It has a distinct forest floor aromatic, which is a byproduct of the old vine Carignan, and a hint of black tea-like tannin on the finish, two particular components I enjoy in red wines. It's not exactly priced at the Tuesday night, happy-go-lucky level, but for the quality one finds in bottle of Trassegumthis is a great value!

Another rite of passage, changing our clocks back to Standard Time, takes place this evening. It's 2018, so there's no need to remind anybody to physically do so, except for maybe on your microwave or inside your car. And being November, as written above, look out for that 41st Anniversary Sale coming soon. With Halloween in our rear view mirror, the most festive time of year lies straight ahead. There will be many opportunities to get together with friends and loved ones to feast and share some delicious wine. In the red department, the 2015 Château d'Or et de Gueules Trassegum will take care of those palates craving fuller-bodied, complex blends, while simultaneously saving you at the register. Special occasion wines tend to cost much more than $25, but we won't tell if you don't! - Peter Zavialoff

2009 Les Cimels: South of France in a Glass

Monday, May 21, 2012 9:37 PM



The 2009 Les Cimelsfrom our beloved Chateau d’Or et de Gueules is a Syrah-driven red that elegantly combines ripened fruit flavors with South of France earth/spice aromas and notes. You wouldn’t mistake Les Cimels for anything but a French wine; you can’t ignore the black pepper spice and herbes de Provence. It’s precisely this quality that I believe draws our customers to this wine vintage after vintage. Les Cimels is not a cookie-cutter product; there is vintage variation, however that distinctive combo of fruit and spice threads through it each year. The 2009 Les Cimels is redolent of raspberry fruit, is really approachable and like so many ’09s from France, has enough tang and structure to keep it interesting. Of course that little hint of Syrah funk is also welcoming.  

When proprietress and winemaker Diane de Puymorin purchased the property that would become Chateau d’Or et de Gueules in the late ’90s,she did something really wonderful, something someone with less imagination and integrity would not have done — she left old-vine Carignan growing in the vineyards!! It would have made much better economic sense to rip out the vines that were producing less, that were more of a bother to care for and plant vigorous young vines in their place. Instead Diane followed her conviction, left as much of the old-vines that could be saved and added them to her blends. I think the result is an undeniable complexity that differentiates her wines from other Costieres de Nimes wines. Diane’s wines are true artisanal expressions of winemaking. For the Les Cimels, Diane ferments old vine Carignan carbonically, giving the overall blend a freshness and brightness as counterpoint to the more brooding Syrah (there is also a small portion of Grenache in the mix).

It being the middle of May, I am in full wonderment at the beauty of Spring as April showers have given way to more sunny May days. The fava beans in my garden are finally ready for harvest, though they rarely make it into a pot. I love to eat them raw right there in the yard and toss the shells and skin back into the dirt. Instant composting! But if I were to curtail my habit of eating the fava beans raw, I would probably concoct a ragout of lamb with them and pour a glass of the 2009 Les Cimelsalongside. Now doesn’t that sound like a capital idea! —Anya Balistreri

2008 Lioco Indica

Monday, February 28, 2011 4:22 PM



And you may find yourself working at The Wine House. And you may find yourself tasting wine at work. And you may find yourself planning on flying to Bordeaux. And you may find yourself having dinner at a chateau, with the owners. And you may ask yourself – Well, how did I get here?


If you’ve been reading my fortnightly ramblings for any period of time, you know this: I’m a bit of wine geek, I like Old World wines, I enjoy trying new things from unusual locales, but above all, I love all things Bordelais. When I took a walk around the Tertre Roteboeuf vineyard and the surrounding village with Francois Mitjavile last year, only to be welcomed to the chateau for dinner with his wife Miloute, I was ready to wax Wayne’s World and declare, “I’m not worthy!” But that moment doesn’t ever happen if I didn’t likeCalifornia wine first. Yes, it’s been long overdue, but tonight, I’m going to talk about California wine.



The carrot was dangled. I was 20. I worked for an investment bank. I was asked if I wanted to drive up to the Napa Valley to set up tables and park cars for a dinner involving the firm’s banking customers during the annual Wine Auction weekend. Two nights for free at Silverado? Done. What I didn’t realize was I was invited to dinner also. Dinner took place at the home of Bill and Lila Jaeger in St. Helena.It was there that I had my epiphany. I realized I had a wine palate. I recognized this, and armed with expense accounts, spent the next several years tasting my way around the many wonderful wines California produces. After I turned my hobby and passion into my vocation, I was met with the challenge of having to know a great deal more about wine than I thought. Homework. The good kind. Of course, the curriculum was in French, Italian, German and Spanish … for starters. With my glass usually full of something foreign, I had almost forgotten that the wines of California were the driving force in all of this.Almost forgotten. Yet, not forgotten. As of last Thursday, that is.



