A Taste Of Burgundy – June 2017

Thursday, June 22, 2017 11:15 AM

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2015 Puligny-Montrachet 

Domaine Paul Pernot et ses Fils

When asked about the 2015 vintage, Paul Pernot said, “It gave us a relatively easy growing season, which was a welcome relief after the last three years where things were constantly in doubt. Basically, the weather was hot in the spring, hot during the summer, and hot right up to the point the fruit was set to pick, and finally the temperatures broke. When it did, we began picking. The fruit was spotless with very good potential alcohols that averaged right around 13%. As to the wines, I would describe them as both very ripe and rich, yet they manage to remain well-balanced and refreshing. They should drink well early on and should very much please those consumers who enjoy young whites.” For his Puligny-Montrachet bottling, Pernot sources the fruit from four lieux-dit vineyards whose average age is 50 years. This 2015 is raring to go with its wide array of aromas: snappy apple, citrus blossom, and a hint of mint. The palate is round and rich, held together with buoyant acidity. It has a sneaky, long finish. Drink 2018-2026.



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2014 Fixin-Hervelets 1er Cru 

Domaine Bart

We featured the 2013 vintage of Martin Bart’s Fixin-Hervelets 1er Cru back in the October 2015 installment of our TOB. Due to popular demand, we now feature his 2014! Now run by nephew, Pierre, with Martin looking on, the Barts tend some 22 hectares of vines in the north of Côtes de Nuits. There are five 1er Cru vineyards in Fixin, three of which are monopoles. The other two are Les Arvelets and Les Hervelets. The fruit for this bottling comes from a 1.5ha parcel between the two. Fruit from Arvelets may be included in bottles labeled Hervelets, but not vice-versa. The two vineyards enjoy their perch on the gentle slope which sits just above the other 1er Cru vineyards. Apart from a mediocre summer, Pierre has said the growing season was relatively easy. Commenting on the ripeness and structure of his 2014’s, Pierre went on to say, ” there is a roundness, even tenderness to the textures which should make them approachable young.” Mineral notes abound in this refined, medium-bodied wine. Drink 2019-2030. – Peter Zavialoff

Rose From Provence: Start Your Summer Right!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017 11:11 AM

The Rosés have landed! The Rosés have landed! The one I took home first, was the one I took home most often last vintage: Domaine des Aspras à Lisa Rosé. The 2016 is as delightful as was the 2015. What’s not to love? Fragrant strawberry aromas give way to nuanced berry and melon flavors on the palate.I believe my affinity for Rosé has been well established, and now that I’ve reached a certain age, I am not afraid to admit that I prefer Rosés with a fruitier profile. I still want a dry finish but I want fruit – if I want a white wine, I’ll drink one. The à Lisa Rosé gives me the fruit I am looking for along with the fresh and lively finish I crave.


Aspras in Winter


Domaine des Aspras is located in the unique Provençal village of Correns. What makes Correns unique is that the entire village is BIO. It is the first village in France to become so, which means everyone farms organically and the community has agreed to pursue sustainability in everything they do. Michael Latz, the proprietor of Domaine des Aspras, is also the Mayor of Correns. Michael’s parents, Lisa and Gottfried established the winery in the 1960’s, after first fleeing their native Germany in the thirties and then escaping the Congo Crisis of the early sixties. Neither Lisa nor Gottfried knew anything about viticulture when they settled in Correns, but they made a go of it.


A Room With A View


The à Lisa is the domaine’s entry-level line of wines (there is also a white and a red). As you could probably guess, the name is in honor of Michael’s mother. The Rosé is a 50/50 blend of Grenache and Cinsault grown on vineyards along the banks of the Argens River. A direct-press Rosé of 100% de-stemmed fruit, the quality here is on par with pricier Cotes de Provence and Bandol Rosés. A delicate salmon-pink hue is both pretty to look at and delicious to drink – And, there is enough weight on the palate to take this Rosé from aperitif to the dining table.



The Photographers


The night I tasted the 2016 à Lisa Rosé was not nearly as warm as the evenings we’re experiencing this weekend across most of the US, but that didn’t stop me from making one of my all-time favorite warm weather dishes, Salade Niçoise. Salade Niçoise is on regular rotation at my house for the next several months and my first choice to serve with it is a Rosé. It’s a match made in heaven.


A special thanks goes out to my brother and sister-in-law who shared their photos of Domaine des Aspras. I was able to arrange for them to visit the winery this past March after they took a river cruise along the Rhone. Though still winter with a glimmer of spring on the horizon, the photos convey the sheer beauty of the region. Hey Kiki – next time we go together! – Anya Balistreri

The June 2017 Dirty Dozen

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 10:53 AM

It’s June and that means summer is almost here! The kids are our of school, Fathers’ Day is almost here, and the summer solstice is right around the corner. For these exciting times, it’s always a great idea to have some solid, versatile wine at the ready, ’cause one never knows just what may arise. The June Dirty Dozen features 12 bottles, all chosen for their versatility and quality, packed in one box, ready for you to enjoy. Cheers!


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


2016 Rosé, Balancing Act $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder

Only 400 cases were made of this charming Washington State Cabernet Franc Rosé. The pale apricot color hints at the delicate melon and strawberry fruit. At only 12% alcohol, this Rosé has a light and easy palate feel. Perfect on a hot summer evening while dining alfresco. Food pairing options here are vast, though a big garden salad would be nice!


2014 Erbaluce di Caluso, Giacometto $15.98 net price, $14.38 reorder

Erbaluce is an Italian white grape variety that has high levels of natural acidity and is grown mainly in northern Piedmont. The estate of Bruno Giacometto is located in the commune of Caluso, about 30 kilometers northeast of Turin. Super refreshing and full of vigor, this wine is ideally suited for raw seafood, especially oysters on the half shell.


2014 Devon Riesling, Richard Böking $15.98 net price, $14.38 reorder

This dry/off-dry Riesling is a blend of fruit grown from the winery’s top 5 steep-slope vineyards that don’t end up in their single-vineyard bottlings. The grapes are picked early to retain freshness and minerality. Classic juicy notes of green apple and minty herbs finish tart and tangy. Serve with Korean fried chicken, Thai curries or a pan-fried pork chop.


2015 Gavi di Gavi Rovereto, Ernesto Picollo $15.49, $12.39 reorder

Made from 100% Cortese, Gianlorenzo Picollo ferments and raises this Gavi di Gavi in all stainless steel tank. This gives the wine its freshness and clean expression. Quality-wise, you’ll be hard pressed to find a white wine close to this price. Gavi di Gavi is the wine of choice on the Italian Riviera, so feel free to pop it with your mussels or shrimp scampi.


2015 Côtes du Rhône Blanc, Tour de l’Isle $14.99, $11.99 reorder

Whaddya get when you blend fairly equal parts Rousanne, Marsanne, Clairette, and Grenache Blanc? To Robert Rocchi, proprietor of Tour de l’Isle, you get a delectable, balanced white wine that’s long on character and short on price. With summer on the immediate horizon, this is a great go-to white for those warm evenings. Serve it with seared scallops.


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

Speaking of outstanding values – the Vouvray Brut from Domaine d’Orfeuilles has to be our favorite budget sparkler with its Granny Smith Apple-like fruit and dusty minerality. Anya swears that it is the only sparkling wine that she can drink and not wish that it was Champagne. Sparkling wine pairs particularly great with salty foods like fried chicken.


2016 Barbera d’Asti, Il Falchetto $13.98 net price, $12.58 reorder

This is some Barbera d’Asti! Here you will find red cherry fruit buoyed by Barbera’s telltale acid freshness and soft tannins. It’s essentially a single-vineyard bottling from the commune of Agliano Terme called Pian Scorrone. The bottles have a unique dimple under the back label, but don’t fret, this wine is perfect for a bowl of olives, a fresh baguette, and a salumi platter.


2015 Blaufränker, Pfneiszl 1L $13.98 net price, $12.58 reorder

Sisters Birgit and Katrin make this dynamite Blaufrankisch from their family’s estate in Austria. Just across the border in Hungary, they also make wine from their ancestral vineyards. This versatile red is fruity and dry with notes of cherry and rose petal. It comes in a screwcap liter-sized bottle, so there is more to enjoy! Serve at cellar temp to retain vibrancy.


