Santa Duc’s 2010 Vacqueyras Les Aubes

Santa Duc’s Yves Gras has ventured south from Gigondas to Vacqueyras where he uses two parcels to make an impressive, substantial red. The 2010 Vacqueyras Les Aubes showcases the grittier, rustic side of Grenache. In Yves’ capable hands, the signature Santa Duc garrigue-thing is preserved and at the forefront in his Vacqueyras. Sure the fruit is there, but before you get to it, you must peel back layers of lavender and dusty dirt. It is a bold expression of Grenache. A dark berry red color, almost purple really, fills the glass. Just as soon as you stick your nose in, you know you’re in Southern Rhone. No mistaking it for Priorat or New World anywhere. There is a black olive, dried brush aroma that reminds me of taking a hike just after a gentle rain. Aromatically speaking, there is a lot going on in this wine.


Yves Gras began to make domaine-bottled wine at Santa Duc in the early 80′s. 1982 was the first vintage bottled. Prior to that, as was customary in the southern Rhone, wine was sold to negociants. Santa Duc led the trend away from selling wine to negociants to making domaine bottled wine. Santa Duc’s Gigondas quickly became a collectable wine, garnering high praise and scores from the wine press.
Yves was always passionate about his work in the vineyard. It is nearly ten years ago that he abandoned methods such as chemical weed control, and naturally evolved to sustainable use of his farmlands and environment. More recently, Yves decided to make his pursuit of organic farming official by seeking certification from Ecocert, an organic certification organization founded in France. The 2012 vintage will have the Ecocert certification on the label.


I am five weeks into an ova-pescatarian diet. Though the benefits of eating more healthy are starting to be felt (less puffy, more energy), my craving for fatty protein is getting harder to quell. One way to curb the craving is to pour myself a glass of a meaty red like the 2010 Vacqueyras Les Aubes. The earth, fruit, ripe tannins and succulent acidity of the Les Aubes create a full-flavored wine drinking experience. And because Les Aubes is Grenache-based (20% is Syrah), I can easily match it up with a whole-grain entrée and not feel I am missing out. The other night I was oiling up some Farmers Market fresh, white and purple carrots to roast, when my daughter uttered a yum and commented to me that “roasted carrots are like corn dogs for vegans.” C’est vrai! - Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Domaine Santa Duc, Rhone Valley, Vacqueyras

2012 Gavi DOCG from Ernesto Picollo

Day 4 at the new place: wine is finally making it to the sales floor. Priority number one? Stack up the 2012 Gavi DOCG from Ernesto Picollo! Why this wine? It is arguably our most universally preferred under $12 bottle of white in the store. I am not sure that the winery’s name, Ernesto Picollo, is what people remember but our customers sure know to ask for “the Gavi”.

The Gavi appellation is located in Italy’s Piedmonte region. The grape is Cortese, a variety cultivated in this area for hundreds of years. Cortese’s signature appeal is the white flower aromas, subtle fruitiness and lively fresh finish. Picollo’s Gavi precisely exhibits these attributes. Measuring under 13% alcohol, usually around 12.5%, Picollo’s Gavi is light on its feet so you can enjoy a glass before dinner without feeling weighted down. 


The Picollo family has been making wine for three generations, currently farming close to 8 hectares of vines in traditional fashion. The average age of the vines is between 25 to 30 years, though much of the newer vines go into the Gavi DOCG. Fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel, the success of this wine lies with the excellent farming, resulting in perfectly grown grapes with which to make wine.

Not only have we managed to move our entire store this week, but we also took in our first container! The container arrived from Italy with replenished stocks of Picollo’s Gavi. There was a slight lag between running out of the ’11 Gavi and getting in the ’12 Gavi. During this time, I was forced to bring home other affordable whites. I discovered new favorites, but I really missed my Gavi. The nuanced white blossom and melon flavors blanketed by a sea breeze fresh, mineral core is deeply satisfying. I love how it balances out salty snacks. Friday’s Fish Night menu at Taverna Balistreri is often a Meyer lemon topped, herby, bread-crumbed baked filet of Petrale. It is a delicate fish, therefore it needs something light and fresh to go with it. The 2012 Gavi DOCG from Picollo is the hands-down winner for this match-up. 


