The February 2019 Dirty Dozen

Friday, February 1, 2019 11:21 AM

The February 2019 Dirty Dozen

Brrr!! That chill in the air can only mean one thing, it's winter, February to be specific. Though the shortest month, there are plenty of reasons to be festive in February. You've got Valentine's Day and Presidents' Day at the very least. 

The February Dirty Dozen consists of 12 bottles, all different, all chosen for their quality and versatility. Pack in a cheat-sheet with some background and pairing suggestions, and you're looking at the best wine deal in town!

The Chillables


2015 Juhfark, Tornai $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder        The Tornai family has been working vines in Hungary’s Somló region since 1946. Somló’s volcanic, basalt-rich soils are prized for growing wine grapes. Tornai’s Juhfark is the perfect introduction to this high-acid grape. The classic flavors of salt and smoke are present, without any botrytis, and finishes with a tart tang. Versatile, try it with salty, savory foods.

2017 Chenin Blanc, Kiona $13.98 net price, $12.58 reorder     Washington State’s Kiona winery is the source for high quality, affordable wines. How do they do it? Their Chenin Blanc is a dead-ringer for Vouvray, expressing stone pit fruit and fresh acidity. The grapes are harvested early to retain freshness, then tank fermented. Ever so slightly off-dry, this wine is a dream for pairing possibilities! No limits here.

2017 Pinot Gris, Chemistry $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder        Chemistry is a first collaboration between Oregon’s Stoller Family Estates and Chehalem’s winemaking teams. This debut Pinot Gris promises good things to come. Sourcing throughout the Willamette Valley, blending diverse sites and keeping prices low, allows entrée to this special wine region. Lots of citrus with a kiss of papaya, striking a nice balance. 

2017 Ventoux Rosé, Domaine Fondrèche $16.99, $13.59 reorder     We are big fans of winemaker Sébastien Vincenti and his wines from arguably the best vineyards of Ventoux. For his Rosé, Vincenti uses 50% Cinsault, 25% Syrah, and 25% Grenache from vines averaging 25+ years of age. Red berry fruit and minerals appear in the aromas and the palate is snappy and fresh with a crisp finish. Spicy Thai prawns? Pop this.

2017 Ortrugo, Cantine Fratelli Bonelli $12.99, $10.39 reorder     Ortrugo, anyone? This white grape, indigenous to the Piacenza region (roughly 65 km southeast of Milano), is one of hundreds of local Italian varieties awaiting discovery by the international market. First off, it’s dry. It shows floral aromas with maybe a hint of white pepper. Its light body makes it incredibly versatile, so pair it with shellfish or poultry.

2017 Montravel Terrement, Château Puy-Servain $14.99, $11.99 reorder    Way out near Bordeaux’s eastern frontier, across the Dordogne River lie the vineyards of Montravel. The area is mostly known for its white wines, though some red grapes grow there also. Château Puy-Servain’s white Terrement cuvée is one of our best bargains in the white wine world. A 50/50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris, pair it with a chèvre salad.

The Reds


2015 Monica di Sardegna, Argiolas $13.98 net price, $12.58 reorder  Always on the hunt to introduce Dirty Dozen devotees to unusual, lesser known varietals (see Juhfark above), welcome to Monica, a grape exclusively found on the island of Sardinia. Its soft tannins and ripe berry flavors make it a popular choice for everyday drinking enjoyment. Great with pasta dishes, fish stews, or pizza while bingeing on Friends.

2015 Pinot Noir, Praxis $22.98 net price, $20.68 reorder     Bill Arbios, a winemaker for over forty years (!), crafts this gorgeous Pinot Noir from a single vineyard at the southern end of the Sonoma Coast appellation, west of the town of Sonoma. Aged in French oak for nine months, of which 1/3 is new, this cherry-laden Pinot Noir is well balanced and elegant. Leg of lamb studded with garlic should match-up nicely!