2013 Dão Reserva, Porta dos Templarios $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder

This is a sturdy, fruit-driven Portugese red made from a blend of three grapes, Touriga Nacional, Tinto Roriz and Jaen. The overall quality of wines being imported from Portugal has improved dramatically over the past decade. If you are looking to find quality and bang for your buck, its time to explore this wine region. Match it up with chorizo or merguez.


2013 Syrah/Grenache, Grange des Rouquette $10.99, $8.79 reorder

No fuss, no muss – TWH pal Thierry Boudinaud blends tank-fermented Syrah, 40% Grenache, and 10% Mourvèdre for his Grange des Rouquette red. Its round purple fruit flavors and aromas are easy to like and its price point makes it easy to stock up on. No need to overthink any pairing ideas – it’s great on its own, or will suit burgers, pizza, or pasta perfectly.


2015 Barco Reale di Carmignano, Le Farnete $14.59, $11.67 reorder

Speaking of pasta-pairing wines, this spaghetti red made by another TWH pal, Enrico Pierazzuoli, is just the kind of wine you get if you stop somewhere in the Tuscan countryside and order a bicchiere di vino rosso. Made from 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, the Barco Reale gets a touch of new barrel treatment which gives it its complex character.


2014 Château Couronneau Bordeaux Supérieur $16.98 net price, $15.28 reorder

Winemaker Christophe Piat is fully on the biodynamic train these days with a handful of vintages under his belt. Say what you want, but we’ve noticed a big difference in the expression of his wines of late – as in, they’re explosive! The purity of fruit combined with the sense of place makes this an ideal bottle to open with a juicy, sizzling porterhouse.

Value 2014 Pauillac – Chateau d’Armailhac

Tuesday, June 13, 2017 10:48 AM

The contents of another new container arrived in our warehouse this week, and it was full of goodies from France! Our 2016 Rosé selections have arrived, and you will be hearing all about them in the coming weeks. Of course, there were other wines on that container; wines from the Loire Valley, Alsace, Burgundy, and Bordeaux. Actually, quite a few different 2014 red Bordeaux wines have made their way to our sales floor, so if you haven’t been here in a while, we strongly recommend checking it out. The 2014 vintage in Bordeaux was a very good one, particularly on the Left Bank, and pricing was very reasonable. One of these reasonably priced wines, which I have enjoyed over the years, turned out a stellar 2014 – Château d’Armailhac, Pauillac.



The Island Of 2014 Bordeaux


Often lost in the shuffle when discussing famous Pauillacs, Château d’Armailhac sits just between Mouton Rothschild and Pontet Canet – talk about location, location, location!!! The Mouton team has had a hand in making this wine since it was acquired by the Rothschilds in the 1930’s. I have personally witnessed the significant rise in quality from this estate over the past decade, and must say, pound for pound, it’s a super value. I remember being particularly struck by the 2011 out of barrel – my barrel tasting note concludes with, “Terrific expression of fruit and terroir. Parker ain’t gonna like it, but Neal Martin and I do!” Of course that was a mere presumption, however the two Bordeaux appraisers for The Wine Advocate did eventually score it that way. Skip to the 2014 vintage which in many places is a downright bargain, and as my barrel tasting note concludes, “Soft tannnins, medium acidity, all tied together nicely. Another winner here.”


I recently mentioned that I sat in for David at a recent Thursday Tasting Group tasting of 2014 Bordeaux. There were 9 wines, all tasted single blind. (At a single blind tasting, the wines are known, yet tasted blind – At a double blind tasting, nothing is known.) The line-up that evening was: d’Armailhac, Branon, La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion, Clerc Milon, Gruaud Larose, Lagrange, La Lagune, Larrivet Haut-Brion, and Poujeaux. Quite a line-up with several favorites! My single blind note for what turned out to be the 2014 d’Armailhac:“Tough to coax at first. Some iron, salami, meaty … concentrated cassis fruit and hint herbal, zippy fresh and elegant with a slightly rustic feel. Clerc Milon.” Not a bad guess as Clerc Milon is also a Baron Philippe property, so at least I identified the terroir. One facet of the TTG experience is to rank the wines tasted in order of preference. I ranked the 2014 d’Armailhac first! Well sure, I may have thought it was Clerc Milon, but that extra aromatic dimension put it over the top for me. I wasn’t alone. A friendly competitor who also travels to Bordeaux each year was at this tasting, and he too was full of praise for the “elegant, old-school nuanced” d’Armailhac (though he guessed it was Gruaud Larose). Priced under $40 per bottle, for a Pauillac no less, we are safe to say that the 2014 d’Armailhac is a downright bargain!


It’s been pretty crazy around here lately – pricing for the highly acclaimed 2016 Bordeaux vintage should finish up by the end of this week, as the city of Bordeaux prepared to host VinExpo the following week. If you are interested in any wines from the 2016 vintage, please feel free to send me an email and I will be happy to help with any questions you may have. We are trying to keep up with pricing each release as we receive our allocations, and this past week saw a frenzy of popular chateaux releasing their respective prices. The 2016 d’Armailhac was pretty darned impressive, that I will say, and I do believe it is fairly priced at $46 on pre-arrival. It won’t get here until sometime in 2019. So if you want to taste some old-school Bordeaux goodness from the team behind Mouton Rothschild that won’t break the bank, the 2014 Château d’Armailhac is here now. The price? How about $35.98 per bottle. Downright. Bargain. – Peter Zavialoff

Bedrock’s Standout Syrah

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 5:13 PM

I had a lovely chat this week with a customer who had just relocated to SF from overseas. Among the many wine-related topics we discussed was the price of entry for interesting, high quality, non-mass produced California wine. I threw out the number $25, saying you could find really exceptional wines starting at this price point, but added you have to do your research to find them. I then threw out a few names of producers that offer such wines, starting off my list was Bedrock.

To illustrate my point, I pointed to Bedrock’s 2015 North Coast Syrah. The North Coast Syrah is primarily made from three vineyards: Hudson, Alder Springs and Weill a Way. Hudson Ranch is located in Carneros, Alder Springs is in Mendocino, and Weill a Way is in the Sonoma Valley. The barrels of Syrah from these vineyards that did not end up in the vineyard-designated bottlings were blended together, along with some co-fermented Viognier, into the North Coast Syrah. Bear in mind, Bedrock makes three Syrahs from the Weill a Way Vineyard (highly allocated) that in 2013 received 100 points for two of them and the other 99 points from Robert Parker, Jr. Now I am not suggesting that the North Coast Syrah is any way like the Weill a Way Syrahs, but it is the same fruit. Boom!


Hudson Vineyard

For the North Coast Syrah, winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson likes to vinify using native yeasts and some whole-cluster pressed fruit. The wine is raised in 100% French oak, but none of it is new. In his liner notes for this wine, Morgan writes “I am always channeling my favorite producers of St. Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage. I want a wine that is perfumed, spicy, peppery and delicious, something long on flavor and low on pretense.” In a review by Antonio Galloni, he put it simply like this, “A huge, richly textured wine, the 2015 North Coast Syrah offers unreal quality for the money.”


Alder Springs

Our limited, or in the parlance of the day, curated domestic wine section always has several offerings from Bedrock. I will gladly accept any allocation from this winery, as I’ve followed and admired them from their inception. The quality is there, the price is fair and Bedrock’s emphasis on vineyard sites aligns with my own interest in providing TWH customers the best wine values. Check out our entire Bedrock inventory here.

The number of school days left before summer break begins are down to single digits. My little family, which includes my husband (a teacher) and my daughter (a middle-schooler) is counting down the days. I am so looking forward to sleeping in past 7:30! My natural sleep cycle does not jive with early wake-up times. But most of all, I am looking forward to welcoming spontaneity to rule the day and schedules to take a back seat. And in that space, I expect to be enjoying a glass or two of 2015 North Coast Syrah. No more pencils, no more books… – Anya Balistreri

May 27, 2017. In search of tidbits of information about our habits over Memorial Day Weekend, I came across one which purports that 75% of Americans participate in some sort of barbecue activity over the three day period. Sounds about right, as my recollections of the unofficial start to summer are full of memories of good eats, good friends, and yes, good wines. A fortnight ago, I wrote a bit about Carolina Furque’s 2015 Malbec, and last week, Anya showcased a stunning 2014 value in the form of Château Sénéjac. If you purchased either one (or both), you’ve got some great grillin’ wine on your hands. But let’s have a look forward. Summer IS coming. There will be plenty of wines to chill and enjoy over the warm months, but some wines warrant stocking up on. David just slashed prices on a whole lot of our Burgundy selections, and two of these wines strike my particular fancy: The 2012 Auxey-Duresses Les Boutonniers and Les Hautés.