I recently met one of my wine mentors for beer (beer? What can I say, I’m not working ALL the time!). The idea to grab something to eat came up, and we popped into Delarosa on Chestnut St. Their brussel sprouts are to die for. Sorry, off subject. Anyhoo, we ordered a pizza with herbs and fennel sausage, and when I looked at the wine list,the 2008 Lioco Indica sounded like the perfect wine. I had no idea how perfect! The wine was in total harmony with what we had on our plates. I couldn’t contain my excitement. I came in to work the next day and immediately began my pursuit.


It seems that Matt Licklider and Kevin O’Connor, a couple of wine industry peeps, got together on a project making “true wines of origin” sourcing fruit from some distinguished California vineyards. They look for old vines and some form of stress production from the vineyards they source from. Their 2008 Indica is a blend of mostly old vine Carignan with Mourvedre and a little Petite Sirah. The Carignan is sourced from the old vines of the Tollini vineyard in Mendocino county. You can read the specs here. I think it is the herbal presence of that Carignan which marries it perfectly with a fennel sausage pizza. I was so taken by this wine, that I ordered a second glass. Swayed by my enthusiasm, my buddy ordered a glass and was equally impressed. And that is saying something!


It’s always a good thing to be open minded, to explore and try new things. You never know where you’ll end up. What I’ve learned in this life is to always be aware of who you are and who you represent. Equally important is to always remember where you came from and where you started. For me, I began my exploration in the world of wine in California. Thanks to the folks at Lioco, I’ve been reminded as to why. Sante! – Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about old vine Carignan, California wine, or Tuesday’s big match:

0 Comment Posted in California

2005 Trassegum – Chateau d’Or et des Gueules

Thursday, October 14, 2010 2:46 PM

We’ve never actually defined any guidelines for what our weekly “Sunday Emails” should be about. Funny thing is that sometimes, when it’s about a wine that every member of our staff loves, the author feels a pang of guilt, as it feels like cheating. I’m sure Anya felt a little pinch last weekend, but hey, when something’s that great, we can’t hold back the praise. I’m going to try to remain guilt-free here, as I close my eyes and praise a wine made by Diane de Puymorin. But with fall in the air and the promise of small gatherings on the immediate horizon, I’m drawn to these lovely magnums of Diane’s top cuvee, 2005 Trassegum. 

Sure the sunny sky outside is teeming with Blue Angels right now, and temps are still in the 70’s, but the fact that I don’t need my sunglasses to drive home after work anymore means that soon it will get dark before 6 PM. The change is conceptually unromantic, but I see the value in it. I’m all about hanging out with friends and loved ones, irreverent conversation, good wine, and breaking bread. When the sky darkens early, these things happen sooner and with more regularity. So, I’m psyched. The cooler temps make hearty fare and red wine more practical; a positive development for sure! Alas, but what happens when you have 6 friends gathered ’round the table? A standard size bottle of wine evaporates quicker than a summer sprinkle on Tucson asphalt. A simple solution? Magnums. The big bottles. Everything tastes better out of magnums, right? But magnums are expensive, eh? Not today. Buy them by the case, and these check in a little over 40 bucks a piece, not bad.For magnums! What about the wine, then? Wait for it.

Chances are if you’ve spoken to me about Diane Puymorin, one of my favorite stories is the one about the Carignan. Rumor has it that when she bought the property back in 1998, she was strongly advised to rip out her then-50 year old Carignan vines. She said no. She said she was going to use them to make great wine. She was right. The complexity derived from these vines is part of what makes the wines of Chateau d’Or et des Gueules truly unique! They are red Rhone blends with that special je ne sais quoi. But I do know what; it’s the Carignan! Diane holds back her Trassegum (at her own expense) until she feels it’s ready to be consumed. The 2005 is her current release. It is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, old-vine Mourvedre, and old-vine Carignan. The profile is profound; with a dark purple fruit robe lift of aromatics,forest floor, and black tea. Savory fruit (think dark olives here) hit the palate with plenty of structure, and the finish is harmonious and long. All together, it is a whopping bargain! Oh yeah, and as an added bonus (just ’cause), the magnums come signed by Diane herself! Whoa! 