2017 Fidelity Red, Goldschmidt Vineyards $15.98 net price, $14.38 reorder     New Zealand born, globetrotting winemaker Nick Goldschmidt currently makes wine in four countries! His home base is California and he makes this Bordeaux-styled red from a single vineyard in Alexander Valley that he has farmed for over 25 years. A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, it exhibits plum, cassis and notes of vanilla. Steak?

2015 Côtes-du-Rhône, Tour de l’Isle $15.99, $12.79 reorder     Made from Grenache, Syrah, and a little Mourvèdre, this C-d-R tips the scales in the quality for price world. It shows aromas of ripe cherry fruit, cracked black pepper, and forest floor. The palate is harmonious with rounded tannins and a lively finish. Rhône-meister Robert Rochhi has blended us another winner that will pair well with a roast or hearty stew.

2015 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colle Maggio, Torre Zambra $18.99, $15.19 reorder     The latest release from our (fairly) new d’Abruzzo producer, Torre Zambra, the 2015 Colle Maggio Montepulciano is teeming with character. Rustic raspberry, spice, cocoa, and coffee notes appear in the aromas, and the palate is medium-bodied and complex. It has a snappy, balanced finish with all components firing together. Pairs well with pizza or pasta.

2015 Château de Rouquette, Bordeaux $10.98 net price, $9.88 reorder  Another wine right off the boat, this bargain Bordeaux turns heads simply by virtue of its expressive fruity aromas and palate and its super-modest price tag. Made from 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s nice and juicy where it needs to be, and has a sturdy backbone. It drinks well on its own, as a cocktail wine, but you can pair it with a steak too!

0 Comments | Posted in 0

A Tasty Margaux For Under $40 - 2012 Château Siran

Saturday, January 26, 2019 4:13 PM

A Tasty Margaux For Under $40 - 2012 Château Siran
Chateau Siran Label

The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux

Were in town yesterday, this year pouring the fairly recently bottled 2016 vintage. It was a vintage of superlatives. There were sensational wines from every appellation. Briefly, some of the 2016 wines that made impressions on me were (in no particular order) Clos Fourtet, Les Carmes Haut Brion, Smith Haut Lafitte, and Leoville Barton. Impressive they were, but these wines are mere infants.  They're going to need time. In fact, believe it or not, there were a few wines which I felt were already entering the period of "shutting down."  Meaning that their structure was particularly dense, denying the inherent fruit to fully express itself. As I've written before, I consider 2016 to be the first great homogenous Bordeaux vintage of the post-Robert Parker era. The wines, at least the Cru Classé wines, are going to need time in the cellar before they really strut their stuff.

Back in the spring of 2013, members of the international wine trade gathered once again in Bordeaux, this time to taste the 2012 vintage. The vintage received little fanfare, certainly not praised as were the back to back blockbusters of 2009 and 2010. Though not receiving much praise from the wine press, I found the vintage charming, and in some locales, fantastic. I remember my first day of tasting that year in the warehouse of a negociant tasting barrel samples for hours. The firm's General Manager walked over to check on me and asked what I was liking and I sent him to the Château d'Issan sample. He took a taste and made the "big eyes" face, as he was impressed. d'Issan was not the only Margaux which was impressive. When I returned, I sat down with David to discuss the vintage. Pomerol, St. Emilion, Pessac-Léognan, and Margaux were the winners, I told him. The consensus among critics included the former 3 appellations, but David was quick to point out, "Margaux? Didn't hear much about that. I think you're on your own there." When Robert Parker's assessment of the vintage out of barrel was released, the aforementioned d'Issan received a modest (87-89) point rating from him. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don't. I thought it was fantastic and continued to recommend it to our customers. Once the wines were bottled, Parker re-tasted it and gave it 95 points. After that, it seemed that wine writers began to recognize that Margaux had its set of great 2012's also. We had a good run with the 2012 La Gurgue, a petit chateau from Margaux, a couple of years ago. I continue to look for 2012 Margaux's on price lists when we receive them, and found a solid deal not too long ago. The 2012 Château Siran, Margaux is not only a solid deal, it can be enjoyed now (decant, please) or will gain in complexity if cellared over the next two decades.