Auxey-Duresses is located in the Côtes de Beaune, just west of Volnay and Meursault. Both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are planted there, the former planted on the Volnay side and the latter near Meursault. Gilles Lafouge is the 6th generation vigneron for the property which can trace its lineage back to the 17th Century. He makes good, honest Burgundy, wines with wonderful expression and balance. 2012 was another very good vintage for white Burgundy, joining a long line of high-quality vintages going back to 2004!


Though both vineyards border Meursault, it is the Les Boutonniers which is most like its neighbor. The 2012 Auxey-Duresses Les Boutonniers is awash with orchard fruit aromas mixed with dusty minerals with a soft, inviting palate. There is balance and lively acidity midway, with the ever-present Meursault-like softness caressing the palate throughout. The Les Hautés vineyard is further up the slope from the valley floor, and its soils are rich with limestone. The 2012 Auxey-Duresses Les Hautés is a lively, mineral driven expression of Chardonnay, much in the direction of a village Puligny-Montrachet. It has fresh aromas of citrus blossom, stony minerals, and hints of apple/pear fruit. The palate is sleek and nervy, and the fresh white fruit falls right in line with the wine’s structure. The finish is crisp, complex, and harmonious. These two wines are well worth their retail price of $39.99 per bottle, but now that they’re marked down to $19.95, it’s time to stock up. Warning: We don’t have a whole lot of either wine, and a little educated guesswork has me thinking that they both will sell out in the coming weeks. If you want to stock up on some delicious go-to white Burgundy for summer 2017, we suggest you act sooner than later.




Yep. Summer is on its way. The signs are everywhere. Just today on my drive in, as I passed St. Mary’s Cathedral (which was built on the site of a former Lucky supermarket where I remember grocery shopping with my parents as a small child), there were scores of caps and gowns roaming about, as Sacred Heart College Prep was holding their graduation ceremonies inside the church. Our local baseball team is not giving us any reason to be excited or optimistic this summer, but if one can stock up on some quality white Burgundy for an entry-level price, and enjoy them throughout the season, that is good reason to be excited and optimistic! – Peter Zavialoff

A good-sized parcel of 2014 Bordeaux has landed at TWH! Though several others are still en route, many have now hit our sales floor. I have been closely listening to Peter talk up the vintage, making a strong case for its quality and comparable value, especially on the Left Bank. With Peter’s guidance, TWH seized the opportunity to load up on high-quality, value-oriented Bordeaux from 2014 in addition to the region’s high-flyers. Only after customers who bought wines on futures were notified and the last pallet was broken down, did I buy my first bottle of 2014 to take home – the 2014 Sénéjac.



I selected the 2014 Sénéjac for three reasons:

1) It’s under $20

2) In really good vintages, Sénéjac always ends up on “sleeper of the vintage” lists

3) The crown logo and script font reminds me of another one of my favorite Bordeaux chateau, Branaire Ducru.


I took home the bottle, popped open the cork and poured a glass for myself for no other reason than to edify myself on 2014 Bordeaux. I need a reference point, a place to start all future comparisons. A sub-$20, Haut-Médoc seems like a reasonable place to start.


When I was first introduced to Bordeaux, working here at TWH, I either tasted young Bordeaux in order to acquaint myself with TWH stock or I was treated to cellared, well-aged fine Bordeaux courtesy of David and Company. I got spoiled fast and as a result liked to claim that I didn’t like young Bordeaux, only Bordeaux with some age on it. There was both truth and pretentiousness to this declaration. Over the years, I’ve come to enjoy young Bordeaux more and more. I think some of it has to do with changing wine styles as well as the overall advancement of quality in the region. In some years, 2009 comes to mind, young Bordeaux tastes great from the get-go. No need to wait, but if you find one you like in particular, buying some to cellar is a good thing too.




On Mother’s Day I hosted dinner for nine including my mother, mother-in-law, sister and spiritual mother. I promised to keep it low-key, but it was work nonetheless. I made a pork tenderloin in an agrodolce sauce studded with dry fruit and citrus zest and paired it with the Le Nid 2013 Moulin-à-Vent. As much as I enjoy making a meal for others, this year a long held fantasy was actualized. My daughter made me a special Mother’s Day breakfast. She planned the meal and shopped for it. In the morning, she quietly got out of bed, closed my bedroom door to allow me to sleep longer undisturbed. It was one of the tastiest meals of my life!




Speaking of all things tasty, the 2014 Sénéjac is one of those young Bordeaux that tastes pretty darn good right now. Maybe not as dense as I remember some of the 2009 to be, what the 2014 Sénéjac has going for it is overall balance. The components are all there in harmony: fruit, acid, tannin. The aromas are undeniably Bordeaux with plum and red currant notes, a hint of oak that sneaks out of the glass but gets buried in the fruit on the palate. A classy expression of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. I am looking forward to revisiting the rest of the wine tonight! – Anya Balistreri

Bordeaux Update & 2015 Alberto Furque Malbec

Monday, May 15, 2017 1:33 PM

While vacillating over whether or not to write about Bordeaux earlier this morning, I discovered that there are a couple of things that must be addressed before I tackle the subject of this week’s Saturday night wine.



#1) The 2016 Bordeaux Futures campaign is in motion. We sent our first offer out a couple of weeks ago, just after Cos d’Estournel released their price. The email included a handful of petits chateaux which we feel showed well at the En Primeur tastings, offering great value in this remarkable vintage. Several other estates have released their pricing since, and we are preparing another offer which we will send early next week. Doubtless, there will be more price releases next week, and the campaign will grow quite busy until the middle of June, at the soonest. Should you have interest in any 2016 Bordeaux wine, released yet or not, please feel free to send me an email: peter@wineSF.com and we can discuss it, reflect pricing (once released), and source it for you, should you approve of the price.


#2) We recently received a new container with a lot of 2014 Bordeaux on it. These wines will be hitting our sales floor sometime later next week. If you have spoken to me about the 2014 vintage, then you already know I’m a big fan, and highly recommend the wines, especially from the Left Bank. I was graciously welcomed to the Thursday Tasting Group’s tasting of 2014 Left Bank Bordeaux the other day. After looking at the roster (d’Armailhac, Branon, La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion, Clerc Milon, Gruaud Larose, Lagrange, La Lagune, Larrivet Haut-Brion, and Poujeaux), I knew I would be in for a treat. Part of the TTG experience is to rank the wines from 1 to 9 in order of one’s preference. At the conclusion, it was said by several tasters that if they were served the wine they respectively ranked 9th, they would enjoy them very much. When I reported this back to David, he just smiled and said, “Well, that’s Bordeaux for you. It’s not uncommon for ALL the wines to show well.” From a price-to-quality perspective, 2014 offers the best value from this impressive trio of vintages.


To say it’s been hectic around here would be an understatement. Juggling the pricing for the futures with the arrival of the “presents” can be daunting. One thing that I am looking forward to is standing around a grill this weekend with friends, preparing some delicious barbecue. There’s a new vintage of one of our staff favorites that I tasted this past week that will be perfect for this grilling affair: 2015 Alberto Furque Malbec.


It’s not Bordeaux, but Malbec’s roots can be traced back to the region, as it was historically used in Bordeaux blends. The plants’ susceptibility to rot and disease saw it lose favor among French vignerons, and now very few Bordelais grow the variety. Sometime in the mid 1800’s, vine cuttings made their way over to Argentina, and they thrived. The rest is history. Malbec is grape variety numero uno in Argentina.