Just so you all know, I’m not feeling guilty about anything. Somebody has to eat the last cookie, somebody has to taste Diane’s wines, somebody has to write about it … voila. Happy 10/10/10 everybody! Add this 10 to your celebration! – Peter Zavialoff


There is a common philosophy shared by many a wine lover, myself included. I’ll file it under both human nature and common sense. When we try a wine we don’t know much about, we usually buy one bottle to make sure we like it before piling up a couple of cases, right? This philosophy is not confined to consumers either. When The Wine House was offered the chance to buy the 2007 Terre d’Ardoise Carignan from Mas l’Avail, we exercised a bit of caution and just brought over a handful of cases. Guess what? That wasn’t anywhere nearly enough!!! 

Yes, those precious few cases didn’t stand a chance once we got to taste this precious Carignan produced from vines that average 80+ years of age! We barely had time to trumpet the virtues of this wine before it sold out. We sold out of that wine so quickly that I was puzzled as to where it all went. So I ran a report listing our customers who purchased it. When the report appeared on my screen, I burst out laughing! The list included winemakers, chefs, employees, and plenty of friends and family! Go figure. This wine was something new, whose quality, by far, surpassed its price tag.

Pssst! We’ve got more. Not an unlimited amount, mind you, but enough for us to finally talk to y’all about it. It’s here and it’s great. You don’t need to take my word for it, this is the darling of chefs and winemakers, and we can prove it!



Importer Bobby Kacher
has struck gold with his visit to the hamlet of Maury and his introduction to this estate. More information on Mas l’Avail can be found here.

So there you have it, folks. Discoveries like this one are what truly make this job a treat. It speaks of a place, as one would imagine 80+ year old vines would be able to do. The nose is complex, combining all sorts of nuance from stewed purple fruit to earth and spice. It is medium bodied on the palate, andfinishes like “Hey Jude”. Na-na-na-na-na-na-na Na-na-na-na …

Peter Zavialoff

Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments regarding old vine Carignan, other “Friends and Family Wines”, or Beatles songs:


2007 Mas l’Avail Terre d’Ardoise Roussillon

Red Wine; Carignane; Languedoc-Roussillon;
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Save 15% with full case purchases! That’s $10.70 per bottle! That’s crazy! Discount will be applied when we process your order and confirmed back in a “fulfillment” email confirmation.
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Languedoc’s Sweet Spot: Corbieres

Thursday, April 9, 2009 2:17 PM

The ebullient Herve Gantier of Domaine Ste. Eugenie in Corbieres paid us a visit in San Francisco a few weeks back, and we had a rollicking good time. While Herve resides in Burgundy and possesses encyclopedic knowledge of that region and great affection for its wines, he recently set up shop with a couple of buddies to make wine in the Languedoc, specifically in the district of Fontfroide, considered by Herve to be the “sweet spot” of appellation Corbieres. An all-round bon vivant, Herve embodies the best of both his homes, with his Burgundian passion for wine and fine dining, as well as his rustic wit and appreciation of the joyously sun-drenched south.Ste. Eugenie’s Corbieres La Reserve, their top cuvee, combines 30% Carignan (from 60+ year old vines), 40% Syrah and 30% Grenache (from 25-46 year old vines). After blending, 20% of the wine goes into new barrels and the rest into first and second fill barrels from Jayer Gilles (!) for approximately 18 months. Oak, however, does not dominate; luscious black raspberry fruit emerges on the nose with a strong whiff of an array of spices both savory and sweet. Each time I taste this wine, fond nostalgia for the best cassoulet I enjoyed in nearby Castelnaudary many moons ago arises, not to mention the breathtaking views of medieval Carcassonne. Yes, the wild, windswept Languedoc tugs at the heartstrings in a unique way, and so does Herve’s Corbieres.



Corbieres is one of the largest AOCs of the Languedoc, and suffered a bad reputation for many years for its insipid, high yielding juice that primarily slaked the thirst of northern France. However, many committed growers have begun to revise that reputation by respecting their onetruly special raw material: old vine Carignan. Throughout the 1980s, growers around the Languedoc were offered governmental stimulus to rip out their Carignan in favor of Grenache and Syrah. You see, Carignan itself suffered (and to a certain extent, continues to suffer) a bad rap as a high-yielding trash grape. The locals often refer to it as “La Pisseuse” (I’ll let you translate that for yourself), due to its ability to emit copious amounts of juice. And yes, it is a vigorous vine in its youth, but as the vines age, yields decrease dramatically to produce dark, rich, concentrated fruit, as well as the mysterious, exotic spice that we all crave in southern French wine. So, hats off to Herve and his crew for their nurture of their 65-year-old Carignan, and the utterly delicious, captivating wine they create from it. A further note about Corbieres: despite the groundswell of quality in the region over the past two decades, it remains very well-priced overall, and offers some of the best wine values anywhere. At a recent consumer tasting of this wine, someone remarked that if this wine were made in California, it would cost $50. Although stylistically quite different from many a Cali Rhone blend, this remark hits it on the head: we challenge you to find a wine anywhere with so much profundity and character for only $16.49 or $14.02 with the 15% case discount! Patrick Mitten