Château Siran is located in Labarde, the southern-most commune in the Margaux appellation. After La Lagune, Cantemerle, and Giscours, it's the fourth recognizable chateau one passes when driving north from the city of Bordeaux. The vineyard is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot primarily, though it is also comprised of 13% Petit Verdot, which can add spiciness and concentration to the wines. Siran is one of very few chateaux to have had the same family in charge for more than 150 years. In 1859, the renowned Miailhe has been in charge, and currently, Édouard Miailhe represents the fifth generation in control, a position he took over in 2007.

Out of barrel, the 2012 Château Siran showed classic structure with spicy and herbal aromas. On the palate, the wine showed an earthy mineral core with dark fruit, pencil lead and truffle notes. I thought enough of the barrel sample to keep a look out for the wine once it was bottled. We found some a while back and they landed here recently. Out of bottle, tasted over the holidays, I found the wine to be in a good place with the fruit expressive, rising about the earthy structure. The herbal and truffle notes are present, but that black cherry and cassis fruit make for a pleasant tasting experience. At least it was a hit with the group I shared it with. I took my eye off the bottle for a couple of minutes, and when I went back for a second glass, all I got were the lucky drops!

Here's Neal Martin's synopsis of the 2012 Château Siran after he tasted it in 2016:

"Tasted at the vertical held at the property, the 2012 Château Siran, a blend of 55% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot, has a very composed and delineated bouquet with scents of red plum, raspberry, mineral, cedar and a touch of graphite. The palate is medium-bodied with fine, gently grippy tannin, and graphite-tinged black fruit that turns spicier towards the finish, which displays commendable substance and persistence - a 2012 Margaux with ambitions. This is a very fine Siran, much better than many of the wines produced in the 1990s and it comes recommended."

You, most likely, will be hearing more and more about the 2016 vintage in Bordeaux, and my two cents are that it is not over-hyped; the wines are legit! They're just going to need time, but they are certainly worth owning. In the mean time, while our 2016's are aging in our respective cellars, it's a darned good idea to have some 2012 Margaux at our disposal. One doesn't often see a recognizable Margaux château available for less than $35, but here it is. Come and get it! - Peter Zavialoff

0 Comments | Posted in 0 1

Rock~n~Rolle Baby! A Provençal White - Yum!

Sunday, January 20, 2019 1:51 PM

Rock~n~Rolle Baby! A Provençal White - Yum!
Domaine-Aspras-Horse-Ploughing

Les Trois Frères 

Less attention is paid to the white wines of Provence than to the rosés, and that's a shame. Rosé from this region casts a long shadow, so it's easy to forget that there are other "flavors" worth seeking out. David, our multi-hat wearing GM, returned to the store with a line-up of whites and a rosé he was presenting to a local restaurant. "The samples showed great," David informed us. "The restaurant wants to pour them all!" Chris, Pete and I tasted the samples at the end of the day and concurred. All were delicious. But, as is often the case, there was a stand-out and it was the 2017 Les Trois Frères blanc from Domaine des Aspras. The citrus notes scream of Satsuma mandarin, that sweet juicy fruit intensified by daggers of acid. 

The Trois Frères blanc is made of 100% Rolle, a grape with many different regional names. Crossing the border into Italy, the grape is most commonly known as Vermentino. Rolle is well suited to warm summer climates because it retains acidity during ripening. The Trois Frères is made with organically farmed grapes and fermented in stainless steel. The absence of oak allows the fruit to shine forth with captivating flavors of citrus, a touch of rhubarb and exotic fruit aromas. Its sunny disposition brings in a bit of Provençal flair to these grey, wet winter days. A cool glass while preparing dinner in a warm, food-scented kitchen makes for a happy scenario. 