Carolina Furque


How time flies … we’ve been carrying the Alberto Furque Malbec for over a decade! It’s now made by Alberto’s daughter Carolina, and we just love the pure expression of her wines. Everything is hand-harvested, the wine ferments in steel tank, and its elevage takes place in concrete vats; all contributing to the wines’ fresh fruity aromas and profile. Heck, I wasn’t expecting to take to this wine like I did the other night when I took it to a dinner, but its freshness and seductive fruit contributed to a speedy depletion of the bottle’s contents. When I went in for my second glass, all I got were the lucky drops! Having no oak influence gives the fruit the spotlight. It has a plummy character, both in the aromas and on the palate, there are notes of cherries, raspberries, and black currants. The palate is medium to fuller bodied with well-dialed-in balancing acidity, and the tannins are finely integrated. All in all, it’s a superb wine that will suit meals such as steak with chimichurri, pastas with meatballs or sausages, or pulled pork. This weekend, I will pair it with a dry-rubbed tri-tip, grilled to perfection. With barbecue season upon us for the next several months, this is a great wine to have around … for two reasons: Quality and price. The case price is ridiculous.




To all of you Moms out there, we wish you a Happy Mothers’ Day tomorrow! I’m looking forward to visiting my Mom around midday. We will be preparing her favorite, salmon; pairing it with a crisp Rosé. Afterwards, I am planning on attending a memorial reception for a San Francisco restauranteur whom I was lucky to have known and have enjoyed the “family treatment” from his progeny for decades. Later in the evening, I will head over to visit some friends, and we’ll get busy grilling up the tri-tip and pulling a couple of corks of Malbec. A topic of conversation sure to arise around said grill will be English Football and the newly crowned champions. Though my support remains on the sidelines until a certain unsporting individual leaves the club, I am happy for the Blues and for my family of Chelsea brothers and sisters. I’ve got a lot on my plate tomorrow, so by the time I get to that footy conversation, I will be ready for that tri-tip, perfectly paired with Carolina’s 2015 Malbec! – Peter Zavialoff

Domaine Parent’s Exquisite Pommard

Monday, May 8, 2017 1:29 PM

Anne Parent visited The Wine House at the end of January along with her sister Catherine and our dear friend and colleague, Jeanne-Marie de Champs. It’s not often we welcome three influential and prominent players from Burgundy at the same time, let alone three women. The dynamic in our tasting room was turned on its head. Most often, I am the only female in the room, but this time I was in the majority. As you can see from my expression in the photo below, I was overjoyed to be in their company.



Jeanne-Marie, Anne, Anya and Catherine


Anne and Catherine represent the twelfth generation at their family’s estate. Anne makes the wine while Catherine handles the commercial side of the winery. Domaine Parent itself was founded in 1803 in the heart of Pommard, but the family can trace its winemaking heritage back to the beginning of the 17th century. In fact, in 1787 Etienne Parent established a friendship and working partnership with Thomas Jefferson. Etienne assisted Jefferson in navigating Burgundy while he resided in France and then later partnered with Jefferson to import wine to the US when Jefferson returned to Monticello. This tidbit of history delights me – probably more than it would have prior to the invasion of Hamilton An American Musical into my home sphere courtesy of my obsessed daughter. Nevertheless, I am fascinated by wine’s influence on culture and history.



Getting ready for TWH staff


We tasted a couple of vintages and a number of different crus from Domaine Parent’s holdings. The wines are at once robust and not shy of tannin, yet remain finesseful and polished on the palate. We tasted mostly 2013 and 2014, but when we got to the 2011, Anne declared that “people will rediscover 2011”. As so often happens, classic vintages can get lost after hyped, exceptional vintages, in this case 2009 and 2010. 2011’s in Burgundy did have their fair share of challenges, but as Anne is widely quoted and said to us, “there are no bad vintages, only bad winemakers”. 2011 was one in which sorting grapes was of the upmost importance. At Domaine Parent, they sort in the vineyard where they only hand-pick the grapes, then again at the winery, first on a vibrating sorting table and after by hand. This thrice sorting method assures quality grapes. At the Domaine, they farm organically and practice many of the tenants of biodynamic farming.



What a line-up!


I was reflecting on how wine is marketed as the perfect gift for Father’s Day, but not so much for Mother’s Day. Maybe it’s the company I keep or my own personal preference, but I can’t think of too many women who wouldn’t love to receive a special, luxurious bottle of Pinot Noir, like the Parent 2011 Pommard 1er Cru Les Chaponnières. Les Chaponnières sits just below Rugiens and Parent’s vines are 60+ years old. The wine is aged in barrel, of which approximately 30% to 40% is new. Parent’s Pommard shows typicity by way of its fullness and sturdy backbone and yet, Anne coaxes out a suppleness and balance that creates a wine which is harmonious on the palate.



Les Cadeaux


I’ve written this many times, TWH customers are the best. Come on in and I’ll share some stories about the many kind and interesting people I’ve met working here. A case in point, today a couple, who coincidentally share a surname with this Domaine I’m writing about today, came in bearing gifts from a trip they recently took to France. This generous gesture touched my heart, put a smile on my face and reminded me how lucky I am to be a part of this thing called the wine business. I’m thinking the anchovies can be added into a marinade for lamb that in turn should be mighty tasty with a glass of 2011 Pommard Les Chaponnières, n’est ce pas?– Anya Balistreri

The May 2017 Dirty Dozen

Saturday, May 6, 2017 11:04 AM

And they’re off! The Kentucky Derby may be around the corner, but the month of May is chock-full of festive spring days, such as a day for all you Moms out there, as well as that unofficial start of summer known as Memorial Day Weekend! With all of the good that May brings us, it’s good to have a stash of quality, versatile wine at the ready. Picnics, barbecues, brunch with Mom, or a long weekend at the cabin? The DD has you covered!


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


2014 Chardonnay, Ramsay $13.98 net price, $12.58 reorder

Kent Rasmussen’s winery began over thirty years ago out of his garage. Today, Kent has a modern facility in southern Napa. Ramsay is a companion label that focuses on combining quality with affordability. This well-balanced Chardonnay is full, without question, but stays fresh and lively on the palate. Serve it up with some buttermilk fried chicken sandos.


2015 Vermentino, Federici $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder

The Ligurian coastline is known as the Italian Riviera. Not far from the Tuscan border, in an area famous for Carrara marble quarries, is where you will find Cantine Federici. Vermentino is the dominant white grape variety, producing mineral-driven, floral, crisp wines. A tiny bit of Albarola is blended in too. Try with basil pesto pasta or use other herbs.


2015 Arinto, Dom Diogo $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder

Quinta da Raza is a family estate established in 1769 in the Vinho Verde region of Portugal. Their soil is unique for the region because it is granitic with bits of clay and schiste – ideal conditions for producing crisp, vibrant whites. Arinto is known for its citrus expression: so think lemon and grapefruit. Thirst quenching and delicious, serve it with asparagus.


2014 Château Couronneau Blanc $11.95 sale price, $11.35 reorder

A recent article featured in The Wine Advocate sings the praises of the 2014 vintage for white Bordeaux. Neal Martin goes on the record by stating, “Much is sold for bargain prices compared to other French wine regions.” Biodynamically farmed Couronneau is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris. Serve it with spring salads with goat cheese. 


2015 Viognier, Grange des Rouquette $10.99, $8.79 reorder

It says Viognier, though 15% Marsanne is blended in, giving this user-friendly white added complexity and richness. It’s all tank fermented, allowing the clean, fruity/blossomy aromas to pop. On the palate, it’s light to medium bodied and has a crisp finish. You can serve this as an aperitif or as a versatile house white, as it pairs well with poultry or seafood. 


2015 Rosé Les Cimels, Château d’Or et de Gueules $9.95 sale price, $9.45 reorder

For many of us, Rosé is appropriate to drink all year long; for others, it is a seasonal beverage. Well, if it is indeed a seasonal wine, the season has begun! Sure, there’s a particular satisfaction one gets sipping on a glass of Rosé on a warm afternoon or evening. This Rosé has just the right amount of fruity goodness to get you pouring that second glass. 


2012 Zio Paolo, Vino Lauria $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder

This 100% Nero d’Avola was fermented in stainless steel tanks before bottling. The grapes were grown organically around Alcamo in western Sicily half way between Trapani and Palermo. Here the soil is rich in clay and limestone and the climate arid. Try this simple, friendly red with eggplant and tomato-based dishes like Moussaka or Parmigiana. 