I was working at TWH when it moved from Bryant to Carolina Street. After that ordeal, I vowed never to do it again! Ha ha. The grueling work aside, I am thrilled to be in this new location. I must commend my colleagues who put in many, many extra hours/days to accomplish this task. Everyone did their part and then some, all the while making it fun with lots of laughter and cheery repartee. And now, sitting at our new workstation, I am feeling an even deeper appreciation for our customers. So many of you have already ventured to our new spot and have patiently waited as we scrambled around the warehouse trying to locate wine for you. Yep, the sales floor is not fully stocked … but it’s getting there! TWH customers are the best! Thank you… - Anya Balistreri

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Classic Sancerre: 2012 Apud Sariacum from Raimbault

A second vintage of Philippe Raimbault’s Sancerre Apud Sariacum has arrived at TWH after a lengthy absence while monopolizing a spot on a very popular, wine-centric Los Angeles restaurant list. This L.A. restaurant is known for having an innovative wine-by-the-glass program, rotating in new items every few months or so.  Raimbault’s Sancerre Apud Sariacum remained on this list for nearly 3 years! All of our stock went to fulfill their orders.  When the sommelier called to tell us he was finally going to take the wine off the list in order to keep intact the integrity of their changing list, it was clear he did so reluctantly – probably because his customers were going to put up a stink for not having their beloved Apud Sariacum to enjoy by the glass! A true testament to the quality of the wine and to the wide range of palates that enjoy it. 

Phillippe Raimbault assembles his Sancerre Apud Sariacum from eight tiny parcels grown on steep slopes surrounding the picturesque village of Sury en Vaux, which up until the 12th century was known as Apud Sariacum. The soil here is part of a geological stratum formed during the second era of the Jurassic period. Fossils of sea creatures dating back 130 million years can be found in these vineyards. Phillippe has an impressive collection of these fossils which he proudly displays at his tasting room. These ancient soils really drive home the idea that dirt does matter and as such, Sauvignon Blanc grown along the steep slopes of Loire Valley’s Sancerre region does demonstrate a special quality of depth, weight and, yes, minerality.

The name recognition for Sancerre is far reaching and evokes a certain sophistication among wine drinkers. Even people who say they dislike Sauvignon Blanc will ask for Sancerre at our store. I chalk this up to the fact that most Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t share the verve and citrusy bite that Sancerre shows off in the glass. Grassy, yes, but not assertive or too pungent, just like the 2012 Sancerre Apud Sariacum which is chock full of fragrant citrus, juicy green melon, ending with a nervy, vibrant finish. Refreshing and offering something more than just a crisp drink. The 2012 Sancerre Apud Sariacum is a textbook, classic Sancerre!

Raimbault’s wife Lynne, who is a London transplant, runs a charming shop and wine bar selling Philippe’s wines and local products in town called Les Fossiles. Lynne visited TWH this past November. Regrettably, I was not at the store that day, but all the guys raved about her outgoing personality and easy charm.

So get this … TWH is moving in about a week and I’m going to Disneyland! I am abandoning my comrades to take a very short sojourn this weekend to the happiest place on earth. It probably wasn’t the best timing on my part, but when is it ever? I’ll be back soon enough, hopefully with plenty of stories to share, and ready to help move TWH into its new home. - Anya Balistreri

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2010 Sylvain Langoureau Bourgogne-Hautes-Cotes-Du-Beaune Clos Marc

MAN, OH MAN! It’s on! Yes, we are moving. Yes, there are some fantastic, once in a lifetime deals out there.  Like Anya said last week, I’ve been on about the “never to be seen again” prices. All this is complete madness! As I said to a customer yesterday, if I seem level-headed and professional, I’m doing a very good job, because on the inside, it’s bedlam! My to-do list has more than one page. My “things I should have finished last week” list has more than one page! The football gods were cruel to me this morning and scheduled today’s match later than usual, and there is NO WAY that I could have justified coming to work 2 hours late because of a football match. So yeah, bedlam.  People have been kidding Anya and I for allegedly trading personalities; my last two write-ups were about White Burgundy and hers’, Sauternes. Well, we didn’t. Don’t worry, I’ll have plenty to say about Bordeaux and Sauternes in the coming weeks, the annual En Primeurs trip coming up and all. As for the subject of tonight’s email, I’m going to stick with Burgundy. Red Burgundy.

Okay sure, there’s plenty of Red Burgundy on sale. Plenty of top-quality, fancy Red Burgundy. Some of the sale prices are incredible. Should I say, prices never to be seen again? Well, on the opposite side of the spectrum, there is a Moving Sale price on a vin de table. vin de table from Burgundy, that is!!!