Trois-Freres-Tasting-Table
I did something this week I have not done for far too long - I went to the Napa Valley. I accepted an invitation from a winery to taste through their most recent releases. The skies were cloudy and grey. A storm was expected to come through later that evening. Driving north on Highway 29 towards St. Helena, I greeted the historic and the new. After the tasting, I grabbed some lunch with a colleague who represents the winery in the market. I have known her for twenty years, but this was the first time I was on her turf and having lunch together, so there was lots to talk about. At about 3pm, my chariot was about to turn into a pumpkin, so it was back on the road heading home. By this time the clouds made way to rain and though heavy, it was fine. That all changed when I was diverted off Highway 121 at a road closure and was led down some unfamiliar country roads that were rapidly becoming flooded. I made it home just in time for the brunt of the storm to hit. A blissful afternoon followed by a stressful, white-knuckle drive home. The good with the bad. Grateful to be home - daughter doing homework on the dining room table, husband warming up dinner - I poured a couple of glasses from the sample bottle of 2017 Trois Frères blanc I took home the night before. Ahhh, it was good all over again. 

- Anya Balistreri
0 Comments | Posted in 0 1

New Year - New Container - New Budget Bordeaux

Saturday, January 12, 2019 6:09 PM

New Year - New Container - New Budget Bordeaux
Chateau Calvimont bottle, corkscrew, and glass

Happy New Year!

Just to add frenzy to the already boisterous holiday period, we were blessed with the landing of a container of new French wines. Much of it originated in Bordeaux, with the bulk of our purchases from the 2015 vintage. In addition to the famous wines we offered as futures, came the arrival of a dozen or so petits chateaux wines. I mentioned a sensational deal in the world of dry white Bordeaux two weeks ago, the 2016 Château Boisson blanc. Several cases disappeared quickly, snapped up by savvy shoppers and TWH staff alike. The subject from tonight's email is a red wine from a village that's not well known for their red wines. Introducing the 2016 Château Calvimont, Graves from the town of Cérons.

The famous wines from Bordeaux represent a mere 5% of the overall production, which means that few have ever heard of the other 95%, myself included. Each year while in Bordeaux for the annual barrel tastings, I make time to taste wines from suppliers which have already been bottled and I must say that each year I taste wines from chateaux I've never heard of, let alone tasted before. Talk about zero label bias! It's all about quality and price in those tasting rooms, and as I re-taste this year's crop of petits chateaux wines, I must say I'm happy with the results! Early last week the stars aligned and we were all here, so I pulled a handful of these wines and brought them to the tasting room to pour for David and our staff. The wines all showed well (Phew! As the pressure was on), though one particular wine won the honors as the hit of the tasting, the 2016 Château Calvimont, Graves.

A little background:  Calvimont is a label owned by Château de Cérons, and the production is red and dry white wines. Dry wines coming from within appellations that produce sweet wines from this area are legally allowed to use the Graves appellation on their labels. Cérons sits right beside the Garonne River just across from Cadillac. Cérons is just south of Podensac and just north of Barsac. If you know me, you know I spend a lot of time in this neck of the woods each year. The Château de Cérons is a grand manor house built in the early 18th century situated on a terrace overlooking the Garonne. It is listed as a historical monument. It was the Marquises of Calvimont who initiated the construction of the chateau in the 18th century. The vineyards which produce Château Calvimont have always been part of the Cérons estate. The soil is gravel and sand upon limestone. The winery is gravity fed, designed for the gentlest possible handling of the grapes. For the red wine, the blend is 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot. Fermentation is done in cement vats and the wine is aged in barrels, 20% new.  The current management team of Xavier and Caroline Perromat took over in 2012, and things are looking up, up, up. At least I'm keeping my eye on them!

So as we were tasting the wines the other day, this one stood out for its quality and modest price tag. The aromas are complex and nuanced with hints of bright red fruit, crushed leaves, geranium, some chalky mineral and that brambly, plump Merlot fruit. On the palate, it exhibits a medium-bodied entry with that 2016 freshness, the hallmark of the vintage. Its bright acidity keeps the nuanced wine alive, allowing for the complex layers to pop out to say hello.  The finish is well balanced and long. All in all, for less than $20, the Château Calvimont is class act!