2013 Pinot Noir, Praxis $13.95 sale price, $13.25 reorder

Bill Arbios is a veteran winemaker with over forty years of winemaking under his belt. His 2013 Praxis Pinot Noir is made from grapes grown just west of the town of Sonoma, not far from Carneros, yet still within the Sonoma Coast AVA. It is medium-bodied with earthy flavors of cherry and soft plum, accented by spice notes. Pair with lamb riblets or chops. 


2014 Estate Red, Christopher Michael $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder 

The Harm brothers are the masterminds behind Oregon’s Underwood wines. They teamed up again to tackle Washington State grapes. This red blend is predominantly Syrah, with additions of Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, Malbec and Grenache. Juicy, soft tannins combine with plum and red currant fruit – perfect with flank, flap or skirt steak.


2015 Fronton On l’Appelle Negrette, Vignobles Arbeau $12.59, $10.07 reorder

The last couple of DD’s featured a couple of wines sourced from the Fronton region near the French city of Toulouse. This semi-remote viticultural area is the home of the Negrette grape. This is 100% Negrette. The aromas are bright and fruity, with hints of herbs and forest floor. The palate is light in body, making this a fine red option for rotisserie chicken. 


2012 Château Les Gabriaux, Médoc $9.98 net price, $8.98 reorder

Who says Bordeaux wines are expensive? Certainly, the 60 or so most famous wines from the region can command a king’s ransom, but what about the other 7,000? Of course, one must be on their toes, keeping an eye out for quality among the less expensive wines. That’s how we found the Les Gabriaux. It’s inexpensive and delicious. Serve up some Prime Rib here. 


2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Ca’ Lojera $15.99, $12.79 reorder

You may know Ambra and Franco Tiraboschi’s Ca’ Lojera by their terrific Lugana white wines made from the Turbiana grape, but here’s a sample of their 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grown near Lake Garda in Italy. It’s expressive and layered, kind of a throwback to those California Cabs of yore with their brambly berry fruit and hints of mint.

Now that spring is into full swing, it’s time for the shift. Whether or not we’re conscious of it, we all make adjustments as the days grow longer and the weather warms up. For me, some of the things that occur during the shift include turning the heater off (done), dusting off and cleaning up the outdoor grill, getting the shorts and sandals ready, and making room in the fridge for more than the usual one or two bottles of vino! When entertaining during the warmer weather seasons, it’s a good idea to be stocked up on wines we like to call, “Chillables.” Here at TWH, we all have our favorite pet-wines, if you will; wines which we enjoy so much that we don’t mind re-tasting them again and again. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s comforting to have a go-to, or a wine that delivers on both price and flavor. Though in continuance with the goal of expanding horizons, I took a flyer on a new chillable earlier in the week. Maybe it’s because it’s neither Chardonnay nor Sauvignon Blanc; maybe it’s because it’s made by a rising star winemaker; or maybe it’s just because it’s pretty dang delicious, but I am a huge fan of the 2015 Domaine Pichat Côtes de Verenay Viognier!



Yes. I said Viognier. The most famous appellation for Viognier is Condrieu in the northern Rhône Valley. Condrieu is not cheap. A brief online search tells us that they start at about $40 per bottle. Stéphane Pichat bottles a Condrieu, though it’s closer to $60. Aha! But he also makes Syrah and Viognier under his Côtes de Verenay, Collines Rhodanienne label, and both are exceptional values! Pichat’s Viognier is a mere $26.99, which is, for a wine of its class, a bargain. With the full case discount, it is less than $23. If you are looking for a white wine with a touch of class and a modest price, you must try this one.


So yeah, I took a bottle of the 2015 Pichat Viognier home the other day. I heated up some dinner, poured out a glass, and sat down. I took in the aromas … lovely. Stone fruit. Apricots, peaches, and definitely a chalky, almost vitamin-like minerality on the nose. My eyebrows rose; Wow! I thought. This smells fancy. I went in for a taste … delicious. It has a fuller body with fresh acidity bound to the expansive peachy, apricot-like fruit. It’s clean, fresh, and expressive, and finishes all in harmony. I could get used to this wine, in fact, after looking at my personal invoice, it seems to have become a go-to for me.




Here at TWH, we act like a little family, so we know each others’ preferences when it comes to food and wine. When I tasted this wine, I thought of an ongoing conversation that I have with my colleague, Chris. We both agree that if we (employees) don’t plan ahead, sometimes we end up at a corner store or market spending $20 on a bottle of wine that we might not necessarily enjoy as much as we would had we grabbed something before we left work. This is considered an epic fail. I feel a pang of shame whenever this happens, yet every once in a while, it still does. So I came in the next day and stealthily brown bagged a bottle of Pichat’s 2015 Viognier and popped it into the cold box. As the day grew to a close, I poured out a couple of glasses and handed them to Chris and David. What is it? Blind tasting can be fun … and tormenting! I couldn’t hang on to my secret for too long, so I spoiled the party before they could guess by revealing the bottle. Ultimately, they were both very impressed with the wine. David’s first reaction was that, “Shucks, we didn’t buy enough.” And as much fun as it was to taste them blind on it, the main purpose of sharing this bottle was to further cement in our heads that it is indeed an epic fail to spend $20 at the market when that approximate amount could be traded in for a wine of this calibre. Something to think about the next time we have a bottle in our hands at the checkout hoping no one we know sees us. Anya wasn’t in that day, though I strongly suggested she try a bottle. She has and now she’s in the club too!


If one were to suggest to me that three weeks after returning from the annual Bordeaux trip that I would be talking about a fantastic Viognier experience, I would have had my doubts. Though now with the month of May on the horizon, it’s time for the shift. Keep the Viognier a-flowin’! – Peter Zavialoff

Entre-Deux-Mers: Drink Responsibly

Monday, April 24, 2017 1:14 PM

Could it be because Pete just returned from Bordeaux, or that it’s Earth Day and I am thinking about human stewardship of the planet? Or is it because it is a wine I have frequently purchased for my own personal pleasure that I have selected to write a few words about the lovely white Entre-Deux-Mers from Chateau Ferran? For all the above reasons and more, I have the 2015 Chateau Ferran Entre-Deux-Mers on my mind. Entre-Deux-Mers is a expansive Bordeaux appellation but within it are a few choice sub-appellations. One of note is Haut Benauge and this is where you will find Chateau Ferran. Haut Benauge is directly across the Garonne River from Graves and because it is on high ground it is considered a choice location to grow wine grapes.


Chateau Ferran is a family-run estate that converted to organic and biodynamic farming nearly ten years ago. In preparation for this write-up, I visited Chateau Ferran’s website. The website has plenty of information about the winemaking, the farming philosophy and such, but there is practically no mention of the people who make the wine or run the estate. I think this is a deliberate exclusion. It suggests to me that the Ferran family places more importance on the land, the soil, the biodiversity of the vineyards, than on human intervention.


This Entre-Deux-Mers is a blend of equal parts Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon with 10% each of Sauvignon Gris and Muscadelle. I am drawn to the yellow fruit flavors, reminiscent of peaches and apricots, that linger long on the palate. It has no pungent, grassy flavors so often associated with Sauvignon Blanc. All tank fermented, with some time on the lees, it has gorgeous floral aromatics that bring to mind citrus blossoms and acacia. The finish is slightly creamy and is very fresh. It has filled in very nicely as my Friday Night Fish Fry wine, making a lovely match with baked, breaded Petrale Sole.




Julien Ferran is the current winemaker who took over from his father, Alain. Julien is a biologist by trade, so his interest in biodynamic farming is not unexpected (check out 

this video of Julien discussing geobiology in the vineyard). I know for many the principles of biodynamic farming are controversial and verge on the cult-like, but in my anecdotal experience with wineries who embrace biodynamics, I see a direct connection between the exhaustive, conscientious work down in the vineyard and the quality of the wine. This under $15 Bordeaux blanc is impressive because of the effort that went into it and the final outcome, its deliciousness.




Samples of Chateau Ferran were sent to us by another French winery who included them among their own samples. We had no prior relationship to Chateau Ferran when we tasted the samples. We knew nothing of them other than they were friends of a wine family with whom we were starting to do business. Based solely on the quality (and price) of the samples, we purchased a pallet of Chateau Ferran. This is atypical of TWH to pull the trigger so quickly, but good wine is good wine – we recognized it immediately, so we felt there was little risk.