0 Comment Posted in French Wine

Year of the Mutt

Friday, March 6, 2009 4:16 PM

2006 Portrait of a Mutt Zinfandel
2006 Mutt Lynch Winery Zinfandel Portrait of a Mutt Sonoma County

Red Wine; Zinfandel; Sonoma;

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What’s not to love? The 2006 Portrait of a Mutt is 75% zinfandel sourced from a Dry Creek Valley vineyard with the balance old vine carignane from the Stone Vineyard in Alexander Valley and is aged in used French oak barrels all for $9.98! The Wine House has been selling Portrait of a Mutt zinfandel for some time now. The 2006 is the third vintage to grace our shelves, but I don’t think we’ve ever described its goodness in any newsletter or staff email. Our oversight is probably due to the fact that without any fanfare the wine sells steadily, gaining loyal fans who purchase it by the case. I like to bring this zin to backyard cook-outs and family gatherings. I love the purity of fruit in the wine; it is zesty and full of plum and blackberry. What I especially appreciate is the un-vamped flavors that emerge from the glass. I attribute that quality to the aging in used French oak and to the blending. I love zinfandel, always have.Zinfandel reminds me of summers spent on the Russian River picking sticky sweet blackberries in the summer sun. However, I have come to the conclusion that zinfandel benefits from blending, as in the old tradition of field blending. In the case of the Portrait of a Mutt, the addition of old-vine carignane gives added nuance and dimension. Not heavy-handed or massive, the medium-bodied structure of the Mutt assures versatility and food-friendliness. This is a good thing indeed.

A quick conversation with the winemaker, Brenda Lynch, clued me into a few news tidbits: they recently garnered some medals at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and are pouring their award-winning wines at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition’s public tasting . Sadly, since the tasting is happening as I am writing this email, you might be thinking why bother mentioning it? But maybe you were lucky enough to attend, tasted the zin and want to know where to find it. We have it!


And now, for my shameless grand finale: I couldn’t resist including a picture of my beloved mutt, Marty. Marty has been known to spend the day at The Wine House. After all, what’s a fine wine establishment without a dog? Despite his mutt pedigree, Marty has a refined palate. No, really! The weekend is showing great promise with a trip to Napa. On our drive up, an obligatory stop for a glass of fizz at Gloria Ferrer is in order (thank you Anita!). Stopping there is always a chance to taste something lovely and to remind ourselves of how fortunate we are to be living in such a beautiful place! Anya Balistreri


Tuesday, September 16, 2008 3:31 PM

2005 Rouge Cht. D’Or et De Gueules

IT’S BACK!!! Following the Spring email offer, Gold Red Wine, our initial 70 case allocation vanished in the blink of an eye. Even I was shut out, only managing to squirrel away a bottle, and I wrote the email! After much begging and pleading, we managed to get our hands on some more. This wine is not to be missed. I can’t tell you how excited I am to get this wine back in stock. Now, those of you who couldn’t keep from opening just one more bottle will have an opportunity to replenish your stash and I will take my own advice to buy some NOW.

Anya’s Tasting Notes:

One whiff of the ‘05 Rouge Select lets you know this is it! Warm, sticky blue/black berry fruit aromas drift out of the glass revealing crushed rock and earthy minerality. A blend of roughly half syrah with the balance divided between old vine carignan and grenache, this deeply fruited red has dimension and complexity. There is certainly ample fruit but then there is that added something else that can only be described as that “Chateau D’or et Des Gueules thing”. Yes, that is a technical term the Wine House staff has coined. One sip of this wine and you’ll immediately understand.


In the recent issue of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate dedicated to the world’s greatest wine values under $25, the 2005 Rouge was featured and bestowed with a score of 90 points. The Advocate‘s tasting note follows the wine listing.

2005 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules Costieres de Nimes Select

Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Languedoc-Roussillon;

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Smoky, Lapsang tea, roasted game, and jellied black fruits rise from the glass. An impressive concentration of elderberry, purple plum and meat juices on the palate are laced with iodine, bitter fruit pits, pungent herbs, dark chocolate, and chalk. For all of its sheer density, this wine displays textural polish, and for all of its ripeness there is scarcely any heat, but an abundance of sheer juicy finishing fruit.
$12.31 per bottle with case discount


And so, leaves are being to gather on my front lawn, Pre-School has armed my daughter with a new repertoire of songs to entertain us with and those pesky heirloom tomatoes are finally ripening. All I need now is a glass full of this lovely red to complete the mood… Anya Balistreri

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