It’s funny, I have a buddy who moved to London for a couple of years a while back. When he returned, one of the first things he did was call me up explaining how he had a local Nicolas branch, with staff members recommending various wines from all over France. Sure, he liked the fancy stuff, who doesn’t? His point was, that there was a ton of perfectly quaffable, interesting wine coming from France that was inexpensive enough to open a second bottle of, if only to pour out one more glass. He asked me for a little guidance, and off we went to various wine shops around the Bay Area stocking his cellar. Of course, this task eventually became very rewarding for me. I got to taste a panoply of wines from all over France, and combined with my fancy of all things Bordelais, that experience landed me in this very seat where I type. Ever the intellectual, my buddy proved to be a great dinner guest, his ability to articulate his observations while tasting various wines led to some fascinating conversations. He once lamented that low prices on rustic, vin de table style Red Burgundy were a thing of the past. There was a time when he could pick up a few bottles for less than $15 each, and enjoy them with quiet weeknight dinners at home. Those days were over. And, this was around 8 years ago, no less. Well Chief, this wine’s for you!

When the 2010 Domaine Sylvain Langoureau Bourgogne-Hautes-Côtes-de-Beaune Clos Marc first arrived, it had a limited fan base. The wine was rustic in nature, and its acidity outpaced its fruit by several strides. Now that it has gained some bottle age, the acidity has been tamed, and though still rustic in style, it reveals some interesting complexity. I tasted one last night. It still had fresh acidity, but the fruit was more prevalent, and there were some fascinating herbal complexities like tarragon and pine floating among the aromas. This is exactly what my friend was looking for! And it’s 10 bucks per bottle; so you can open a second bottle if only to just pour one more glass! Often on Saturdays, customers in the shop will ask, “What’s tonight’s write-up about?” We usually divulge this information, and today was no exception. I put this wine into several hands today with this: “Keep your expectations at the $10 price level. It’s a Tuesday night wine. A Tuesday night wine … from Burgundy!!!”

Bedlam. And I fear more mayhem will ensue as we grow closer to our moving date. I’m feeling it, no doubt, but part of me is still in denial about it. Just in case that’s not enough, there are still some loose ends in planning this year’s Bordeaux trip. *Deep breath* So, I’ve got that going for me as well. Outside of not being able to watch it this morning, the football went well. I’ve got a fancy Bordeaux tasting dinner tonight, so I am just going to chill tomorrow and cook up a big pot of something tasty. One of these 2010 Domaine Sylvain Langoureau Bourgogne-Hautes-Côtes-de-Beaune Clos Marc will do just fine! - Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about our Moving Sale, whether or not Anya and I have changed personalities, Burgundy, Bordeaux, or English Football:

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2005 Chateau de Malle: Priced to Move!

There is not much else I need to write other than this: 2005 Chateau de Malle on sale for $24.95 … and no, that is not for the half bottle!  Unbelievable, right? No wonder Pete keeps telling customers that our Moving Sale has wines at “never-to-be-seen-again” prices. The 2005 Chateau de Malle is delicious. Not a super rich or particularly unctuous Sauternes, it does, however, glide lightly over the palate with charming flavors of butterscotch, browned sweet butter and graham cracker crust. The 2005 de Malle is an elegant example of a medium-weight sticky that at this price will be making its way into my fridge often and regularly. Look here, there’s already a bottle waiting for me when I get home tonight. This makes me so happy!
Chateau de Malle is a stunning estate with manicured gardens and a museum open to the public. The estate dates back to the 16th Century and has remained in the same family the entire time. In the 1950′s the estate was taken over by Pierre de Bournazel, a man who would become an important figure in the viticultural world of Bordeaux. Pierre renovated the Chateau, replanted the vineyards and brought de Malle into recognition. Interestingly, Chateau de Malle straddles two appellations, Sauternes and Graves (about half of their production is for Sauternes). The composition is classic with 70% Semillon and the balance Sauvignon Blanc and a small trace of Muscadelle. The vineyards are grown on undulating slopes upon a plateau of gravelly clay soil. The wine is aged in barrel between 20-24 months in a third new French oak after which the wine rests in bottle at the Chateau for 2 to 3 years before release.
Our Moving Sale is on!  Prices are slashed on wines ranging from everyday quaffers to top-tiered trophy wines with the caveat that they must leave our premises before we move! I will be moving some of the 2005 Chateau de Malle into my cellar to lighten TWH’s load. I can guarantee you that each time I pop the cork on this honeyed wine with its lingering flavors of melted brown sugar and sweet vanilla cream, I’ll be patting myself on the back for being such a clever, savvy wine buyer. A combo plate from Taqueria San Jose with an enchilada and a house-made chile relleno – pop open a bottle of 2005 Chateau de Malle! After a big meal with friends, no one wants dessert but a plate of crispy, buttery cookies served with a glass of 2005 Chateau de Malle- no one will pass on that! Your neighbor brings back a terrine of foie gras from Paris as payment for taking care of their cat – 2005 Chateau de Malle is a perfect, albeit conventional, pairing! At $24.95 per bottle, you can be as adventurous as you want with the 2005 Chateau de Malle. It’s a guilt-free, slam-dunk, smile-inducing, happy-making wine purchase. 