The last few weeks have had a recurring theme for me that centers around the question, “what do you believe in?” I have been asking myself a lot of questions about what I am willing to stand up for personally, socially and spiritually. I’ll spare you my existential angst, but if I’m comparing two wines of equal pleasure to me and one is made by a small family who farms organically and/or biodynamically and the other is mass-produced, industrially made, I am going to pick the former every time. The 2015 Entre-Deux-Mers is coming home with me tonight. I am not sure what is on the menu, but I’ll start the evening with a chilled glass of it. Tastes good and it’s good for you! – Anya Balistreri

“Take more pictures!” We say it each time one of us travels to any wine region. We say it because no matter how many pictures any of us take, we can always use more. So when I left for Bordeaux back at the end of March, I had this phrase stuck in my head. It’s not easy to take oneself out of the moment in order to capture an image or two, but I made an effort. I found myself with a couple of free hours in Saint-Emilion last Friday morning, and the bulk of my images were snapped then and there. I will try to scatter a few of my faves from this year’s Bordeaux trip throughout this write-up. This is one avenue in which all of us here at TWH could use a little encouragement! If you would like to see more on-location pictures from us, don’t hesitate to tell us, “Take more pictures!”


SaintEmilionRoad4-17forNL


This year’s trip to Bordeaux was a very good one. I can sum it up briefly: Flights went well, weather was great, and the new vintage’s barrel samples were great. I made all of my appointments, was only late to two of them; I shared some great meals and wines with friends and associates, and experienced zero stress. Maybe I didn’t take as many pictures as we would have wanted, but that’s just gravy.


SaintEmilionTriptych4-17


You will doubtless be hearing all about the 2016 vintage in Bordeaux very soon as the futures campaign has officially begun. We don’t envision any of the region’s famous producers to be releasing their prices this coming week, nor the next, but since the city of Bordeaux will be hosting VinExpo come mid-June, it is likely that the campaign will be finished by then. In the meantime, I will be working as hard as I can to keep you all up on our purchases and offers as quickly as possible. Whether by emails like this one, links on our website, or articles in our paper newsletter, we will be sure to alert you to our offers for 2016 Bordeaux futures. With the recent experiences of these tastings in my mind, please feel free to contact me should you have any specific questions about any of the wines.

 


beychevelle4-17

 


These are exciting times, as the new futures campaign is in its infancy. We have noticed that several suppliers in Bordeaux have put a moratorium on sales of any 2015 wines in the past few weeks. Perhaps they are waiting for the new vintage to be received by the public, and will adjust their prices accordingly. Unfortunately, these adjustments seldom tend to be favorable for consumers. Anyhow, WE will continue to offer our 2015’s, and believe it or not, there are still some bargains out there. One of my favorite wines, vintage after vintage, for over a decade, is Château Larrivet Haut-Brion. I don’t think it’s in print anywhere, but in my personal cellar, my broadest vertical of red wine is of Larrivet Haut-Brion. Why? Quality. Price. Period.


LarrivetHautBrion


Picture from Panoramio.com


Many years ago, I penned an email about (what was then) a recent experience tasting the 2005 Larrivet Haut-Brion out of half bottle. I still remember the enthusiasm I had for that wine, and if you take a peek in my cellar, and into the cellars of my Bordeaux drinking pals, you will find several bottles from this fine Pessac-Léognan château. Slowly but surely, each year I taste the wine from barrel and also the most recently bottled vintage. And coincidentally, my cellar grows each year we receive new wines from Larrivet Haut-Brion. I fondly remember visiting the property 9 years ago when they hosted the UGC Pessac-Léognan tasting, and John and I had lunch there after the tasting. A week ago Tuesday, I drove right past it as I had a late appointment at Château Haut Bailly, just across the road. Say what you wish, terroir is terroir, and having a neighbor like Haut Bailly is a good thing! Tasting the 2015 Larrivet Haut-Brion from barrel last year was another excellent display of dark, complex fruit, herbs, and earthiness. The palate was silky and seamless; with the finish displaying immense potential for the young, coiled barrel sample.

The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin had this to say about the 2015 Larrivet Haut-Brion: “The 2015 Larrivet Haut-Brion might be overlooked against some startling other 2015s with “Haut Brion” in their name, which would be wholly unfair because this is a potentially great wine. It has an outgoing bouquet with plenty of bright and bushy tailed red fruit that is well defined and very nicely focused. The new oak is carefully used here and gives it real lift. The palate is medium-bodied with fine grain tannins, fleshy in the mouth with crisp acidity and a nicely composed, lightly spiced finish. This is an excellent Pessac-Léognon and it will hopefully will be well priced.”


bdx17sixpics.001



If you’re still reading all the way down here – I thank you! As I said above, this year’s Bordeaux trip went very well. I tried to take more pictures, and I sure hope these are to everyone’s liking. I’m no photographer, but I like to give these kind of things a shot when I can. I was able to taste the 2016 version of Larrivet Haut Brion out of barrel, and I must say, I continue to be impressed by the efforts made by the winemaking team. As my vertical continues to grow, I encourage any of you who enjoy fine quality Bordeaux for a reasonable price to join me! – Peter Zavialoff

A Taste Of Burgundy – April 2017

Saturday, April 15, 2017 12:56 PM

2014 Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Le Champlot

Domaine Sylvain Langoureau

Saint-Aubin sits along the hillsides above and around the corner from the Côte de Beaune’s Grand Cru vineyards. Premier Cru Le Champlot enjoys full-on western exposure, situated just above the village of Gamay in the appellation’s rolling hills. Winemaker Sylvain Langoureau continues to farm his 9 hectares organically, and for his 2014’s, Langoureau praises the “remarkably clean fruit” which was harvested in mid-September. He also went on to say, “I really like the style of the ’14s because while everyone always says that a given vintage will be good young and old I really do believe that 2014 gave us wines that will in fact fulfill those promises!” We couldn’t agree more; 2014 is clearly one of the region’s exceptional vintages. In an effort to express the hallmarks of the terroir and vintage, Langoureau kept bâtonnage to a minimum and limited the amount of new barrel used to 20%. What he produced is a clean Le Champlot with focused structure, good tension, and expression. It’s good to drink now through 2029.


2013 Pommard 1er Cru Les Chanlins

Domaine Parent

Pommard has enjoyed a long history of notoriety for producing classic wines which are deep in color, profoundly aromatic, structured, and reliable. The village sits between Beaune in the north and Volnay to the south. Premier Cru Les Chanlins lies on the upslope just south of the famous Les Rugiens vineyard, south of the village. For Anne Parent to be energetic and upbeat while discussing her 2013 vintage would mean that considering the challenges (cool, wet spring, trouble during flowering, and a hailstorm in July), she was happy with the overall quality of her bottled wines. Production was less than 50% of average, and there was a bit of sorting which needed to be done. Anne quickly recognized that the fruit was in a delicate state, which caused her to vinify her wines softly and to use less than half the new barrel she would from an average vintage. She went on to say, “I absolutely love the fresh fruit as the flavors are racy and refreshing.” 100% organically farmed, this will be at its best from 2019-2030. – Peter Zavialoff

Award-Winning Carmignano Riserva – Le Farnete 2013

Tuesday, April 11, 2017 12:52 PM

In my last post I wrote that Enrico Pierazzuoli was in San Francisco to pour his wines at Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri World Tour held at Fort Mason’s Festival Pavillon. Enrico is a practical man who does not place too much importance on scores, awards and such, but when his estate in Carmignano, Le Farnete, received a “Tre Bicchieri” for their 2013 Carmignano Riserva, he was clearly honored. It feels good to be recognized for your efforts, especially when it’s by Italy’s most influential wine and food publication.



Tuscany’s Carmignano is a lesser-known appellation, but its history of wine growing traces back centuries. In 1716, the Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici legally recognized and identified this area for wine growing. Enrico appreciated the timing of receiving his first-ever “Tre Bicchieri” while celebrating Carmignano’s 300th Anniversary! The 2013 Carmignano Riserva is a blend of 80% Sangiovese with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged in small oak barrel for a year and then another year in bottle before being released to market, it is a full-bodied expression of Sangiovese. The inclusion of a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon is enough to give the wine significant back-bone and structure. Less than 200 cases are produced of the Riserva and only in the best years. It is a wine with a long life ahead of it.