As we continue to see what 2019 has in store for us, I must say that it's exciting to have all of this new wine to taste. A great majority of our 2015 Bordeaux is now in, as are some new vintages from some of our friends in Burgundy. It has been quiet on the music front lately, though The Noise Pop festival is coming soon. The English Football scene has been quite interesting, though I fear The Blues are a few key pieces away from winning any silverware this spring, but it's still fun. Speaking of sports, I just read a newspaper article this morning that mentioned Phil Smith, Kevin Restani, and Eric Fernsten, among others. These former collegiate athletes were childhood heroes of mine. I never thought those names would make their way back to relevance, but there's excitement once again on the Hilltop. TWH has been well represented at USF's Memorial Gym this season in the form of both Tom and myself in the stands for several basketball games. We'll be there again tonight to see how they match up vs. #5 Gonzaga. Win or lose, it should be an entertaining evening. Happy New Year - and be sure to check out the 2016 Château de Calvimont! - Peter Zavialoff

0 Comments | Posted in 0 1
Les Arroucats Cuvée Virginie: Bordeaux's Other Sweet Wine

Sainte-Croix-du-Mont

is a small appellation along the Garonne River opposite from Barsac. In Sainte-Croix-du-Mont they grow Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and a tiny bit of Muscadelle, making dessert wine not entirely unlike Sauternes, but then again quite different. Sainte-Croix-du-Monts are lighter, less botrytised and unctous sweet wines. To compare them solely to Sauternes is a mistake and can lead one to overlook a very good opportunity to enjoy another style of sweet wine. The Chateau Les Arroucats Cuveé Virginie is a favorite one here at The Wine House. And as anyone who walks through our doors discovers - we love sweet wines! Context is everything when it comes to appreciating non-dry whites and keeping an open mouth and palate will derive oodles of tasting pleasure. Over the last two weeks, I've opened several bottles of the Arroucats to serve with, and instead of, dessert. Because it is lighter in body and less heady, it's perfect to open up on a whim and not fuss whether or not your guests are giving it the proper attention. I can attest that is goes well with Sicilian Cannolis, panettone and quality cheeses. Last night I poured a glass with a couple of shards of peanut brittle. A great combination. The nutty, buttery candy was uplifted by the sweet cream and citrus notes of the Arroucats.

oyster-soil-sainte-croix-du-monts
Chateau Les Arroucats was established by Christian Labat after WWII. The estate was taken over by his daughter, Annie Lapouge, who was credited for modernizing the winery. Today the winery is managed by Mme. Lapouge's daughter, Virginie. They hand-harvest the grapes over several passages then ferment them in concrete and stainless steel vats. The wine ages for one to two years in vats before bottling. The wine is not aged in any wood, hence the fresh, fruity flavors. The grapes at the estate average over forty years and grow on clay-calcareous soils that sit above on a plateau of an ancient seabed as evidenced by the thick layer of oyster shells (see picture above). It is no secret that demand for these lighter-styled dessert wines has waned, so it's no small miracle that such a terrific one like Les Arroucats is still being produced AND at such an affordable price! At $14.99 it is a steal and it gets better...it discounts 15% by the case! Happy New Year! 
a-girl-and-her-dog
I have stumbled over the finish line into 2019, only to realize that on the Twelfth Day of Christmas my darling daughter turns 15! Impossible you say? Impossible I say! Early in December, a customer came to pick up a large order for his annual work Christmas Party. After some chit chat, he asked me how old my daughter was. I told him she was soon to be 15. He looked at me and said, "Does she hate you yet?". I laughed, answering "only some of the time". She is a good person with a big kind heart and curious mind. What a blessing. Her birthday dinner will be a traditional Russian Christmas Eve lenten meal. Luckily she inherited her mother's love for all types of foods and cuisine. We'll have cake, but there will also be Kutya and Zvar, so the simple, honeyed flavors of the Les Arroucats Cuvée Virginie should pair beautifully. Wishing all of you a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year! - Anya Balistreri
0 Comments | Posted in 0 1 2

6-10 of 792