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Filed under 2005 Bordeaux, Anya Balistreri, Gold Wine, Sauternes, Semillon

2010 Montagny 1er Cru Les Coeres – Domaine Michel-Andreotti

“You’re moving? Where to?” We’re hearing that more and more these days. Yep, it’s true. After nearly 14 years here on Carolina Street, we’re moving our headquarters to 829 26th Street, which is on the corner of 3rd and 26th Streets in the nearby Dogpatch neighborhood. We’re happy (and relieved) to still be in this part of town, and we look forward to welcoming you to our new location sometime around the end of March!

So, yeah. It is a very busy time here at TWH. Just like with any move, I’m looking around wondering, “How is this exactly possible?” This past week saw me working (and hopefully solving) my favorite puzzle, which is requesting all of my tasting appointments for the upcoming Bordeaux En Primeurs week. Fingers crossed for a confirmation. I still haven’t found the time to report back in regard to the UGC tasting of Bordeaux’s 2011′s, though last week, Anya wrote about my favorite wine tasted that day. My to-do list is looking more like an itemized receipt of a Dirty Dozen purchase, so I’ll be switching gears to full-on Bordeaux speed soon, but for tonight’s Sunday email, I’m sticking with Burgundy. White Burgundy.

It’s been a great crab season so far, and I feel so lucky to have sampled this local delicacy in many forms this winter. It’s great to be part of the team here at TWH, as David continues to sign up new Burgundy producers with new wines!

 When some of those wines pair so well with shellfish, it’s time to indulge! So yeah, new producers – new wines. A year and a half ago, we all flipped over our new Montagny producer, Michel-Andreotti. It seems we weren’t the only ones bowled over by their quality for price, as it sold out quicker than we could blink. It was such a great value that it cracked our Top Ten Wines list in its rookie season! We’re now into our third vintage of Michel-Andreotti Montagny “Les Guignottes” with the 2012, but I recently noticed a slightly different shaped label with the Michel-Andreotti name on it. This one says, 2012 Montagny 1er cru Les Coères. It looks like David has done it again. So this past week, on a day when we were all here, I asked him if we could taste it. Was I happy I did!

At the end of another busy day filled with the stress of the impending move, we all gathered around the tasting table with a bottle. The oohs and aahs full of praise for our first experience with the 2012 Les Coères could only have made David chuckle with pride as he knew he had another winner on his hands, and now his whole team was on board! My initial perception was lots of that fleshy white fruit Chardonnay exhibits, but with a penetrating mineral force, and a little spice which suggested new barrel. I asked David about the oak regimen and he said that of the tiny production (less than 250 cases), only one new barrel was used and that the rest of the juice was vinified in steel tank. So the spice I was picking up was something else. Tom was already well into his glass and praised the soft, delicate mouth feel pointing out that the spice I was picking up was that buttered popcorn aroma which is a product of the malolactic conversion. And he’s spot on here; as I took my first sip, the wine landed with a pleasant caress. Anya too remarked upon the gentleness of the palate, yet pointed out the complexity of peach and apple blossom that emerge because the wine is light and elegant. Let’s just say that Chris gave me a hard time when I took the unfinished sample bottle home. It was Premier Cru White Burgundy after all, one he enjoyed very much. David enjoyed his sample with a smile and a nod of approval. Then we checked the price, $24.99. Premier Cru white Burgundy for less than $25. Or $21.24 per bottle by the case, wow!!! This all led me to think, “Dang. We should have filmed this.” Maybe next time. Come to think of it, our new location will have a far more film-friendly staff tasting area … hmmm.