The Pierazzuoli’s run a traditional osteria on their estate in Chianti Montalbano. They sent out a notice earlier this week that they no longer have any reservations open for Easter. Of course there is lamb on the menu, so I am guessing patrons will be enjoying the 2013 Carmignano Riserva as it should be a perfect match. Shame I can’t be there! Buona Pasqua! -Anya Balistreri

Bordeaux – 1 April 2017. After two reasonably smooth flights, I arrived in Bordeaux on Wednesday afternoon, preparing to take part in the annual En Primeur tastings. If you follow these kind of things, you probably have heard some pretty good news so far. As I type this, I have only tasted six of them, so I will reserve judgement, at least until after tomorrow, where a warehouse full of barrel samples awaits. In addition to the barrel samples, I am also here to taste already bottled wines and to take in the zeitgeist of this year’s proceedings.


It’s great – each year, there are always new things to see, to learn, to taste, and to figure out. But there are also many familiar things as well. One such exercise is now bordering on ritual, and that would be the Saturday rental car pickup and the drive out to Sainte Foy la Grande to visit the Hecquets in Montravel and the Piats in Ligiuex which I did again early this morning. First stop was at Château Couronneau to visit Bénédicte and Christophe Piat.



The three of us sat in their living room pictured above and caught up on things. They’re on the fast track to becoming empty nesters, as their youngest will be leaving the family home soon to finish her studies abroad. And in the wine department, Christophe explained to me that beginning with his 2015’s, he has changed the type of filtration he uses. The net-net of this is that the wines need a bit more time after bottling before they are fully resolved and ready to drink. I tasted through their entire line of 2015’s, which were all recently bottled, save the blanc, which was bottled in late December. Change in filtration or not, the 2015’s were going to need some time in bottle regardless. We also spoke at length about the 2016 vintage, and they asked me if I had tasted any barrel samples yet. “Just six,” I said, yet still smiling, for the first three were at Château Margaux. With a chuckle and a wry smile, Christophe matter-of-factly inferred it was standard practice to taste Margaux and then Couronneau due to their similarities (his idea of an April Fool’s joke).



16th Century Château Couronneau – 1 April 2017



Yep, That’s a 16th Century Moat – 1 April 2017

Christophe went on to say his 2016’s were plentiful and the quality was outstanding. They too were going to need some time. The wines from Couronneau are usually ready to go once they’re released, but the Piats cautioned me that the past two vintages will be at their respective best five years after release. So what vintage to drink now? The 2014, of course. I asked Christophe his thoughts on the matter, and he feels that the 2014 exhibits lighter acid levels than the past two vintages, and that the fruit is more supple and silky. He admits that the 2014 Couronneau is fine to drink now, but it will be at its best 2 to 5 years from now. I popped a bottle shortly before leaving San Francisco, and I just loved the aromatic expression and the medium-full body of this lovely wine. The Piats’ biodynamic practices have obviously paid off!



The Vines Will Follow Soon, But The Vineyard Is Alive


We recently received our final drop of the 2014 Couronneau, so it’s in stock at the moment. So try a bottle today. If you like it, we’ve got a super deal for you. If you already know and enjoy this wine, the deal is good for you as well. Beginning tonight, we are offering a “special full case discount.” It’s much better than our normal discount, and we do not want to be disorderly and advertise this unheard of price in all the usual online places. If you would like to know what the discount is, simply load 12 or more bottles into your online shopping cart and you will see what it is. ***Please note: You can easily remove the items from your cart should you not wish to make the purchase.


Alors. The (semi-) mellow part of the trip is now finished. Over the next 7 days, I am going to be hit with a barrage of barrel samples from the 2016 vintage. I am ready. Should any of you be curious about any particular 2016 sample, please feel free to drop me a note, and I will do my best to taste it and report back with my observations. In the meantime, should you wish to profiter from a super deal on a fine bio-dynamically farmed wine from a seriously great vintage grab a full case (or two) today! – Peter Zavialoff

Enrico’s Chianti – Life’s A Beach!

Monday, March 27, 2017 12:18 PM

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



Enrico, Gianlorenzo and David


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



2015 Chianti Montalbano


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



Tenute Pierazzuoli


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

Time, Patience, And 2011 Chateau de Fonbel

Monday, March 20, 2017 12:14 PM

Time is flying. In a recent email back-and-forth with one of our suppliers in Bordeaux, she exclaimed, “It seems like we’re still dealing with the 2015 campaign; and now, it’s time for the 2016’s! Crazy!” That’s just how it is. Time flies. And because time is fleeting, some things must be done sooner than later, as there are finite windows of time. Wait too long and opportunities may pass. Alas, contrary to that, there are also closed windows which will open sometime in the future. That’s where patience is required. It’s funny, patience and Bordeaux just go together. One of the secrets of patient people is that we are very much aware how time flies, so every day of waiting brings us closer to whatever it is we are waiting for. Like a wine.





Five years ago, I tasted a barrel sample from the 2011 vintage. I liked it a lot. While not from a famous, high-pedigree chateau, the winemaking team is high-pedigree. I liked that too. We bought it. After it arrived, we tried it. While it continued to display the structure and balance which first attracted me, it had shut down and was not expressive. This is not uncommon with red Bordeaux wines. Patience would be required. That was over three years ago. We waited. Patiently. The window is now open on the 2011 Château de Fonbel.


I still remember it well, though visiting Château Ausone is always memorable. Yes, Château Ausone. The Vauthier family who own and make the wine for Ausone also own and make the wine from de Fonbel. The property was acquired by Alain Vauthier in the early 1970’s and it sits just down the hill from Ausone. Alain’s daughter, Pauline manages the property these days. So yes, it was the first appointment after lunch on the Wednesday of En Primeurs, and after tasting the de Fonbel, I was particularly impressed by its herbal/forest floor aromas, not to mention its bright red fruit meets cassis notes, leading me to jot down a particular nod to Cabernet Sauvignon, which makes up 20% of the blend. The palate was quite lively with bright acidity balanced by the red fruit, cassis, and sturdy tannins. Balance and expression are two important things to recognize when tasting barrel samples, and this wine displayed both in fine fashion. When the wine arrived, I was excited to taste it because I remembered that barrel sample well. Let’s just say that I was mildly disappointed that it had shut down. I knew all we needed to do was to wait a while and this wine would someday spring to life.




For anyone who purchased the 2011 de Fonbel, from that day forward I strongly recommended that if they were to be opening the wine shortly thereafter, to allow for a couple of hours of decanting. This obviously helped, but the wine still needed time. We opened a bottle just before our Anniversary Sale last fall, and immediately after I opened it, I poured out a glass. Still closed? It seemed so, but I revisited it just 15 minutes later and happily proclaimed it was beginning to fulfill its potential. I opened another bottle last night, and that is why I am writing today. A little air will still enhance the tasting experience, but straight after opening, the 2011 Château de Fonbel is open for business! The nose is complex with bright red cherry fruit with hints of cassis, blackberries and thicket; forest floor and fallen apple tree leaves, and there’s a tar-like note in there too along with the slightest note of cedar. The palate entry is soft and medium bodied, the acid kicking in mid-palate to project the various fruity, herbal, and earthy complexity on to the blank screen of the palate. The finish is carried by the fruit/acid interplay with fine, delicate tannins. It has blossomed into a classic, honest claret which can be drunk now or cellared for at least another decade. In fact, I would love to taste this wine in 2027!


It’s that time of year again. The annual En Primeur tastings will take place in Bordeaux from April 3rd through April 6, and I am proud to represent TWH to taste the 2016 wines from barrel. My schedule is shaping up with appointments and tastings for the majority of my 10 day visit, as I always choose to visit suppliers and taste back vintages in search of values for both our Cru Classé and our petits chateaux sections. I also usually allow room for the serendipitous, and I’ve managed to continue this practice. All in all, I’m excited to taste the new vintage, meet old friends, make new friends, find new back vintage wines, and take part in the city of Bordeaux’s recent renaissance. Who knows which windows will open for me this year? – Peter Zavialoff

Debut Cru Beaujolais – Le Nid

Tuesday, March 14, 2017 12:11 PM

Debut Cru Beaujolais – Le Nid

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Moulin-à-Vent is considered by most to be the king of Cru Beaujolais. Keeping this in mind, you can imagine our excitement when a recent container brought with it a brand new producer, Le Nid, to our warehouse from this region. But for some strange reason we didn’t taste it as a staff right away. David was playing it cool, down-playing his recent acquisition. He obviously forgot how jazzed we get over Cru Beaujolais. He was probably just waiting for the right time to pull the cork. This week was finally the time and the response from the staff was unanimous – Le Nid’s 2013 Moulin-à-Vent La Rochelle is a delight! For a Moulin-à-Vent, which is noted for its structure and fullness, the Le Nid is perfectly polished and rounded despite its underlying structure.

The Lardet family purchased an existing domaine and its six hectares of vines in 2012, renaming it Le Nid. Le Nid, or nest en français, not only reflects their raison d’être approach to farming but also to the notion of bringing family back home to the nest. Paul and Danielle Lardet are joined by their three children in this endeavor. Moulin-à-Vent’s mostly east-facing slopes are made up of a soil called gore or grès which has deposits of crumbly pink granite with seams of manganese in it, giving the wine its distinctive characteristic. The 2013 Moulin-à-Vent La Rochelle comes from a single one hectare parcel, producing less than 200 cases. The average age of the vines are fifty years old. They partially de-stem the fruit and age the wine in neutral barrel for at least 12 months. The wine has the wild strawberry fruit, notes of undergrowth and mineral typical of quality Beaujolais, but has none of those tank-y, tutti-frutti aromas or flavors. It has a whole lot of black fruit on the palate with a delicious thread of vanilla on the finish. I enjoyed how rounded the flavors sat on the palate, but clearly has the structure that begs for food.

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The Lardets were fortunate to debut their wine with the 2013 vintage. The 2013 growing season in Beaujolais was blessed with a sunny July and August. The favorable weather continued on through a late harvest. This slow, long growing season produced small berries, allowing for a high skin-to-juice ratio. They submitted the 2013 Moulin-à-Vent La Rochelle to the Concours des Grands Vins de France, receiving a gold medal. Not a bad way to start out! This is positive validation that they are on the right path to making noteworthy Moulin-à-Vent. Right now, Le Nid, is way under the radar, but I think fans of Cru Beaujolais are going to quickly change that fact.

So I’ve been sitting on pins and needles while writing this newsletter. I am missing my daughter’s play-off basketball game and haven’t heard any news. The game has added drama to it because it was scheduled at the same time my daughter was to perform in a production of Beauty and the Beast. It was a tough decision to make. She chose to miss this one performance (with the blessing of the director) to join her teammates, despite knowing the coach wouldn’t play her much, but felt she was needed there to emotionally support the team. Got to admire her for that! Finally got the call…they won by a point! Bringing home a bottle of Le Nid to celebrate, as it too is a winner in my book! – Anya Balistreri

The March 2017 Dirty Dozen

Tuesday, March 7, 2017 12:07 PM

Yay! It’s March. There’s something special about this month. Maybe it’s because the days are getting longer. Maybe it’s because the weather is warming up. Maybe it’s because baseball season is less than a month away. Whatever the reason, we’ve made your wine purchasing decisions really easy. The March Dirty Dozen contains plenty of interesting, versatile wines, sourced from all over the map. Get your March DD today!


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


2015 Orvieto Classico Vignarco, Palazzone $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder

In 1969, the Dubini family purchased their property in the Umbrian hills, planting grapes soon after. By 1982 they had made their first Orvieto. The Vignarco is made up of 80% Garganega and is entirely vinified in stainless steel. Golden-hued, fresh with a lovely floral scent, it’s perfect for light meals and appetizers; try it with crab cakes atop dressed greens.


2015 Moscato Secco, Uvaggio $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder

Don’t let the “Moscato” scare you … this is “Secco” so it’s dry, dry, dry. Yes it has lovely exotic aromatics, but it has so much more going for it. A dead-ringer for a Ribolla Giallo from Alto Adige, this perfumed and alluring white is extremely versatile as a stand-alone sipper or a meal enhancer. Match-ups include pasta alla Vongole, vegetable gratins or frittata.


2011 Mottobello, Brigatti $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder

This wine hails from Colline Novaresi, which is situated in Piedmont’s northeast corner. Here the grape Erbaluce (or locally known as Greco Novarese) is the exclusive white varietal. It’s known for producing higher acid wines, though the 2011 Mottobello has tempered acidity, crisp fruit flavors and a light overall palate feel. It’s great with oysters.


2015 Lugana, Ca’Lojera $15.99, $12.79 reorder

Franco and Ambra Tiraboschi’s Ca’Lojera is located in Sirmione, on the southern shore of Lake Garda. Caution: If you search images for a picture of Sirmione, you may feel the need to visit. The grape they use for their Lugana is Turbiana, the local name for Trebbiano di Garda. It has a bright yellow fruit and floral bouquet and finishes crisp and clean. 


2015 Sauvignon & Sémillon Hors Saison, Domaine La Hitaire $14.49, $11.59 reorder

Modeled after the white blends from nearby Bordeaux, this Côtes de Gascogne is 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Sémillon. It’s all tank-fermented, so it’s fresh and vibrant with aromas of pears, kiwi, and apricots. The palate is crisp and expansive, and the finish balanced and lipsmacking. This is the kind of wine to serve with breaded filet of sole 


2014 Ventoux Blanc, Domaine de Fondrèche $16.99, $13.59 reorder

White wines from the southern Rhône Valley may be among the most overlooked wines from France, but quality to price-wise, they are some of the most value driven wines out there! This 4 grape blend (Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Clairette, and Rolle) is teeming with complexity. Think pears and nectarines – this is great on its own, or you can pair it with pork chops. 


2014 Toro, Yaso $12.98 net price, $11.68 reorder

100% Tinta de Toro, aka Tempranillo, the Toro region of Spain produces robust, hearty reds – this one from Yaso is no exception. Just 40 miles east of the Portugese border, viticulture here dates back to pre-Roman times. Deep purple with lush fruity flavors, it’s a stick-to-your-ribs kinda red. Some take-out from your favorite BBQ place is a wise option here. 


2013 Red Wine Blend, MF Wines $15.98 net price, $13.48 reorder

Matthew Fritz wines frequently appear at TWH because they offer tremendous value. They are aces at sourcing high quality fruit at below market prices, then passing along the savings. This particular Red Wine Blend is a delicious combo of 85% Merlot and 15% Petite Sirah, all from Napa Valley. It’s super with a French Dip, Osso Buco or a calzone. 


2014 Ribera del Duero, Sembro $11.98 net price, $10.78 reorder 

Another Spanish Tempranillo, this one comes from further inland in Ribera del Duero. Ribera del Duero sits on a high plateau at about 2800 feet above sea level, where summers are hot and winters are harsh. The Sembro has vibrant red cherry fruit, easy tannins and a medium-bodied texture. Try pairing it with Merguez lamb sausages, chorizo or fajitas.


2014 Fronton, Château Coutinel $8.99, $7.19 reorder

The seldom heard of grape Negrette thrives in the Fronton region, which is near the city of Toulouse, France. Think of it as a cross between Gamay Noir and Malbec. Its aromas are of cherries and forest floor and it’s medium bodied. The dark plummy notes take over mid-palate, and the finish is rich and complex with a hint of amaro. It’s great with spare ribs. 


2012 Bergerac, Château Calabre $7.95 sale price, $7.55 reorder

About 100km north of Fronton, as the crow flies, is the appellation of Bergerac, of Cyrano fame. Its proximity to Bordeaux shows in the grapes grown for the local red: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. This easy-drinker shows bright red and purple fruit with an herbaceous quality. It’s a great wine to pop with burgers of any sort. 


2012 Château Les Clauzots, Graves Rouge $14.98 net price, $13.48 reorder

Speaking of Bordeaux, this month’s DD has one of those too! Château Les Clauzots is located in the region’s southern tip, near the city of Langon. It’s 50/50 Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and does it deliver for its modest price! Dark berries and cassis dominate the aromas and the palate is rich, balanced, and refined. Here’s your steak night wine.

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