So there you have it. It’s what we do.  For over 36 years, our team here at The Wine House has been tasting copious amounts of samples, both here and abroad, selecting only the very best to offer to our customers. You can always count on that. No matter our location, first on Bryant Street, then Carolina Street, and coming soon to The Dogpatch. We keep the bar pretty high for a reason. That’s how one stays in business for 36 years. - Peter Zavialoff

Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Moving, 2011 Bordeaux, the upcoming Bordeaux trip, or today’s stroke of good fortune at the Bridge:

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2011 Chateau Coutet (Pre-Arrival)

The 2011 Chateau Coutet was the stand out wine at the L.A. UGC tasting this past January, or so I am told for I was not in attendance (Pete was!).  The uniformly passionate praise for Coutet’s 2011 is well documented with wine publications all awarding glowing reviews and huge scores to it (Wine Advocate 94-96pts, Wine Spectator 97pts … and it goes on like this everywhere). The Twitter-sphere blew up with raves about the 2011 Coutet as the UGC tour made its way around the world. With such hype, expectations naturally rise. When Pete generously shared a bottle with TWH staff graciously provided by Aline Baly, my expectations were met and I instantly joined the ranks of admirers. Apricot fruit leather, thoroughly mouth-coating viscous nectar, coconut cream, and a lengthy rich finish – an incredible wine!

Long before Pete, our self-proclaimed Sauternes lover, began espousing the virtues of Chateau Coutet (and its ability to transform your dining experience beyond dessert), I recommended Coutet to those who wanted top-tier quality Sauternes but didn’t want to pay the inflated prices of some of the more famous names in the region.  To my palate, Coutet always carries a tangy fruit quality that makes the wine sing on the tongue. Never heavy or cloying, that characteristic Coutet CUT shines through each vintage. 

With Valentine’s Day just behind us, I had thought a lot about what wine is best suited for this made-up holiday. Bubbles, sure why not? Wines from S-LOVE-nia…get it? Then I began to think more about the type of love it takes to make a wine, that if you examine closely, really is an insane way to make a living; a dedication not unlike one needed to make romantic love last.  Looking over the breath-taking photos on Chateau Coutet’s website, one can easily fantasize of a life on such a grand estate (even if it once was only a stable for the Lur-Saluces family!). Then the reality of what it takes to get wine into bottle starts to take shape. Vintage conditions must provide that the grapes not only fully ripen but become infected with Botrytis, that miraculous decomposer that helps concentrate the sugars in the grape, producing the liquid nectar. A team of about 80 is needed to pass through the vineyards, picking grape by grape, not once but often as many as 8 times! When all is said and done, it takes one whole vine to make just one glass of Coutet. Like I said, insane!

So getting back to 2011 Coutet, after relishing each sip and shouting out a litany of descriptors -apricot, pineapple, crème brulee, butterscotch, tangerine- the first food pairing that popped into my mind was a savory one. Why delay the glorious flavors and balance of the 2011 Coutet to the end of the meal, when the intensity and, most importantly, its acid structure is naturally suited to a non-sugary dish.  By all accounts, the 2011 Coutet has all the components to live long in the cellar, but it also is so perfectly complete that it is a wine you will and should drink in its youth. For this reason, I highly recommend buying some for now and some to save. For anyone out there with a baby born in 2011 that wants to stow away some special wine to drink at a graduation, wedding, or other special occasion, the 2011 Chateau Coutet is a must. 

Valentine’s Day can be complicated for adults and children alike. At my daughter’s school, it was strongly suggested that Valentines be homemade and no candy allowed. My daughter added that the Valentines should not be too romantic either! It would have been so much easier to just buy them at the drugstore and tape on a heart-shaped candy, but I took on the challenge and for not being a particularly crafty type, I thought the Valentines came out well. A-hah, maybe that is part of the lesson, like the making of 2011 Chateau Coutet, some things are worth doing just to bring beauty, joy and love no matter how difficult or challenging. Anya Balistreri

Please note: This is a pre-arrival offer. The wine is expected to arrive by mid 2014.

2011 Chateau Coutet Sauternes (Barsac) (Pre-Arrival)
Sweet Wine; Semillon; Bordeaux;
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“The white peach, pineapple, white ginger, orange zest and green fig notes are clear and racy, while green almond, brioche, pear and yellow apple details wait in reserve. Offers stunning range and polish, showing terrific energy and cut on the finish. This just makes you feel special when you drink it. Bravo, to an estate that has been rising steadily for a while now. Best from 2016 through 2035. From France. 97 points” – James Molesworth, The Wine Spectator

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Filed under 2011 Bordeaux, Anya Balistreri, Barsac, Sauternes, Semillon, Spicy food